Great Texts of the Bible
The Goodness of God
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.—Psalm 34:8.
1. No man who looks thoughtfully around him and within can fail to feel at times, as Plato felt, that he needs some wiser and more certain guidance than his own if he is ever to learn what God really is; that God Himself must speak to him and show Himself to him if he is to be sure that God is good, friendly, accessible. Even if we believe that God has spoken to us and shown Himself to us, that we have seen Him in Christ Jesus and found Him altogether good, yet at times, when the burden of all this unintelligible and self-contradictory world lies heavily upon us, or when our own life is darkened by some misery to which there seems neither relief nor end, we lose our assurance; we falter where we firmly trod: God seems to shroud Himself in some inaccessible heaven, to retire behind thick clouds we cannot penetrate, to become doubtful to us once more, so that we can no longer see or say that He is good.
It is an unspeakable relief and comfort to hear any voice which assures us, in clear and cordial tones, that God is good, despite our doubts and fears, that the sun of His love is shining down on the world, though it be hidden from us by the dark clouds that hang about our hearts. And if the voice be that of a man such as we are, yet better and wiser than we are, and wiser and better mainly because he has passed through many such experiences as those by which we are troubled and has found out what they mean—then surely he can give us not comfort only, but the very succour that we most need.
2. Now the author of this psalm stands in the front rank of those poets who have devoted themselves to the study of the ethical aspects and problems of human life, and he is able to interpret the inner world of character and motive and passion with a precision and a delicacy, a truth and a power never surpassed. Confessedly also, despite the grievous transgression, he so bitterly rued, he was a man after God’s own heart; a man whose goodness was not of the narrow, ascetic, forbidding type which repels men, but of that large, cordial, and manly type which is most winning and attractive. Nor can we well doubt that his experience was wider and more varied than ours, embraced more radical vicissitudes, swept a larger circle, covered more distant extremes. And not only did he run through the whole gamut of human experience, but at the very time he sung this psalm he was involved in those clouds of undeserved loss, pain, reproach, under which we too often lose our faith in the goodness of God. It would have been pardonable if, under stress of so hard and unmerited a fate, he had brooded over it till the goodness of God had become as doubtful to him as it often becomes to us under the lesser strain of trials not to be compared with his. But it is from the thick darkness of his adversity that he comes forth, with manly and cheerful courage, to assure us that the Lord is good, and to dwell enjoyingly on the blessedness of the man who trusts in Him. Such a testimony, given by such a man at such a moment, may well touch and reassure our hearts. What are our powers of insight as compared with his? or what our troubles as compared with his? That, with his powers, he saw no reason to doubt the goodness of the Lord; that, under his burden, he held fast his confidence in God—this should at least bring some little hope to our hearts when they are heavy and doubtful and sad. And if we believe that he was not only a poet, but an inspired poet, we have in his words a Divine revelation as well as the result of his own illuminated reason and far-reaching experience. It is God who speaks to us and assures us that He is good, and will do us good, however we doubt or distrust Him.
The following letter was written by Canon Liddon to Dr. King, Bishop of Lincoln, one of his oldest friends, in the second week of his illness, which was destined to proved fatal: “God has laid His hand very heavily upon me; and I have been through the fire—I greatly needed it. Nothing [is] more wonderful in Him than His goodness to such as I am. Pray for me, that I may learn how to be humble and patient, and that this visitation (in the Day of Account) may not be seen to have been as nothing—or worse than nothing—instead of a great means of grace.”1 [Note: Life and Letters of H. P. Liddon, 384.]
