Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT WE MAY GO TO GOD IN SELF-PRESENTATION. In the midst of their rejoicing "they offered burnt sacrifices before God" (ver. 1). The burnt offering was the type of self-dedication unto God. As the offerer brought his victim to be wholly presented to Jehovah, so we are invited to offer our whole selves unto the living God. Our intensest joys attend our greatest mercies, and these may well lead us to renew our vows unto our Redeemer, freely and gladly presenting ourselves, once more, to him whose we are.
II. THAT WE MAY GO TO GOD IN THANKFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT. "They offered peace offerings" also: these are suggestive of the act of praise by which we render thanks to God for all his goodness to us. There can be no time so suitable for this as the hour of elation, when unusual Blessings have been conferred by him. We are bound to recognize him as the Source and Spring of all our joy.
III. THAT WE MAY GO TO GOD IN UNSELFISH INVOCATION. "When David had made an end... he blessed the people in the Name of the Lord" (ver. 2), i.e. he invoked the Divine blessing upon them. He doubtless used such words as these: "The Lord bless you, and keep you: the Lord make his face shine upon you," etc. (Numbers 6:24-26). We have no power to impart blessedness by any direct volition of our own, but we can express our earnest desire that men may be blessed; and we can do one thing more and better than that - we can solemnly and earnestly invoke the blessing of God to rest on those whom we love and with whom we desire to share our own prosperity and joy.
IV. WE CAN GO OUT TO OUR NEIGHBOURS IN GENEROUS KINDNESS. David's good feeling took the form of hospitality (ver. 3). He gave to every one then present, bread, flesh, and wine, wherewith to find nourishment and pleasure. When God, in his providence, sends us prosperity, we should distribute freely to our poorer fellows. We may distribute, as David did, of those things which furnish the table. We may let our generosity take other, possibly better, forms than this; we may spend our strength in securing education for the ignorant, position for the unemployed, privilege for the spiritually destitute, opportunity for the aspiring. If thus, in dedication, in thanks-giving, in invocation, in generosity, we escape from ourselves and go forth unto God and man, we shall pass scathless through the perilous hour of elation, and be not only unharmed by it but blessed in it. - C.
for a space of about a hundred years, the ark of God and the tabernacle of God, which God had joined together, had been put asunder. Never since the ark was taken by the Philistines in Samuel's boyhood, had it returned to the tabernacle. It rests in Beth-shemesh for a few months, then for nearly a hundred years in Kirjath-jearim, in the house of Abinadab. During all the time of Samuel we hear very little of the tabernacle at Shiloh, and, I think, nothing of the ark. In Saul's reign the tabernacle is at Nob, and still the ark is separated. The ark, God's earthly throne, the holiest centre of all Mosaic worship, had no tabernacle, with its altars and its regular service. The tabernacle had its altars of burnt and of peace offerings, but no presence within the veil. It was a first court without a second; a staircase which seemed to lead nowhere. So that for a hundred years the tabernacle worship was cut in two - here altars; there ark. Perhaps one may almost say, cut in three during part of this period; for the high priest came with his ephod, and lived with David. So that the priesthood with its service stood thus: Abiathar, with his ephod," inquiring of God," kept company with David; some of the priestly families repaired to Nob after the massacre of the three hundred priests by Saul, and there offered the appointed sacrifices; while at Kirjath-jearim was the ark, in charge of a Levities! family, "neglected in the days of Saul," but doubtless sought by individual worshippers. To make the confusion more complete, Samuel, David, Solomon, all sacrifice where is neither ark nor tabernacle, and when David brings the ark to Jerusalem, he builds a new tabernacle to receive it, with its proper arrangement of altars, while still leaving the old one at Nob, to continue for some time longer (until the reign of Solomon), on its own lines, its series of sacrifices and worship. I do not bring this state of confusion forward to justify it, or suggest that all the ordering of God's house, concerning which so many minutest precepts had been given, were unimportant and superfluous. It was undoubtedly a vast gain to all subsequent generations when, in Zion, the tabernacle of God rose supreme above all other places honoured by his worship. It was a still grandee service when all the high places where sacrifice had been offered were destroyed. It was fitting that the one God should have one earthly throne, everywhere accessible, but in one place revealed. The one temple rendered something of the same sort of service that the one Bible did in later times; it kept "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." But while, as we shall see, the centering of all sacrificial worship in one spot rendered grand service, yet it is well to contemplate the state of external confusion registered in the facts thus brought before us, and endeavour to learn their lessons. What are these?
I. First of all obviously, there is this: THAT THE EXTERNAL ORDERING OF GOD'S HOUSE NEVER REALIZES ITS IDEAL. As elsewhere, so here. The ideal and the real go not hand-in-hand. The most that reality can say is, "I follow after, if that I may attain." The letter of the holiest and wisest law never gets complete accomplishment. The very generation to which the Law of Sinai was given neglected one of most important sacraments, circumcision, through all the wilderness journey between Egypt and Canaan. Somehow the very eminence of judges and prophets made, for centuries, God's tabernacle at Shiloh play an inconspicuous part in the history of the nation. In the instance of our text the tabernacle is really cut in two, and the holy place is at Nob, while the holy of holies is miles away at Kirjath-jearim. Solomon's temple was hardly consecrated before it was desecrated by the neighbourhood of idolatrous temples in Jerusalem itself. The secession of the ten tribes deprived them of any temple services, save the irregular ones instituted by Jeroboam. There is always something missing, or something crooked, in the external institutions of religion. The Lord's Supper at Corinth is desecrated by selfish conviviality, even in Paul's lifetime; and some disciples had been baptized who did not so much as know there was a Holy Ghost. When the Church went in for more order, the lack of the power and the charity of earlier times became more conspicuous. Churches that have retained more of external unity have lacked vitality; and Christian communities which have been marked by great vitality have lacked unity of charity and action. In Tertullian's days the Church almost entirely lost the use of the sacrament of baptism by men postponing the observance of it to life's end, fearing there was no further or other washing away of sins after it had taken place. To-day she has almost entirely lost the use of the same sacrament by applying it at life's beginning to those absolutely unconscious of its meaning. God is arrays amongst us, but not always the ark, the sacraments, the proper order. Reality is rough - never more than a mere approximation to what we desire. And if so, there should be charity for differences, and we should address ourselves rather to the maintenance of" the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
II. The second lesson to be learned is: GOD MAKES THE MOST OF ALL THAT IS IMPERFECT, AND MAKES THE BEST OF WHAT IS WRONG, In what utter hopelessness would the religious state of Israel have appeared to any ancient High Churchman! The altars without the ark; the ark without the altars; no high priest with the ark. All the suggestion of Divine mercy on the one hand and Divine lordship on the other, which the ark suggested, lost. Both in places undistinguished. It was, for the time, an utter collapse of the entire system of sacrificial worship as instituted by Moses. And in these circumstances what do we witness? The utter disappearance of faith and godliness? Far from it. True, there was a general coldness, or such a state of things would not have been permitted to endure. But God did not abandon his people because ark and altar were separate. The same love which ordained all these arrangements for high, united, solemn fellowship with himself, bent its energies to supply the void caused by their neglect in some other way. Is the ark taken and the priesthood degenerate? God raises up Samuel the prophet. Are altars and tabernacles neglected because weak through separateness? God comes near, and, through Abiathar, Gad, Nathan, and other prophets, makes up for the lack of priestly service. Has he virtually no outward dwelling? He comes nearer to individual souls, and woos them with the mystic voice which the sheep hear and gladly follow; so that faith, service, goodness, are all found. There are probably about seventy psalms written by David, most of them in the first half of the psalter. Many of these, written after the ark had found a new dwelling in Jerusalem, breathe a profoundly spiritual attachment to "the house of God." But the greater part of them, written prior to that event, are altogether void of allusion to either tabernacle or altar; but, like the rest, rich in devoutest recognition of the nearness, preciousness, and help of God. An old Catholic theologian supposed that, just as in the absence of rain, the usual means of fertility, there was a "mist that came up and watered Eden," similarly, in the absence of all usual means of grace, God invents fresh methods by which he reaches and refreshes the hearts of men; even so, amidst the cold and unspiritual half-century that intervened between the death of Samuel and the establishment of the ark in Jerusalem, there were still all the Divine activities going on; and the devout found in "the Law" what they missed in "the service." And God waked many, many hearts to seek after him. In this lesson also there is vast importance. We are too apt to say a blessing is impossible unless such and such arrangements are made. Some said in olden times, "Where the Church is the Spirit is; and outside the Church is no salvation." Some in modern times hold sacraments essential to salvation. Some with more reason, but still going beyond Scripture, think Jesus can only save those who know his history. God works the more to bless us, the more through our ignorance we frustrate his means of grace. If through presumptuousness we neglect any duty, it is a sin which he will. sternly correct; but if through ignorance we neglect any duty, God will try and make up our loss. The evangelical Churches of to-day have mostly, I think, lost a sacrament. God makes the other sacrament do double duty, and loads it with double blessings.
