Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. IN ITS OBJECT.
1. It is praise of the Lord. All is addressed to him, and is for him.
2. And in his holiness. "Bless his holy Name." What a happy fact this reveals as to the psalmist and all who sincerely adopt his words! We can bless God for his beneficence and mercy and goodness, but only a holy soul can bless him for his holiness. Such soul delights not merely in the kind acts of God, but in the pure and perfect character of God.
II. ITS METHODS. It shows us how we should praise the Lord.
1. Personally. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" It is not a work to be handed over to any choir or any people whatsoever. It is to be our own personal work.
2. Spiritual. It is to be the soul's work. Poetic speech, eloquent phrase, beautiful music, skilled song, - all count for nothing if the soul be not in the work.
3. Whole hearted. "All that is within me." Intellect, memory, imagination, affection, will, all the energies of our spiritual nature, should be engaged.
4. With set purpose. See how he calls on himself, stirs himself up to this holy work, repeats his exhortation and protests against that one chief cause - forgetfulness - of our failure to render praise. "Forget not any of his benefits." This is how we should praise the Lord.
III. ITS REASON. He tells wherefore we should bless the Lord.
1. For forgiveness. This our first necessity; all else avails not without that (cf. Mark 2:5).
2. For the healing of the soul. It would be but a poor salvation if soul healing did not follow forgiveness, for without the latter we should soon be back to our sins again (2 Peter 2:22). Therefore we need this healing of the soul. And it is promised (see Ezekiel 36:25).
3. For penalty in this life averted. He "redeemeth thy life from destruction." God does not redeem our life from all the consequences of our sin (Psalm 99:8), but from the worst he does. The forgiven man may have to suffer much in consequence of his past sins, but it is as nothing compared with what he would have had to suffer had he not been forgiven. The comfort of God's Spirit, power to witness for Christ, victory over sin, hope bright hope of life eternal, - all these are his; his life is redeemed from destruction.
4. For, next, God crowneth with loving kindness. See all this illustrated in the story of the prodigal son - forgiven, healed, redeemed, crowned, the ring, the robe, the shoes, the feast, were for him; and what answers to them yet is the crowning told of here.
5. For satisfaction with good. This also awaits us: would we but trust God more, we should know it for ourselves. They who walk with God, abide in Christ, know what it is. Let us not rest until we know it for ourselves.
6. For youth of soul renewed. (See homily on this subject.) The outward man may, will, decay, but the inward man shall be renewed day by day.
IV. ITS RESULTS. What a history it would be if we could only trace out what this psalm has done for God's saints in all ages! What spiritual victories it has won! what strength it has imparted! what holy joy! Christian, sing this psalm more heartily, so that many poor lost ones, hearing its sweet evangel, may turn and with you bless the Lord. - S.C.
I. THE SOUL URGENTLY SUMMONED TO PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS. Inward praise, not the praise of the lips, is here called for - spiritual, not bodily worship.
II. THE WHOLE INWARD MAN IS TO RECOUNT TO ITSELF THE MERCIES OF GOD.
1. Every power he has - memory, heart, and reason - is to assist in recognizing the Divine benefits he has received.
2. Our temptation and danger are to forget. And we are to resist and conquer forgetfulness and ingratitude. Especially apt to forget the mercies:
1. That we receive in common with others.
2. The mercies that are uninterrupted by constraint.
3. Mercies of a spiritual nature.
III. A THANKFUL SURVEY OF THE FATHERLY MERCIES OF GOD. "The poet calls upon his soul to arise to praiseful gratitude for God's justifying, redeeming, and renewing grace."
1. The forgiveness of all his sins.
2. Recovery from bodily sickness and infirmity. Sin, the sickness of the soul; disease, the sickness of the body; and God is the Physician of both.