Lifelong our stumbles, lifelong our regret,
Lifelong our efforts failing and renewed,
While lifelong is our witness, “God is good,”
Who bore with us till now, bears with us yet,
Who still remembers and will not forget,
Who gives us light and warmth and daily food;
And gracious promises half understood,
And glories half unveiled, whereon to set
Our heart of hearts and eyes of our desire;
Uplifting us to longing and to love,
Luring us upward from this world of mire,
Urging us to press on and mount above
Ourselves and all we have had experience of,
Mounting to Him in love’s perpetual fire.2 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]
The Approach to God
1. The Psalmist invites us to put God to the most practical of tests. “O taste and see.” Of our five senses taste is the most homely; of our five senses taste is the most personal; for what we see, and hear, and smell, and touch, we share with others, but in a peculiarly personal sense the taste is our own. As the proverb says: “There is no disputing about taste.” Moreover, the sense of taste is a peculiarly gracious gift of the Creator to us, for, so far as we can tell, we might easily be nourished with food which we did not taste, and all those processes of digestion might go on unconsciously, like the feeding of an engine. But He has given us this faculty of taste, by which we discriminate the different flavours of the food we eat, and get a relish from variety. Now, it is this one of the senses—the most homely, the most personal, and the most gratuitous—that is taken as the image to be used for urging upon us the experience of God. “Taste” is the command. It is as if God came to us with this generous proposal, “I would not have you choose Me until you have tasted Me, nor would I force Myself upon you unless your taste decide.” In a marvellous way He puts Himself at our disposal for us to try. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
There is an Indian story of a queen who “proved the truth by tasting the food.” The story tells how her husband, who dearly loved her, and whom she dearly loved, lost his kingdom, wandered away with his queen into the forest, left her there as she slept, hoping she would fare better without him, and followed her long afterwards to her father’s court, deformed, disguised, a servant among servants, a cook. Then her maidens came to her, told her of the wonderful cooking, magical in manner, marvellous in flavour and fragrance. They are sure it is the long-lost king come back to her, and they bid her believe and rejoice. But the queen fears it may not be true. She must prove it; she must taste the food. They bring her some. She tastes and knows. And the story ends in joy. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”1 [Note: 1 Amy Wilson Carmichael, Things as they are in India, 253.]
2. The secret of goodness can be found only by personal experience. Men know what sin is, by experience. They do not know what holiness is, and they cannot obtain the knowledge of its secret pleasure, till they join themselves truly and heartily to Christ, and devote themselves to His service—till they “taste,” and thereby try. One may ask, Of what value, of what distinct force and bearing, as an evidence of truth, is this appeal to experimental proof? To this we may answer, first, that while the mere fact of any religious or ethical system making such an appeal would by no means prove its truth, for a false system might profess to do the same, still no system could be true which shrank from it. It would argue a consciousness of being untrue to the realities of things, otherwise it would not fear the ordeal of experience. So far, therefore, it is a fair presumption in favour of the Bible that throughout its language, expressed or implied, is “Taste and see.” And this presumption, it is next to be observed, rises into positive inductive proof, in proportion to the duration, extent, and diversity of the trial. As in experimental philosophy we arrive at a general law by an induction of particular instances, and the result is satisfactory in proportion to the multiplication of concurring instances and the absence of antagonistic ones, so is it with the argument for the Bible as derived from experimental proof. In this case the induction is overwhelming. From the beginning it has been undergoing this ordeal. Millions have tried it, and have set to their seal that God’s Word is true. From age to age the testimony has rolled on, swelling in its progress into one mighty and majestic volume. And thus, borne on the echoes of successive generations, the voice of that testimony has reached our ears, and the burden of its cry is still the same, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
It is in his inner experience of the glorified Christ that we are to look for the secret and source of Raymund Lull’s doctrine and life—what he thought, what he was, what he suffered. And this must be true of all true missionaries. They do not go out to Asia and to Africa to say, “This is the doctrine of the Christian Church”; or, “Your science is bad. Look through this microscope and see for yourselves and abandon such error”; or, “Compare your condition with that of America and see how much more socially beneficial Christianity is than Hinduism or Confucianism or Islam.” Doubtless all this has its place—the argument from the historic evidences of Christianity, the argument from the coherence of Christianity with the facts of the universe, the argument from fruits. But it is also all secondary. The primary thing is personal testimony: “This I have felt. This He has done for me. I preach whom I know.”1 [Note: R. E. Speer, Some Great Leaders in the World Movement, 46.]
Experience bows a sweet contented face,
Still setting to her seal that God is true:
Beneath the sun, she knows, is nothing new
All things that go return with measured pace,
Winds, rivers, man’s still recommencing race:—
While Hope beyond earth’s circle strains her view,
Past sun and moon, and rain and rainbow too,
Enamoured of unseen eternal grace.
Experience saith, “My God doth all things well”:
And for the morrow taketh little care,
Such peace and patience garrison her soul:—
While Hope, who never yet hath eyed the goal,
With arms flung forth, and backward floating hair,
Touches, embraces, hugs the invisible.2 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Verses, 105.]