III. THE EXTERNAL ORDERING OF GOD'S HOUSE IN GOD'S WAY CARRIES WITH IT A GREAT BLESSING. David was Israel's second Moses. He rehabilitated the whole tabernacle service with its solemn united access to God; helped the people to unite in approaching God, by bringing priests, ark, and altar under one tabernacle. He did more; arranging for the services of the sanctuary, he gave a liturgy for the closet. While in the sacrifices men found the proper form for approaching God, in the psalter they caught the proper spirit. In my judgment the stronger grip that Judah took of the Law or' God than Israel; her greater wealth in saintly kings and prophets; her unity; her power to learn the sweet uses of adversity; her recurrence after the Captivity to a purer and more ardent service of God than she had ever reached before; her grander service to mankind; her endurance in national existence till the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; the strange persistence that has marked the children of Judah from that day to this; all were due in a great degree to the tabernacle of David, the temple of Solomon, the temple of Ezra. From the hour when the ark rested in Zion, Zion was the sacred centre of the land, the source of holy influences binding men to God and to one another. Was it only external arrangements that David made? And is it only an external arrangement that he makes who builds a chapel, or erects a school, or helps men to come together unitedly to observe God's sacraments and learn his ways? David, who knew more of private communion with God than any of us, said, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Let there be no latitudinarianism, the poor substitute for true charity. If we can help to give back to the Church of Christ a lost sacrament, a neglected truth, a means of freer fellowship with one another and with God, we do something on which the blessing of God will rest, and from which the good of man will flow. - G.
Psalm 105:1-15; the second half (vers. 23-33) in Psalm 96.; and the conclusion (vers. 34-36) in Psalm 106:1, 47, 48. There is a swelling ascription throughout the psalm, commencing with ver. 8. From that verse down to the end of ver. 22 the call is to Israel to praise the Lord. From ver. 23 to ver. 29 the call is to the heathen or Gentile nations to praise the Lord. From ver. 30 to ver. 34 the call is to the whole earth and to inanimate nature to praise him. Ver. 35 seems a prophetical anticipation which David commands to take the form of a prayer that the time may soon come when God's ancient people shall be gathered to their own land, and when the Church of God redeemed from among men shall assemble round his throne throughout eternity to praise his holy Name. Then the earthly people of God, having accepted the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, and the Church of Christ gathered to him at his coaling, shall sing their hallelujahs of praise, and the glory of the Lord fill heaven and earth. - W.
burnt offering," might be any kind of animal fit for sacrifices, but it must be a male. And it must be wholly offered, and burnt with fire. Kurtz says that this "burning by fire" marked it as an expression of perpetual obligation to complete, sanctified self-surrender to Jehovah. This kind of offering embodied the general idea of sacrifice, and in a sense represented the whole sacrificial institute. "The peace offering' was presented upon the acceptance of any special Divine mercies, and portions of the victim were restored to the offerer, who, with his family and friends, feasted on them. "This sacrificial feast was peculiar to the peace offerings, and indicated that the atonement was complete, that the sin was covered and cancelled which had separated the offerer from Jehovah, who now welcomed him to his table, and in this meal gave him a pledge of reconciliation" and acceptance. So the two offerings, together with the subsequent feast, signified thankful recognition of God's mercies, entire consecration to God's service, and a happy realization of God's acceptance. These were precisely suitable to the occasion of the restoration of the ark.
I. ONE THING IS RIGHT FOR MAN - TO BE WHOLLY GOD'S. Right because of the Divine relations; right because of the Divine claims; and right because of the Divine mercies. Our Lord expressed the duty of man in a brief sentence, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.
II. THIS MAN MAY FITTINGLY DECLARE IN A SOLEMN PUBLIC ACT. Because, in his love and loyalty to God, he should wish to influence others by his own consecration. A man may not keep his religious life to himself; he is responsible to God for making it a gracious persuasion and power upon others. Press the duty of the public modes of expressing our dedication to God, such as confirmation" and "joining the Church." Such acts of public consecration may be wisely and helpfully renewed on special occasions. Illustrate by such a public acknowledgment of God as was made at the "thanksgiving" for the recovery of the Prince of Wales. That was, for this Christian age, just such a scene as David's offering of burnt and peace offerings.
III. IN OLDEN TIMES THE APPROPRIATE ACT WAS OFFERING A BURNT OFFERING. In it the sacrificer consecrated to the Deity alone the enjoyment of the whole victim, and it represented the full and complete surrender of the man himself to God. It was called the whole burnt offering, or perfect sacrifice, because the whole creature was as it were sent up to God on the wings of fire. It signified that the offerer belonged wholly to God, and that he dedicated himself soul and body to him, and placed his life at his disposal.
IV. SUCH AN OFFERING WAS RIGHTLY MADE EVERY DAY. At the morning and evening services; and the offering was doubled on the sabbath (Exodus 29:38-44; Leviticus 6:9-13). "Every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed, with its usual meat and drink offering, as a burnt offering on behalf of the whole covenant people, and the evening victim was to be so slowly consumed that it might last till the morning, an expressive symbol of that continual self-dedication to God, which is the duty of man."
V. SUCH OFFERINGS WERE RENEWED ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS. These were
(1) at the new moon,
(2) the three great festivals,
(3) the great Day of Atonement, and
(4) the Feast of Trumpets.
On every great national occasion a solemn public reassertion of the nation's full consecration to God was made by means of the burnt offering. For us such offerings are appropriate at the new year, birthdays, etc.
VI. SUCH OFFERINGS MIGHT BE REPRESENTATIVE, AND OFFERED IN THE NAME AND ON THE BEHALF OF OTHERS. As was the case with Job's offerings for his children, and in some degree with David's offerings on this occasion. This point leads on to dealing with the Lord Jesus Christ as our great Burnt Offering, which we make ours by faith, and present to God as the solemn pledge that our "whole selves we dedicate to him," and hold as his. "Every such sacrifice was a type of the perfect offering made by Christ, on behalf of the race of man, of his human nature and will to the will of the Father." Compare St. Paul's pleadings, "I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." - R.T.
