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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 119

 

 

Verses 1-8

Psalms 119:1-8

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Moral law

I. There is a Divine moral law for the regulation of moral life. The Creator has given a law to every creature He has made, and to every creature its own law. This law Christ reduced to two primary obligations--right affection for God, right affection for man.

II. Genuine obedience to this law ensures human happiness. “Blessed,” etc.

1. The nature of true obedience.

2. The happiness consequent upon true obedience.

Well-doing

I. Human happiness consists in well-doing. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way.” It is not in theories, professions, ceremonies, but in right-doing. There is true blessedness for man only in his deed, not in his mere thoughts or emotions, but in his actions. Inaction is torpor, wrong action is misery, right action is bliss.

II. Well-doing has respect to the Divine. “Who walk in the law of the Lord.” If there really be an atheistic world, that world knows nothing of well-doing. Well-doing can only grow out of a practical regard for the Supreme Existence.

III. The respect for the Divine must be thorough. “With the whole heart.” God must become the Moral Monarch of the soul, inspiring and controlling the whole. (Homilist.)

God’s beatitudes and the world’ s

The world has its own idea of blessedness. Blessed is the man who is always right. Blessed is the man who is satisfied with himself. Blessed is the man who is strong. Blessed is the man who rules. Blessed is the man who is rich. Blessed is the man who is popular. Blessed is the man who enjoys life. These are the beatitudes of sight and this present world. It comes with a shock and opens a new realm of thought that not one of these men entered Jesus’ mind when He treated of blessedness. (John Watson, D. D.)

The truly happy man

The happiest life is that of the man who accepts Christ as his friend and model. Good Matthew Henry says, “You have heard the dying words of many--these are mine: ‘I have found a life of communion with Christ the happiest life in the world.’” This is the testimony of all who have tried it. Hear what Coleridge says: “The Bible, and only the Bible, shows clearly and certainly what happiness is, and the way to its attainment.” Philosophy may culture the mind and uplift the emotions, but it cannot heal a sore heart. Socialism may improve a man’s environment, but it cannot give him happiness. True, deep rest of heart can only come as the result of knowing, loving and following Christ. (The Young Man.)


Verses 1-176

Verse 2

Psalms 119:2

Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.

The best pursuit

I. The pursuit specified.

1. The object proposed. They “seek” God--His enlightening truth--His pardoning mercy--His sanctifying grace--His indwelling presence--His communicable fulness--and His eternal fruition beyond the grave (Psalms 17:15; Romans 2:7).

2. The conduct described. “With the whole heart”--not hypocritically and lukewarmly; but with all the powers and energies of the soul, the understanding, the will, the conscience, and the affections; supremely, above every other object; diligently, in all the means of salvation; immediately, without delay, or procrastination; earnestly, with zealous and undivided hearts; continually, being faithful unto death, etc. (Psalms 27:4; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jeremiah 29:13, etc.).

II. The obedience required.

1. It must be regulated by His Word, the only perfect and infallible standard of Christian faith and practice.

2. It must be conformable to His will. The Divine testimonies must be kept in our memories--in our affections--and in our practices. We must keep them sincerely, not in name and profession only; believingly, in the exercise of a lively and vigorous faith; affectionately, from a principle of love filling and ruling the heart; universally, having impartial respect unto all His commandments; faithfully, through all opposition, and indefatigable perseverance in well-doing (1 Corinthians 15:58).

III. The happiness enjoyed.

1. They have blessed enjoyments. They are blessed with inconceivable peace--unspeakable joy--the testimony of a good conscience, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

2. They have blessed anticipations. The present holiness is an earnest of their future blessedness. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Right use of the Bible

A workman has the plan of the house he is to build; but he must use plumb-line and spirit-level and foot-rule if he is to build securely. The engineer has his beautiful engine, his marvellously constructed piece of mechanism; but it is useless to him unless it is joined up with the lathe it is to turn or the loom it is to work. Your electric generating station is a place of wonder and mystery, a marvel of skill and knowledge; but it is useless if it is only kept to look at and wonder about; it only becomes effective as the electricity generated there is carried to your electric motors for power, to your filaments of carbon for light. And what we so often forget is that, in the same way, the Gospel of Jesus is of no practical use to us while we keep it isolated from our daily life; it is no use in a book, or in theological syllogisms; it only becomes of use as it becomes the power of God in our daffy lives. We must take it as the guide of our daily conduct, as the inspiration of thought and emotion, as the determining factor in our daily actions, as the light to lead us along life’s dark and difficult ways, As the food upon which the soul is nourished it must affect all our thought and feeling, speech and action; it must penetrate to the remotest corners of our life and give form and colour and character to every experience. (B. A. Millard.)


Verse 4

Psalms 119:4

Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently.

Reasons for diligence in obeying God

In worldly affairs no weighty thing can be done without diligence; far less in spiritual. For three causes should we keep the commandments of the Lord with diligence: first, because our adversary, that seeks to snare us by the transgression of them, is diligent in tempting; next, because we ourselves are weak and infirm; by the greater diligence have we need to take heed to ourselves; thirdly, because of the great loss we sustain by every advantage Satan gets over us. For we find by experience that as a wound is sooner made than it is healed, so guiltiness of conscience is easily contracted, but not so easily done away. (Bishop Cowper.)


Verse 5

Psalms 119:5

O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!

Virtuous solicitude

A solicitude to perform our duty, to practise holiness at all times, and to make a constant progress in it, is an essential ingredient in a virtuous temper, a necessary qualification of our obedience, and a powerful means of our becoming active and steadfast in it.
It implies--

1. A lively sense of the supreme importance of holiness.

2. A settled love of goodness, and hatred of iniquity.

3. A vigorous, constant, and prevailing desire to keep God’s statutes.

4. A firm resolution to keep them.

5. A prevailing bias of the whole soul towards virtuous practice.

6. Fervent desire of God’s assistance in the practice of holiness. (A. Gerard, D. D.)

The temporal lot of a good man subservient to the advancement of his personal religion

I. A truly good man will be concerned to keep the statutes of God. He is as much concerned to avoid secret as open sins; he seeks intently a temper devout and spiritual; he finds an unutterable pleasure in striving, and watching, and praying that not a single particular in the Christian temper or conduct may be found absent from him.

II. A good man will at some periods be especially concerned to keep the statutes of God.

1. Perhaps an extensive and an affecting sight of the Divine holiness is instrumental in producing this improvement.

2. A fixed and an admiring contemplation of the grace of the Gospel is sometimes productive of a similar effect.

3. Affliction is sometimes the forerunner of this enlarged concern.

III. When a good man is thus especially concerned to keep the statutes of God, his temporal lot will be rendered subservient to the promotion of his personal religion. “O that my ways,” my general circumstances, and the daily and hourly incidents which occur, “were directed to keep Thy statutes,” to advance my personal religion.

IV. In order to the temporal lot of a good man becoming thus subservient to the advancement of his personal religion, he must be aided by a Divine interposition.

1. In the form of a wise and benevolent appointment.

2. In the form of a gracious influence. (Essex Remembrancer.)

Longings

A longing after the good, after anything higher and better than the sinner has, what is it but the beginning of the new life, its first pulsation, its first and feeblest cry? It is the confession of sin and want. This need may give expression to itself in the quiet, trustful prayer of childhood, saying to God, “My Father, wilt Thou not from henceforth be the guide of my youth?” This need may be spoken with a heavy heart and a downcast face by the young prodigal, as he stands in presence of the shame and poverty which his own sin has created. This need may be spoken by the philosopher who, having sought for rest for heart and intellect in every theory of the universe and in every method of life but the Divine, and sought in vain, turns at last to the Fountain of living waters. It is a longing which may be quickened by very diverse things, or it may move of itself, as we think; yet in all is there the presence and power of the Spirit of God. Nor when the soul has come to the knowledge of God, when its first longing has been spoken and has been met by the bestowal of a heavenly gift, is there an end of longing and desiring. In fact, it may be said that longings do but then begin. By giving pardon and cleansing, God does but open the door to the demand for a perfect righteousness. The soul sees above it an ever higher ideal than it has yet attained to, and, therefore, longs and prays for it. Our longings are like the wings of the soul upon which it is borne, if only for a moment, into a purer and heavenlier clime. They set us in motion Godward. Call not the wishes of the heart vain and useless; for they are the spirit of our prayers, they turn our wills and fix our resolutions; they are the beginnings of the kingdom of heaven. Impalpable, and coming even upon him who has them as the breeze comes upon the still lake and stirs it with life and motion, these yearnings and longings anticipate and determine a man’s destiny. When a man says, “I wish to pray; I wish to know God; I wish to be a new man,” he speaks weightier words than when kings or statesmen issue manifestoes and proclamations. That is the opening up of his case with his Father and Saviour. “Sir, we would see Jesus,” said some Greeks to Philip, who had come up to the feast to worship, and that wish of theirs caused a response on the part of Jesus, the effect of which is felt in the words of Jesus in multitudes of souls to-day, and shall be for ever and ever. (J. P. Gladstone.)


Verse 6

Psalms 119:6

Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.

A clear conscience

We are not under the law, but under grace, yet are we not lawless, since we have become servants of God. Nay, but we are under another law, which works upon us after another fashion. The child may be quite clear of the police court, but there is a rod at home. There is a father’s smile; there is a father’s frown.

I. The universality of believing obedience. The esteem in which we hold, and the tribute we pay to, all God’s commandments is spoken of. Not picking and choosing--paying attention to this, because it pleases me, and omitting that, because it is not equally pleasurable. What do we mean by having respect to all God’s commandment I reply that, whatever there is that the Lord has spoken in any part of His Word we desire to hold in devout esteem, and to have respect to every utterance of His will. “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments”--to the foundation commandments, striving to dig deep; to the high soaring commandments, seeking to rise into the utmost fellowship with God; to those commandments that need stern labour, like the rugged walls upon which much toil must be spent, and upon those which are a delight and a beauty, like the golden aureole windows that require fine taste and delicate skill. Oh that we were enamoured of this perfection, and were seeking after it!

II. The excellency of its result. “Then shall I not be ashamed.” That means, first, that as sin is removed, shame is removed. Sin and shame came into this world together. Unless sin gets to a high head, which it will not do in the believer, shame is sure always to go with sin. Excessive sin or habitual transgression at last kills shame, so that the hardened culprit knows not how to blush. It is an awful thing when a man is no longer conscious of shame, but a more awful thing still when he comes to glory in his shame; for then his damnation is not far off. But as sin is cast out of the believer, shame is cast out of him in proportion, and it thence comes to pass that courage rises with a consciousness of rectitude. The man that has respect unto God’s commands is no longer ashamed of men. He is not abashed by their scorn, or disconcerted by their ridicule. There is nothing to be ashamed of in keeping God’s commands. Then, again, before men we shall not be ashamed of our profession. “I am a Christian. Look me up and down and examine my conduct. I do not boast of it, but I know that I have sought honestly and sincerely to walk before God in righteousness.” Or, when an accusation is brought against you falsely, meet it in the same spirit. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unlimited obedience to the Divine commands

I. The psalmist made little account of the world’s opinion.

II. His profound obedience to God.

III. The concern he was under at failing in some particulars.

IV. His earnest desire to obey all the Divine commands.

V. That peace which would follow upon his keeping all the commandments.

1. A peace that is built upon the most solid foundation--the promises of God.

2. A peace that is most pure and genuine, having no mixture of baseness and alloy.

3. A peace that secures the mind from all the accusations of Satan, who would willingly disturb us; and that prepares us for setting light by the molestations which others may endeavour to give us.

Conclusion--

1. In what light do you view the world’s opinion? Are you not too much biased by it?

2. Inquire into your obedience, and ask if it does not differ from that of the psalmist, who objected not to any of God’s commandments, but had respect unto all.

3. Have you not had respect to every commandment? You cannot surely look back upon the fact with indifference, or unaffectedness, etc.

4. What must be said of those who instead of being grieved that they keep not all the commandments of the Lord, keep none; but wilfully break them all, and glory in doing so, etc. (J. Dorrington.)

The effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever

Consider the advantages that we shall receive, from a regular, uniform obedience to God’s commandments.

I. As it gives us peace of mind. The man that makes this his care is approved by his besom-witness, and satisfied from himself. God has wisely ordered it, that as soon as we have done well, we should be encouraged to continue in well-doing, by the approbation of right reason; and whensoever we sin against Him, we should also offend ourselves, and be condemned by our own impartial sentence.

II. As it encourages us to look cheerfully upon the world. Having no design but to satisfy his conscience, to do justice to his brother, and to please his God, he wishes that his actions were as clear as the light, and his dealings as the noonday: for he wants no pretences, no private reserves. And he takes the easiest, the safest, and the most satisfactory course of life. His way is plain before him, and he needs not trouble himself with any inquiry but this, Whether the action that he is going to commit is consistent with his duty to God. And if the tongue of censure should endeavour to fix its calumnies upon him, and shoot forth its poisonous arrows, even bitter words, they cannot disturb the harmony of his thoughts, or make any impression upon him. He is safe in his integrity, and beats off their furious onsets with a fixed and unmovable resolution.

III. As it gives us a lively hope and confidence in God. Blessed is the man that has thus made God his friend, and by the actions of an unblameable life has presented himself, his soul and body, a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice to God. Being entirely devoted to Him, he can resort to Him in every danger and difficulty, and truly ask for His counsel to direct, and His assistance to deliver him. (T. Newlin, M. A.)


Verse 7

Psalms 119:7

I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart.

The duty of thankfulness

Thankfulness is a duty wherein we are all obliged to the Lord. It is good in regard of the equity of it. Since the Lord gives us good things, shall not we give Him praises again? especially seeing the Lord is content so to part all His works between His majesty and us, that the good of them be ours, the glory of them be His own. It is good to praise the Lord in regard of Himself, who is the object of our praises. Since He is the treasure of all good, the Author of all blessings, it cannot be but a good thing to bless Him.

3. It is good in respect of our associates and companions in this exercise: the angels, cherubim and seraphim delight continually in His praises. Our elder brethren, that glorious congregation of the first-born, are described unto us falling down on their faces, casting their crowns at the feet of the Lord, to give Him the glory of their redemption. Now, seeing we pray that the will of God may be done in earth, as it is in heaven, why do we not delight in these exercises of praising God, by which we have fellowship with them who are glorified in Him?

4. It is good in respect of the great benefits we receive by it; nothing thereby accrues to the Lord, all the advantage is our own. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verse 8

Psalms 119:8

I will keep Thy statutes.

Good resolutions

It is a great help to godliness to resolve that we will live godly; for that which is not, concluded, how shall it be performed? Or what hope is there we should attain to the end--that is, to the perfection of piety--when we are careless of the beginnings thereof, which are purposes, intentions, and resolutions that we will be godly? Where, when of weakness we fail in following forth our resolution, it shall be well done again to renew it; for, by often renewing of our resolution to do any good, we become the stronger to accomplish it. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verse 9

Psalms 119:9

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.

How a young man may cleanse his way

I. This is the great practical problem for life. It is more especially the question for young people.

1. You are under special temptations not to ask it. There are so many other points in your future unresolved that you are only too apt to put aside the consideration of this one in favour of those which seem to be of more immediate importance. And you have the other temptation, common to us all, of living without any plan of life at all. At your age, judgment and experience are not so strong as inclination and passion; and everything has got the fresh gloss of novelty upon it, and it seems to be sometimes sufficient delight to live and get hold of the new joys that are flooding in upon you.

2. It is worth while for you to ask it. For you have got the prerogative that some of us have lost, of determining the shape that your life’s course is to take.

3. You have special temptations to make your ways unclean.

II. We can only make our way clean on condition of constant watchfulness. “Take heed to thyself” is the only condition of a pure and noble life. That such a condition is necessary will appear very plain from two considerations. First, it is clear that there must be constant watchfulness, if we consider what sort of a world this is that we have got into. And it is also plain if we consider what sort of creatures we are that have got into it. We are creatures evidently made for self-government. Our whole nature is like a monarchy. There are things in each of us that are never meant to rule, but to be kept well down under control, such as strong passions, desires rooted in the flesh which are not meant to get the mastery of a man. And there are parts of our nature which are as obviously intended to be supreme and sovereign; the reason, the conscience, the will.

III. This constant watchfulness, to be of any use, must be regulated by God’s Word. The guard on the frontier who is to keep the path must have instructions from head-quarters, and not choose add decide according to his own phantasy, but according to the King’s orders. Or, to use another metaphor, it is no use having a guard unless the guard has a lantern. In the Word of God, in its whole sweep, and eminently and especially in Christ, who is the Incarnate Word, we have an all-sufficient Guido. A guide of conduct must be plain--and whatever doubts and difficulties there may be about the doctrines of Christianity, there are none about its morality. A guide of conduct must be decisive--and there is no faltering in the utterance of the Book as to right and wrong. A guide of conduct must be capable of application to the wide diversities of character, age, circumstance--and the morality of the New Testament especially, and of the Old in a measure, secures that, because it does not trouble itself about minute details, but deals with large principles. A guide for morals must be far in advance of the followers, and it has taken generations and centuries to work into men’s consciences, and to work out in men’s practice, a portion of the morality of that Book. If the world kept the commandments of the New Testament, the world would be in the millennium; and all the sin and crime, and ninety-nine hundredths of all the sorrow of earth would have vanished like an ugly dream. Here is the guide for you, and if you take it you will not err.

IV. All this can only be done effectually if you are a Christian. My psalm goes as far as the measure of revelation granted to its author admitted; but if a person had no more to say than that, it would be a weary business. It is no use to tell a man, “Guard yourself; guard yourself.” Nor even to tell him, “Guard yourself according to God’s Word,” if God’s Word is only a law. The fatal defect of all attempts at keeping my heart by my own watchfulness is that keeper and kept are one and the same. And so there may be mutiny in the garrison, and the very forces that ought to subdue the rebellion may have gone over to the rebels. You want a power outside of you to steady you The only way to haul a boat up the rapids is to have some fixed point on the shore to which a man may fasten a rope and pull at that. You get that eternal guard and fixed point on which to hold in Jesus Christ, the dear Son of His love, who has died for you. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

On cleansing our ways

The picture in his mind was of this sort. There stood before him a young man who had not long set out on the journey of life; and who yet, to his own deep surprise and disgust, found many shins of travel already upon him. He had not meant to go wrong; as yet, perhaps, he was not gone very far wrong. And yet where did all this filth come from? And how is it to be got rid of? How is he to make his way clean, and keep it clean?

I. If we are to make our life pure, noble, satisfying, we are to take heed to it: We are to think about it, and to force ourselves to walk according to our best thoughts and aims. Carlyle sums up the whole teaching of Goethe in the brief citation, “Think of living.” Many never look forward and think of their life as a whole, and of how they may make the best of it. God has put this great and solemn gift of life into their hands: yet they never really think of it as His gift, nor ask themselves what they mean to do with it, what they have done with it, or how they may so use it as to show that they are not unworthy to be trusted with it. Nay, more; many of them do not even think of it bit by bit, day by day, step by step. So far from considering what they can make of their life as a whole, how they may make it pure and fair and bright; they do not so much as ask, “What shall I do with my life to-day, so as to make it as clean, as fair, as useful as I can?” Is it any wonder that they often wander round and round without making any real advance; and sink, again and again, into the very sloughs from which, again and again, they have been drawn out; or fall, again and again, into the very traps from which they have been set free? But to think is not enough. We want a high and true standard to which to refer, by which we may measure and direct our thoughts.

II. And this standard the psalmist gives us when he tells us to take heed to our ways according to the Word of God. It bids you remember that you have a soul as well as a body; that moral virtues and graces are still more valuable than mental gains and shining parts; that there is a world above and beyond this present world, a life above and beyond this mortal life; and it warns you to provide for that as well as for this. It asks you to believe that God is more than man, the soul more than the body, virtue better than pleasure, goodness better than gain, and the life to come more and better than the life which now is. It demands that when the claims of God clash with those of man, as they sometimes will, or the claims of the soul clash with those of the body, or the claims of virtue and goodness with those of gain and pleasure, or the claims of eternity with those of time, that you sacrifice the lower claims to the higher, that you sacrifice passing and inferior interests to interests which are noble and enduring. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Moral culture of young men

I. Young men require cleansing. Somehow or other, from the very commencement of moral agency, impure thoughts enter the mind, and impure emotions are awakened. So that cleansing is required almost at the beginning, because spiritual uncleanness is

II. Moral cleansing requires circumspection in life. “By taking heed thereto.” If you tread the path of vanity, avarice, sensuality, selfishness, you will go down deeper and deeper in moral filth. If you tread the path of virtue as trod by Jesus of Nazareth, you must take heed that you tread that path constantly and not turn to the right hand or to the left. “Take heed.” There are many on all hands who will try to turn you from the path.

III. Circumspection of life should be guided by the Divine Word. “Thy Word,” that contains the map; Thy Word, there burns the lamp; Thy Word, there dwells the inspiration. (Homilist.)

Young manhood: its peril and its rescue

I. Its peril. One thing that makes it hard for a young man to succeed in his manhood is the prevalence among us of influences that work distractingly and scatteringly. It takes time and a certain amount of leisure if a man is going to be at his best. We are torn hither and thither by multiplicity of interest.

2. Another disadvantage under which our young men are suffering is that they have so largely slipped their old anchorages. They have cut adrift from the past. Hereditary tastes, ideas and methods are ignored. The age to which a custom or doctrine has attained is taken as measure of its inherent absurdity. To be old-fashioned is, with them, to be silly.

3. Another tooth in the jaw of the Babylonian lion is the rum-shop and the wine-cup.

4. Still another incisor that pricks into and tears the life of our young manhood is the prevalence among us of so much that works personal impurity, in the shape of coarse literature, dirty pictures and houses of ill-repute.

5. Another obstacle that obstructs the efforts of our young men to maintain their manliness is the engrossing love of money.

II. The service of succour that we can render.

1. Prayer. Christ teaches us that He not only regards the prayer of faith when offered by those who need help, but that He regards the prayer of faith when offered in behalf of those who need help. Prayer generates work, and so makes us co-operate with God in bringing the answer to our own prayer.

2. Another thing we can do is to contribute in a material way to the work of the Young Men’s Christian Association that has the interests of our un-homed young men in particular charge.

3. But we must not relegate to organization the work and responsibility that devolves upon us in our character of individual Christians. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The young man’s conduct

I. It requires moral cleansing.

1. There are several elements more or less impure in a young man’s life that must be cleansed:--

2. From these elements of impurity he must be cleansed. The animal must give way to the spiritual, the fictitious to the real, the vain to the sober and the humble.

II. Its moral cleansing requires personal circumspection. “By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.” “Sanctify them through Thy truth: for Thy Word is truth,” said Christ. “Now ye are clean through the Word I spoke unto you.” By personal circumspection the Word must be applied

A young man’s way

I. The Bible makes a great deal in its teaching about the ways of men.

1. There is the way of the transgressor, which is hard; and the way of the fool, which is right in his own eyes; and the way of the slothful, which is a hedge of thorns; and the way of the wicked, which is as darkness. And there is the way of the righteous, which is plain, and which the Lord knows; and the way of the saint, which is preserved; and the way which is like the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

2. There is variety in the ways of individual men at different periods of their life. There is the peculiar bent and passion of the old man, the characteristic of the man in middle life, and, differing from these, the way of a young man.

II. What is meant by “cleansing the way.” It is something very deep and pure which is intended, or Job would never have said, “What is man that he should be clean?” It is something very practical and searching, or Isaiah would not have begun his prophecies with the call, “Wash you, make you clean,” etc. It is something intended to cover the whole area of life, or it never would have been made an ordinance in the old dispensation to have the vessels and persons clean that came into the presence of God; nor would Jesus in the new, in so solemn a way have washed the feet of His disciples to make them “every whit clean.” It is the cleanness which is part of God’s life which is intended. God is of purer eyes than to look upon sin. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. It is the cleanness which is also the holiness of God--cleanness from sin, from evil, from guile, from insincerity; the very quality praised by the adoring angels when they cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in the presence of God. The question, therefore, means, “Wherewithal shall a young man lead a holy life like the life of the Holy God? Wherewithal shall he make his way the way of a saint?”

III. The answer to this question is “By taking heed thereto according to God’s Word.” By taking God’s Word as the light, the guide, and the director of the way; by considering your steps in the light of that Word; by taking that Word as the chart, the pilot, and the propeller of your way. For the young soul who receives this Word and makes it his bosom companion, who accepts its light as the guide of his way, who follows the Lord whom it commends--life from that hour is changed. His heart is fixed on the strength of God. His career is along the lines of the life of God. He will be no more a straw tossed in the wind, a dead log swung hither and thither by the swirl in the river, a wave driven this way and that by the wind; but a life--a stream from the life of God--a life made wise by the indwelling of God’s truth in the mind, and by the constraint of His love in the heart. (A. Macleod, D. D.)

To young men

I. The character of the way spoken of.

1. Its moral aspect. The law cannot relax its claims; it is inexorable, and cries, “Pay me that thou owest.” it smiles on the obedient, and frowns on the disobedient. Hence, your every word, thought and deed should be subject to its authority.

2. Its social aspect. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” is a truth which receives daily corroboration. Hence, how important that young men should be very particular in forming connections, and that great care should also be observed in making companionships (Proverbs 1:10; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17). Divine grace does not destroy our social nature; it sanctifies it, and directs our social instincts in a pure channel; so that whilst sinners are joining “hand in hand,” Christians may enjoy the “communion of saints.”

3. Its intellectual aspect. Mental culture is an important part of your duty. When Virgil was asked by a friend why he studied so much accuracy in the plan of his poems, the propriety of his characters, and the purity of his diction, he answered, “I write for eternity.” Let it be, my young friends, the daily language of your hearts and life, “I am living for eternity.”

4. Its spiritual aspect. Your soul in its origin, capacities, immortality, and the price paid for its redemption, has a claim on your attention and efforts to save it.

II. What is implied in the phrase, “Cleanse his way”?

1. That the young man must ponder his steps. Want of reflection and forethought is characteristic of youth.

2. That he must resist temptation. Wealth, pleasure, fashion, company, amusements, pernicious books, and sensual enjoyments surround you, and you are in danger of being unduly influenced by them.

3. That he improve by the use of his privileges.

4. That he prepare for eternity.

III. How is this to be done? All your proceedings are to be regulated by God’s Word. Its cautions and threatenings must serve to preserve you from sin and danger. Its precepts and doctrines must guide you in your journey through life: and its precious promises and bright examples must allure you to scenes of felicity and glory beyond the grave.

IV. Lessons. A young man’s “way” is--

1. Highly critical. Beset with snares, dangers, and enemies. Demanding constant watchfulness and prayer.

2. Deeply solemn. Leading to heaven or hell, eternal happiness or endless woe.

3. Personally responsible. The means of salvation within reach. (James White.)

To young men

I. The danger to which young men are exposed.

1. The depraved nature common to them as well as others.

2. The strength of their passions.

3. Their inexperience.

4. The incitements of wicked men.

5. The evil example of others.

6. Want of solid religious principles.

II. The Divinely-provided remedy, or preventive to pollution.

1. We must begin by seeking regenerating grace.

2. We must keep constant watch over our own hearts, or they will ensnare us.

3. We must pay strict attention to every part of our conduct.

4. We must seek assistance from the proper quarter. (W. Peddie, D. D.)

A young man cleansing his way

I. What is implied in the question. That for a young man to cleanse his way is--

1. A necessary thing.

2. A difficult thing.

3. A noble thing (verse 1). Such are beautiful in youth, and strong in their radiant manhood. They are the flower of the race. They are the hope of the Church. And the Lord Jesus, “beholding them, loves them.”

II. What is taught in the answer.

1. He must have a fixed purpose to “cleanse his way.” Determination is everything in religion, as in other matters. The young man who is firmly resolved to live a holy life will succeed in doing so, provided he lays hold of the grace of God, and uses the appointed means of sanctification.

2. He must take Holy Scripture as his guide. The Bible is the cleanest book in the world. Its ideals are the noblest. It is the purity of the Divine Word that has invested it with indestructible vitality. The morality of Scripture satisfies our moral being as the very perfection of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good; and Scripture shows us that fair ideal of purity embodied in an actual human life--the life of the Son of God in our nature. (C. Jerdan, LL. B.)

Religion the only safeguard of youth

The infidel, Thomas Paine, was one night haranguing a promiscuous company, gathered in the common room of the New York tavern where he had his lodgings, on the great harm done to the world by the Bible and the Christian religion. When he paused for breath, he was much astonished at the remark of a stranger, who said, “Mr. Paine, you have been in Scotland. You know there is not a more rigid set of people in the world than they are in their attachment to the Bible. When a young man loaves his father’s house, his mother in packing his chest always puts a Bible on the top of his clothes.” The infidel nodded acquiescence. “You have also been in Spain,” continued the stranger. “The people have no Bibles, and in that country you can hire a man for a dollar to murder his neighbour, who never gave him any offence.” Mr. Paine answered that this was so. “Then, see how the argument stands,” said the advocate for Christianity. “If the Bible were so bad a book as you represent it to be, those who use it would be the worst members of society; but the contrary is the fact. Our prisons, almshouses, and penitentiaries are filled with men and women whose ignorance or unbelief prevents them from reading the Bible.”

I. The young man who rules himself after God’s Word will walk in the ways of honesty. Make it a rule, young men, never to sacrifice integrity for broad.

II. The young man who rules himself after God’s Word will cultivate a spirit of reverence. The young man who rules himself after God’s Word will utter no profane oath; and when he comes into God’s holy temple, it will always be with uncovered head, as becomes the presence-chamber of the King of kings.

III. Another thing which will distinguish those who walk in obedience to God’s laws is that they will be found in the ways of sobriety. By one of the laws of ancient Greece, every offence committed by a drunken person received double punishment. Christian nations would do well to adopt it.

IV. The young man who rules himself after God’s Word will be found in the ways of purity. “Keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).

V. The young man who rules himself after God’s Word will be religious. Youth is the stormy cape, within sight of which many a frail bark is lost; and God’s Word is the only chart which can guide one safely On his voyage. (J. N. Norton.)

The cleansing Word

I. The question.

1. Man’s ways need cleansing.

2. Youth is the most important time for this.

II. The answer.

1. How does the Word of God provide for this cleansing of the way?

2. You must take heed to it. This implies--

Take heed to thy way

I. The senses is which the Word of God is a cleanser of the way of life.

1. It purifies as a rule.

2. God’s Word is an instrument by which He cleanses the heart. So Jesus prayed--“Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.” The Word that said, “Let there be light,” and in a moment changed the darkness and confusion of the aboriginal elements into the light, order, and beauty of creation, is the same Word which breathes the breath of spiritual life into the new creature in Christ Jesus.

II. The manner is which the Word of God is to be applied to cleanse the young man’s way. “By taking heed thereto.”

1. This implies an earnest study of the Word; frequent and unintermitred contemplation.

2. It also implies a care and watchfulness over our own hearts and ways.

III. The reasons which should appeal to youth to take heed to their way.

1. How reasonable it is in itself. Ought not God to have our first and best, who loved us first and gave us His best?

2. Temptation is never so strong and fiery as in the tropical clime of youth.

3. The fearful hindrances to the work of grace which increase and aggravate upon the postponement of repentance. (J. B. Owen, M. A.)

Clean ways

A way has a direction, and leads somewhither. A way is continuous, and if we are in it, we are advancing in it. A way differs in its direction from other ways, and diverges more and more from them the farther one travels upon it. There is hardly any error so perilous as that of imagining that there can be isolated acts or states of mind. Every present has its closely affiliated future. Every deed, every reverie, every thought, is a cause. We are moving on in character, as in years. Let me beg you, then, to see whither you are going, whither your way leads. Start not in a direction which you are not willing to follow to the end. Take not your first step on any evil way, unless you are ready to encounter the dishonour, degradation, misery, and ruin which have visibly overtaken the advanced travellers on that way. Remember, our ways lead on through the death-shadow; and I know that there is but one way on which you are willing that death should overtake you,--but one way whose steps brighten under the shadow, and in which you can hope to walk with those whom you would crave as your companions in the life everlasting. “Wherewithal shall a young man ‘cleanse’ his way,” or, more literally, make his way clean? This is a metaphor which appeals vividly to our experience. What is there so disheartening as the necessity of treading muddy streets? We sedulously seek, if they are to be had, clean paths for our feet, and bewail ourselves when we cannot find them. We are ashamed, even though no other eye be upon us, if we are forced to prolong travel-stain or any squalid condition of person or attire. Can it be that there is one so imbruted that he feels not the travel-stain of sinful ways,--that there is not a close-clinging sense of impurity when the soul has debased itself by foul deeds, indulgences, or associations? Must there not be a self-loathing, a self-contempt, in those who are making themselves vile? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.” What is the Word of God? An unerring and undying conscience, a sense of right and wrong, native in the soul of man, is God’s Word to you and me. There is never a question of duty, in which you do not know what you ought to do. There is never a sinful compliance to which you are tempted or urged, of whose moral character you have the slightest doubt. So long as you obey your conscience, you are taking heed to your way according to the Word of God. But this phrase has for us another meaning--another, yet the same. The Word of God--the very same word which speaks to us in con-science--has lived incarnate in the one sinless Son of Man, or rather, not has lived, but ever lives, in the heaven whither He has gone before us, and where His welcome awaits our following Him, in His Gospel, fresh as when the words of grace and truth fell from His lips, in the pure spirits trained in His nurture, in the examples of excellence that have transmitted His holiness in a line of living light all down the Christian ages, and in whom the Christ within has shone forth in radiant beauty. (A. P. Peabody, D. D.)

Taking heed to God’s Word

You are to “take heed.” Look at the pilot at the helm, when he is steering the vessel, in the storm, amidst the rocks: what is he doing? “Taking heed.” He is all eye, all sensibility, all intelligence, as to the position in which he stands. That is “taking heed.” Look at the sentinel, walking his weary round, when he knows that the enemy is at hand. Hearken to his footsteps; why, they seem to be but the echo of the man’s sensibility of alarm and of danger. He is “taking heed.” And you are to “take heed to your way.” What did God give you faculties for, but to be employed? You have the faculty for observation: employ it. You have the faculty for examination: employ it. You have the faculty for reflection: employ it. You have the power of “taking heed”: employ it. And recollect that no man can do this for you. It is to be done individually, vigilantly; you, as a man alive to your danger, are to enact the part of the pilot amidst the rocks. And doing this “according to God’s Word,” you shall not “labour in vain, nor spend your strength for nought.” You can discern between good and evil, you know what is offensive, and you know what is pleasing to God; you know what you must do to be saved; you know that yonder is a scene of profligacy and vice, and that here is an opportunity for serving and worshipping God; you know that there is a literature which is saturated with all manner of ungodliness, and that here lies a Book which will lead you to “glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life.” “Take heed,” then; and “take heed,” “according to God’s Word.” When your vigilance is once excited, and your mind is all in action, and you leave your house of business, and are plied with all manner of fascinations, “take heed” what you are about; but be sure to “take heed” according to the requirements, the directions, the expostulations, the promises of God’s Word. To “take heed” according to the maxims of the world, or the suggestions of fashion, would only be to mock your misery, and accelerate your downfall; but “taking heed according to God’s Word,” that Word being hid away in your hearts, for constant and appropriate use, you will be able to say with a voice which he will be forced to listen to, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” and to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ shall make you free.” But this requires attention, diligence, and personal effort. How will God’s Word enable you to take heed? You must get it into your memories, it must be associated with your recollections, it must be ready whenever you want it, your hearing of it having been mixed with faith; and when it has thus been lodged and assimilated there, it will be “the sword of the Spirit,” “the Word of God.” (W. Brock.)

A clean life

Some years ago, in most of the large railway stations of England, there was a picture which greatly amused me. It represented a little boy who had been washed, and stood half white and half black beside a bath. A certain kind of soap had been used in the boy’s ablutions, and the result was that, although he had not become white, he was half white and half black. “Like some people of my acquaintance,” I thought many a time; “not so dirty as they once were, but they are far from clean yet.” We ought to be clean every whit--that is, clean in all our thoughts, words, and especially in our conduct. Let us all aim at having a clean life. Almost the first thing that we discover when we begin to think about ourselves and the world in which we live is this need of cleansing. Sin has defiled everything, and its marks are upon our hearts. How can we remedy this? what can be done for us to remove the stain which seems fixed so fast in the fibres of our lives? What would you think of a negro who washed his face, and scrubbed it with all his might, in order to make it white? He could not make his skin fair like ours, even if he used all the soap in England, and all the washing powders, too; because the black lies underneath the skin, and it cannot be got at by rubbing. Once a year farmers wash their sheep so as to cleanse the wool, but then all the dirt is on the outside. That which defiles us, however, is inside us, and so it cannot be so easily got rid of. We must become clean within, and to do this for us is God’s good work. Mr. Moody tells us that one day he promised to take his little boy out for a drive. But the child played about in the dirt, and made himself quite unfit to be seen. “Let me come with you, father,” he pleaded. “No, Willie, you are not ready. I must take you in and wash you.” “Oh, papa! I’se ready.” “No, you are all over dirt.” “Mamma washed me; I’se clean.” Finding that he could not convince the child that he had contracted dirt since he had been washed, Mr. Moody lifted Willie up in his arms and showed him his face in a looking-glass. Says Mr. Moody, “The looking-glass stopped his mouth, but I did not wash his face with it!” Now, the Bible is a looking-glass, and intended to show us our need of cleansing; and if you will but prayerfully study it you will see your need of cleansing. George Herbert, while catechizing asked, after other questions about man’s misery, “Since man is so miserable, what is to be done?” and the answerer could not tell. He asked him again what he would do if he were in a ditch? This familiar illustration made the answer so plain, that he was even ashamed of his ignorance; for he could not but say he would haste out of it as fast as he could. Then the minister asked whether he needed a helper, and who was that helper? And then we must be kept clean, and that every day. For one thing, we must avoid that which would defile us, and that we can do if we are careful. A gentleman, when he brought his son to London in order that he might apprentice him to an engineer, made up his mind to give him a few words of kindly counsel. He turned over in his mind how best to say what ought to be said, without getting any nearer the solution. But as they walked along the street,, they observed that the roadway was very muddy. The youth was about to cross in the mud, but his father stopped him. “Wait,” he said, “we will seek a clean crossing. Always seek a clean crossing in life.” After he had been left alone in town, the youth pondered these words, and dimly began to see their meaning. Seek a clean crossing in life; mind where you go, and keep out of the mud. There are some places that are known by almost every one to be evil--keep away from them; seek a clean crossing. There is another thing said in the text about the cleansing Word of God, and that is, we must frequently consult it. On board ship the captain consults his chart, and shapes his course by it. The Bible is our chart, a map of the roads through life along which we must tread in order to reach heaven. A chart kept wrapped up would be useless; look at it, study it, and then follow its guidance. At times we are perplexed as to what is the right and wise course for us to adopt. We are perplexed, and do not know whom to consult. Open your Bible, and you will probably find there some one in precisely the same circumstances. You will certainly find some text suitable for you, and will thus learn what to do. “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light,” says a psalm, and many people can testify that this witness is quite true. (N. Wiseman.)

Go by the directions

Go by the directions. I saw a picture once which has stuck to my memory for years and years. It was a picture of a dark, wild, stormy night, and a traveller was standing up in the stirrups of his horse at a parting of the way, trying to read the directions on the finger-post. How eagerly he was looking! I can see him yet holding the lighted match carefully in his hand lest the wind should blow it out before he had read the directions l It was a good thing for him that there were directions, and it is a good thing we have them, too. Where are our directions? They are--the Bible. That is God’s Word to us, telling us which road to take when we come to the parting of the way. Go by the directions Do what God says, and you will never go wrong. (J. R. Howatt.)


Verse 10

Psalms 119:10

With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy commandments.

Man’s distinguishing capacity and fearful liability

I. Man’s distinguishing capacity. What is that? Power to wander from the Divine law. He can bound from his orbit, he has done so, is doing so. Sublimely awful power this, the power that makes us men and links us to moral government.

II. Man’s fearful liability. The possession of this power is a dignity of our natures, the wrong use of this power is our crime and our ruin, and to the wrong use, alas, we are all fearfully liable. If I wander from God’s commandment I wander from the right into the wrong, from light into darkness, from liberty to thraldom, from happiness to misery. (Homilist.)

The grandest pursuit and the greatest peril

I. The grandest pursuit of man.

1. The object of pursuit--God. Not merely His works, but Himself. Not a mere knowledge of Him, but the possession of Him. To obtain God as the Father of the soul is the grandest end of being.

2. The mode of pursuit. Unless it is done with the whole heart, the concentration of the soul, it is never done.

II. The greatest peril of man. To wander from God’s commandments is to wander from light into darkness, from order into confusion, from plenty into pauperism, from happiness into misery, from life into death. (Homilist.)

Keeping to the path

Old Humphrey has a good paper against wandering from the path of duty, suggested by a notice at the entrance of a park:--“Take notice. In walking through these grounds, you are requested to keep the foot-path.” Bunyan has supplied the same theme for solemn warning, in the pilgrim straying into Bye-path meadow. (Bowes.)


Verse 11

Psalms 119:11

Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.

God’s Word in the heart

Such was David’s wise precaution against temptation, but we have a far higher example of the use of such precaution in the history of the temptation of our Lord. The holy Redeemer made his appeal to the Word of God, and in so doing He teaches us where to find succour and strength against temptation. The text shows us--

I. A view of the internal principle which actuates a good man. It is a heart inspired with love to God.

II. One of the efforts of that principle--he hides God’s Word in his heart. Not merely in his memory, not in the intellectual powers of the mind, but in the city and citadel, where the affections dwell, where reason governs, the home of motive, of principle, and feeling. The memory should be the storehouse of the Divine truth; it is often the very quiver of God, from which He draws His arrows of conviction, and the storehouse where He draws comfort and peace for His people. I believe the human mind never forgets; what it seizes, it never lets go. The mind acquires, retains, hides up, and in a moment brings back past thoughts. This is a power of vast importance in a moral point of view. How well, then, that our minds should be stored with Divine truth. The Holy Ghost brings thence those things concerning God and so teaches us. Children should learn the very words of Scripture, even when they cannot fully understand them. But they will have their use some future day. But not in the memory alone did David hide God’s Word, but in his heart. Love needed to understand God’s Word. Suitable dispositions are like proper lights to a painting--it cannot else be rightly seen. Now with the Word of God hid in our hearts, lovingly treasured up, we shall find a preservative against temptation, as did our Lord. What raises such a barrier against sin of all kinds as the Word of God lovingly remembered? You know how a pebble from a poor shepherd boy slew, in days of old, a most powerful and defiant giant; but then the pebble was taken from the brook in the spirit of confidence in God. And so we must take forth the teachings of God’s Word in a spirit of confidence that God will give us His promised strength. Then hide up God’s Word in your heart, and pray the Holy Spirit to visit you as the remembrancer in your moments of need. (C. J. Phipps Eyre, M. A.)

The Word of God in the heart

I. The great desire and aim of a good man. Not to sin against God.

1. His views of God give this desire and aim.

2. His love of God.

3. His views of sin in its nature and its consequences.

II. The means which, a good man adopts to realize this desire. The Word must be in the heart as power and life; controlling the thoughts--the motives--the principles. In the heart. Hid in the heart. Laid up there; made secure there against the robbery of sin, Satan, scepticism, etc. The Word of God, in its doctrines, precepts, promises, threatenings, examples, is a power in man which no other word can be. It teaches; it restrains; it warns; it guides; it saves. Things which we value; which are essential for certain ends, we preserve in the most secure places; as deeds, jewels, wills, etc. So a good man hides the Word of God in his heart; so that in times of danger it is safe. A Roman priest once took a Bible from a boy, and burnt it. The boy said to him, “You cannot burn the Word which I have in my heart.” It was the Word of God hid in the heart that made the apostles so courageous in work and sufferings; that made martyrs so true and faithful; that now makes Christians so unyielding to the world’s jeers, persecution, and atheism. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but God’s Word, hid in the heart, endureth for ever. (Anon.)

Treasure safely kept

I. “thy” Implying Jehovah’s presence. Omniscience. This eye ever looks you through! In His dread presence you this moment are.

II. “Thy word.” “Better than thousands of,” etc. “Sweeter than honey,” etc. A light, guide, chart. “The power of God unto salvation.” Christ is its fulness and glory.

III. “Thy Word have.” Not will, intend, purpose. An act already done. Let us change our intentions into deeds, our purposes into facts.

IV. “Thy Word have I.” The individual stands out. We are individuals, not congregations, before God.

V. “Thy Word have I hid.” Not as the miser. As leaven. As seed. For personal use. For wide and extended use.

VI. “Thy Word have I hid in.” If all of God’s Word that is not in us was taken from us, how much should we have left? The Pharisees wore it outside. It must be in us a living power. In us a spring of action.

VII. “Thy Word have I hid in my.” Parents, you wish to hide it in your children. How about yourselves? Sunday-school teachers, etc.? All of you wish it to be hid in those who sit next to you, etc.

VIII. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart” Must be in the heart. With the heart we feel, believe, love. (R. Berry.)

A sure preventive of sin

I. The Word of God is in its very nature expulsive of sin and cleansing therefrom (John 15:3.)

II. Hid like a sword in its sheath to be drawn out at a moment’s notice. Christ’s answer to Satan: “It is written.” Hid like a guard in a house, a sentinel in a fort, to watch diligently against the approach of temptation. (Homiletic Monthly.)

Three great things in human life

I. A great revelation. “Thy Word.” A word is a revelation of intelligent moral mind. The value of a word depends up the intellectual and moral worth of the mind it expresses. The words of thoughtless men are wind and nothing more. The words of corrupt men are the channels of impurity. The words of the holy and the strong are amongst the most elevating forces in society. But what is a human word compared with the Word of God? The revelation of a mind infinitely wise, immaculately holy, boundlessly loving and almighty in strength. This Word we have here, and it is given us in order to work our spiritual renovation, and to restore us to the moral image of its Author.

II. A great act. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart.”

1. There are many wrong uses of this Word.

2. What is the right use of it.? To hide it in the heart. Hide it as golden grain in the soil that it may germinate and grow, and produce abundant fruit. It is a wonderful thought that God has given man the capacity to take into his nature the Word, and profoundly solemn is the thought that it is only as he takes in this Word into the depths of his nature and hides it there that he can reach a happy destiny.

III. A great purpose. “That I might not sin against Thee.”

1. Sin is a terrible evil. It is worse than hell, for it is the cause and spirit of it.

2. There is a propensity in man to fall into this evil. This, alas, is true to all history universal. Experience and our own consciousness.

3. God’s Word in the heart is the efficient counteractive. (Homilist.)

The best thing in the best place

I. The word of God is the rest thing.

1. Because it is Divine.

2. It is good throughout.

3. It is the root of all good.

4. It is most prized at last.

II. Put it in the best place. It is of no good to any of us until it is there,--that is, in the heart.

III. Here is the best purpose, “That I might not sin against Thee.” Does some one fancy that there could be a higher reason, a nobler purpose, than that? If you will think it over you will come to the conclusion that the Christian has no nobler ambition than to live without sin. “That I might not sin against Thee!”--there is no higher ambition than to live on earth the life of heaven. But, how does hiding God’s Word in the heart promote holiness, how does it prevent sin?

1. It discovers sin. If you know God’s Word well, you are on the high road to the easy discovery of God’s will, for it is the revelation of the Divine will. By these testimonies you will know what God approves and delights in. It will be equally plain what He abhors and detests. These are the balances of the sanctuary.

2. It announces sin. It tells you where the evil is, and when you may expect it. It is a sort of tocsin that warns you of impending danger; an alarum timed to startle you just when the danger is close, and there is yet time to escape.

3. It points out the way of escape, it reveals the secret door in the wall, when your only safety is in flight. It is the chart on which is marked every shoal, and every quicksand, and every rock; and the safe channels, too.

4. It arms us against the danger. If kept in the heart, it keeps the heart.

5. It strengthens and nerves the spirit.

6. It reveals to us the path of duty. (T. Spurgeon.)

God’s Word hidden in the heart

I. What the psalmist hid. “Thy Word”--the Word of God, the message He has sent to us for our instruction and guidance, for our encouragement and consolation and delight. It is a Word which has reached us through the ministry of men who were themselves enlightened and inspired by God, that they might teach us all that we most need to know. Do not, on any account, neglect the Bible. It contains all that is essential, and the man who knows it has the essence of all wisdom. It is, indeed, light to guide, a beacon to warn, a mine of gold, a well of ever-living water, and the bread of eternal life. For all our deepest needs there is, as Sir Walter Scott said on his death-bed, but One book, and that book is the Word of God.

II. Where he hid its--“in my heart”--in the very lowest depths, the most secure and secret places of his nature. No external possession or hiding of the Bible is of the slightest use here. It is not having, but using that tells. The Bible is ours only so far as we know and understand and love it. Pray that the Holy Spirit may open your heart that you may attend to the things written and spoken!

III. Why he hid it--“that I might not sin against Thee.” That was, indeed, a good purpose. To sin is to do wrong, to go astray, to miss the true mark of our life--the mark at which we ought to aim. It weakens and degrades us, mars our nature, and destroys our happiness both for this world arid the next. We are all in danger of falling into it. If left to ourselves, to our own ideas and inclinations and desires, we shall fall into it. We need to be ever on our guard, and to pray, “Hold Thou me up.” If we remember and rightly love the Bible we shall not sin against God. It will make us wise unto salvation. (James Stuart.)

The bane and antidote of souls

I. The bane of souls. What is the bane? “Sin. A little word, but a terrible thing. The Bible represents it as a slavery, a diseases a pollution, a poison, etc. It is loathsome to the Creator, it is the curse of the creature. This is the bane.

II. The antidote of souls. God’s “Word” contains the power, and the only power, to destroy sin. (Homilist.)

Hiding and not hiding

(with Psalms 40:10):--Those two texts seem to contradict, but really complete, each other. There is a “hiding,” without which a Christian life is scarcely possible, and cannot be vigorous. There is a “not hiding,” which is equally indispensable. The latter is the consequence of the former. Unless a man can say, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart,” depend upon it, he will never say, “I have not hid Thy righteousness from the great congregation”; and, conversely, unless a man can declare that he has hid his deepest convictions, his deepest convictions will be very shallow.

1. The deep, inward secret of all noble, and especially of all deep, real, Christian life. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart.” This means, first, familiarity with your Bible. Do not let any notion that God speaks “at sundry times and in divers manners,” not only in Scripture, but otherwise, in providences, and in the world, and in our own hearts, cause us to neglect, as this generation does neglect, the systematic, diligent, daily perusal of Holy Scripture. You cannot hide the Word of God in your heart if you neglect, as so many of us do, the most articulate utterance of that Word in that Book, which, whatever may be the theories about the way it came into being, is the Word of the living God. Then there is another way by which we hide the Word in our hearts. It is, to cultivate the habit of referring everything to God’s will. There must also be loving submission to what we know to be God’s will. Put the will of God into your heart, and it will be like a bit of camphor wrapped up in some fur garment; it will keep all the moths off.

II. A not hiding, which increases possession. “I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart,” etc. That life of which I have been speaking, the deep, secret life of communion with the will of God, will he hidden, but it will not be hidden. No man can smother up and bury his deepest convictions. If there be a bulb in the ground, and there be life in the bulb, the flower will force its way up through the earth when the spring days come. And every one of us, although unconsciously, declares the secret of our hidden lives by our conduct in the world. But there is more than that. No Christian man that has in his heart the Word and will of God but will know the impulse to impart it, and that in proportion as his own possession of Jesus Christ, who, as the embodiment of the will, is the Word of God--is deep and vital. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Word in the heart a defence

The early settlers in America had to keep their guns within reach while about their work on the farm, for the Indians might come upon them unawares. Our foe, the devil, is quite as likely to take us when off guard. We need to have our weapon at all times within reach. It is not probable that our Saviour had the Scriptures in His hands when Satan came to Him in the wilderness, but He had laid up the truth in His heart so that no surprise was possible.


Verse 15-16

Psalms 119:15-16

I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways.

A threefold internal action of the soul about the Word

These two verses present to us a threefold internal action of David’s soul towards the Word of God: first, meditation; secondly, consideration; thirdly, delectation; every one of these proceeds from the other and mutually strengthen one another. Meditation brings the Word to the mind; consideration views it, and looks at length into it; whereof is bred delectation. That which comes into the mind, were it never so good, if it be not considered, goes as it came; leaving neither instruction nor joy; but being once perfected by meditation, if it be pondered by consideration, then it breeds delectation; which is the perfection of godliness, in regard of the internal action. Thus we see that a godly man is ever fruitful in good: like that tree planted by the rivers of waters. For at the same time when his external good actions cannot be seen, he is not without internal good motions, breeding good in the root of his affection; which shortly brings out good fruit in his action, to the glory of God, and good of others. (Bp. Cowper.)

Reading profitless without meditation

St. Francis de Sales did not think well of those men who flit from book to book, taking up first one religious exercise and then another; he compared such persons to the drone bee, which makes no honey. “Always learning, yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth; always gathering and acquiring, without retaining anything, because what they gather is put into a bottomless sack, a broken cistern. The longer a bee rests upon the flower, the more honey it will gather,” he used to say. (Christian Weekly.)


Verse 17

Psalms 119:17

Deal bountifully with Thy servant, that I may live, and keep Thy Word.

Human life

Two facts suggested concerning human life:

I. That its continuance depends upon Divine mercy. No creature has a right to live. All finite life is a gift; especially is this the case with human life, that has outraged its constitution and rebelled against its Creator. We live by mercy.

II. That its value depends upon true obedience. Life apart from obedience is a life without moral peace, without harmony, without spiritual usefulness, without God, without hope. (Homilist.)


Verse 18

Psalms 119:18

Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.

Moral blindness

Moral blindness is the worst kind of blindness.

I. Physical blindness has its compensations. Other faculties and organs generally become so keen and active as to make up for the loss of the eye. The imagination also, as in the case of Milton, Homer, etc., gets power to create sunny worlds.

II. Physical blindness is not criminal. It is a calamity. All blindness arises from one of three causes, the want of the visual faculty, the want of light, or the non-employment of the visual faculty. Man is morally blind not from the first cause, for he has conscience, that is, the eye of the soul; not from the second, for he has a moral revelation outside and inside of him. It is the last; he closes his eyes.

III. Physical blindness conceals the hideous. To look upon the hideous is painful. The blind man sees them not. But the man who is morally blind has often terrible visions of the most horrible things, his conscience scares and scathes him. (Homilist.)

Spiritual illumination

I. Man by nature is spiritually blind. “Open thou mine eyes.”

1. This spiritual blindness is the effect of sin.

2. It is universal.

3. It deprives man of his prerogatives.

4. It exposes man to danger. The refuge is before him, but he travels the path that leads to ruin. Who so blind as the sinner?

II. The removal of this spiritual blindness will enable man to perceive the truth of god’s law. He is brought into a new sphere and new world.

1. The Bible is replete with realities.

2. The realities of the Bible are wonderful.

3. They are inexhaustible.

4. Mankind stands in need of perceiving these wonderful realities.

III. The removal of this spiritual blindness is God’s work.

1. By the agency of His Word.

2. By the agency of His Holy Spirit, who applies the Word to the conscience.

IV. Application.

1. The necessity of applying to God for the removal of this spiritual darkness.

2. The impossibility of being happy without Divine light and life.

3. The obligation of the Christian to God for being possessed with light to perceive the truths of the Bible. (J. O. Griffiths.)

God’s Word suited to man’s sense of wonder

I. The sense of wonder in man, and what generally excites it. It is a great thing not to lose the sense of wonder, and yet to keep it for right objects.