3. This is a mode of proof available to every man, without distinction or exception. It requires neither learning nor logic to conduct it. The appeal is simply this, “Taste and see; trust in the Lord and thou shalt be blessed.” Whatever doubts there might have been before the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, there can be little doubt now that this experience of the great souls is meant to be the experience of every soul. For ever since our Lord and Master came to us in that homely speech of His, and proposed that we should taste Him, eat His flesh, and drink His blood, and ever since He reminded us that it is in that kind of intimate personal communion that life comes, and not otherwise, He has made it clear that there is with Him no selection. He does not choose the people at His banquet; He does not say, “Let the rich or let the worthy come.” The whole point of it is, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in”; “whosoever will, let him drink”; “come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
Madame Guyon possessed the feminine rather than the masculine relation between the soul and God; but that is the beauty of this relation—that it does not depend upon sex or age; it is equally significant to the woman as to the man. There is something essentially delicate and sweet in this woman-soul opening to God. Follow the process. She comes in stillness and quietness and solitude to wait upon Him. She utters His name, and pauses; she says a word to Him, and waits to listen; she will not speak much, lest she should not hear. Presently she hears; it is the response, He is coming. “Oh, my soul, be still; hush thy words; He is here!” He speaks, and now she speaks again, and presently from speech to silence she comes into the sanctuary of His presence, and there it is all still—activity which does not move. Oh, the joy, the rapture of what seems passionless passion! He is speaking, she is hearing; the soul is throbbing on the heart of God. What a marvellous experience it is, this tasting God!1 [Note: R. F. Horton.]
Has the love of Christ worked any real change in Our feelings towards God? Has there broken out yet in our hearts the beautiful bright spring of thankfulness, or the deep fount of holy sorrow? Have we ever felt the promptings of remorse, the pangs of penitence, as we thought of the goodness of God in giving us Jesus Christ?… Has the goodness of the Lord ever got a hold of our hand and turned us right round, and begun to lead us gently along the road that ends in a new mind about God, a mind at peace with Him? That is what God’s goodness leads to. If you have not seen the sunshine streaming down that lane, the sun has never shone for you. If you have never heard that in the patter of the rain, it has yet to fall a new way for you. If the sweetest voice you ever heard on earth never sounds in that strain, there is a music in it yet for you. If your father’s wisdom, your teacher’s help, your friend’s love have not pointed out this track, there is a meaning in them hitherto missed by you. Oh, never say you have known the goodness of God as it can be known, as He would have it known, if it does not sometimes make you bow your head in your prayer and stop speechless, and nearly break your heart. Speak not of God’s goodness if it has not cast you at the feet of Christ; if it has not made you feel after and find the hem of His garment, and hold on for dear life.1 [Note: R. W. Barbour, Thoughts, 30.]
4. The test must be applied under certain conditions, if the result is to prove satisfactory. Look at Psalm 34:13-14 of this psalm. Does a man want that taste of God? Then “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” The tongue that is to taste God must be true, the lips into which that food is to pass must be pure, and the life must be a life that is compatible with so high a companionship and so intimate a communion. “Oh, then,” you say, “it is impossible to me; for my lips are unclean, and my tongue is untrue; what you say is possible for the good is not possible for me, the bad.” But read on to Psalm 34:18—“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” So it appears that there are two conditions for this tasting of God. The one is that you shall be perfectly pure in heart and speech, and then you can taste Him; but if you are not pure, if you are defiled with sin, then you shall be contrite and broken-hearted, and your God will come that you may taste Him. It is not His intention that any should go unfed at the banquet which He has laid for the children of men.
A very popular picture of Watts which usually holds the spectator spellbound is taken from the Arthurian Epic. Riding through the forest, with its tangled vegetation graphically painted, Sir Galahad has suddenly caught a glimpse of the mystic Sangreal, which was concealed from all ordinary vision.
Grew to such evil that the holy cup
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear’d.
The knights of King Arthur had gone in search of this hidden treasure. At the same time and in the same place, one could see it and another could not. The knights had the vision of the Grail in proportion to their purity. To some of them who saw it, it appeared veiled with a luminous cloud. But Sir Galahad, the knight of pure heart and unselfish living, who lost himself to save himself, beheld the glorious thing itself, clear and distinct. It is at this supreme moment when the heavenly vision appears to him that he is painted by the artist. He dismounts from his white horse, and stands bareheaded with fascinated eyes gazing upon the glorious vision revealed to him in the luminous sky through a break in the trees, and lighting up his face and armour.… The inner meaning of the subject will come to us as the view of the Grail came to Sir Galahad, when our eye is single and our heart is pure, suddenly and unexpectedly; and we shall find that the idea which underlies the whole picture, and makes it lovely with a loveliness far surpassing that of hue and form so vividly delineated, is an intensely modern one, and as applicable to our ‘day as to the far-off times of King Arthur.1 [Note: Hugh Macmillan, The Life-Work of G. F. Watts, 175.]