I. HE BLESSED THE LORD IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE. For this was certainly the significance of the sacrifices, burnt offerings, and peace offerings. In offering them, the king was publicly acknowledging the authority of the supreme Lord, was publicly adoring and praising him as the God of the nation, and was publicly seeking his favour and countenance. Not that David offered these sacrifices with his own hands. What he did by means of the priests, whom he directed, he is represented as doing himself. It was a high day, a solemn and joyful festivity; and it was becoming that the Lord should be recognized, sought, and praised.
II. HE BLESSED THE PEOPLE IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. Probably he pronounced a solemn benediction, invoking the gracious regard of the God of Israel upon the chosen nation. With the ark of the covenant in their possession, in the midst of their metropolis, the people might well be encouraged to rejoice in the presence and favour of him who is ever the Source of all good. It is a proof of David's policy that he took this opportunity of feasting the assembled multitudes. This would no doubt create a favourable impression upon all minds. Their spiritual privileges, and their happiness in having a king so considerate and liberal as David to reign over them, would be associated in their minds. They would connect their religion and their loyalty together, and would cherish happy recollections of the solemnities of the day. - T.
I. PUBLIC WORSHIP HAS SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY. Worship, to be acceptable, must be from the heart. But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. It is natural and appropriate that the sentiments and desires of the soul should find a vocal utterance; and it is also natural and appropriate that those who have the same tribute to offer should join together and offer it in common. The Book of the Acts in the New Testament sanctions such worship equally with these Books of Chronicles in the Old.
II. PUBLIC WORSHIP SHOULD CONSIST LARGELY OF THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE. According to the text, the Levites recorded and celebrated the glorious deeds of the Most High, adored his attributes, gave thanks for his forgiving mercy, his bounty, and loving-kindness. We do not want less prayer in our congregations, but we do want more praise. "His mercy endureth for ever;" and while his mercy endures his praises should not cease.
III. PUBLIC WORSHIP SHOULD BE LED BY APPOINTED MINISTERS. Common sense may teach us so much. If praise is to be sung, some musical leaders must conduct it. If the Scriptures are to be read, some human voice must read them. If prayer is to be offered, some one must pour forth the language of petition, in which others may join, whether silently or audibly. If the gospel is to be heard by men, "how shall they hear without a preacher?" Scripture precedents abound for ministerial service.
IV. While public worship must be properly conducted, IT MUST NOT BE DELEGATED ANY FUNCTIONARIES OR OFFICIALS, WHOSE SERVICES MAY BE SUBSTITUTED FOR THAT OF THE PEOPLE. Levites under the old dispensation, pastors and teachers under the new, may aid the devotions of the people, but their offering cannot be accepted in the place of what God requires - a song, a prayer, from every heart. "Praise the Lord, all ye people!" The Christian Church admits of no exclusive priesthood; all Christians are priests unto God the Father, inasmuch as all offer to him sacrifices of willing obedience and grateful praise.
1. A rebuke to the ungrateful and undevout, who, whilst they daily receive God's mercies, acknowledge not the Giver.
2. A rebuke to the formal and ceremonial, who excuse themselves from offering sacrifices of praise on the ground that this "religious duty" is fulfilled by appointed officials.
3. A reminder and summons, to which all sincere Christians will do well to take heed. Some spiritual ministry and service may be fulfilled by every Christian; and it is a high honour to be permitted to lead the praises and the supplications of the people of the Lord. - T.
I. THAT DEVOTION MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO EVAPORATE IN TEMPORARY EXCITEMENT, David was wise in not sending the people home (ver. 43) until he had designed a plan or arrangement in virtue of which the thankful spirit of the people should express itself in ordinary and regular exercises (vers. 4-37). The time of revival, of exceptional religious excitement, of spiritual ecstasy, may be very pleasant and promising, but it will end in nothing or in positive evil, if those who prompt and lead it do not devise measures by which it shall find due utterance in permanent institutions.
II. THAT SACRED THINGS MUST BE ENTRUSTED TO THE CHARGE OF CAPABLE AND RESPONSIBLE PERSONS. However admirable the institution, it will not take care of itself. Good things will soon wane and die if they be not taken charge of by living earnest souls. David sought and found the best men to be engaged in the service of praise (vers. 5, 6). In every part of Divine service, success can only be attained and maintained by competent and responsible men taking the matter in hand. If we trust to the intrinsic excellency of the exercise, and allow negligence or favouritism to enter, we may expect speedy, or, at any rate, certain decline and ultimate extinction. In God's service let each post be assigned to that man whom he has made fittest for it, and who will feel that he is personally accountable for the way in which it is kept.
III. THAT INFERIOR POSTS ARE NOT WITHOUT A REAL IMPORTANCE IN THE SERVICE OF GOD. Much mention is made here (as elsewhere) of doorkeepers (vers. 38-43; see Psalm 84:10). The doorkeepers of our sanctuaries are men of humble position; nevertheless, they may contribute much by conscientious carefulness and Christian courtesy to the comfort, peace of mind, and devoutness of spirit of the worshippers; and thus to the cause of God. Any position in the service of the Supreme, of a gracious and almighty Redeemer, is one which we do well to "magnify" in our esteem, that we may do our duty therein faithfully, as unto the Lord as well as unto men.
IV. THAT PRAYER AS WELL AS PRAISE MUST BE INCLUDED IN DIVINE SERVICE. Though there was to be daily service at Jerusalem for the future, there must also be daily sacrifice at Gibeon (vers. 39, 40). The choir-master could not do the work of the priest; there must be sacrifice as well as praise. We should multiply our service of song and can hardly go too far in sacred psalmody; yet we must never make light of the prayer of confession, of the entreaty for Divine mercy, of our need to seek again the pardoning love of God.
V. THAT ONE MAN MAY LEAD, BUT ALL MUST PARTICIPATE IN, THE SERVICE OF GOD. David alone prepared and delivered the psalm. Asaph alone received it at the king's hand, and made the musical arrangements (vers 5-7); but "all the people said Amen and praised the Lord (ver. 36). It is well sometimes that one man should speak for others, they following and participating in thought, and saying "Amen" at the end, in token and utterance of their hearty assent. It is also well - perhaps better - that" all the people" should utter together the words of prayer and praise. Most men can best follow the sense when they utter the sound of sacred words. This is a question fur individual and congregational aptitudes and preferences; the matter of importance is that, whatever method be adopted, the service of God shall be one in which all hearts unite in supplication, in adoration, in thanksgiving, in consecration. - C.
I. AN ADMONITION AND SUMMONS TO PRAISE THE LORD. This is addressed to nature (vers. 30-33), to mankind in general (ver. 28), especially to Israel (ver. 13).
II. A RECORD OF GOD'S GOODNESS. And this both to the patriarchs (vers. 15-18), and to Israel as a nation, to whom that goodness had been displayed in the most critical period of their history (vers. 19-22).
III. PRAISE OF GOD'S ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTER. (Vers. 24-29, 34.) Never had these been so devoutly and at the same time so poetically celebrated as now and here.
IV. PRAYER FOR SALVATION. This petition (ver. 35) flows most naturally out of what precedes. In the register of Divine acts, in the recounting of Divine attributes, a foundation had Been laid for this devout and urgent entreaty.
V. BLESSING AND AMEN. A glorious closing (ver. 36) to a glorious psalm. "All the people" here concurred with, adopted as their own, the worship of the Levites. The reval psalmist's heart must have beat high with sacred joy when his plans proved successful, when his ministers rendered his compositions in a manner worthy of their substance, and when the soul of a nation was raised into fellowship with God. - T.