2. The feeling may be excited by different objects.

II. God has made provision for this sense of wonder in his revealed Word.

1. The Bible addresses our sense of wonder by constantly presenting the new and unexpected to us.

2. While the Bible makes provision for constantly new views of truth, it sets before us also things beautiful and grand, without which the new would be a matter of idle curiosity.

3. And then, if we come to the third source of wonder, that which raises it to awe, it is the peculiar province of the Bible to deal with this. Its aim is, all through, to lead us to such subjects as the soul, and God, and the eternal world, and sin, the great mystery and root of mysteries, and the marvellous remedy which has been provided for it in the descent of the Divine nature to the human, that great mystery of godliness, “God manifest in the flesh.”

III. The means we are to use in order to have God’s Word thus unfolded.

The prayer of the psalmist may be our guide--“Open Thou mine eyes that I may see.”

1. He asks for no new revelation. It was in God’s hand to give this, and He did it in His own time to those ancient believers; but to all of them at every time there was enough given for the purposes of life. The request is not for more, but that he may employ well that which he possesses. Still better does such a form of request suit us, to whom life and immortality have been brought to light in Christ.

2. He asks for no new faculty. The eyes are there already, and they need only to be opened. It is not the bestowal of a new and supernatural power which enables a man to read the Bible to profit, but the quickening of a power he already possesses. In one view it is supernatural, as God is the Author of the illumination by a direct act of His Spirit; in another it is natural, as it operates through the faculties existing in man’s soul. (John Ker, D. D.)

A necessary prayer

There are two classes of persons who may learn something from this prayer of the psalmist.

I. There are those-and many of them good Christians--who do not take so large a view of the Bible as they ought. They confine themselves to some doctrines and precepts, central and needful, and they read the Bible to find these in constantly recurring forms, just as some men look on flowers chiefly as verifying some botanical theory. This reduces the Book of God to a set of doctrinal moulds, and often makes what should be the most interesting of all books, one to which they have to urge themselves by a constraint of conscience, when they might be drawn to it by the attraction of constant freshness and growing beauty. For our own sakes, and for the sake of presenting it in its true light to the world, let us seek to study it in all the vividness of life and variety of colour with which God has set it forth. The special want of our time is to make the Bible more human without making it less Divine.

2. There is another class who may have given much thought to the Bible, and obtained from it fresh views of man and nature and God, but they have not yet lifted up the heart with this petition, “Open Thou mine eyes,” etc. They have not felt their need of any such enlightenment, because they have not felt the presence of sin, nor realized the darkness that it pours over the spiritual vision. Let them ask of its Author the Divine eye-salve with which He anoints the eyes. Its first revelations may be unwelcome, and men may be startled to see how fancied wealth and fulness sink into spiritual poverty and misery. But continued vision will open up Divine remedies, gold tried in the fire, and white raiment, the value of which will only be enhanced by growing insight. (John Ker, D. D.)

The Bible as containing the wonderful

The Bible contains “Wondrous things.” Wonderful in their nature, wonderful in their number, and wonderful in their influence. As containing the wonderful--

I. It agrees with the constitution of the human mind.

1. Man has a craving for the wonderful.

2. Man has a need for the wonderful to excite his faculties, to stimulate his inquiries, to challenge his powers.

II. It accords with the character of nature. All nature is crowded with the wonderful. We need not take the microscope to search the myriad worlds invisible to the naked eye, or the telescope innumerable worlds and systems rolling through infinite space to discover the wonderful. The wonderful comes under our eye, sounds in our ear, and beats in our pulse every moment. If the Bible did not contain the wonderful it would not be in harmony with nature, not in harmony with the works of God, either in this planet or in any parts of immensity.

III. It reproves the dogmatism of religionists. “(Homilist.)

Spiritual discernment

Two forms of Divine teaching are implied in these words--revelation and spiritual apprehension to receive that which is revealed; truth in the written Word, and the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit; the one therefore universal, common to all men--the open Bible, the Gospel preached to every creature under heaven; the other personal, private, incommunicable by man to man; the one the noonday sunshine flooding the whole world with light from the hills on the horizon to the grass and pebbles at your feet; the other the eye in which a clouded lens or a palsied nerve leaves you dark in the midst of the blaze of noon.

1. The distinction which is here implied is in perfect harmony and analogy with all the conditions of human knowledge. Every branch of human knowledge has what in the philosophical language of the day is called its objective and subjective side. In every art, every science, every pursuit, there are these two things; there are general laws, rules, theories, principles, illustrations, examples, which can be committed to writing, stored up in books, taught in words by the teacher to the scholar; and there is the personal aptitude, which may be developed by culture if it be latent, but which can never be bestowed when it is wanting. In the very same family one child has a talent for drawing and painting, and no ear whatever for music; another, if he were to drudge with the pencil or brush for years would never make anything of it, but music speaks a language that seems like his native tongue, and, with moderate teaching and moderate opportunities, yields up its secret to his ear and his finger. So it is familiarly in business as well as in art and in science, in everything that man can teach man; one succeeds where another fails, and the best and ablest, and most skilful teacher has often to say in despair, “If you cannot see it, I cannot make you see it.” Now, if we find something exactly corresponding to this in regard to spiritual truth; if this book is one book to one man and quite another book to another; if doctrines which to some minds shine by their own light need no proof but what is in them, are to others dark, mysterious, difficult, and to others totally incredible or utterly uninteresting--this, you observe, is no more than you might expect; it is merely the repetition within the sphere or region of spiritual truth of what is abundantly familiar to us in all other directions. But it does not follow that the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever, between the earnest inquirer after Divine truth, and the careless, unintelligent, irreligious hearer, is to be accounted for on the same principles, and is simply of the same kind, as the difference between the musician and the painter, between the linguist and the mathematician, between the keen successful man of business and the blunderer who is always failing. Thank God, no; but surely this follows, that the prevalence of scepticism or of irreligion, were these a hundred times more prevalent than they are, does not produce the shadow of a presumption that the Christian is wrong in his faith, or that he is deluded in his experience.

2. The Bible amply recognizes and abundantly teaches this double character of Divine knowledge, this analogy between Divine knowledge and every other kind of knowledge, but at the same time with a broad and vital difference. The Bible knows nothing, either in the Old Testament or in the New, of any doctrine of reserve. Where it speaks it speaks to all; its “voice is to the sons of men”; its “sound is gone out through all the earth, and its word is to the end of the world”; but at the same time nothing is more emphatically and plainly taught in the Bible itself than that these open pages, open to the whole world, and even to be pressed upon the eyes of all men who can be persuaded to look into them, are all the while a sealed book except to those who have eyes to see. So far as it is possible for truth to be put into words, so far the Holy Scriptures are “able to make us wise unto salvation.” But the Scriptures themselves tell us that there is a learning that cannot be put into words, that cannot be written, or printed, or spoken, and that, therefore, cannot be communicated by man to his fellow-man; that there must be the eye to see and the ear to hear.

3. It is an unspeakably consoling and delightful reflection that this impossibility of attaining spiritual truth apart from Divine teaching which God’s Word so plainly sets forth, puts no hindrance in any man’s way, no hindrance in the way of the simplest learner, no hindrance in the way of the unbeliever any more than of the believer, if only the unbeliever is desirous of knowing what is truth. Our Saviour’s words, when He says, “No man can come to Me, except the Father who hath sent Me, draw him,” are not building up a barrier between Himself and any human soul; they are throwing down all barriers; they are assuring us that so far as is possible, God has put all men upon one spiritual level of privilege and opportunity. It is not that a hindrance and a barrier has been built up; it is that human nature, as it exists, needs the Divine light, the Divine grace, the Divine help, as it needs the Divine atonement and the Divine Saviour, and that as man cannot lift himself, even a single foot or inch from his mother earth by his own power, so much less can he lift himself one step towards God, unless not only the light shine down and shows him what he is, and what God is, but the saving hand lays hold of him and inspires within his heart the assurance that the hand that has once taken hold upon him shall never loose its hold. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)

Divine illumination

I. Some things in which it does not consist.

1. It does not consist in any degree of knowledge acquired in the ordinary manner.

2. It does not consist in revelations of new truths.

3. It does not consist merely in lively and affecting views of the truths already revealed in the Word of God.

4. It does not consist in any conceptions, or creations of the imagination, respecting God, Christ, heaven, or hell.

II. In what, then, does it consist? It is a sense Of Divine things. In its results it differs entirely from a mere opinion or judgment of the mind. There may be an opinion founded on the testimony of others, that light is pleasant; but of this pleasantness the blind man has no just conception. If sight is granted to him, he will find light to be widely different from anything which he had ever conceived. So of Divine things. The natural man may believe them to be excellent and glorious, but of this excellency and glory he has no just conception. The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit. A sense of their superlative excellency and glory in the mind is as certainly the work of God as sight in the natural eye, or hearing in the natural ear, or tasting in its appropriate organ.

III. The production of this spiritual understanding His people is everywhere in the Scriptures literally and immediately ascribed to the Almighty.

IV. Conclusion. This subject suggests,

1. The reason why those who have been newly born into the kingdom of Christ seem to regard everything as new, and feel themselves to be in a new world.

2. That persons of very limited capacities may have spiritual understanding.

3. The importance of inquiring concerning the nature of our understanding in a spiritual respect.

4. No other knowledge is so pure and elevated as that which is thus acquired.

5. No other knowledge is so capable of producing sacred joy.

6. No other knowledge is so purifying in its influence. A spiritual understanding of the character of God, a holy sense of His presence, a sacred view of the character of Christ, a holy sense of the presence and work of the Spirit, a spiritual appreciation of the extent and spirituality of the law--all these things are pre-eminently calculated to excite the renovated heart to walk in the statutes and commandments of the Lord. (J. Foot, D. D.)

Divine revelation

I. It contains wonders. The Bible has many wonders, but the great “wonder” is the Incarnation of Christ. It is that into which angels desire to look, that which will be the study of eternity.

II. Man should discover these wonders. To know Christ is of paramount importance to him. It is his life eternal.

III. To discover these wonders god must open man’s eyes. Man has spiritual eyes, eyes to see moral truth and God. These eyes are closed. No one can open them but the Divine Ophthalmist. Oh that men saw things as they really are! (Homilist.)

Spiritual vision

I. We are all born spiritually blind. Think of Samson when the Philistines put out his eyes. What a picture of misery l and further, what a picture of man l a mirror where unconverted men, had they eyes to see, might behold themselves. Was he taken captive of the Philistines?--so are they of their vices. Did he pass his days in the service of his enemies?--slaves of Satan, they serve one who hates them with cruel hatred. Was he bound in fetters of brass?--what are fetters of brass or iron to the chains of the drunkard, of the licentious, of the miser, of the lover of this world? Was he blinded as well as bound?--so are they. “Eyes have they, but they see not;” “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not;” they are insensible to their state. But here fails the parallel. Samson felt his degradation keenly; longed for liberty; groped about to find a door of escape. How different the poor sinner! He hugs his chain, and delights in the vices that enslave him.

II. Consider some of the characteristics of this blindness.

1. Blindness deprives its subjects of many pleasures which God’s goodness lavishes on us, and, through our eyes, pours into our hearts.

2. Blindness makes the condition of its subjects one of painful dependence.

3. Blindness exposes its subjects to deception. Satan makes thousands believe that all is right, that the path they tread is one of safety, when all the while, step by step down, but gently down, he conducts his blind, deluded, singing, dancing joyous victims on to the brink of ruin, and to that last, fatal step which plunges them into hell.

4. Again, blindness exposes us to danger. A blind man will starve with bread within his reach; parched and perishing with thirst, he will pass the well that invited his lips to drink; drowning, with a rope thrown within his grasp, and the cries of eager voices in his ear, Lay hold of life! he will sink into a watery grave--lost, when he might have been saved. Such is the case of the unconverted.

III. The eyes of the blind being opened, they behold wondrous things out of the law of God. There was an eminent philosopher who had devoted a lifetime to the pursuits of science, and not, as he thought, in vain. She had crowned his brow with laurels, and inscribed his name in the temple of fame. In the evening of his days, at the eleventh hour, God was pleased to call him, open his eyes, convert him; and now, he who was deeply read in science and conversant with its loftiest speculations, as he bent his grey head over the Bible, declared that, if he had his life to live over again, he would spend it in the study of the Word of God. He felt like a miner, who, after toiling long and to little purpose in search of gold, with one stroke of his pick-axe lays open a vein of the precious metal and becomes rich at once--the owner of a vein that grows the richer the deeper the mine is driven. Such a treasure the Bible offers to those whose eyes God has opened to its wonders of grace and glory. It is inexhaustible.

IV. God only can open our eyes. Hence to Him David directs the prayer of my text; and also this--Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Men use instruments to restore sight, and nowhere does surgery achieve a nobler triumph, or bestow greater blessings on mankind, than in yonder theatre, where skill and a steady hand cut into the sightless balls; and man, opening a way for the light of heaven, imitates Christ in His divine works of might and mercy--pouring light into the blind man’s eyes, and joy into the blind man’s heart. God also uses instruments--His instrument the Word, His agent the Holy Spirit. By these, working faith in men, and renewing them in the spirit of their minds, He has often answered, and is now ready to answer the prayer, Open Thou mine eyes. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The lifted veil

It was an ancient custom for the reader of the Law in a Jewish synagogue to put a veil upon his face. Originally designed as an act of reverence, as if the glory of this law was too dazzling for the human eye to behold, the veil upon the countenance has become an awful type of the veil that is Upon the heart. Century after century has passed away, and still in every Jewish synagogue “Moses is read.” But so blinded are the minds of those who read, and of those who listen, that they do not perceive the beauty, or understand the meaning of their own Scriptures--an affecting proof of the necessity of the Spirit’s teaching, for the right understanding of the Word of God.

I. God’s law contains “wondrous things.” All the Divine works are wonderful. There is not a leaf which God has moulded, or an insect He has formed, or an atom He has made, which does not demand, and will not repay, our thoughtful study. But Revelation contains a brighter display of His wisdom and love than nature with all its sublime and glorious discoveries.

II. The enlightened mind can alone understand it.

1. There is ignorance. “Having the understanding darkened,” is the brief but solemn description which the apostle gives of the Gentiles, and it is a true representation of unregenerate nature.

2. Then there is prejudice. We cannot understand a truth, if we dislike that truth.

3. Unbelief prompts men to misinterpret Scripture, and renders them ingenious in their objections against it.

4. Worldliness is another veil which hides from our view the wonders of God’s Word.

III. That God only can communicate the light we need.

1. The Spirit humbles us, and humility enables us to understand the Scriptures.

2. The Spirit purifies the heart, and purity enables us to understand the Scriptures.

3. The Spirit fills our hearts with love, and love enables us to understand the Scriptures. (H. J. Gamble.)

Longing for spiritual sight

I. The involved acknowledgment of spiritual ignorance.

II. The reasons upon which the plea rests.

1. Spiritual sight or knowledge is of itself a great blessing

2. Such a petition honours and acknowledges the work of the Holy Ghost.

3. There are wonders in the system of revealed truth which have yet to be explored and known.

4. The opening of our eyes is a work of Divine grace and power, and stands intimately connected with our pardon and regeneration.

5. This prayer stands before us as a spiritual and heaven-inspired petition, because of its opposition to the spirit and desires of the carnal mind.

6. Unless this prayer, or its equivalent, be uttered in an earnest and believing spirit, a blinding process will go on, which can only terminate in the darkness of death eternal. (A. Barrett.)

The need of spiritual

vision:--In the Old Testament what do we see? A great many Christian people see very little in the Old Testament, and they are always ready to criticize. I know men in the Church who go into raptures over the poetry of Homer, or the eloquence of Demosthenes, or the philosophy of Plato, about the artistry of Greece or about the jurisprudence of Rome; but they have no enthusiasm whatever for these great, noble teachers who declare the simple everlasting laws which are the very light and fire. In this great Book of Righteousness, this Old Testament, a good many of us see but little into the gleam here and there; our eyes have not been opened to its breadth and depth and significance. I remember once looking over a magnificent piece of scenery--mountains, rocks, and sea--and all of it bathed in the splendours of the setting sun. And I heard a lady close to me complain that she did not think much about it because it was all land and water. Exactly. But, I say, what if Claude had been there? What if Turner had been there? What would they have seen in that panorama of splendour and delight? What did your Master see in the Old Testament? How Christ appealed to these prophets, minstrels, and seers, and how He brought out of that Old Testament all the wondrous things of the Sermon on the Mount! The Church wants its eyes opening to the full noon of the Old Testament, where God has given to us such grand histories, and statutes, and suggestions. You may well pray, Open Thou mine eyes that I may understand these great teachings, that I may appreciate these great parables of truth and of righteousness. What do a great many of us see in the New Testament? Do you think, to-day, that we see all the glory of the incarnate Christ? Do you think that we have seen with open eyes the crucified Christ--the Christ of the Resurrection? “My soul has feelers, not eyes; I grope, I do not see. Oh, that I might get eyes, that I could see,” that I could see the glory of God, that I could see the beauty of Christ, that I could see the majesty of His higher law, that I could see a door opening into heaven t Open Thou mine eyes, that I may see the wonderful things out of Thy law. There is another thing. Here you consider the special appeal: that I may see wonderful things out of Thy law. What wonderful things? I tell you one is this: We ought all to pray to God that He would open our eyes to the reality of the law of righteousness. Oh, what you want God to do with this generation is to work into its understanding and soul the truth, the reality, the inviolability of the moral commandment. One French writer says he does not like Christianity because it condemns a man if he does not believe in it. And the law of gravitation condemns you if you do not believe in it. I wish we could for once believe that the law, the higher law, is as true as the law of gravitation, and that it will as certainly inflict upon the transgressor a penalty, only infinitely more disastrous. But there is another thing which we want to have our eyes opened to about the law of righteousness, and that is its universal application; that it is like the sky shutting us all down. Oh, that society might feel the obligation universally, the absolute obligation, rich and poor, intellectual and vulgar; clergy and laity; public virtue and private virtue all under one great commandments--“thou shalt,” “thou shalt not!” We want our eyes opening to the broad, solid, imperative commandment, as we shall all one day stand before one throne and each and all give an account of themselves. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The wonders of God’s law

There is nothing so wonderful as God’s law; nay, it may justly be said to include in itself all that is most wonderful, all that truly merits our admiration, all that will really reward our curiosity. For what is it? The psalmist here was not thinking merely of the law given to Moses, or of the words written in any book, however sacred; he was not thinking of spoken words or written characters, but of God’s eternal realities. He was an earnest man, and his mind sought to be in contact with truth itself; he was a pious man, and his heart longed for nothing less or lower than communion with the living God. He felt himself in the Divine presence, and he felt that the Divine law was within and around him. The wonders of physical nature, and the human soul and human history, and of redeeming love and grace, are all wonders of that law of God which the psalmist longed and prayed to behold, that law which ruleth alike in what is least and greatest, to which all things in heaven and earth do homage, the seat of which is the bosom of the Eternal, the voice of which is the harmony of the universe. There is no science cultivated among us which can ever have anything else for its highest aim than simply to discover and exhibit some part of the Divine law, since the end of every kind of study worthy of our engaging in is directly or indirectly to extend our knowledge of laws which we distinguish from one another by calling laws of astronomy or chemistry, laws of language or history, physical, morn], or spiritual laws, but which all agree in being laws of God, the operations of His will, the expressions of His character, the rules which He has implanted in His creatures, and assigned to them as the conditions and limits of their workings. But the most important of God’s laws are those which He has given us for the regulation of our own lives. In reality, whether we see it or not, there is far more that is wonderful in these laws than in any other. They are, for example, the laws of God in a far higher sense than other laws; the laws of the physical world might have been quite different from what they are. God made them to be what they are by making the physical world itself what it is; if He had made quite a different material world, with quite other laws, He would have been none the less God, the true object of our worship. But He did not make by any forth-putting of His will the fundamental laws of moral life to be what they are; they are eternal and unchangeable. That God should alter them would be for Him to cease to be wise and righteous and holy and loving, it would be for Him to cease to be good. The wonders of these laws are thus the wonders of the Divine nature, and far greater, therefore, than any wonders of created nature; at the same time these laws are the laws of our natures, of our spirits, of what is much higher and much more wonderful than anything else to be beheld in nature. On earth, it has been said, there is nothing great but man, and in man there is nothing great but mind; and certainly a soul is a far more wonderful thing than even a star, a spiritual being than a material world, and its laws far more wonderful. It is spiritual law which determines men’s relations to their God and one another, and it is on obedience or disobedience to it that the weal or woe of individuals or societies chiefly depends, so that all the marvels and mysteries of human life and destiny gather around. If we would see, however, the wonders in the most impressive light, we must turn to Revelation. Every miracle, every prophecy, every striking dispensation recorded in Scripture, whatever else it may have meant, was always a proclamation of God to men that they should reverence this His law. If we can see no wonders in the law which Christ died to satisfy and glorify, if we do not see it to be unspeakably more wonderful than all other law, assuredly our blindness is great indeed, and we cannot too earnestly cry to a merciful God, “open Thou mine eyes.” (R. Flint, D. D.)

The wonders of God’s law

The psalmist’s delight in God’s law, and intense desire to know God’s judgments, may thus be read as an expression of a feeling which we may cherish towards everything that is going on in our world and among the stars. There are wondrous things for us to behold in the processes of nature and human life. The more our eyes are open to the ordering and the law of God in all existences and events the more fascinating will our view of the universe become to us; and as our brief sojourning here draws toward its close, the more intensely interesting will all our experience of life and the vistas of promise beyond become to us. Consider, first, why it is that we take pleasure in watching the course of events. What deeper motive is there which leads men with increasing civilization to ask daily, “What is the news?” Why is it that we wish to live where we can keep in quick touch with everything that is transpiring throughout the whole world? Not simply because they are current events, but because they are events in history; because they are things happening in the life and progress of the world; because these facts are parts and moments of some vast half-discovered whole of human history; because they are not mere happenings, but they are orderings of events; because they are not mere blows of events struck over and over again upon the hollow round of the world, sounding ever the same dull tone; but because they are events beaten out to some single purpose; because they are successive notes in the world’s marching music. What beyond our passing sympathy interests us so much is not merely the event, or the fact in itself, but something to which the fact belongs, the movement, the order, the problem, the on-reaching history, the providential purpose to which it belongs. Oh, the charm of the seen is the unseen, and the perpetual fascination of history is the revealing of its Messianic law and order l Consider as another instance our interest in common human life. What is that ultimately, in the last analysis of our comradeships or our friendships? Some of you can remember for many years past. But in what, as one whole, lies to you the real human interest of all this which you have been seeing, and knowing in your sojourning here? The persons, the events, the friends, the faces? Yes, they shall always Be of concern, some of dear memory and hope to you; but the supreme interest of your life as a whole, in all its human contacts and experiences, lies after all not in what you have seen and known, but in something that you have half seen, or dimly grasped after, or at times without seeing have become inwardly, deeply sure of; it has been the leading of God through it all; something more than human felt through all human love and sorrow; the Infinite surrounding the finiteness of it all; the eternal giving and taking the lives of men back into itself; the larger hope, the ever forward movement, the eventful Providence; the mystery of some higher purpose, measureless, unknown, let with moments of bright revealings; oh, this is something vaster and diviner, which as you sit and think over the long past, seems to take it all up, events, persons, sorrows, joys, all that you have been and seen, and felt, into one indistinguishable memory and dream and hope of glory, and to leave your heart, like the psalmist of old, saying. “I have seen wondrous things,” etc. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Spiritual sight

The spiritual eyesight must be opened in order that the spiritual beauty and wisdom and glory of the Divine Word may be discovered. When the great philosopher, Sir David Brewster, was dying, he said to Sir James Simpson, “I have had the light for many years, and oh, how bright it is! I feel so perfectly sure, so perfectly happy.” “Come and see.” That is the short, simple, earnest common-sense appeal which is made to every honest seeker after truth, every soul troubled with a sense of sin and guilt. Come and see. (Christian Age.)

Removing obstruction to sight

The other day (writes Mr. Reader Harris, K.C.) I had the privilege Of witnessing one of our great surgeons remove the cataract from a woman’s eye. It is a beautiful illustration of God’s work of deliverance from sin. It was done almost instantaneously. The cataract was taken out of the eye. The surgeon took it right out, and then, very soon afterwards, he put glasses on that woman’s eye, and he said: “Mr. Harris, take out your watch,” and to the woman he said: “How long have you been blind?” She said: “I have been blind for six years.” “Now,” he said, “look through this glass, and tell what his watch says.” She read it at once, hour hand and minute hand. Why? Because the surgeon had taken out of the eye that which obscured the vision; and because that operator had not only taken out what hindered the vision but he had given her, in the lens, that which could take the place of it. May God clarify our spiritual vision by purifying our hearts, and filling them with the Holy Ghost! (Sunday Circle.)

Spiritual Vision

The naked eye can see only about 3,500 stars, but the man who looks and sees through the telescope the star dust of eighty-five million worlds grows more interested through deeper views into the skies. So with the Bible, when the eyes of our understanding are opened on the vast firmament of Bible truth by the aid of the telescope of spiritual discernment. (J. Crafts.)


Verse 19

Psalms 119:19

I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me.

Songs for the way

(with verse 54):--Two cries ascend from the human heart to God--the cry of the lorn spirit for its Father, and the cry of icy after the Father has been found. A sad life, astir with perplexities, hedged in by shadows, utters its natural longings in the words, “I am a stranger in the earth,” etc. The same life, emerging from the shadow, with God’s light shining on its path, exclaims, “Thy statutes have been my songs,” etc. Taken together, these words set forth our condition as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and God’s bountiful provision for meeting that condition in Christ.

I. The fact that we are strangers is forced upon us by our ignorance. Apart from revelation, we know almost nothing of the world we live in, and absolutely nothing of its Lord. In every age, and to every thinking soul, arise the great questions, Who sent me into this earth? Why am I here? Whither am I going? The Gospel is God’s answer to this cry. It is the revelation of the light which is behind sun and stars. What sun and star, what hill and stream cannot disclose of themselves, their Maker has disclosed in Christ. He reveals Himself in Christ as our Father. By His Spirit He says to each of us, “My child.” He puts the faith and assurance of His fatherhood into our hearts. And this great truth of His fatherhood becomes the first round of the song which He has given to cheer us in the house of our pilgrimage.

II. OUR sins still more than our ignorance have put this sense of strangeness into our hearts, and the marks of it upon our countenance. When the soul awakens to spiritual consciousness, and finds itself in the presence of this great truth of the fatherhood of God, the first fact which confronts it is a sense of farness from the Father. It is God’s mercy that He has not left us to rest in this depth of strangeness. He has made a way for us in Christ:--the new and living way by the blood. Christ dying for sinners, coming near to the lost to bring them near to God:--this is the light which God has kindled for all strangeness between the soul and God, the light which, touching the heart of the sinner, dissipates his estrangement and fills him with thankfulness and song.

III. Another proof that we are strangers is the estrangement we find among men. Think of the conflicts, oppressions, misunderstandings among the inhabitants of the earth at any moment; think of hatreds so fierce and vital that only bloodshed can express their fury; whole races in subjection to other races over large sweeps of the globe, and during many generations; sectarian and selfish policies of nations, of the pride and isolation of classes; narrownesses and spites and arrogances of society, of the evil-speaking and backbiting and talebearing, and the hot and sullen tempers of men; quarrels and contests and ambitions which make up such a sum of the general sum of life:--these are the footprints of the stranger. Christ comes to us with the olive branch in His hand, as the great uniter and binder together. “One is your Father.” He carries it up into the region occupied by thinkers and men of science, and down to the lowest levels of active and suffering life. He comes with the grand purpose of binding those who receive that word into a holy and abiding fellowship. Out from the contending and shifting crowd He calls a people for Himself, baptizes them with His own Spirit, inspires them with His truth, builds them into a holy nation, and rules over them as King.

IV. The last and saddest mark of the stranger upon us is death. If we are all to die, if there is nothing beyond the grave, then, indeed, we are strangers in the earth; we are without a home or a fatherland. If there had been no light for this shadow, how great our misery should be! There could be no hope of an immortal fellowship for society, or of an immortal life for individual men. But, blessed be God! He has not hidden the future from His child. A home awaits us beyond the grave. A new life blooms for us in the very presence of God. Our torn and suffering earthly existence is to be crowned with glory and immortality in the world of the risen dead. (A. Macleod, D. D.)

I am a stranger on the earth

There is something very affecting in this expression. It is emphatically repeated, at long intervals, in the Scriptures. (Psalms 39:12; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Genesis 23:4; Hebrews 11:13.) The emotion which the very phrase excites, running down from the earliest times to the present generation, shows that it refers to something permanent in human nature. Plato felt it when he tried to prove, from the nature of the soul’s operations, that it was but a mysterious visitor from some pre-existent state. A modern author felt it when he described men as ships passing each other on the ocean, and hailing each other in vain for directions on the way. Very shallow must have been our experience, very lightly must we have pondered our condition, if we too have never felt it, and responded to the declaration, “I am a stranger on the earth.” The world is beautiful and glorious: it lies around us, as one has said, “like a bright sea, with boundless fluctuations.” But we are not at home in it. We are lost and bewildered amid is splendours. We are unsafe amid its wasting forces. We are but little versed in its capacious stores. Our hold upon it is faint and transient. So, across the gulf of past ages, we enter into eager sympathy with those old believers who confessed that they too were strangers; and we would seek with them “ a city which hath foundations.” But my object is not only to verify the feeling indicated in the text, but to show the deliverance offered us in our religion, from everything in the feeling that is painful or sad. By the terrors of doubt that cloud the prospect of the unspiritual, I would warn--by the satisfaction of Christian hope, I would win you, vitally to embrace the peculiarity of the Gospel, in the ties of fellowship it offers you, not only with the living and present, but with the unseen beings of another world--no longer the dim, shadowy, flitting, uncertain phantoms they were to the pagan faith--with the saints, truly worthy that name, elder and younger, in “the household of God.” As the New Testament is true, this association is offered us. Death, terrifier of the world, stands back to let the light stream through his gloomy house, and reveal the holy and happy assembly. Sorrow bends aside her head, so as not to obstruct the inspiring vision. Sickness lifts from the couch her heavy eyes, to catch a glimpse of it. What refinement! What elevation! What generosity and joy! What motive and impulse! There, alive, appear to us the good departed, whom we have known here below, and those we have not known; the celebrated in the calendar, and the uncanonized, as worthy as they; those whose names stand as monumental exemplars on She page of the Bible, with names no less pure, written only in the Lamb’s book of life;--and we “strangers on the earth,” in these crumbling garments of clay, are invited to be fellow-citizens with them all. But there are conditions. We must give up our selfishness, and every shape of sin. We must leave behind our spiritual sloth and our sensual excess. “So live,” says our subject to us, cultivate such sympathies with the departed “wise” and “good,” that, when the body goes to mingle with theirs in the dust, the soul may meet theirs in the heavens, not as an alien and a stranger, but as a fellow-citizen and a friend. (C. A. Barrel.)

Good men strangers upon earth

I. The petition. The psalmist does neither plead by this form of language that God would reveal a new system of precepts to him, which he had never before made known, nor that these already revealed should be expressed in plainer terms; but he prays for grace to improve them, and To apply them to practice, that he might see the proper use of his knowledge; for the internal illumination of God’s Holy Spirit to render the external revelation of the Word profitable to his soul; for the practical saving knowledge of his duty in opposition to mere speculation. Now, God is said to hide this knowledge from us, when He doth not actually impart it; and the psalmist here means, by negative expressions, the very same thing which he speaks in positive terms in verse 18.

II. The argument the psalmist makes use of to enforce his petition; “I am a stranger in the earth.” Consider the several respects in which good men may be styled strangers in the earth.

1. In respect of their heavenly extraction; they are natives and citizens of heaven.

2. In respect of their inheritance. The children of this world have their portion in the things of this life only. But the resting-place of saints is not in this world; it remains, it waits them.

3. In respect of their affections and desires. As their treasure is in heaven, their hearts are there. No characters can be more unlike, nor tempers more strange, than these are to earthly minds. Their ends, their motives, their principles, their employments are contrary to one another.

III. Conclusion.

1. Let us learn, as strangers upon earth, to keep a close correspondence with heaven, to live near to God, much in the exercise of prayer, under a lively sense of our own necessities, and with believing views of Divine grace to direct and uphold us; otherwise, it will be no wonder if, instead of coming well to our journey’s end, mischief befall us by the way.

2. Let us never satisfy ourselves with the knowledge without the practice of our duty.

3. We should meddle as little with the world as may be.

4. We should live indifferent to the pains and pleasures of this world.

5. We should accustom our minds to look forward to our latter end.

6. We should learn to be kind and hospitable to all mankind, as all are strangers in the earth in some respects; and our common lot is a powerful inducement to offices of kindness. (W. Beat.)

Human pilgrimage

I. I am as a stranger in the earth because of the impermanence of my position. Here we have no continuing city.

II. I am as a stranger in the earth because of my life and language. If there be but a slight difference between the Christian and the secularist, it is because the Christian has not been “transformed by the renewing of his mind,” for though bearing a new name he carries an old nature. We instantly detect a foreigner by so small a sign as an accent or a posture; and the Christian is known to men of the world by a glance or tone, by a frown or smile. This should be the Christian’s business as a stranger--to operate as the light, not as the lightning--to master men by attraction, and not by reprobation.

III. I am a stranger in the earth because of the perils to which i am exposed. The adventurous explorer feels that he is in constant danger. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The stranger’s prayer

I. A remarkable confession.

1. A stranger is absent from home.

2. A stranger has no fixed residence where he is liable to remove, he looks for changes, and meets them without surprise.

3. A stranger feels no particular interest in the place through which he passes, or in the events which transpire around him: he is not wholly unaffected by them; yet many things which concern a resident are of little or no consequence to a traveller: his home is elsewhere, and his main business lies in another quarter.

4. A stranger forms no intimate connection with the society among whom he is cast. He converses with them; he shows to all civility and respect; but as a stranger he never thinks of close alliance and lasting friendship.

5. A stranger reckons on inconveniences, and prepares to meet them. If he cannot have things altogether to his mind, he submits: if he be treated with neglect, it gives him not much concern: direct affronts do not deeply affect him--he is but “a stranger,” and he looks forward to home as the seat of comfort, and the place of rest.

II. An appropriate prayer.

1. The Word of God is the stranger’s best companion.

2. It is his kindest comforter. It makes up for all he needs, and supports under all he endures.

III. Conclusion.

1. The delusion of ungodly men. They are “strangers on the earth” in regard to the fluctuations that await them, but too much at home in the temper of their minds. What awful surprise will such feel when the summons of departure comes! Go they must, however reluctant, however unprepared!

2. The importance of a right spirit in professors of religion. And what is this, but a spirit of abstraction from a polluting world, of holy indifference to its fascinating smiles, and of noble superiority to its forbidding frowns? (T. Kidd.)

A stranger in the earth

I. An estimate of life. The Christian is a “stranger in the earth,” because he is conscious of an intense longing for a land of greater purity and perfect rest. His principles also may appear strange to others.

II. A sure solace in life.

1. God’s commandments his solace, because they told him--

2. They were revealed,

III. Conclusion.

1. We need not think of ourselves as such strangers, that we are to despise the ordinary joys of life or beauties of the world.

2. We must not try to find our permanent home in this world. We could not if we would. Abraham and David recognized this (Genesis 23:4; 1 Chronicles 29:15).

3. We should increase daily in our appreciation of God’s commandments. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Strangers in the earth

This language may be looked upon in two aspects:

I. As expressing a necessary fact in man’s earthly history. “Stranger in the earth.” Two ideas here:

II. As expressing a virtuous fact in man’s earthly history. A desire to be guided by God’s commandments. “Hide not,” etc. These are necessary to guide through the labyrinthian path of life. (Homilist.)

A stranger in the earth

When a child is born, it is spoken of sometimes under the designation of “a little stranger!” A stranger, indeed! come from far. From the presence, and touch, and being of God! And going--into the immensities again--into, and through all the unreckonable ages of duration.

I. The stranger. Such, in regard to earth, and this human life altogether here, is he who makes the confession and breathes the prayer which these words express. He does not belong to this place. He is, consciously, intentionally, and earnestly passing through. In the ordinary sense, no doubt, he is as much of the earth as any other; yet has he, truly, a higher nativity, for he is “born from above.” Let him show that he is, by living as a citizen of the higher land. Let him be in spiritual life a true patriot. Let him be loyal to the kingdom that claims his soul, that has his name registered in its book of life, and that will one day--if he be really of it--call forth its mighty, shining multitudes to receive him and his brethren with acclamations of delight. Let him be “a stranger in the earth,” and then it will not only be possible to believe, but it will be impossible not to believe, that he justly claims citizenship in the higher country. A principle, an instinct, a habit of reserve, will be found running through the whole of life on the earthly side of it with the stranger. As for instance:

1. Reserve in secular occupation: in what we call the business of life. Will a man find fittest preparation for calmness, and nobleness, and purity in the everlasting kingdom by giving all his actual energies, and all his time in this world, to these earthly, transient things? It must be the better part to aim high, to “look” far, to disengage ourselves not only from what would corrupt and injure, but from what would over-occupy and thus insensibly degrade and betray us, and in the serene and lofty spirit of the “stranger,” to do our duties, and pass through our days.

2. Reserve in pleasure. A pleasure-loving soul never can be unselfish, magnanimous, serene, brave, pure. It is therefore one of the Christian’s daily lessons to teach himself effectually how to “use this world as not abusing it”; i.e. how to extract from present things all fair and honest enjoyment, without allowing selfishness and mere appetite so to touch and transmute them in the process that the enjoyment shall have in it some admixture of baser elements, and be no longer the thing which the Divine beneficence provides for man’s hunger and thirst.

3. This principle of reserve must run through the whole of life.

II. The prayer, as we cannot but see, is perfectly suited to the condition which has thus been described. “A stranger”--here but for a little, and yet morally beginning the great hereafter. “ Never continuing in one stay,” and yet ever possessing one being, and developing and settling that being into character. Passing through a fleeting life, and yet, at every step, gathering and carrying forward what must be the elements of the endless life to come--what need there is of light, direction, sacred influence, so that the passage through this world, which must be swift, may also be prosperous, the traveller finding not merely the supply of momentary needs as they arise, but extracting nourishment out of the vanishing scenes of life as they vanish, for the life everlasting. God’s “commandments” revealed and brought home to the heart will yield, plentifully, all that can be needed in the pilgrim state. In one way or other they touch all the chances and hazards of the journey, and all the requirements of the traveller, while they all combine to make one supreme influence of preparation for what will come when the earthly journey is over. And will not God hear such a prayer, offered in such circumstances, and with such consciousness? Can there he the doubt of a moment about this? (A Raleigh, D. D.)

Strangers, but not homeless

Dr. South has made the striking observation that one world is enough for one man, and God has given us the choice between this and the heavenly. We cannot reign princes in both, or hold one in one hand and the other in the other. If strangers and pilgrims here we shall be at home in the other, and vice versa. (E. P. Thwing.)

Sense of pilgrimage state Jewish national trait

The Jews never seem to lose sight of the fact that they were descendants of pilgrim forefathers. In the most brilliant periods of their history they still regard the life of the moving patriarchs as a type of their own. The confession of Abraham as he stood asking from the children of Heth a place for his dead, that “he was a stranger and a sojourner,” finds an echo in the prayer of David as he consecrates the treasures that had been offered for the building of the temple. “We are strangers and sojourners as all our fathers were.” The same characteristic view of life is heard again in the prayer of Hezekiah, when he compares his life to a shepherd’s tent. Peter, who was a true type of his race, exhorts as “strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” The same refrain surges back from the Epistle to the Hebrews, “We have here no continuing city.” Now large numbers of men feel themselves aliens because they have no stake in the soil and land is unequally distributed. But this was not the ease with the twelve tribes to whom Canaan was apportioned by lot. Attachment to the soil became a passion of unrivalled fervour, even in those who had not been schooled into a lover-like devotion to the fatherland by years spent in bondage in an alien land, and yet in spite of this Jewish feeling the rational temper seems to have been ever haunted with a sense of the forlorn loneliness of life. (T. G. Selby.)


Verse 20-21

Psalms 119:20-21

My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times.

The right and the wrong

I. A hungering for the right. This hunger indicates:

1. The existence of rectitude. For every Divine instinct there is an objective provision.

2. The condition of healthfulness. As a rule, where there is hunger there is health. The soul that hungers for the right is not utterly diseased.

3. The certainty of supply. Physical hunger is not always satisfied, but spiritual always. Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled.

II. A deploring for the wrong. Pride is a wrong.

1. That is Divinely rebuked and cursed.

2. Which turns men from the commandments of God. (Homilist.)

Holy longings

One of the best tests of a man’s character will be found in his deepest and heartiest longings. You cannot always judge a man by what he is doing at any one time, for he may be under constraint which compel him to act contrary to his true self, or he may be under a transient impulse from which he will soon be free. He may for a while be held back from that which is evil, and yet he may be radically bad; or he may be constrained by force of temptation to that which is wrong, and yet his real self may rejoice in righteousness. A man may not certainly be pronounced to be good because for the moment he is doing good, nor may he be condemned as evil because under certain constraints he may be committing sin. A man’s longings are more inward, and more near to his real self than his outward acts; they are more natural, in that they are entirely free, and beyond compulsion or restraint. As a man longeth in his heart, so is he.

I. The saint’s absorbing object. They long after God’s judgments, His revealed will.

1. The psalmist greatly reverenced the Word. All other books are at the best but as gold leaf, whereof it takes acres to make an ounce of the precious metal; but this book is solid gold; it contains ingots, masses, mines, yea, whole worlds of priceless treasure, nor could its contents be exchanged for pearls, rubies, or the “terrible crystal” itself. Even in the mental wealth of the wisest men there are no jewels like the truths of revelation.

2. He intensely desired to know its contents. He was not so well able to get at the truth as we are, since he had not the life of Christ to explain the types, nor apostolic explanations to open up the symbols of the law; therefore he sighed inwardly, and felt a killing heartbreak of desire to reach that which he knew was laid up in store for him. He saw the casket, but could not find the key.

3. He wished to feed upon God’s Word. The Word received into the heart changes us into its own nature, and by rejoicing in the decisions of the Lord we learn to judge after His judgment and to delight ourselves in that which pleases Him.

4. Doubtless, David longed be obey God’s Word--he wished in everything to do the will of God without fault either of omission or of commission. He prays in another place, “Teach me Thy law perfectly.”

II. The saint’s ardent longings.

1. They constitute a living experience, for dead things have no aspirations or cravings. You shall visit the graveyard, and exhume all the bodies you please, but you shall find neither desire nor craving. Where the heart is breaking with desire there is life.

2. The expression represents a humble sense of imperfection. The apostle of the Gentiles said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect”; and the man after God’s own heart, even David, when he was at his best, and I think he was so when he was writing this blessed psalm, says not so much that he had obtained anything as that he longed after it, not so much that he had yet grasped it, but sighed for it: “my soul breaketh for the longing that it hath.”

3. Furthermore, the expression of the text indicates an advanced experience. Augustine dwells upon this idea, for he rightly says, at first there is an aversion in the heart to God’s Word, and desire after it is a matter of growth. The more full a man is of grace the more he hungers for grace. Strange it is to say so, but the paradox is true, the more he drinks, and the more he is satisfied and ceases to thirst in one sense, the more is he devoured with thirst after the living God. It is an advanced experience, then.

4. It is an experience which I cannot quite describe to you, except by saying that it is a bitter sweet; or, rather, a sweet bitter, if the adjective is to be stronger than the noun. There is a bitterness about being crushed with desire; it is inevitable that there should be, but the aroma of this bitter herb is inexpressibly sweet, no perfume can excel it. After all, a bruised heart knows more peace and rest than a heart filled with the world’s delights. How safe such a soul is.

III. A few cheering reflections. Methinks this morning some heart has been saying, “There are comforting thoughts for me in all this. I am a poor thing, I have not grown much, I have not done much, I wish I had; but I have strong longings, I am very dissatisfied, and I am almost ready to die with desire after Christ.” My dear soul, listen--let this encourage you.

1. God is at work in your soul. Never did a longing after God’s judgments grow up in the soul of itself. Weeds come up of themselves, but the rarer kind of plants I warrant you will never be found where there has been no sowing: and this flower, called love-lies-bleeding, this plant of intense eagerness after God, never sprang up in the human breast of itself. God alone has placed it there.

2. The result of God’s work is very precious. Thank Him for it. Though thou caner get no further than holy longing, be grateful for that longing.

3. Not only is the desire precious, but it is leading on to something more precious. “The desire of the righteous shall be granted.” Rest you sure of that, and cry mightily to Him with strong faith in His goodness.

4. Meanwhile, the desire itself is doing you good. It is driving you out of yourself, it is making you feel what a poor creature you are, for you can dig no well in your own nature, and find no supplies within your own spirit. It is compelling you to look alone to God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 22-24

Psalms 119:22-24

Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept Thy testimonies.

Social contempt and conscious rectitude

I. Social contempt (verse 22).

1. Is a thing to be deprecated.

2. Is a thing not always to be deserved. It is a characteristic of wicked society, that it condemns the good.

II. Conscious rectitude (verses 23, 24). Contrast social contempt with conscious rectitude.

1. The one is painful, the other pleasing.

2. The one depressing, the other elevating. (Homilist.)


Verse 23

Psalms 119:23

Princes also did sit and speak against me.

1. It is a hard temptation when the godly are troubled by any wicked men; but much harder when they are troubled by men of honour and authority.

2. And therefore, it should be accounted a great benefit of God, when He gives a people good and religious rulers. The Christians in the primitive Church, being sore troubled by the bloody persecutions of Nero and Domitian, thought it a great benefit unto them, when under Nerva the persecution was relented. Albeit he did not profess Christ with them, yet he did not persecute them. What then should we account of such a king, as is not only a protector of the Church, but a professor himself? so far from persecuting Christian religion; that for professing of it, many times hath his majesty been persecuted to the death, but blessed be the Lord, who hath given many glorious deliverances to His anointed. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verse 24

Psalms 119:24

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

These are two great benefits, which commonly men crave: Pleasure to refresh them; Counsel to govern them. David protests he found them both in the Word and sends all other, who would have them, to seek them there where he found them.

1. As for joy and recreation of mind, commonly men seek it in other cisterns; but with no good success: for as a man in a hot fever is eased no longer by drinking strong drink, then he is in drinking of it; for then it seems to cool him, but incontinent it increaseth his heat; so is it with the troubled and heavy heart, which seeks comfort in external things; however, for a time they seem to mitigate the heaviness, they do but increase it. Only solid and permanent comfort must be drawn out of the fountains of the Word of God.

2. The other is wisdom, which without God’s Word can never be obtained. As Jeremiah spake of the wicked in his time (Jeremiah 8:9). So is it true of all the wicked: The wisdom of this world is but foolishness. Achitophel his end, with innumerable more, may teach all men that he shall never be found wise who is not godly. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verse 25

Psalms 119:25

My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken Thou me according to Thy Word.

Cleaving to the dust

Several verses of this long psalm begin with the same words: “My soul melteth away from very heaviness”; “my soul hath longed for Thy salvation”; “my soul is always in my hand”; “oh, let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee.” Often as the expression occurs it is the recognition from old time, and even under the old dispensation, of something in us, not imagination, not memory, not intellect, not even conscience; something which is real, important, and everlasting; something of which the health and disease, the welfare and adversity, the happiness and misery makes itself felt, can be marked and recorded, and is of vital moment to the being, the I, myself, I, of the immortal accountable man.

I. A dire malady of the soul. It is not the occasional, but the habitual loss of interest in things spiritual. It is the inability ever or anyhow to hold conscious intercourse with Him who is our life. It is the hanging for hours over a prayer which will not speak; or, to take the commoner case, it is rather the acquiescing in that dumbness, treating it as a misfortune, or calling it a sin, yet going on in it as though a hardship or else a punishment, but in either view to be let alone and made the best of. It is the shelving of the Bible as a book which may have a voice for others, but which has no voice for us. It is the going about the daily business as a machine that has neither heart nor will in it.

II. The possible causes of a condition so lamentable. Either the strength has been undermined, before any effort was made after God, by some evil habit of boyhood, youth, or manhood, fatal to moral and spiritual energy; or else the very virtue has gone out of the religion by the attempt to serve two masters, the one in name and appearance, the other in deed and in truth. But without this last and saddest supposition, there may have been at some point a definite failure in duty or affection which has given a shock to the better nature from which it has never recovered, and of which this paralysis of the higher being is the Nemesis and the retribution. Yet, again, without any such definiteness of cause and effect, there is much of explanation in that Egyptian taunt of old, “Ye are idle, ye are idle,” in its bearing upon the secret life and the Godward relationship. Men who are vigorous in all else, in business or polities, in field sports or personal habits, are unmanly and effeminate in spiritual effort.

III. The cry for help. “My soul cleaveth to the dust;” and, though I was taken from the dust, and to dust shall return, yet God breathed into me afterwards a living soul, and that soul is not dust, and that soul must return to the God that gave it. Tell me, thou man of God, how to snap this chain, how to disengage this attachment of the God-breathed soul to the dust from which its mere shell and husk were taken.

IV. The answer to the cry. The psalmist seems to have had but one answer to this request. It forms the last part of the text: “Quicken Thou me; oh, quicken Thou me.” You see hew he felt that the thing impossible with men is possible with God. To cleave to the dust before God, consciously and purposely, in the sight of God, is at once to pray, to beseech Him to look upon you, and to call Him in to witness my misery, is to pray. We de not say--for it would be untrue--that the soul which has long cleaved to the dust will all at once spread her wings for the everlasting flight. It is not so. It would not be a moral doctrine to leave out of sight and mention efforts, daily possible relapses and frequent disappointments. Only we say, that which God has once done in quickening, God will do again, day by day; will de again and again without upbraiding; and will not leave you until He has done it effectually. (Dean Vaughan.)

The soul reluctantly made fast to earth

I. A confession. The psalmist felt that his mind had become sordid.

1. One in such a state will neglect duty. It is a burden, because there is no pleasure felt in the performance.

2. A state of relapse is generally marked by a heartless performance of those duties which are not entirely neglected.

3. This state is always attended with a pressure of worldly care.

4. The wandering believer must be the subject of small enjoyments.

II. A prayer.

III. The plea used by the psalmist in his guilty and gloomy circumstances. “Quicken Thou me according to Thy Word,” according to Thy gracious promises. In making this plea, the psalmist discovered both his humility and his faith.

IV. Conclusion.

1. The subject gives us a humiliating picture of the human heart.

2. The subject gives us enlarged views of the mercy of God, that He will make beings so depraved the objects of His affectionate regard. (D. A. Clark.)

Quickening grace

I. The psalmist’s complaint. “My soul cleaveth unto the dust.” This is the complaint of one:

1. Conscious of the spirit of worldliness. Worldliness is a false relation to human creatures and to worldly things.

2. Conscious of the bondage of sorrow. Cleaving to the dust suggests sitting in dust and ashes, as Job did when he was overwhelmed with grief. If we loved the world less, many woes would cease to consume and exhaust us. If we thought more of the honour that cometh from God, we should be less troubled by the reproach of men; if we thought more of the treasures of the soul, we should be less afflicted by the moth and rust which dissolve material treasures; if we lived more in the higher world of thought and feeling, we should be less affected by the ebb and flow of an ever-changing world of shadows and echoes.

II. The psalmist’s appeal. “Quicken Thou me according to Thy Word.” This appeal is to the right source.

1. God quickens us by granting new insight into the highest truth. The perception of a great truth invigorates our whole nature (Psalms 36:9).

2. God quickens us by kindling in us a new affection to Himself and to whatever reflects Him. When the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, the power and tyranny of terrestrial life abate.

3. God quickens us by inspiring us with a new hope. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Enlivening and invigorating

I. Reasons why we should seek quickening.

1. The deadening influence of the world.

2. The influence of that which is actually sinful (verse 37).

3. We are surrounded by deceivers (verses 87, 88).

4. In seasons of affliction we are apt to fall into a dark, cold, dead state of mind (verse 107).

II. Motives for seeking quickening.

1. Because of what you are. Life is always aiming at more life.

2. Because of what you ought to be--like Jesus Christ; He was full of life.

3. Because of what you shall be. You are to be a pure spirit in heaven; be spiritual now.

4. In order to obedience (verse 88).

5. Because it will be your comfort (verse 107).

6. As the best security against attacks of enemies (verses 87, 88).

III. Some of the ways by which this quickening may be wrought in us. Of course the Lord Himself must do it. In prayer it must be sought, because by His power it must be wrought. God quickens His people:

1. By His Word (verse50).

2. By affliction (verse 107).

3. By means of Divine comfort (verse 50).

IV. Where are our pleas when we come before God to ask for quickening? What arguments shall we use?

1. Use first the argument of your necessity. Whatever that necessity is, particularize it, as David does in verse 107.

2. Plead the earnest desire that God has kindled in you (verse 40).

3. Appeal to His righteousness.

4. Plead His lovingkindness (verse 38).

5. Plead His Word (verses 25, 107). (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A cry from the dust

It sounds like a paradox for the spiritual man to say that he is bound by the material, and cannot emancipate himself from it. A paradox, however, only at first sight, and only in seeming. For it is only the spiritual man who is sensible of the humiliations and the degradations of the material, and therefore impatient of them. If he were of the dust, he would be content to remain on the dust-level. He would be in his own element, satisfied with it, unconscious of any higher aspirations. It is a question of spiritual sensitiveness. This is why it is that in the diaries of the saintliest people you find the deadliest self-accusation. John Bunyan, in his “Grace Abounding,” paints himself as a villain of the deepest dye for peccadilloes that would never have troubled an ordinary conscience. His spiritual nature was like the outer membrane of the eyeball, and the presence of an infinitesimal evil in his soul caused him the acutest pain. We seem, even the best of us, to be ever sinking back to our native element; the spiritual is ever reverting to the original animal. This, indeed, is the source of all our conflict. Our souls “cleave unto the dust,” because we are dust. We are not, however, to despise and hold cheap even our corporeal parts. Matter is evil only when we sustain a wrong relation to it. “First the natural, afterward that which is spiritual.” But then the spiritual must dominate the natural. When we take Christ fully into our hearts, the higher elements within us become regal, and the lower subside into their place. They are not suppressed. If they were, our manhood would be left incomplete. But they are subordinated. We are no longer “carnally minded,” though the flesh is still with us. “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” introduces a new and regnant principle into the soul, to which the animal passions and fleshly instincts transfer their allegiance. And it is while this process is going on, and because it is going on, that such confessions as that of our text break from the struggling heart. We no more belong to the dust when we can make this confession and offer its accompanying prayer. It is the sign and the song of our uprising. By force of old habit we cling to the dust, but not with longing, rather with loathing; not with desire for it, but with passion for freedom from it. We are often like the miserable fly struggling to extricate it, s cloyed wings from the honey which is its lawful food, but to which it has been too passionately addicted. The poor thing wants to rise, it tries to soar, but it is, as it were, glued to the lower element, and will be suffocated in it, unless some friendly finger comes to the rescue. There is the picture of our condition. Fain would we ascend to the heights of spiritual communion, fain would we breathe the heavenly air and behold the vision of God, but our sins and foolishness cause us to “cleave unto the dust.” But for us, too, as for Paul, there is the friendly aid. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (J. Halsey.)