The Discovery of the Goodness of God
1. The soul that tastes makes a great discovery; it finds that God is good. It is a stupendous act of courage by which the soul of man pushes through the tangled jungle of natural powers that stop his progress and embarrass him; and thrusts himself through; and emerges into the open spaces under a clear sky; and finds himself face to face with God. Those powers have had him as their own. He has been their creature, their captive prey. He has been carried to and fro by feeling, instincts, desires, appetites, interests, ambitions. So he has grown. So it has always been. Passions, fears, hates, joys, loves—these welled up from unknown sources; these made him their puppet. Whither they impelled he went. They were strong in their grip. They were terribly, horribly real.
Yet through all this wild riot the spirit thrust its way, like a tender blade through the grass and stony soil. Up it came. It showed itself a new and strange force amid the mob of tyrannous impulses that tugged and strained to beat it down. Still it persevered; still it insisted; still it drew itself upward, beyond all that clung and encumbered, seeking still the intangible, the unseen. It threw all competing experiences aside, it pressed on towards a secret goal of its own; it strove, it wrestled, it sought in all strange places, and on lonely mountain-peaks, and in hidden silences. It sought something that haunted and fled, and escaped and returned; and was very near, yet very far; something that for ever evoked and yet for ever evaded. It sought it through blundering incantations and bloody rites, and down by foul ways and by weird devices. It sought and failed, and cried aloud in its failure and cut its flesh with knives; it tore itself, it foamed, it went mad. It lost itself in obscure magic. Yet still it sought that which its heart desired.
At last out of a wilderness of effort, strewn with the wreckage of a thousand false hopes, it arrived; it found; it felt; it touched; it knew. Lo! this, this is God. This is what explains all. This is it. This is the experience that it craved; this is the consummation; this is religion. “O taste and see” (so man cried) “how gracious the Lord is!” Spirit and spirit meet. Soul and God are one. How deep the peace! How keen the joy! Blessed! blessed is the man that putteth his trust in Him.1 [Note: H. Scott Holland, Vital Values, 40.]
In the Divinity Hall at Aberdeen John Duncan was impressed with Dr. Mearns’s prayers to the “Great King,” and his cogent reasonings convinced him intellectually of the existence of the living God. The gain was to him invaluable. “It was Dr. Mearns,” he frequently said to me, “who satisfied me of the existence of God”; and through life he remembered the debt with lively gratitude. But the conviction had been reached by a logical process, without any more direct mental perception; rather his reason accepting, than his mind seeing it. The next stage of light seems almost to belong to the operation of the Spirit of God, and to involve on his part a special resistance in not following it up to spiritual fruit. It was the breaking in of a light which he looked back upon to the last as an era in his life, and spoke of as a season of indescribable joy. His own words to me were nearly if not exactly these: “I first saw clearly the existence of God in walking along the bridge at Aberdeen; it was a great discovery to me; I stopped and stood in an ecstasy of joy at seeing the existence of God.” I think he also added, “I stood and thanked God for His existence.” To another friend he said, “When I was convinced that there was a God, I danced on the Brig o’ Dee with delight.”1 [Note: A. Moody Stuart, Recollections of John Duncan, 17.]
Expecting Him my door was open wide:
Then I looked round
If any lack of service might be found,
And saw Him at my side:—
How entered, by what secret stair,
I know not, knowing only He was there.2 [Note: T. E. Brown, Old John and Other Poems, 181.]