I. MINDFULNESS OF GOD'S POWER AND GOODNESS. (Vers. 8, 9, 12.) We cannot feel toward him as we should except we consider "his deeds among the people," except we "talk of all his wondrous works," except we "remember his marvellous works." Calling these to mind, we shall be powerfully and rightly affected by a realization of his Divine power and goodness. We shall naturally dwell on his works in nature, his power as displayed in the creation and sustenance of our own spirit and our own human life, his handiwork in the providential ordering of the world.
II. A SENSE OF HIS INTIMATE DIVINE RELATION TO US AND TO THE WHOLE WORLD. (Vers. 13, 14.) As the children of Israel felt that they were chosen of God, having received direct and special communication and consideration; as they could speak of themselves as his "chosen ones," and could say, "He is the Lord our God;" so we may and must feel that we all are the objects of his Divine regard, that he looks with benignant eye on us and stretches out the hand of Divine friendship toward us, that he is the Lord our God who has chosen us and whom we have chosen. And as they were taught to feel that "his judgments are in all the earth," so we also are to think of him as the supreme almighty Power reigning and ruling everywhere, "speaking and it is done, commanding and it stands fast" (Psalm 33:9).
III. THANKSGIVING IN MEMORY OF HIS GOODNESS AND MERCY. (Vers. 8, 9.) A large part of the sacred service of the Jews consisted in praise. In heathendom there was much of deprecation, something of supplication, little or nothing of praise. God's own people had such a sense of his absolute excellence that they "gave thanks at the remembrance of his holiness," and such a remembrance of his distinguishing goodness to them that they sang psalms of praise because they were such large recipients at his hand. The piety of the Hebrew was vocal with constantly recurring praise; the psalms of the "sweet singer of Israel," and of Jewish worship altogether, were so largely hymns of thanksgiving, that we always associate the thought of praise with the name of them. And from us, for whom as for them God has done such great things, for whom, indeed, God has done greater things than for them, it may well be that praise is found to be the prevailing note of our worship, the chief strain in our piety.
IV. JOY IN GOD. (Ver. 10.) The people were encouraged to "glory in God's holy Name," to triumph in the thought that they were worshipping him who was the "Holy One of Israel," in every way worthy of their profoundest adoration; also to "rejoice" in him as in One the knowledge and service of whom was the spring of truest and abiding satisfaction. We may well do the same; and having "such an High Priest" as we have, such a Saviour and Divine Friend, such a Refuge of our soul, we may glory and rejoice with intenser joy than they.
V. COMMUNION WITH GOD. (Ver. 11.) We do not enter into the full heritage of the people of God until we "seek the face of the Lord continually." Both in his house and in our own home, we are to seek him, to "seek his strength," to come consciously into his presence, to draw nigh with our spirit to his Spirit, to walk with him, to hold converse with him, to pour out our heart before him, to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, beholding his beauty as well as inquiring in his temple (Psalm 27:4). - C.
"I'll praise my Maker with my breath; I. PRAISE IS DUE TO GOD. "For his mercy endureth for ever." Recall the reasons for praise each man can find, and each nation, especially noting those which are associated with religion, and illustrated in the connections of this passage. II. PRAISE IS REQUIRED BY GOD. AS the fitting mode of expressing our feeling towards him and our sense of what he is and does. His own declaration is, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me." III. PRAISE IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. It is to him as "sweet-smelling incense." It is the sacrifice he most desires. IV. PRAISE IS SERVICEABLE TO GOD. It is a gracious influence. It draws forth right feeling in men. The praise of one calls out the praise of many, and so aids in carrying on God's purpose in the blessing of men. These points sufficiently suggest of themselves lines of treatment, and scarcely need further elaboration. But it may be well to discuss the question how far our praise must needs be intelligent - shaped, that is into forms that our minds can distinctly grasp and fully follow. Cannot sound - music without words - by its tone and character find adequate utterance for soul-emotion? Illustrate by the power of music to express varying emotion. A great musical composer gives us 'Songs without Words.' On this point the following passage from a sermon of the great Florentine preacher, Savonarola, may be suggestive. It refers directly to prayer, but it is equally applicable to praise: - "In prayer, a man may be attending to the words, and this is a thing of a wholly material nature; he may be attending to the sense of the words, and this is rather study than prayer; and lastly, his whole thoughts may be directed to God, and this alone is true prayer. It is unnecessary to be considering either sentences or language - the mind must be elevated above self, and must be wholly absorbed in the thought of God. Arrived at this state, the true believer forgets the world and its wants; he has attained almost a foreshadow of celestial happiness. To this state of elevation the ignorant may arrive as easily as the learned. It even frequently happens that he who repeats a psalm without understanding its words utters a much more holy prayer than the learned man who can explain its meaning. Words, in fact, are not indispensable to an act of prayer: when a man is truly rapt in the spirit an uttered prayer becomes rather an impediment, and ought to yield to that which is wholly mental. Thus it will be seen how great a mistake those commit who prescribe a fixed number of prayers. God does not delight in a multitude of words, but in a fervent spirit." Apply to the difficulty often felt in mentally following the words and truths and figures of our hymns, and show how true praise is not dependent on precise mental apprehensions. Also carefully impress that private acts of praise, however numerous, orderly, or sincere, can never relieve a man from the duty of joining in the praises of the great congregation. - R.T.
I. PRAISE IS DUE TO GOD. "For his mercy endureth for ever." Recall the reasons for praise each man can find, and each nation, especially noting those which are associated with religion, and illustrated in the connections of this passage.
II. PRAISE IS REQUIRED BY GOD. AS the fitting mode of expressing our feeling towards him and our sense of what he is and does. His own declaration is, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me."
III. PRAISE IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. It is to him as "sweet-smelling incense." It is the sacrifice he most desires.
IV. PRAISE IS SERVICEABLE TO GOD. It is a gracious influence. It draws forth right feeling in men. The praise of one calls out the praise of many, and so aids in carrying on God's purpose in the blessing of men. These points sufficiently suggest of themselves lines of treatment, and scarcely need further elaboration. But it may be well to discuss the question how far our praise must needs be intelligent - shaped, that is into forms that our minds can distinctly grasp and fully follow. Cannot sound - music without words - by its tone and character find adequate utterance for soul-emotion? Illustrate by the power of music to express varying emotion. A great musical composer gives us 'Songs without Words.' On this point the following passage from a sermon of the great Florentine preacher, Savonarola, may be suggestive. It refers directly to prayer, but it is equally applicable to praise: - "In prayer, a man may be attending to the words, and this is a thing of a wholly material nature; he may be attending to the sense of the words, and this is rather study than prayer; and lastly, his whole thoughts may be directed to God, and this alone is true prayer. It is unnecessary to be considering either sentences or language - the mind must be elevated above self, and must be wholly absorbed in the thought of God. Arrived at this state, the true believer forgets the world and its wants; he has attained almost a foreshadow of celestial happiness. To this state of elevation the ignorant may arrive as easily as the learned. It even frequently happens that he who repeats a psalm without understanding its words utters a much more holy prayer than the learned man who can explain its meaning. Words, in fact, are not indispensable to an act of prayer: when a man is truly rapt in the spirit an uttered prayer becomes rather an impediment, and ought to yield to that which is wholly mental. Thus it will be seen how great a mistake those commit who prescribe a fixed number of prayers. God does not delight in a multitude of words, but in a fervent spirit." Apply to the difficulty often felt in mentally following the words and truths and figures of our hymns, and show how true praise is not dependent on precise mental apprehensions. Also carefully impress that private acts of praise, however numerous, orderly, or sincere, can never relieve a man from the duty of joining in the praises of the great congregation. - R.T.
strength and his face; and these two are set in such a connection of parallel sentences that we may assume them to be differing expressions for the same thing, though each helps to throw light on the other. The uses of the terms in the Book of Psalms need careful study. In this passage God's strength is thought of as having been illustrated in the successful bringing back of the ark; but that event was quite as fully a proof of the Divine favour - it indicated that God's face was turned smilingly towards both the king and the people. Such experiences of God's "strength" and "face' should establish the permanent resolve to seek that "strength" and "face" in all the more ordinary scenes in the life of the individual and the nation. For "strength," comp. 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 29:1; Job 9:19; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 62:11; Psalm 68:34; Psalm 73:26, etc.; Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 45:24. For "face," comp. Psalm 31:16; Psalm 67:1, etc.