Depression

I. It is not a strange experience for believers to be in this depressed condition, the soul cleaving to the dust.

Sometimes there may be physical causes connected with a man’s state of health, and sometimes other providences of God are concerned in producing this state of things, but it is a stage in a man’s spiritual history. There are many causes which have to do with it. Generally it is connected with indwelling sin. More particularly it arises in connection with the failure of faith on the part of believers. Looking at it from the side of God’s providence, it is permitted by God just as a step in the believer’s history; because it is necessary that the believer’s history should include an enlarged acquaintance with himself, with his own insufficiency, with his own tendency to unbelief, and darkness, and sin.

II. It is not characteristic of a believer to be contented in this condition. How should he be? If he is a believer he has faith in the living God, and in the power of a life-giving Christ. Now, can any man have a believing consciousness that there is this living and life-giving Christ, this Mediator, this Redeemer, and be contented with an experience which in so humiliating a way contrasts with Christ and the fit state of Christ’s people? The believer has faith also in the life-giving Spirit and in the mission and work of the Holy Ghost in its peculiar power and gentleness and love. What it is, perhaps, he can hardly feel when his soul is cleaving to the dust; but he believes it. How can a man who believes this be content to go on with his soul cleaving to the dust? And, again, the believer has the conviction and persuasion that his proper home and portion are above; that there is a heaven on high containing all elements that are pure and suitable to the life and blessedness of God, and he is on the way to it, and his Lust is that, through God’s mercy, he will reach the country he seeks. And with these experiences how can he be contented to lie in the dust, making no progress at least not feeling that he is making progress? Therefore he casts himself on God in prayer.

III. There is a sure refuge for the believer with reference to this case of his. There is life for those who feel in themselves so much that looks like death. “Quicken thou me”--give me life, cause me to live--“according to Thy Word.” This cry is not merely a cry of distress. He has the Word which he can plead made known to him. What Word? There are many particular promises adapting the provisions of the Gospel to the experience of believers; but we should always have regard to the root promise when we betake ourselves to God. That promise was given to Abraham: “I will be a God unto thee.” Therefore, he whose soul cleaves to the dust is met and satisfied by that great promise that out of an experience in itself no way good to us or glorifying to God may come lessons good for us and glorifying to God. Application:

1. There is great reason for hopefulness in the condition of believers even when their souls cleave to the dust. There is comfort for the sorrowful, refreshing for the weary, strength for the weak, life for the faint, and forgiveness of sins for sinners.

2. There is great reason for earnestness. It is not a fitting thing that people should be contented while their souls are cleaving to the dust. There should be earnest and instant recourse to God, with the expectation that something very different from cleaving to the dust shall presently be ours.

3. There is a sure reward for those that seek the Lord. (R. Rainy, D. D.)


Verse 26

Psalms 119:26

I have declared my ways, and Thou heartiest me: teach me Thy statutes.

A man of God alone with God

The first lesson for man is, to know his God; the second is, to know himself; and as the unbeliever fails in the first, he fails in the second also, he does not know himself. He does not think much about himself--about his real self, the most important part of his being. For his body he caters freely, he can scarcely spend enough upon it; but he starves his soul. But a true believer knows himself. We are sure, from our text, that he does, for he would not declare his ways if he did not know them. But he has practised introspection, and looked within himself. He does not understand his own ways; he cannot always comprehend his own thoughts, or follow the devious wanderings of his own mind; but, still, he does know a good deal about himself; and when he goes before his God, he can truthfully say, “I have declared my ways, and Thou heardest me.” Among other things, he has discovered his own ignorance, and hence he presents the prayer with which the text concludes, “Teach me.” He is ignorant even of God’s revealed will, so he prays, “‘Teach me Thy statutes,’ O Lord! I know the Book in which they are recorded, and I can learn them in the letter; but do Thou teach them to me, in my spirit, by Thy Spirit, that I may know them aright.”

I. So, first:, we see here a man of God alone with God; and we notice three things about him, he is making his case known: “I have declared my ways”; he is rejoicing in an audience which he has obtained: “Thou heartiest me”; and he is seeking a further blessing: “Teach me Thy statutes.” I think the psalmist means this, “My Lord, I have told Thee all; now, wilt Thou tell me all? I have declared to Thee my ways; now, wilt Thou teach me Thy ways? I have confessed to Thee how I have broken Thy statutes; wilt Thou not give me Thy statutes back again? I have owned my weakness; now, wilt Thou not strengthen me, that I may run in the way of Thy commandments?”

II. Now let us turn to the man of God in public stating his testimony.

1. First, we have here a man of God who has borne his testimony. He has spoken to man experimentally. You remember that remarkable expression of our Lord, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through”--what? “through their word.” Then, is it their word? No, it is the Lord’s, yet it is also theirs, for they have made it theirs by personal appropriation and experience of it. The truth of God never seems to have such vividness about it as when a man tells it out of his own soul. That is what this servant of God could say, “I have declared my ways.” And he had not declared them with any view to vainglory, but only that he might glorify God. Neither had he spoken of himself except with the object of persuading others to walk in the ways of the Lord in which he had himself been so graciously led.

2. The next sentence teaches us that God had heard this man. What solemn work it is to preach if we have God for a hearer! And yet what a cheering thing it is that the Lord hears our testimony, and can confirm its truthfulness!

3. This man needed more teaching, so he prayed, “Lord, teach me Thy statutes.” We must ourselves be continually making progress if we would lead others onward. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 27

Psalms 119:27

Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts; so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works.

The student’s prayer

I. The student’s prayer. I hope that we are all students in the school of Christ--all disciples or scholars--and I trust we shall adopt the student’s prayer as our own: “Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts.” Prayer is to study what fire is to the sacrifice.

1. The student’s prayer deals with the main subject of the conversation which is to be that student’s occupation, namely, the way of God’s precepts. It is well for us to know exactly what the law teaches, and what the law designs; why we were made subject to its prescript, and how we may be delivered from its penalties. Great need too have we to understand the way of God’s Gospel precepts--what these precepts are: “repent,” “believe,” “be converted,” and the like; to be able to see their relation, where they stand, not as means to an end, but as results of Divine grace--commands but yet promises, the duty of man but yet the gift of God. The way of God’s precepts! Does not that mean that we ought to be acquainted with the relative position which the precepts occupy, for it is very easy, unless God gives us understanding, to preach up one precept to the neglect of another. It is possible for a ministry and a teaching to be lop-sided, and those who follow it may become rather the caricatures of Christianity than Christians harmoniously proportioned.

2. Very obviously here a confession is implied. “Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts.” It means just this. “Lord, I do not understand it of myself. I am ignorant and foolish, and if I follow my own judgment--if I take to my own thinkings, I shall be sure to go wrong. Lord, make me to understand.” Who can put wisdom in the inward parts but the Lord? Or who can give understanding to the heart but God Most High?

II. The occupation of the instructed man. When the Lord has taught a man the way of His precepts, it behoves him rightly to use his sacred privileges: “So shall I talk of Thy wondrous works.” As a faithful teacher let him testify of God’s works--His wondrous works. There are two works, especially, that you Christian people must talk about to others--the work of Christ for us and the work of the Holy Ghost in us. These are themes that will never be exhausted. Some men are far more interested in stating their own crotchets than in unfolding God’s counsels. If we understand the way of God’s precepts, acquire the language of it, get into the groove of it, then we shall talk with understanding; and there will be a harmony and a wisdom about our utterances which will be blest to the edification of the hearers.

III. The intimate relation between the prayer of the student and the pursuit that he subsequently followed. “Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts: so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works.” The connection lies partly in the enchantment of this knowledge and the passion to communicate it. A man who understands Christ and His mediatorial work, and the Spirit and His sanctifying work, cannot be silent. The fire once kindled, the flames will spread. “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The teacher must first be taught

There is not really any grave duty a man can be called on to discharge, no responsible office he may be elected to fill, nor even any plan or purpose he lays it on his heart to accomplish, which does not require diligent preparation on his own part to fit himself, to train his faculties, and to discipline his mind. What you call unskilled labour may possibly be utilized by efficient officers, but unskilful labour is a sheer waste of power. How much more imperative the demand that we should be endowed with the requisite faculties and qualified by suitable instruction if we have any work to do for God, or any office, however humble, in the service of the great King! Zeal without knowledge would only betray us into reckless presumption. When called to talk of God’s wondrous works, we ought not to rush upon that exercise at once unfitted and unprepared, but we should wait upon the Lord, that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened, that our stammering tongues may be unloosed, and that our lips may be attuned to tell the noble tale in grateful strains. We must first obtain for ourselves an understanding of the way of the Lord’s precepts before we can make it plain to others. He who tries to teach, but has never been taught himself, will make a sorry mess of it. He who has no understanding, and yet wants to make others understand, must assuredly fail. Some there are who cannot teach and will not learn, and it is because they will not learn that they cannot teach. I believe aptness for being taught is at the bottom of aptness to teach. The psalmist had both. He says, “Make me to understand the way of Thy statutes.” There he would be taught. “Then,” saith he, “I shall talk of Thy wondrous works.” There he would be teaching. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Spirit of God gives understanding of the Word

I remember once I was travelling in Germany--I was a student in one of the universities there--and was making a tour of certain caves with some companions. One day we met the village postman. He said, “Would you not like to see a cave that is not down in the guide book?” We said, “Yes”; so away we struck through the brush and came to the cave. It was dark as midnight. He said, “It is perfectly beautiful. Every formation is an altar of the Druidical times,” and so forth and so on. “Look curl there is a hole right there, and nobody has ever found the bottom of it.” We looked up; we were afraid we would be the first to find the bottom. There was nothing at all pleasant about it; everything was dark and uncanny. But our guide just took a bit of magnesium and lit it, and suddenly the dark, cold, forbidding, dangerous place became luminous, and the stalactites came down from the ceiling to meet the stalagmites as they came up from the floor. Every one was an altar, not a Druidical altar, as they supposed, but an altar built by the hand of God. It was a place of marvellous beauty. It is just so with the Word of God. How often we come to a passage which looks dark, forbidding, and dangerous. You are often afraid that you will fall into some pitfall, but just look up to God in prayer, and let that passage be illuminated with the light of the Holy Ghost, and it becomes full of beauty, transcendent and glorious. (B. A. Torrey, D. D.)


Verse 29

Psalms 119:29

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me Thy law graciously.

Lying

I. The faculty of lying. Man has a faculty for misrepresenting facts and for deceiving men. The mere possession of this faculty is not necessarily wrong; all depends upon the motives that inspire it, and the uses to which it is directed.

II. The professity of lying. Most venal lies spring from the following wrong states of heart.

1. Fear.

2. Vanity.

3. Greed.

4. Ambition.

III. The habit of lying.

1. Popular. How rare are true men in this world of shams!

2. Dangerous. It is inimical to moral health, beset with perils, and leading to moral ruin. (Homilist.)

But had not David the law already?

No doubt he wanted not the Book of the Law: he heard it, he read it, he professed it; yea, someway he understood it. What, then, is it he craves? Surely, that the law might be so imprinted in his heart, that it might abolish that natural vanity, and deceit of sin, which carrieth him to the offence of God. A necessary petition for these days; wherein the knowledge of the Word is exceeding great, but the zeal, spiritual life, and feeling of the hearts of men is not answerable unto it. They think all is welt, in that publicly they profess it. They hear it with their ears; they speak of it with their mouths; they read it in their books finely bound; though in that duty many fail also. But certainly when they think they have it, they want it; so long as it is not printed in the table of their heart, to frame their motions, affections and actions conformable to it. And this is it which David here craves. (Bishop Cowper.)


Verses 30-32

Psalms 119:30-32

I have chosen the way of truth: Thy judgments have I laid before me.

The commendable past and the desirable future in life

I. The commendable in the past.

1. The best choice has been made. The way of truth is the way of reality, in contradistinction to the way of sham and fiction.

2. The best guide has been followed. God’s Word is the only true guide.

3. The best cause has been adhered to. Whatever else he had given up and forsaken, he had stuck to God’s testimonies. “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples.”

II. The desirable in the future. “I will run,” etc. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”

1. The pursuance of the Divine law is essential to human happiness. Man can find no happiness in any way but in the way of God’s commandments.

2. The enlargement of the human heart is essential to the pursuance of the Divine law. The moral heart of man is sadly contracted by selfishness and materialism. Love alone can expand it, and make it wide enough to embrace God and His universe. (Homilist.)

The way of truth

I. The way of truth. It is the way of God; for the Lord is the God of truth: it is the way of Christ; for, said He, “I am the way,” etc. it is the way of the Spirit; for “ the Spirit beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” And as all that we know of God--of God who made us by His power, of Christ who redeemed us by His blood, of the Spirit who renews us by His grace--is contained in Scripture, the way of truth” is the way of God’s Word. “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”

II. To choose the way of truth.

1. To determine, with entire honesty of intention, and with full purpose of heart, that you will walk, as far as you know it, in the way of God’s precepts--entertaining, not only a confident hope, but cherishing a firm assurance, that so doing you shall attain, sooner or later, when the days of your appointed time are past, to the end of God’s promises.

2. To be careful that, so far as lies in our power, we act out what we have determined; that we do not, like too many, ask one thing in our prayers, and seek another in our practice; that we do not through the after stages engage in any occupation, or devote ourselves to any amusement, or join ourselves to any society, by which our early approach to God may be made to seem hypocrisy, and our very petitions be turned into sin.

3. A continual dependence upon the help of God, as promised for the sake of Christ, and conveyed by the influence of the Holy Spirit; and not only a continual dependence upon it, but a constant expectation of it; and not only a constant expectation of it, but an earnest and frequent entreaty for it. (T. Dale, M. A.)


Verse 31

Psalms 119:31

I have stuck unto Thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame.

The sticking to God’s testimonies

I. What the psalmist means by God’s testimonies.

1. The children of God do not cleave to the bare letter of the Word--the mere vowels and consonants and syllables of Scripture, but to such testimonies as the Lord Himself is pleased to drop into their heart and conscience through the medium of the Scriptures of truth. Now, before we can receive the Scriptures as a revelation from God, it must be shown to us by the Holy Spirit that they were inspired by Himself.

2. But we come to the particular testimonies which God reveals to His chosen.

II. He who sticks to God’s testimonies will not be put to shame.

1. Sometimes the child of God is afraid that he will be put to shame in the hour of death; lest his religion in that solemn moment should be sifted clean away, and his hope should prove a delusion; and therefore he says, “I have stuck unto Thy testimonies; O Lord, put me not to shame in that solemn hour when I must stand before Thee, without any one to help, or anything to hope in, except Thyself.” Now, he that sticks to God’s testimonies will not be then put to shame. He will not die in despair, but he will die in the fear and love of God; or, at any rate, will die with a good hope through grace in His mercy, with some rest of soul, and some sweet confidence that he is His.

2. Sometimes the child of God is afraid of being put to shame openly before men, by being overcome by some sin; but he says, “I have stuck to Thy testimonies.” “Thou hast said, ‘I hate evil’--I believe it, Lord. Thou hast shown me my ignorance, and inability to keep myself--I believe it, Lord. Thou hast warned me by solemn rebukes; Thou hast hedged me up by inward reproofs; Thou hast shown me what I am, and what there is in my heart;--I believe it, Lord. Let no sin entangle me, no disgrace overtake me, no corruption prevail against me. Let not the enemies of truth shout, ‘Ah, ah! Ah, ah!’ against me. ‘O Lord, put me not to shame.’”

3. The soul is sometimes afraid lest a furnace will come, when all his religion shall be proved to be untrue, when Satan shall say, “It is all a deception; it was not the manifestation of God to thy soul; mercy never was received; it was but excited imagination; it was but the heated working of thy carnal mind.” The soul says, “I have stuck unto Thy testimonies; O Lord, put me not to shame. I cleave to Thy work, I hang upon it, I have nothing else to cleave to. O Lord, put me not to shame. (J. C. Philpot.)


Verse 32

Psalms 119:32

I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Liberty of heart

I. Consciousness of actual captivity. The feeling may be illustrated by the case of a messenger in time of war charged by a great king with an important commission, who on his way is seized by the king’s enemies, disarmed, stripped, bound, and led away in an opposite direction; longing to be free that he may do his master’s will, and appealing to his lord very much as the psalmist cries to God in this place, “Help me, and set me free, that I may do Thy will and accomplish Thine orders.” There is hope in such a state, A man who wishes that he could do God’s will has taken the first step towards life. The conscience has got free and stretches out its suppliant hands for help; the affections are, however, still in bondage, and the tyrant power of long-formed habits of sin holds the soul oven while it turns its longing eyes to the sweet paths of righteousness, from which, a slave to his own iniquity, it is being borne away. The prisoner in yonder dungeon may madly tear at his chains, or furiously beat his poor flesh against the solid walls that hold him in, but he is not more powerless to snap the strong iron, or wrench open the ponderous stones, than is a poor sinner to break his own bondage. But there is One who can help, One only, One able to help so effectually, that the chained limbs in their delighted freedom shall actually run. That One is God.

II. A. Consciousness of narrowness of affection and desire after God. The psalmist craved for more freedom of faith; for warmer and stronger love towards God. There are few Christians who will not have the same feeling, and will not be conscious how small and low is their state of grace; how poor their service to their God, compared to what it should be, and what it might be with God to help them. Nor will it be difficult to trace, in some degree, the causes of this narrowness. With a man it may be a too engrossing occupation in earthly business, too predominant and absorbing a care for earthly success, limiting the times of prayer and interrupting that free and full communion with God without which no growth in holiness is possible. With a woman it may be the troubling about “many things,” such as kept Martha of old from the feet of Jesus: the absorption of thoughts in her children, her household, and her daily cares. Here, again, our hope is in God. He can enlarge our hearts by more perfectly revealing His own blessed self within them. He enters into the soul, and the soul grows with His presence. His glory and greatness and beauty snap the restraining bonds, and stretch the heart in which He dwells till it becomes capable of peace and joy unknown before. (G. Garbett, M. A.)

The secret of moral progress

“The way of Thy commandments.” To many people not an attractive road! It is suggestive of fences, and trespassing boards, of curbs and restraints. “The way of Thy commandments.” Through the Christian Scriptures the way becomes steeper and more uninviting to the natural man as the centuries move along. The gradient of the moral ideal becomes increasingly precipitous. You may get up the lower and earlier slopes, but when you get to Amos and Hoses and Isaiah the track becomes exceeding steep, until when you get to the Lord Himself the radiant ideal lifts itself sheer and clear as the Matterhorn. “I looked then after Christian to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees because of the steepness of the place.” Yes, the way becomes very steep as we draw near the Lord! Take the teachings of our Lord, map out the way of His commandments, make a contour map of the road, and you will find that you are face to face with a shuddering ascent, an ascent so stiff and steep that some declare it to be the dream of a visionary, the moral prospectus of a fanatic, proclaiming imperatives which are unpractical and impracticable. The moral ideal of Jesus is just overwhelming; so much so, that many do with it as the Swiss did in the olden times with the Alps, build their houses with their backs to the towering heights, and they face the lowlands of human expediency and moral commonplace. Now, let me remind you that the word “heart” has a much wealthier significance than we commonly attach to it to-day. The symbolic significance of the word in our own day is confined almost exclusively to the emotions. If we say that a man has a big heart we do not refer to the range of his thought, but to the quality of his sympathies. If we say that a man has no “heart” we mean that the channels of feeling are as dry as a river-bed in time of drought. Nay, we even bring the brain and the heart into distinct and isolated positions. We say that a man has not very much brain, but that he has a very big heart. Now all these modern distinctions must be laid aside when we seek the interpretation of the Word of God. I am not aware that the word “brain” or “brains” ever occurs in the Bible. According to the primitive physiology of those times the heart was the mysterious seat of thought as well as of feeling. The heart was “the seat of man’s collective energies, the very focus of his personal life.” Moral speed will come with spiritual enlargement. “I will run when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.” When Thou shalt enlarge my thought. Many of us go slowly because we do not see far. There is no long range of purpose in our eyes, and therefore our feet are sluggish. Our imaginations are not peopled with the glories of attainment, and therefore there is no eager haste in our steps. Napoleon got his men over the Alps by richly sharing with them the promises and purposes of the campaign. Their eyes were filled with the resplendent riches of Italian cities even while they were contending with the stupendous obstacles of the trackless wastes of snow. Their thoughts included the sunny Italian plains as well as the grimness of the immediate toil, and that forward-cast of the eyes gave strength and inspiration to their labours. “I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my” thought, when my mind is filled with Thy blessed purposes, when even now the eyes of my imagination rove over the celestial fields, and when even now I feel something of the warmth and liberty of the coming noon. The ultimate purpose is not obscure. “All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” “We have the mind of Christ.” Our minds may be expanded to take in the glorious purpose, and eyes that are held in that vision will most assuredly communicate buoyancy and speed to the feet. Look at the Apostle Paul. The far-off goal was always flinging its kindly ray upon the immediate task. Aye, that is the enlarged mind, which in its inclusive range gives hospitality to the ultimate, and brings the glory of the far-away to relieve the burdensomeness of the present task. That’s the way to get over the hill, and to get over it at a run! What is the philosophy of it? It is this. Small and exclusive thinking is like a closed and tiny room, in which the inmates become asphyxiated, and reduced to lassitude and languor. Large thinking oxygenates the powers, it lets in the vitalizing wind from the far-stretching moors of truth, all the faculties are toned and braced into strenuousness, and they can move in difficult ways with ease. It may be, too, that further enlargements are required before the desired speed is obtained. “I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my motions.” The mill will not work if the mill-race is empty! The weakness of many a life is explained by the poverty of its emotions; the emotional energy is only that of a reduced and languid stream, and there is no power to run the mill. There are lives that are seemingly destitute of any great capacity to be deeply stirred. Their storms are only “storms in a tea-cup”; they have nothing of the terrific movement of the disturbed sea. They cannot be moved into mighty indignation like the Apostle Paul; “who is made to stumble and I burn not?” They cannot be constrained into passionate love;” I could wish that myself were separated from Christ for my brethren.” They cannot be upheaved by sullen sorrow, nor made to dance in ecstatic joy. Now see the consequence. We must not expect much speed where there is little feeling. The insensitive are not the strenuous, rather are they the victims of sluggishness and sleep. The man who has no emotional wealth will never be found among the pioneer runners in the moral way. He requires enlargement before he can run! And this very enlargement is provided for us in the grace of God. “I will take away the stony heart and I will give thee a heart of flesh.” That miracle has been performed in innumerable lives. Love has been born where indifference reigned. And so it is also with the third primary element in the contents of the heart, the factor of the will. Many of us crawl and faint in the paths of the moral ideal because our wills are weak and irresolute. We can run for a while, but we fail in the “long run.” We are good for a hundred yards, but we are spent at the mile. We begin well, but the end is very near. Our wills are something like the batteries of those portable electric night-lights, good for so many flashes, and good for nothing more. We have volitional spasms, succeeded by a forceless lethargy. We shall “run the way” of His commandments when God shall enlarge our wills. And that is just one of the wonderful resources of grace. “It is God that worketh in you to will,” to enlarge your will, to fill it with all needful power, to make it adequate to the attainment of the far-off goal. We shall be “strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man,” and “our sufficiency” shall be “of God.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Soul-enlargement

I. Its attainment.

1. It consists in--

2. It is attainable. Thousands have experienced it. Hearts once encased in sensuality and selfishness, have by the love of Christ widened so as to grasp the world in its sympathies. The narrow-souled atheist has expanded into the greatness of a saint; the mean temporizer has become a moral hero, battling the world for the right. The churlish miser has bounded with an unconquerable love of his race.

II. Its development.

1. Man is under law, binding him to purity of thought and rectitude of feeling.

2. A willing obedience to this law is the chief end of man.

3. Where this soul-enlargement is, this obedience will be realized.

III. Its author. “Thou.” All the influences of nature, the events of Providence, the means of grace are for the enlargement of the soul. A growing soul is the most interesting object in the universe. (Homilist.)

Heart-enlargement

The true Broad Church is that in which an enlarged obedience to God’s commandments is brought about by an enlarged experience of His love; and His commandments and His love are both of them exceeding broad. True spiritual life will widen the soul in its possessions, its perceptions, its will, and its love; it will extend our powers of having, of knowing, of willing, and of loving; and, in one or other of these four, most of our life is included.

1. How very little we possess, both in outward and inward things. Our hands are small and the world is large. “Tell me how I can make my broad acres more broad,” is the request of the rich man. “Tell me how I can make my narrow holding less narrow,” is the cry of the poor. But a life in God makes us rich, for “all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos,” etc. “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

2. How trifling is our knowledge. We know but little of things in this world, with all our sciences and study, and we know much less about God, and glory, and immortality, and the spirits which live outside the tent of this mortal flesh, or of any of those things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” But we believe that for those whom God enlarges, there is an unspeakable increase in the perceptive powers of the soul; they are taught things that are hidden from the wise and prudent. There is knowledge for the simple and lowly ones; for those who, in the spiritual strength they have derived from God, run in the way of His commandments. Looking into the Father’s face, and into the Saviour’s heart, the soul can say (John 17:3). And with the knowledge there comes the aspiration (Ephesians 3:17).

3. How little is our will-power. We often want to do right, and the force of habits or of grooves is too strong for us. We have not enough momentum to carry us out or enough moral force to deny the past and to assert the future. The only remedy is the Divine enlargement of heart which comes from the visitation of the Spirit. We carry our brokenness to God; we put our helpless will at His feet, and He energizes it, and sends us back from the altar-steps able to say, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God.”

4. How small is our capacity for forgiving. Only those who have the Spirit within them, energizing them, can truly love at all. Again, we fall at the Lord’s feet, and tell Him we have no power even to be civil to some people, much less to love them; scarcely power to put up the weapons of revenge against some; and even to those whom, like the publicans and Pharisees and sinners, we love because they love us, we have not been able to make an adequate return for the low they have lavished upon us. Then God teaches us that there lies in Him the power of enlarging the human affections, and He enlarges our hearts that we, “being rooted and grounded in love,”--not only in the experimental realization of His love to us, but also in the experimental living out of our love to Him, and to all that He has made and given us,--are able to “run the way of His commandments.” For that is His new commandment, “that we love one another.” (J. Rendel Harris.)

To do more, we must first of all be more

You may see a little child trying to lift a heavy weight, and you tell it that it must wait till its muscles are stronger: it must wait till it has “become.” This was the way at the beginning in conversion: “dead works” means that in us there does not dwell force or power to lift the great weight of the commandment or righteousness of God; hence they are useless or stupid works. When you find in your heart your inability to fulfil the Divine commandment, and have not the strength and power you want, though all day trying to lift the heavy weight, you come to God and say, “It is plain that, as I am, I cannot live out this righteousness, and I come for a new life to live it out. I must have Thine own strength.” Then we understand our Lord’s saying, “Except a man be born again,” etc. (J. Rendel Harris.)

The successful race

I. An attainable object. The city of God, the holy Jerusalem, whose walls are salvation, and whose gates are praise (Revelation 21:10; Isaiah 60:18).

II. A way or road along which to proceed.

1. The commandments of God are universal in their application; none are exempt from their obligations.

2. They may be designated a “way,” because they describe a course of conduct, a line of duty, and mark the bounds of good and evil, right and wrong.

III. A swift approach towards that which we are anxious to attain. “I will run.”

1. Here is the expression of decision and resolution. How necessary is this for the Christian l How small must his progress be, if any, without it!

2. Here, you see, diligence and earnestness are required: running implies exertion, labour, toil.

3. Here is rectitude of principle, as well as stability of character.

4. Courage and fortitude are both required to ensure your progress towards the holy city.

5. Perseverance is absolutely necessary (Matthew 10:22; Hebrews 10:33-38). It is not the race of a day, or a year; but through the entire course of your life. (R. Treffry.)

Heart-enlargement

In these words we see the connection between theology and morality.

I. There is a heart-relationship between man and God. God is perpetually awakening some dormant energies of our spirits, by which all past achievements live in present efforts and productivities. Glorious is that heart-relationship which there is between man and God.

II. Man’s heart-enlargement is entirely of God. Men, and books, and events are means in God’s hands of waking all the germinal glories of the human heart, which is in eternal connection with the Divine. Our successive heart-enlargements have been the results of Divine visitations. Our Father works hitherto, and therefore we work.

III. On-pressing obedience proceeds from the spiritual expansiveness which God alone produces by His operations within us. (W. R. Percival.)

Enlargement of heart the preparation for obedience

I. The delightful spiritual state contemplated by the psalmist.

1. Emancipation from the thraldom of sin.

2. Deliverance from temptations and afflictions.

3. The expansion of the understanding, and the attainment of just and comprehensive views on all matters relating to our salvation and duty.

4. The love of God shed abroad in the heart.

II. This blessed state of heart will cause a corresponding course of action.

1. Deliverance from guilt and condemnation brings with it power to serve God.

2. Some of the most valuable lessons imparted by the great Teacher are learned in the school of affliction; and often, after having ourselves suffered temptation, we are the better able to strengthen our brethren.

3. Expansion of understanding in the things of God brings with it increased obligation to “run the way of His commandments.”

4. The manifestation of pardoning love to the believer in Jesus enables him to love God in return. Without this, our obedience may be that of a servant, but cannot he that of a child. Love is the fulfilling of the law. (L. H. Wiseman.)

A heart enlarged

The occupation of the heart is the great thing in religion, not because, the heart being mastered, other parts may be overlooked, for religion is the nourisher and not the despiser of intellect, but simply because, in the first place, until the heart is carried there can be no real conversion, for the converted man loves God, and love is from the heart, and because, in the second place, the conquest of the heart involves as a natural and necessary consequence the conquest of the remainder of the man.

I. Supposing that by the heart, the whole soul, with all its powers and affections, is intended, how comes it to be true that God by His grace enlarges the soul? We take a man’s understanding. We are accustomed to think and to say, that through busying himself with scientific inquiries, through all these processes of discipline which are furnished by the study of abstruse and sublime things, through converse with history and with the writings of illustrious men, through the exercising itself on those difficult and unsolved problems which are presented by the mysteries of nature and the fortunes of nations, we are accustomed to believe that by these and similar means the human understanding may be made stronger and more comprehensive. And we are far enough from underrating these prescribed modes of enlarging the mind. But, nevertheless, we are clear upon the point, that nothing more enlarges the understanding than the grace which God pours in upon it when He is engaged in carrying on to perfection the work of sanctification. For, if it be the contemplation of noble and majestic things which causes the understanding to shoot up its stature, and to amplify itself on the right hand and on the left, so that the mind remains dwarfish through not being brought into contact with gigantic truth, where will you find us such a nourisher, such a magnifier of the understanding, as religion, seeing that through the operations of God’s grace there is a comparative abandonment of a survey of the created, and a fastening of the gaze on the Creator Himself, and the spirit is carried into a region inaccessible to an unconverted man, and is engaged in climbing truths which are never surmounted by the loftiest intelligence, and thus brought precisely into that intercourse with the mighty and the colossal, which tells most on its powers, quickening them into rapid growth, and bringing to light unsuspected resources? God is so magnificent, so wonderful, that it must be an effort to the soul to take in any discoveries which He makes of Himself; but the very effort will be an improving and invigorating thing. The soul will grow, through her strivings to embrace the infinite; the understanding will dilate as more and more of Deity presents itself to the grasp; and thus, from the beginning to the end, God is enlarging the heart. It is one great characteristic of a righteous man that he is gradually conforming his own will to the will of his Maker. It would be Christian perfection to have no will but God’s will; and though we do not say that this perfection is actually obtained by any of the righteous on the earth, yet there will be a continual advance towards the attainment, so that the identification of wills, if not in every respect complete, will daily become more and more accurate. And a man’s will being thus gradually exchanged for God’s, there must be going forward an enlargement of the will.

II. You will not require much proof that the running the way of God’s commandments follows the enlargement of the heart. The enlarged heart includes, as we have shown you, an enlarged understanding and an enlarged will. The enlargement of the understanding supposes you more disposed to follow only what is good. The former, therefore, is the same thing as our discerning more and more of the demands of God’s law; the latter is the same thing as our determining to act on the discernment. But what is this, save in so many words an enlarged heart producing an ampler obedience? The understanding is enlarged, so that we see more of what is demanded; the will is enlarged, so that we resolve on conforming ourselves to those discoveries of the understanding; and if we both find out more and more of what is to be done, and move more in the course which we ascertain to be right, then we are clearly advancing in the work of obedience. And if, yet further, both these results are to be traced to the heart’s enlargement as a cause, who can avoid discovering the force of the connection--“I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart”? (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The secret of speed

This was the language of one who did not run; and many still lag behind. We are far more in danger of standing still than of running ourselves out of breath. Most of us have reason to be ashamed of the defects of our obedience, the meanness of our sacrifices, the meagreness of our work, the formalism of our worship.

1. The enlargement of the heart is the secret of speed. It implies an increase of light, insight, love, trust, hope, gladness, God touching our spirit anew, and awakening it to a higher and fuller life in Himself.

2. Note how such an enlargement of the heart conduces to a prompter and more acceptable obedience.

The true way of going to heaven

We are to run. It is not wise, right, or safe to live coldly and loosely. Old Donne says, “Let me go upon crutches, so I go to heaven.” But there are two objections to going to heaven that way. First, no man chooses a pair of crutches when he is offered a pair of wings. No one, surely, ought to go to heaven slowly, painfully, when he can go triumphantly. And the second objection is, that those who go upon crutches hardly get to heaven. “Lest that which is tame be turned out of the way.” A halting Christian is more likely to be turned out of the way than to continue unto the end; for any trivial thing in the path sends him sprawling on all fours. Away with such tardiness and precariousness! We are to march as conquerors; we are to return with joy upon our heads; we are to mount with eagles--our spirit regal, our mood heroic, our step unfaltering. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The secret of power and progress

Our progress is not regulated by the state of things about us, but by the fact and intensity of our spiritual life. Great faith, high resolve, and glowing love go over Jordan dry-shod. All difficulties dwindle as the soul expands. Bitter mysteries are solved by a simpler trust. Barren branches blossom and bend as the roots of our life are enriched. Grace abounding, a double portion of the Spirit, the love of God shed abroad in the heart, reawakening hunger and thirst after righteousness, the second blessing leading to the third and so on to infinity--here is the consolation and hope of the saints. Strengthened with strength in our soul, we shall trip no more, crawl no more, stand still no more, but run in the path of life, and

“Even in running think ourselves too stow.”

If our heart has become faint and cold, we know what to do. When the fire went out on the altar of the Greeks, it was relighted by the beams of the sun. Let us bring our heart into fresh contact with the purging Fire, the quickening Flame, and difficulty and failure shall be things of the past. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Speedy obedience

Promptness is one of the brightest excellencies in faith’s acting. Delay spoils all. Some one asked Alexander to what he owed his conquests, and he said, “I have conquered because I never delayed.” While the enemy were preparing he had begun the battle, and they were routed before they knew where they were. After that fashion faith overcomes temptation. She runs in the way of obedience, or rather she mounts on the wings of eagles, and so speeds on her way. With regard to the things of God, our first thoughts are best; considerations of difficulty entangle us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 33-36

Psalms 119:33-36

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

Ethical instruction

I. Ethical instruction is instruction in duty. There is no knowledge so important as the knowledge of our obligations to ourselves, to society, and to God. Scientific instruction is nothing to this, even theological instruction is not to be compared to this in importance. Ethical instruction is the great want of man. This instruction is here represented as instruction in the “statutes,” the law, “commandments, testimonies.” All words representing the same thing--duty.

II. Ethical instruction is to be sought of God. There is no teaching so difficult as effectual moral teaching. Men are more disposed to learn anything rather than their duty--history, science, philosophy, anything. Hence God alone can effectually teach it.

III. Ethical instruction is to be sought of God in order to be practised. Why does the author of these words pray for God to instruct him in His commandments? In order that he might speculate in moral science and talk eloquently on such subjects? No; but in order that he might “keep it unto the end,” “observe it with my whole heart,” “go in the path of Thy commandments.” Moral knowledge is to be practised. (Homilist.)

The Divine Teacher and scholar

1. What be these statutes?

2. Whose be they?

3. Why doth David call the Word the way of God’s statutes?

(a)That we are all travellers here in a strange country (Hebrews 11:13-14). But the way we know not, nor can man or angel teach us the way, unless God show it to us, as He did to Adam, who could lose his way, but of himself could never find it.

(b) That God hath made known the way in His Word; called the way, because it points us the way, as also because it leads us to heaven and happiness, as a way tends to some end, or intended place.

(c) That this way and Word of God must be known of us, as the way must be of a traveller. And therefore as travellers, and as David here, we must be ever asking after the way.

(d) That as a traveller must keep the beaten and high-way, so must these statutes be pathed and trodden of all the travellers of heaven; neither must we turn out of this way to the right or left hand.

(e) That whosoever are out of this way, and transgress these statutes, they wander from the God of peace, and from life, are out of God’s protection, and liable to all the curses of the law, as men out of the king’s highway are out of the king’s protection. Hence it is said of wicked men (Psalms 14:3). These things lie in the metaphor.

4. Why doth David desire to be taught of God?

(a) Teach me to attend the way of Thy statutes, that I may understand them, and Thy Word be not a clasped book unto me; neither may I, by missing the right scope, pervert the same to mine own destruction.

(b) Teach me to affect the way of Thy statutes, that my heart may melt as Josiah’s at the hearing of the law, and be pricked and broken with the threats of it, as were those converts that cried, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved? (Acts 2:37). When the promises are preached, or promulgated, let my heart dilate and open itself, as the thirsty ground, and rejoice that it understandeth the Word taught, as (Nehemiah 8:13).

(c) Teach me to believe Thy statutes; for all true and comfortable knowledge is applicatory; it rests not in the understanding, but is a firm assent in the will, laying hold on the thing known. And this must we pray, seeing all knowledge, not mingled with faith, is unprofitable.

(d) Teach me to obey Thy statutes; for all sound knowledge is practical; and to know Christ as the truth is in Christ, is to cast off the old man with his lusts, and put on the new. This must be our prayer, that the Lord would so teach us His way as we may walk in it; that tie would so take us into His school as to become both more skilful and more holy; that seeing not hearers, but doers are justified, our portion may be in their blessedness, that hear the Word and keep it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

God the source of instruction

I. Who it is that teaches.

II. What it is that God teaches.

III. How God teaches.

IV. The result of being taught the way of God’s statutes by God himself. We shall “keep them unto the end.” (T. Dale, M. A.)

The province of reason in matters of religion

I shall consider the word reason, as denoting the power, generally, of apprehending truth, and applying it to its proper uses;--a power which distinguishes man from all other animated beings around him, and fits him for performing duties and enjoying pleasures, of which they are totally incapable. That God is our teacher, and that He communicates instruction by His works and by His Word, is one of the first lessons which human reason should learn. After becoming satisfied of this, we are to make it our object to discover what is the instruction which He actually communicates. And as our chief concern is with the truths of revelation, our chief business is H apply ourselves, in the proper use of our rational powers, to the study of the Holy Scriptures. The position which I take on this subject will require that two things in particular should be set aside, as not falling within the province of reason. The first is, attempting to originate truth. And the second is, sitting in judgment upon any of the doctrines or facts, which God makes known. The remarks I have made may furnish a ready answer to a question often proposed to us by rationalists. “If,” say they, “we are to bow with such submission to the Word of God, and H receive so implicitly all its doctrines and precepts, and are never at liberty to call in question the reasonableness or truth of any of its dictates; then what has reason to do?” I reply, it has everything to do, which falls within its province; everything for which it was designed; everything to which it is competent.

1. The province I have assigned to reason, evidently corresponds with its nature. To learn is an employment peculiarly congenial to the essential properties of the human mind. Every created, finite mind must, from its very nature, be dependent for all its knowledge on the uncreated, infinite mind. While our reason is duly sensible of this, and confines itself to the business of learning what God reveals, its efforts are all natural and safe. But whenever it leaves the place of a learner, and undertakes, by its own power, to originate any doctrine or fact, it undertakes a work which is unnatural and dangerous, and which will inevitably lead to false and hurtful conceptions.

2. Confining reason to the province which I have now assigned H it, will conduce to the honour of God. He is, in fact, the fountain of all created intelligence; and H acknowledge Him as such, is only to treat Him according to truth,--to render Him the honour which is His due.

3. Confining our reason to the work which I have assigned to it, will conduce directly to intellectual improvement. An acquaintance with the truths of religion will enlarge and elevate our understandings; and it will produce this effect in a much higher degree than our acquaintance with objects of inferior value. But there is no way for us H become acquainted with the truths of religion, except by learning them of our Divine teacher, in the use of the means which He has appointed.

4. Confining reason to its legitimate province will contribute in the highest degree to our moral improvement. If we pass in review all that God has made known H us; the holy law He has given us; the sin and ruin of all men in consequence of one man’s disobedience; the eternal purposes of God; the Trinity; the whole work of the Redeemer; regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the perseverance of the saints, considered as a duty on their part, and a matter of promise on God’s part; and the everlasting retributions of the future world; we shall find, in each case, that the doctrine which produces the salutary effect is just that which God has clearly revealed, and which every person of common understanding is capable of knowing. It is the belief of the simple truths, the plain, intelligible facts taught in the Scriptures, which has raised the character of the saints to the highest elevation; has given strength to the weak, comfort to the afflicted, and freedom to the slaves of sin; and has prepared the people of God for the most glorious achievements. (L. Woods, D. D.)

God the teacher

This psalmist held that a man could see nothing unless God showed it to him. He held that a man could learn nothing unless God taught him; and taught him, moreover, in two ways. First taught him what he ought to do, and then taught him how to do it. Surely this man was, at least, a reasonable and prudent man, and showed his common sense. For supposing that you were set adrift in a ship at sea, to shift for yourself, would it not be mere common sense to try and learn how to manage that ship, that you might keep her afloat and get her safe to land? You would try to learn the statutes, laws, and commandments, and testimonies, and judgments concerning the ship, lest by your own ignorance you should sink her, and be drowned. You would try to learn the laws about the ship; namely the laws of flotation, by fulfilling which vessels swim, and by breaking which vessels sink. You would try to learn the commandments about her. They would be any books which you could find of rules of navigation, and instruction in seamanship. You would try to learn the testimonies about the ship. And what would they be? The witness, of course, which the ship bore to herself. The experience which you or others got from seeing how she behaved--as they say--at sea. And from whom would you try to learn all this? from yourself? I trust not. You would go to the shipbuilder and the shipmaster for your information. Just as--if you be a reasonable man--you will go for your information about this world to the builder and maker of the world--God Himself. And lastly; you would try to learn the judgments about the ship: and what would they be? The results of good or bad seamanship; what happens to ships, when they are well-managed or ill-managed. It would be too hard to have to learn that by experience; for the price which you would have to pay would be, probably, that you would be wrecked and drowned. But if you saw other ships wrecked near you, you would form judgments from their fate of what you ought to do. If you could find accounts of shipwrecks, you would study them with the most intense interest; lest you too should be wrecked, and so judgment overtake you for your bad seamanship. Now, the only way to attain eternal life is to know, and keep, and profit by God’s laws, God’s commandments, God’s testimonies, God’s judgments; and therefore it is that the psalmist says so often that these laws and commandments are life. But some will say, How shall I learn? I am very stupid, and I confess that freely. And when I have learnt, how shall I act up to my lesson? For I am very weak; and that I confess freely likewise. How, indeed? Stupid we are, the cleverest of us; and weak we are, the strongest of us. And if God left us to find out for ourselves, and to take care of ourselves, we should not sail far on the voyage of life without being wrecked, and going down body and soul to hell. But, blessed be God, He has not left us to ourselves. He has not only commanded us to learn: He has promised to teach. And he who wrote the 119th psalm knew that well; and therefore his psalm is a prayer, a prayer for teaching, and a prayer for light; he cries to God--My soul cleaveth to the dust. I am low-minded, stupid, and earthly at the best. Oh, quicken Thou me; that is--Oh, give me life--more life-according to Thy Word. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)


Verse 34

Psalms 119:34

Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law; yes, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

David’s prayer and resolution

I. Their order. Knowledge must necessarily precede obedience, since there can be nothing chosen by the will but what the understanding has first allowed; the will being destitute of all light save what is borrowed: for as the stars derive their light from the sun, so does the will her light from the understanding, that directive faculty of the soul, “the candle of the Lord,” that light whereby we discern good from evil.

II. Their connection.

1. Knowledge and obedience are not things inseparable, for one may be without the other; we may have understanding, and yet not keep God’s law; for knowledge does not change the will, but direct it; it does only rationally persuade, not effectually convert it; so that the will must he sanctified, as well as the understanding illuminated, before our obedience to God’s law can be answerable to our knowledge of it.

2. We may both understand God’s law, and keep it. God that employs, enables us; lie that calls us gives us a power to come, otherwise His invitation would be a mockery; tie that saith, “Depart from evil, and do good,” has doubtless made us capable of so doing.

III. The main scope and design of the words. Do this for me, and I do promise on my part to keep Thy law, to meditate upon Thy precepts, and to have respect unto Thy ways, to delight myself in Thy statutes, and not to forget Thy Word. Our obedience must be--

1. Sincere. This renders our endeavours acceptable to God, and profitable to ourselves.

2. Universal. Catholic faith without catholic obedience is of little value.

3. Constant. If we faint, we shall never reap; if we are weary of running, we shall never obtain the prize. (E. Lake, D. D.)

The need of understanding

“Understanding.” That is what he urgently prays for. If only the poor man could understand what God was about; if only he could detect the track, catch the clue, hear the voice behind him saying, “This is the way”? what a relief, what a strength it would be. He is ready, eager, willing; his heart is aflame; he desires keenly to do the right, to walk with God--so, at least, it seems to him; so he thinks. He may discover, later on, that his will is not so strong as he imagines. But, at any rate, as he stands, it is his head, rather than his heart, which he feels to be at fault. He feels, but cannot see; he desires, but cannot decide. That will of God which he would so delightedly follow refuses to pronounce itself and give clear utterance. It vanishes. It hides itself. It is dissipated into hesitating and disappointing negations. Just when he fancied he had got his grip upon it it slips through his fingers. What ought he to do? What ought he not to do? How much does God ask of him? or how little? What is the rule he must obey? If he did but know, he would be loyal enough. “O give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law! Yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.” “His whole heart,” for then the whole man would go along with what it saw to be so right. The fitness, the meaning, the method, the end would all commend themselves. As the reason joyfully assented, the heart would commit itself to a plan so sound and so intelligible. And there would be no disappointing blunders to check the heart’s advance; no slips, no doubtful experiments, no foolish hesitation in moments of uncertain suspense. The heart would not cringe in fear, trying its road before it with trembling anxiety. It would go with a swing, sure of itself; sure of its direction, sure of its success. Oh! to have this confidence, this security, this understanding--then he would keep the “law with all his heart and soul.” “Give me understanding!” A true prayer for us all! What a lot of harm is done in the world by the folly, the stupidity, the blindness of those who are on God’s side, and genuinely desire to keep His law! We make so little way in carrying God’s law into effective action, because our grasp on its principles is so frail, our apprehension of its height and depth is so cheap, and poor, and thin. A whole world of assumptions, moral and religious, are under challenge; and are undergoing the transformation which such challenges enforce. We are compelled to reconsider our familiar language; to recast our phrases; to review our apologetics. A resettlement of the entire position is proceeding, in the sense that the proportion and balance of our modes of expressing and defending our convictions are shifting. It seems as if the world of spirit and of grace had slipped out of our ken--as if we had lost our way in it, and could not move in it with any confidence. It has grown to feel far-off and out of touch--a strange land, where we are not at home. So our religious life conies to a halt, gets in a tangle, grows timid and dolorous. If we did but know better what it is that God is saying to us! If our ears were but open, if our apprehension of Him were but more firm and clear! “Understanding,” moral insight, spiritual intelligence, an instructed conscience, a purer and truer judgment, a power to decide, to resolve, a skill in discernment. Oh, pray for that--our grievous lack! It can come from God only. He not only commands, but enables us to understand His commands. Yet this is left us--to bring our faculties under His handling, under His discipline. We have got minds; we have got the gift of reason. We can set these to work, with a little more seriousness and efficiency. First, we can recognize that this law of God which we do genuinely desire to keep with our whole heart is no light and easy affair, to be known straight off at a hearing. It is a serious business; and calls upon our reason to search it out. Can we apply the moral law, as Christ gave it to us, to modern life, to commerce, to luxury, to social intercourse? Can the modern conditions of big cities allow for Sunday? Can the Christian ideal of marriage stand the strain of the present freedom of relationship between man and woman? Can it justify its rigidity? Can we say why, or how it should be when we are asked? These questions cannot be answered without thought and care and trouble; they cry out for an intelligent understanding. Oh, grant us understanding “that we may keep Thy law.” Secondly, it is a prayer that implies the incessant revelation of fresh law to be kept. We desire to serve God not only better than we now do, but better than we yet know how to serve. He has a law for us which is far above out of our sight. His law is making demands of us of which we have as yet no intelligence. Oh, if we saw and knew, how bitter would be our shame at failing Him so totally! Oh, pray to understand more of what He wants of us! Be ever occupied in lifting your standard, in pushing forward your moral frontiers, in raising the demands. (Canon Scott Holland.)

On the identity of wisdom and religion

Let us survey,, one by one, the characteristic marks of wisdom; and examine whether they are not, singly and collectively, exemplified in the conduct of the man who fixes his heart upon God through Jesus Christ.

I. Wisdom selects such objects of pursuit as she discerns a satisfactory prospect of attaining.

II. Wisdom sets its affections upon those things which are in their own nature the most excellent.

III. Wisdom chooses for its portion those acquisitions which, in the possession, are accompanied with the highest delight. How, then, stands the case with respect to religion?

1. Consider the point first with regard to present satisfaction.

2. With respect to the life to come, comparison cannot be mentioned. Whether the blessedness of heaven or the pains of hell be preferable; whether it be wisdom to choose the future rewards of religion, or the future punishments of guilt; these are questions which require not an answer.

IV. Wisdom occupies itself in the pursuit of efficient remedies for evils actual or probable. Is this position descriptive of religion? Evils are temporal, or spiritual. Compare as to evils of each class the advantages of the righteous and of the unrighteous.

V. Wisdom fixes her attention on those desirable objects which, other circumstances being equal, are the most durable. Is this characteristic of wisdom to be found in religion? How long do the pleasures of sin continue? Suppose that the wicked man grasps his good things, be they what they may, until death. The righteous man, travelling by his side, enjoys his delights unto the same period. So far as to duration, the servant of God is not under any disadvantage. But from the instant of death how stands the comparison? That instant which for ever extinguishes the pleasures of the wicked, sees the happiness of the righteous only in its commencement. (T. Gisborne, M. A.)


Verse 36

Psalms 119:36

Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

The bane and the antidote

I. The evil of man and its antidote.

1. The evil of man is covetousness. This is the root of the moral Upas.

2. The antidote of this evil is Divine truth. The Word of God not only condemns covetousness, but inspires the soul with that love to God and man that expels it.

II. The heart of man and its tendency.

1. The heart of man is his moral self. According to it so he is, right or wrong.

2. According to its tendency will be his destiny.

Covetousness a mother-sin

He prays in particular that his heart may be diverted from covetousness, which is not only an evil, but “the root of all evil.” David here opposes it as an adversary to all the righteousness of God’s testimonies; it inverts the order of nature, and makes the heavenly soul earthly. It is a handmaid of all sins, for there is no sin which a covetous man will not serve for his gain. We should beware of all sins, but specially of mother-sins. (Bishop Cowper.)


Verse 37-38

Psalms 119:37-38

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way.

An exemplary prayer

This prayer includes three things:--

I. Diversion from the false.

1. Vanity is a bad thing.

2. Men are interested in this bad thing.

3. Their interest in it is a great evil.

4. Deliverance from this evil requires the agency of God.

II. Devotion to the true. The way of

1. Practical spirituality.

2. Practical benevolence.

3. Practical godliness.

This is God’s way. To walk in this way is to walk away from vanity and into all the blest realities of being.

III. Confirmation in the right (verse 38). Set me “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (Homilist.)

Deadness and quickening

I. David here prays for deadness in one direction,--deadness to the world, that he may be so dead to it that he will not even look at it: “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.”

1. What, think you, does the psalmist mean here by vanity? I think he probably means four things, or one thing which may be seen under four aspects.

2. He felt that his eves were inclined to go this way. Alas! we seem to drink up sin readily enough; but we have with care to put good and true thoughts into our minds. This river of our life brings down plenty of snags, the old dead trees from the evil country come floating down the stream; but seldom does it bring to our door a log of the cedars of Lebanon. Such good wood is scarce in this river; but its torrent seems to bear along all that is base and vile. We find another law in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death, so that we have to cry, with Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” and with David, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” The psalmist knew the evil of a growing familiarity with vanity. For the most part, men do not fall into great sin by sudden surprises. It is sometimes so; but, usually, there are several descending platforms, and the descent is made by slow degrees.

3. He craved Divine help.

4. He expects God to help him in a particular way. He does not say, “Put out my eyes, O Lord!” but he prays, “Let me look another way,--a better way.” The way not to be affected by sin is to look at something else. If you have fixed your eyes on Christ the crucified, the risen, the exalted, the soon to come, if your eyes are taken up with Him, you shall find that passage true in many senses, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”

II. Having prayed for deadness in one direction, David prays for life in another direction.

1. He was in God’s way. If you are not, may He bring you into it at once!

2. Those who are in God’s way are to pray that they may have increasing life while they are in that way.

3. Nobody but God can give us this life in God’s way.

4. We need this quickening often. “Quicken me, quicken me, quicken me,” is the prayer of the soul when first it begins to live. It is the prayer of the Christian when he gets into the stern struggles of life, and the poisonous damps of the world; and the prayer of the Christian when he is about to die is still, “Quicken me, O Lord, quicken me in Thy way! O Life of life, be life to me! O Spirit of God, breathe into me power, vigour, force, energy! Give me all these by giving me Thyself to be my life.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

How may we get rid of spiritual sloth, and know when our activity in duty is from the Spirit of God

I. Explication.

1. Spiritual sloth is threefold.

2. Activity in duty is a victorious conquest over the great Goliath, sloth, and riding triumph in the way, work, and worship of God. There are three things which concur and contribute to complete this activity in duty:--

II. Corollary. Every man and mortal hath some of the ass’s dulness and sloth in him; and therefore I have brought a whip of ten strings to scourge this sloth and dulness out of us.

1. Keep a strict watch over your eyes at all times, especially when you are in duty. The eyes are the portholes that sin and Satan creep in at. It is accounted a great piece of charity to a man’s body to close his eyes when he is dead: I am sure it is more charity to our souls to close our own eyes whilst we are living (Job 31:1).

2. Send sin packing, bag and baggage. Sin is the soul’s sickness. Now, sickness makes men lazy, loath to stir.

3. Frequent a quickening ministry.

4. Make out to the Lord Jesus Christ, whose promise and office it is to make us active and vivacious (John 10:10).

5. Get quickening love to the ways of God.

6. By faith apply the quickening promises, and the promises of quickening.

7. Consider quickening considerations. They that are apt to faint and tire in a journey, carry about their bottles of water to quicken their spirits. Let these considerations be such bottles to you when you tire in the journey of a duty:--


Verse 38

Psalms 119:38

Stablish Thy Word unto Thy servant, who is devoted to Thy fear.

Confirmation

By the “Word” here, some understand simply the promise of God. But, in truth, the meaning is far larger, and comprehends the whole Word of God’s revelation--truth, precept, command, judgment, promise--he prays for the confirmation or stablishment of the whole.