I shall never forget the hour when I first discovered that God was really good. I had of course always known that the Bible said He was good; but I had thought it only meant He was religiously good; and it had never dawned on me that it meant He was actually and practically good, with the same kind of goodness as He has commanded us to have. The expression, “the goodness of God,” had seemed to me nothing more than a sort of heavenly statement, which I could not be expected to understand. And then one day I came, in my reading of the Bible, across the words, “O taste and see that the Lord is good,” and suddenly they meant something. “The Lord is good,” I repeated to myself. What does it mean to be good? What but this, the living up to the best and highest that one knows. To be good is exactly the opposite of being bad. To be bad is to know the right and not to do it, but to be good is to do the best we know. And I saw that, since God is omniscient, He must know what is the best and highest good of all, and that therefore His goodness must necessarily be beyond question. I can never express what this meant to me. I had such a view of the real actual goodness of God that I saw nothing could possibly go wrong under His care, and it seemed to me that no one could ever be anxious again. And over and over since, when appearances have been against Him, and when I have been tempted to question whether He had not been unkind, or neglectful, or indifferent, I have been brought up short by the words, “The Lord is good”; and I have seen that it was simply unthinkable that a God who was good could have done the bad things I had imagined.1 [Note: Mrs. Pearsall Smith.]
The Lord’s goodness surrounds us at every moment. I walk through it almost with difficulty, as through thick grass and flowers.2 [Note: R. W. Barbour, Thoughts, 107.]
He took his pain and all the trials of his days, and said, “They say there is a better land, but it is hard to believe.” Thus he was a true pilgrim, for it is only stupid people who think that the vision of the loveliest city in the loveliest land dims the pilgrim’s eyes to the fair beauties of this world. He did not make the most of two worlds; but as he lived to be worthy of that city with foundations, God counted him worthy to find along the dusty road of traffic and toil and pain the well of deep joys which only the true pilgrim can discover. These wells were at many stages of the day’s road: he found one deep spring of pure, sparkling water in the morning reading of the Bible and hymn-book; another when his hands were clasped in prayer.3 [Note: Love and Life: The Story of J. Denholm Brash, 198.]
2. The true standard of goodness we find in Jesus Christ. Ordinary human nature measures its purity and nobility by itself, by the customs of society, by the decrees of law courts, by the maxims of current philosophy. The blessed life takes its estimate from the doctrine and spirit of Jesus. This means a higher-toned goodness which we call holiness, and applies only to those who, besides being virtuous in their actions, are possessed with an unaffected enthusiasm of goodness, and besides abstaining from vice, regard even a vicious thought with horror. Here is an ideal which ordinary ethics not only do not reach, but do not even attempt. When Jesus says, “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them,” the test is as spiritual as it is practical. “These things” include what He referred to as a pure heart; an inner life, that is, which is utterly true to both the great commands, as He interpreted and emphasized them. How much more this means than the honesty which keeps men out of prison, and the kindness which makes daily life tolerable, no words are needed to show. The blessed life receives Christ Jesus as Lord; that is the open secret of its ethical and spiritual superiority to every other life.
(1) The hope of the world lies in its vision of goodness, in its realization of character. The only radical and final remedy for human misery is in the remoulding of human character. It is a potent truth, alike for good and ill, that character is influenced by environment. But it is even more true and potent that environment is influenced by character. The elevation of individual character is an old highway to social happiness, but it is confessedly difficult, and many eager philanthropists have sought for shorter cuts. Sooner or later, however, the return has to be made to the only road. What it all comes to is that the blessed life is ultimately the only hope of humanity. Christendom may sadly fail to teach or to exemplify this hope. But that is not the failure of Christianity. For the needs of the whole world, Christianity has never yet been tried. The modern Christian, like the ancient Israelite, is continually forsaking the true God to worship idols. Hence the Church’s impotence to bless the world. But if only the profession of Christianity did mean on all hands the embodiment of the blessed life, full churches would be but a small fraction of the result. Much more may be affirmed with no less truth—even this, that the curses of civilization (which may well alarm unbelief) would come to an end as surely as noxious bacteria in sunlight; society would be leavened with even more certainty than yeast leavens dough; human sorrows would be brought to their natural and tolerable minimum; and the nations would be in such assurance of permanent peace that the millions expended on murderous battleships could be utilized for the abolition of poverty and the enrichment of humanity.
There is one signal service which the appeal of the Christian character is peculiarly apt to render in the cause of faith. It is often the only power which can confront the steady, surreptitious, miserable pressure with which the sins of Christians fight against the work of Christ. It may be that the contest between these two forces covers by far the greater part of the whole battlefield; and that, while critics and apologists, with their latest weapons (or with the latest improvement of their old ones), are charging and clashing amid clouds of dust—with the world still thinking that here at last is the real crisis—the practical question between belief and disbelief is actually being settled for the vast majority of men by the silent and protracted conflict between the consistent and the inconsistent lives of those who alike profess themselves Christians; the conflict between the contrasted experience of Christ’s Presence manifest in goodness, and Christ’s Name dishonoured in hypocrisy, or blindness, or indifference.1 [Note: Francis Paget, Bishop of Oxford, 178.]