I. GOD'S STRENGTH STRENGTHENETH MAN. Open and explain that man's physical energy depends upon his vital force, and his religious life upon his spiritual force. God has access to these secret sources, and can renew them with his own vitality. He "strengtheneth us with strength in our soul." He makes "all grace abound, so that we may have all-sufficiency in all things." The experience of the religious life unfolds the marvellous adaptations and fitnesses of Divine grace to the thousandfold needs that arise. No matter what may be our circumstances of perplexity and difficulty, there is always strength for us in God. It may come as an efficient help for bearing actual life-burdens, or for doing actual life-duties; and we should undertake none without prayerfully seeking to lay hold of the Divine strength. How it can be perfect in human weakness, so that a man may be strong to bear the unusual ills, and zealous to do the unusual duties, of life, is taught us in the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, after him, in the example of his servant St. Paul. But we should be quite sure that it will come as an inward renewal, if it may not come for the achievement of material success. We may be "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might;" and this is the assurance of the eternal triumph, if it is not of the earthly.
II. GOD'S STRENGTH IS CONNECTED WITH GOD'S FACE. He gives his strength with a smile. The turning of his face towards us is the sign of his approval and acceptance. The influence of such a mark of Divine regard may be illustrated.
1. It cheers and encourages. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
2. It recovers us from depressions. There can be nothing overwhelming in our circumstances if God smiles on us. We look into his face and feel that they are causing him no anxiety, and so our heads are lifted up. He can make "ways in seas and paths in great waters."
3. It renews our fervour and zeal. The smile tells of such love that we feel we can do or bear anything for his sake.
4. It glorifies the right; for it is only on that God ever smiles. He approves the good, but turns away from the evil. And that must ever seem to to be the most beautiful on which God's smiling face can rest. Press, in conclusion, how the promises assure us that just these two things, or, better, this two-sided thing, God's strength and face, he is ever ready to give to those who with true hearts wait upon him. Those promises in effect say, "I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee." And the uplifted smile says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." - R.T.
Remember, recall the records of Divine dealings; set afresh before your minds your own personal experiences of the Divine goodness and mercy. The conception of the "solidarity of the race" is matched by that of the essential unity of the race, in its mental and spiritual experiences, throughout all the ages. Really to know God's dealings with any one people is to know his dealings with all peoples. And therefore the story of his relations with the Jews is so minutely recorded, and so graciously preserved for us on whom the "ends of the world are come." And yet, further, it may be shown that an individual experience really affords the race-type. God is essentially to each what he is to all. We too often fix our attention on the changeable accidents of a man's career, and then think that his experience is unique. If it were so it were of little use to keep any record of the Divine dealings with men, for one man's experience could not help another. What then, are the usual contents of the godly memory? We can only deal with such as are suggested by the terms of the verses before us.
I. IT HOLDS ITS OWN PERSONAL MEMORIES OF GOD'S GOODNESS. Not merely has the godly man a general belief in God and God's merciful ways, but he has the assurance that God has been merciful to him. He can see in page after page of his life's story how guidance, restraint, comfort, teaching, and strength have come in precise adaptations to his own conditions and needs. He can speak of the "good hand of his God which has ever been upon him for good." The importance of fixing the memory of God's dealings by pious attention to them at the time, and by frequent review of them afterwards, should be pointed out. A richly stored memory becomes an unfailing well-spring of comfort in later life. To our view all our past should be dotted over with pillars we have raised, on which we have inscribed our "Ebenezer" - "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us;" and at any time we should be able to look back and bid these pillars remind us of the "wonderful works that he hath done."
II. IT HOLDS THE RACE-MEMORIALS OF GOD'S GOODNESS. Scripture tells us of God's dealings with men, both before he separated the Jewish people and while he had them under his special leadings. "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." It is characteristic of David's psalms that they are full of large broad thoughts of God's relations to the whole world. And both Scripture and secular history should provide us with stores for the memory, as they reveal God's workings towards his gracious ends of substantial and eternal good. If Israel may say, "He is the Lord our God," it must go on to say, "His judgments are in all the earth."
III. IT HOLDS THE COVENANT PEOPLE'S MEMORIALS OF GOD'S GOODNESS. This is the. peculiar treasure of the godly. We have the Bible records of the covenant race - God's peculiar people, whom he had chosen for himself. Show what a large portion of the good man's memory is taken up with the Scripture story of Israel. God's ways with his covenant people are to us the model and example of all his dealings, and upon these we argue what he is and will be in his ways with us. But they are wonderful ways, marvellous works; often mysterious, often severe; ways of judgment as well as mercy. Impress that the use of due occasions for considering the contents of the memory, for refreshing the memory, and for making new grounds of praise and trust, is a most important, but often neglected, part of Christian duty, bearing direct relation to Christian strength and joy. - R.T.
I. THAT GOD HAS MADE DISTINCT PROMISES TO MANKIND. David speaks here of the "covenant which God made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac" (vers. 15, 16; see ver. 18 and Genesis 17:2, 26:3, etc.). We know that he also promised David that he should sit on the throne, and his children after him (1 Chronicles 17:17). We think also of the primeval promise, looking far forward and embracing such large results (Genesis 3:15). God has made "exceeding great and precious promises" to us in Christ; he promises to those who are in him pardon, peace, joy, the indwelling Spirit, sanctity, eternal life,
II. THAT OF THESE HIS PROMISES HE HAS GIVEN US ASSURING CONFIRMATION. He "confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant" (ver. 17); he did this in word (ver. 18) and in deed (vers. 19-22). All the promises which are made to us in Christ are confirmed both in word and deed.
1. In Divine Word. By repeated assurances not only from the lips of the Lord himself, but also from the utterances of his inspired apostles. In Scripture we have the most abundant assurances that those who believe in Christ shall enjoy the favour of the eternal Father and possess everlasting life.
2. And also in Divine action; for we have the testimony of all succeeding generations of Christian men, who bear unvarying witness that "God is faithful, who hath called us to the fellowship of his Son" (l Corinthians 1:9). This is surely a confirmation of God's working; for are not all these witnesses his workmanship? are they not his husbandry, his building (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 3:9)?
III. THAT IT BEHOVES US TO KEEP THEM IN CONTINUED AND LIVELY REMEMBRANCE. "Be ye mindful always of his covenant" (ver. 15). In the day of spiritual awakening, in the midst of earnest Christian work, in the time of trouble, in the hour of spiritual struggle and misgiving, in the valley of the shadow of death, we have especial need to be mindful of the promises of God. But they should never be far from us, they should be always within reach, like a sword at our side, like bread beneath the roof, that we may draw them at the approaching danger, that we may resort to them when our heart is a-hungered. We may add, though it is not in the text -
IV. THAT WE MUST NOT FAIL TO COMPLY WITH THE CONDITIONS ATTENDING THEM. God's promises are never unconditional: there is always an "if" implied if not expressed (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 2:4; Psalm 132:11, 12). His promises to us of eternal life are conditional on
(1) our acceptance of Jesus Christ, and
(2) our faithfulness unto death. - C.