3. Deliverance from threatened death. The pit - a name of Hades - the abode of the departed.
4. Loving kindness and tender mercies make him rich and royal. Like a king, they crown him.
5. No real want of the soul is left unsatisfied. "Shall not want any good thing;" "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
6. His strength is thus constantly renewed. (Isaiah 40:31.) "They that wait upon the Lord," etc. - S.
soul diseases which answer to "iniquities." In view of the way in which Eastern poets loved to repeat their thought with slightly altered phraseology, it is quite possible that the text may read, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy soul diseases - those soul conditions of frailty and infirmity, out of which iniquities come." But, however that may be, it is certainly true that God is the Healer of all men's diseases. The work of the physician must always be traced back to the Divine Physician, who alone has proved to be the recuperative force in human vitality. God has healed us again and again through the agency of the doctor and the medicine.
I. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT MEN'S SICKNESSES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? Abraham and Isaac died of sheer old age. So indeed did Jacob, but there is a fuller reference to his ending. For all that appears in the record, neither the patriarchs nor their families suffered any sicknesses during their lives. Evidently, these experiences of sickness were not then seen in their relation to character, and so there was no need to leave any narratives concerning them. Sickness is reckoned with under the Mosaic system, but in a very peculiar way. It was treated as an outward sign and consequence of sin; both the sick person and those who tended him being treated as "unclean." To limit this rule because, in its working, it occasioned very serious family and social disturbance, one particular form of disease - that most typical form of disease, leprosy - was taken as the representative of all forms, and the law of the "unclean" was strictly enforced in relation to it. Judaism never suggests the idea that character is cultured by the experience of sickness; and so even its priests and Levites offer no example of tending the sick poor. Sickness, in the old economy, served its purpose simply as the outward sign of God's judgment on sin. When Job's friends came to comfort him, they could think of no other view of sickness than this, though Job felt sure that there must be a higher meaning, if only he could reach it. In the historical books the references to sickness - other than great pestilences - are very brief. One king suffered from internal disease, and one had the gout, but there is only one instance in which any details of a sickness are given, and in that case the relation of it to character first clearly appears. Hezekiah, in the middle of his reign, but before any son and heir was born to him, was smitten down with a bad kind of boil or carbuncle, which put his life in peril. He turned to God in his distress, and gained from God recovery. Evidently he prayed the prayer of faith. As evidently the Prophet Isaiah prayed for him the prayer of faith. And yet it is significantly told us that means were used to ensure his recovery, "Now Isaiah had said, Let them take a cake of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover." The Book of Job is not a discussion of the question - What ought a godly man to do who is smitten with sickness? Its subject is rather this - What moral end can explain the Divine permission of sickness? One king was seriously reproved because, when he was ill, he "sought unto the physicians, and not unto God." But the wrong was not in his seeking the help of the physicians, but in his failing to seek God first, and to let him send him to the physicians: All we can say about this matter, in connection with the Old Testament, is that when moral considerations began to prevail over ceremonial ones, a truer and worthier view of sickness began to gain power. Then sickness was seen to be one of the great moral agencies by means of which God wrought his higher work in characters and in souls.
II. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT SICKNESS IN THE GOSPELS? Our Lord, as a moral and spiritual Teacher, our Lord as a Saviour, found in men's sicknesses, infirmities, and. disabilities his best agencies for reaching their souls with saving influences. To him suffering was the issue and consequence of sin. And so it was to everybody in his day. Sickness illustrated sin. Suffering produced moods of mind in men which laid them open to his higher influence. So he worked very largely for and among sick people, always trying to get their sicknesses sanctified to them, even in the very act of healing or removing them. He revealed fully to the world the moral relations of sickness, the moral possibilities that lie in sickness. Our Lord's dealing with it is unique, not so much because it was supernatural, as because it was moral. He dealt with it only as a means of securing soul healing. Since Christ's time, sickness, disease, and disability have taken rank among God's remedial agencies, God's character culturing agencies, God's sanctifying agencies.
III. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT SICKNESS IS THE EPISTLES? The apostles never claimed to exert any independent powers. They always healed "in the Name of Christ." They conceived of themselves as holding that special ability in trust for particular ends in the propagation of the gospel. They did not heal everybody. They only healed when the healing could make a way for the gospel, draw attention to it, or prove its Divine origin. And the historical fact is that the power of healing passed away with the first generation of disciples. It is found, in later ages, only in separate and highly endowed individuals, to whom has been entrusted a genius for healing. The case of the Apostle Paul is a remarkable one. He had the gift of healing. He did heal the father of Publius. But he was not carried away by the gift he possessed. He held all his gifts under the most careful restraints. His friend and fellow labourer, Epaphroditus, was "sick, nigh unto death," but St. Paul put forth no power to heal him. God had mercy on him, and restored him in the ordinary way. Trophimus was left at Miletum sick, but it did not enter the apostle's mind that he, or the eiders, could have cured him if they had tried. St. Paul himself had some bodily infirmity which he calls a "thorn in the flesh," but he simply prayed about it, as we pray about such things now. The reference made to this matter by the Apostle James has been gravely misunderstood. It must be read in the light of the chief point he deals with in his Epistle, viz. that faith which cannot get expression in action is not acceptable faith, it is mere sentiment. Anointing sick people with oil was no religious ceremony in the days of the apostle. Using oil in the toilet was simply the sign of health. Those who prayed in faith for the healing of the sick should show their faith by acting as if their prayer was answered. Get the sick man up, dress him, anoint him, in the full confidence that God answers prayer. So Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, "Stretch forth thine hand!" If he believed, he would do what Christ told him, and find power come in so doing. In every age God has healed diseases through his own appointed healing agencies; and those we must use in faith. - R.T.
provisions are crowned with Divine bestowments.
I. DIVINE PROVISIONS. We cannot be surprised that God, as Creator, should supply all the reasonable needs of his creatures; or that God, as Father, should supply all the wants of his children. There is a certain obligation resting on God that arises out of his relationships. There is a fairly good sense in which the creature and the child may be said to have claims on God, to which, if he be God, he must respond. "The eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due season." But the limit of the claim to necessities should be clearly shown. And real necessities are very few, and can be easily defined. Try to conceive the change, in life and relations, if God were now to draw back from us everything but our actual necessities. St. Paul could say, "I have all, and abound.
II. DIVINE BESTOWMENTS. Illustrate by the luxuries and delicacies that the housewife provides beyond the necessaries of the table and the house. She enriches, or crowns, her provisions. So with our Father-God. He meets need, but goes beyond need to give us all things richly to enjoy." All the extra things, all the pleasant things, all the pretty things, of life, are bestowments of the Divine loving kindness and tender mercies. If we may think of God's duty in what he provides, we may think of his personal love to us in what he bestows. Then show that personal love can never rest satisfied with its objects being merely provided for; it never can rest until they are happy - happy up to the very limit of their power to be happy. What must God the Father's idea of happiness for his earth children be? With that he would crown them. - R.T.