(2) Goodness is attainable through faith in Christ. For men and for nations alike, life is largely if not wholly made up of habits. The blessed life, whether on the large or the small scale, is certainly a question of blessed habit. But this is not the whole case. Destiny, we know, turns on character, just as character is decided by habits. But habits are neither more nor less than the repetition of acts. Let the first act be worthy, then let repetition confirm it, and habit becomes not only easy but the sure prophecy of destiny. The true beginning of the blessed life is plain, viz., to receive Christ Jesus as Lord. The repetition of that supreme act of the soul, as each day dawns and throughout all the duties it brings, is the pledge of the habit which makes character. That character not only ensures destiny but contributes in the interim to other characters and destinies on every hand. Social reform yields no hope of any golden age without purified and ennobled individual character. For that, there is no such ideal or guarantee on earth as the blessed life which is “rooted and built up” in Jesus Christ.
In June, G. F. Watts wrote asking Shields to lunch any day at Little Holland House. He knew nothing of the work Shields was commencing, but said: “I should like to have an occasional chat about serious art. I wish you would kindly send me a line and tell me the correct colours for the draperies of Faith. I know you are an authority.” To which Shields replied: “For answer to your question and compliment, I am no ‘authority.’ I know none on the subject but the Authority of the Word revealed. Paul declared Faith is God’s gift. She is heaven-born. She is the assurance of heavenly things to mortals shut in by sensuous things, therefore the skies’ hue is hers, her mantle and her wings: and for her robe, white—unspotted. And this because they who seek righteousness by works fail of that which only Faith gives. The ‘fine linen of the Saints’ symbolizes their righteousness in the Apocalypse, and it is said that their robes were made ‘white in the blood of the Lamb.’ If I seek where alone I look to find, this is what is given me, and it is the best I can offer in response to your question. I bow to tradition only where it agrees with the written Word.”2 [Note: E. Mills, Life and Letters of Frederic Shields, 309.]
3. Having once tasted, we must continue tasting. Those who have once tasted of God, have contracted a passion that grows in being fed. Because they have tasted they must come again and again to stay an appetite which, though always being met, is always on the increase. The tasting of this meat is not to be the tasting of an occasional delicacy, it is to be the eating of daily bread.
There was a man who once lived in a place where, close to his house, he had a spring of water. At a little distance from him, there was another spring. We shall call the spring close to his house, “the nether spring,” and the other, a little way off, “the upper spring.” So he had the nether and the upper spring. The nether spring looked very pleasant when the sun was shining; the water sparkled in its rays; yet, when looked at more closely, the water was black and dark, and very often grew muddy, and the flowers on the side of it never lasted long; and people who drank a great deal of the water from the nether spring seemed to grow sick. The other spring, a little way off, came out of the rock; it required a great deal of patience to get it; but if the cup was held long enough, it would always get filled, and you were never sick from it.
Now this man who lived in the cottage near the nether spring always went to it; he did not like the trouble of going to the upper spring. He had not sufficient patience. So it went on for many years. At last he came to the nether spring and it was dry, not a drop of water in it. So he was obliged to go to the upper spring; he had to wait some time, but at last he had a cup of nice, pure water. It was so sweet, and he enjoyed it much. He had never before tasted such water. The nether spring flowed on again, but ever after he went to the upper; and when asked why he went so far, he said, “I cannot leave the upper spring; having once tasted it, I cannot go back to the nether spring.”1 [Note: James Vaughan.]