Psalm 105:8, it would seem that it is rather a statement concerning God than a counsel given to man; and it may be rendered, "He hath remembered," or "He hath been mindful always of his covenant." But man may very properly be urged to keep God's covenant ever in mind, on the very ground that God himself, in Divine faithfulness, keeps it ever before him. We may dwell on the moral influence exerted by cherishing thoughts of those covenant conditions under which God has been graciously pleased to set us. Explanations should be given of the Adalnic covenant, or covenant of creation; the patriarchal covenant, renewed again and again in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Mosaic covenant, solemnly accepted by God and the people at Sinai, and made the condition of the national prosperity; and the Christian covenant, pledged for all believers in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It should be shown how fully the Mosaic covenant became interwoven with Jewish thought; and how, by fresh and arousing incidents, the claims of the covenant were renewed; and also how, to the more devout Jewish mind, that covenant was glorified. The following points will be suggestive. It is morally helpful to keep before us -
I. THE HONOR OF BEING IN THE DIVINE COVENANT. All accesses to God are honourable. Compare our estimate of the honour of presentation to an earthly sovereign, and our sense of the yet higher honour of coming into direct relations of friendship and service with him. Illustrate by Abraham's oppressed feeling at the honour of close communion with the Lord and permission to intercede for Sodom, or by the surprised feeling of St. Paul when he thinks of himself as being a co-worker together with God. This "honour" exercises a moral influence on us especially in this, that it inspires us to be our best. It makes us feel, "What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?'
II. THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING IN THE DIVINE COVENANT. For we must be favoured above others; and if we are right-minded, all signs of special favour and regard bow us down in humility, as they did David, leading him to say, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Seeing that there is "no respect of persons with God," it is necessary that we should keep from associating favouritism with his dealings. If he brings some - a few - under a special covenant, it is only for the service of the many, and with a view to the final blessing of the whole through them. So the sense of "privilege" should always be associated with the "humility" of the true servant; and we remember the covenant that we may be ever kept humble under God's gracious hand.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF BEING IN THE DIVINE COVENANT. For it involves solemn pledges bearing relation to the
(1) maintenance of a high character;
(2) rendering of a pure witness; and
(3) doing an earnest work.
These may be set forth in both their Jewish and their Christian phases. The sense of responsibility has this moral influence - it cultures earnestness and diligence, and it arouses the whole powers to the attainment of "faithfulness.
IV. THE REWARDS OF BEING IN THE DIVINE COVENANT. Those rewards come in the fulfilment of the promises attached to the covenant. In the Jewish case they concerned material good, national peace and prosperity. In the Christian ease they concern moral and spiritual blessings, with earthly good conditioned upon the Divine wisdom and will. Rewards have this moral influence - they brighten, cheer, and encourage those who may be in the midst of toil and trouble. In each of the above it may be shown how the sense of covenant-relations is corrective of the precise forms of worldly influence to which we are subject. And, in conclusion, we may dwell upon the holy rest of the thought that God himself is in pledged and holy covenant with us in Christ Jesus. - R.T.
1. That the Jewish nation was taught to feel that God was their God in a peculiar sense. He was continually spoken of, in worship, as "the Lord God of Israel" (ver. 36). He had not dealt with any nation as with Israel: he had not made known his judgments to any people as he had to them (Psalm 147:20). He was their God, inasmuch as he had shown peculiar and distinguishing favour to them.
2. That they looked to God for deliverance and separation from other nations. "Save us... and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen" (ver. 35). They were led to regard surrounding peoples, with their idolatries and immoralities, as foes over whom they might religiously triumph, and from contact with whom they would wisely shrink. Yet, on the other hand, in distinction from this element of exclusiveness and this narrowness of view and ambition, we have certain elements of breadth. They were taught to regard -
I. THE ENTIRE EARTH AS GOD'S CREATION, AND THE WHOLE WORLD AS UNDER HIS RULE. They sang "of his marvellous works among all nations" (ver. 24). So far were they from imagining that the gods of other nations made those lands, while Jehovah brought themselves and their own land into being, that they sang continually, "All the gods of the people are idols, but the Lord made the heavens" (ver. 26); "The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved" (ver. 30). They undoubtedly believed that the God whom they worshipped had unbounded sovereignty over all lands and nations.
II. THE HEATHEN AS THOSE WHO OUGHT TO WORSHIP GOD. They were invited, in their public worship, to express the sentiment that it was only "due to the Name of the Lord" that "all the earth" "should sing to him, and show forth his salvation from day to day;" that all "kindreds of the people" should ascribe "glory and strength" unto him (vers. 23, 28, 29). They expressed, before God, their desire that his glory might be declared among the heathen (ver. 24), that all the earth should fear him (ver. 30). They evidently felt that it was right and due that anthems of praise should be sung to Jehovah by every lip, that before him every knee should bow.
III. THE HEATHEN AS THE FUTURE INHERITANCE OF GOD. In their higher moods and more exalted hours, they looked forward to the time when all the world should be subject to the Divine sway. How far this grand hope took possession of the popular mind we cannot tell, but it was not beyond the reach of those who thought the most and saw the furthest (vers. 31-35). All inanimate creation was invoked to rejoice, because the Lord was coming to judge the earth, because the good and merciful One (ver. 34) was to reign over all the nations (ver. 31). It is for us:
1. To rejoice that what was only dimly foreshadowed to them is clearly revealed to us. We have a clear vision of the blessed and glorious time when "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun," etc.
2. To rejoice that God's gracious purpose is being fulfilled before our eyes. All nations are coming and worshipping, etc. (Psalm 86:9).
3. To do our part in our generation towards the blissful consummation. God has committed unto us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). - C.
Psalm 96. In that psalm the sacred nation is charged to praise Jehovah, and to spread the good tidings in all places. Such praise is fitting, seeing that all other deities are nothing, and Jehovah is God alone. Calvin, writing on this psalm, says, "It is an exhortation to praise God, addressed not to the Jews only, but to all nations. Whence we infer that the psalm refers to the kingdom of Christ; for till he was revealed to the world his Name could not be called upon anywhere but in Judaea." It is said that when the sun is going out of sight the pious Swiss herdsman of the Alps takes his Alpine horn and shouts loudly through it, "Praise ye the Lord." Then a brother herdsman on some distant slope takes up the echo, "Praise ye the Lord." Soon another answers, still higher up the mountains, till hill shouts to hill, and peak answers to peak, the sublime anthem of praise to the Lord of all. Characteristic of the psalmist is joy in God: and in this he is the one great Scripture example; Isaiah, perhaps, coming next after him, and St. Paul having much of the same feature marking even his toilsome and suffering life. Joy, as an element of religious life, must in part depend on:
1. Disposition. Some are of sanguine and hopeful, others of desponding, disposition. Some can easily turn everything into song, while others can never get beyond stern prose. We are not responsible for our natural dispositions, but we are for their due modification, harmony, and culture. Often latent and unsuspected faculties can be developed, and it is seldom wise to excuse failure and shortcoming on the ground of "human nature'"
2. Poetical faculty. Where this is given joy and song would seem to Be easy; yet, on the other side, it may be said that poets are often sad-toned men, probably because accompanying the poetical faculty is a power of insight which brings to the poet's eye the wrong that lies at the heart of so much that is seemingly good. But this cannot apply to thoughts and views of God. Insight and faculty can only find reasons for joy and song when they have to do with him and his all-merciful ways.
