Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.The Honey of God's Word
In the superbly sublime nineteenth Psalm David pronounces God's word to be sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb. In the same passage he declares that 'it is pure, enlightening the eyes'. Again the Psalmist says 'the entrance of Thy word giveth light'. It is not the careless reading or the listless hearing of the book, but its entrance into the soul which produces this inward illumination. The spiritual eyesight must be opened in order that the spiritual beauty and wisdom and glory of the Divine word may be discovered. The growing Christian never outgrows his Bible; in the exhaustless jewel-mine every stroke of the mattock reveals new nuggets of gold and fresh diamonds.
I. Even as a mental discipline there is no Book like God's Book. The humblest labourer who saturates his mind with this celestial schoolbook becomes a superior man to his comrades—not merely a purer man but a clearer-headed man. It was the feeding on this honey dropping from heaven which gave to the Puritans their wonderful sagacity as well as their unconquerable loyalty to the right.
II. As the sunlight was made for all eyes, so this Book was made for all hearts. It is more than light, for it is an enlightener. Not only does it reveal the grandest, the sublimest and most practical truths, but it improves and enlarges the vision. Who of us that have been sorely perplexed about questions of right and wrong, and puzzled as to our duty, have not caught new views and true views as soon as we dipped into this honeycomb? Poor Cowper, harassed and tormented, found in the twenty-fifth verse of the third chapter of Romans the honey which brought light to his over-clouded soul. There is many a one who can testify how precious honey from heaven brought light and joy to his eyes when dimmed with sorrow. The exceeding rich and infallible promises were not only sweet, they were illuminating. They lighted up the valley of the shadow of death; they showed how crosses can be turned into crowns, and how losses can brighten into glorious gains.
III. Nothing opens the sinner's eyes to see himself and to see the Saviour of sinners like the simple word. The Bible is a book to reveal iniquity in the secret parts. If the sceptic and the scoffer can be induced to taste some of that honey which Christ gave to Nicodemus, he may find hell a tremendous reality to be shunned, and heaven a glorious reality to be gained.
—T. L. Cuyler.
References.—XIX. 1.—E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 16. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 195. XIX. 1-6.—R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 113. XIX. 1-7.—W. Alexander, Primary Convictions, p. 163. XIX. 2.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix. p. 147. XIX. 3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv. p. 249. XIX. 3, 4.—V. W. Gregory, Expositor (3rd Series), vol. iii. p. 315. XIX. 4.—W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 398. XIX. 4-6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 1020. A. P. Stanley, Sermons in the East, p. 71. XIX. 5.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 12. XIX. 5, 6.—J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, p. 227. XIX. 7.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes—Genesis to Proverbs, p. 147. 7,8.—A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 30. XIX. 7-9.—G. Matheson, Expositor (1st Series), vol. xii. p. 89. XIX. 8.—J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii. p. 36. XIX. 11.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2625. XIX. 12.—G. H. Morrison, The Scottish Review, vol. ii. p. 134. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 299. Ibid. vol. iii. No. 116. J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i. p. 41. H. Thompson, Concionalia—Outlines for Parochial Use (1st Series), vol. i. p. 111. XIX. 12-14.—T. G. Selby, The Imperfect Angel, p. 88. R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 164.
The Sin of Self-confidence
Our purpose is to point out that life does not admit of negligence, self-confidence, and venturesomeness; and to urge a close and constant supervision of the soul.