I. In respect to its truth. Are there any serious intellectual doubts about the “Word” of God? About its Divine origin? its inspiration? its great doctrines? These doubts must be dealt with in their own nature, and for what they are. As they affect a man’s mind he must meet them with his mind--he must examine the evidences which have been adduced for the disputed points, and take time to make the examination complete. If a man, for instance, reads a good deal of the sceptical criticism of the time, and a good deal of light literature, which is not unfrequently spiced by a little scepticism to make it more piquant, and--nothing, or something by the merest chance, in the department of the Christian apology and defence--that is not fair, either to the truth or to the mind. He is not taking the proper way to solve his doubts. He is feeding them. The Book itself should be read. It carries its own light, evidences, defences. To read it is, in many an instance, to find an answer to the objections made against it. Then, again, there are doubts and irresolute conditions of mind which can only be exchanged for faith and fixedness by the instrumentality of work--honest, earnest work for God. “Exercise thyself unto godliness.” But our text seems especially to remind us that there are some doubts--affecting the Word of God as truth--which will yield only to prayer. Not to thinking, not to “reading,” not to Christian working--only to prayer. The text is a prayer. It is the looking of the shadowed soul up to the very source of light. “Stablish Thy Word unto Thy servant;” and unless religion is all a dream, and our hopes in God the greatest vanities of our life, there must be answer.

II. In respect to its preciousness. The Gospel is exceedingly precious. When first consciously received, it is accepted with thankfulness and joy. The first love is fed by fresh discoveries, by wondering thought, by rapid acts of faith, by grateful memories, by new-born hopes,--these all make fuel for that holy flame. Alas! that it should change, and cool, and wane, and darken! Just where and when discovery is made of decline and failure, there and then begin renewal and repair.

III. In respect to its practical power. If there be one point in human experience more dangerous than another, it is exactly the point between faith and practice, between inward love and outward work. That point, or region rather, is one where Satan has great advantage. He persuades us that it is enough to think truly, to feel tenderly, and that we really need not fritter away the fine bloom and strength of the inner man in constant rounds of dusty activity. Are there not many intelligent Christian people who do very little visibly and expressly for Christ? Our emotion should not be a turbulent and intermittent thing, like the pool of Bethesda, which took motion and gave healing only after it had been “troubled” by the angel; but rather like “the waters of Siloah--that flow softly,” but also steadily, and equably, all day long, and all through the year. “Continuing in Christ’s Word, we become His disciples indeed.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)


Verse 39-40

Psalms 119:39-40

Turn away my reproach which I fear; for Thy judgments are good.

The dreaded and the desired

I. What is here dreaded (verse 39).

1. Reproach is of two kinds.

2. Now, whether reproach is deserved or undeserved, it is a thing to be dreaded. In fact, it is more to be dreaded when deserved than when undeserved. The best men have been reproached. Even the Son of God Himself was reproached. But undeserved reproach may be well borne.

II. What is here desired? (verse 40).

1. God’s precepts are desirable things. “Thy judgments are good.” They are good in every sense. Good in their origin, in their essence, in their results.

2. A righteous life is a desirable thing. “Quicken me in Thy righteousness.” Man’s well-being consists in living in the righteousness of God. (Homilist.)

Reproach rolled away

A man who had lived for many years the Christian life told me how there was a place in a street in Edinburgh which was associated with a sin. Every time in his early life he passed it, it brought back again the keen remorse and shame. It seemed to stain his life afresh whenever he saw the very place. But when he came to God and gave his heart and life to Christ, the first time he passed that place afterwards his soul, he told me, was filled by a great transport of joy that all that was done, that it was no longer part of his life, that God had forgiven and forgotten and cast it behind His back. And he entered, he told me, for a moment at least in foretaste, into the perfect joy of soul, and he forgot the shame of his youth and remembered the reproach no more. (Hugh Black.)


Verse 41

Psalms 119:41

Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation, according to Thy Word.

A gracious prayer

1. It is in itself a very gracious prayer.

2. This prayer maybe supported by gracious arguments. Pray like this. Say, “Lord, let Thy mercy come to me, for I need mercy.” Do not go on the tack of trying to show that you are good, because mercy will then pass you by. To argue merit is to plead against yourself. Next plead this: “Lord, Thou knowest, and Thou hast made me to know somewhat of what will become of me if Thy mercy does not come to me. I must perish miserably. I have heard the Gospel, and have neglected it; I have been a despiser of Christ, even when I stood up and sang His praises, for I sang them with a hypocrite’s lips. The hottest place in hell will surely be mine unless Thy mercy come to me. Oh, send that mercy, now.” This is good and prevalent pleading: hold on to it. Then plead: “If Thy mercy shall come to me it will be a great wonder, Lord. I have not the confidence to do more than faintly hope it may come; but, oh, if Thou dost ever blot out my sin I will tell the world of it; I will tell the angels of it: through eternity I will sing Thy praises, and claim to be of all the saved ones the most remarkable instance of what Thy sovereign grace can do.” There is another plea implied in the prayer, and a very sweet argument it is--“Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord.” It means, “It has come to so many before, therefore let it come also unto me. Lord, if I were the only one, and Thou hadst never saved a sinner before, yet would I venture upon Thy word and promise. Especially I would come and trust the blood of Jesus: but, Lord, I am not the first by many millions. I beseech Thee, then, of Thy great love, let. Thy salvation come unto me.”

3. This blessedly gracious prayer, which I have helped to back up with arguments, will be answered by our gracious God. Oh, be sure of this, He never sent His prophets to preach to us a salvation which cannot be ours; He never sent His apostles to report to us concerning a mere dream; He never set the angels wondering at an empty speculation; He never gave His Son to be a ransom which will not redeem; and He never Committed His Spirit to witness to that which after all will mock the sinner’s need. No, He is able to save: there is salvation, there is salvation to be had, to be had now, even now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 42

Psalms 119:42

So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: far I trust in Thy Word.

The reproach answered

His state was this--depending upon, and trusting to that word of promise which the Holy Ghost had applied with power to his conscience; not relying upon the bare letter of truth, but leaning upon the sure word of promise which had been brought home with power to his heart. Being, then, in this state, he only had a greater hungering and thirsting after further food. What he had already received from God had not brought into his soul lasting satisfaction; it had rather enkindled his appetite for more. Fresh wants called urgently for fresh deliverances; new diseases required anew the healing hand. Being in this state, then, he longs after the “mercies” of God, and hungers after His “salvation.” He was driven as well as drawn, impelled by urgent necessity as well as allured by Divine encouragements. An enemy was at hand who dogged his steps, an accuser with a heavy bill of charges was waiting at his gate.

I. There are many accusers that reproach a living soul.

1. The law of God reproaches every living soul to which it is spiritually applied, for disobedience to it.

2. Our own heart is continually reproaching us, for our shortcomings in all we desire to perform to God’s glory.

3. Professors of religion are continually casting their reproaches upon us. They treat us as Peninnah treated Hannah.

4. Even the world will sometimes reproach God’s people for covetousness, worldliness, a slanderous tongue, resentment of injuries, levity, frivolity, carelessness, etc.

5. Satan often reproaches the children of God (Revelation 12:10).

II. The inability of the creature to answer any of these reproaches. Can he bring forward his good works? No; the sentence of the law is within, and good works, could he perform them, are merely external things. Can he bring forward resolutions, and promises, and vows to do better for the future? No; these promises, resolutions, and vows spring from the flesh, but condemnation is written in his spirit. Shall he answer these reproaches by his own prayers? No; for the condemnation of the law is written in his spiritual conscience, and only so far as prayer is indited by the Spirit, will it go up out of a spiritual heart.

III. The desires and breathings of the soul after such a manifestation of mercy as shall afford a sufficient answer (verse 41). If you will observe, the word “mercies” is in the plural, there being many mercies; but “salvation” is in the singular number, there being only one salvation. In what way, then, did he want these “mercies”? Merely as standing in the letter of the word? Only as recorded in the inspired word of truth?--as things to look at--as objects hung up, as it were, in a picture, merely for the eye to gaze upon? No; he wanted them in his heart, “to come to him,” to visit him, to be breathed into him, to be made part and parcel of him, to he the life-blood that should circulate in his veins, to be the very Kingdom of God set up with power in his soul. And why did he want internal mercies? Because he had internal reproaches. Why did he need mercies in his soul? because condemnation was in his soul. It was there the sentence of death was written; it was there the sentence of acquittal was to be recorded. It was there that reproach was felt; it was there the answer to the reproach was to be given.

IV. The way in which these answers are communicated. If the law reproaches, salvation in the heart is an answer to its reproach. If our own heart condemns us, to have a sense of God’s salvation in the soul is an answer to every reproach that the heart can bring. If the world condemns us, casts out our names as evil, imputes to us practices which we abhor, tarnishes our fair fame, and throws upon us every base imputation, if we have salvation in our hearts, it is a sufficient answer to all the reproaches that are cast upon us. (J. C. Philpot.)


Verses 44-48

Psalms 119:44-48

So shall I keep Thy law continually for ever and ever.

A noble resolution

I. To be constantly obedient (verse 44). What is obedience? Not conformity to the letter of the law, but the incarnation of the spirit of the law It is to have the Divine will not only written in the heart, hut living and reigning in the heart.

II. To be morally free (verse 45). Soul liberty is not mere freedom to act, not licence; it is the spontaneous action of love. Where “the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” A reigning love for God breaks all the shackles of the soul, and dispreads a sphere of action as wide as immensity.

III. To he heroic in teaching (verse 46).

1. Here is a resolution--

2. We should be bold in speaking out truths

IV. To be happy in duty (verse 47). You cannot be happy by merely resolving to be happy, but you can by resolving to obey with a loving heart. Happiness, like a deep crystal stream, follows every step in the path of true obedience. All the creatures in the universe that obey the laws of their natures are happy.

V. To be devout in life (verse 48).

1. Religious love is devout. “I have loved.”

2. Religious love is contemplative. “I will meditate.”

3. True living is devotion. (Homilist)


Verse 45

Psalms 119:45

And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.

Liberty

I. Liberty is in progressive action. Few can truthfully say, “I will walk”; they are carried, they are driven on the way of life, they act not from themselves, but from others. They are mere spokes in the wheel of the social machine.

II. Liberty is in the pursuit of right. (Homilist.)

Obedience the secret of liberty

I. Men in this world are under the reign of law. We can see that this is so in matters of everyday experience.

II. The root of bondage lies in disobedience to law, and so is in man and not in God. He says, “I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts,” and the reverse of that saying is no less true. A plain truth it is, simple even to self-evidence, and yet how slow men are to take it in. It must be the purpose of any true scheme of redemption to lead those who receive it to magnify the law and to make it honourable.

III. Liberty, freedom, enlargement, are found in obedience to God’s law. (E. Medley.)

Conditions of spiritual freedom

I. Deep trust is essential to perfect freedom. “Love casteth out fear.” The return of the spirit of man to God is inward emancipation--to he the child of God and say Father--“Our Father.” To trust in Him is unshackled freedom.

II. Holy living is essential to emancipation. To walk at liberty. Liberty is loving service. Freedom to sin would be vilest slavery.

III. Illumination is needful for perfect freedom, knowledge, etc.

IV. The spirit of love is needful for full emancipation.

1. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

2. Fear not. If this spirit of ours be in earnest, God is working in us. May the light of His Spirit guide us “to perfect peace”! (Homilist.)

Liberty only in the truth

Liberty is not so much a producing force as a product of other forces. It is not so much a power as it is open space within which other powers work. We want to walk at liberty. How can we do it? If we do not thus walk at liberty, there is only one alternative--stay in bondage. If the psalmist studied God’s will that he might walk at liberty, how much greater is the obligation upon us to do the same, and how much greater our facilities and our encouragement!

1. There is liberty from the world. Sometimes men are in bondage to the world in this sense, that the mainspring of their life is to stand well with it, to do what their set, their society, the world round about them, wishes them to do. Sometimes the bondage is aggravated by another feature, viz. the effort to rise higher, to get into another set; and, oh, how aggravated is the bondage under which many thus live and labour! Freedom from that is obtained when we walk according to God’s statutes. “Godliness with contentment is great gain;” and these things, the godliness with the contentment, will break these clanking chains of insane and stupid ambition and will prepare you to walk at liberty.

2. There is liberty from bad ways--love of the world, drunkenness, gambling, etc. We learn to walk circumspectly; we learn to keep the heart with all diligence; we learn to hate evil and to do good. We walk securely, for we have been taught of the Spirit to walk with God.

3. There is liberty from bad memories--bad, putrid memories. There may be compunction for the sin, there may be vows against it, there may be honest purposes to resist and overcome it, and these purposes to a good degree carried out; but the horrid, poisonous memories remain in the soul. There is liberty from these to those who walk in God’s statutes, liberty that can be had nowhere else. “A new heart will I give you,” etc.

4. There is liberty from fear and terror. With the dark cloud of impending wrath overhanging you, how can you walk at liberty? But take God’s precepts, know them, believe them, do them, and this terror is removed, this fear is taken away. (John Hall, D. D.)

Walking at liberty

Liberty and freedom are words not unfrequently used in the Bible in a political, social, and religious sense. How greatly did Israel rejoice in his freedom from the yoke of Egypt. Among the rewards offered to the man who should silence the boastings of Goliath was this, “that his father’s house should be made free in Israel.” Both the psalmist and St. Paul recognized it as an essential feature in spiritual life, for the one declares that he walked at liberty when he sought the Divine precepts” (Psalms 119:45); and the other, that “where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

I. What, then, is true liberty? Whether we choose to call it by this term, or by the Saxon term “freedom,” it must be evident that it has reference to restraint of some kind. The word emancipation indicates the same. It necessarily implies the removal or absence of something which cramps energies we wish to exert, or impedes acts we purpose to perform. But here a question arises. Is there such a thing in the world as absolute and entire freedom? and if there be, is it worth the having? Alexander Selkirk, on his desolate island, had such liberty. A man may have it now, if he will. Let him only go into a lonely wilderness, far away from human society, there provide for his own wants, and do everything for himself, and he will realize the idea of absolute and entire liberty. No one will restrain, control, or interrupt him; he is at liberty to do whatever his power may be sufficient to accomplish. Whether this absolute and unrestrained liberty be worth much seems to be settled by the fact that very few choose it. But is this the only sort of life in which absolute and unrestrained liberty can be realized? We believe it is. We may safely affirm that a man who had adopted such a course of life could not come out of his isolated position to mingle with other persons without giving up some portion of his liberty. He obtains indeed an equivalent for what he gives, perhaps more than an equivalent; but his liberty is abridged, he is no longer absolutely and entirely free.

II. Some of the restraints which are compatible with genuine freedom, and regulate it to good ends.

1. The general welfare of society.

2. The rights of other individuals. On passing down the street, you see in an open shop window, or at a door, an article of food or clothing: you greatly desire--perhaps you urgently need it. Why is it that you do not at once exercise your liberty and take it? It is easy to do so; and if it lay in the street you would do it at once. You will reply, that the man inside, in the shop, has a right to it, and you have none. You may buy that right from him, if you please; but until you do, you are no more at liberty to take that article than he is at liberty to put his hand in your pocket and take your purse. His right, then, restrains your liberty, and your right restrains his.

3. A person may say, I admit these restraints and will respect them; but I will do as I please, so long as I do not interfere with the rights and liberties of others. I will enjoy my liberty, and allow them theirs; I will eat, drink, and be merry; I will choose the companionship of those who wish to do as I do; and if I spend my money foolishly, and revel in what you stigmatize as vices, what does it matter, since I allow all others to do as they like? Such seems to have been the liberty which the prodigal son in the parable desired, sought, and exercised. Yet is this liberty of his subject to no restraint? What means, then, that violent headache, that prostration of strength, that empty purse? We find, then, that there is no such thing, except in solitude, as absolute and unrestrained liberty; every man’s freedom is checked and limited every day and at every turn, and must, of necessity, be so restrained.

III. Apply this idea of real liberty to the spiritual life and walk of the true Christian. The Christian is a free man. St. Paul speaks of the liberty with which Christ has made him free. Is this liberty of his, then, absolute, or restrained? He rejoices in the liberty wherewith Christ has set him free, and yet he feels that he is “not his own, because bought with a price.” He knows, he feels, that God’s law is a restraint; but he rejoices that it restrains him; for “he serves God with his spirit in the Gospel of His Son,” and loves his servitude as much as his liberty. In fact, he regards them as identical; much as our Prayer-book has expressed it: “Whose service is perfect freedom.” St. Paul also unites the two ideas: “He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman; likewise he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” Conclusion:--

1. We should always remember that we are not at liberty to do evil.

2. Let us learn to love the restraints of God’s law. (Christian Observer.)

The nature of liberty

Lawlessness, licence, is not liberty. True liberty is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow only between banks; without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets uncontrolled by laws would only bring wreck to themselves and the universe. The same law which fences us in fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also ensure and protect us. It is the right kind of control and e cheerful obedience which make a freeman. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)


Verse 46

Psalms 119:46

I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

The moral martyr

Religion is proposed to us in two different points of view, a point of speculation, and a point of practice. Accordingly, there are two sorts of martyrdom; a martyrdom for doctrine, and a martyrdom for morality. It is for the last that the prophet prepares us in the words of the text.

I. The authors, or, as they may be justly denominated, the executioners, who punish men with martyrdom for morality, I understand, then, by the vague term, “kings,” all who have any pre-eminence over the lowest orders of men, and these are they who exercise tyranny and inflict the martyrdom for which the prophet in the text prepares us.

II. The magnanimity of such as expose them-selves to it.

III. The horrors that accompany it.

IV. The obligation of spearing of the testimonies of God before kings. We ground this on the nature of this duty. You have heard, that it consists in urging the rights of God before great men; and, though it be at the hazard of all the comforts and pleasures of life, in professing to respect the moral part of religion. How often have we denied our holy religion? How often, when it hath been jeeringly said to us, “Thou also wast with Jesus,” have we sneakingly replied, “I know not what thou sayest”?

V. The crown of moral martyrdom. A man who can say to God, as our prophet said, finds a rich reward, first in the ideas which a sound reason gives him of shame and glory; secondly, in the testimony of his own conscience; thirdly, in the approbation of good people; and lastly, in the prerogatives of martyrdom. These, if I may so express myself, are four jewels of his crown. (J. Saurin.)

Boldness in religion

There are several reasons to justify this boldness in religion:--

I. It is a Divine system.

1. All the arguments for the Divinity of this book may be ranged under one word--congruity.

2. What folly to be ashamed of speaking of a book whose author is God Himself.

II. It is a rational system.

1. In saying this we do not say--

2. Its incomprehensibles answer two purposes--furnish an argument for its Divinity, and a schooling energy for the student.

3. There are two facts in favour of this rationality.

III. It is a powerful system.

1. Because it is true. All truth is powerful.

2. Because it is moral truth. Truth for the affections and conscience is the most powerful kind of truth.

3. Because it is remedial truth. Truth revealing provisions for recovering sinners.

4. Because it is embodied truth:--Truth, coming, not in mere proposition or precept, but in example, in the example of God Himself. It is, indeed, “the power of God.” Every page in the history of its triumphs demonstrates its almighty power. Then you may well glory in it.

IV. It is a restorative system. It is a power, not to destroy, but to save.

V. It is a universal system. It is not for a class, a sect, a province, a period; it is for universal man. (Homilist.)

Guilty silence

A silent religion, or a speaking religion--which shall it be? David says, “I will speak”;--what do we say? Too often we resolve that we will keep silence. The theme on which David says he will speak is God’s testimonies. Has he chosen a barren topic? Look at the range, the explicitness, and the emphasis of those testimonies, and you will say that never did man choose so fruitful, so abounding a theme. The fact is that there is not a single aspect of life which lies beyond the circumference of the Divine testimonies. God has anticipated everything, provided for everything. David, then, is ready for all occasions, for all men, at all times, and in all places. What, then, is the urgent practical lesson to be deduced from all this affluent provision? If there is one lesson clearer than another suggested by these circumstances, it is that we are left without excuse if we fail to speak of the Divine testimonies. Opportunities occur every day. Circumstances arise under which no words can be so beautiful, so touching, so pithy, so real. There are many curious and startling inconsistencies perpetrated in connection with this matter of not being faithful to the Divine testimonies. We have before the mind’s eye a man who is a large employer of labour. He might have an immense moral influence over those who work in his employment. By a wise word here, and an encouraging word there, he might achieve untold good. That man is a member of the Church, but his own servants are perfectly unaware of his piety until they see his name advertised as a speaker at a religious meeting. Is this right? (J. Parker, D. D.)

Religion acknowledged

There is a splendid tonic in the biography of Hadley Vicars, who, when he was converted, put his Bible on his mess-room table as the best answer to the jeers of his fellow-officers in the British army. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)


Verse 47

Psalms 119:47

And I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved.

God s commandments to be loved

The love of God’s laws is certainly to be distinguished from the mere outward observance of them. As in the law of Moses, so far more in the Gospel of Christ, religion is “that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter.” As to the reason of the thing, it is plain that in proportion as we have a regard for any person, we always take pleasure in doing what will please him; and that, if we are indifferent and careless about this, it is the strongest of all proofs that our regard for that person is little or none. In the same manner it is plain that there is no proof so decisive of our love or neglect of Almighty God, as whether we love or neglect His commandments. Scripture also solemnly confirms this most reasonable opinion. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” “If a man love Me, he will keep My Word.” And the same kind of warning is to be found in the writings of the apostles, particularly in the Epistles of St. John. And what we particularly observe in it is that, as Christians, we are called to put in practice, not some vague, undetermined, fanciful notions of goodness or virtue, but the plain will and pleasure of our best, I ought to say, our only Friend. The Christian, then, who loves Christ Jesus must of necessity also love His commandments. This being certainly true, it seems no less than necessary for us slit to the best of our ability, to see whether or not we really, as we ought, love what our God commands, and, as the prophet says, “delight ourselves in it.” For in this respect, as in others, no doubt we may deceive ourselves with false confidence. Yet still there is the utmost necessity that, at the very best, we should bear in mind the solemn caution of the apostle, “Re not high-minded,” be not too confident of your growth in spiritual grace, of your willingness to endure anything for your Redeemer’s sake; “but fear.” (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times. ”)

Delight in God’s commandments

It is not a small progress in godliness to delight in the commandments of God. Our corrupt nature counts them burdenable: but the grace of Christ makes us find His yoke easy, and His burden light. And, indeed, so do His children esteem of it, who have found by experience there is more solid joy in the obedience of God’s commandments than in the perishing pleasures of sin. And would to God they who of a long time have proved the pleasures of transgression would turn them, and prove by experience, on the other hand, what comfort there is in mourning for sin; ‘what is the joy of a good conscience, and the sweet inward pleasures of a godly conversation; they should then easily perceive that the delights of the one do by infinite degrees surmount the pleasures of the other. Natural men do some external works of God’s worship, but not with an inward delight; this is no acceptable service to God. They assemble themselves on the Sabbath with the godly to hear the Word; but what the one doth of delight, the other doth of custom, or compulsion. The Lord looks to the affection more than to the action; and we should not only consider what we do, but how we do it; so to come to the temple, that we come with Simeon, by motion of the Spirit; so to hear the Word, that it be with spiritual joy and delight, as David did. And this also condemns those of our age to whom the Word of the Lord is a reproach and weariness. (Bishop Cowper.)


Verse 49

Psalms 119:49

Remember the Word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.

Pleading prayer

I admire in this psalm very greatly the singular amalgam that we have of testimony, of prayer, and of praise. In one verse the psalmist bears witness, in a second verse he praises, in a third verse he prays. It is an incense made up of many spices, but they are wonderfully compounded and worked together, so as to form one perfect sweetness. My text is a prayer, but there is testimony in it, and there is a measure of praise in it too.

I. The prayer. “Remember the Word unto Thy servant.”

1. “Remember.” That prayer is spoken after the manner of men, for God cannot forget.

2. It is language which has some trace of unbelief in it.

3. The intention of him who prayed this prayer was to ask God to remember His Word by fulfilling it. “Lord, let me not only be in Thy thoughts, but let me be in Thy acts! Thou hast promised to supply my needs; remember me by supplying my needs. Thou hast promised to forgive my sin; remember me by giving me a sense of pardon. Thou hast premised to help Thy servant, and give me strength according to my day; remember the word by fulfilling Thy Word, and granting strength to me according as I have need of it.”

4. Sometimes this word “remember” is very fitly used, because it seems to the mind that God is likely to remember something else which would be to our loss. Suppose you and I have been walking contrary to God--then the Lord may remember our sin, and He may begin to deal with us in a way of chastisement, and lay us very low. Then is the time to come in with this prayer: “Remember the Word unto Thy servant.”

II. The pleas which, the psalmist uses.

1. The first is, “Remember the Word.” It is a blessed plea--the Word; for by the Word upon which God has caused His servant to hope is meant God’s Word. He never makes His people to hope in anybody else’s word. Let us consider the power, the dignity, the glory of that Word. This is the greatest of all grounds of assurance.

2. The second plea lies in the words, “Thy servant.” “Remember the Worn unto Thy servant.” A man is bound to keep his word to anybody and everybody, but sometimes there may be special persons with whom a failure would be peculiarly dishonourable. Among the rest, a man must be true to his servant.

3. “Upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” Lord, I have been hoping on Thy Word, and I have acted upon that hope: I believe the Word to be true, and I have pledged the truth of it. That is good pleading. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A genuine hope

Hope is an instinct of the soul. As an instinct it implies--

1. An instinctive faith in the existence of a future good;

2. An instinctive faith in the possibility of obtaining it. Hope is either the greatest blessing or curse to a man: a blessing when it is realized, curse when it is disappointed. Notice--

I. The ground of a good hope. “The Word”--

1. Not human calculations;

2. Not personal merits;

3. “The Word “. firmer than the everlasting heavens.

II. The author of a good hope. “Thou hast caused.” God--

1. Inspires it;

2. Directs it;

3. Settles it. (Homilist.)


Verse 50

Psalms 119:50

This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy Word hath quickened me.

Comfort and quickening

I. In our affliction, the word of God quickens to comfort.

1. By leading us to God, who is able to bless.

2. By showing us that God is willing and waiting to bless.

3. By throwing a mild and beautiful light on Providence.

4. By spreading before us “ exceeding great and precious promises,” which adapt themselves with a fine flexibility to all the varieties of our experience.

5. By establishing in our hearts the anticipation of another and a sorrowless life.

II. In our affliction the word of God not only quickens to comfort, but also comforts to quicken. First the Word becomes life, and then comfort; and then, through the comfort, the Word becomes further and fuller life. How?

1. By confirming our faith.

2. By giving new scope and ardour to gratitude and love. The Divine Word helps us to see that the Divine chastening is the sign and manifestation of the Divine mercy.

3. By stimulating the spirit of prayer.

4. By spiritualizing our tastes and aspirations.

5. By restraining our tendencies to wander from God. (J. P. Barnett.)

What is your comfort?

In some respects the same event happens to us all: to good men, to great men, to well-instructed men, as well as to the wicked, the obscure, and the ignorant. Each of these can speak of “my affliction” (Proverbs 14:10). It is a grand matter when “my affliction” is in each case balanced by “my comfort.” It was so in David’s case, and he is a fair representative of all believers.

I. Believers have their peculiar comfort. Each tried child of God can say, “This is my comfort.”

1. “This,” as different from others. Worldly men get their drops of comfort from such sources as they prefer; but the godly man looks to his experience of the Word, and says, “This is my comfort” (Psalms 4:6).

2. “This,” as understanding what it is. He knew his consolation as well as he knew his tribulation. He was not like Hagar, who could not see the well which was so near her (Genesis 21:19). “This,” as having it near at hand. He does not say that, as if he pointed it out in the distance; but this, as grasping it.

4. “This,” as pleading in prayer that which he had enjoyed; urging upon the Lord the mercy already received.

II. That comfort comes from a peculiar source. “Thy Word hath quickened me.”

1. In part it is outward.

2. In part it is inward: “Thy Word hath quickened me.”

III. That comfort is valuable under peculiar trials.

1. Hope deferred. Quickening enables us to hope on.

2. Trial endured (verse 50). Comfort is most needed in trouble, and there is no comfort like quickening.

3. Scorn suffered (verse 51). We care nothing for mockers when we are lively in spiritual things.

4. Sin of others (verse 53). More grace will enable us to bear up under abounding sin.

5. Changes (verse 54). The Bible has a song for all seasons, and a psalm for all places.

6. Darkness (verse 55). There is no night-light like the Word, enlightening and enlivening the heart.

IV. That the form of our comfort is a test of character.

1. Some look to wealth: when their corn and their wine are increased, they say, “This is my comfort.” They mind the main chance: they are worldly (Luke 12:19).

2. Some seek to dreams and visions, omens and fancies, impressions and presentiments: they are superstitious.

3. Some run to sin, drink, gaming, worldly company, dissipation, opium: they are wicked.

4. Some resort to their fellow-men for advice and assistance: they are unwise, and will be disappointed (Jeremiah 17:5).

Spiritual quickening

I. Effected by the Divine word. How does God’s Word quicken the soul into supreme love? By presenting Him--

1. As the supremely Kind. This quickens it into gratitude.

2. As the supremely Beautiful. This quickens it into admiration.

3. As the supremely Great. This quickens it into adoration.

II. Supplying comfort under trial. The soul quickened into supreme love for God can bear up under all the trials of life. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee?” (Homilist.)

Quickening by the Word

What energy a text will breathe into a man l There is more in one Divine sentence than in huge folios of human composition. There are tinctures of which one drop is more powerful than large doses of the common dilutions. The Bible is the essence of truth; it is the mind of God, the wisdom of the Eternal. By every word of God men are made to live, and are kept in life. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 51

Psalms 119:51

The proud have had me greatly in derision; yet have I not declined from Thy law.

The contemptible and admirable in character

I. The contemptible. “The proud.”

1. Who are the despicably proud? Not the men who have formed a true estimate of their powers, and are nobly self-reliant, but the supercilious.

2. In the character of these men there are always two base elements.

II. The admirable. He is the true nobleman who will dare to pursue the right, regardless of the frowns or smiles of men. (Homilist.)

The Christian armed against ridicule

I. The persons who assail you. “The proud.” On the heart, which is so possessed, the Holy Spirit will not, cannot enter. Whether it be right to hearken go such a one rather than unto God, judge ye.

II. The means which they employ to draw you from the faith. “Derision.” Arguments against the truth of your religion you could have confuted; or, had you been defeated, would not have thought yourself disgraced;--but to have your judgment laughed at, the generosity of your spirit denied, your principles scorned, to be branded with the name of simple, coward, hypocrite,--alas! who is sufficient for these things?

III. The law from which they would drive you. If it be true that a revelation has been given by God to man, it is not for man to trifle in obedience. (G. Mathew, M. A.)


Verse 52

Psalms 119:52

I remembered Thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself.

A blessed field lot memory

The Divine Word may be looked upon here--

I. As a field for memory.

1. A refreshing field. What flowers bloom, what fruit clusters, what salubrious air breathes here.

2. A large field. It goes back through eternity; it begins with the creation, it embraces the human race, it runs on through centuries into the interminable future.

3. An imperishable field.

II. As a source of comfort.

1. By the presentation of examples. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Daniel, Paul, etc.; and more,--Christ, the model of all virtue, enduring affliction, overwhelming and undeserved.

2. By the revelation of principles. It teaches that the afflictions of good men are not penal but disciplinary, not sent in anger, but in fatherly love (2 Corinthians 4:17). (Homilist.)

The Divinely memorable

I. The memorable in the Divine conduct to man. “Thy judgments.” Whatever the Almighty does is memorable, and ought to be remembered. But there are some things in His conduct to man most strikingly memorable.

1. Some things with man generally. The deluge, the confusion of tongues, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the exodus of the Jews, the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.

2. Some things with man individually. Every man is conscious of some memorable event in his life; especially,--if he is a Christian,--his conviction, conversion, etc.

II. The memorable in the Divine conduct remembered by man. “I remembered.” Sad to say, the memorable things in the Divine conduct to man are not generally remembered.

1. This is unnatural. How unnatural it is for a child to forget interpositions in the conduct of the loving father. But how much more unnatural go forget the wondrous works of God in His dealings with our race and with ourselves.

2. This is ungrateful. Ought we not to remember the self-sacrificing deeds of our benefactors? This indeed we generally do, we rear monuments to those whom we consider to be philanthropists. But how ungrateful to forget the wonderful mercies of God.

3. This is pernicious. Forgetfulness of God leads to moral deadness, gross carnality, black atheism.

III. The remembrance of the memorable in the Divine dispensation blest to man. “And have comforted myself.” The memory of what God in past times has done for His people is adapted to administer comfort under the trials of life.

1. He has always granted strength according to need (Isaiah 25:4).

2. He has always fulfilled His promises. (Holimist.)


Verse 53

Psalms 119:53

Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.

The most horrible

Of all the horrible things in the universe wickedness is the most horrible.

I. It is most revolting to our sense of the beautiful. The aesthetical element exists in a greater or less degree in all moral minds. And the Creator has provided for it by flooding, the universe with beauty. The hideous and the ugly shock it with inexpressible pain, but what is so incongruous, so horrible as to see puny creatures rising in rebellion against the mighty Creator?

II. It is most revolting to our sense of the reasonable. What is more reasonable than for the greatest Being to be reverenced the most, the kindest Being to be thanked the most, the best Being to be adored the most? Yet wickedness is in antagonism to all this, it is an outrage on all the principles of moral propriety.

III. It is most revolting to our sense of the benevolent. In all moral minds there is implanted by the benevolent Creator a desire for the well-being of self and others. But wickedness strikes right against it, it breathes misery to all. (Homilist.)

The folly of forsaking the Divine law

“The wicked that forsake Thy law.” Men are like four-year-old children, that, going down to the sea-shore, and finding there a boat with its various appliances, think they will try their hand at navigation. It has been the custom of their elders to have, as a means of navigating boats, sails and oars and a tiller, with a rudder attached; but these children say, “Let us not be bound to our fathers’ notions.” And so with might and main they heave the mast and sails overboard, cast away the oars, and, unfastening the boat, they climb into it. And then, laughing and saying, “Now for S voyage of the newest fashion,” they push off, and when once the boat is set free the tide takes her, and as there is nothing to steer her she goes whirling round and round, or drifting in this direction or that, at the mercy of the waves. And when they are far from the land, and night is coming on, and the sea begins to get turbulent, then, without sails, without oars, without rudder, and without the capacity to manage the boat, with their little palms they try, over the side, to paddle her back. But what can these children do towards paddling that masterly boat with the wind and tide against them, and with no power but that of their little palms? And yet they are mighty to manage that boat, compared to men who unharness faith and throw off its spars, its oars, its ordinary means of navigation, and say, “Now, having got rid of these superstitions, we will paddle our new views and systems in our own way.” (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 54

Psalms 119:54

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.

Obligation a privilege

When the Eastern traveller takes shelter from the scorching heat of noon, or halts for the night in some inn or caravansary, which is for the time the house of his pilgrimage, he takes the sackbut, or the lyre, and soothes his rest with a song--a song, it may be, of war, romance, or love. But the poet of Israel finds his theme in the statutes of Jehovah. Multitudes of men feel Divine law, Divine obligation, responsibility in any form, authority under any conditions, to be a real annoyance to life. They want their own will and way. The psalmist’s doctrine is that obligation to God is our privilege. Every man, even the most licentious and reckless, is a pilgrim. But the pilgrimage of the text is made by no sense of restriction. Here is perfect harmony between obligation to God and all the sources of pleasure and happiness God has provided, so that there is no real collision between the statutes over us and the conditions around us. It is a false impression that the very enforcements of penalty and terror added to God’s law, to compel an acceptance of it, or obedience to it, are a kind of concession that it is not a privilege, but a restriction or severity rather, which cannot otherwise be carried. But terrors are only restrictions to the lawless and disobedient, never to the good. A right-minded people will value their laws, and cherish them as the safeguard even of their liberty. Just so the righteous man will have God’s statutes for his songs in all the course of his pilgrimage. How would it be with us if we existed under no terms of obligation? The true alternative between obligation and no obligation supposes, on the negative side, that we are not even to have the sense of obligation, or of moral distinctions; for the sense of obligation is the same thing as being obliged, or put in responsibility. In such a case, our external condition must obviously be as different as possible from what it is now.

1. There could, of course, be no such thing as criminal law for the defence of property, reputation, and life; because the moral distinctions in which criminal law is grounded are all wanting. The defences of civil society must all be wanting where there is no recognized obligation to God. Having no moral and religious ideas, we cannot legislate.

2. What we call “society,” as far as there is any element of dignity or blessing in it, depends on these moral obligations. Without these it would be intercourse without friendship, truth, charity or mercy. Where there is no law, there is no sin or guilt; as little is there any virtue. There is nothing to praise or confide in. Enter now the spiritual nature itself, and see how much is there depending on this great privilege of obligation to God. This claim of God’s authority, this bond of duty laid upon us, is virtually the throne of God erected in the soul. It is sovereign, of course, unaccommodating, therefore, and may be felt as a sore annoyance. When violated, it will scorch the bosom ever with pangs of remorse, that are the most fiery and implacable of all mental sufferings. But of this there is no need; all such pains are avoidable by due obedience. And their obligation to God becomes the spring instead of the most dignified, fullest, healthiest joys anywhere attainable. Consider the truly paternal relation between our obligations to God, and what we call liberty. Instead of restraining our liberty, they only show us, in fact, how to use our liberty, and how to enjoy it, if I may so speak, in great and heroic actions. How insipid and foolish a thing were life, if there were nothing laid upon us to do l It is well that we are put upon doing what is not always agreeable to the flesh. When God lays upon us the duties of self-command, and self-sacrifice, when He calls us to act and suffer heroically, how could He more effectually dignify or ennoble our liberty? Obligation to God also imparts zest to life, by giving to our actions a higher import, and, when they are right, a more consciously elevated spirit. In this article of obligation to God you are set also in immediate relation to God Himself; and in a relation so high, everything in you and about you changes its import. God is in the world, training the creatures for Himself. It is also a great fact, as regards a due impression of obligation to God, and of what is conferred in it, that it raises and tones the spiritual emotions of obedient souls into a key of sublimity which is the completeness of their joy. Before God, all the deep and powerful emotions that lie in the vicinity of fear are waked into life; every chord of feeling is pitched to its highest key or capacity, and the soul quivers eternally in the sacred awe of God and His commandments; thrilled as by the sound of many waters, or the roll of some anthem that stirs the framework of the world. On this subject, too, experimental proofs may be cited. Conclusion:--It is only religion, the great bond of love and duty to God, that makes our existence valuable, or even tolerable. Without this to live were only to graze. How appalling a proof is it of some dire disorder and depravation of mankind that, when obligation to God is the spring of all that is dearest, noblest in thought, and most exalted in experience, we are yet compelled to urge it on them by so many entreaties, and even to force it on their fears by God’s threatened penalties! (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

The singing pilgrim

I. A pilgrim.

1. We belong to another country. We are aliens, foreigners, strangers in this world.

2. We are hurrying through this world as through a foreign land.

3. A pilgrim’s main business is to get on and pass through the land as quickly as he may.

4. As pilgrims, it is true in our case that our relatives are not, the most of them, in this country. We have a few brethren and sisters with us who are going on pilgrimage, and we are very thankful for them; for good company cheers the way. Yet the majority of those dear to us are already over yonder. If I may not say the majority by counting heads, yet certainly in weight the great majority will be found to be in the far country. Where is our Father? And where is our Elder Brother? And where is the Bridegroom of our soul?

5. A pilgrim reckons that land to be his country in which he expects to remain the longest. Through the country which he traverses he makes his way with all speed; but when he gets home he abides at his leisure, for it is the end of his toil and travail. What a little part of life shall we spend on earth!

II. A singing pilgrim: “Thy statutes have been my songs,” etc. Pilgrims to heaven are a merry sort of people after all. They have their trims, some trials more than those which ether men know; but then they have their joys, and among these joys are sweet delights such as worldlings can never taste. The singing pilgrim is a man who has a world of joy within him, and is journeying to another world, where for him all will be joy to a still higher degree. He sings high praises unto God, and blesses His name beyond measure, for he has reason to do so, reason which never slackens or lessens. Oh that we were always as we are sometimes, then would our breath be praise.

III. The song book. “Thy statutes.” The Bible is a wonderful book. It serves a thousand purposes in the household of God. I recollect, a book my father used to have, entitled “Family Medicine,” which was consulted when any of us fell sick with juvenile diseases. The Bible is our book of family medicine. In some houses, the book they most consult is a “Household Guide.” The Bible is the best guide for all families. This Book may be consulted in every case, and its oracle will never mislead. You can use it at funerals. There are no such words as those which Paul has written concerning the resurrection of the dead. You can use it for marriages--where else find such holy advice to a wedded pair? You can use it for birthdays. You can use it, for a lamp at night. You can use it for a screen by day. It is a universal Book; it is the Book of books, and has furnished material for mountains of books; it is made of what I call bibline, or the essence of books. We use this Book for a song-book as pilgrims, because it tells us the way to heaven. We often sing as we come to a fresh spot on the route, and bless God that we find the road to be just, as we have read in the way-book, just as our Divine Master said it should be. Well may we sing a song of gratitude for an infallible Word. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Thy Christian’s song in his pilgrimage

I. The light in which David regarded the world was that, of a foreign country, through which he was travelling to his native land.

1. The world is a place which the Christian has ceased to love.

2. The world is a place which cannot make the Christian happy.

3. The world is a place in which the Christian must calculate on trials and difficulties.

4. The world is a place which the Christian expects soon to leave.

II. The cheerfulness which the Christian enjoys in the house of his pilgrimage.

1. His song is a heartfelt song.

2. His song is a rational song.

3. His song is a Divine song.

III. The source of the Christian’s joy.

1. The Bible rejoices the Christian by telling him that though a pilgrim in a foreign land, he shall have all his wants supplied.

2. The Bible brings joy to him by reminding him of the end of his pilgrimage, even his home, and that a peaceful, glorious, and heavenly home.

3. The Scriptures not only tell the Christian of this heavenly home, they cheer his heart by pointing out to him the way which leads to it.

4. The same Scriptures, too, that tell the Christian of his home, and point out to him the way which leads to it, give him the assurance that he shall soon be there. They remind him of the love, the power, and the faithfulness of Christ.

Conclusion: Learn from this subject--

1. One reason why so many professors of Christianity are habitually comfortless. They do not love the statutes of the Lord; or, if they love them, they do not seek their happiness in them.

2. Highly to value the Scriptures.

3. The extent to which we should endeavour to circulate the Scriptures.

4. The spirit, which becomes the Christian is a cheerful and rejoicing spirit. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

A pilgrim’s songs

I. The pilgrim’s house.

1. It is lodgment, not home.

2. It is shelter, not safety.

3. It affords convenience, but nor happiness.

II. The pilgrim’s song. If God’s statutes are our song, they supply a theme which can never fail us; for in all situations we have the opportunity of keeping His commandments. In all circumstances, high or low, pleasant or painful, we have to keep the statutes of the Lord. Poverty cannot silence this song; sorrow cannot dispense with it. For in poverty as in wealth, in sorrow as in joy, in keeping His commandments there is great delight. (R. Halley, M. A.)

God’s statutes, the Christian’s song

The human spirit is warmly and delicately alive to many external influences and impressions. Music and song are often called to aid the conceptions and feelings of the heart. And for this reason the believer applies to the Divine law all those invigorating and animating feelings which, in reference to other subjects, the men of this world fetch from minstrelsy and music.

I. Song is enlisted to animate loyalty; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his song in the house of his pilgrmage, because they animate his loyalty to his Sovereign who is in heaven.

II. Song is enlisted to animate patriotism; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because they animate his patriotism to the land that is afar off.

III. Song is appropriated to cherish the love of home; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage because they foster his love of his eternal home in heaven.

IV. Song is resorted to by the traveller, in order to beguile the length and weariness of the way; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because they beguile the length and weariness of his pilgrimage journey through this life.

V. Song is resorted to for encouraging and emboldening the mind; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage, because they encourage and embolden him in the face of the dangers that lie in his way.

VI. Song is employed to cherish social feeling; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage, because they cherish and develop the social pleasures of religion.

VII. Song is employed for the sake of relaxation and amusement; and the Christian makes God’s statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because his hours of relaxation and amusement cannot be more cheerfully and pleasantly spent than in awakening the music of Judah’s harp. (A. Nisbet.)

Songs in the house of pilgrimage

I. True religion is an unsatisfied anticipation.

1. It is an anticipation, for there comes out in the language clearly enough--

2. It is unsatisfied anticipation. This is suggested by the word “pilgrimage,” and is implied in the very sentence which tells the joy. This must be to a certain extent the result of the awakening of the religious life. It is quite true, on the one hand, that they who drink up of the water which Christ gives shall never thirst: and yet it is equally true, on the other, that “we who are in this tabernacle do groan,” not because we are dissatisfied, “for that we would be unclothed,” but because we are unsatisfied, “for that we should be clothed upon.”

II. True religion is a present joyous appropriation.

1. The statutes of Jehovah are the definite and authoritative declaration of the supreme law of right. The good is also the beautiful. The light which flows from God’s throne excites in us a holy glow (Romans 7:22).

2. It makes all the difference in the world in respect of the aspect of God’s statutes towards you, on which side of the wicket gate you are. If on the outside, these statutes will lift themselves up as an overhanging mountain burning with tempestuous fires and thundering forth eternal anathemas. But if on the inside, and especially if near the Cross, these statutes will become a firm path, along which your feet will run.

3. God’s statutes are the instrument of discipline. Take the yoke, and ye shall find rest.

4. God’s statutes--that is, God’s ordinances--minister unto us seasons of gracious visitation and exalted spiritual delight. (H. R. Roberts, B. A.)

Holy pilgrimage

I. What is a Christian pilgrim? He is a traveller, and as such does not expect to meet with ease and comfort, as if he were at home.

II. What does a christian pilgrim require?

1. He requires decision.

2. He requires self-effort.

3. He requires self-control.

4. He requires perseverance,

5. He requires an assurance of success. God has given us this.

II. The grand object of the Christian pilgrim. It is not to visit holy places, but to be holy. (W. Birch.)

The cheerful pilgrim

I. A good man views his residence in this world as only the house of his pilgrimage.

II. The situation, however disadvantageous, admits of cheerfulness.

III. The sources of his joy are derived from the Scripture. (W. Jay.)

Duty set to music

I. Duty set to music.

1. This is not a common experience. Men do not generally exult in responsibility and in law.

2. Though uncommon, it is

II. Duty set to music in unfavourable circumstances.

1. Our earthly life is a house of pilgrimage--strange, unsettled, inconvenient, temporary.

2. Why, in this house of pilgrimage, we should keep up a spirit of cheerfulness.

The transformation of slavery into liberty

Slavery, licence, liberty, law. These four words are often on man’s lips. Licence is simply permission to do what one wants to do. But it requires no long experience to learn that licence results in slavery. A man sees some tempting bait of pleasure. It conceals a hook of pain. Yet he thinks it is genuine happiness. But having once caught it, and been caught by it, he is held. He may rush and dash every way in mad fury, hoping to free himself. He may even tear himself free, but he can only do it by tearing out a part of his life. It is more probable that, once caught by it, he will be held by it till what once seemed to him perfect liberty becomes to him assured slavery. A man is obliged to watch his mail as a sheriff watches his prisoner. Letters may be coming to him any morning which, if known to those that stand nearest to him, would throw him into prison or clothe his life with black shame. Licence results in sin, and sin results in slavery. Law and liberty are words quite as common to the human lips as licence and slavery. Law and liberty- law is designed to result in liberty. Perfect law does result in liberty, and liberty is simple obedience to perfect law. At first law seems to be slavery, at last law is known to be liberty. The child at the piano would hold her hand in any form convenient to herself. The faithful teacher carefully and forcibly directs the position of each joint. It is hard for the little fingers thus to keep themselves straight, and to strike from the centre of force. The teacher knows that only as there is this slavery at first can there be liberty at last. The soldier is ordered to restrain his appetite, to discipline his body, to keep every power in subjection; he and his commanding officer know that as he thus disciplines and trains himself, making himself subject to rule and order, can he be free and active in the most efficient movement when freedom and swiftness mean victory and salvation of his native land. Several of the experiences of life present occasions when the statutes of God become the songs of man, in which slavery, limitation and hardship become freedom, joy, delight. One such experience is, I think, that which we call conversion. Conversion means at once so little and so much. Conversion does not usually cause us to give up our work or place, hut conversion broadens, deepens and heightens this work. It pushes further off the grey way of circumstance, it lifts far above us the overhanging dark ceiling of fate. Conversion brings God into our life and seems to give life all that liberty which belongs to God, and therefore to His children. “Thy statutes have been my songs.” A second experience is common to man in which the laws, the statutes of God, may become the songs of man. It is the experience of each of us in which we try to put down some one sin. The love for money, the love for drink, the love for power, the love of any indulgence, each is still strong; but your soul, your God, have become so much stronger that you shut these baying hounds of desire in the kennel of their own deserved fate. You now rejoice so infinitely more at the righteousness of the law that you now can lament the penalty of disobedience. The law has become your song. I say again that the growth of this song element in our appreciation of God’s law marks the growth of character, A man comes to love God in obedience to the statute, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” It is obedience to a law; it is far better than disobedience. Yet one who loves in obedience to a command has not much real love. But the little love that is thus begotten begets knowledge, and this knowledge begets more love. At last a man comes to love God without thinking of the command any more than a boy loves his father and his mother because of the fifth commandment. The duty has become a right, the right a privilege, and the privilege a joy. (C. F. Thwing, D. D.)


Verse 55-56

Psalms 119:55-56

I have remembered Thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept Thy law.

Thought

It is the glory of man that he can think. We conquer Nature by thought. Thought has stretched out its hand, reached the clouds, caught the lightning, made it stand quivering at our side, ready to waft through rocks and oceans our messages to the ends of the earth. Still more, thought can create new universes. Thought gave Milton his paradise, and Dante his hell. Thank God for the power of thought!

I. A grand subject for thought. God’s name is Himself; and what is He? The Infinitely Wise, Good, Holy, and Mighty One, the Cause, Means, and End of all things in the universe but sin, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the most quickening, the most invigorating, and the most ennobling Subject of thought. By thinking on Him we rise to the true ideal of being, and in no other way.

II. A fine season for thought.

1. Night is the season of quietude.

2. Night is the season of solemnity.

3. Night is the season of reality. Thoughts that come to us in the night seem far more real than those that come in the day. It is the season when the material gives way to the spiritual.

III. A noble result of thought. The highest and the only true end of thought is to lift us into conformity with the Divine will. Thought upon Him will stamp us with His image and bear us into His presence, where there is “fulness of joy.” (Homilist.)

The effect of keeping God’s law

I. The keeping God’s law promoted by remembering God’s name. The name of God includes all the attributes of God. If, for instance, I remember the attributes of God, I must remember amongst them a power before which every created thing must do homage, which hath called into existence whatever moves in the circuits of the universe, and which might in an instant reduce into nothing all that arose at its summons; and if I couple with the memory of this Power the thought that the undying principle which I carry within me must become hereafter an organ of infinite pleasure or of infinite pain, subject as it will be to the irreversible allotments of this Power, what is there which can more nerve me to the work of obedience than the remembering God’s name? For does it not necessarily involve the remembering, that to disobey is to arm against myself throughout eternity a Might before which all creation must bend? And if this be sound reasoning when applied to the power of God, it will equally hold good when justice is the attribute remembered. Let us suppose a man to have mused in the night on the justice of the Creator, so that there shall have passed before him all the instruments of retribution, and he shall not be able to cheat himself with those false delusions which at other times have been woven out of the idea of uncovenanted mercies--will the morning find him as reckless as before, as determined to pursue a course that must end in death? The direct and distinct tendency of the remembrance is to the producing obedience; and therefore in regard of justice, as well as of power, the remembering God’s name stands closely connected with the keeping of God’s law.

II. The keeping the law rewarded by keeping the law. “I have kept Thy law. This I had because I kept Thy precepts.” Now, we do not doubt that there is given to every true Christian just that portion of grace which is requisite for the duties appointed him of God. But although without the grace nothing can be done, and with the grace all may be done, it does not follow that because the grace is bestowed the work will be accomplished. Two men may receive the same portion of grace, just as two servants may receive the same number of talents. There may be industry in the one, and watchfulness, and earnestness; in the other there may be comparative indolence, and remissness, and carelessness. What shall be the consequence? The one improves God’s gift, and therefore grows in grace; the other neglects God’s gift, and either therefore he is stationary, or he goes back. Grace emanates wholly from God; but, nevertheless, growth in grace depends much upon man. Obedience is like faith--it gathers strength as it goes. We know, indeed, and we tell you again and again, that whatever strength we have in spiritual things comes wholly from God; but a man may be idle, though he may be strong, and a Christian may be remiss, though he have grace. If we do not “stir up the gift of God which is in us,” we shall drag on languidly and heavily along the path of life, scarce conscious of any of our privileges, harassed continually by doubts and conjecture, surrounded by a darkness which shall perplex and confound us. You are bidden by St. Peter to give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. We must: “run not as uncertain,” and we must “fight, not as one that beateth the air”; out of those efforts of obedience shall evidence continually spring of our acceptance with ‘God; with greater and greater clearness shall we read our title to mansions in the skies; we shall be happier, and fuller of confidence, and more assured of an entrance at death into everlasting glory. Tell me, then, whether it will not be true, that there is a reward in obedience, and that this reward consists in further obedience; and all according to the experience of the psalmist--“I have remembered Thy name, O Lord,” etc. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

In the night season

There is a widespread belief that the powers of evil are especially alert and mischievous during the night hours; that is that the darkness is peculiarly the sphere of malignant spirits, whose realm is the outer darkness of the universe, and whose present occupation is to tempt mankind and do all they can to frustrate the coming of the kingdom of universal righteousness, into which they can never enter.

I. It is reasonable for us to associate the night hours with the powers of evil.

1. The psalmist points out how the wild beasts move about in the dark seeking their prey, and return to lie down in their dens at the day-break. They are the figure and type of evil spirits who go forth especially at night to persuade men to sin.

2. Temptations come to many people more strongly and seductively at night than in their waking hours.

3. Under the cover of the night men commit many crimes. The darkness is friendly to their misdeeds.

II. The psalmist in many places tells of his devotions in the hours of the night. Every night he waters his couch with his tears. In the night he communes with his own heart and searches out his spirit. At midnight he rises to give thanks for God’s goodness. One might multiply the illustrations, and in every case find this spiritual thought appropriate to them, that by availing oneself of the night hours for prayer, meditation and penitential self-communing, one carries the soul-warfare into the enemy’s country, as it were.

III. The night season is a type of those times of desolation, of melancholy and loneliness which all have sometimes to endure. And it is the way in which we bear ourselves in such circumstances which declares the power and reality of our Christian faith.

1. The seasons of sorrow and of despondency are for the most of us veritable night seasons, hours of darkness. And it may be there are more of them than there are periods of sunshine. What then is our conduct in these night seasons?

2. The night season of sin. The only things which our Lord requires for the full pardon of human guilt are honest penitent confession, and genuine effort to amend.

3. The night of isolation, loneliness, it may be of old age, with loss of friends and of such as have taken interest in us hitherto.

4. The night season is the hour of death. What is to be one’s solace in the hour of his passing? The thinking upon the name, the holy name of the Redeemer of our souls. (Arthur Ritchie.)


Verse 57

Psalms 119:57

Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep Thy words.