3. Youthful piety. Those who seek God early, as David did, usually have a brightness and gladness and joy of full trust on their whole religious lives Which the later-renewed can never reach. This is one of the best of the rewards given to early piety.
4. Earnest soul-culture. This, by leading to renewals of trust, to firmer hold of revealed truth, and to deeper experiences of Divine communion, bears directly upon the joy side of Christian feeling. When attained, Christian joy becomes a witness for two reasons or in two ways.
I. IT MEETS THE COMMON SENTIMENT THAT A THING MUST BE GOOD IN ITSELF IF IT TENDS TO MAKE US BRIGHT AND HAPPY. How common this sentiment is may be shown from ordinary life. The people who always cheer us, we feel sure, must be good people, and the same may be said of books, etc. In this way, therefore, our personal joy in God may become a gracious moral power on all who are around us. And hazy Christians have a most noble and blessed witness.
"Sing on your heavenward way, II. IT SETS CHRISTIANITY IN A DISTINCT AND IMPRESSIVE CONTRAST WITH ALL OTHER RELIGIONS. They are familiar enough with the sentiment of fear. In perilous rebounds they know seasons of intense sensual excitement, which caricature true joy. But the prevailing tone of all other religions besides Christianity is sad. Only the Christian may "abound in joy through the Holy Ghost." Who could sing before that Athenian altar whereon was inscribed, "To the unknown God"? And who could fail to sing ann give praise, that might look into the face of the Father of Jesus, and say, "This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our Guide even unto death "? - R.T.
II. IT SETS CHRISTIANITY IN A DISTINCT AND IMPRESSIVE CONTRAST WITH ALL OTHER RELIGIONS. They are familiar enough with the sentiment of fear. In perilous rebounds they know seasons of intense sensual excitement, which caricature true joy. But the prevailing tone of all other religions besides Christianity is sad. Only the Christian may "abound in joy through the Holy Ghost." Who could sing before that Athenian altar whereon was inscribed, "To the unknown God"? And who could fail to sing ann give praise, that might look into the face of the Father of Jesus, and say, "This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our Guide even unto death "? - R.T.
I. THAT TO REVERENCE GOD IS THE ONE RIGHT THING FOR US TO DO. There are many things which it is well, proper, right, for us to do; things which make for the well-being of others; things which contribute to our own ennoblement and self-respect. But the thing which, above all others, it is right for us to do is to revere and honour God, to "give unto the Lord the glory due to his Name. That which is due to our kindred and friends, that which is due to ourselves, - this is as nothing compared with the reverence, obedience, and submission which are due to him from whom we come, without whose creative energy we had not been, without whose sustaining power we should cease to be, in whom we live, and move, and have our being," to whom we owe everything we are and have. To serve God is to secure ourselves against the worst evils; it is to avail ourselves of our highest privilege; it is also, and foremost of all, to discharge our deepest obligation; it is to render that which is due indeed.
II. THAT TO BRING TO GOD OUR CONTRIBUTION MAY BE AN ACCEPTABLE THING TO Do. "Bring an offering, and come before him." It is true that he "needeth nothing' at our hand; that "if he were hungry he would not tell us;" that "every beast of the forest is his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 1.). It is also true that there were conditions under which God was "pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering" (Psalm 51:19). And it is also true that the Divine Lord who sits over against the treasury is pleased with the two mites which the widow gives of her poverty. We may "bring an offering" now that may be very large and "munificent" in the sight of men, which shall be very lightly esteemed, or even weigh nothing or less than nothing, in the sight of the holy and the pure One. But then we may "bring an offering" that may be very small in man's reckoning, which, laid by the hand of love on the altar, shall weigh much in the balances of heaven.
III. THAT TO WORSHIP GOD MAY BE A BEAUTIFUL THING TO DO. "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." That which is called Divine worship may be an altogether unbeautiful thing in his sight. That which is rendered carelessly, slovenly, thoughtlessly, stiffly, heartlessly, or hypocritically, is utterly unbeautiful before him. But there is worship of another kind. We render our service in the beauty of holiness when:
1. From a pure desire to give to God our best, we worship him most tastefully. When, thus prompted and with this aim in view, we erect for his worship the costly and beautiful building, we sing his praise with perfected harmony, we read his word and preach his truth with cultured carefulness.
2. We bring to his worship the most excellent and requisite graces - humility, faith, docility, gratitude, adoration, generosity, consecration of spirit. Then, when clothed upon with these beautiful garments of the soul, do we most truly "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." - C.
bring an offering, and come before him." By an "offering here we are to understand a gift rather than a sacrifice (see Malachi 2:8-10). From the very earliest beginnings of the human race it was distinctly apprehended - whether by following the instincts with which God endowed man, or by special Divine revelations, we cannot say - that a man can and may give himself to God by and through the presentation to God of something that he has. This is the underlying principle of all tithes, offerings, and sacrifices. Nothing presented to God can be acceptable unless it carries with it the person presenting, seeing that what he cares for is man's love and trust and service. Illustrate from the case of Cain and Abel, each bringing a thank offering from that in which God had blessed him. Show how the principle gained development in the Mosaic system; the regular devotement of property being enjoined, and gifts being required in connection with all sanctuary attendances. Show that the principle has our lord's commendation, and passed over into the early Church, forming one of the first impulses of awakened Christian feeling (see Barnabas), and being specially commended to the attention of the Churches by the apostles (Acts 2:45; Galatians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2). It may be enforced -
I. THAT CHRISTIAN FEELING STILL IMPELS GIFTS. The sense of indebtedness and of thankfulness always wants this mode of expression.
II. THAT CHRISTIAN FEELING STILL SEEKS RIGHT SPHERES FOR GIFTS. These are found in every age in connection with Divine worship. And as Christ is not now with us in the body, we find spheres for gifts in helping and blessing others for his sake.
III. THAT CHRISTIAN FEELING STILL SEEKS TO SERVE GOD BY ITS GIFTS. Letting them be
(1) signs to him, and
(2) inspiring examples to our fellow-men.
Press the duty of seeking right ideas concerning the trust of money, and the due apportionment of it so that God may be glorified in its use. - R.T.
1. That God is entitled to the homage of his creatures, and claims it as proper and right.
2. That these claims are made upon us, his intelligent creatures. It will therefore be necessary to show that we are capable of knowing God to all the extent necessary to excite in our minds the feelings of awe, reverence, and admiration, since these are essential to homage and worship. Also to prove that such claims are not only reasonable, but founded in justice and right.
3. That the worship and homage required is such that it not only does not degrade, but elevates the man that pays it; that it is not the hard requirement of despotism, but the righteous claim of infinite excellence; not the service of flattery and servility, but the free-will offering of a discerning and admiring mind (J. Robinson). - R.T.
2 Chronicles 20:21, "That should praise the beauty of holiness;" this is translated by Bertheau, "in holy attire;" and by Malvenda, "Praise the Lord with the same costume, and dignity, and magnificence, as in the temple." The term "beauty of holiness" may be regarded as including inward devotion, and also with outward reverence. Jennings and Lowe, in their note on Psalm 96:9, translate, "in holy vestments;" and they quote a passage in Ecclus. 1:11, where it is said that Simon the high priest "put on the robe of honour, and... made the garment of the sanctuary honourable." For man external forms of worship are necessary, but in his relations to them there is a constant peril of formality, and so a constant need for a watchful and careful culture of the spiritual life and feeling which alone can make forms acceptable. Illustrate the danger of formality by the Jewish wearing of the tallith, etc., and by exaggerated rabbinical regulations. Note with what constant anxiety our Lord taught that they who "worship the Father must worship him in spirit and in truth." Holiness, as here used, has no precise equivalent. It includes "sincerity," and also "reverence," but it should be thought of as embracing "whole-heartedness "and "devout earnestness" and "spiritual preparedness." The term may be suggestively compared with the "integrity" of David and the "perfect" of the New Testament. The worship-clothing which is expressed in the term "beauty of holiness" may be treated as including
(6) and openness to receive.