sans teeth, eyes, taste - everything." With all of us age creeps on apace, but almost unnoticed. Now, our ideal of age shifts. Children think all grown up people old, and some very old. But when men come to the verge of three score years and ten, they will often flatter themselves that even yet they are not old. But there are certain unmistakable signs which no observant man can fail to notice, and which remind him that the day of life is on the wane. Physical fatigue; less of elasticity and power; he gives in sooner than he did when strain is put on his strength. The way the young treat us. In Thackeray's beautiful story, 'The Newcomes,' he pictures the colonel sitting in his cheerless room, and hearing his boy and his friends singing and making merry overhead. He longed to join them and share in it; but the party would be hushed if he went in, and he would come away sad at heart to think that his presence should be the signal for silence among them, and that his son could not be merry in his company. "We go into the company of young men like Chris Newcome and his friends; they cease their laughter and subdue their talk to the gravity which is supposed to be fit for the ears of the seniors. Then we know, too plainly to be mistaken, what has befallen us; we are growing older; the stamp of middle age is upon us." But if the juniors do not bring home the fact to us, the conduct of the seniors does. Old men have confidence in our judgment, grow civil as they see we are approaching to their side, and have arrived at an age when it should be no longer true that "knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." They think they can trust no man, and they consult us as they never would have done had not the dew of our youth long ago disappeared. Yes; we must grow old. And why should we regret it? It is an honour and reward which are given of God. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, as a shock of corn," etc. The Bible never speaks of "the dreary gift of years;" and if, in melancholy mood, Moses asserts that which, thank God, is so often untrue, that in the years of old age "their strength is but labour and sorrow," the general tone of the Bible tells that days "long in the land" are God's own reward to his people. But whether we be content or no at the inevitable advance of age, there is the fact, and hence the question comes again - How can a renewed youth be? "Can a man enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Now -
I. THE TEXT DECLARES THE FACT OF RENEWED YOUTH. And this in no mere poetic sense, but literally and truly. It says, "like the eagle," which year by year renews its plumage, and so seems to renew its vigour and activity along with its new garment.
1. But the renewal of our youth is not physical. Though the bodily life be sustained and nourished by appropriate food and rest, yet, in spite of this, the physical energies succumb to the decay of nature. The outward man not only does, but must, perish. The reservoir gets lower, the constant drain is but inadequately repaired, and by and by our life has all run out. No elixir vitae can prevent this. It is inevitable.
2. But the renewal told of in the text is spiritual. As in Job 33:23-26, where not physical, but spiritual, rejuvenescence is the theme. "They go from strength to strength;" "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;" "Whoso liveth and believeth on me," said our Lord," shall never die." Of Moses it is said that his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. What an illustration have we in the life of St. Paul of this ever-renewed youth!
3. The characteristics of youth belong to such. Capacity for progress, growth, development. It is never too late for them. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Hopefulness. The path of their life is lit up by the sunshine of the love of God, and it grows brighter and brighter. Enjoyment. The keen relish for all that is delightful is one of the blessed appanages of youth, and that which is like to it is part of the blessedness of that rejuvenescence of which we are speaking. Fulness of joy in his presence is theirs. Innocence, also. "The wicked one toucheth them not." Strength and vigour. They are as athletes in the contests which they have to wage: in the spiritual conflicts they fight, "not uncertainly, as one that beateth the air," but theirs is "the good fight," not only for the object for which it is waged, but for its manner and issue also. Such is this renewed youth.
II. EXPLAINS ITS SECRET. "He satisfieth thy mouth with good things." Christ is the Bread of their life, and they live by him. His are the "good things" by which they are sustained. This is the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which accounts for their renewed youth. They eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; he is their living Bread. They follow his footsteps, they drink into his Spirit; the mind which was in Christ is formed in them, and they grow up into him in all things.
III. ENCOURAGES US TO MAKE IT OUR OWN. Is youth yet ours? Then by yielding our young hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, let us receive from him that eternal life, that life of the Spirit, whose youth is ever renewed. But if youth has passed away for us, let us in like manner renew it, and gain again all those blessed characteristics, only in far higher degree and manner, which are God's gift to them that are young. - S.C.
actively engaged in securing the interests of the oppressed. That goes into the word used, "executeth." We might think of justice and judgment as the pillars of God's throne, and yet conceive of him as only announcing his just decisions; leaving to others the work of carrying them out. To put it in a formal way, the legislative rights of God may be recognized, but the executive rights of God may be denied. We may fully hold both truths of fact. God does pronounce his own judgments; God does execute his own sentences. The figure for God is especially effective in Eastern countries, where justice is so often perverted, and the oppressed have no chance if they happen to be poor. Illustrate by our Lord's parable of the unjust judge and the importunate widow. All the oppressed and poor may be absolutely sure that Jehovah will considerately hear their cases, deal with perfect uprightness in relation to their trouble, and carry out his decisions, whatever they may involve.
I. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED HEEDS THE OPPRESSED. The poor often find it nearly impossible to get their cases brought before the magistrates, judges, or kings of earth. It is the righteousness of God that he is right towards every one; all may seek, and none ever seeks in vain. There is absolute freedom given to every man and woman under the sun to tell out the trouble to the Lord. And we may have absolute faith that no tale of human need was ever poured out before God, and disregarded by him. It is a beginning of hope, that the Lord surely heeds us.
II. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED ACTS FOR THE OPPRESSED. God's decisions never merely lie on a statute book, like many acts of earthly courts and parliaments. If God decides a thing, it has to be carried out; nay, he himself presides over the carrying it out. We are to have confidence in the Divine energy and activity. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, and he will bring it to pass." How, when, where, he will execute his judgments, we may not anticipate; it is enough for an oppressed soul to know that God is acting for him. "He will bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon day."
III. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED ACTS UPON THE OPPRESSORS. It is not merely that the oppressed are delivered or defended; it is that those who have injured them feel the weight of Divine indignation. Judgment is in one sense for the oppressed, and in another sense for the oppressors. - R.T.
I. WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL THAT IT IS ONLY CHIDING, not something worse. God is speaking to his own children, not to the world of the ungodly. These latter he is angry with every day, and sternly punishes, and if they repent not he will destroy them. But though God chide his children, there is not the severity, nor the lack of alleviation, nor the endlessness and hopelessness, which characterize his dealings with hardened and ungodly men.
II. THAT THERE IS SUCH CHIDING. "For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:7). If God did not make sin full of smart and pain, we should be sure to go back to it again. But when the world sees that there is no partiality with God, that his own children have to suffer even as, and often far more than, others when they do wrong, this tends to beget a holy fear. Yes; blessed be God for our chiding!
III. THAT EVEN THIS WILL HAVE AN END. When we repent of our sin, when God's purpose is fulfilled, when we enter heaven. "Therefore humble yourselves," etc. - S.C.
I. GOD NEED NOT OVER CHIDE. Either by making the chiding over severe or by keeping it on too long. He need not:
1. Because he is never carried away by feeling. God is the infinitely self-restrained One; and so he is always himself, and perfectly competent to deal with every case.
2. Because he has the infinite power to estimate influences and results. This is often the explanation of man's over chiding. He cannot follow influences, and so see quickly when his object is attained. And it may he added that God has power to stop chidings. Man has not. He may be compelled to keep on awhile a training work he has begun, because, even if he could stop it, he would do serious mischief by stopping it. The omniscience and omnipotence of God prevent him from ever needing to over chide.
II. GOD DOES NOT OVER CHIDE. For the assurance of this, appeal may be made to the experience of God's people in all ages. Their marvel always has been, and always will be, that God should put such strict limitations on his chidinge, and accomplish such an "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" by such "light afflictions." This complaint no child of God, who was in his right mind, ever made; certainly no child of God ever had a right to make. That God will surely chide us is our ground of assurance. Our self-willedness will never be left alone, to ruin us. That God will never over chide is our abounding consolation. - R.T.
sins, rather than with sinners; and metes out his punishments according to standard, with no consideration for the individual. Man, when he authoritatively punishes, is not supposed to make allowances. Judges administer law irrespective of persons. Clemency, with us, is left to the supreme authority behind the judge; and only comes in after the judge has given his judgment according to standard. Man's law concerns acts, not motives. God's judgments are after another standard. God judges sinners, not merely sins. God unites the clemency of the king with the justice of the magistrate. God makes all reasonable allowances. God considers the force of human frailty. God estimates circumstances and motives. Then God's is the higher standard, but it is one which only the God of infinite wisdom and perfect righteousness can use. This may be worked out along two lines.