The wealth of life

A man’s portion is that which he deliberately chooses as the chief object of his life, that on which he concentrates” his thought, bestows his energy, lavishes his affection; that which in turn colours him, moulds him. No man need tell us in so many words what is his portion, his life is an eloquent proclamation of that fact. The sensualist who wallows in mire writes this message like the mark of the beast across his brow, “Lust is my portion.” The pleasure-seeker, whose one thought is selfish gratification, and who flits from gaiety to gaiety like a short-lived butterfly from flower to flower, announces by his whole bearing, “Enjoyment is my portion.” The avaricious man, whether known as a miser or not, as he surveys the golden pile and smiles over his ever-fattening bank account, tells you, heedless of his shrinking soul, that Mammon is his portion. The student, as he betakes himself to some sequestered nook where he can quiz the angel Truth, and secure sweet whispers from her lips, quietly asseverates, “Learning is my portion.” It may help us to realize how rich we are in God if I name a feature or two of this portion.

I. It is spiritual. One of the saddest phases of life to-day is the disparagement and denial of the spiritual nature of man. The body is too much in evidence to be denied or disparaged. The mind, too, comes in for a good measure of attention, but our real self, our upper self, our spiritual part, has meagre attention. Some deny the existence of the soul, others treat it just as though it were not; and there can be no doubt that the soul of many is an undiscovered world. Yet, in spite of our bad treatment of it, our spiritual nature will assert itself,--“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” I am not to be put off with matter. It is no use sending ms to Nature--singing streams, flowery meadows, towering hills, shining stars, beauteous phenomena, shifting scenes of splendour cannot satisfy me. I am not to be put off with mind. It is no use sending me to books. I am a person, and only a person can satisfy me. I am a spirit, and only the spiritual can meet my mighty longings. I am immortal, and only the eternal can be enough for me. And so it comes to pass, the moment a man discovers himself, he feels that no earthly portion can cover the whole of his necessity, can slake the whole of his thirst, and so he looks heavenwards, stretches out his little hands to grasp the hands of the Infinite One, and cries, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, there is none upon the earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

II. It is present. The psalmist was not thinking of a far away patrimony which would be his when the river we call death should be crossed. God was then his treasure--“Thou art my portion.” And we have not to think of God as an estate which we have to die to realize in some distant heaven. That kind of feeling has wrought incalculable mischief in numberless Christian lives. There are those who conceive of their portion as wholly yonder, and they doom the present to sheer emptiness. Be not deceived. The whole of our heaven is not there, a good slice of it is hero. Yonder is the tree of life, but the branches hang over the wall, and the grapes are not too high to be sour. Whatever God will be to us in heaven He is to us in large measure on earth. We need not go through the world as paupers, seeing we have such treasure at hand, Our life need not be a wilderness waste, a flowerless garden, a waterless well, a bankrupt bank, a sunless day, since God is ours. Let us appropriate our treasures; let us seek a present heaven; let us believe that we have in God an unspeakable fund of blessing--a present love, higher than the heavens, deeper than the sea, broader than the earth, and closer than the atmosphere; a present joy, keeping the heart young and warm, the face bright, the tongue musical; a present peace, keeping the soul unchafed and the life tranquil amid the strife of unfriendly voices; and a present grace enough for our sorest need, our darkest hour.

III. It is permanent. Many portions are precarious, perishable, evanescent. Millionaires have ore this seen their mountain of gold vanish. Grand estates have exchanged hands by a stroke of the pen. A great preacher says, “Nothing really belongs to a man if it can be taken from him. What we may lose we can scarcely be said to have. The only thing that is worth calling mine is something that so passes into and saturates the very substance of my soul; that, like a piece of cloth dyed in the grain, as long as two threads hold together, the tint will be there. That is how God gives Us Himself, and nothing can take Him out of a man’s soul.” As the sun gives itself to the flower, nourishing, painting, and perfecting it, so God gives Himself unto the soul that trusts in Him. We may have all that belongs to God in perpetual possession. He and all He has are ours every day alike.

IV. It is satisfying. Pleasure, does that satisfy? It never did; it never can. Xerxes felt, when surfeited with his indulgences, that something more was wanted, and offered a reward to the man who would invent a new pleasure. Wealth, does that satisfy? Nay, it rather breeds dissatisfaction. Social distinctions and worldly honours, are these satisfying? (W. Pearce.)

God our portion, and His Word our treasure

1. Observe the close connection between privilege and duty. “Thou art my portion, O Lord;” this is an unspeakable happiness. “I have said that I would keep Thy words”--this is the fitting return for such a blessing. Every mercy given us of the Lord brings with it a claim which we ought in gratitude to recognize.

2. Notice very carefully the order in which the privilege and the duty are arranged. The blessing of grace is first and the fruit of gratitude next. The grace given is the root and the resolve is the fruit growing out of it.

3. Each possession not only involves service, but appropriate service, even as each plant bears its own flower. The general principle which calls for service bears a particular application, for each particular Gospel benefit is linked with some special Gospel service. The unspeakable boon of having God for our portion has here fastened to it the peculiar excellence of keeping God’s words.

I. The infinite possesion. “Thou art my portion, O Lord.”

1. A clear distinction. The psalmist declares the Lord to be his portion in distinction to the portion of the ungodly. The seventy-third psalm gives a full and particular description of the ungodly in their prime and glory, when “their eyes stand out with fatness,” and “they have more than heart can wish.” But David did not desire to share their short-lived joys, he sought his happiness elsewhere, looking to the Creator rather than the creatures and to eternity rather than time.

2. The positive claim--“Thou art my portion, O Lord.” He deliberately declares this in the silence of his soul. As for the ungodly, they are boasting of their prosperity, they are girding themselves with pride as with a golden chain; but I dare not seek my joy in such matters, “Thou art my portion, O Lord.” You see he speaks in the present tense. “Thou art my portion, O Lord.” There are some things which I have not received as yet, but I have already laid hold upon my God. At this hour “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” I know whom I have believed, and I know that He has given Himself to me as I have given myself to Him. Beyond a doubt, Thou art at this very moment my portion, O Lord.

3. The portion itself. “Thou.”

II. The appropriate resolution.

1. The preface, “I have said.” Why did he not put it, “Thou art my portion, O Lord; I will keep Thy words”? No, he writes “I have said it,” which means deliberation. He had thought over his happiness in having such a portion. What then? His thoughts began to stir within Him and to devise a fit expression for his gratitude, and he at last said, “I will keep Thy words.” It was no hasty thought, but a determined resolve. I suppose he also means that he had given a distinct pledge. He had opened his mouth to the Lord, and could not go back.

2. The link between the portion possessed and the resolution made: it is not very difficult to discover. God is best known to us by His words. His works reveal Him by a reflected light as ,the moon, but His words display Him by a direct light as a very sun of light to us. How do I know God except by His words? The God of the inspired Word is our God, and because this God is our portion, and we know Him by His words, therefore have we said we will keep His words.

3. What is this work of keeping God’s words?

The wealth of the good

What is the portion of a good man? Nothing less than the Lord Himself.

I. This is an all-comprehensive “portion.” It embraces everything else: all good in this life and for ever. The man who can say, “The Lord is mine,” can say, “All things are mine.”

II. This is a soul-satisfying “portion.” Nothing short of this can satisfy the soul. Man’s spiritual nature has a deep hunger that the whole universe cannot satisfy, that nothing but God Himself can appease.

III. This is an imperishable “portion.” All inheritances of the earth will pass away, the kingdoms of the world will vanish as a cloud.

IV. This is an attainable “portion.” There are but few men in any generation that can attain an earthly inheritance of any value; but here is a portion open to all, He of[ors Himself “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” (Homilist,)


Verses 58-60

Psalms 119:58-60

I entreated Thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to Thy Word.

The duties which mark the commencement of the Christian course

I. The consideration of our ways.

1. He betakes himself to consider--

2. But his own ways, as they are in reality, and as they appear in the sight of that God, who trieth the heart and the reins.

II. An attention to God’s word.

1. Man’s sinful and lost state.

2. The great remedy for this.

III. Earnest prayer for God’s proffered mercy and grace.

1. The object of his prayer--God’s favour and God’s mercy according to His Word.

2. The cordiality of his prayer.

IV. An immediate obedience to God’s commandments.

1. The nature of his obedience. It is not the obedience of an angel that never sinned; hut of a sinner under a dispensation of mercy.

2. This obedience is immediate; is net delayed, but attended to at once.

Laws for the bestowment of the Divine mercy

I. Principles or laws in accordance with which God shows mercy.

1. His own pleasure.

2. Through Jesus Christ.

3. He limits its highest exercise to the penitent and godly.

4. His own glory.

II. Why the devout mind would have these laws always observed. (J. R. Page.)


Verses 59-64

Psalms 119:59-64

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.

A godly life

I. The way into a godly life. “I thought.” Wonderful act is this; an act which no creature on earth bug man can perform. By thought he has created the civilized world. Let a man think on his “ways” in relation to God, and the fires of penitence will be kindled within him.

II. The urgent need of a godly life (verse 60). When a man reflects profoundly on his ways, he will feel that there is no time to lose; the question of his duty to God becomes terribly urgent.

1. The interests involved are momentous.

2. Much time has been lost.

3. The future is very short and uncertain (Proverbs 27:1).

III. The earthly trials of a godly life (verse 61). Few good men pass through this life without being victimized in some way by the wicked (John 16:33; John 15:18; 2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22).

IV. The irrepressible joys of a godly life (verse 62). The joys of a godly man are like the waves of the spring tide, they rise at times beyond the level and break over the barriers. They are “filled with all joy and peace in believing.” “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed,” etc.

V. The vast fellowships of a godly life (verse 63). “All them that fear Thee!” How many are the godly? A multitude which “no man can number.” A good man has the fellowship of the good,

VI. The infinite resources of a godly life (verse 64). (Homilist.)

History of a conversion

I. Reflection. “I thought,” etc. When a sinner once begins to think he finds many things to think about, as--

1. His long-continued neglect of God.

2. The fearful number of his sins.

3. The many duties he has neglected.

4. The world of light, mercy and grace he has resisted.

5. The many favourable opportunities he has for ever lost.

6. God’s amazing forbearance and unwearied efforts to bring him to repentance.

7. The anxiety felt for him all these years while he felt none for himself.

II. Reformation. “And turned my feet,” etc. Thinking of no use unless it prompts to action. Many a soul takes the first step, but not the second. Here the devil makes a bold stand, and plies all his arts to retain his hold on the sinner.

III. Making haste.

1. Multitudes lose their convictions of sin by hesitancy and delay.

2. One of the strongest tendencies of human nature is to pug off turning to God.

3. The devil cares not how a man thinks, or weeps, or resolves, if he can but induce him to wait a little longer! Not so with the psalmist. He made haste, and delayed not his obedience. So will every sinner do, if he means to be saved. (Homiletic Review.)

Thinking and turning

I. Right thinking--“I thought on my ways.”

1. That this thought upon his ways caused him dissatisfaction is evident; or otherwise he would not have turned.

2. This right thinking upon our ways will suggest a practical change. My soul, sin even now hath not profited thee while it is in the bud, what will it be when it ripens, and its scattered seeds fly over the whole of my being, and turn that which should be a fruitful field into a tangled mass of weeds? Surely it is time for a change.

3. The retrospect we take of our life should suggest that any turn we make should be Godward--“I turned my steps unto Thy testimonies.” It is no use turning if you do not turn to something better.

II. Right turning which grows out of right thinking. “I turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.”

1. Here observe how complete this turn was. A man may turn his head, and turn but little; he may turn his hand--there is not much movement of the whole body in that; but when he turns his feet, he turns himself completely. The turn we sinners all need is a whole turn. The nature must be changed.

2. The turning of the text is also a practical one. “I turned my feet:” I did not merely say, “I turned my eyes,” bug I showed the reality of the change of heart by change of life.

3. It must be, moreover, a Scriptural turn, too. “I turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.” There is a spurious conversion which is not true conversion to God. A man may have another heart and yet he may not have a new heart. We read of King Saul that he had another heart, but he remained unsaved. A man may change his idols; he may change his sins, but may not be changed in heart.

4. The turning was immediate. The actual point of the conversion is instantaneous. I am walking through a wood, and I am going wrong; well, I pause and look about, but whenever I actually turn there is a critical moment when I turn, is there not? It may be that I take some time to consider and look about me; but when I do actually go back there is a particular moment when I turn and take the first step. I desire that this present moment may be the instant of conversion to each one of you who are dead in sin. You have been thinking of your ways, now may you turn your feet to His testimonies. This must be the work of grace. The omnipotent power of God must turn you to Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Self-examination and its results

Self-examination is to man a work of much difficulty, and one to which he feels a strong repugnance. To think upon his ways, to “bring his doings in review before him, is too serious and self-denying an employment for him, and he is never disposed to turn to it. The reason is obvious: he dreads the issue of it.

I. If God thinks upon our ways, it surely behoves us to think upon them. If we are accountable to Him for our doings, it would be but reasonable now to sit in judgment on ourselves.

II. Whatever evils we now discover by the exercise of self-examination may be remedied. The sins which are detected may be repented of and forgiven. But if these things are suffered to lie hid till the day of the Lord reveal them, the discovery will come too late.

1. Think upon your past ways. They are past, but not forgotten. The record of them has been kept.

2. But if it tax your memory too much to recall forgotten hours, and the labour seems too great to ponder over what is so obscured by distance, then look at what is immediately before you. Think of your present ways: your life and conversion at this time.

III. If we thus engage in the work of self-examination, the same important result will, through the blessing of God, follow from it, namely amendment of life. Self-examination, when honestly pursued, will discover to us our need of amendment, and the conviction of this is the first step in the way to it. For when once the conscience has been disturbed by the discovery of evil, it will not be pacified till it is in process of being cured. The result will be an improvement which has its seat in the heart, and makes itself visible in the life and conversation. (G. Bellett.)

Religious thoughtfulness

I. Its exercise. The text supposes that we look at our “ways” as sinful and needing reformation. Such the fact. Conscience, experience, and revelation testify that “we have all gone astray,” etc. Think, then, upon--

1. The essential evil of a sinful course.

2. The boundless aggravations of our sins.

3. The fearful and fatal end of a sinful life.

II. Its results. Such thoughtfulness will--

1. Convince us of our sinfulness, and lead us be the only Saviour. The longings of the soul only satisfied in God.

2. Maintain constancy of fixed principle. Illustrate from the “three Hebrew youths.”

3. Inspire inflexibility of purpose and steadiness of progress. (James Foster, B. A.)

The nature and benefit of consideration

I. The course which David here took for the reforming of his life.

1. This thinking on our ways may signify a general survey and examination of our lives; respecting indifferently our good and bad actions. And this, no doubt, is an admirable means to improve men in virtue, a most effectual way to keep our consciences continually waking and tender.

2. This thinking of our ways may particularly and specially refer to the sins and miscarriages of our lives.

II. The success of this course. It produced actual and speedy reformation. I do not say that this change is perfectly made at once. A state of sin and holiness are not like two ways that are just parted by a line, so as a man may step out of the one full into the other; but they are like two ways that lead to two very distant places, and consequently are at a good distance from one another; and the farther any man hath travelled in the one, the farther he is from the other; so that it requires time and pains to pass from the one to the other. Conclusion:--

1. Consideration is the proper act of reasonable creatures (Isaiah 46:8).

2. This is the end of God’s patience and longsuffering towards us--to bring us to consideration.

3. Consideration is that which we must all come to one time or other. When we come to die, then we shall think of our ways with trouble and vexation enough; and how glad would we then be, that we had time to consider them? And, perhaps, while we are wishing for more time, eternity will swallow us up. To be sure, in the other world, a great part of the misery of wicked men will consist in furious reflections upon themselves, and the evil actions of their lives. But, alas l it will then be too late to consider; for then consideration will do us no good. (Archbishop Tillotson.)


Verse 60

Psalms 119:60

I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments.

The folly and danger of irresolution and delaying

I. Consider the reasons and excuses which men pretend for delaying this necessary work, and show the unreasonableness of them.

1. Many cannot at present bring themselves to it, but they hope hereafter to be in a better temper and disposition, and then they resolve by God’s grace to set about this work in good earnest, and to go through with it. I know not whether it be fit to call this a reason; I am sure it is the greatest cheat end delusion that any man can put upon himself. Thou hast no reason in the world against the present time, but only that it is present; why, when hereafter comes to be present, the reason will be just the same.

2. The great difficulty and unpleasantness of it. But then it is to be considered that how difficult and painful soever this work be, it is necessary, and that should overrule all other considerations whatsoever; that if we will not be at this pains and trouble, we must one time or other endure far greater than those which we now seek to avoid; that it is not so difficult as we imagine, but our fears of it are greater than the trouble will prove; if we were but once resolved upon the work, and seriously engaged in it, the greatest part of the trouble were over.

3. Another pretended encouragement to these delays is the great mercy and patience of God (Ecclesiastes 8:11). But it is not always thus; and if it were, and thou wert sure to be spared yet a while longer, what can be more unreasonable and disingenuous than to resolve to be evil because God is good; and, because He suffers so long, to sin so much longer.

II. I shall add some farther considerations to engage men effectually to set about this work speedily, and without delay.

1. Consider, that in matters of great and necessary concernment, and which must be done, there is no greater argument of a weak and impotent mind than irresolution; to be undetermined where the ease is so plain, and the necessity so urgent, to be always about doing that which we are convinced must be done.

2. Consider that religion is a great and a long work, and asks so much time, that there is none left for the delaying of it.

3. Consider what a desperate hazard we run by these delays. Every delay of repentance is a venturing the main chance.

4. Seeing the delay of repentance doth mainly rely upon the hopes and encouragement of a future repentance, let us consider a little how unreasonable these hopes are, and how absurd the encouragement is which men take from them. To sin in hopes that hereafter we shall repent is to do a thing in hopes that we shall one day be mightily ashamed of it; in hopes that we shall be full of horror at the thoughts of what we have done, and shall treasure up so much guilt in our consciences as will make us a terror to ourselves, and be ready to drive us even to despair and distraction. And is this a reasonable hope?

5. If you be still resolved to delay this business, and put it off at present, consider well with yourselves how long you intend to delay it. I hope not to the last, nor till sickness come, and death make his approaches to you. This is just as if a man should be content to be shipwrecked, in hope that he shall afterwards escape by a plank, and get safe to shore. But perhaps thou art not altogether so unreasonable, but desirest only to respite this work till the first heat of youth and lust be over, till the cooler and more considerate part of thy life come on; that, perhaps, thou thinkest may be the fittest and most convenient season. But still we reckon upon uncertainties, for perhaps that season may never be. Some seem vet more reasonable, and are content to come lower, and desire only to put it off for a very little while. But why for a little while? Why till to-morrow? To-morrow will be as this day, only with this difference, that thou wilt in all probability be more unwilling and indisposed then.

6. Consider what an unspeakable happiness it is to have our minds settled in that condition, that we may without fear and amazements--nay, with comfort and confidence--expect death and judgment. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

The great Jolly and danger of delaying repentance

I. The longer you delay this work, still the more difficult it will be to you, and the more labour and pains you will be put to, if ever you prosecute it successfully.

II. By making haste to keep God’s commandments, we mightily consult the pleasure and comfort of our following days as, on the contrary, by delaying it, we necessarily prepare fears and disquietude, and unavoidable anxieties of mind all our life after. Why, therefore, should we not now begin to live so, as when we come to be old, if ever we be so, we shall wish we had lived? Why should we not now, in our vigour and strength, make some provisions wherewith to sustain and support ourselves under the burden and infirmities of old age?

III. Our happiness in the future state will be so much the greater by how much the earlier we begin to be religious. Oh, how happy would it be for such if they would seriously lay this matter to heart, before either a habit of carelessness, or sensuality, or worldly-mindedness hath got possession of them!

IV. The infinite hazard we all run by neglecting this work, upon account of the great uncertainty of our present lives. (Archbishop Sharp.)

Procrastination

I. Procrastination generally. In some cases this procrastinating temper, this disposition to put of[ from the present moment what ought to be done at the present moment, arises from actual indolence, a selfish love of ease; a kind of inertia of mind, a dislike of exertion; a kind of paralysis of spirit, only a voluntary one. In other cases it seems to be traceable to a lamentable want of decision of character--that fine, healthy tone of fixed, deliberate, unalterable resolution, with which every man ought to go forth in the business of life to those things which are proper to be done. It not unfrequently is the result of a timid mind, frightened at difficulty; it is the mark of a cowardly spirit, that starts at shadows--that means to act, but is always calculating the force of difficulties, and predicting opposition where no opposition is. But generally, after all, it is a vicious habit, acquired we may not perhaps be able to say how, by what accidental circumstance or how early; not unfrequently even in childhood, when the judicious eye of a mother should have detected it, and parental solicitude have checked it, and the child would have started in life with the principle that he should never put off till to-morrow what ought So be done and can be done to-day.

II. Procrastination is religious matters.

1. It is irrational. If religion be false, let it never trouble you; never have another thought about the matter; if true, no longer delay submitting your whole mind and heart to its influence.

2. It is unpleasant, disagreeable, painful.

3. It is disgraceful.

4. It is sinful in the highest degree.

5. It is dangerous. (J. A. James.)

Promptitude in duty

I. Promptitude in duty is supremely binding. Duty is the supreme end of existence. We are made to “keep Thy commandments.” Unless we do this our existence will prove a failure, and a curse. Even Seneca has said, “To obey God is perfect liberty, he that does this should be safe, free, and quiet.”

II. Promptitude in duty is supremely necessary.

1. The great Creator seems to have made the happiness of all His sentient creation to depend on obedience to His laws. Hence from the microscopic insect, to the huge mammoth, we find pleasures flowing into them through obedience to their instincts. Disobedience is misery in all worlds.

2. Hence the necessity of promptitude in this matter.

Second thoughts not the best in religion

How often do we hear the saying “Second thoughts are best”! And, for the most part, second thoughts are best. In ordinary affairs, there is the greatest likelihood of our acting wrong if we act upon impulse, if we do not take time for reflection, if we judge things according to their first appearance, in place of looking at them minutely and considering all their bearings. In worldly things, in regard of the businesses and intercourses of life, it might perhaps with safety be affirmed as universally true that second thoughts are best. But will now the same hold good in respect of religious things? Are our first thoughts, or our second, ordinarily our best, when the subject of thought has to do with duty towards God, and the saving of our souls? “I made haste, and delayed not, to keep Thy commandments.” What hurry there is in the sentence! They are the words of a man determined not to wait for second thoughts, as though he knew they would be different from the first, but on that very account less worthy to be followed. And in the foregoing verse, the psalmist had expressed himself to nearly the same effect: “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.” Now, let us first look a little practically at the subject. We shall perhaps find ground in the very nature of the case, or in the testimony of experience, for questioning whether in religion second thoughts are best. There may be many theories in regard to the nature of con-science--that principle which acts within us with so mighty an energy; and writers on ethics may have their different suppositions, and propose their different explanations. But we never see that the Scriptural student has any but one theory to adopt, namely, that conscience is virtually the Spirit of God--an instrumentality put into play by the workings of the Holy Ghost; according to the express statement of Solomon--“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.” Herein lies the great reason for what we have affirmed; in a matter of conscience, where the question is between what is morally right and what morally wrong, the first thought is the thought to trust, the first impression the impression to retain. What is whispered, what is suggested to you, at the moment of the question being raised, is whispered, is suggested by that Spirit which, whether or not it be conscience itself, makes conscience its instrument, and secretly touches its springs; but when you hesitate, when you will not follow the Divine impulse, but wait to try whether it will abide certain tests, the almost certainty is that the Holy Spirit, grieved by your unbelief, will suspend His actings, or act with a less direct energy. You are but giving time for the world to pour in its counter-suggestions; for your own corrupt affections to muster their strength; for reason, always swayed by inclination, to arrange something plausible in the way of objection or excuse. Second thoughts!--fruitful parents of “the second death”! Second thoughts make infidels, when first would have made believers. Second thoughts tie men to the world, when first would have devoted them to God. Second thoughts crucify the Lord Jesus afresh, when first would have crucified self. Away henceforwards from religion the maxim, “Second thoughts are best.” Uphold it, if you will, in the concerns of commerce; cling to it in the researches of science; defend it in the arrangements of life; but have nothing to do with it in the suggestions of conscience. If you have not begun in religion, second thoughts will prevent your beginning; if you have begun, they will keep you flora proceeding. They are “of the earth, earthy.” They produce those waverings, inconsistencies, and backslidings, which are so deplorable, yet so common, amongst religious professors. (H. Melvill, B. D.)


Verse 62

Psalms 119:62

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous judgments.

Incitements to gratitude

I. The particular incitements to David’s gratitude here specified. “Because of Thy righteous judgments.” The reference appears to be to the afflictive dispensations of Providence.

1. They are judgments, as they are all deserved, in consequence of a violation of God’s love.

2. They are judgments also, as they are types and representations of the final execution of the warrant of God’s law against all those who remain enemies to God by wicked works.

3. These judgments are called righteous. Partly because they are the decisions and procedures of a wise and holy God, who is righteous in all His works; partly as they are perfectly consonant with the declared laws of His rectitude, and partly as they are to accomplish righteous purposes, in visiting the wicked according to their deserts, in chastening His people for their profit, that they may be made partakers of His holiness.

4. What is there in these judgments to create the gratitude of a pious mind? There are three aspects in which they may be viewed.

II. The fervour and ardency with which David expresses his thankfulness. “At midnight,” etc.

1. Our gratitude to God for mercies and for providential deliverances should be ardent and animated.

2. Gratitude should be often expressed in retirement.

3. All times and places are alike to God, at which we tender to Him the sacrifice of praise.

4. This conduct of David should serve to impress us with the value which he set, and we ought also to put upon time. (Evangelical Preacher.)


Verse 63

Psalms 119:63

I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.

Good society

God has made man for society and society for man. The society, however, to which the text points is the society of the highest type, composed of those who fear God and keep His “precepts.”

I. This is the most honourable society. The only honourable society is the society of honourable men, and the only honourable men are those who fear God and keep His commandments.

II. This is the most happy society. All good men are happy.

III. This is the most growing society. It is large now, composed of an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; its numbers increase with every conversion. (Homilist)

The best company

I. The character of the people of God.

1. They fear Him. There is a twofold fear of God:--

2. They keep God’s precepts.

II. What is implied in being a companion of those that fear God

1. A high esteem and affection for them (1 John 4:20-21; Leviticus 19:18; John 13:34; John 15:12).

2. A delight in communion with them (Psalms 16:3).

3. Joining with them in public worship (Psalms 42:1-2; Psalms 84:1-2).

4. A readiness to converse with them (Malachi 3:16; Psalms 15:4; Romans 1:12).

5. To sympathize with them (Romans 12:15; Revelation 1:9; Hebrews 10:33).

6. A readiness to do them good (Galatians 6:10; James 2:15-16; Matthew 25:34).

III. The obligations we are under to aspire after such a temper and behaviour.

1. The relation we profess to stand in to God. Children of one Father (1 John 3:1).

2. This temper and behaviour are represented as inseparably connected with true love to God Himself (1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:1).

3. Love to all who fear God is mentioned as the most essential and vital part of true religion (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 Corinthians 13:13).

4. Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer, hath laid us under this obligation (John 13:34; 1 John 3:16-19; Galatians 2:20).

5. The utility or profit that resulteth from being a companion of those who fear God (Psalms 87:2). (T. Hannam.)

A proper choice of company recommended

I. Its influence on our principles. But if you mingle without caution with the men of the world; if you “come into their counsel,” and unite in their pursuits, you may expect in time to adopt their maxims, and to abandon your own.

II. Its influence on our conduct. It is dangerous to form an intimacy with those who despise the laws which ye wish to obey, and are addicted to the practices from which you ought to abstain. By degrees you will venture to copy their manners. But, on the contrary, while the companions of ungodly men are in danger of exhibiting in their own behaviour all the deceivableness of unrighteousness, those whose companions are chosen among the servants of the Lord make use of a powerful means of preserving and improving their virtue.

III. Its influence on our enjoyment. In the company of those who “fear God and keep His precepts,” your happiness will be promoted, whatever may be your rank and situation in life. The best affections of your hearts will be called forth into exercise; and an entertainment will be furnished, of which you may partake without degrading your character, and on which you may afterwards reflect without pain and remorse.

IV. Its tendency to prepare us for heaven. (John Johnstone.)

Advantages of good companionship

I would remind you that for climbers of the Alps the only way of safety is to fasten each other together with a rope, and for you, too, a great way of safety is to join yourself to some one else. Ask your companion if he will allow you to draw a little strength from him. He will most likely tell you in his next breath that that is just what he is wanting himself, and you two together will be stronger than if you had been alone. The young man who lives in lonely lodgings and never speaks to any one has a very poor chance of standing temptation. Christianity is a social thing; that is one reason why Christ instituted the Christian Church and the Sacraments, that there might be a bond of union between all His followers. (Henry Drummond.)


Verse 64

Psalms 119:64

The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy: teach me Thy statutes.

Man and the earth

I. Man realizing the abounding of God’s mercy on the earth.

II. Man imploring God’s counsels on the earth. “Teach me Thy statutes.” These statutes are required in order to guide men--

1. To a right appreciation of His goodness.

2. To a right use of His goodness. (Homilist.)

God’s bountihood in Nature

I. It fills the earth. Goodness streaming from the heavens, flowing in the atmosphere, budding on the earth, sparkling in the river, and bounding in the ocean.

II. It entails moral obligation. “Teach me Thy statutes.”

1. A knowledge of the Divine statutes. Unless we know them they cannot regulate us.

2. An instruction in the Divine statutes. We must have God to interpret them to the mind and heart. (Homilist.)

A God-filled world

The psalmist looks all around and everywhere sees the signature of a loving Divine hand. The earth is full to brimming of Thy mercy. It takes faith to see that; it takes a deeper and a firmer hold of the thought of a present God than most men have to feel that. For the most of us the world has got to be very empty of God now. We hear rather the creaking of the wheels of a great machine, or see the workings of a blind impersonal force. But I believe that all that is precious and good in the growth of knowledge since the old days when this psalmist wrote may be joyfully accepted by us, and deep down below it we may see the larger truth of the living purpose and will of God Himself. And I know no reason why nineteenth-century men, full to the finger-tips of modern scientific thought, may not say as heartily as the old psalmist, “The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


Verses 65-67

Psalms 119:65-67

Thou hast dealt with Thy servant, O Lord.

A good man

I. The testimony of a good man.

1. Concerning God. His kind treatment and faithful promise.

2. Concerning affliction.

II. The prayer Of a good man for the highest instruction.

III. The experience Of a good man. (Homilist.)

Good judgment

I. David’s judgment expressed.

1. God had dealt with him.

2. God had dealt well with him. Adding up all our varied experiences, we can truly say that all things have worked together for our good. What strange compounds many of our lives are! The evening and the morning have made the day from the creation; and we have had darkness and brightness; but, putting the whole together, the result has been more than well.

3. God has dealt well with us as His servants.

4. He has dealt with us according to His word. The print of providence exactly answers to the type of the promise.

II. Good judgment desired (verse 66). David felt that his judgment had been greatly at fault, so that he had made great mistakes with regard to God; and new that he had come to a more correct judgment, he offered this prayer: “Teach me good judgment and knowledge.” This is what all Christians need,--better judgment--more sound judgment.

1. May God help us, for the future, first, to judge His providence better!

2. Next, judge your sufferings better, and learn to believe that it is good for you that you have been afflicted. May our judgments not be, as they sometimes have been, desponding, dark, dreary l

3. Then we shall be able to have good judgment in matters of doctrine.

4. We also need good judgment concerning our temptations.

5. And as to the many false spirits that are gone forth into the world.

III. Judgment possessed (verse 67). He seems to say, “Lord, I am very foolish, yet I have had wit enough given me, by Thy Spirit, to believe that Thy commandments are the best that can be, so I wish to keep them, and to believe that Thy commandments are the best guide to me in life, and therefore I desire to follow them.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 66

Psalms 119:66

Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for l have believed Thy commandments.

Excellence of the law

I. What is implied in believing God’s commandments.

1. That we are persuaded of their reality and existence.

2. That we are convinced of their excellence and absolute perfection.

3. That we receive them as of perpetual and everlasting obligation.

4. A holy dread of their rigour and severity.

5. Prayer to God for strength to obey them.

II. The importance and necessity of such a faith.

1. God’s commands are a part of Divine revelation, and therefore the proper objects of faith. Being the word of God, they must be received as such.

2. A supposed faith in God’s promises, and not in His commands, will prove only a delusion.

3. Faith is necessary in order to acceptable obedience. (B. Beddome, M. A.)


Verse 67

Psalms 119:67

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy Word.

The fruits of sanctified affliction

1. Your afflictions, if sanctified, will lead you to searchings of heart. Many sins, long forgotten, are now recalled to remembrance. Then, retiring, into the secret recesses of the spirit, where latent evils are concealed, you view yourselves in a true light, and form the right estimate of your characters.

2. Will dispose you to justify God even under the most trying dispensations. When you reflect on all that God hath done for you, and on your own sinfulness and ingratitude, you will perceive abundant cause to condemn yourselves, and to justify God.

3. Will greatly enhance your estimate of Christ and His salvation. In all His offices, characters, and relations He is most precious to you.

4. Will lead you to a more perfect understanding of the Scriptures.

5. Will work in you patience and submission to the Divine will. “Tribulation worketh patience.”

6. Will enhance a spirit of sympathy with others similarly situated.

7. Will enable you to form a correct estimate of the things of the world.

8. Will induce in you a more unreserved consecration to the service of Christ.

9. Will excite in you more ardent desires for that glorious condition of existence where sorrow will be unknown. (T. Swan.)


Verse 68

Psalms 119:68

Thou art good and doest good.

God good in being and good in action

I. God good in being. “Thou art good.” Good in the sense of kindness and in the sense of moral perfection,--the primal Font of all happiness in the universe, and the immutable Standard of all excellence.

1. Essentially good. His goodness is not a quality of Himself, it is Himself.

2. Immutably good. Because Himself absolutely unalterable, His goodness is immutable.

II. God good in action. “And doest good.” This follows of necessity, a good being must do good. (Homilist.)

The goodness of God

I. Describe it.

1. It is absolutely pure, and free from everything of a selfish or sinful nature.

2. Permanent and immutable as His existence.

3. Universal.

II. Show that it moves Him to do good.

1. The goodness of God must have moved Him to form, before the foundation of the world, the best possible method of doing the greatest possible good. His goodness must have moved Him to employ His wisdom in the best possible manner.

2. It must have moved Him to bring into existence the best possible system of intelligent creatures.

3. It continually moves Him to exert His power and wisdom in governing all His creatures and all His works in the wisest and best manner.

4. It must move Him to make the intelligent universe as holy and happy as possible, through the interminable ages of eternity.

III. Improvement.

1. The goodness of God is discoverable by the light of nature. Actions speak louder than words.

2. Then all the objections that ever have been made, or ever can be made, against any part of His conduct, are objections against His goodness, which must be altogether unreasonable and absurd.

3. Then no creature in the universe ever has had, or ever will have, any just cause to murmur or complain under the dispensations of Providence.

4. Then it is owing to the knowledge, and not to the ignorance of sinners, that they hate God.

5. Then He will display His goodness in the everlasting punishment of the finally impenitent.

6. Then those who are finally happy will for ever approve of the Divine conduct towards the finally miserable.

7. Then while sinners remain impenitent, they have no grounds to rely upon His mere goodness to save them. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

The goodness of God

I. As subsisting in himself.

1. It constitutes the perfection of His nature. Godhead and goodness are convertible terms.

2. It is original and underived.

3. It harmonizes with all the perfections of His nature.

4. It is impressed with the immutability of His will.

II. Its display.

1. The rich provision which God has made for the happiness of man.

2. The mysterious price by which man is redeemed.

3. The modes employed for the recovery of man.

4. The glorious result of all this in time and in eternity. (T. Lessey.)

Pain and pity

We will not deny that evil is evil, we will make no hard pretence that pain is anything but painful; but leaving that insoluble problem, we may rest, at any rate, in the conviction that pain and misery are the accidents--to a great extent the avoidable accidents--of life, not its end and object; that happiness and blessing so far preponderate over them that every one of us may sincerely thank God for His creation.

1. First, as regards ourselves, pain and sickness are chiefly due to the working of laws which have this obviously beneficent nature that they are meant to warn us against things inherently vile, hateful to God, and destructive to our own nature. Physical anguish and moral remorse, often in the individual, and always in the race, are nothing in the world but a part of the stream of sin taken a little lower down in its course. Man himself, if he would but keep the Ten Commandments, if he would but live in temperance, soberness, and chastity, might, to an immense extent, sweep his own life clean of foul diseases.

2. But even as regards ourselves, pain and sorrow are not only salutary warnings against impurity and excess, but, when rightly borne, they uplift us in every other respect. They help us to endure “as seeing Him who is invisible,” they make us yearn for unrealized ideals beyond our small moods and our vulgar comforts; they turn us from the near and the present to the distant and the future; they enable us to pass the death-doom on our mean and shivering egotisms. Take even the most innocent of all our sorrows--the aching anguish of bereavement. When we have lost those whom we have loved, has it not been to thousands simply as a golden chain between their hearts and God?

3. I turn to the lessons which pain and sorrow have for us as regards the world in general. I do not hesitate again to say that they are the stern saviours of society, that they have enriched humanity with its noblest types of character, that they have been as the storms which lash into fury the lazy elements lest they should stagnate in pestilence.


Verses 69-71

Psalms 119:69-71

The proud have forged a lie against me.

The slanderer, the corrupt, the pious

I. The tongue of the slanderer. Slander is--

1. Malicious. Its inspiration is envy, jealousy, or revenge.

2. Mischievous. It often lacerates a man’s heart, and destroys his good name, which may be dearer than life. “He that steals my purse,” etc.

3. Cowardly. The man who confronts another, strikes him with fist or sword, shows some bravery. But he who injures a man by slander is a miserable sneak.

II. The heart of the corrupt. “As fat as grease”--insensible to moral motives. All the moral nerves of the soul are benumbed by sin.

III. The avowal of the pious. The avowal--

1. Of a good resolution.

2. Of a blessed experience. Affliction evermore serves the good. (Homilist.)


Verse 71

Psalms 119:71

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes.

The uses of affliction

I. Afflictions promote virtue, and goodness of heart, as they tend to compose our minds to a sedate and thoughtful disposition and habit.

II. Afflictions tend to restrain our appetites and passions within reasonable bounds.

III. Afflictions, by means of a sedate and considerate habit, which they produce and confirm, tend to strengthen our minds with fortitude and constancy,

IV. Afflictions tend to soften our hearts into tender sympathy and kind affection towards our fellow-creatures. (J. Drysdale, D. D.)

Good to be afflicted

It is not good for some people to have been afflicted at all, and yet it is not the fault of the affliction; it is the fault of the persons afflicted. It might have produced in them a splendid character if all had been right to begin with; but, inasmuch as all was wrong, that very process which should have ripened them into sweetness has hastened them to rottenness. I hope, however, that I may say of many here present, or that they can say of themselves, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted;” The inquiry is, How has it been good?

1. It has been good in connection with many other good things. We are so constituted that we cannot bear very much prosperity. Some men might have been rich, but God knew they could not bear it, and so He has never suffered them to be tempted above what they are able to bear. Others might have been famous, but they would have been ruined by pride, and so the Lord in tender mercy has withheld from them an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, denying them this apparent advantage for their real good. Where God favours any man with prosperity He will send a corresponding amount of affliction to go with it, and deprive it of its injurious tendencies.

2. It is good to have been afflicted as a cure for evils existent within our nature. David says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy Word.” That is the case with many of God’s servants. They were prone to one peculiar temptation, and though they may not have seen it, the chastening hand of God was aimed at that special weakness of their character. The Lord would have us aware of this, and therefore He often sends trial to reveal the hidden evil.

3. Affliction is also useful to God’s people as an actual producer of good things in them. Some virtues cannot be produced in us apart from affliction. One of them is patience. If a man has no trial, how is he to be patient? A veteran warrior is the child of battles, and a patient Christian is the offspring of adversity. There is a very sweet grace called sympathy, which is seldom found in persons who have had no trouble. We are told that our dear Lord and Master Himself learned sympathy by being tempted in all points like as we are. He had to feel our infirmities, or else He could not have been touched with a fellow feeling towards us. It is surely so with us.

4. It is good for me to have been afflicted because affliction is a wonderful quickener, We are very apt to go to sleep; but affliction often wakes us up. The whole of some men’s religion is a kind of sleep-walking. There is not that vigour in it, there is not that earnestness in it, that there ought to be. They want to be waked up by something startling. Our trials and afflictions are intended to do that.

5. Again, according to our text, it is good for us to have been afflicted by way of instruction. Trial is our school where God teaches us on the blackboard. This school-house has no windows to let in the cheerful light. It is very dark, and so we cannot look out and get distracted by external objects; but God’s grace shines like a candle within, and by that light we see what else we had never seen. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The advantages of afflictions

I. They awaken us to serious thought. When, by reverse of fortune, we are deprived of the means of pleasures in which we had too profusely indulged; when the companions of our happier years forsake us; when pain and disease unfit us for tasting our wonted comforts, and forewarn us of death; on a sudden, the enchantment is broken; our conduct, to which we had not hitherto attended, rises in review before us; virtue and vice are exhibited in a light in which we had not viewed them before, and our souls, awakened from the dream of dissipation, commune seriously with themselves.

II. They serve to moderate our attachment to worldly objects.

III. They serve to exercise and display our virtues. It is the storm that tries the strength of the vessel.

IV. They have a natural tendency to improve our pious affections. When the fabric of our felicity falls, we perceive whose hand it was that supported it, and whose hand it is that alone can rear it anew. We feel our dependence on that Providence which, before, we had neglected to acknowledge, and seek, in communion with God, the consolation which our sufferings require.

V. They have a tendency to enliven our hope of immortality. The doctrine of a future existence is no longer regarded as a subject of cold speculation; it addresses itself to the tenderest feelings that can arise in the human breast; your minds are prepared to yield to the evidence by which it is confirmed, and you cherish it as your support under afflictions which admit of no other consolation. (W. Moodie, D. D.)

The uses of affliction

I. It affords opportunity for reflection, without which we can never properly know what we are or what we want.

II. It tends to create in us humility.

III. It is the means of leading us to repentance.

IV. It teaches us to put our trust in the righteousness of Christ.

V. It teaches us resignation.

VI. It improves our charity. (R. Mant, M. A.)

The benefits of affliction

1. It tries and calls forth the exercise of faith.

2. It enables us to exercise patience.

3. It tends to produce humility.

4. It makes us dependent and prayerful.

5. It tends to secure our obedience.

6. It teaches us to value our mercies.

7. It tends to make heaven very desirable. (D. Dickson, D. D.)

Affliction beneficial

I. In whatever form affliction comes, it is designed by God to do us good. An old writer says: “Afflictions are used by God, as thorns are by husbandmen, to stop the gaps, and to keep us from breaking out of God’s ways.”

II. The spirit in which affliction should be received. Trials must not be received thoughtlessly and as a matter of course; their cause and their purpose must be carefully studied. The grace of submission must be earnestly sought, that there may be no murmuring, much less rebellion, but patient endurance and resignation to the Divine will. Unwavering trust in God must be exercised. There must also be a willingness to learn His lessons, a teachableness of disposition, an earnest desire to endeavour to extract from our affliction all the profit which it is designed to bring.

III. The benefits resulting from affliction if received in a right spirit.

1. By sorrow the heart is made tender and susceptible to the influences of the Holy Spirit. Religion is welcomed by the bleeding heart as the choicest and most effectual balm.

2. Affliction rightly endured increases our love for God’s Word and obedience to His law.

3. Few motives to prayer are more powerful and effectual than those furnished by affliction.

4. Afflictions afford the best possible sphere for the exhibition and for the growth of the graces of the Spirit. How can we know we have faith unless our faith be tested? Hope, like a bright star, is best seen on a dark night; and love is most conspicuous when it clings in spite of perplexity and pain.

5. The benefits of affliction are not confined to the immediate sufferers. If rightly endured by us, others are benefited, both by our example and by the tender sympathy which we are led to feel for them in their distresses. (A. O. Smith, B. A.)


Verse 72

Psalms 119:72

The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

The Bible better than money

I. Because it gives us better food. It is well designated the “word of life,” because by it the life of God is implanted in the human spirit and by it preserved. Christ is “our life,” and the support of “our life”; and the Bible is full of Christ.

II. Because it gives us better raiment. It offers you the “robe of righteousness,” and “the robe of joy”;--robes that adorn, protect, exalt, and endure.

III. Because it gives us better friends. A true friend is the dearest treasure of earth. Money can give you friends; but they are seldom true. And even the richest friends that money can buy for you are not to be compared with the poorest friends the Bible can give, the true men of earth, the angels and archangels of heaven, “the spirits of just men made perfect,” “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,” and the praises thereof, these are the friends the Bible offers you.

IV. Because it gives us better homes. Money can give you very fine houses. But it cannot give you “a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” The Bible can. (J. Dunlop.)

God’s Word better than wealth

I. It secures a higher culture. It gives a freedom and a force to the intellect, a depth and a purity to the sympathies, a sensibility to the conscience, an invincibility to the purpose, a refinement to the tastes, a penetration to the eye, and a pinion to the imagination, that no other appliances on this earth can furnish.

II. It invests with a higher power. Wealth cannot impart magnanimity, fortitude, courage; but the Word of God does to the highest degree. It enables the soul to glory in tribulation, and to welcome death with rapture.

III. It opens up higher enjoyments. Wealth cannot give the enjoyment of an approving conscience, a loving spirit, an ever-brightening future, and the friendship of the everlasting Father.

IV. It connects with a higher world. The gold and silver of all the earth can form no connection between us and the celestial state, can procure us no admission into the heavenly world. “Naked came we into the world,” etc. But the Word of God abides in us, goes with us as our light and our sanctuary. (Homilist.)

The preciousness of the Divine Word

I. The true nature, of the Word of God.

1. Its authority, It is a “law.” As such it is a rule of conduct; solemnly obligatory; and supported by rewards and punishments.

2. Its divinity. The law of God’s “mouth:” Not of human but of Divine origin. The revelation of God’s mind to man (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). It possesses striking evidences of divinity.

II. Its inestimable worth.

1. In many things it resembles gold and silver.

2. But it is better than gold and silver.

Application--

1. Bless God for His precious Word. Next to Jesus and the Holy Spirit His greatest gift to man.

2. Prize and revere it. Set your hearts upon it.

3. Seek to be greatly enriched with it. Covet much of it, etc. Lay it up. Dig for it.

4. Use it. Apply it to your diversity of condition. It is profitable for all seasons and circumstances.

5. What shall be the end of those who neglect the Gospel of Christ? (J. Burns, D. D.)

The value of the Word of God

This is not an utterance in depreciation of gold and silver; precisely the reverse. It sets a high value upon them; and when sentimental pietists declare that they despise money and esteem gold as good for nothing, very many sensible people set it down as so much empty rant and nonsense. Gold is eminently useful in building a house and fitting it up with beauty and splendour, in providing food and raiment, and enabling a man to travel and secure all sorts of legitimate temporal enjoyments; but it makes him no wiser, no purer, no holier--it does not necessarily develop these qualities, or increase his faith, or fortify him against moral and spiritual evil, or expand his love to God and man; it often does the very reverse; while the outcome of God’s law is always, useful and good. Gold and silver are undeniably serviceable in many other directions which it were wrong and sinful fret to recognize. The progressive amelioration of the condition of our race by which this age is characterized beyond all others is instrumentally due in a large measure to the wise and generous use made of earthly treasures, in promoting religious and scientific education, and, above all, in scattering broadcast over the whole world the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So far as money is used for such purposes as these its utility and value can scarcely be overestimated. Yet we must place it in the category of “the things which are temporal.” But in seeking to form a just estimate of the value of the Word, let us view it--

I. In relation to intellectual development. The great purifying currents of thought that have elevated our race have been formed and directed by the Bible. This alone should be decisive. Without attempting to sketch the history of its brilliant achievements, it may be said in a word that the nations which do not possess or follow the Book move upon a far lower plane intellectually, morally, and spiritually than those which have it. Paganism, in its highest forms, has been an utter failure. Pagan lands have been, and are now, non-progressive and impure, the abodes of mental stagnation, festering vice and horrid cruelties, while Bible lands are fruitful in all manner of useful discoveries. They lead the van of the world’s mental and material progress. They revolutionize the commerce of nations. Their railways and steamships unite the ends of the earth and place its products and luxuries within the reach of all.

II. In relation to moral culture. It is not necessary to disparage ethical systems of heathen philosophers and others as if they contained no truth. Some of them contained a great deal. But looking over them from the days of Aristotle and Socrates to the time of the latest pagan writer, it may be said of them all that they lacked the great fundamental principle which is the backbone of Christian ethics, namely, an infallible standard by which to judge of right and wrong. This was their radical defect, and what renders worthless or positively injurious many systems of modern times. Men look in vain for the standard of right in self-interest, in utility, in feelings of benevolence, in pleasurable emotions, or in the dicta of unenlightened conscience--these are all shifting and uncertain, and, therefore, unfit to serve this purpose. But the Bible reveals an immutable and infallible standard. By general principles and specific precepts, by a comprehensive summary in the Ten Commandments, by the checkered and wonder-laden history of the chosen people, by the writings of inspired prophets and apostles, and by the incomparable lessons of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His spotless life as the incarnate God, the whole duty of man is enforced. Thus broadly and comprehensively viewed in relation to the moral government and culture of the world, who can doubt that God’s Word is “better than thousands of gold and silver”?

III. As an instrument of salvation to man. We may safely say that as a means of grace it surpasses all others. (D. H. MacVicar, D. D.)


Verse 73

Psalms 119:73

Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding.

The right attitude of man in relation to God

I. Recognizing God as the author of his existence. “Thy hands.” I am not the creature of chance or of necessity, the product of the blind forces of nature. I recognize Thy hands, the hands of infinite skill and goodness. He made us.

1. Then, to study our constitutions is to study Him.

2. Then His claims upon our activities are absolute. No one has a right to us but Himself. We are His.

II. Looking to God as the educator of his spirit. Thou hast commandments concerning us--laws that should rule all the powers with which Thou hast endowed us. I am ignorant of them, enlighten me, I beseech Thee. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Thou hast given me a capacity for moral knowledge; but that knowledge I have not. I am in the dark. Kindle within me that light that will enable me to go the way Thou wouldst have me go. I have a wonderful nature that I know not how to use. “Give me understanding.”

III. Imploring God as the perfecter of his being. He knew that God made him for the purpose, and that that purpose could only be realized by correct moral information, a practical obedience to His will. And hence he prays, “Give me understanding.”

1. This plea is rational. It is from the less to the greater. Thou hast made me for Thyself. I want to be Thine by my own willing and devoted service. Thou madest me without my choice or consent. I entreat Thee to give me that, to make my being a blessing to myself and an honour to Thee.

2. It is a powerful plea. It is the cry of a child in distress to a tender parent. It is more than this--it is the cry of a frail, ignorant, dying creature to the loving and almighty Author of its being. I should not have been, had it not been for Thee. Oh, grant me what I ask, and make my being blessed.

3. It is a loyal plea. What I ask for is, not the gratification of my own selfish wishes, but that; “I may learn Thy commandments”--learn them--practically learn them. (Homilist.)

The Creator-Guide

Long ago a laconic moralist gave this summary of wisdom, “Live as you were meant to live.” This sentence recognizes the fact that there is a purpose the discovery of which is man’s first anxiety and the accomplishment of which is man’s supreme aim. Now, our Bible tells us that we have to do God’s will, to serve God, to glorify God, to do good, to do right, to find and to keep in the truth. I think the significance of these phrases will appear if we consider some workmanship of man in relation to its maker’s purpose. At South Kensington there is a clock made above 500 years ago under the hammer of a Glastonbury monk. It has measured out the moments of fifteen generations of men That piece of mechanism has done and is still doing its maker’s will. It has served its maker’s purpose. It fulfils his praiseworthy intention and so praises him. Every stroke of its pendulum is to the glory of the Glastonbury smith. It keeps (so to say) its maker’s commandments. What he meant it to do it has done well and truly. Think of this clockwork of the brain, this delicate mechanism of thought and feeling. Year in, year out, the restless wheels of desire and feeling, of thought and passion, play into one another and mark results on the solemn dial of life. Matters may be so mismanaged as to put the machinery into a whirl of wild confusion. It is, on the other hand, possible to secure such inward adjustment, such balance, such regulative control, such true impulse, as to make the soul a splendid harmony and the life a utility which men acknowledge with reverence and benediction. With God’s work, as with man’s, the essential thing is to be true to the Maker’s purpose. There is a commandment--a Divine intention to which every one must be true. “Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me; give me understanding of Thy will and commandment.” Somewhere, at the outset of human story, God did give this knowledge to His creatures. Along the line of the Jewish people that knowledge came in a pure stream--pure compared with its deep pollution as it ran through other histories. Man’s necessary life-knowledge has two branches. If for the general understanding of religion it is essential to throw the soul directly upon God, much more is that necessary for particular understanding of our individual perplexities. Take the case of the captain of a ship. Education and experience have given him general knowledge of the capabilities of ships, of the ways of sailors, of navigation, of coast-lines, storms and signals. These are the mariner’s alphabet, and correspond to the Christian’s general knowledge of God and life of the Saviour and the soul. But imagine the ship’s captain on a voyage to a new port, in a new ship, with a fresh sort of cargo and a strange crew. His ship gets into storms, or among icebergs. There are break-downs and accidents to ship and tackling. Besides his general sailor lore the captain obviously requires presence of mind, tact, resource, the gift to see what needs to be done, and what can be done in every new emergency. Such readiness for the event corresponds to the Christian’s application of religious truth to the perplexities of his personal career. About the generalities of religion we are fairly informed. We know what is right and what is wrong. We understand the perils of temptation and we know the grace of God. We know the ways of the world, and we know the truths of Holy Scripture. All this is our miscellaneous sailing-lore. But every day we make a new voyage and venture, in which sudden accidents may happen. Storm or collision may come. We may find ourselves confronted by new circumstances, and we want the quickly-acting instinct of Christian temper so as to be able to say “ none of these things move me.” Can we meet difficulty with patience? Can we take failure with hopefulness? Can we be meek and yet strong, pleasant and yet good, gentle and yet firm? Can we so pass through things temporal as to fail not of things that are eternal? For all this we need more than general knowledge of Divine truth; we require that the power of Christ shall rest upon us. Give me understanding, that for each act and for each step I may know Thy commandment. Nor is this the end of the matter. There are emergencies and perplexities which form a class by themselves. We come to places when it is hard to know which is right--the way on the right hand or the way on the left hand. Infallibility does not belong even to the man whose soul is nearest to God. Insurance against ever making a wrong decision, or taking a wrong step is not gained by the most Christian sincerity and faith. Through all his campaigns the Duke of Wellington never made a serious mistake. Sometimes good men show similar wisdom in the conduct of life’s stern warfare, but there is no guarantee for this clear and precise practical judgment. Often you must “Do the sum to prove it.” Do it carefully. Do it honestly. Do it for the most part on your knees. The rest is with God. “They cry unto the Lord in their trouble and He delivereth them out of all their distresses.” “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God.” Keep near to the source of light and direction, not merely in the acts and offices of devotion but in all the sincere aims of daily conduct. (S. Gregory.)

God our Maker

Thomas Carlyle was once present when a conversation was started between some friends on the subject of evolution. Having quietly listened for a time, the Chelsea sage seized the opportunity of a pause to remark, with considerable solemnity and emphasis, “Gentlemen, you seem well pleased to trace your descent from a tadpole, and an ape, but I would say with David, ‘Lord, Thou hast made me a little lower than the angels.’” (J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)


Verses 74-79

Psalms 119:74-79

They that fear Thee will be glad when they nee me; because I have hoped in Thy Word.