Satisfaction in the Goodness of God
1. Those who discover the goodness of God are content to trust Him. To be religious is to trust God, and to do that is to be free from the fear of evil. He who trusts shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. To be religious is to keep God’s commandments, and the path of rectitude cannot but be the path of happiness. Of course we must not disguise the fact that to be truly religious is to deny one’s self and to take up the cross. But even that carries with it its own blessedness. Suffering and sacrifice for the good of another bring to one’s soul a peculiar sweetness and satisfaction. How much more must this be the case when it is done for God! “Take my yoke upon you,” said Christ, not concealing that His religion is a yoke, “and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Miss Trotter was penurious in small things, but her generosity could rise to circumstances. Her dower was an annuity from the estate of Mortonhall. She had a contempt for securities, and would trust no bank with her money, but kept all her bills and banknotes in a green silk bag that hung on her toilet-glass. On each side of the table stood a large white bowl, one of which contained her silver, the other her copper money. One day, in the course of conversation, she said to her niece, “Do ye ken, Margaret, that Mrs. Thomas R—— is dead? I was gaun by the door this morning, and thought I would just look in and speer for her. She was very near her end, but quite sensible, and expressed her gratitude to God for what He had done for her and her fatherless bairns. She said she was leaving a large, young family with very small means, but she had that trust in Him that they would not be forsaken, and that He would provide for them. Now, Margaret, ye’ll tell Peggy to bring down the green silk bag that hangs on the corner of my looking-glass, and ye’ll tak’ twa thousand pounds out o’ it, and gi’e it to Walter Ferrier for behoof of thae orphan bairns; it will fit out the laddies, and be something to the lassies. I want to make good the words, that ‘God wad provide for them,’ for what else was I sent that way this morning, but as a humble instrument in His hands?”1 [Note: J. A. Doyle, Susan Ferrier, 18.]
2. He who has tasted the goodness of God and has learned the secret of happiness will seek to share his experience with others. Fire will cease to have either heat or light as it burns, before the blessed life will be hidden away in heart-secrecies, buried like the one talent in useless seclusion. Every man or woman who rises above carnality and custom and selfishness into the pure brightness and calm strength of communion with Christ must go on to exemplify His word, “Ye are the salt of the earth; ye are the light of the world.” Egoism is as intolerable without altruism as altruism is impossible without egoism. In the blessed life there is no conflict between these two. Rather do they supplement and stimulate each other. The human self, by very reason of its enrichment beyond utterance through receiving Christ Jesus as Lord, will never cease to feel, and act upon the feeling—
O that the world might taste and see
The riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me
Would all mankind embrace.
When persons only wish for the happiness of another, and when they never pass a day without doing a kindness, how can they be otherwise than happy? And when difficulties are very great they have only to ascend to the level of doing the will of God; they will be happy still. If they are determined to act rightly, to live as the best men and women have lived, there is no more difficulty of unbelief. They see, not having seen, they go out trusting in God, but not knowing whither they go. There is no delight in life equal to that of setting the world right, of reconciling things and persons to one another, by understanding them, not by embittering them. True sympathy with every one is the path of perfect peace.1 [Note: B. Jowett, in Life and Letters, ii. 402.]
A poor man came home one day and brought five peaches: nice beautiful peaches. He had four sons; he gave one to each and one to his wife. He did not say anything, but just gave them. At night he came home again, and then he said, “How were the peaches—all nice?” I will tell you what each of the four boys said.
The eldest boy said, “Oh yes, father, delicious. I ate my peach, and then I took the stone very carefully, and went and planted it in the garden, that we may have another peach-tree some day.” “Well,” said the father, “very prudent; look out for the future.”
Then the little boy said, “Oh, father, ‘twas exceedingly nice. I ate all mine, and mother gave me half hers, and I threw away the stone.” “Well,” said the father, “I am glad you liked it, but perhaps if you had been a little older, you would have acted differently.”
The second boy said, “Yes, father, I will tell you what I did with mine; I picked up the stone my little brother threw away, broke it, and ate the kernel; I enjoyed that exceedingly; but I did not eat my peach, I sold it. I could buy a dozen peaches with what I got for it.” The father said, “That may be right, but I think it was a little covetous.”
Then he said to the third boy, “Well, Edward, what did you do with your peach?” Edward came forward reluctantly; but in answer to his father, he replied, “I took it to poor little George, who is sick down the lane. He would not take it, so I left the peach on his bed and ran away.”
Which of the four peaches was sweetest? “Taste and see” the way to enjoy anything.1 [Note: James Vaughan, Sermons to Children, i. 67.]
Arnold (T.), Sermons, v. 163.
Ballard (F.), Does it Matter what a Man Believes? 234.
Bosanquet (C.), The Man after God’s own Heart, 82.
Holland (H. S.), Vital Values, 36.
Simeon (C.), Works, v. 240.
Smith (Mrs. Pearsall), The God of all Comfort, 90.
Symonds (A. R.), Fifty Sermons, 280.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons to Children, i. 57.
Voysey (C.), Sermons, xv. (1892), No. 31.
Christian World Pulpit, xv. 145 (R. F. Horton).
Expositor, 2nd Ser., iv. 410 (S. Cox).