I. THE MEASURE OF DIVINE DEALING IS WHAT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE RACE. God never measures humanity by the standard he provides for the angels. He never measures humanity fallen by the standard he provides for humanity intact. He does not measure the race in its savage condition with the standard for the race civilized. He does not make one absolute standard to apply equally to every branch of the race. He is mindful of, and considerate towards, all forms of racial peculiarity and disability. Carefully show the distinction between an absolute standard of morals, and an absolute setting, or application, of that standard. If God deals with a morally fallen and frail race, he lets mercy help justice to fix the standard.
II. THE MEASURE OF DIVINE DEALINGS IS WHAT IS POSSIBLE TO THE INDIVIDUAL. This is fully treated under ver. 14. One point only need be mentioned. In every sin committed by the individual the element of heredity has to be taken into account. The sin is not absolutely and entirely the man's own. Yet man can never measure this heredity; so his measures will never suffice for deciding the Divine judgments and dealings. - R.T.
forgive, he never really forgets. The psalmist, speaking after the manner of men, and using terms for God which can only in strictness apply to men, declares that God can, and does, and will, utterly forget; "remember our sins no more." The voluntary Divine forgetfulness is a sublime conception. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:20) has this declaration, "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." Three figures set before us the limitlessness of God's forgiveness.
I. THE DISTANCE OF EAST FROM WEST. (See text.) "Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing." The distance from north to south can be measured. There are north and south poles - fixed points. There are no eastern or western poles. From every point alike in the circuit of the world the east extends in one direction, the west in the other. Thus the traveller westward may be said to be ever chasing the west without coming nearer to it.
II. REMOVAL BEHIND THE BACK. (Isaiah 38:17, "For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.") Two ideas are suggested:
1. "Behind the back" is a strong figure for "out of sight" and "out of mind."
2. "Casting" behind the back implies resolute purpose. It is as if God had thoroughly made up his mind that he would never look upon them again; he had done with them forever.
III. THROWING INTO THE SEA. (Micah 7:19, "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.") Nothing brings to us the sense of hopeless, irretrievable loss, like dropping a thing into the fathomless depths of mid-ocean. If our sins are cast into the sea, we shall never see them more. God's gracious dealings with our sins depend on our right dealings with them. Only sins that we have put away from ourselves by repentance can God put away from us by his full and free forgiveness. - R.T.
I. THE MISSION OF CHRIST WAS NEEDED IN ORDER TO REVIVE AND QUICKEN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH OF THE LOVE OF GOD. It had been, when our Lord came, so limited, petrified, and practically lost, that it was almost as if it had not been. Pharisaism and Sadduceeism had so overlaid or lessened it, that only a few elect souls knew of it or believed it. God's Fatherhood was not much more in our Lord's day than a dead letter.
II. TO MAKE IT REAL TO MEN. True, our text stood there in the psalm, but the life of the Lord here on earth could alone make it stand out as a real, living truth. Then there was held up - placarded, as St. Paul says (Galatians 3:1) - before the eyes of all men, what the pity and love of God could do and endure for the sake of sinful men. And so, as our Lord said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all," etc.
III. TO ENSURE ITS BEING SPREAD ABROAD. The Jews, we well know, would never have allowed this. Their inveterate exclusiveness and scorn of all other nations would have kept it to themselves alone. It was necessary that Christ should come and command his disciples to "go into all the world, and preach," etc.
IV. TO REVEAL ITS ENLARGED SCOPE AND AIM. Life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel. Death, till Christ came, kept its sting, and the grave its victory, but he took both away. Such were some of the reasons wherefore God became man, and lived and suffered and died in the Person of Christ. Doubtless there are others, but amongst them all that horrible one, so sadly dear to theologians of a bygone age, is not to be found - that it was to turn the heart of God from anger to love, for God was and eternally is Love - S.C.
I. THE FULL, CLEAR DECLARATION OF THIS IS FOUND ONLY IN THE BALE.
1. It is not in ancient mythology. The gods of the heathen were strong and much else, but not pitiful.
2. Nor in Nature. How heartless, how cruel, how utterly unsympathizing, she is! The dearly loved, the precious, the innocent, suffer, die in thousands, and Nature has not a solitary tear for them.