The good man

I. The spiritual interest of the good in each other (verse 74). In what, concerning each other, are they most profoundly interested? Their ripe moral condition. “Because I have hoped in Thy Word.” Hope in Thy Word implies--

1. That Thy Word has truth.

2. That Thy Word has good. We only hope for the good. Good men rejoice in each other, not merely because of secular or intellectual advancement, hut because of spiritual soundness and progress.

II. The confidence of the good in God (verse 75).

1. Confidence in the rectitude of the Divine procedure. I know it, not merely from the declarations of Thy Word, the testimonies of the good, but from my own experience. I know that all is right.

2. Confidence in the Divine kindness in affliction. “In faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me.” “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten,” etc.

III. The appeal of the good to Him.

1. Here is a prayer for comfort in affliction (verse 76).

2. A prayer for the preservation from dangers (verse 77). I am not only in sorrow and require comfort, hut in danger and require protection.

3. A prayer for the humiliation of enemies (verse 78). Convince them of the wrongness of their conduct towards me.

4. A prayer for the sympathy of the good (verse 79).

IV. The joy of the good in life. “For Thy law is my delight.” “I will meditate in Thy precepts.” The law of God stands for His ideas, His purposes, His sympathies, His plans, as revealed in nature and in the writings of inspired men. (Homilist.)


Verse 75

Psalms 119:75

I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

Divine rectitude and fidelity

I. The truths declared.

1. In all the afflictive events of life, we are to recognize, not only a directing and an overruling Providence in general, but also the application of its provisions and dispensations to individuals.

2. All God’s providential dispensations, not excepting the most painful ones, are in accordance with perfect rectitude.

3. The dispensations of Providence in application to those whom God designs to bless, are the operations of Divine love.

II. The certainty expressed. We know also that God’s judgments are right, and that His afflictive dispensations are but the awful visitations of love. But how?

1. From the Bible. The doctrine that there is a comprehensive, minute, all-wise Providence, and that all providential dispensations towards the people of God, however afflictive, are expressions of faithful love, and in close connection and harmony with the “designs of the Cross of Christ, is conveyed in every part of the Word of God.

2. From the revealed character of God. He is just, and wise, and good. It is our bliss to be assured of this. To His natural perfections of eternity, intelligence, power, and immensity is added every moral attribute in infinite perfection. What He is in Himself, that He is in His doings.

III. The state of mind manifested.

1. Here is expressed a proper sense of the nature, in themselves, of the painful events which befall us. They are viewed as “judgments,” and felt to be afflictions.

2. Here is manifested the absence of all disposition to murmur, repine, and rebel against the appointments of God. The language indicates a heart, as well as a tongue, free from hard thoughts of God.

3. This language is expressive of the deepest submission to the will of God.

4. Here is expressed confidence in God, that some gracious design is comprehended in His painful visitations, and that they will terminate in some merciful result. It is faith ascending her watch tower, putting herself in the posture of expectation, and looking out for the blessing, though she does not know from what quarter, at what time, or in what form the blessing will come, yet still believing it will come. (J. A. James.)

Man’s relation to God’s rule

Every man’s religion takes colouring and character from his conceptions of God. “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right.” This is the utterance of a sure faith, a faith which has all the certainty of knowledge. And elsewhere we meet it oftentimes, as (Psalms 23:4.) His felt conviction of the Divine presence and the Divine love inspired him with courage, and cheered him with light in the darkest day of his earthly experience. And this position commends itself at once to the highest and clearest reason, and to the deepest affections of man. It is through faith in the perfect and paternal God that the wearied spirit of man finds rest. “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right.” This is the utterance of a devout soul, faithful and active within its own sphere. What a contrast in spirit it presents to that of the lives which so many libel How many men and women pass their days in an unconscious protest against the Divine providence. Everything to them is a bar, a hindrance, a stone of stumbling, a rock of offence. Nor can cure come to this direful malady of spirit until the thought of God’s sovereign rule becomes a fixed conviction in the soul and a ground principle of life. This kills that selfishness which, by magnifying our individual importance beyond all proper proportions, becomes the prolific root of discontent. Disappointments come to man and cherished hopes fade. What then? Is hope gone--following health or wealth in their flight? Is trust buried in the tomb? No, for we know that God reigneth, always supreme in darkness as in light, in tribulation as in joy. We know that though clouds and darkness are round about Him, justice and mercy are the habitations of His throne. A very noticeable fact in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ is His recognition of the trials of the human lot. One of His earliest utterances was a blessing on the mourners and a promise of comfort. He was Himself a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Thus He becomes to man the highest revelation of the religion which God requires. And when the most trying crisis of His life was upon Him--when the cross was in view, and the agony of His soul was at its height; yet did He, out, of His living trust in God, nevertheless say, “Not My will, O Father, but Thine be done.” This is Christ’s testimony to the great and consolatory truth set forth in our text: that whatever comes to pass in the Divine order of events is right; God rules in and over all affairs and events, and His is the rule of infinite wisdom, infinite justice, and infinite love. (John Cordner.)


Verse 77

Psalms 119:77

Let Thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live.

Mercy to live well

He prayed before for mercy; now again he prayeth for mercy. The children of’ God have such an earnest desire of mercy, that whatever sense thereof they get, they still cry for more; and sure it is in this life they can never be satisfied. Nevertheless, happy are they who hunger and thirst, for hereafter they shall be satisfied. But if we mark more narrowly, we shall find that David here seeks another sort of mercy than he sought before. For first, he sought mercy to forgive his sins: then he sought mercy to comfort him in his troubles; now he seeks mercy to live and sin no more. Alas, many seek the first mercy of remission, and the second mercy of consolation in trouble, who are altogether careless of the third mercy, to live well. It is a great mercy of God to amend thy life; where this is not, let no man think he hath received either of the former. It is a great mercy of God which not only pardons evil that is done, but strengthens us also to further good that we have not done; and this is the mercy which here David seeks. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verse 80

Psalms 119:80

Let my heart be sound in Thy statutes.

A sound heart

A heathen prayed for a “sound mind in a sound body.” A sound body is, of all earthly blessings, the most priceless. But a sound heart is a far greater blessing. A sound heart, like the AEolian harp, can catch music from the tempest, or, like the bee, gather honey from weeds and briers.

I. A sound heart throbs is unison with the moral laws of the universe. Those laws are the laws of benevolence and truth.

II. A sound heart is a united heart,. It has no fissures, no rents, no distractions, it is one whole.

III. A sound heart is a strong heart. It does not sink under trial, or quail under danger. “O happy heart,” says Quarles, “where piety affecteth, where humility subjecteth, where repentance correcteth, where obedience dissecteth, where perseverance perfecteth, where power protecteth, where devotion projecteth, where charity connecteth.” (Homilist.)

Right-heartedness

Some follow religion merely for safety from penalty, some merely for its excitement, and others for gain; but the psalmist desires to be “right” just because it is right, and does not make ashamed.

I. The prayer. “Let my heart be sound.”

1. It is a definite prayer. Holiness means wholeness--sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

2. It is a personal prayer. “Let my heart.”

II. The occasion for this prayer.

1. After the excitements of conversion.

2. In a time of temptation.

3. When engaged in self-examination.

4. In times of persecution.

5. In times of work and witnessing for the Saviour.

6. In affliction.

III. A strong reason for this prayer. “That I be not ashamed.”

1. That I be not ashamed of the profession I have made.

2. That I be not ashamed before men, in the ship, in the shop, at the polling booth; that I may live respected and die lamented.

3. That I may not be ashamed before God at His coming, but joyfully hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” etc. (D. Brotchie.)


Verses 81-88

Psalms 119:81-88

My soul fainteth for Thy salvation: but I hope in Thy Word.

Painful soul moods and their antidotes

I. Painful moods of soul.

1. Painful yearning (Psalms 119:81-83).

(a) A sense of security.

(b) A sense of comfort.

(a) Weakening (Hebrews 12:3)

(b) Anxious (verse 82). “Hope deferred,” etc.

(c) Consuming (verse 83).

2. Anxious questioning (verse 84).

3. A sense of injustice (verse 85). His persecutors were

II. Antidotes.

1. Firm confidence in the Divine Word (verses 81, 83, 87).

2. A spiritual quickening of soul (verse 88). (Homilist.)

The Word of God a support

As a man binds a tender sapling to a stake, that the wind may not wrench it; or throws out an anchor into the boiling sea, that the ship may be held by it; so must we bind our wavering hearts to the support of the Word of God, and stay the storm-tossed ship of our souls with the anchor of hope, that they may not sink.


Verse 83

Psalms 119:83

For I am become like a bottle in the smoke.

The wineskin in the smoke

Ewald and Delitzsch read, “Although I am become as a wineskin hung in the smoke, yet do I not forget Thy statutes.” As a possible alternative read, “For I am become as a wineskin in the smoke, because I do not forget Thy statutes.” The allusion is to the fidelity of a good man under severe pressures of trial and affliction. Though under these pressures he shrinks and wastes, and blackens like a wineskin hung in the smoke of the chimney fire, he still remembers the Divine statutes; he still holds fast his faith in God and duty. Or the allusion is to the secret and reward of this fidelity. For it was a custom of the ancients (Rosenmuller) to hang wineskins in the smoke of a fire for very much the same reason that we sometimes stand a claret bottle on the hearth, in order to mellow the wine by a gradual and moderate warmth, and to bring it to an earlier perfection. In that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine, to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty, because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him.

1. What was the character of the man who uses this quaint and homely figure? He lived in one of the latest periods of Hebrew literature; when the Jews were groaning under the tyranny of foreign, i.e. of Gentile, rulers, who hated “the Hebrew superstition” almost as much as the Hebrew obstinacy; and thus we get a valuable glimpse into the larger outward conditions of his life, which every section of the psalm verifies and confirms. He evidently loved the Word of God so dearly that he was never weary of meditating on its different aspects of law and promise, comfort and judgment. His love of God’s Word, his confidence in God, had been profoundly tried. The time was out of joint. The wicked were in power, and strained their power to injure and abase him. It was his very righteousness, his deference to God’s authority rather than theirs, his devotion to God’s will, which provoked their hostility. And yet no comfort came to him through prayer; there was no comfort, save from the Word, which he would not let go. Note one special quality in this man. He is not only a poet, and a man well versed in affairs; he is a poet of a quaint, a peculiar turn, who loves to set himself difficult feats, and takes a singular pleasure in achieving them. He is one who can express a very sincere and even passionate love in an elaborate artifice. We have all known a few such men as this. They have a remarkable power over as many as love them.

2. It is this psalmist’s constant loyalty of soul, his profound and steadfast devotion to God, God’s will, and God’s Word, which we most need to bear in mind. It is his good fidelity which entitles him to teach, and enables him to comfort us.

3. Turn the verse round, and let it suggest the reason of his indomitable faith, his brave and cheerful confidence under the sharpest pressures of trial. Read “because I do not forget Thy statutes.” Remember what has been said of the customs of the ancient vintners, and you will see the figure of the text suggests to those who do not forget God’s statutes, that trials are a discipline which refines, mellows, ripens their character, brings them to an earlier perfection than they could otherwise reach, and fits them more rapidly for the service of God and man. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)

A picture of a sad life

I. Here is a Shrivelled life. The empty leathern bottles, hung up in the unchimneyed houses of the East, get shrivelled in the heat. There are human lives--

1. Shrivelled in their thoughts. There is nothing broad or elastic in their conceptions, their whole mental natures run into a few miserable smoky dogmas.

2. Shrivelled in their sympathies. Narrow thinkings and selfish habits contract the soul that should expand into a seraph into a miserable grub.

II. Here is an unlovely life. A shrivelled leathern bottle, black with smoke, has nothing in it to admire, nothing to charm the eye or even to invite the touch. Unlovely lives are by no means uncommon.

III. Here is a useless life. So long as the bottle is hung up, shrivelled and black in the smoky apartment, it is of no service whatever. What millions there are of every generation who have been of no service to the universe. (Homilist.)

A bottle in the smoke

I. God’s people have their trials.

1. Sometimes these trials arise from poverty. It is the poverty of the Arab that puts his bottle in the Smoke; so the poverty of Christians exposes them to much trouble, and inasmuch as God’s people are for the most part poor, for that reason must they always be for the most part in affliction.

2. Our trials frequently result from our comforts. Christian men l you have extraordinary fires, which others have never kindled; expect them to have extraordinary smoke. You have the presence of Christ; but then you will have the smoke of fear lest you should lose it. You have the joy of assurance; but you have also the smoke of doubt, which blows into your eyes and well nigh blinds you. You have your trials, and your trials arise from your comforts. The more comfort you have, the more fire you have, the more sorrows shall you have, and the more smoke.

3. The poor bottle in the smoke keeps there for a long time till it gets black; it is not just one puff of smoke that comes upon it; the smoke is always going up, always girding the poor bottle; it lives in an atmosphere of smoke. So some of us hang up like bottles in the smoke for months, or for a whole year. No sooner do you get out of one trouble than you tumble into another. Well, that was the condition of David; he was not just sometimes in trial, but it seemed as if trials came to him every day. Well, if this is your case, fear not, you are not alone in your trials; but you see the truth of what is uttered here: you are become like bottles in the smoke.

II. Christian men feel their troubles. They are in the smoke; and they are like bottles in the smoke. There are some things that you might hang up in the smoke for many a day, and they would never be much changed, because they are so black now that they could never be made any blacker, and so shrivelled now that they never could become any worse. But the poor skin bottle shrivels up in the heat, gets blacker, and shows at once the effect of the smoke; it is not an unfeeling thing, like a stone, but it is at once affected. Now, some men think that grace makes a man unable to feel suffering; I have heard people insinuate that the martyrs did not endure much pain when they were being burned to death; but this is a mistake, Christian men are not like stones; they are like bottles in the smoke. In fact, if there be any difference, a Christian man feels his trials more than another, because he traces them to God.

III. Christians, though they have troubles, and feel their troubles, do not in their troubles forget God’s statutes. What are God’s statutes? God has two kinds of statutes, both of them engraved in eternal brass. The first are the statutes of His commands; and of these He has said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law shall fail till all be fulfilled.” These statutes are like the statutes of the Medea and Persians; they are binding upon all His people. Well, the psalmist said, “In the midst of my trials I have not swerved from Thy statutes; I have not attempted to violate Thy commands; I have not in any way moved from the strict path of integrity; and in the midst of all my persecutions I have gone straight on, never once forgetting God’s statutes or commands.” And then again: there are statutes of promise which are equally firm, each of them as immortal as God who uttered them. David did not forget these; for he said of them, “Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage”; and he could not have sung about them if he had forgotten them. Why was it David still held fast by God’s statutes? First of all, David was not a bottle in the fire, or else he would have forgotten them. Our trials are smoke, but not fire; they are very uncomfortable, but they do not consume us. Another reason why, when David was in the smoke, he did not forget God’s statutes was this, that Jesus Christ was in the smoke with him, and the statutes were in the smoke with him too. God’s statutes have been in the fire, as well as God’s people. Both the promise and the precept are in the furnace; and if I hang up in the smoke, like a bottle, I see hanging up by my side God’s commands, covered with soot and smoke, subject to the same perils. Suppose I am persecuted: it is a comfort to know that men do not persecute me, but my Master’s truth. Another reason why David did not forget the statutes was, they were in the soul, where the smoke does not enter. Smoke does not enter the interior of the bottle; it only affects the exterior. So it is with God’s children: the smoke does not enter into their hearts; Christ is there, and grace is there, and Christ and grace are both unaffected by the smoke. Come up, clouds of smoke! curl upward till ye envelop me! Still will I hang on the Nail, Christ Jesus--that sure Nail, which never can be moved from its place--and I will feel, that “while the outward man decayeth, the inward man is renewed day by day”; and the statutes being there, I do not forget them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 84

Psalms 119:84

How many are the days of Thy servant?
when wilt Thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?

A suggestive question

I. God’s knowledge of the length of man’s life. To Him there are no accidental deaths, no premature graves.

II. Man’s ignorance of the length of his life. This indicates

1. The goodness of God. Were man to know the exact time of his death, it would paralyze his energies and check his enjoyments.

2. The duty of man--to be always ready, awaiting his summons.

III. The trying element in man’s life. The weight of years, the departure of old friends, the narrowing of the region of hope, the want of purpose not only reconcile him to his fate, but create in him a craving for the long rest of the long, long grave. “I do not wish to die,” says Cicero, “but I care not if I were dead.” A man’s willingness to die is no proof of his religion. (Homilist.)


Verse 87

Psalms 119:87

They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not Thy precepts.

David’s behaviour in trouble

I. How he behaved in extreme distress.

1. The precepts of God were the constant subject of his thoughts.

2. He was careful to walk in the way wherein he was directed by the Word of God to walk.

3. He patiently submitted to the will of God in all his persecutions and tribulations.

4. His patience was attended with meekness of spirit and behaviour towards the instruments of his calamities.

5. He maintained his uprightness under all the temptations of adversity and persecution.

6. He served God and his country in the best way that he could when he was restrained from serving them as he wished to do.

II. What his reasons were for so invariably adhering to his duty.

1. He was fully persuaded that nothing happened or could happen to him without the permission of Divine providence.

2. It was of incomparably greater importance in his view to behave dutifully under trouble than to obtain deliverance from it.

3. He knew that his troubles would all come to a happy end.

4. He knew that his troubles would turn to a good account through the grace of God enabling him to make the proper improvement of them. (H. Belfrage, D. D.)

When obedience is difficult

One of Dickens’s most enjoyable and helpful characters, Mark Tapley, always kept up his spirits, and the spirits of all those around him, but he was dissatisfied because his surroundings were so pleasant that there was no credit in being jolly among them. At last his circumstances changed, and his surroundings became doleful indeed; but he saw his chance to be jolly with some credit to himself, and manfully rose to the glorious opportunity. In a similar way we may say that obeying when obedience is easy does not count for much; the real test of obedience comes when it is hard to obey, when we are asked to do something that we do not want to do, something that all our nature shrinks from. If we obey then, and, moreover, if we obey cheerfully and even with gladness, we may know that the spirit of obedience is really in us. The essence of Christian life is obedience. It is the key to all progress in character, to all growth in happiness, to all ownership in the Kingdom of Heaven. Any one that realizes this will actually long for opportunities of difficult obedience, as the athlete looks forward with ardour to the laborious practice, since it is the way, and the only way, to the olive wreath. (J. B. Morgan.)


Verse 88

Psalms 119:88

Quicken me after Thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of Thy mouth.

Grappling irons

I. His intense desire that he might keep the testimony of God’s mouth.

1. This desire was founded in a high esteem of God’s Word. He viewed the Divine revelation as coming directly from Jehovah’s own mouth. Those who have this reverence for God’s Word will long to cling to it; they will be afraid of misinterpreting it; and they will not venture to add any of their own words to it, lest they be called into judgment for such presumption.

2. This prayer of David’s, springing from his great reverence for the revealed will of God, includes within it many points of virtue.

II. His consequent prayer. He did not pray immediately that he might keep the testimony of God’s mouth, but he offered the next prayer to it, the one which leads up to it right surely. As a man that goeth up to his chamber doth not leap up all at once, but climbeth the stairs, so doth David rise to the keeping of the Lord’s word by the prayer, “Quicken me after Thy lovingkindness.”

1. This prayer is wisdom. He that saith, “I shall keep the testimony of God’s mouth, for I am fully resolved to do it,” had better salt that resolution with prayer, or it will rot like all things, which come of the flesh.

2. This prayer was suggested, I do not doubt, by David’s inward state. He says, “Quicken me.” He means that he felt the power of death working in him. Before he is quite numbed he cries, “Quicken me.”

3. It is a prayer which met David’s condition. Carefully read the octave of verses with “Caph” at the head of them, and see how well it fits in at the end of each. Whatever your difficulty, whatever your doubt, whatever your sorrow, whatever your temptation, here is a prayer that meets every case: “Quicken me after Thy loving-kindness.”

4. It is a prayer especially which answered to David’s aim in presenting it. He prayed this prayer that he might be enabled to keep God’s testimony.

5. He presented this prayer on the right ground. He pleads the mercy and love of God.

6. This is a prayer which has a promise attached to it. When I have a lock I am always glad to find a key which fits it. Here is the lock--“Lord, I feel as if I were dead”; and here is the key--“He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” That answers the supplication as a glove fits the hand.

III. His holy example.

1. Offer the prayer of life when you feel that you are dead. Such a prayer will prove an antidote to the poison of death.

2. Living truth can only be held firmly by living men. Let Jesus reign in your soul, and then He will make you a priest and king unto Himself by His own divine power.

3. Regard God’s lovingkindness as a source of life. Unhappily, too many have viewed it as an excuse for death. “Oh, yes,” they say, “I am one of God’s chosen; I need not trouble myself about holiness or activity. I shall be saved by sovereign grace.” The man who dares to pervert truth is already a lost man; but he that knows the lovingkindness of the Lord says, “Quicken thou me, Lord. Such love as this I must translate into life: grant that to me to live may be love.” Those words “love” and “live” are very near akin in their conformation; they are joined together in spiritual things, let no man put them asunder.

4. Let Divine aid, whenever we seek it or obtain it, lead us to the practical use of it in obedience. “Quicken me,” and “so shall I keep.” I put those words together in that fashion, for they are together. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 89-96

Psalms 119:89-96

For ever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven.

My solace in affliction

I. Here we have strong consolation in certain facts which he remembered. Fly ye to the mountains when the enemy invades the land. Hide in the strongholds of your God.

1. The eternal existence of God, which is implied in the continuance of His faithfulness and power. “The Lord liveth” is the plea of souls harassed and haunted by foes without and fears within. Nothing happens to the Lord at haphazard. What can threaten His existence, thwart His purpose, weaken His power, diminish the tenderness of His heart, or distract the wisdom of His judgment?

2. The immutability of His Word. “Thy Word is settled in heaven.” “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne,” etc. His Word is settled in heaven and issued from heaven, the seat of His government, and it cannot be altered on earth, this distant colony of His empire. We refer to God’s Word, therefore, in grievous difficulties with great confidence, because we know that every statement it contains is reliable.

3. The faithfulness of the fulfilment of that Word. “Thy faithfulness is unto all generations.” Those men who have trusted God’s Word in any generation have always found it true.

4. The perpetuity of the Word in nature. “Thou hast established the earth,” etc.

5. The perpetuity of the Word in experience (verse 92).

II. The delights which he experienced in the time of his trouble. It is in such seasons of acute distress, when this world has no palliative to offer, that God’s Word can minister infinite delights to soothe the distractions and heal the sorrows of the heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The eternal order

I. The source of the Divine order. “Heaven.” The heavens of creation declare the eternal order of the spiritual heavens. Be our views of the methods of creation what they may, it runs in the channels of the eternal order. Reflect upon it thus, as manifested in creation, moral government, redemption--in the infinitely great and the infinitely little.

II. Its stability. Thy Word is “settled” in heaven. It is not established upon the floods, by and by there shall be “no sea”; it is not founded upon the hills, by and by “the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed”; it is not dependent upon the astronomical heavens, for by and by heaven and earth shall itself pass away; it is settled in Heaven, whose light, strength, and stability is God. Much should be said of the breadth and universality of the eternal order.

III. Its permanence (verses 90, 91). The eternal order implies infinite prevision, conscious purpose, consistency of aim, absoluteness of authority, harmony of design, beyond the possibility of chance or change to affect; it is inclusive of all operations, interests, duties, and possibilities; a grand plan, of which Jesus Christ is the Administrator, the Bible, for us men, the completed Revelation and Clue; the Blood the Seal; the Holy Spirit the Agent; and Glory the Consummation.

1. Sin is violation of, and opposition to, the eternal Order. It is the way to certain destruction.

2. Salvation is the voluntary falling in, by faith in Christ and a life of holiness, with the eternal Order. “Thy statutes are my songs.”

3. The practical effect of the contemplation of the eternal Order should be a faith which fears no foe. (Joseph Morris.)

God’s Word fixed in Heaven

The great problem in the construction of large lighthouses upon high and necessarily exposed points is, how best to prevent oscillation or swaying of the structure in times of prevailing wind or storm. It may be readily perceived that any variation, however slight, in the direction of the rays of light from the lamps when the lighthouse is in use, as at night, would make very material difference to the mariner far out at sea. Ships guiding their course in the path of the lighthouse beams would he very liable to be thrust from the line of safety altogether, and thus there would be created the danger of serious disaster, if indeed not actually causing loss to life and property. But no such danger confronts the Christian mariner out upon life’s sea, for God’s guiding light, the lighthouse of the Scriptures, is “fixed in heaven.” (G. V. Reichell.)


Verse 91

Psalms 119:91

All are Thy servants.

All things are Thy servants

The psalmist finds God’s Word in nature, in the whole physical universe. To him the universal order spoke of One who ordered all things according to the good pleasure of His will. Behind all forces and laws he saw a Hand which still governed them, and a Heart which could still feel for those who suffered under the iron necessities of nature. Having found God in the outer world of nature he finds Him also in the inner world of providence. As life can only spring from life, so he believed that our life could only have come from the Living One. And human life is guided through its whole course, from generation to generation, and amid all the changes of time, by the true and faithful will in which it had its origin. If this is too large an inference to draw from the words, “Thy faithfulness is unto all generations,” it is amply warranted by these other words, “All things are Thy servants,” and the application of them which the psalmist makes to his own conditions and prospects. What is most difficult for us to grasp is the practical conclusion at which the psalmist arrives. We find much in nature which is friendly; we also find much that seems cruel and inimical to us. The evidence is not all on one side; and hence our verdict often hangs in doubt. It would be an unspeakable comfort to us to believe that all things serve God, and therefore serve us; but how can we believe it in the teeth of the cruel and sorrowful facts with which experience daily confronts us? If it was not impossible for him to believe in the truth and goodness of God, even when God hid Himself from him in clouds so dense and dark as these, it should not be impossible for us to know God better than he did, and have much more reason to trust Him. What else can we do? As we stand before the frowning mysteries of time and change, only one alternative is before us. Either we must understand them all ourselves, or hope to understand them, or we must confide in One who does understand them, though we do not. Therefore our only hope of rest and peace lies in trusting Him from whom nothing is hid, in believing that, because all things serve Him, all must serve us. Is such a faith impossible, or even unreasonable? Not if we believe in God at all, and in the Word of God. Faith is inevitable to those who know as little as we do. The only question is, what we shall believe, in whom we shall put our trust. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)


Verse 92-93

Psalms 119:92-93

Unless Thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.

God’s Word

I. A delight in God’s Word yields support in afflictions (verse 92). It is impossible to delight in God’s Word, containing as it does rich promises, and the revelation of a glorious future, without having resignation, fortitude, hope, etc.

II. A quickening by God’s Word yields imperishable memories.

1. God’s Word effects a moral quickening. It is the sunbeam, the rain, the resurrection trumpet.

2. The greatest event in the history of souls is moral quickening. It is a birth, a resurrection, etc.

3. The greatest event is always the most memorable. (Homilist.)

God’s law the delight of His people, in distress

I. What there is in the Word of God which tends to the delight of His people in distress.

1. The most comfortable discoveries.

2. The most comfortable promises, fitted to yield delight from their nature, their number, and their extent.

3. The most comfortable are examples of God’s compassion and grace in appearing for His people; as in the case of David, Job, and the three Hebrew worthies that were cast into the fiery furnace, and brought out unhurt.

4. The most comfortable provisions, and these suitable to the various characters which His saints are to bear, and the states they are in while they are in this world.

II. The persons to whose delight it actually conduces. They are the children of God, and none else.

1. They only are spiritually enlightened to discern the great and comfortable things contained in the Word of God.

2. They have the highest value for it.

3. They have their hearts and ways suited to it.

III. How is it that it does this?

1. As believed, considered, and applied by the saints.

2. As impressed and set home by the Spirit.

IV. When may a child of God find comfort from God’s Word?

1. In the times of great and sore affliction which they fall into while they live. It acquaints them--

2. It is fitted to delight them when they are called to die; and to do this as teaching them--

V. The nature of the delight or consolation derived from the Word.

1. It is truly divine, and the consolation of God. It has the Word of God for its ground, and the Spirit of God for its author.

2. It is real and solid (Psalms 119:14; Psalms 119:54).

3. It is rational and justifiable.

4. It is holy.

5. It is sometimes vigorous and strong.

6. It is the foretaste of heaven, and is working upward to meet that fulness of joy which there is in God’s presence.

Application

1. Is there so much in the Word of God to delight the soul? O what a dark disconsolate place would this earth be without it.

2. Get into the number of the children of God, who are the only ones prepared to take the comfort of His Word.

3. Under all your troubles run to the Word of God for relief; and in conversing with it, pray for the Spirit to enlighten your minds, sanctify your hearts, fit you to take comfort in it, and so to work in you the comfort He hath fitted you for.

4. And as ever you would have solid consolation--


Verse 94

Psalms 119:94

I am Thine, save me; for I have sought Thy precepts.

God the Owner and Saviour of man

I. Owner.

1. All men are His by necessity--

2. All good men are His by consecration. This surrender is man’s primary duty, the one act necessary to give moral worth and acceptance to all acts in life.

II. Saviour. “Save me”--

1. From practically ignoring Thy claims.

2. From acting inconsistently with Thy claims. (Homilist.)

The believer’s plea

I. The relation to God which is claimed in the text.

1. Its origin.

2. Its dignity and blessedness.

3. The duties involved in it.

4. The graces exemplified in pleading it.

5. The evidence by which this relation is supported:--“I have sought Thy precepts.”

II. The plea which the psalmist founds upon his relation to God. “Save me.” It is a brief petition, but it comprehends every blessing. It is the craving after spiritual freedom; the longing to be delivered from the bondage of corruption and the body of death, the panting to be transformed, renewed and sanctified. (C. F. Childe, M. A.)


Verse 96

Psalms 119:96

I have seen an end of all perfection; but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.

A sad moral discovery

I. The nature of this discovery. “An end of all perfection.” Material nature is perfect in all its departments and forms; but in human history no perfection is found. It is not found in the thoughts, affections, purposes, or actions of men. It is not found in men individually or collectively. Complete moral perfection is extinct.

1. This fact should humble us in the dust. The only property in man is character; and if his character is bad, man has nothing therefore of which to be proud. His own vileness should keep him in the dust.

2. This fact should startle us into effort. In moral imperfection there is guilt, ruin, hell. How to get rid of it is the great question, and should be the great object of life. For this all should labour supremely.

II. The means of this discovery. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Broad!

1. Because it embraces everything pertaining to man. Not only his outward actions and audible utterances, but the deepest and most secret feelings of his heart.

2. It embraces everything pertaining to every man. It takes in individuals, families, communities, Churches, and nations. In the light of this law moral imperfection is then everywhere. (Homilist.)

An end of perfection

I. The sorrowful confession--“I have seen an end of all perfection.”

1. There are severe limits to human knowledge. The wisest tell us their path leads to a point at which there is “no thoroughfare.” They encounter “the Unknowable.” All they know is, that there is more to be known.

2. There are severe limits to human enjoyment. The most attractive programme of pleasure palls. The gay monarch offers a fabulous sum for a “new pleasure.” Restless pleasure-seekers outpace even the devil’s ingenuity, for even he cannot make the programme hold out.

3. There are severe limits to human examples of excellence. We select our hero, and he enjoys our brief worship. But we find a flaw, and the homage fails. You need only know a man well enough to detect his weakness. A modern celebrity was asked if he believed in perfection: said he, “ No! I have seen too many perfect people.”

II. The joyful rejoinder--“But Thy commandment is exceeding broad.”

1. The “commandment” broadens beyond the limits of human knowledge. It reveals God--His counsels--eternity and its destinies. It presents us with a science of the unseen, and a redemption to which there is no human analogy.

2. The “commandment” is exceeding broad in the extent of the enjoyment it unfolds. It presents an infinite range of delights to man’s restless soul. It unseals infinite sources of pleasure. It teaches us to “joy in God.” It introduces a new, subtler, more refined and inexhaustible quality of happiness. We have Christ’s “joy fulfilled in” ourselves. We “enter into the joy of our Lord.” It ushers us into that Presence for ever, where there is “fulness of joy.”

3. It is “exceeding broad” in its provision for human attainment--its ideal. The Old Testament standard reaches the infinite word godly. The New Testament sets before us the example of Him in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Man’s soul can never be satisfied without a definite aim; yet at the same time an infinite aim. Here the conditions meet--“The stature of a man in Christ Jesus.” Application--And this “commandment” is nigh thee!--now! (Walter Hawkins.)

An end of all perfection

The psalmist in this verse speaks of a twofold experience in the form of an antithesis. All life is an antithesis. We touch the transient and the everlasting, the finite and the boundless, the explored and unexplored, at every turn.

I. He speaks of the transient and finite. He had observed that there was a great deal of perfection--many good and perfect gifts--in the world.

1. In nature. The revolving seasons, the flowers that bloom, the fruit that ripens, and the sun that shines, are each beautiful in its time. But every summer has its winter, every flower dies, all fruit decays, and every day has its night. Transiency and limitation are written upon everything. There must be a constant replenishing, or the universe would be bankrupt. The same forces are preserved and resuscitated by new combinations, and directed to new uses. The conservation of force is a means by which God upholds nature, else it would collapse.

2. In human history. The rise and fall of empires--the might of the sword--the power of governments--the sway of know-ledge--the charm of fame--the influence of wealth--are all transient. It is this “end” that perplexes men.

3. In religious externalities. Many symbols and ceremonials have come and gone. They have lost their meaning in realities. The pillars of cloud and of fire have vanished: the manna has ceased. The tabernacle, the temple, and their ritual have passed away. Even religious structures like the temple, which, of all buildings, supply the strongest resistance to the wear and tear of time, fall into decay and ruin.

4. In individual and social life. Man exhausts everything. As we advance in life all attainment dwarfs in the presence of new ideals. The ideal of the Hebrew, through the revelation of God, was very high. Contrast the self-complacency of the Greek with the consciousness of non-attainment on the part of the holiest Hebrews. Where there is no conception of holiness there can be no adequate conception of infirmity and sin, and even of non-attainment. So far, however, the psalmist has not said all; nor even the half. It were a sad tale were that all. “But” is the remedial point in the verse.

II. The psalmist speaks of the comprehensive and permanent--“Thy commandment is exceeding broad.”

1. It was comprehensive. It applied to men’s thoughts and motives, as well as their words and deeds. It touched life and emphasized responsibility at every point. It left no void space, no gap or chink for the guilty to escape. It presented the divine ideal of perfection.

2. It was permanent. Our Lord teaches us that heaven and earth shall pass away; but that not a jot or tittle of the law shall pass. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the Atonement. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” Our supreme hope is to be like Him. “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself as He is pure.” He is “changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord,” and thus becomes “perfect in Christ Jesus.” (D. Davies.)

An end of all perfection

“I have seen an end of all perfection.” The man who has set his whole heart on things earthly,--no matter whether successful or unsuccessful,--comes to this at last. We should not care so much for words like these, if we regarded them only as the bitter judgment of one whose plans for life had been thwarted and blighted: we should then esteem them as the jaundiced conclusion of one who disparaged what he could not attain to: it would be a case in point to the ancient fable of the creature that cried down the fruit it could not reach. But the same estimate of this life has been reached by the earnest believer. He too has told us that all that is required that a human being should in this world see “an end of all perfection,” is that such a one should live in this world long enough to let hasty impressions die away; and to arrive at those “second thoughts” of it which are proverbially “best.” Yet while the case is so, that believer and unbeliever alike may express an estimate of the life in the selfsame words, there is this great difference between the two. To the man who has “set his affection on things on the earth,” it is unmingled bitterness to find that they will not suffice: he has nothing else to look to: if they fail him, then all is lost. But the believer’s treasure is not in this world: it is laid up where neither moth nor rust can corrupt, and where no thief can break through and steal: he has laid up for himself treasure in heaven: and that grandest possession of humanity, a part in the crucified Saviour, a soul renewed by the blessed Spirit, is a thing whose worth cannot fluctuate nor decay: always and everywhere the one thing needful.

I. The psalmist said these words truly, and we may say them truly, as to the happiness this world can yield. The psalmist did not say, and no more do we, that in this world there is no happiness at all. What is said is that there is no perfection of happiness: no life which is evenly joyous or evenly cheerful. The heavy, bitter blow falls now and then; and there are manifold drawbacks from the pleasantest earthly lot; a thousand little anxieties, vexations,--well, there is no better word, worries: things which, if they do not absolutely embitter the cup of existence, certainly deprive it of all right to be called the perfection of worldly good.

II. We may say these words with truth, in regard to the excellence of the people we know.

III. We have learned to little purpose, if we have not done the same in regard to ourselves: our own good purposes, our own devout feelings, our own faith, and hope, and charity. It is a lame life we lead: it is but a very rough approximation to the right line. In some kind of way we keep to religious rule; but we need not even talk of perfection who know that we come short, in everything we do. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

The temporal and the eternal

Those of you who have visited Henry the Seventh’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey must have noticed in the south-east corner the tomb of Dean Stanley and that of his wife, Lady Augusta There are many words engraven on the stone beneath Dean Stanley’s tomb, and at the foot of them are the words of our text (P. B. Version). The words may well be taken as an epitome of the Dean’s life. He saw an end of all perfection, he saw that all things human pass away, but he held on to the great eternal truths of religion, knowing that God’s commandment, like God’s love, is exceeding broad.

I. The temporal. “I see that all things come to an end.” We live in a world of change; nothing is lasting, nothing is permanent down here. The little life of man, the little work of man sooner or later comes to an end. “I see that all things come to an end.” The beautiful summer-time which delights us all changes at last into the long dreary winter. Nature changes, “the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” There are changes in public life as well as in private life; changes abroad and changes at home; changes in our own individual lives. The boy changes into the young man; school life is over. The young man changes into the man in his prime; youth is over. And old age creeps on, then cometh the end. Whether it be beauty, or wit, or learning, or pleasure, or honour, or position, or riches, experience will soon show us the end of all these things.

II. The writer turns from the temporal to the eternal. He tries to fix our minds on the one Supreme Being who never passes away. “I am the Lord, I change not.” “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” The great Rock of Ages remains unalterably the same.

1. God’s love is exceeding broad.

2. His forgiveness.

3. His mercy.

4. His power to save.

5. His Church.

6. Heaven.

We may differ in opinion down here, we cannot all think alike on earth, but there will be perfect unity there, for heaven, like God’s commandment, is exceeding broad. (A. E. W. Lait.)

Perfection only in God’s law

I. The imperfection that is ascribed to all created objects.

1. Everything pertaining to the present world, its riches, honours, and enjoyments so earnestly coveted by carnal minds, will be found greatly deficient in their promised good when weighed in a just and equal balance. Experience proves them incapable of affording satisfaction; they first allure, and then deceive, and raise our expectations only for the purpose of producing disappointment.

2. There is nothing perfect in the Church of God, collectively considered, though it is composed of the excellent of the earth, in all ages and parts of the world. The tares and the wheat grow together until harvest.

3. The same imperfection which marks the general body attaches to the character of individual believers in various degrees; for as is the root, so are the branches.

4. As the psalmist had seen an end of all perfection in others, so also in himself; and this is what the best of men have seen in their own characters as well as he. There is neither intellectual nor moral perfection to be found on earth.

II. The perfection that is ascribed to the Divine law.

1. It includes the whole of our duty towards God, ourselves, and our neighbour.

2. It extends to all persons and to characters of every description.

3. Its dominion reaches to the inward ‘as well as to the outward man, the heart as well as the life. It rules over the understanding, for obedience is founded in knowledge; the will, which must be bowed to the will of God; the affections, which are required to be set supremely on Him.

4. It comprehends the manner of our obedience, as well as the matter of it, and shows that nothing can be acceptable but what proceeds from a right principle. Love is the fulfilling of the law, both as to its spirit and design.

5. Its authority is perpetual, reaching forward to eternity. It is a perfect transcript of the Divine mind, and is necessarily as unchangeable as its great original (Psalms 119:89; Psalms 119:152).

6. It is exceeding broad with respect to its sanctions, or the rewards which it promises and the punishments it inflicts. (B. Beddoms, M. A.)

Human limitation and Divine breadth

The psalmist’s words imply what Jesus and His apostles taught with far greater fulness, not only that while man changes, God changes not., but that man may rise out of change in boundless progress by active obedience to the commandment, that is, by living and practical communion with the Divine will.

The breadth of God’s commandment

The true relation of the two parts of this verse to each other seems to be that of contrast. Here is something called “perfection” existing among men in a great variety of forms. “But,” says the psalmist, “according to my experience and observation, these are altogether too superficial, and too precarious, and too short-lived to make men happy, and the very best of them, the idealisms of human life, as we have seen, can never be attained. But ‘Thy commandment is exceeding broad,’ and that will do, unless men hinder, what nothing else will do.” “Thy commandment is exceeding broad;” we say all when we say that it is as broad as the Divine nature, and that is limitless and eternal; beyond all bounds, above all heights, beneath all depths. “As the man is, so is his strength.” As God is, so is His commandment, word, will, and way. And what does it tell me? It tells me that these earthly and human “perfections.” which can never be realized, even the partial realizations of which so soon begin to fade and fall into ruin, are yet, if I will, the symbol to my faith of that which will not deceive, will not fail, and that all will come to me through this very law or commandment which is “exceeding broad,” because it is Gospel. It seems to shut the door of hope, only that it may fling it more widely open. It seems to lock and bar the prison gates, only that they may be burst asunder by a conquering Redeemer, and that the very walls of the prison-house may be thrown to the ground, while the prisoners are called into largeness and eternal liberty. Then they begin to find the commandment of God, in this better, sweeter sense, “exceeding broad.” It is the high but fair standard to which they conform; it is, at the same time, the power that upholds and strengthens while such conformity is sought. It is an education, a development, a joy that never palls; a prospect that is never darkened, although our eyes are not always open to see it. It is high above us and away beyond us, yet it is always bending down to help us, and never casts an unfriendly look, and never speaks in a harsh tone. It is the very soul of consideration, and tenderness, and grace. It seems to speak to us as though it were a God, and says, “Cast all your cares on me. I am broad enough, and strong enough to bear them all. I am for God in this world, I--His Gospel commandment, with law, and love, and light in it--I am the will of God and His uplifting power, and all whom I bless I lead onwards to more and more, to better and better, never lowering the standard, never suspending the education, never suffering a limit to be put to it. Ever teaching my subjects that the law of life they have in me is a law of breadth, liberty, enlargement, until the scantiness and the failures of earth are exchanged for the fulnesses and the realizations of heaven.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The breadth of God’s commandment

There is an ancient tradition that Abraham, as he stood on the hills above Damascus, was converted to the true faith in one God, from the worship of the heavenly bodies, by observing that the stars, the moon, and the sun, however bright and glorious, at last sank, and were succeeded by others. “I like not,” he said, “those that set;” and so turned to the one unchangeable Lord and Maker of all. This, but in a higher and more precise form, is the force of the psalmist’s argument. He prefers--and we ought to prefer--the commandment, the revelation of God, not only because it lasts longer than anything else, but because it includes, and comprehends, and absorbs into itself all that there is good in everything else.

1. “I see that all things come to an end.” So we may say of all human institutions and customs, especially when we have gone through many lands, and seen many forms of opinion and worship.

2. “I see that there is a boundary beyond which they cannot pass”--I see that the institutions of the West come to an end almost abruptly when they reach the extremity of Europe. I see that the institutions of the East come to an end no less abruptly when they reach the extremity of Asia. We have followed each to their utmost limit; they cannot pass farther. But there is one thing which is broad enough to embrace them both and cross them both, namely, the commandment of God.

3. “I see that all earthly pleasures and enjoyments, one after another, have their natural ending.” Not only wicked and selfish pleasures, which last only for the moment of their gratification, but innocent, just, good enjoyments, of necessity come to an end, or pass into something else. “But the commandment of God is exceeding broad.” God’s commandment widens, opens, and expands with new interests, enjoyments, affections, hopes, at every successive step we take, till we find ourselves at last in that Presence where there is indeed fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore.

4. “I see that all human greatness comes to an end.” Every station in life, however great or prosperous, has its drawbacks, its checks, its limits. But moral or Christian greatness is “exceeding broad.” The basis on which it is built up is as broad and firm as the conscience and heart of man, as the grace and goodness of God. Even the most far-reaching intellect and its effects come to an end at last. Look at those greatest of all monuments of the mind of man--books. How rapidly they come to an end! One Book alone has outlasted many generations, in all nations equally, and that is the Bible; and this is because of its “exceeding breadth”--because it embraces every variety and element of thought, and every phase of society; above all, because it embodies in every part the moral commandment of God, which endures for ever in heaven, and which speaks not to one condition of life only, but to all.

5. “I see that all human characters come to an end.” How often do we see those who are good and wise up go a certain point, but beyond that we come, as it were, to a precipice--they break down, as we say; we wonder that, being so good as they are, they are not better; that, being as wise as they are, they are not wiser. One Character there is which is so “exceeding broad” as to grasp and overlap all others. This is the true sign of the Divinity of the character of Christ.

6. “I see that human life comes to an end.” Our earthly life, the earthly life of those whom we have known and loved, is cut short by that dark abyss into which we cannot penetrate, and over which our thoughts can hardly pass. But God’s commandment, and the fulfilment of God’s commandments, is “exceeding broad”; it is broad enough to span even that wide and deep river which parts this life and the next. For it is this which makes this life and the next life one. Knowledge, prophecies, gifts of all kinds pass away, but the love of God and the love of man never fail.

7. Yes, “I see that all things come to an end.” I see that human systems, human pleasures, human greatness, human wisdom, human excellence, human life, come to an end. But the commandment, the revelation, of God never comes to an end, because God Himself is Infinite--God, whom we adore in His three infinite perfections. (Dean Stanley.)

The wisdom of religion

Thy law; that is, the rule of our duty natural and revealed; or, in a word, religion, which consists in the knowledge and practice of the laws of God, is of greater perfection than all other things which are so highly valued in this world; for the perfection of it is infinite, and of a vast influence and extent; it reacheth to the whole man, to the happiness of body and soul; to our whole duration, both in this world and the next; of this life, and of that which is to come.

I. The reasonableness of religion, which is able to give a very good account of itself, because it settles the mind of man upon a firm basis, and keeps it from rolling in perpetual uncertainty; whereas atheism and infidelity wants a stable foundation; it centres nowhere but in the denial of God and religion, and yet substitutes no principle, no tenable and constituent scheme of things, in the place of them.

II. The wisdom of religion.

1. True wisdom begins and is founded in religion, in the fear of God, and in the keeping of His commandments.

2. This is the perfection of wisdom; there is no wisdom without this, nor beyond it.

3. The next point of wisdom is to make all things stoop and become subservient to our main end. And wherever religion bears sway, it will make all other things subordinate to the salvation of our souls, and the interests of our everlasting happiness; as the men of this world make everything to submit and give way to their covetous, and ambitious, and sensual designs.

4. Another part of wisdom is to consider the future, and to look to the last end and issue of things. It is a common folly among men to be so intent upon the present as to have little or no regard to the future, to what will be hereafter. But religion gives us a clear prospect of a life after death, and overlooks time, and makes eternity always present to us, and minds us of making timely provision and preparation for it.

5. Again, another main point of wisdom is, to do as little as we can to be repented of, trusting rather to the wisdom of prevention than to that of remedy. Religion first teacheth men innocency, and not to offend; but in case we do (as in many things we offend all), it then directs us to repentance as the only remedy.

6. The last character of wisdom I shall mention is in all things to consult the peace and satisfaction of our own minds, without which nothing else can make us happy; and this obedience to the laws of God does naturally procure. (Abp. Tillotson.)

Finality and progress

One of the greatest fallacies with which we have to contend in modern times is the opinion that everything of the nature of finality in religion--everything of the nature of clear and settled conviction--is opposed to the progress of the world and the liberty of the individual. It is assumed by some that progress consists in a perpetual movement from one position to another, rather than the steady upward movement of a tree from its root or of a building from its fixed foundation. They think of progress as a leaving of the past continually behind us, and an advancing towards the future; and that, consequently, whatever claims to be fixed, immovable, and determinate, whatever says to the advancing waves Of human power and ambition, “Thus far shalt thou come, but not farther,” puts an arrest upon the progress of the world that ought not to be put, and fetters the legitimate action of the human spirit. Hence the outcry against creeds and dogmas of every kind as things to be entirely shaken off. It is said that they must all of them be of necessity transitional and temporary, because they are attempts to formulate a something--a something that is for ever beyond us, and is no sooner formulated than the mind has already travelled beyond its own conception. What I wish to point out is that we cannot escape finality in some shape or form if we are to think at all. We must have clear and settled convictions of some kind; but this finality of thought, when truly come to, is not in the least degree opposed to liberty or progress. It is indeed the very starting point and permanent ground of all that is true in the progress of the world. The text appears to afford a very suitable basis for such a theme. The psalmist says, “I have seen an end of all perfection.” There is the finality, the fixed and determinate position; but he also says, “Thy commandment is nevertheless exceeding broad”; there is the room for growth, for progress--there we have the free and indeterminate element. There is, indeed, a certain opposition at first sight between the two clauses of the text; but there is no real opposition. In the ground of the matter they are substantially and essentially one. Take the letters of the English alphabet. Here you have from twenty to thirty absolutely fixed signs--no more than that; and we are not at liberty to add to or to alter one of them. Here we have finality surely. And yet upon that fixed and limited basis all human thought and human speech are built. The Bible and Shakespeare, with all their subtle essence of thought and wonders of expression, are reducible to twenty-six letters. Why is it that no one says, “What an absurd thing it is to chain the genius of the world to twenty or thirty little signs that can be made upon a sheet of paper! How can those signs, invented, moreover, in remote antiquity, be adequate to the wants of the world to-day? Such finality is the enemy of progress.” To talk in that way about the alphabet would indicate the madman, because the mastering of those twenty-six letters is the beginning of all our progress. And yet that is precisely how many talk in regard to the doctrines and facts of Christianity. They say that to fix anything here is to make progress impossible. What I say is that the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are no more the unalterable basis of all our learning than the essential doctrines of Christianity, as clearly formulated and tabulated as they can be, are the basis of all that is true in the spiritual history and progress of the world. The same thing may be said of any other branch of learning, Bay of arithmetic or of mathematics, with its rigid formularies and absolutely fixed signs. Out of the nine units of arithmetic the whole science of numbers is evolved. Those fixed factors that lie at the foundation of the whole, and out of which the whole arises, put no arrest upon the thinking mind at all. So far from that, the mind could not take one step without them, and it would be thrown into confusion if one of them were altered. What I plead for is that in this matter of finality and progress people should apply to religious truth the common sense they apply to other subjects; and they ought not to object that finality in religion puts an end to progress when they find in every other sphere that it is the very basis and spring of all the liberty we require. The Sabbath law and the Bible, the Church and its Sacraments, with its essential creed--with regard to all these important matters a certain amount of finality has undoubtedly been reached. They represent a certain number of ultimate facts; the essential explanation of which we unquestionably have in our possession. Those ultimate facts, those fixed and determinate conclusions about God and Christ, about life and death, about sin and salvation--those great facts do not stand in the way of the liberty of man or the most perfect freedom of thought. Instead of that, they are the foundation of the world’s peace, and the perennial spring of all its progress. In a word, the more finality we have truly come to, so much the more liberty and progress we also may have. When a young person goes on from one stage of learning to another, from the letters of the alphabet to numbers, and circles, and squares, and from these, again, to all the definite and fixed forms of science and art, he is coming to finality at every step, he is fixing matters permanently in his mind, from stage to stage, all along the line. Is he thereby putting fetters upon himself? You know that it is not so. You know that he is advancing in the path of liberty and power. Those clear and settled ideas which he takes into his mind, from stage to stage, are but stepping-stones in the upward and onward path of his progress. “Eternal process moving on from state to state the spirit walks.” And not only may he “wear all that weight of learning lightly as a flower,” but the whole burden of existence is becoming lighter and lighter to him the more clearly he sees into the heart of the whole. Every clear idea, fixed and final as it is, that takes possession of his mind, is lifting him above the fact of which it is the idea--the otherwise hard and oppressive fact. It is thus that man rises superior to time and circumstances, misfortune and chance. Those clear and settled convictions as they arise within his mind one by one, like stars coming out in the midnight sky, and as they form themselves into a harmony of lights within the being--what are they but the mighty leverage by which the man himself is lifted up out of the bondage of darkness and spiritual death into the light and liberty of perfect truth, and by which he is enabled to breath at last the very atmosphere of eternity? (F. Ferguson, D. D.)

God’s perfect law our despair and our comfort

We may read the words in two ways.

1. “I have seen an end of all perfection; for Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Read in this way they suggest the animating thought that our haunting consciousness of imperfection springs from the bright and awful perfection of the law we are bent on obeying, of the Ideal we have set before us. It is not because we are worse than those who are without law, or who are a law unto themselves, that we are restless and dissatisfied with ourselves; but because we measure both ourselves and our fellows by the lofty standards of God’s commandment. That commandment is so broad, that we cannot embrace it; it is so high, that we cannot attain to it; it is so perfect, that we cannot perfectly obey it.

2. But we may read the verse in another way, and still derive comfort and encouragement from it. We may say: “I have seen an end of all perfection in myself, and in the world; but Thy commandment is exceeding broad: that is perfect, though I am imperfect, and in its perfection I find the promise of my own.” For shall God give a law for human life, and that law remain for ever unfulfilled? Impossible! “The gifts of God are without repentance”--irreversible, never to be lessened or withdrawn. His purpose is not to be made of none effect by our weaknesses and sins. In the law He has shown us what He would have us be. And shall we never become what He would have us to be? Can the law remain for ever without any life that corresponds to it and fulfils it? Nay, God will never take back the fair and perfect ideal of human life depicted in His law, never retract His purpose to raise the life of man till it touches and fulfils that ideal. And so the very law which is our despair is our comfort also, for if that be perfect we must become perfect; its perfection is the pledge of ours. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)


Verse 97

Psalms 119:97

O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Love to the Scriptures

I. They are indubitably authenticated and divinely inspired. 1 The concurrent testimony of Jew and Gentile, of friend and foe, borne through successive ages to the present time, ascertains their authenticity and truth.

2. Existing rites and festivals attest the truth of sacred history.

3. The veracity and accuracy of the inspired books received additional confirmation from the undesigned coincidences of expression in the writings of the sacred penmen, with the relations of facts and occurrences by others, or those narrated by themselves on other occasions.

4. But it is not mere accuracy for which we contend, but also for the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. They were written under the direction and influence of the Holy Ghost.

II. They are the only infallible depositories of all true theology and morals.

III. They have been transmitted to us without any material alterations or corruptions.

IV. They have survived the most rigorous attempts of Paganism and superstition to suppress or destroy them.

V. The scriptures are every way deserving of incessant and delightful study.

1. They develop the origin and destination of man.

2. They unveil the dispensations of Divine Providence.

3. They unfold the astonishing mysteries of redemption.

4. They contain the most sublime morality.

5. They reveal the solemnities of eternity. (J. Townley, D. D.)

Reasons for Loving the Bible

I. Its authorship. It is the Word of God: its contents were dictated by eternal wisdom; its laws are the laws of heaven; its teachings are the teachings of Jehovah. It is an embodiment of the eternal mind God has adopted every method for instructing man. When teaching us about Himself, His milder character is painted in a thousand hues, delightfully blended. Instead of employing a pen, He ordered the sun to photograph His lovelier attributes upon the landscape; while His majesty stands out in bold relief in mountains whose snow-capped heads, towering in haughty grandeur, appear to prop up with their broad based pillar-like support, the spacious firmament. But His mind, in reference to man, is conveyed in the language of men, by inbreathing His thoughts and intentions into the minds of the sacred penmen, and then, by His Spirit’s infallible unerringness, guiding the hand to write them. When James

I. wrote a book for the edification of his son Charles, it was pompously called by that high-sounding title, “Basilikon Doron”--a royal gift. How much more may the Bible be called “A royal gift,” since its Author is the King of kings--compared with whose kingliness the greatest and brightest of earthly crowns no more resembles royalty than a crown of thorns does one sparkling with diamonds! Not only is this Book a royal, but a parental, gift-the gift of our heavenly Father: a Book dedicated to, and designed for, the eternal benefit of His children. Yes, it is our Father’s legacy to us.