In the Christian Church is a "kingdom of priests," a "holy priesthood," then we should be devoutly anxious to secure the priestly clothing for our high and noble spiritual worship. - R.T.
doth reign," and to substitute for it a phrase which indicated a great outlooking for a coming Deliverer and a golden age, "the Lord shall reign." And a similar evil tendency still affects the Christian Church; failing to realize Christ's present rule, some sections of the Church keep looking on to some fancied near time, when Christ shall come again and take to himself his great power and reign. And the antidote is full and faithful teaching on the point of which the psalmist makes so much - the present direct, and every way practical, present reign over the earth and the Church, of Jehovah, apprehended in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keeping the present reign in Christ before our minds, it may be instructive to show -
I. THAT CHRIST'S LIFE ON EARTH HELPS OUR APPREHENSION OF THE REIGN. The reign of God the Spirit must ever seem to man an unreal, intangible thing, unless it can take some outward and material shape; and yet that shape and form must be such as will in no sense imperil the spiritual character of the reign. No merely human sovereignty could be satisfactory, for none could be worthy of that sublime royalty which it presumed to represent. Christ's life on earth was the theocracy materialized for human apprehension. Our Lord's humanity sets God before our thought in human terms and figures such as we can understand. And the kingship of Jesus was felt and acknowledged by friend and foe, wherever he went, and not exclusively by those disciples who knew him most intimately. His teaching was given "with authority;" his personal relations were a rule. It can be no wonder that people should cast their garments in his way, and wave palm branches, and shout, saying, "Hosanna to the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord!" His life is the earth-picture of the Divine reign over the hearts and lives of men.
II. THAT CHRIST'S GLORY IN HEAVEN MAKES US REALIZE THE REIGN AS A SPIRITUAL REIGN. It takes all the merely carnal features out of it. The reign is such a one as our exalted, glorified, ascended, spiritual Lord and Saviour may have, who is "Lord of lambs the lowly, King of saints the holy." The risen, heavenly Christ we feel must have, as the sphere for his rule, not our bodily actions only, but our wills, our choices, our affections; gaining, as he must, his beginnings in our souls, and extending his holy authorities over all the relations we sustain. Explain and impress how, in our common, everyday life, we can realize the theocratic conception, and practically live in the joy and impulse of being daily "in the great Taskmaker's eye." - R.T.
judging of God is no merely future thing, the glory of a coming day. It may be urged that -
I. GOD IS "EVER COMING TO JUDGE" IN THE WITNESS OF MEN'S CONSCIENCES. No man has to wait for his judgment. He has it at once in the inward conviction of the rightness or wrongness of his action. We should never, in our thought, separate conscience from the inward voice of God our Judge.
II. GOD IS EVER "COMING TO JUDGE" IN THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN SIN AND SUFFERING. Suffering being the proper issue of sin, and necessarily connected with it by God in order to reveal its character. All suffering may be regarded as a beginning and present illustration of God's judgment.
III. GOD IS EVER "COMING TO JUDGE" IN THE CONVICTIONS WROUGHT BY THE PRESENCE AMONG US OF HOLY MEN. Illustrate how Enoch and Noah carried God's judgment on their sinful generation, in the conviction produced by their holy lives. And in the fullest sense this was true of the Lord Jesus as the holiest of men. His presence among them was God's abiding judgment on a sinful and adulterous generation. ]n measure the same is true still of both private and public spheres - the presence of holy men and women tests us, and, too often, both judges and condemns.
IV. GOD IS EVER "COMING TO JUDGE" IN THE ORDERINGS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. Calamities, and even disappointments, are signs of the Divine presence recognizing and dealing with wilfulness and sin. And this is quite as true when we are able to trace the natural laws according to whose legitimate workings the calamities or failures may have come.
V. GOD IS SURELY ALSO COMING WITH HIS FINAL JUDGEMENT ON THE LIVES AND RECORDS OF NATIONS AND OF MEN. Of that fact we are well assured; of the manner and method of it we have only as yet vague poetical figures, which we are unable to trans- late into earthly fact. Enough is told us to make the thought of coming judgment a present moral power. David connected the Divine "judgment" with "righteousness" and with "truth," as these, he knew, had been so gloriously manifested in the fulfilment of ancient promises. "These being the characteristics of Jehovah's judgment to which the view is directed in this psalm, the essentially joyous tone of it is accounted for." Think aright of God's judgment, and of it we may even learn to sing. - R.T.
Joshua 24:16-24, etc.). In the united cry of the people, when David's psalm closed, we have their acceptance of all that had been said in their behalf. The word "amen" means "firm, faithful, verily;" and the proper signification of the word is when one person confirms the word of another, and expresses his wish for the success and accomplishment of the other's vows and declarations. For Scripture use of the word, see the following representative passages: - Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15; 1 Kings 1:36; Psalm 41:13; Psalm 106:48; Jeremiah 28:6; Matthew 6:13; Revelation 22:20. The following early authorities confirm the fact that the word "Amen" was repeated aloud as a response by the Christian congregations: - Justin Martyr, A.D. 138, notices that the people present say the "Amen" after prayer and thanksgiving. Dionysius of Alexandria, A.D. 232, speaks of one who had often listened to the thanksgiving, and joined in the "Amen" which followed. Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 320, says that the Lord's Prayer is sealed with an "Amen." And Jerome, A.D. 331, speaks of the thundering sound of the "Amen" of the Roman congregations. It is very interesting to note that all the hymns found in the third book of 'Chaldaean Magic' close with an Accadian word Kakama, which is represented in Assyrian as amanu, and is precisely the "Amen" with which we are accustomed to close our prayers and hymns. The word was used in the services of the synagogue. "The formula of consecration in the Holy Eucharist is in most ancient liturgies ordered to be said aloud, and the people respond aloud, Amen." "In most Greek liturgies also, when the priest in administering says, 'Soma Christou,' the receivers answer, 'Amen.' We may dwell on -
I. THE COMMON WORSHIP. Whenever a congregation of people gathers together for worship in connection with religious ceremonial, only some of them can take actual part by voice or by act. All may share in sympathy, interest, and common feeling. This is illustrated in David's bringing up the ark. All shared, but only a few were actually engaged in the ceremonial.
II. THE REPRESENTATIVE VOICE or voices, of priest or of singers, of minister or of clerk. Such voices and actors should be conceived as
(1) set forth by the people to act for them;
(2) understanding the wants, conditions, and feelings of the people; and
(3) speaking for the people.
III. THE GREAT AMEN. This is to be regarded as solemnly sealing, acknowledging and accepting what has been said or done in the people's name. It is curious that it should come to be spoken by the minister, not the people. Impress the interest
(1) to God of the people's Amen;
(2) to the representative speaker; and
(3) to the people themselves.
Show the importance of regarding it as a solemn duty to attend so fully to Divine service, that, in uttering our Amen, we intelligently and solemnly take what is said, or what is done, and make it ours - our own. - R.T.