I. To Treat Negligently Our Secret Faults is to become guilty of presumptuous sin. Immediately before our text we listen to the deprecation and appeal, 'Who can discern His errors? Clear Thou me from hidden faults.' Now, by these errors and secret faults we understand the Psalmist to indicate the thought, feeling, and bias which lie back of action, and eventually determine action. In the meditation of the heart, the chambers of the brain, the inclination of the will, action takes its rise and colour; and at this initial point, in the count of the sacred writer, we ought specially to be on our guard. Out of the heart are the issues of life; and this fountain ought to be kept under constant observation, as the inhabitants of volcanic areas watch the movement and colour of the water in the wells. According to the reasoning of the text and context, out of hidden faults spring presumptuous sins, out of presumptuous sins dominant sins, out of dominant sins the great transgression of final apostasy. Medical authority teaches that elephantiasis is sometimes occasioned by the bite of a mosquito; and the student of morals well knows that, as the most monstrous physical maladies arise in microscopic life, so the foulest sins originate in obscure errors of the mind, in distempered imaginations, in morbid feeling, in a bias of the will so faint as easily to escape notice. As St. James diagnoses the situation, each man is tempted when drawn away by his irregular desire, and enticed; then, the irregular desire having conceived, beareth sin; and sin, becoming full grown, brings forth death. The point of the Psalmist, then, is this—that so soon as we discern in thought, emotion, or conduct any thing irregular, false, unhealthy, we ought promptly to take ourselves to task.
II. To Despise the Beginnings of Habit is to become chargeable with presumptuous sin. The Psalmist has here in view the terrible power of evil habit. 'Let them not have dominion over me.' St. Paul refers to the same hateful domination: 'Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof. The ancients were only too familiar with tyranny, with its humiliations and cruelty; but they knew no despotism that was so terrible as that of a soul mastered by base desire: the tyranny that outrages reason, puts out the eyes of the heart, silences the conscience, fastens fetters on the will, and thrusts human nature in its inmost self into the bitterest bondage and degradation. To acquiesce in the lordship of lust, or to attempt in unavailing revolt to break its fetters, is the deepest depth of subjection and misery we may know. Let us not be guilty of presumptuous sin in yielding to the temerity which trifles with the beginnings of evil. The crease may be barely discernible, but there character will be rent; the scratch may be inappreciable, but here the soul will be shattered, and, perchance, cast with the rubbish to the void! Snap, then, the spider-thread ere it become a cord of vanity, a cart-rope to drag the tyrant's chariot and the executioner's tumbril. Block the track ere the lawless thought establish a right of way. Quench the kindling spark ere you perish in the impure flame of an infernal martyrdom. 'Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.'
III. To Expose Ourselves Unnecessarily to Temptation is an egregious form of presumption. We have already spoken of those wanton persons who are never happy except when courting danger in some shape or other; and this folly finds its parallel in the spiritual life. Surely temptation enough arises out of natural, legitimate life, inevitable dangers stand thick through all the ground; and yet we madly multiply peril to the soul, as the hare-brained will graze the grave. How rashly we expose ourselves to sceptical influences! How heedlessly we take on worldly entanglements! How apt we are to minimize the perils of passion, feeding without fear! To dabble with any forbidden thing in the moral life is inexcusable folly; for it does not, and it cannot, bring any advantage whatever. The wounds received in the service of sin carry no honour; the ventures made at the bidding of vicious caprice yield no profit; the forbidden precipices we climb with bleeding feet only render our folly the more conspicuous and our punishment the more complete. 'What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.'
IV. To Encounter the Inevitable Perils of Life Without Due Preparation is a sin of presumption. Nothing in nature is more remarkable than the way in which the creatures are fortified against their enemies; and it is noted that their defensive armour becomes more exquisite and complete as their assailants increase in power and efficiency. Cacti are preserved by formidable spines. Protective mechanics of a most complicated order are found in a number of plants. All kinds of ingenious weapons are developed by flower, insect, and animal; just the armour that best suits them, being finely adjusted to the severity of their environment. Thus God has not left His people without a 'whole armour'; it would be strangely unlike Him if He had. And that armour is found in the intensity and fullness of their spiritual life. The armour of the saint is not something exterior and artificial: it is the protection that springs from the reality, intensity, and healthiness of the life of the soul. It is in the grasp of the truth by the understanding, in the sensibility of the conscience to righteousness, in the warmth of the heart's love, in the clearness of the vision of the eternal, in the strength of our trust in God, and in the completeness of our consecration to Him. Here is the invulnerable panoply of the saints.
—W. L. Watkinson, The Fatal Barter, pp. 129-43.
References.—XIX. 13.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 76. XIX. 13.—J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passiontide, p. 95.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.