II. Its contents. The very first sentence of Scripture dispels a dark cloud of ignorance, which for ages enveloped the most learned and far-seeing sages of the Grecian schools. Even to that great emporium of learning, Athens, the world’s origin was enchambered, locked up in some dark, mysterious recess, to which she herself could find no key. But in the very first sentence of the Bible we see the Omnipotent Jehovah emerging from the still quiet of eternal solitude, speaking His creative fiat, and a world is born. Not only do we learn our origin, but our destiny. This was one of the most perplexing enigmas which the ancients tried--but tried in vain--to solve. A dense mist hung heavily over the boundaries of the spirit world, which no optic glass of man’s device could penetrate. The wisest and best of heathen philosophers could not follow man beyond the horizon of death.

III. Its style. Here one finds the most majestic imagery, the sublimest figures, and the noblest strains of eloquence. Here is found poetry unparalleled for grandeur, pathos, and fire. “No songs,” says Milton, “are like the songs of Zion.” Here, in touching, melting passionateness, we are told the most affecting narratives; and here are pictures true to the very life, pencilled from the old world scenery. And though the book is comparatively small, what biographical encyclopaedia ever contained so much useful history?

IV. Its power.

V. Its suitability for our needs in all circumstances. It is the guide of youth and the staff of old age. No other lamp sheds such a bright, cheering radiance, as this does, to relieve the gloom in the chamber of sickness. It is a garden of healing balm for the wounded spirit; and to those who are tempest-tossed it affords many a peaceful haven to take refuge in. And then, this is the only book which contains light enough to guide us through the valley of the shadow of death. Shining brightest in the dark, it is then more than ever a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (G. Terry.)

The love of the law

Many have expressed their indebtedness to this long psalm for encouragement, inspiration, direction. It has been a rod and a staff to comfort them. It might seem at first that such expressions as abound in this psalm cannot be applied to the law as we understand the term. This is an ill-advised opinion, and marks some mental confusion, for in truth law is exceedingly interesting. I do not know of any men who are more enamoured of their profession than lawyers. But I mark that two things are connected with the pleasure which these men have in their calling. There are two terms which are constantly used. I ask what a young man is doing, and I am told that he is studying law. I ask the same question a few years later, and I am told he is practising law. These two things belong in the delight of the man of the law, and are essential to its permanence. It is not enough that one should have a collection of law-books, should occasionally read in them, should admire very many things which they contain; but he must make a patient study of the law, and faithfully apply its principles to the interests of men. Grant me these two things, and I will promise a true delight in the law of the Lord. The law of the Lord includes all the announcements of His will. It embraces the Ten Commandments and all the legislation of Moses. The teachings of the prophets belong in it, and the words of Christ Himself and of His apostles. The term is now to be used in a wider sense than when this unknown psalmist pronounced his eulogium upon the statutes and testimonies of the law. It is the entire will of God, as this is given for the government of our life.

I. Why should we love the law of the Lord?

1. Because it is the Lord’s law. It is His nature expressing itself. God is love, and law is love, guiding the men it loves. It is the revelation of His heart. Kings make laws: God reveals them. It is quietly given to us, not amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, but by voices long silent, in the pages of the Bible, in our conscience and reason. It is given in principles, not in regulations. It is given in outline, which we are to complete by such precepts as our life demands.

2. The law of the Lord is right. It is perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. It fosters the right; it secures honesty in business, integrity in government, charity in society. It enlarges our joy. The fullest declaration we have of it begins with the note of pleasure. “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” So the Sermon on the Mount, more strict in its requirements than the Decalogue, opens with the Beatitudes. “Blessed and blessed,” and from this beginning, the Teacher gives His precepts that the kindness of His heart may be fully enjoyed by those who hear Him. The law gives security also. It is the rule of the best. It is the guidance of the wisest. You wish to sail in the ship which has the best captain, and the one who is furnished with the best charts and compasses. In all our way through this world, with its confusion and its peril, we should love the law of the Lord which will guide us safely and in honour.

3. Again, the law of the Lord is the law of heaven. Its principles belong in all the worlds. The loftiest angel and the humblest man of all the redeemed observe this taw with delight. The best proof that men are going to heaven is that they love the law of God before they reach its gate; that they delight to meditate in the law, to follow its commands, to live in its control. Unless this is true of us here, it can be little pleasure to anticipate the life in a world where the law of the Lord wilt surround us like the atmosphere, to be breathed in to-day and for ever.

4. Finally, we should love the law of the Lord because it is the law of Christ. It pervaded His life. “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” “I do always those things which please Him.”

II. If we approve this which has been said, and agree that we should truly love the law of the Lord, the question may still come to our minds, By what means shall I love it? I cannot compel my affection, though I could readily bring myself to obey the statutes. Yet delight in the law would not be more difficult than obedience if we would take the steps which lead to it.

1. If we are to love the law of the Lord, it is essential that we should know it. It has those attractive qualities which will commend themselves to any honest mind. It comes to us as the heart of God, and our heart will respond to it if we are true. It is not by admiring it afar off, by passing it upon the street and becoming familiar with its appearance, by being courteous and showing it favours, but by knowing it as one knows his friend. You think you knew the law of the Lord; but have you lived with it, taken it into your counsel, walked with it?

2. We find the love of the law by taking it from Christ. It is expressed in His life, it is spoken by His lips. The melody of a song depends greatly upon the voice of the singer. The law of the Lord has too often been spoken by human lips which had little grace upon them. Hear Christ teach the law. Mark the tone of His voice, the accent, the emphasis. See the radiance of His face. Mark the grace and truth which are upon Him, and the love of the law will spring readily in your heart. I wish that I could persuade you to try this. To do the will of God is a pleasant thing. Let us believe it, and live in the delight of it.

3. But if love delays to come, let us obey with all the heart we have, and all which rises at our summons; let us do the things which God would have us do. This will be right, and the beginning of right living, and the love will grow with the doing of His will till meditation will be delightful and obedience will be the freedom of a great joy. It is a good sign when a man loves the law of the Lord. One may be judged by what he loves. “There is something magnificent in having a country to love.” There is something magnificent in having a God to love, and in having the heart to love Him. Happy man, that he can find solace in the statutes of God! Happy is he in his companions that they can enjoy the singing of his testimonies! Thus they charm away the weariness of the march, still their minds for the night, gather hope for the morning. (A. MeKenzie, D. D.)


Verse 99-100

Psalms 119:99-100

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
--

Inward virtues to the truth of the Gospel

1. By obeying the commands of Scripture we learn that these commands really come from God; by trying we make proof; by doing we come to know. Now, how comes this to pass? It happens in several ways.

2. The Bible, then, seems to say, “God is not a hard master to require belief, without affording grounds for believing; only follow your own sense of right, and you will gain from that very obedience to your Maker, which natural conscience enjoins, a conviction of the truth and power of that Redeemer whom a supernatural message has revealed; do but examine your thoughts and doings; do but attempt what you know to be God’s will, and you will most assuredly be led on into all the truth: you will recognize the force, meaning, and awful graciousness of the Gospel Creed; you will bear witness to the truth of one doctrine, by your own past experience of yourselves; of another, by seeing that it is suited to your necessity; of a third, by finding it fulfilled upon your obeying it. As the prophet says (Malachi 3:10). (J. H. Newman, B. D.)

The intellectual power of revelation -

I. The power of religious knowledge.

II. The inferiority of mere intellectual attainments. The meanest student of Scripture is wiser than the most learned professor of scientific knowledge. He is wiser--

1. Scientifically. Boasted science is all chaff; after all, it comes back to the Scripture.

2. Morally. No system of ethics is perfect but the Scripture system.

3. Practically. No other writers can tell of what is beyond and what is the course to be pursued in relation thereto.

III. The power available, to all. Meditation on God’s testimonies. Meditation includes--

1. Reading. This is the first step.

2. Digesting. Dwelling on, feeding upon, making them part of our intellectual selves.

3. Carrying out in action. The real test of all consists in development and the outward proof of the inward principle. (Homilist.)

The only path to the highest wisdom

I. Meditation on the Divine. It is by meditation alone that men become philosophers and artists; by it they penetrate the veil of phenomena, descry and grasp the eternal principles that govern the universe. By it alone we can get mental nourishment. From the impressions that are made upon us, the observations we make, and the thoughts that flash through us from the works we read. It is the digestive faculty of the soul. As the best food taken into the stomach is not only useless, but injurious to the system if not digested, so the richest information rather encumbers than strengthens the soul if not reflected upon. But the subject of meditation must be Divine in order to reach the highest wisdom. “Thy testimonies.” Meditations upon human history, speculation, or enterprise, will conduct to a certain kind of wisdom, but not to the highest wisdom--the wisdom that cometh from on high.

II. Practising the Divine. “I keep Thy precepts.” it is only as a man translates his ideas into actions that they become part of himself. The greatest ideas of God are comparatively worthless unless embodied in life. In temporal matters the highest philosophy helps on the world just as its theories are reduced to practice. “Genuine work alone,” says Carlyle, “what thou workest faithfully, that is eternal as the Almighty Founder and World Builder Himself.” (Homilist.)


Verse 103

Psalms 119:103

How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The best Christmas fare

I like this way of describing the reception of God’s Word as a matter of eating, for a man cannot eat God’s Word without living.
There is a reality about the faith which eats; there is a something there most sure, which contains the elements of salvation, for tasting is a spiritual sense which implies nearness. This idea of tasting God’s Word contains the thought of receptiveness. A man may hear a thing and, as we say, it goes in at one ear and out at the other; but that which a man gets into his mouth till he tastes it, and it is sweet to his palate, well, he has received that. Tasting is also a personal matter. There is no possibility of my eating for you.

I. I call your attention to an exclamation. The text contains two notes of exclamation or admiration. It is evidently the utterance of one who is somewhat surprised, one who has a thought which he cannot adequately express. The thought is also one which gives much delight to the writer, for he exclaims, “How sweet,” etc.

1. It is a matter of wonder to many to find the Gospel so sweet when the soul first tastes it.

2. This may also be the exclamation of a soul cheered by still tasting the Gospel.

3. I reckon that this language of exclamation and admiration will also come from the most advanced saint, increasing in knowledge of the Gospel, the believer who has studied the Word of God most earnestly, and who has had the deepest experience in it. Other books are soon done with, but the Bible is never fully understood.

II. Take the text as a statement, a cool statement of matters of fact. He never speaks more than the truth even when he is most emphatic, so that I am sure that David means to tell us here that God’s words were sweet to him.

1. They were unutterably sweet: “How sweet!” but he does not tell us how sweet they were. There is no describing the flavours of a royal banquet, there is no picturing to a man who has not the sense of smell the fragrance of a delicious perfume; and you must personally know the sweetness of the Word of God, for to us it is positively unutterable.

2. This much, however, the psalmist does utter: he tells us that God’s words are surpassingly sweet, for, says he, “They are sweeter than honey.”

3. He also says that all God’s words are thus unutterably sweet to him.

4. And at all times.

III. A repetition. “How sweet are Thy words unto my taste!” Well, that is all right, David; we understand you. “Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Is not that saying the same thing twice over? Yes, and intentionally so, because God’s Word is sweet to His people in many ways, and many times over.

1. As I have already said to you, it is very sweet in its reception. When we first take it into our heart, and feed upon it, it is very precious; but, spiritually, men are something like ruminating animals, they have the power of feeding again, and again, and again, on that which they have once received.

2. But do you not think that the repetition in the text means something else, namely, that while, first of all, Christ’s Word is very sweet to cur taste, there is another sweetness when we get it into our mouth, not so much for our own eating, as speaking of it to others? There is great sweetness about the declaration of God’s words.

3. There is a very special sweetness about preaching Christ, in the public proclamation of His Word. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Scripture as honey

I. Honey is exceedingly sweet to the taste ( 14:18).

II. Honey, if it be added or put into other things that are bitter, will take away in a great measure their bitterness. So when the soul is under affliction, temptation, persecution, for Christ’s sake, if God be pleased to add some of the sweet promises of the Word--how wonderfully is the bitter abated.

III. But notwithstanding that honey is so sweet and pleasant, yet there are some men who do not care for it. Sinners are so glutted with the filthy trash of this world that they loathe the honeycomb.

IV. Naturalists affirm that honey is of a healing nature, and serves for a great number of uses.

V. Honey is also of a purifying efficacy. (Anon.)


Verse 105

Psalms 119:105

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

The Divine lamp

God’s Word as a lamp is--

I. Ever needful. Man needs a guide through life. His mental eyes are dim, and the road is drear, intricate, and dark.

II. Always available. It Suits every path in life. The path of the young and aged, the celibate and the married, the rich and the poor, the merchant, statesman, and philosopher, etc.

III. All-sufficient. It throws light on every conceivable step in life, and the light is clear and sufficient. None need stumble anywhere who hold it before them.

IV. Inextinguishable. It burns as brightly in the hands of the youngest disciple to-day as it did in the hands of the old patriarchs. It is a quenchless light. The advancing intelligence of humanity will never supersede its necessity or dim its lustre. (Homilist.)

God’s guiding light for heavenward travellers

I. It directs the intending traveller to the starting-point--to the point whence he must set out on his heavenward journey. It takes him to the Cross, it bids him look to Jesus, and then to set out with holy resolution for the celestial city.

II. It warns the traveller--having now commenced his journey--of the perils that will beset his path.

III. It shows the traveller how he may safely advance along his journey step by step. It is not only “a light to the path,” showing which is the right way, but a “lamp to the feet,” showing whether the traveller is keeping in that path. This step-by-step help it furnishes by laying down general principles to be faithfully and conscientiously applied by the Christian (Romans 12:1). By plying him with motives, the force of which, if he is a Christian, he must feel (1 Corinthians 6:20), in all the details of his life, and by giving specific precepts, as notably is done in the closing portions of some of the epistles (Ephesians 4:1-32., etc.).

IV. It assures the traveller that the hoped-for termination will be reached. It is important there should be light on the traveller’s starting-point; of equal importance that there should be light on the goal at which he hopes to arrive. If this be shrouded in darkness he will lack the stimulus of expectation to hold on his way. He will be ready to halt by reason of the discouragements and difficulties he meets with. (J. F. Poulter, B. A.)

The lamp of the Word

I. Every man has a path of his own. God has undoubtedly fashioned our hearts alike; that is, there are certain broad resemblances which every heart bears to every other heart. There are also equally well-known and accurately marked differences. Each man possesses the same elements, so to speak, but has them in different proportions. Contend as we may, our natural bias, our education, our position, the general and trivial events of our lot, do help to make our paths, which seem outwardly parallel, like two lines running side by side, yet as two lines still, separate and distinct.

II. Our paths are manifestly divergent; yet in one respect we find them alike: they are often shrouded in gloom.

1. The very lamp itself sometimes perplexes. “The Word of the Lord tries” us: its principles, its promises, even its facts.

2. Perplexity arises from duty. We feel great difficulty in coming to any decision; not because we are reluctant to obey, but because we cannot quite see which has the first and Superior claim.

3. Perplexity comes from bereavement, and comes to all of us, sooner or later, from this source. We find it hard, in the first paroxysm of sorrow, to see anything but harshness in our loss. We think of others we could have better spared.

III. In all our darkness God’s Word supplies the true illumination. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” This light is pre-eminent. God has not left us without other aids to lessen the darkness. Reason is a light kindled by Jehovah Himself. Companions are as lights. But this light of God’s Word stands before all other lights. Reason helps; this helps reason. Companions help; this helps companions. When we are ready to receive them, there are no words that they can utter so cheering and so full of comfort as the words of God. (J. J. Goadby.)

Human life

Three thoughts are here suggested concerning human life.

I. It is a walk. “My path.” In this walk--

1. There is no pausing. “Every beating pulse we tell leaves but the number less.”

2. There is no returning. Every step takes us into the new and unknown.

II. It is a walk requiring light. The path of our life is not only very intricate, but, morally, very dark. Black clouds of ignorance, sensuality, and superstition obstruct the rays of sun and stars.

III. It is a walk for which light is provided. (Homilist.)

Religion the constant guide and friend of man

Wouldst thou then make religion the guide of thy life, wouldst thou have her truly to be a lamp to thy feet and a light to thy path?

1. Combine her with all thy occupations. Ask her often, ask her particularly on every critical and doubtful occasion, and ask her always in the sincere intention of following her precepts: how thou shouldst regard and prosecute thy affairs, in what dispositions thou shouldst conduct them, what views thou shouldst have in them, how thou shouldst begin and finish them, what thou shouldst do and omit at every time, in every place, according to the particular emergency?

2. Let her be thy constant companion in society, thy counsellor in thy intercourse with others. Ask her how thou shouldst regard, judge of, treat mankind, thy brethren, how thou shouldst be disposed and behave towards them.

3. Let her be thy friend and companion in solitude. There hearken the more attentively and sedately to her suggestions, her doctrines, her encouragements, her consolations, her demands. There grow more and more familiar with her and ever enjoy more completely the happiness of this familiarity. Accompanied by her, solitude will never be a burden, never seem tiresome or tedious to thee. Informed and enter-rained by her, the solemn hours of silence will be thy most delightful hours of recreation.

4. Let her be the partner in all thy joys and pleasures. She would by no means oppose or disturb thy joys and thy pleasures.

5. Let her be also thy friend and comforter in affliction. (C. J. Zollikofer.)

My lamp

In the text the Word of God is compared to a lamp or lantern such as that which is carried on dark nights in country places in all lands.

I. Like a lighted lantern on a dark lonely journey it is a pleasant companion. A lamp cannot, indeed, talk with us, or even listen to our voices, but its cheerful light, close by us, and going on continually with us, takes away our loneliness, and we feel that “a light is pleasant company.”

II. The Word of God is a protection against danger

III. The principal value of a lamp is that it shows us the way: and it is in this respect especially that the truth of God is most precious to us. (R. Brewin.)

The Bible a lamp

There are many kinds of lamps, all of them having different uses and yet all of them intended to give light, but in very different places. Let us look at a few of them.

1. There are beacon lamps. Out upon the coast, here and there, all along there are these lamps. They are lighted as soon as it grows dark. As the ship comes up the channel, these lights, all of them different, show the captain of the ship where he is, and he knows by their help how to steer the ship so as to get to port in safety. God’s Word does all this. It shows men the true way, and keeps them from wreck and death. I have heard of men putting strange lights on the rocks, so as to mislead the sailors, and then the doomed ship has coma ashore and been lost. Now there are spiritual wreckers, who want to have you and What you have got. These wreckers have false lights, the word, not of God, but of man. Shall I show you two or three of these false lights? When a boy or girl does not wish to go away from school or chapel these wretches will sneer, “I would not be tied to my mother’s apron string!” But what says the beacon? See it how it flashes. “Forsake not the law of thy mother.” Another of these false lights is, “It’s only once.” “Just this once, I won’t ask you any more.” Ah! you are in peril if you listen to this. Look to the beacon. “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not!” There is yet another of these false lights I will show you. When you are hearing the preacher, and are beginning to think you had better be a Christian while young, the wreckers will show their false light: “Plenty of time yet.” But what says the beacon? “I love them that love Me, and they that seek Me early shall find Me.”

2. Did you ever hear of what are called hurricane lamps? There is a kind of lamp so made that you might carry it in the wildest of storms, and the strongest wind could not blow it out. Now, the Word of God is a hurricane lamp--it will not blow out. Oh! how Satan has tried in times of persecution; but you know when the Word of God gets into a man’s heart there it sticks. You may, some of you, before you die, be persecuted for your religion. You may have to smart for being lovers of God, but don’t be afraid. The Bible was made, like the hurricane lamp, to stand the storm. Not so with the schemes and plans of evil, they shall all be put out.

3. The Bible is an invalid’s lamp. When people are ill, and have to lay awake all the night in pain, they don’t want to be left in the dark; and yet, they, don’t want any glaring light. They want a cheerful, yet soft light, and there are parts of the Bible just suited, such as “The Lord is my Shepherd.” “Let not your hearts be troubled.” “Came out of great tribulation.” “I will give to him that is athirst.” “Neither shall there be any more pain.”

4. The Bible is a signal lamp. You have noticed the signals at night, when you have been in the train. There they are, white, green, red. Do you know what white means? “Come on!” Yes, that is it; and the Bible says to those who are doing right, “Come on, you are on the right track; come on. All is well. Go ahead!” But what does the green light say? “Caution! Slowly! Beware!” Yes; when the driver sees that he knows that it will be wise for him to slacken speed, and look about him. And so says the Word of God, when it sees that there is need for caution. When a man is wanting to be rich, and there is some danger that he may be tempted to make money at the risk of his soul, then the lamp signals: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” “They that will be rich fall into temptation.” But can you tell me what the red light means? “Stop!” “Danger!” “Shut off the steam!” Yes, all of these. Oh! how the Bible calls out to men. If people would but mind the red light of Scripture we should have a great deal less of sin and sorrow. (T. Champness.)

The wonderful lamp

I. What sort of a lamp is the Bible?

1. It sheds wonderful light.

2. It yields wonderful comfort.

3. It affords wonderful safety. This world is like a great coal-mine, and all its inhabitants are like miners. The sins that abound here are like this dangerous gas, and, when they come in contact with our evil passions, violent explosions are often produced, and great damage is done. We need a safety-lamp to show us where the dangers lie, and help us to escape from them. And just such a lamp we have. The Bible is a safety-lamp which God has invented for this very purpose. It will always warn us when danger is nigh, and show us how we may escape it.

II. What should those who have this lamp do with it?

1. Use it themselves.

2. Send it to others. (R. Newton, D. D.)

Lantern lessons

I. This lamp and light guides us. It shows us our lost state, how far we have wandered from God, how sad our condition is, and that we shall surely perish unless we find the way of life. It shows us Jesus.

II. This lamp and light guides us with safety. What pitfalls, what temptations, what snares and covert assaults of the wicked one it keeps God’s people from!

III. This lamp and light guides us with comfort. (J. B. Johnstone.)

The lighted lamp:--

I. For the dark. The Gospel was first brought to our land about the year 600 by a missionary named Paulinus. Eadwine was then king. His wise men gathered to consider the new faith. To many of them its charm lay in the light it throws on the darkness covering men’s lives--the darkness of the future as of the past, To be without light is among the greatest of calamities; to get light after darkness the sweetest of blessings.

II. For our use.

1. This lamp is for the feet. Our museums abound with beautiful lamps taken from ancient tombs. Such-like is an unused Bible by the side of a dead soul. A lamp he has, but sees not, neither does he walk in its light. But all the light the Bible gives is meant to guide you.

2. As it is a light for the feet, you must hold it low. It is not for the head merely, to fill you with curious notions: it is for the feet, to guide you in your actions. The motto of the early Church was, “Hearts on high,” and they might have truly added, “Light and eyes low.”

3. You must use it always. Never live without its light.

III. For a time only. It is a thing of the night, not of the day. (J. Wells.)

The Bible the best parlour light

In parlours all aflash with gaslight, and gleaming mirrors, and blazing chandelier, and candelabra, there may be Egyptian darkness; while in some plain room, which a frugal hand has spread with hospitality and refinement, this one lamp may cast a glow that makes it a fit place for heavenly coronations. God’s lamp hung in the parlour would chill no joy, would rend no harmony, would check no innocent laughter. On the contrary, it would bring out brighter colours in the picture; it would expose new gracefulness in the curtain; it would unroll new wreaths from the carpet; it would strike new music from the harp; it would throw new polish into the manners; it would kindle with light borrowed from the very throne of God all the refinements of society. Oh that the Christ who was born in a barn would come to our parlour! We need His hand to sift the parlour music. We need His taste to assort the parlour literature. We need His voice to conduct the parlour conversation. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The Bible the best street lamp

When night comes down on the city, crime goes forth to its worst achievements. Not only to show honest citizens where to walk, but to hinder the burglar, and assassin, and highwayman, and pickpocket, we must have artificial lights all over the city. I remember what consternation there was in Philadelphia when one night the gasworks were out of order and the whole city sat in darkness. Between eleven o’clock at night and three o’clock in the morning, in the dark and unlighted places of the town, crime has its holiday. If the lamplighter ceased his work for the week the town would rot. But there is a darkness beyond all power of gaslight. What is the use of police-station, and almshouse, and watchman’s club, if there be no moral and religious influence to sanction the law, and to purify the executive, and to hang over legal enactment the fear of God and an enlightened public opinion. The first want of such a city as that is the street lamp of the Bible. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The Bible the best store lamp

What is the reason so many who started in merchandise, with good principles, and fair prospects, and honourable intentions, have become gamblers, and defrauders, and knaves, and desperadoes, and liars, and thieves? They did not have the right kind of a store lamp. Why is it, in our day, merchandise is smitten with uncertainty, and three-fourths of the businesses of our great cities is only one huge species of gambling? And why are ten thousand of our business men ridden with a nightmare enough to crush Hercules and Prometheus? It is the want of a right kind of store lamp. Oh, what thrones have fallen, what monuments have crumbled, what fleets have sunk, what statues have been defaced, what barbarisms have been created, what civilization retarded, what nations damned, all for the want of the right kind of a store lamp! (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The Bible the best church lamp

Glorious church lamp, this Bible. Luther found it in the cloister at Erfurt, and he lifted it, until the monasteries and cathedrals of Germany, and Italy, and France, and England, and the world saw its illumination. It throws its light on the pulpit, making a bulwark of truth; on the baptismal cup, until its waters glitter like the crystals of heaven. It strikes penitence into the prayers and gladness into the thanksgiving. It changes into a church John Bunyan’s prison, and Covenanter’s cave, and Calvin’s castle, and Huss’s stake, and Hugh M’Kail’s scaffold of martyrdom, Zwinglius carried it into Switzerland, and John Wycliffe into England, add John Knox into Scotland, and Jehudi Ashman into Africa. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Light to get home by

In the stress and vicissitudes of our earthly pilgrimage we know it as a lamp for our own difficult way: “Thy Word a lamp unto my feet.” This recalls Charles Kingsley’s phrase. On a dark, misty night he was cheerful, for, said he, “there is light enough to get home.” That is all we really need--light enough to get home--and, if we follow His Word, that at least we shall not miss. We need not too wistfully and anxiously anticipate long futures, but live and walk from day to day in the light vouchsafed. (W. R. Nicoll.)


Verse 106

Psalms 119:106

I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Thy righteous judgments.

The psalmist’s solemn resolution

I. The object of the psalmist’s purpose was to keep the righteous judgments of God. This implies--

1. Labouring to get a true knowledge thereof; to understand aright what God has been pleased in His wisdom and goodness to reveal to us.

2. Receiving the truths thereof in the love of them, and submitting to all that God has declared, as being worthy to be received by us

3. Treasuring them up in our minds, and there labouring to preserve them, as we would something valuable which we were afraid of losing.

4. Living under the influence of them; not being carried down by the torrent of the times; not making custom the rule and model of our conduct.

II. The nature of the psalmist’s purpose: that is, in what spirit or temper of mind such a purpose may be supposed to have been formed.

1. The psalmist meant to express his serious purpose.

2. It was not a hasty but a deliberate purpose.

3. The determination before us is not the language of self-confidence, but a proper humble purpose and resolution.

4. This resolution has nothing in it of the spirit of procrastination and putting off: there is no mention made of any future, time when he would devote himself to this work. (S. Knight, M. A.)

The power of virtuous resolutions

Solemn resolutions and vows have always been considered as powerful means of enabling men to abstain from vice and to practise virtue. Philosophers, as well as divines, have acknowledged their influence, and recommended it to their disciples, to form them with care. False religions, as well as the true religion, enjoin them, in order to determine their votaries to steadiness in those practices which they inculcate upon them. What then is the nature of that influence and power which may justly be ascribed to virtuous resolutions?

I. A resolution of virtue lays us under an obligation to be virtuous. It binds the soul with a bond (Numbers 30:2). To depart from evil and do good is the proper business of man. To resolve upon it is our highest wisdom; it is necessary to our present peace and to our future happiness. In proportion to its importance is the baseness and the ignominy of inconstancy in pursuing this course after we have resolved upon it.

II. A virtuous resolution impels us to virtue by rendering it an object and aim to us. This sets it in our eye as what must be practised, as what must not be on any account neglected, as the centre in which all our thoughts, and views, and exertions must ultimately terminate: this gives the whole soul a prevailing and habitual bias to it, and predisposes us to resist every temptation to vice, and to embrace every opportunity for virtue.

III. A virtuous resolution contributes to our practising virtue by rendering the practice of it agreeable to us. This is the natural consequence of that habitual bias which resolution impresses on the soul. When a temptation occurs, it excites the vicious passion to which it is addressed; this passion produces an aversion to the virtue which opposes it; but the general determination to all virtue, which resolution has impressed, combats this aversion, reconciles us to the restraint of inclination, renders it an easy yoke, to which we submit with cheerfulness, and which we persist in bearing with alacrity and joy.

IV. A virtuous resolution has great influence on our improvement by putting us on the diligent use of all the means necessary for fulfilling the resolution. The means of holiness are clearly revealed: careful study of the Divine law, fervent prayer for the Divine assistance, circumspect vigilance against evil, unwearied diligence in every good action which opportunity permits; these are the direct and immediate instruments of virtuous improvement.

V. Virtuous resolution instigates us to virtue by suggesting the motives to it, keeping them in our view, and fixing our attention on them. Duty, honour, utility; enjoyment in life, and comfort in the hour of death; present peace and eternal happiness; conscience, gratitude, hope, and fear; all conspire in urging us to holiness. Before their combined force all the most specious pleas of vice must vanish. Lessons:

1. Since virtuous resolutions are such powerful instruments of virtuous practice and improvement, we ought to form them with the greatest sincerity, firmness, and care.

2. Having sincerely resolved to practise universal holiness, let us diligently and faithfully fulfil the resolution.

3. We may learn to judge whether or not our virtuous resolutions be properly formed end properly maintained. If they fortify your sense of obligation; if they keep you habitually attached to holiness as the one thing needful; if they strenuously resist the corrupt propensities of the soul; if they prompt you to use the means of improvement with uniform diligence; if they render you forward to recollect and to dwell upon the motives to virtue; they have not been formed in vain. (A. Gerard, D. D.)


Verse 107

Psalms 119:107

I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto Thy Word.

A common condition and an indispensable blessing

I. A condition that is common to man. How varied the afflictions of men, personal and social, physical and mental--disease, poverty, bereavement, oppression, etc. Our human afflictions may be divided into two classes.

1. The penal. All the sufferings of wicked men come on them as righteous punishment.

2. Disciplinary. To the genuine disciples of Christ afflictions are the chastisements of the Father.

II. A blessing that is indispensable to man. The quickening of the spiritual nature, the soul.

1. In faith. Faith in God.

2. In love. Supreme love to the supremely good.

3. In hope. Hope for a complete transformation into the image of his God. (Homilist.)


Verse 108

Psalms 119:108

Accept, I beseech Thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Thy judgments.

An aspiration of piety

This short prayer cries out for two things.

I. For Divine acceptance of true worship. “Accept, I beseech Thee,” etc.

1. Worship is an offering. It is the soul offering its highest devotions.

2. Worship is an offering proclaimed “of my mouth.” The soul rings out aloud in speech and song its devotion.

3. Worship is an offering of “freewill.” No constraint; it goes out as the aroma from the rose, as the beam from the sun.

II. For Divine instruction. “Teach me Thy judgments,” or laws.

1. Knowledge of the laws of God is the most important of all knowledge.

2. This most important knowledge can only be imparted by God. (Homilist.)

God’s acceptance of our sufferings

It is a great grace that the Lord should accept anything from us, if we consider these three things. First, who the Lord is. Next, what we are. Thirdly, what it is we have to give unto Him. As for the Lord, He is all-sufficient, and stands in need of nothing we can give Him. As for us, we are poor creatures living by His liberality; yea, begging from all the rest of His creatures; from the sun and moon; from the air, the water, and the earth; from fowls and fishes; yea, from the worms; some give us light; some meat, some cloth; and are such beggars as we meet to give to a King? And thirdly, if we well consider, what is it that we give? Have we anything to give but that which we have received from Him? (Bp. Cowper.)

Sincere offerings

There is nothing so small but if it come from a good heart God will accept it: the widow’s mite; a cupful of cold water; yea, and the praise of our lips, although it have no other external oblation joined with it; but, where men may do more and will not, it is an argument their heart is not sincerely affected toward Him, and their praises are not welcome to Him. (Bp. Cowper.)


Verses 109-112

Psalms 119:109-112

My soul is continually in my hand.

Religion

Religion is here presented in three aspects.

I. As a deeply felt need in the immediate prospect of death. “My soul is continually in my hand.” That is, my life is in constant danger: death confronts me.

II. As a spirit of persevering faithfulness through all trials.

1. It is a persevering spirit. “Yet I do not forget Thy law.”

2. It holds on through all trials. “The wicked have laid a snare for me, still I erred not.”

3. It holds on through all trials to the end, “Even unto the end.”

III. As a precious inheritance and a permanent joy.

1. Genuine religion is an inheritance. “A heritage for ever.” It is the only intrinsic, inalienable inheritance.

2. Genuine religion is a permanent joy. “For they are the rejoicing of my heart.” True goodness never fails to flood the soul with joy. It is indeed a well of water. (Homilist.)

Man’s bodily life

Let “soul” here stand for man’s bodily life, and then we have two thoughts suggested.

I. It is something outside of himself. The human frame, with its complicated parts and various organs is no more the man than the house is the resident, the costume the wearer, the harp the lyrist. We carry it in our “hand.”

II. It is sometimes that he must surrender. This implies--

1. A sense of temporariness.

2. A sense of obligation. We should always be ready to present our bodies, as well as our souls and spirits, a sacrifice unto God. (Homilist.)


Verse 110

Psalms 119:110

The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from Thy precepts.

The snares laid for a good man

I. Here is a particular proof of the world’s hatred to the godly--they have laid snares for me.

1. The instigation to this injurious practice. Unquestionably it originates in the enmity of the heart against God. For it is this, in the persons and character of the pious, which the impious dislike. They are also instigated by Satan, the common enemy of the people of God. Besides these excitements, there are others of a somewhat subordinate character. Not unfrequently the wicked are actuated with envy, when they see the righteous exalted to stations of honour and influence; this is illustrated by the case of Haman. It sometimes happens, too, that the righteous have offended the profligate in reproving them for their sins, and this has roused their enmity, as was the case with Herodias.

2. The various forms in which this practice appears. Sometimes it is by specious temptations to sin. Thus, the Scribes and Sadducees endeavoured to entangle Christ in His talk. There have been instances, too, where wicked rulers have laid a snare for the righteous (Daniel 6:7-8). The wicked have aimed at corrupting the principles of the pious by offering to bribe them with the honours and riches of the world. They have thus resembled their father the devil, who took our Saviour up into the mountain, etc.

3. The agents in these temptations--they are called, “the wicked.” And are not these acts flagrantly wicked? For they are contrary to the law of our creation. They are chargeable with double guilt--not that of their own sin only, but that of those who by the snares they have laid for their feet have been entangled and brought into bondage.

4. The effects of their ensnaring machinations. In many cases, alas, they are successful, for they have caught the righteous in their net, and tormented them by their persecutions even unto death. But their moral success has to be far more deplored. Many a youth, ere his understanding has been established in the first principles of truth, has been led away by their errors, the “cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” But, happily, there are many instances in which their artifices are altogether unsuccessful. “Yet,” said David, “I erred not from Thy precepts.”

II. The means of his preservation. Instead of being seduced by the smiling enticement of some, or terrified by the frowns and oppressions of others, he had not departed from the path of duty laid down for him in that Word which was the rule of his life.

1. A pious man cannot but be conscious of his determination to adhere to the path of duty, and of the degree of that adherence.

2. A subject of genuine godliness may sometimes hold up his own example to imitation (Philippians 3:12-14; Philippians 3:17).

3. A possessor of piety may and ought to acknowledge his obligations to preserving grace. Can you say, “I know whom I have believed”? Then how much you are indebted to your Lord. Raise your memorial pillar on this spot and write upon it, “ Hitherto the Lord hath helped me.”

4. One principal means of this preservation was the Word of God. (Evangelical Preacher.)


Verse 111-112

Psalms 119:111-112

Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
--

The Christian’s privilege, joy, and life

I. The Christian’s privilege. “Thy testimonies.” The blessings here offered are--forgiveness of sin; reconciliation with God, and communion with Him; peace of conscience; the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit through life.

II. The Christian’s joy is the evidence of his privilege: he lays claim to the spiritual blessings of which the Gospel testifies, because they are the very joy of his heart.

III. The Christian’s life (verse 112). When we speak of “claiming God’s testimonies’ as our “heritage,” it is evident that we look upon the Bible as a book of promises: when, as in the present case, we speak of “fulfilling God’s statutes,” then we regard the same book as a book of rules for the conduct of life. Now the servant of God regards it in both these points of view.

1. His diligence and care.

2. His perseverance. “Alway, even unto the end.” (J. S. Pratt.)

The Bible the book for all time

I. Shown by the past growth. In every century this Book has been assailed by critics of various kinds. The various forms of criticism have often helped men and have helped the Church to a better understanding of their own book. But the critics have gone while the books are here. May we not say of the Bible what was said about the Church to the King of France, when Henry

IV. threatened to persecute the French Protestants? “Sire, it is the part of the Church, on whose behalf I speak, to endure blows and not to give them; but let me remind your majesty that the Church is an anvil that has worn out a great many hammers.” May we not say of the Bible that it is an anvil that has worn out a great many hammers? and I venture to think it will wear out a great many more.

II. Shows by the future growth. There is nothing in the Bible provincial in tone, merely local in character, and restrictive in its application. There is a Divine system in the Book, just as there is in nature. If you wander through the woods when the wild flowers are out, it seems as if they were growing at random, in no order; yet botanists will tell you that there is among them a Divine order in the class and genera of these flowers that seem so wild. And when you look up to the sky on some starlight night it seems as if there were but points of light scattered at random over the face of the sky, and yet we know that there is such Divine order in the starry firmament that you can predict the times of planets and follow the course of nature with the utmost accuracy. And so there is in this Book a Divine system, but very different from our mechanical system, which men very soon outgrow. We know very well that, though men change and times alter, it will always be true that the pure in heart shall see God: it will always be true that self-sacrifice is a nobler thing than self-indulgence, whether a man lives under a republic or under a limited monarchy; it will always be true that integrity and uprightness are nobler than selfish meanness and trickery. The very qualities upon which this Book lays stress are fundamental to the noblest human nature, and cannot be affected by any change of time which the centuries may bring.

III. Shown by the unalterable fact. The main fact in this Book is one which time cannot alter; it is the great fact of the life and character of Him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His Person.

IV. Shown by the unchanging need. The tragic quality of life, the burden of weary hearts, the trials of the way--all these continue. Manhood is ennobled by the old virtues, stained with the old sin and burdened with the old sorrows, and so long as that is true they will want some one on whom to loan the weary, burdened heart--some one who can say to them, “Son, daughter, be of good cheer; thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven.” (John Brown, D. D.)

The believer’s heritage of joy

I. Make a map of this estate.

1. A heritage of truth in the testimonies of God.

2. God’s covenant is our heritage.

3. The greatest testimony of God in all the world is Jesus Christ; and we are complete in Him, He is all and in all to us.

II. Take possession of the estate.

1. By a deliberate choice.

2. By faith--a personal grip.

3. By holy diligence.

III. Consider the holding.

1. It is a perpetual holding. It is not dependent upon any one life; it is dependent upon three lives, and those three lives are the life of the Father, the life of the Son, and the life of the Holy Ghost; and they are all eternal, and so shall the joy and the wealth of every believer be. We have taken this inheritance for ever.

2. Sometimes we possess certain things which are ours, completely ours, but then they are not ours for ever, because they fade; but our inheritance will never fade or pass away.

3. There is no way of taking this heritage except taking it for ever. That conversion which is not radical and thorough is of no use.

IV. Enjoy the possession. First, David had taken God’s testimonies to be his possession, for they had made him glad; and, secondly, that was the reason why he took them to be his possession, because they made him glad. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The gate to the heritage

I. An inheritance suggests the past. The heir, as he looks at the bundles of deeds and certificates, as he inspects the various tenements, and walks abroad over the acres of pasture and forest, or examines the vast mining or manufacturing establishments, sees in these the results of a long and laborious past. In like manner the testimonies of God point us back of themselves. A mountain, with its crags, and peaks, and forests, may be a picturesque object to the eye, or a good standpoint for an outlook; but it will have a far deeper interest for us if we know with what throes the strata piled themselves up, what powers of the air cut the peaks into those fantastic shapes, if we can read the stories of earthquake, and fire, and deluge, and iceberg written upon those rocks. So, it is not enough that we receive and enjoy the testimonies of God. We do not truly inherit them if we fail to study them. Their value to us lies largely in their history. If we sit down with the apostle’s words, “all things are yours,” and begin to examine our heritage, we shall be led irresistibly back to the past. For instance, what a heritage of years we shall find wrapped up in that sentence; years that have yielded their rich result to the present. How slowly God has suffered our heritage of experience, and tradition, and example to accumulate: how prodigal He has been of time. And, in the growth of these long, weary centuries, what a rich variety of testimonies God has accumulated. How many laws of conduct, for instance, have taken shape in the various situations in which the men of the Bible history have been placed; how many shining examples of distinct virtues--patience in Job, faith in Abraham, etc. And, once more, it is always an affecting thought to an affectionate son, that his father’s estate was accumulated with toil, and self-denial, and suffering. It comes almost with the power of a reproach to his sensitive heart, that he is to inherit in comfort and tranquillity that which recalls so much struggle, and pain, and anxious thought. And this fact attaches in a peculiar sense to God’s heritage of testimony. Beyond any other book, the Bible has evolved itself out of sorrow. That is the reason why it responds to the instincts of the race as no other book does or can. The heritage of God’s testimony in the Word is a veritable battle-ground, its greenest and most fruitful fields moistened with blood, and covering the relics of the slain.

II. But let us look now at this heritage as it stands related to the future. From the associations and memories of the past, the heir turns to study what capacity for development there is in the estate; to examine the investments and to see how they promise. He may be disappointed; he may find that a good part of the estate has become unproductive, and can never be made to yield what it did in his father’s time, or he may find that it contains sources of wealth of which his father never dreamed. The psalmist, in thus inspecting the heritage of God’s testimonies, is evidently well satisfied with the prospect, though he takes the longest possible outlook: “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever.” And we may safely share his satisfaction. The man who chooses the Word of God as his moral inheritance may do so in full confidence that it will amply meet the demands of his whole future, and of the whole future of his race. No one can read the Bible long without seeing that it is prophetic; not only in the sense of occasionally predicting the future, but in that its facts imply other facts H follow; present sockets, into which future facts are to fit. Its utterances are folded in upon themselves like a flower. You see certain petals already exposed to the light; but you see within the circle of these something more which is to unfold in its season. This heritage of the Word grows richer with time. The preacher who thinks he has exhausted a text will find another sermon in it when he goes to it again. The man who goes through his Bible for the fiftieth time finds it richest in fresh treasures. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

Hereditary religion

I. The claim asserted by David--God’s testimonies he asserts to be his own heritage. Speaking as a Jew, he declares with feelings of thanksgiving and triumph that he from his birth has had a rightful possession of God’s revelations. Whilst other nations have been left in darkness, some never visited with the light of truth at all, others at best having to become proselytes, they, the Israelites, knew God from their mother’s womb. Now, in examining into the cause of David’s thankfulness, we are brought across the broad subject of ancestral religion. How far and on what grounds is it a matter of gratitude to God that we in this kingdom have not had to hear, late in life for the first time, the proclamation of the Name of the Lord, but have been born and bred in the midst and under the influence of Christian institutions? If we had not received it as a heritage we might never have enjoyed it at all. Which of us is certain that if he had met Christ face to face in the valleys of Judah we should not have despised Him?

II. David claims God’s testimonies as his inheritance, not for the brief period of this mortal life, but for ever; as though implying that they would hereafter form the source of his joy and triumph. The Divine Word and testimonies are to remain for an inheritance of delight to the saints. What is this? Why, it is that the knowledge and contemplation of God and His attributes shall form the eternal occupation and pleasure of the blessed in heaven. For ever! aye, when our present tastes and feelings shall have long passed away, and we stand upon the shores of another land whose features we cannot surmise, and hear other sounds whose echo imagination cannot catch; when He that sitteth on the throne shall have made all things new, still, if among the saved, shall we throw ourselves upon the old revelations of God, and cleave to them as the noblest of the things prepared for those that love Him, and so find the words of David, words of earth, still true when earth is no more: “Thy testimonies have I claimed as mine heritage for ever.” (Bp. Woodford.)

The Divine Word’ -

I. As an inheritance.

1. It is the most enjoyable.

2. It is the most extensive.

3. It is the most enduring.

II. As an inheritance only personally attained. Earthly inheritances often come to men irrespective of effort or choice. But he who would enjoy this inheritance must choose it and win it by his own struggles under God. (Homilist.)


Verse 112

Psalms 119:112

I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

The means of giving the heart a right inclination

The necessity of labouring for ourselves, and our entire dependence on the grace of God, are not incompatible; and so we find that the psalmist, while in one place, speaking by the Spirit, he makes this prayer to God, “Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies,” makes this declaration in another place, speaking by the same Spirit, “I have inclined,” etc.

I. Using those means by which the grace of God is communicated to us. If succour is at hand to aid the infirmities of our nature, and we seek it not, then our helplessness is our own fault.

II. Presenting to it such considerations as are likely to work effectually upon it. “Communing with our own heart,” as the psalmist speaks; reasoning with it, and pressing on its attention such truths as are fitted to influence it.

1. The nature of the Divine commands. They are holy, just, and good.

2. The claims which God has upon our obedience.

III. The forming of Godly resolutions. The recollection of any specific engagement which we have made with an earthly friend will, if our hearts are at all right with him, prompt us with an earnest desire to fulfil the service to which we have pledged ourselves; and the like effect, we may assuredly expect, will result from the remembrance of our vows to God, if they have been seriously and sincerely made.

IV. Holding intercourse with those who are thus disposed. The effects of fellowship on the human mind are great indeed, nor is it possible to keep ourselves out of the reach of its influence. We are so formed, that sympathy is the natural result of intercourse, and we insensibly acquire a similarity of tastes and habits with those with whom we often associate (Proverbs 27:17). If any man, therefore, wishes to have his heart inclined to God’s statutes, he will avoid, as much as may be, communication with those who disregard them. He will choose as his daily companions, his familiar associates, his bosom friends, those who will be likely to turn his thoughts to God, and by their example, their conversation, and by their imperceptible influence on the mind, may incline his heart to keep His statutes. (G. Bellett.)


Verse 113

Psalms 119:113

I hate vain thoughts: but Thy law do I love.

The hated and the loved

I. The hated. “I hate vain thoughts.” The number of these is legion, the variety all but endless. Vain thoughts may include worthless thoughts on true subjects as well as on false. Vain thoughts are--

1. Always worthless. They are empty, vapid, unsatisfactory, and unenduring.

2. Always criminal. Man is endowed with the thinking faculty in order to think accurately, righteously, and devoutly.

3. Always pernicious. Vain thoughts are the weeds, the fungi, the parasites, the mildew of the soul.

II. The loved. “Thy law do I love.” Why should the Divine law be loved?

1. It is a revelation of the morally beautiful. It is the transcript of the mind, that which is the “beauty of holiness.”

2. It is a guide to the truly happy. It is a map to guide to the heavenly inheritance, a compass directing to the celestial shore. (Homilist.)

A lust hate and a just love

I. A just hate. “Vain thoughts” are of two classes.

1. Thoughts on vain subjects.

2. Vain thoughts on true subjects. All such thoughts are evil in themselves and powerful for evil. Thought is the mightiest power in the world. Bad thoughts should be hated as devils; good ones cherished as angels.

II. A just love. The law should be loved--

1. Because it is the expression of the highest moral beauty. It is the transcript of the Divine heart.

2. Because it is a means to the participation in the highest moral beauty. By obedience to the Divine law men come to share in the beauty of God, the beauty of holiness. Love and hate are really one in principle. We must always hate the opposite of what we love. (Homilist.)

On wandering thoughts in religious duties

I. Their nature. Wandering thoughts are the disorderly motions of the soul in the time of God’s worship, by which the mind is diverted or disturbed in the performance of the duty.

1. The time: when engaged in the duties of religion.

2. What draws our thoughts aside.

II. Their causes or occasions.

1. The depravity of our nature.

2. Allowance of sin.

3. Being over-careful and troubled about many things.

4. Slight thoughts of God and His service.

III. Their bad effects.

1. They render our duties vain and burdensome.

2. They hinder communion with God.

3. They induce us to think hardly of ourselves.

4. They bring guilt upon the soul, and lead to a curse instead of a blessing.

IV. Directions for their prevention or cure.

1. Wash your hearts from wickedness.

2. Endeavour to maintain an habitual spirituality of mind.

3. Attend to religious duties with earnest desires of the presence of God.

4. Depend not upon your own strength.

5. Use means to bring your heart into a suitable temper.

6. Set the Lord always before you. (S. Lavington.)

The government o/ the thoughts

I. What are vain thoughts? Not only all such as are in themselves useless and frivolous, but all such as, though not without their importance at their proper times, are allowed to encroach upon the time and attention due to others of equal or greater importance--all such as, by their connection with improper and hurtful inclinations, tend, when encouraged, to fix and strengthen them--all such as indicate the existence of unkind and unchristian feelings--all such as indispose us to the labours and duties of our stations--and lastly, all such as tend to make us undervalue the principles of a pure morality, or distrust the foundation of religious faith and obedience.

II. How may they be avoided or controlled?

1. The mind must have its attention directed, and its interest awakened to instructive and important subjects,

2. We must acquire a habit of confining our attention to the subjects and employments which we think deserving of our choice.

3. We should make a diligent use of all our opportunities for storing our minds with sound and practical knowledge.

4. We must avoid the sources of all impure or immoral fancies, whether we have reason to apprehend their existence in our usual books or our usual companions.

5. We should acquaint ourselves with the writings, and seek the society of those whom we may consider either as masters, or, at least, as anxious and successful learners, of the same art.

6. “The words of the pure,” and “the lips of knowledge,” if it be that knowledge which “maketh wise unto salvation,” will second with powerful persuasion another direction that may be given for guarding against the influence of “vain thoughts.” It is this--to rest on firm and deep foundations, and to build up for ourselves, with good and durable materials, a real conviction of religious truths.

7. A well-grounded and hearty belief in Christian truths, beside the awful consideration which it opposes to the encouragement of “vain thoughts,” disposes the mind to an employment, the recommendation of which is another direction of the right government of the thoughts. That employment is, frequent meditation on the duties and interests which owe a principal part of their sanctions and importance to the doctrines and principles of religion.

8. Frequent, humble, and earnest prayer for deliverance from the evils which we wish to avoid, and assistance to persevere in the pursuit of those things which are “pure, lovely, and of good report”--prayer for that spirit of wisdom and godly fear, which will keep both our hate and our love directed to their proper objects. (A. R. Beard.)

On vain thoughts

I. The peculiar kind of thoughts alluded to in the text.

1. All thoughts, the indulgence of which is positively sinful.

2. All thoughts, the cultivation of which is likely to lead to no practical benefit.

3. All thoughts inappropriate to the seasons on which they are cherished.

II. The effort which should be made for suppressing vain thoughts.

1. Such thoughts are the natural and spontaneous choice of the human mind.

2. The powerful influence of the thoughts in regulating the dispositions and conduct.

3. Our responsibility to God for the right exercise of thought.

III. Some means which may tend to counteract vain thoughts.

1. Seek the attainment of a renewed and sanctified heart.

2. Cultivate an habitual remembrance of the divine inspection of the thoughts.

3. Let the mind be occupied as fully as possible with thoughts of an appropriate and useful character.

4. Earnestly implore the assistance of the Holy Spirit to guide and control the thoughts. (Essex Remembrancer.)


Verses 114-117

Psalms 119:114-117

Thou art my hiding-place and my shield: I hope in Thy Word.

The Guardian and Support of souls

I. The guardianship of god enjoyed. “Hiding-place” is a place of protection, a place where the enemy cannot discover you. “Shield” is an instrument of protection, that which prevents the arrow or the sword from touching the life. The two expressions mean safe guardianship. What a Guardian is God!

1. His guardianship does not circumscribe liberty. Not like the “hiding-place,” it allows ample room for the development of all the powers, and satisfaction for all the desires.

2. His guardianship is sufficient for all purposes. It protects from all evils, material and spiritual, all enemies, human and satanic. With the enjoyment of this guardianship there is “hope in Thy Word.”

II. Deliverance from the wicked desired. “Depart from Me, ye evil-doers.”

1. The expulsion of evil companions is at once the duty and the interest of all men. “The companion of fools shall be destroyed.” “Come out from among them.”

2. The expulsion of evil companions is necessary in order to obey God. “For I will keep the commandments of my God.”

III. The support of Heaven implored. “Uphold me,” etc. The words imply--

1. Consciousness of the ruin of a fall. “That I may live,” implying, If I fall I die. A moral fall is soul death.

2. Consciousness of liability of a fall. “Hold Thou me up.” I cannot stand without Thee. I totter on the verge of ruin, I am unable to support myself. “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” (Homilist.)

God our hiding-place and shield

I. The relation which God sustains to the Christian.

1. “My hiding-place.” God is thus described as a refuge, as a place of security and retreat from the trials and agitations of the world without; just as a vessel may find a hiding-place in the calm and shelter of the haven, guarded and hidden by the rocks. There may be a pirate-ship upon the sea beyond, and a storm may be hurling its fury upon the waves, but within the shelter of the high rooks all is secure and undisturbed.

2. Again: under the figure of a “shield,” the Almighty is represented as the Defender of His people. Both the figures convey a like meaning of protection; still their application will admit of, perhaps, a variety of difference. We may take the former case as implying refuge in the hour of sorrow and sadness; One to whom we can look in trust and hope at all times, and find in Him a source of peacefulness amid the din and anxieties of the world in which we live. In the latter case we seem to be brought from obscurity and retirement into the open battlefield of life, where the shafts of temptation are flying around us, where the sounds of struggle meet our ears, where latent feelings are awakened and passions roused. Into the “hiding-place” of God the soul retires as into her quiet home away from the noise and stir of life; behind the “shield” of God the soul takes her stand as behind her rampart when the hosts of the enemy are encamped round about her.

II. The basis of Christian hope--“I hope in Thy Word.” There is a twofold and mutual recognition conveyed in this passage. God recognizes man in his helplessness and dependency, and man recognizes God in the mercy, and compassion, and goodness of His character and relationship to His creatures. And thus the basis of Christian hope is to be found in the Divine testimony, conveyed in the writings of Moses and the prophets, of Christ and His apostles. This testimony has also its response in the human heart and life, and so produces its evidence in the actual experience of our common nature. What rule of faith so high--what standard of morals so perfect--what criterion by which we may judge of right and wrong so infallible as the Scriptures? We hesitate not to bring them to the bar of public opinion unbiased by prejudice, for the very freedom of that opinion shall witness in favour of their claims, and give evidence to their truthfulness and authority. They can bear the most powerful tests of human wisdom and judgment, and the more they are examined, the brighter, and broader, and deeper becomes their excellency. (W. D. Horwood.)


Verse 115

Psalms 119:115

Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keep the commandments of my God.

“Go!” and they go

“You go your way,” he says in effect, “and I will go mine; I am for obedience, you are not for that, and you are asking the wrong man to be your companion. Away to your own sort!”

I. Here is a dismissal that there is absolutely no help for if we will be faithful to God. So incongruous are evil companionships. Two attempting to walk together who as to destination and route are not agreed! Darkness assaying fellowship with light! How contrary the self-seeker to the child of God! What a great gulf between the worldling and the follower after holiness! Strange that association should be thought of. But there is a policy in it. There is a tempter. Ungodliness is eager for recruits. To company with evil men is to walk into the snare. All worldly currents are against godliness, how soon the heart may be drawn from the living God, how mighty the influence of those with whom we voluntarily associate, how soon divine love may be robbed of its fervour, and tenderness of conscience become less. Evil men are the messengers and tools of Satan, and as a matter of course seek to make others like themselves. With what craft-this is often done.

II. Here is a dismissal that when it is meant is always understood, and speedily takes effect. There are many ways of uttering that “Depart.” There is the formal way, and the timid, apologetic way, and the half-hearted and wavering way. Evil-doers can always tell how much real force there is in that word. And when without any nonsense or faltering they are told to go, they go. Give it forth, not rudely, but with all the truth and strength of your soul. (B. E. Hawkins.)


Verse 116

Psalms 119:116

Let me not be ashamed of my hope.

The Christian’s sheet-anchor

I. That we may not at last be ashamed of our hope, it must originate in a change of the temper of the heart. The carnal mind must be regenerated. Old things must pass away and all things become new. God must be loved and Christ received by faith.

II. That we may not at last be ashamed of our hope, it must render us holy. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Now Christ can, in no other sense, be in the believer, than as His doctrines form our creed, His temper reigns in our hearts, His example guides our steps, and His love engrosses our affections.

III. That we may not at last be ashamed of our hope it must bear examination. “Prove your own selves.”

IV. That we may not at last be ashamed of our hope, it must live without an effort. We shall bend all our efforts to be holy and our hope will support itself.

V. The hope that maketh not ashamed is always interrupted by sin, while the hypocrite retains his hope unimpaired in the midst of transgression.

VI. That we may not be ashamed of our hope, others must have a higher opinion of our piety than ourselves. VII. That we may not, at last, be ashamed of our hope, it must put us upon earnest endeavours to reach the object of our hope. If heaven is the object of our hope, we shall endeavour to bring so much of heaven down to earth as possible.

1. The subject should urge us to examine ourselves, and render us willing to be examined.

2. The subject should render us submissive and thoughtful in every scene of life by which God tries our hope and proves our faith.

3. If our hope is such that we expect not to be ashamed of it at the last, let us not be ashamed of it now.

4. In that hope, of which we shall not at last be ashamed, we may now rejoice. “Which hope we have,” says an apostle, “ as an anchor of the soul,” etc.

5. To so live as to sustain a high hope of heaven is the way to die in peace, with anticipated prospects of future blessedness.

6. To live with this high hope is to speak when we are dead.

7. This subject should show the ungodly how unprepared they are to die. What would be a preparation to die is a preparation to live. (D. A. Clark.)

A great good and a great evil

I. A great good. Hope always implies--

1. A future.

2. A good in the future.

3. An attainable good.

II. A great evil. Shame. Some are ashamed of that which cannot be helped, ashamed of the poverty of their ancestry, the supposed uncomeliness of their person, or of the condition in which they have been placed in life. Some are ashamed of that in which they ought to rejoice, ashamed even of the Gospel. Some are ashamed of that of which they have been guilty. This is remorse, and remorse is misery.

III. A great evil rising out of a great good. We are ashamed of our hope--

1. When the object has proved to be worthless.

2. When the object has proved to be unattainable. (Homilist.)

Christian hope

In the first clause there is the language of a man in great distress; nevertheless he is not in despair, for when you proceed to the second clause you find the psalmist speaking of his hope; he had not let go his hope. Though visited with so much calamity, and encircled with so much of peril, he still keeps down the rising fear, that after all he may be disappointed, and earnestly beseeches of God not to suffer him to be “ashamed of his hope.” It is very beautiful and instructive to observe how hope thus triumphs over trouble. We may go further, and declare that hope is nurtured by trouble. The text may be thought to indicate this; for David evidently speaks as if, having been carried through his trouble, he was yet to find his hope in all the beauty of its vigour. Now, there is no better way of interpreting Scripture than that of using one part as a commentary on another. We wish to show you from our text that hope may spring from tribulation; but this which is only hinted at by the psalmist is largely asserted by St. Paul, when he says, “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Here we have the stops which are missing in our text, and we may therefore supply them. We need hardly premise that the apostle speaks only of those who bear tribulation as Christians should bear it--who receive it as appointed of God, and desire to be improved by the fatherly chastisement. It is far enough from true, as a general proposition, that tribulation worketh patience; for how often do you observe in people of the world that they grow more fretful and irritable as their sorrows are multiplied; the chief effect of continued affliction being to sour the temper, and strengthen in them a habit of repining and murmuring. But let us take the ease of those in whom a work of grace is going forward, who are striving to submit themselves to the operations of God’s Spirit; and how true it is of them that “tribulation worketh patience!” The soul reasons with itself--“Is not God the best Judge of what is good for me? Shall I be unwilling to suffer, when the Captain of my salvation was ‘made perfect through suffering?’ So long as I withstand God, does it not prove that I need the chastening rod? Does it not provoke Him to chastise me yet again?” And thus is patience wrought out by tribulation; not by tribulation in itself, by the mere onset of trouble, but by tribulation bringing (as it will bring) the Christian to reflection and to prayer. Let us proceed to the second step in what we may call the apostle’s commentary on the words of the psalmist, and let us see whether patience will not further work experience. The word “experience” properly denotes the putting something to the proof, making the sort of trial which is made of metals, by placing them in the fire, in order to the detecting and disentangling the dross. Hence the experience here mentioned by St. Paul must be the ascertaining the precise worth, veracity, and power of the consolations and promises of God. “Tribulation worketh patience,” in that suffering brings the Christian into an attitude of submission and acquiescence; but when he has been schooled into resignation, and made to wait meekly on the Lord, he is not left without heavenly visitations. Amid the pains of sickness, the infirmities of age, the corrodings of grief, what support is communicated! what strength! what joy! And from experience how natural, how easy the transition to hope. It is next alleged by St. Paul, which the psalmist held fast in the hour of his affliction, that tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, experience hope. He in whom patience has wrought experience is one who, having put to the proof those Scriptural promises which have reference to circumstances such as those in which he has been placed, has found them made good, accomplished in himself, and thereby proved to be of God; but what now can be such a reason for expecting the fulfilment of promises which have respect to future things, as the having experienced the fulfilment of other promises, both made by the same Being, which have respect to present things? Surely he who has tried the chart and found it correct, so far as he had the power of trying it, has the best ground for confidence in that chart with regard to ports which he has never yet entered. With how immediate, then, and direct a succession does hope follow on experience! Experience is a book in which there should be daily entries, and to which there should be daily reference. If we do not register our mercies, or if we never recount them, they are not likely to throw light upon coming events. But what a precious volume is our experience, if we record it with accuracy, and then do not let it lie idly on the shelf! the dust on the covers attesting how little it is used! Answers to prayer, what encouragements to pray: Promises fulfilled, what arguments for expecting their fulfilment! Mercies bestowed, what grounds for confidence that mercies will not be withheld! But if patience lead to experience, shall not experience yield some richer fruity Yes, verily, he who has “tasted that the Lord is gracious” is the last to doubt that the Lord will be gracious; he to whom promises have been fulfilled should be the last to suspect that promises may fail; and if every mercy received whilst patiently enduring may serve as a pledge, or earnest of future bestowment, oh l how true that as “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience,” so doth experience generate hope! And, therefore, though David was in trouble--trouble which almost made him despair of life--he would not let go his hope; he had been in too many troubles beforetime for this; he had been too well disciplined; he had had too great experience of the faithfulness and lovingkindness of God; and if he, in his first prayer, exclaims, like one almost disheartened--“Uphold me according to Thy Word,” in the next, like one who takes courage from the past, he gives utterance to the bolder words--“let me not be ashamed of my hope.” Christian “hope maketh not ashamed.” It paints no vision which shall not be more than realized; it points to no inheritance which shall not be reached. How should it make ashamed, when it altogether rests itself upon Christ, who is not “ashamed to call us brethren”? This is the secret of its difference from every other hope; Christ is the source and the centre of our hope--Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yea, and in Him amen; and if Christ can deceive us, if Christ can fail His people in their extremity, if Christ can want either the will or the power to save those who commit themselves to Him, then, but not otherwise, may the believer be ashamed of his hope. (H. Melvill, B. D.)


Verse 117

Psalms 119:117

Held Thou me up, and I shall be safe.

The Christian’s security

I. The man of god presenting himself before the throne of grace, with a humble acknowledgment of his sense of exposure to difficulty and danger, and his sense of his own helplessness in himself. No man ever went to the Lord and said, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe,” but the man who felt that he was exposed to danger, and that he was too weak to take care of himself.

II. The conduct of a Christian man under all that feeling of exposure and helplessness. He is not overpowered, he is not overwhelmed; but he goes to the Lord, and he says--“Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.”

III. The Christian’s confidence of his security when the Lord sustains him. There is no doubt about it, no uncertainty in the matter, “I shall be safe.” There is not a trial, or difficulty, or temptation for which a covenant supply has not been provided. (W. H. Krause, M. A.)

Prayer for Divine upholding and preservation

I. A lively concern for his spiritual preservation.

II. A solemn apprehension of his continual moral danger.

III. A consciousness of his entire weakness and inability to uphold himself.

IV. A firm confidence in the all-sufficiency of Divine grace.

V. A prayerful frame of mind, or a spirit of supplication. If I believe that I am too weak to support myself, and if I am desirous of my safety, I shall naturally go to the strong for strength. If I behold a number of enemies for which I am no adequate match, I shall never engage with them alone, but rather inform the Captain of my salvation, who will come to my escape, who will go with me, and “teach my hands to war, and my fingers to fight,” and make me “more than a conqueror.” (W. Jay.)

My hourly prayer

I. Upholding--God’s holding us up.

1. It implies a danger.

Anything which leads to self-esteem leads to the utmost jeopardy.

2. How does God keep His people upright?

II. Two blessed things that come out of this holding up.

1. We shall be safe.

2. Watchfulness attends such sacred safety, and is at once its fruit and its sign. A holy man--a man made holy by God’s grace--has great respect to every command of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

“Hold Thou me up”

There was once a very good clergyman who was extremely fond of this text, and he often repeated it to himself. As he was very clever and wise, he feared lest he should become proud and so offend God. So he obtained a wine-glass without a foot, and round the rim had these words written, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Then this singular glass was placed on his writing-table, where he could see it continually. Thus it was a kind of picture of himself, to remind him that without God he could do nothing good. The wine-glass, if held in its master’s hand, would hold what was placed within it, and so become useful. But if ever it tried to stand on its own account, it would fall over, spill its contents, and perhaps be injured.

I. A little slip may cause a great fall. An express train in the west of England suddenly stopped all at once because a tiny pin had slipped out of its place. Be careful of little temptations and small sins. All the falls recorded in the Holy Scriptures came from trifling acts. Eve only ate a fruit, but she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Moses only spoke a few angry words, and yet for them he was shut out of Canaan. A blunder committed in a moment may cause a great deal of mischief, as men learned to their sorrow when the great warship “Victoria” went down. The brave admiral somehow forgot himself and gave a wrong order, but it caused the loss of a great ship, and also of a great many valuable lives. When we have overcome a sin or temptation, or performed a good action; when we are in company with those who are evil or thoughtless, and when we feel impatience or petulance rising up within us, we should utter this prayer, for we are then most assuredly in peril.

II. Then never let us forget that we have a great God to trust in. Mr. Wesley once heard a woman lamenting because she had broken her china crucifix. “Now,” she sobbed out, “now I have no one but the great God to trust in.” “But what a blessing she had the great God to trust in,” said Mr. Wesley. Now, if you will look at your Bible, you will see a little word at the head of this section. Above the 113th verse is the word Samech. That word means a prop or pillar, and teaches us that God is the upholder of His people: He supports and sustains them. “I found it sweet and comfortable to lean on God,” said Brainerd; and many others have felt the same. (N. Wiseman.)

Severed Item God we fall

Samson, whom no earthly power could subdue during the twenty years that he was energized by the Spirit of God under his Nazarite vow, yet as soon as his locks were shorn was weak as another man. David, who, while he walked with God was the man after God’s own heart, yet at length, when out of communion, could be guilty of the most appalling sins. We have no strength of our own to stand against temptation. The longest life, the most devoted service, is no security against a fall. I remember, when a young man, seeing, at a lecture on magnetism, a piece of soft iron brought on the platform and shown to be unable to hold up a needle. A coil of copper wire was then put round it, and connected with an unseen battery. Now it held, first nails, next chisels and other tools, till all the weights of the institution were brought, and it sustained them every one by the magnetic power. At a signal the wire was cut, and they all fell to the ground. It could no longer hold up the smallest thing. Its magnetic power was not in itself, but in its connection with the unseen battery. (Signal.)

I will have respect unto Thy statutes continually.--

Having respect to God’s commands

A holy man--a man made holy by God’s grace--has great respect to every command of God. Before he moves he looks round him to see whether he shall transgress by his proposed movement. You have heard of the child whose mother said, “John, you have broken one of the commandments,” and he answered, “Mother, those commandments are awfully easy to break.” With such natures as ours sin is a very easy thing. You break the law before you know it; and unless a man has respect unto all the commandments he will soon be trespassing and getting into mischief. We ought in our daily life to walk as one that has to tread among eggs or delicate china. Heedless and Too-bold soon rush into sin; but the genuine believer feareth always. “You are very jealous of how you act,” said one to a saint of God. “Yes,” he replied, “I serve a jealous God.” “You are too precise,” said another. “That is a crime,” said he, “that God will never charge any of His children with.” A conscience tender as the apple of an eye is what we want. To be alarmed even at the distant approach of sin is the safeguard of a child of God. Those who dally with vice will rue such dalliance when it cannot be undone. If somebody told me that there was a cobra at the far end of my room, I should look round me for the door: I think such venomous creatures are near enough if they remain in their native jungles; I do not desire their interesting society. So should it be with sin. We should flee from it at once, avoiding its first appearance, hating it in thought and word before it hatches into act, abhorring even the garment spotted by the flesh. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 120

Psalms 119:120

My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee; and I am afraid of Thy judgments.

The trembling flesh

I. The psalmist, in this section, contemplates God’s wrath against sinners (verses 118, 119). Then apparently his thought goes on to his own case, and what is likely to be his own sentence. He is disturbed by the contemplation of that sharp judgment which he must undergo in the day when his soul shall go forth from the body.

II. The expression which he uses is a very remarkable one. “My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee.” When a man’s body reveals his fright it has quite mastered him.

III. Is not this a servile fear, unbecoming the Christian who has given himself up to be our Lord’s disciple?

1. There are, however, among professing Christians those who, by weakly continuing in some evil habit, have reduced themselves to the condition of servility.

2. There are professing Christians who have no very especial besetting sin of the mortal type, who yet go on without fervour and without making any progress in the spiritual life. They know that they have many faults, small faults in the world’s eyes, yet which, when tolerated, make the life thoroughly un-Christlike. They acquiesce in these. It does not make much difference what the defect of character may be, the grievous thing about it is that there is no faithful persistent effort to conquer it. Wherever there is found a soul like that it may well be permeated with servile fear as it contemplates the judgment, for that sort of offenders will not find mercy in the day of their sentence.

3. There are many more who ought to feel a servile fear of the wrath of God when they contemplate their lives seriously because they are not doing all that they can to put away their sins.

IV. Those who are most in earnest in seeking to prepare themselves for the judgment of the last day are the ones who tremble most at the thought of that judgment. And with very earnest souls it ceases to be a servile fear because they trust themselves more and more unreservedly to the Divine mercy. The secret of perfect trust is perfect self-distrust. And there is nothing which helps more to a realization of one’s unworthiness than the contemplation of the just judgment of God as He reveals it in Holy Writ. (Arthur Ritchie.)


Verses 121-123

Psalms 119:121-123

I have done judgment and justice.

What every man should do, and what every man requires

I. What every man should do. “I have done judgment and justice.” The whole moral code of the universe may be reduced to two words--Be just.

1. Be just to self. Properly train your own faculties, discipline your own affections, regulate your own activities.

2. Be just to other creatures. Whether they be small or large, irrational or intelligent. The meanest insect as well as the greatest soul hem claims on you.

3. Be just to the Creator. The kindest Being thank the most, the greatest Being reverence the most, the best Being adore the most.

II. What every man requires. “Be surety for Thy servant for good;” or, as some read, “Interpose for Thy servant for good.” There is a thing here which every man requires, viz. the merciful interposition of God. “Be surety”--interpose--“for Thy servant.” Unless He, in mercy, intervenes on our behalf, we are ruined for ever. Every awakened soul hungers for this, it is the great hunger of the soul. “Mine eyes fail for Thy salvation.” (Homilist.)


Verses 124-126

Psalms 119:124-126

Deal with Thy servant according unto Thy mercy.
In these words we have a prayer

I. For merciful treatment.

1. Not according to Thy justice. This would involve our ruin.

2. Not according to the mercy of men. This would be worthless. But “according to Thy mercy.” That mercy is all-compassionate, all-sufficient, and all-powerful.

II. For moral instruction. “Teach me Thy statutes.” “Give me understanding, that I may know Thy testimonies.”

1. God has given us statutes, laws for the regulation of our conduct.

2. These statutes are to be obeyed. Obedience to them is essential to our well-being.

3. These statutes, to be obeyed, must be understood. Hence the force of the prayer, “Give me understanding.”

III. For divine intervention to terminate wickedness (verse 126). There is a sense in which men cannot make void God’s laws. They cannot annul them, they cannot modify them. They can neither remove or lessen their obligation. The only way in which they can make them “void” is by practically ignoring them; and this is an evil which God will put an end to. (Homilist.)


Verses 126-128

Psalms 119:126-128

It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.

“Time for Thee to work”

The psalmist was surrounded, as would appear, by widespread defection from God’s law. But instead of trembling as if the sun were about to expire, he turns himself to God, and in fellowship with Him sees in all the antagonism but the premonition that He is about to act for the vindication of His own work.

I. Calm confidence that times of antagonism evoke God’s work for His Word. It is ever His method to send His succour after the evil has been developed, and before it has triumphed. Had it come sooner, the priceless benefits of struggle, the new perceptions won in controversy of the many-sided meaning and value of His truth, the vigour from conflict, the wholesome sense of our weakness, had all been lost. Had it come later, it had come too late. So He times His help, in order that we may derive the greatest possible benefit from both the trial and the aid.

II. Earnest prayer which brings that Divine energy. The confidence that God will work underlies and gives energy to the prayer that God would work. The belief that a given thing is in the line of the Divine purpose is not a reason for saying, “We need not pray; God means to do it,” but is a reason for saying on the contrary, “God means to do it; let us pray for it.” And this prayer, based upon the confidence that it is His will, is the best service that any of us can render to the Gospel in troublous times.

III. Love to God’s Word made more fervid by antagonism.

1. Such increase of affection because of gainsayers is the natural instinct of loyal and chivalrous love. If your mother’s name were defiled, would not your heart bound to her defence?

2. Such increase of affection because of gainsayers is the fitting end and main blessing of the controversy which is being waged. We never fully hold our treasures till we have grasped them hard, lest they should be plucked from us. No truth is established till it has been denied and has survived.

3. Such increase of attachment to the Word of God because of gainsayers is the instinct of self-preservation. The present conditions of opinion remands us all to our foundations, and should teach us that nothing but firm adherence to God revealed in His Word, and to the world which reveals God, will prevent us, too, from drifting away to shoreless, solitary seas of doubt, barren as the foam, and changeful as the crumbling, restless wave.

IV. Healthy opposition to the ways which make void the word of the Lord. Let not the contradiction of many move you from your faith; let it lift your eyes to the hills from whence cometh our help. Let it kindle into fervent enthusiasm, which is calm sobriety, your love for that Word. Let it make decisive your rejection of all that opposes. Driftwood may swim with the stream; the ship that holds to her anchor swings the other way. Send that Word far and wide. It is its own best evidence. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The present times

I. What are those evils existing in our country and time which seem to render the present a season that needs God’s special interposition?

1. The prevalence of infidelity.

2. Consider the taste for pleasure, which at the present day is continually increasing and pervading all ranks of society.

3. Nor must I forget that confederation which is undoubtedly going forward at the present time to rob us of our English Sabbath.

4. Is the Church in that spiritual state that any of us could wish? Has not the spirit of trade, by its intensity, by its rash speculations, by its absorbing power, by its money-loving spirit, eaten into and eaten out the heart of the vital piety of the Church?

II. The influence which the evils that I have mentioned ought to have upon the Church’s mind.

1. Should it not produce a deep and heart-affecting concern over the prevalence of iniquity in the world, and the comparative lukewarmness of the Church?

2. With this must be connected the spirit of earnest, believing, prevailing prayer.

3. All this is to be an individual concern. (J. A. James.)

Time for the Lord to work

The Christian who is wholly satisfied with the outlook on the condition of society either possesses a faith of unusual and heroic fibre, or has but feebly mastered the moral phenomena around him.

I. A melancholy fact. “Men have made void Thy law.”

1. By assailing its authority.

2. There is another method of making void the law of God, and that is by disparaging its sufficiency. And it is seen mainly in its relation to that law which is the highest revealed to man--the law of the Gospel, the perfect law of liberty, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

II. The urgent appeal. “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.” Such challenge is the privilege of earnest men. It is the violence which takes heaven by force. God does not resent it. He hears, invites, answers it. But when He arises to work we know not what will be the form of His operations. He worketh according to the counsel of His own will; and who knows but that when once He awakes, and puts on His strength, it may not he confined in its results to the immediate and exclusive quickening of the spiritual life of the Church, but may be associated with providential upheavals and convulsions, which will fill the heart Of the world with astonishment and dismay. There have been times when God has worked, and the signs of His presence have been seen in terrible shakings of the nations, in the ploughing up from their foundations of hoary injustice, in the smiting of grinding tyrannies, and in the emancipation of peoples whose life had been a long and hopeless mean. There have been times, too, and many, when He has worked through the elements of nature--through blasting and mildew, through floods and famine, etc. But this working of God will also take other shapes. Will it not be seen in the inspiration of the Church with faith in its own creed, so far as that creed has the warrant of the Divine Word? Then we may expect a wondrous effusion of the Holy Spirit both upon His Church and the world which is still estranged from His law and love. Can that be the Gospel in its fulness and efficacy which is unmindful of the personality and the agency of that Spirit whose functions were to be so lofty, so searching, So beneficent, and so enduring?. (E. Meller, D. D.)

The Divine patience exhausted through the making void the law

It is of great importance that men be taught that there are limits even to the forbearance of God, and that it is possible so to presume on it as to exhaust it. “They have made void Thy law.” They have reduced the Divine precepts to a dead letter, and refuse to receive them as a rule of life. But what effect will be produced on a truly righteous man by this extraordinary prevalence of iniquity? Will he be tempted, by the universal scorn which he sees thrown on God’s law, to think slightingly of it himself, and give it less of his reverence and attachment? On the contrary, this law becomes more precious in David’s sight, in proportion as he felt that it was so despised and set aside that the time for God to work had arrived. The verses are connected by the word “therefore.” “They have made void Thy law.” What then? is that law less esteemed and less prized by myself? Quite the reverse; “they have made void Thy law; therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.” This, then, is the second truth presented by our text-that there is greater reason than ever for our prizing God’s law, if the times should be those in which that law is made void. It is obvious, in the first place, that, in days such as these, there is the very finest opportunity of giving honour to God. To love His commandments above gold, whilst others count them but dross, is to display a noble zeal for His glory, and to appear as the champions of His cause, when that cause is on the point of being universally deserted. The prorated, moreover, runs, “Them that honour Me, I Will honour”; and the season, therefore, in which the greatest honour may be given to God, is that also in which the most of future glory may be secured by the righteous. To adhere boldly to the cause of righteousness, when almost solitary in adherence, is to fight the battle when champions ere most needed, and when, therefore, victory will be most triumphant. Let, then, saith the psalmist, the times be times of universal defection from godliness--I will gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, loyalty from their treason. Indeed, as I gaze on what is passing around me, I cannot but observe that Thy law, O God, is made void, and that it is therefore time for Thee to work. But I am not on this account shaken in attachment to Thy service. On the contrary, Thy law seems to me more precious than ever, for in now keeping Thy commandments I can give Thee greater glory, and find greater reward. What then? it may be that they have made void Thy law; but from my heart I can say, “therefore, on that very account, I love Thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.” But we have yet another mode in which to exhibit the connection between the verses. We have hitherto supposed the strengthened attachment which David expresses towards the law, to have been produced by the fact that this law was made void. But we now refer it to the fact that it was time for God to work. We consider, that is, that when the psalmist says, “therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold,” the reason is to be found in the character of the times, in the season being one at which God must bring judgments on the earth. “Since Thy law is made void, it is time for Thee, Lord, to interfere in vengeance; and on this account, because Wrath must be let loose, therefore I love Thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.” And if this be regarded as the connection between the verses, you will readily admit that there is abundant force in the reason of the psalmist. If there be one season at which, more than at another, the righteous feel the worth of revelation, and the blessedness of obeying its precepts, the season must be that of danger and trouble. Whether the danger and trouble be public or domestic; whether it be his country, or only his own household, over which calamity hangs; the man of piety finds a consolation in religion which makes him more than ever prize the revealed will of God. There is a beauty and energy in the Bible which nothing but affliction can bring out and display; and men know comparatively little of the preciousness of Scriptural promises, and the magnificence of Scriptural hopes, until placed in circumstances of difficulty and distress. “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.” “They have forsaken Thy covenant”, etc.; and the Judge of men must arise, and vindicate His insulted authority. But I know on whom the mark of deliverance will be set when the men with the slaughter-weapons are commanded to pass through the land. I know that where there is obedience to Thy law, there will be security from Thy wrath. And hence that law is more precious in my sight than it ever was before--“it is time for Thee to work; therefore I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.” “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.” There is much in myself which requires the processes of the refiner, much of the corruptible to be removed, much of the dross to be purged away. But if it be needful that I be cast into the furnace of affliction, I have Thy precepts to which to cling, Thy promises on which to rest. I find that Thy Word comforts me in the prospect; I know that it will sustain me in the endurance; and hence, because it is time for Thee to work, therefore is Thy word dearer to me “than the gold, yea, than the fine gold.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The worker most wanted

At different periods in the world’s history, in particular places and with respect to particular acts, transgression has been so common and flagrant, that there has been danger of the law of God being cancelled, and the law of sin everywhere written instead. Such times have needed special interpositions, which are tacitly asked for in the text.

I. The complaint. To make void God’s law is to misinterpret it, to encumber it, to ignore it, to defy its penalties, or to deny its obligation.

II. The appeal. They have made void Thy law--“it is time for Thee, Lord, to work.” There are three works possible here. The vindication of the law by punishment, the republication of the law, and the restoration of men to obedience. And which of these is the greatest? Punishment causes the law to be honoured in the punished, but not by them. The promulgation of the law puts it forward in work, but not necessarily in deed. The restoration to obedience honours it in spirit and in life. And while a man of God may live in times rendering the promulgation of law needful, and may see punishment desirable, the main desire of his heart will be that God will honour His law in the restoration of men to true obedience. (S. Martin.)


Verses 127-131

Psalms 119:127-131

Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold.

God’s Word

God’s Word is here revealed in several aspects--

I. As a prize. It is “above gold.”

1. It is intrinsically more valuable than gold. It contains the mind of God.

2. It is relatively more valuable than gold. It procures greater blessings.

II. As a law, “All Thy precepts.” As a law--

1. It is to be righteous--“Concerning all things, to be righteous.

2. It is to be practical, “I hate every false way.”

III. As a revelation. As a revelation it is--

1. Wonderful, “Thy testimonies are wonderful.”

2. Spiritually enlightening. “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light.” It lights up the soul.

IV. As a necessity (verse 131). It is the air without which you cannot breathe, food without which you cannot live. (Homilist.)


Verse 129

Psalms 119:129

Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore doth my soul keep them.

Wonder an element of religion

“The Scriptures,” says an old bishop, “are wonderful with respect to the matter which they contain, the manner in which they are written, and the effects which they produce.’’ What, then, is the Bible? The reply is this--the Bible is the history of sin; and so viewed, it stands forth, indeed, as a record surprisingly wonderful. It may be said that it is in a measure the history of righteousness also; but indeed the history of God’s righteousness is the history of man’s sin. There is a strange unity in the Bible thus viewed. It is not on the excellency of this or that portion, but upon their unity and self-completeness, that we would base our assertion of the wonderfulness of the testimonies of God. Let us, then, assuming its wonderfulness, inquire how this should produce obedience. The whole of this psalm is occupied in setting forth the Divine law in every variety of aspect, and David’s own appreciation of it; and it is observable that it is on the depth, the vastness, the wonderfulness of God’s Word that he dwells. In the text he assigns, expressly, the motive of his own obedience. His language is not that of a deep thinker, who has examined and understood more thoroughly than his brethren; it is that of a child gazing upwards to the firmament, and impressed with an awe which it cannot explain; it is language not of reason, but of faith: not of understanding, but of astonishment, in which he sketches the impulse of his own obedience. His spirit, as he meditated upon God’s law, beheld therein a mighty mystery, wide as the east from the west; and as he gazed, he saw in that law unsearchable doctrines, and dispensations not to be accounted for, and rules and regulations laid down but not explained; there was much which might be regarded as superfluous, much which man would have ordered otherwise; so, as he pondered, he marvelled; and then his heart grew at once humbled, yet elevated, by the mysterious web that was around him. Now, if it be true that wonder is closely connected with reverence, that in short the marvellous exerts in religion, as in other things, a great power over the soul of man, then we shall cease to be surprised that the Almighty has not spoken more clearly. Strip religion of whatever baffles the understanding, and you will have a system quite incapable of enlisting the heart in its cause. No deeds of high, unselfish heroism, such as those which have rendered everlastingly illustrious the names of apostles and confessors; no lives of self-denying exertion like those which adorn the annals of missionary enterprise will be produced by this religion of reason. “His Name shall be called Wonderful.” By such title did the Hebrew prophet proclaim Him, around whose cradle all Christendom is about to gather. Wonderful in His nature, being both God and man; Wonderful in the ordinances of His kingdom; Wonderful in His continual presence with His people; Wonderful in the dispensations of His grace. Even, then, as Wonderful, let us bow down before Him; never seeking to rend, with unhallowed hand, the veil that is upon His face; never recoiling from His Word by reason of its marvellousness; never trying to bring Him down to us because we cannot rise up to Him. Yea, rather, in the wonderfulness of all that emanates from Him, let us recognize a propriety. Rightly viewed, the incomprehensibleness of Christ is a bond to obedience. His statutes are wonderful, and therefore should our souls not resist, but keep them. (Bp. Woodford.)

The testimonies of God

I. Why are the Divine laws here called “testimonies”?

1. Because they bear testimony to the goodness of God in condescending to guide men by His law.

2. Because they bear testimony to the holiness of God.

3. Because they bear testimony to the respect that God has for the happiness of His creatures. He has connected the highest pleasures with obedience.

4. Because they bear testimony to the wisdom and justice of God. They are adapted to the present imperfect state of man, going upon the principle, where little is given little will be required, and where much is given much will be required.

II. The character of the divine testimonies. “they are wonderful.” How?

1. In respect of the discoveries they make of God. Look to people without these testimonies. How ignorant of the Supreme!

2. In respect of the discoveries of God’s providence.

3. In respect of the provision which the Scriptures discover for our repentance and pardon.

4. In respect of their universal application to us.

5. In respect of the assistance which they offer in the keeping of them.

6. In respect of their weight and importance. They determine the eternal conditions of men.

III. The practical regard which a good man has for the Divine testimonies. “Therefore doth my soul keep them.”

1. As a precious treasure of knowledge.

2. As objects of affection and study.

3. As the rules--the guiding lights of my conduct.

4. As embodied in my daily life and practice. (J. Walker, D. D.)

The admirable nature of the Divine oracles

I. His profound admiration of the Divine oracles. They are “wonderful” in their--

1. Style and composition.

2. Contents.

3. Efficacy.

II. Their practical influence.

1. He treasured them up in his memory.

2. He kept them in exercises of faith.

3. He held them in constant esteem, and embraced them with earnest affection.

4. He kept them in obedient practices. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

The wonderful character of God’s testimonies

1. They are wonderfully adapted to the purposes intended, and are fully adequate to all the wants and necessities of mankind. They are consonant to right reason, and adapted to promote our true interest; they confer upon us the highest benefits, and the loss of them would deprive us of the richest treasure. They secure the honour of God, and the rights of the creature.

2. They are wonderfully expressed; there is in them a mixture of the greatest majesty and simplicity.

3. They are wonderfully consistent and harmonious. The laws of men often militate one against another; but there is no discord or contrariety in the laws of God. They all bear the impress of infinite wisdom, purity and goodness.

4. They are wonderfully extensive.

5. They are wonderfully useful and important.

6. They have been wonderfully preserved.

Conclusion:

1. If the Divine law be so wonderful, what must the Gospel be? (Ephesians 3:1-10).

2. If the law and Gospel are so wonderful, what must their Author be? (Job 11:7).

3. The reason why men treat the Divine law with contempt is because they are not acquainted with its excellence, and their eyes are not open to behold its dignity and glory (Hosea 8:12).

4. If God’s Word is so precious and important, let us manifest a suitable regard towards it. (B. Beddome, M. A.)


Verse 130

Psalms 119:130

The entrance of Thy words giveth light: it giveth understanding unto the.

The power of the Word

I. The entrance of the word.

1. Generally “Thy Word,” as used in the text, includes the whole of Divine revelation from its fret announcement in Genesis of a Redeemer to the last vision of the Heavenly Sanctuary by the beloved John on the Isle of Patmos.

2. Specifically, the “entrance of Thy Word” is the gift of the Son of God (John 1:1-14).

II. The effect of the word.

1. The Word gives us light doctrinally.

2. The Word gives light practically as to the duty of nations and individuals.

3. “The entrance of Thy Word” gives us light experimentally.

The light of God’s Word

1. The light-giving quality of God’s Word. It is significant to find that the old saints found in the earlier revelation they received in the Old Testament precisely the same peerless power of holy illumination as we can testify to in the perfected message in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that more strikingly reveals the underlying unity and identity of the sacred Scriptures. The volume and momentum of the revelation have varied, but its essential power to quicken and enkindle the human soul has been steadfastly maintained from the first wonderful utterance of the Divine voice in its sacred pages.

11. This quality furnishes a high test of its divinity. “The opening of Thy Word giveth light” means not only that God’s Word gives light, but that this light divinely grows with the growing revelation or understanding of the Word. As the Word opens before the soul the Divine shines forth from it more clearly, and the glory of the present God becomes more wonderful. And the more we know of the Gospel of Christ, the more irresistibly Divine and beautiful will it prove itself to be.

III. The Word of God imparts this light by the divinest means. The Word translated “giveth light” is the same Word which is used concerning God in verse 135--“Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant.” As His face shines upon us, He makes our hearts shine back upon Him and upon the world. He does not illuminate our path mechanically, but sets His light within us livingly. He does not use us as passive reflectors of His brightness, but as burning and shining lights. (J. Thomas, M. A.)

Revelation and conversion

Trees are known by their fruit, and books by their effect upon the mind. It is not the elegance of its diction but the excellence of its influence by which a book is to be estimated.

I. The work of the Word of God in conversion. Not apart from the Spirit, but as it is used by the Spirit for divers ends, all needful to salvation.

1. To convince men of sin: they see what perfection is, that God demands it, and that they are far from it.

2. To drive men from false methods of seeking salvation, to bring them to self-despair, and to shut them up to God’s method of saving them.

3. To reveal the way of salvation, by grace, through Christ, by faith.

4. To enable the soul to embrace Christ as its all in all. By setting forth promises and invitations, which are opened up to the understanding and sealed to the heart, etc.

5. To bring the heart nearer and nearer to God. Emotions of love, desires for holiness, devotion, self-searching, love to men, humility, etc.

these are all excited, sustained, and perfected in the heart by the Word of God.

6. To restore the soul when it has wandered. Renewing tenderness, hope, love, joy, etc., by its gentle reminders.

7. To perfect the nature. The highest flights of holy enjoyment are not above or beyond the Word. Nothing is purer or more elevated than Holy Scripture. The Word also slays all sin, promotes every virtue, prepares for every duty, etc.

II. The excellence of this work done by the Word. The operations of grace by the Word are altogether good and not evil; and they are timed and balanced with infinite discretion. The Word of the Lord works marvellously, perfectly, and surely.

1. It removes despair without quenching repentance.

2. Gives pardon, but does not create presumption.

3. Gives rest, but excites the soul to progress.

4. Breathes security, but engenders watchfulness.

5. Bestows strength and holiness, but begets no boasting.

6. Gives harmony to duties, emotions, hopes, and enjoyments.

7. Brings the man to live for God, before God, and with God; and yet makes him none the less fitted for the daily duties of life.

III. The consequent excellence of the Word.

1. We need not add to it if we would secure conversion in any special case, or on the largest scale.

2. We need not keep back any doctrine for fear of damping the flame of a true revival.

3. We need not extraordinary gifts with which to preach it: the Word will do its own work.

4. We have but to follow the Word to be converted. It fits a man’s needs as a key fits a lock.

5. We have but to keep to it to become truly wise: wise as the aged, wise as necessity requires, wise as the age, wise as eternity demands, wise with the wisdom of Christ.

The light of truth

I. The words of God are a light. No effect can rise higher than its cause, and nothing can impart what it does not possess; that which gives light on its entrance into the human heart, must be light, or at least have the property of communicating light. The sun in the firmament diffuses its beams, but has no power of giving sight: a man who is born blind, or who has lost the faculty of seeing, is strictly in darkness, notwithstanding the existence of day. In like manner, the holy Scriptures are a light from Heaven; they spread the most essential knowledge, and are adapted to produce the most beneficial effects; but multitudes are not savingly benefited by them: their minds are still dark, and their hearts remain impenitent and unholy.

II. Something hinders the admission of this light into the heart.

1. Principally it is sin; the love of sin: these are opposed to every dictate of heavenly truth, and counteract its salutary effects.

2. The influence of the world.

3. Unbelief.

4. Prejudice.

III. These hindrances may be removed. By whom and in what way is this change produced? “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts.” The Spirit applies the truth with almighty energy. By His agency the Word becomes effectual in them that believe, so that every obstacle is removed, every barrier subdued.

IV. When obstacles are removed, and the word of truth enters, the most beneficial effects are produced.

1. The right knowledge of ourselves.

2. The true knowledge of God.

3. The knowledge of Jesus Christ.

4. The way of salvation by the Cross of Christ is learnt.

5. It discovers to us the snares and dangers of the wilderness through which we pass; it informs us of the enemies we have to encounter, and the numerous evils to which we are exposed.

6. Its entrance in the heart helps us to form a just estimate of earthly things: it detects the emptiness and vanity of the present world, and all its concerns, and makes us acquainted with what is infinitely better--heavenly and eternal good. (T. Kidd.)

Value of God’s Word

I. A great blessing.

1. Light is the chief means of knowledge.

2. Another effect of light is cheerfulness (Ecclesiastes 11:7).

3. Light is productive of healthy growth.

II. The means of its communication. What is the psalmist’s idea? Is it the glory of the daybreak--the “opening” of the earth, and air, and sky by the beams of the rising sun? Or the “opening” as of the seed-sprout, or the bud that unfolds its mysterious and beauteous pleats to the light of day? “The opening of Thy words,” i.e. the hearing them and getting at their secret meaning, the blessed messages of love, of pardon, peace. Where are these “words” of God? All around us in His works and ways! (J. E. Flower, M. A.)

God’s truth clear and simple

The powerlessness of philosophy consists in the fact that it is profound and obscure; the strength of Christianity that it is profound and clear. One of the most illustrious German thinkers said on his death-bed, “I carry one regret with me to the grave, that of having been understood by but one man in the world; and he has only half understood me.” A system like that was not destined to live, and Hegelianism is already dead. But Jesus Christ made every truth to shine, and herein consisted His greatness.

The Scriptures for the common people

A priest observing to William Tyndale, “We are better without God’s law than the Pope’s,” “I defy the Pope and all his laws,” Tyndale replied; and added, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy which driveth the plough to know more of Scripture than you do.” (Quarterly Review.)


Verses 131-133

Psalms 119:131-133

I opened my mouth, and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments.

Holy longings

Here we have David desiring, praying, pleading, and setting forth very clearly what he pants after. May you and I have the same burning desires; and at the same time may we clearly know what we are panting for, so that we may the more intelligently pursue it, and thus go the nearer way to obtain it!

I. Longing ardently after holiness (verse 131).

1. The man of God longeth after the Lord’s commandments. Many religious people long after the promises, and they do well; but they must not forget to have an equal longing for the commandments.

2. The psalmist, having told us what he longed for, shows the strength of those desires; for he had been so eager in his pursuit of holiness that he had test his breath. Are you ready to faint? Underneath are the everlasting arms.

3. See how resolved he was. Even though you open your mouth and pant with weariness, yet keep your face set like a flint towards holiness, and let your case be that of one who is “faint, yet pursuing.”

4. Note that the follower after holiness seeks renewed strength. Why does he open his mouth and pant? Is it not to get more air, to fill his lungs again, to cool his blood, and to be ready to renew his running?

5. He was dissatisfied with his attainments. His opened mouth and panting heart betoken desires which are not as yet fulfilled.

6. Yet, let no tinge of discouragement mingle with your dissatisfaction: this man is hopeful of better things. He opens his mouth because he looks for something to fill it; he pants because he believes in water-brooks which will relieve his thirst.

II. Pleading fervently for the holiness he desired (verse 132).

1. He believes in God’s power to bless him, and hence he turns to Him, and cries, “Look Thou upon me.” Great sinners may be grateful for a look, for it is more than they deserve. Great saints may rejoice in a look; for it means much when the eye which looks is the eye of Omnipotent Love.

2. He appeals to mercy.

3. He pleads as one who loves God.

4. He employs the grand plea of use and wont.

5. He joyfully accepts God’s method. We kiss the rod, because the Father who uses it designs to kiss us. We assent to the processes of grace that we may enjoy the results of grace. It may so happen that if God sanctifies you, He may have to grind you very small: cheerfully yield yourself to the mill. If this is the way in which He deals with those that love His Name, do not desire any different treatment.

III. Enlarging intelligently upon the favour he seeks (verse 133).

1. Now, let us see how the psalmist puts it. His cry is for holiness, and he describes it as being ruled by the Word of God. “Order my steps in Thy Word.” The different sects have differing ideas of holiness, but the reality of holiness is only one. It is this--“Order my steps in Thy Word.”

2. He would have holiness in every step of his life.

3. He would have every step ordered. We can never attain to the right proportion of the virtues unless the Lord Himself arranges them in order for us, Do not tell me it is easy to be holy; you want not only the different graces, but all these in order due and measure fit. O Lord, help us! Order our steps.

4. He would have every step full of God: he would have each one ordered of the Lord. He would receive his strength, his motives, his guiding influences direct from the Lord.

5. He would be wholly delivered from the tyranny of sin. “Let not any iniquity,” etc. I fear that many professors have never understood this prayer. One man is a splendid man for a prayer-meeting, a fine man for a Bible-class; but at home he is a tyrant to his wife and children. Is not this a great evil under the sun? Another man is stern and honest, and he inveighs with all his might against every form of evil, but he is hard even to cruelty with all who are in his power. One is generous and fervent, but he likes a sly drop; another is good-natured and pleasant, but he puts it on in his bills at times, and his customers do not find the goods quite of the quality they pay for. Beware of pet sins. If you let a golden god rule you, you will perish as well as if you let a mud god rule you. Be this your constant cry--“Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The satisfying power of Divine things

These words may be considered as expressing the very earnest longing of the psalmist for greater acquaintance with God in spiritual things; and then, in saying, “I opened my mouth, and panted,” he merely asserts the vehemence of his desire. Or you may separate the clauses: you may regard the first as the utterance of a man utterly dissatisfied with the earth and earthly things, and the second as the expression of a consciousness that God, and God only, could meet the longings of his soul. “I opened my mouth, and panted. Out of breath with chasing shadows, and hunting after baubles, I sit down exhausted, as far off as ever from the happiness which has been earnestly but fruitlessly sought. Whither, then, shall I turn? Thy commandments, O Lord, and these alone, can satisfy the desires of an immortal being like myself; and on these, therefore, henceforward shall my longings be turned.” We shall regard the passage under this latter point of view.

I. The insufficiency of created things to supply the wants of the soul. Let the soul be set to the survey of any created good, and however enamoured of that good, its decision will be that its limits are discernible; and in making this decision its own capacities, unconsciously, it may be, but not the less surely, will enlarge so as to be greater than the good, and thus make hopeless the attempt at filling them therewith. The soul, in fact, grows with what it receives; and unless the horizon of a good be like the natural horizon, which recedes as fast as you approach, the soul will quickly pass the boundary line, and present again a void which craves to be filled. But this can be affirmed of no good save the Almighty Himself. God is that alone perfection of which I can see no end; with all others, the higher I ascend the more conscious am I that the horizon has a shore, however distant, and with the greater elasticity does my spirit spread itself, so as to embrace the expanse of wonders; but with God, the loftier my point of survey, the firmer my persuasion that the ocean is without a shore.

II. The power there is in God’s commandments of filling our capacity for enjoyment. We suppose that, had it been left with ourselves to draw the comparison, we should not have represented this man, who was exhausted by a fruitless search after happiness, as longing after the commandments of God. We should have been inclined to fix on the favour of God, or on the joys which He communicates to His people, rather than, with David in our text, on His commandments, as affording that material of satisfaction which is so vainly sought in any earthly good. But let the matter be carefully examined, and we shall find that it is strictly for the commandment that the wearied soul ought to long. The whole law of God is summed up in one commandment, the commandment of love; but in what does man’s happiness lie, if not in obedience to this commandment? We deny the possibility of satisfaction of soul, so long as there is nothing of reunion with God. The human soul has been torn away from God, and all that restlessness which it manifests, until again linked into friendship, is an irrepressible evidence of the disruption. In its ceaseless but unavailing endeavours to find a resting-place in finite good, there is an ever-powerful testimony that it has fatally wandered from its home; its fruitless searchings after happiness in the creature are the melancholy evidences of alienation from the Creator. Indeed, fraught as the soul is with the consciousness of immortality--a consciousness which, however for awhile overborne by the tumult of passion, starts up frequently in every man, and forces itself on his attention, it is not possible that there should be aught but disquietude, so long as there is no sense of being at peace with the Almighty, And thus, even if you consider not the peculiar nature of God’s commandments, there would be enough in the fact that they are God’s commandments, and therefore to be obeyed, if we would not be everlastingly and unutterably wretched, to certify us that in God’s commandments must happiness be sought, and that therefore those commandments must be longed for by any one who has exhausted himself in a search after good. But we must go beyond this. We must give heed to the fact that the commandments are summed up in love. Think of a man who knew nothing of envy, who was altogether free from jealousy, nay, who had not only purged himself from these corroding passions, but who had so identified the interests of others with his own, that he felt what befell them as befalling himself; and this would be the man who would obey the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” And can you imagine a happier individual? Can you ever take the measure of his happiness? But the love of man is not all which the commandments require; they require love of God; and this makes them adequate to our every capacity; for it is certain, first of all, that ere I can love God I must know myself reconciled to God. In loving God we throw from us the burden which, if unmoved, must press us down everlastingly into the depths of wretchedness; and we take hold of immortality, as purchased for us and prepared, and reserved. We turn this earth, from a scene of jarring passions and petty rivalries, into one broad stage upon which to labour for the extension of the kingdom of Christ. We concentrate our affections on objects whose contemplation enlarges the soul, whilst their boundaries are unapproached by the mightiest expansion. If I love God I shall be continually travelling on His perfections, and continually discerning that I am as far off as ever from their limits. I shall be continually stretching the soul, that it may enclose what is Divine, and continually finding that what is Divine is too vast to be thus circumscribed. And therefore the command that I love God, oh l it is a command that I develop the immortality of the soul; that I employ my desires till they are as broad as my duration; that I prove myself too capacious for creation. Earth, and moon, and sun, and stars! He who made you all can alone occupy that spirit which, with this narrow framework of flesh as its centre, spreads its circumference wheresoever ye travel in your glorious wanderings. And if such be God’s commandments, we may well set these commandments in contrast with every good from which those who are yet strangers to God would gather their happiness; and I can no longer wonder that a man worn out by the pursuit of earthly things, so that he exclaimed, “I opened my mouth, and punted,” should turn to the law of the Most High as alone adequate to his capacities, and break into the utterance, “I longed for Thy commandments, O Lord.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)


Verses 132-135

Psalms 119:132-135

Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me.

Prayer for mercies vouchsafed to the good

I. Direction in the right way. We are all travellers on an unknown road, and we want direction. Order my footsteps.

II. Defence against our foes. The dominion of evil is the greatest curse. There is a danger of having this dominion established. God alone can prevent it.

III. Deliverance against malignant foes. Man oppresses man everywhere. Who but God can deliver from the oppression under which humanity groans?

IV. THE favour of Almighty God (verse 135). God’s approval is man’s heaven. (Homilist.)

A page from a royal diary

I. David’s brief petition. “Look Thou upon me.”

1. His own eyes had failed him (verse 123).

2. Man’s eye had misjudged him (verse 134).

3. He knew that God’s eye perceives what His servant needs.

4. He leaves all with God.

5. God’s look will be a sign of Divine favour.

6. God’s look would prepare him for future obedience.

II. David’s humble confession. “Be merciful unto me.”

1. His prayer grew out of this confession.

2. By this petition he evidently sought forgiveness.

3. Upon this ground alone he sought for the blessing he desired.

III. David’s tacit profession. “As Thou usest to do,” etc. David hardly dares to say that he does love God’s Name, but he does practically say it by praying that God will treat him as He treats those who do love His Name. Some of those who love God best are not the loudest in proclaiming their love. The true child of God does love His Lord’s Name. This includes--

1. The person of God.

2. The character of God.

3. God’s revelation.

4. The glory of God.

IV. David’s gracious aspiration.

1. He would be dealt with as saints have always been dealt with. Well, you know what He used to do to those who loved His Name; He used to come and visit them. For instance, there were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These all had visits from the Lord, as did Moses, when God was in the burning bush. God not only used to visit those who loved His Name, but He used to instruct them What teachings they had from Him! What revelations and manifestations of Himself! Lord, teach me as Thou usest to teach those who loved Thy Name! How patient also He was with them! They had many faults and failings, and they grieved His Holy Spirit; but He forgave them, and went on teaching them; and when they fell and wandered from Him, He restored them, and brought them back again. Then you know the Lord was always faithful to those who loved His Name. When He made them a promise, He always kept it. But notice this also, the Lord used to whip them when they needed it; those who loved His Name were chastened. Asaph said, “All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” Well, suppose you should have the same treatment, you can thank God that He is doing to you as He used to do to those who loved His Name.

2. I think also that, when using these words, David meant that he was quite willing that God should deal with him in His usual way, in His regular order. He did not want to have some special railway thrown up for him, in which he could ride first-class to glory; but he was willing to go the old way, the way the holy prophets went, and the saints, and martyrs, and confessors of God; that is to say, he did not want salvation without holiness, he did not want justification without sanctification, he did not want pardon without regeneration. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Fellowship with the righteous

I. There are some who love God’s Name. His Name means His perfections, His nature, His being, Himself; and they who love His Name mean those who love Himself.

II. His mercy is the source of all the goodness they experience.

III. The Lord has been always accustomed to deal mercifully with them. He was merciful to them when He frowned, as well as when He smiled; when He denied, as well as when He indulged; when He took away, as well as when He gave. What use ought we to make of this?

IV. His mercy towards them should encourage us to implore mercy for ourselves. Beggars naturally love to go to a door where others have been successful, especially where none have ever been sent empty away. This, indeed, is never the case among men. No earthly benefactor, however disposed, can afford universal relief. But we have everything to inspire our application at “a throne of grace.” In what He has done through every age, we see His resources and His bounty. And we know that He is unchangeably the same.

V. We should be anxious to secure the mercy that is peculiar to them; and not be satisfied with His common kindness.

VI. We should be content if God deals with us as He has always dealt with His people. While he could not be satisfied with anything less than their portion, David asks for nothing better; he implores no singular dispensation in his favour, no deviation from the accustomed methods of His grace. (W. Jay.)

The plea of use and wont

The psalmist employs the great plea of use and wont; for, says he, “As Thou usest to do unto those that love Thy Name.” Use and wont generally have great weight in a court of law. A friend said to me, “How will such a suit go? The case has never been before a court until now.” I answered, “Are you sure that what was done is according to universal and long-established custom? for, if so, though there be no law, the custom of the trade will stand.” Custom among men reaching far back holds good in court; how much shall the custom of the eternally unchanging God decide His future acts? The psalmist pleads the Lord’s own custom; and this is a grand plea with him, because He is unchanging. If you think it a good plea, urge it at the throne. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 133

Psalms 119:133

Order my steps in Thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Ordered steps

I. Complete subservience to the will of God.

1. “Order.” He is a man who wishes to be under orders, he is willing to obey the Lord’s commands, and he is anxious to receive them, and to be made to carry them out.

2. “Order my steps in Thy Word.” Once we lived without any order, or plan, or method; but the grace of God makes us methodists in the highest possible sense. It makes us live according to God’s method; and our prayer is, that we may never be disorderly, but that in all things, just as the universe is arranged by God, and all the stars keep their appointed courses, so we may be made to take our proper places, and may be kept in them, joyfully obedient to the will of the Most High.

3. “In Thy Word.” He was perfectly satisfied with God’s revelation; he had not so much of it as we have, but there was room enough in it for all his steps. He wanted no greater liberty than the Bible gave him.

II. Careful watchfulness.

1. He does not say merely, “Order my life,” but, “Order my steps.” Godly men desire to be kept right by God even in the little things of life.

2. That prayer means, “Order my ordinary dally life.” Do not many think that religion is only something for Sundays?

3. Let us especially pray about all our advances. It is by steps that we go forward.

III. Comprehensive obedience. It has two clauses, the positive and the negative. “Order my steps in Thy Word;” that is, “Lord, make me positively to do the right thing!” Then, “let not any iniquity have dominion over me”; that is, “Lord, preserve me from any thought, or word, or deed which would be contrary to Thy mind and will!” He is the right sort of believer who is an all-round Christian, one who is positive for doing the right, but who is equally determined not to do the wrong.

IV. Cautious apprehensiveness. He means, “Lord, I am afraid to take a single step without Thine orders, I am afraid to put one foot before another for fear I should go wrong!” “Happy is the man that feareth alway.” He that was too bold was never too wise. He that leaped before he looked, looked very sadly after he had leaped. He shall go right who knows where he is going, is careful about the road, and afraid lest he should go astray. He is the man who prays, “Order my steps in Thy Word.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)