3. Nor in society. Law, the bond of society, cannot pity, it can only enforce its commands.
II. NEVERTHELESS, SUGGESTIONS OF IT ARE TO BE FOUND. The lower animals seem to have no affection for their offspring; but:
1. Such suggestions are traceable amongst the higher orders of animal life. See the affection of the mother bird or beast. See the affection of the dog for his master. And of the horse. A blackbird has been known to care for and feed a young robin that had fallen from its nest.
2. And amongst men. Not much amongst savages; but pity advances as we observe the higher races and the more civilized.
III. BUT FAR MORE IS HUMAN PITY SEEN IN THE HUMAN FAMILY AND HOME.
1. There we get the idea most of all realized. "Like as a father," etc. God has made use of our happy familiarity with parental love and pity to teach us what he himself is.
2. And there we learn what pity is and will do. It will inflict pain. Every father and mother do, but not, if they be wise, in anger, in revenge, or in passion, or carelessly, but ever out of love, for the sake of the child.
IV. THUS WE LEARN THE PITY OF GOD.
1. It will inflict pain if for our good.
2. But such infliction does not argue that the sufferer is shut out from the love of God. Man's punishments too often are utterly loveless. See how we treat our criminals, both in prison and when they come out. What a contrast to the Lord's way I See how the father of the prodigal forgave, but the elder brother did not. See the parable of the two debtors.
3. It bids us trust it utterly and forever. - S.C.
I. THE REASONS OF GOD'S PITY. Pity is sympathy for persons on account of weakness, suffering, or calamity. God feels pity for us:
1. On account of our weakness. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." We are poor and insignificant compared with the spiritual and mighty angels. We are allied to the dust in one important part of our nature. And we are but children in the germ and infancy of our being. How weak we are in the body to contend against the mighty forces of nature, to encounter accident, to endure suffering! How weak in mind! how ignorant! how feeble in the power of our convictions! how poor in the power of our will!
2. He pities us for our sins and mistakes. In how many ways do we go wrong, not of set purpose, but unwittingly; or from the force of education and outward circumstances! We sin through ignorance. And we sin with knowledge. And God pities the sinner while he punishes. If he did not pity, he would not punish. Punishment is love seeking to recover the sinful child. God's anger is nothing but love chastising.
3. He pities us in our sufferings. He would not be a Father if he did not. Some of our sufferings are sent by him - such as we could not avoid. "But he doth not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men." Many of our sufferings are self-incurred - such as we might have avoided. But he, nevertheless, pities us then.
II. THE NATURE OF GOD'S PITY. That of a father.
1. A father's pity is helpful. A neighbour's pity or a friend's is not always helpful; they are either unwilling or unable to relieve and help us. But a father will do all in his power to help his child. And has not God helped us in our low estate by coming to us in the Person of his Son? He has not sat and looked on and done nothing.
2. It is bountiful. Infinite in disposition to help, and in resources for our relief. "Exceeding abundantly." God said to the Jews, "What more could I have done for my vineyard?" And surely, in view of the gospel, he might say the same to us. Only one thing to limit his help - his help is to enable us to help ourselves. What we can do for ourselves that he leaves to us. His aim is to make us strong and great.
3. His pity is enduring. Human pity is soon exhausted. "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting." It has borne with each of us very long, and will continue to the end. - S.
I. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF OUR BODIES. Observe that "frame" is more than "body." This vehicle of the human spirit is wholly the plan of God.
1. Its actual parts, powers, relations, are known to him. "Fearfully and wonderfully made." Illustrate hand, eye, brain.
2. The special tone and habit of each individual are known to him. We may think of him studying each one as a parent does the disposition of each child.
3. The conditions due to hereditary taint and to civilization. Some have a great fight with bodily and mental taint or bias. And there are special influences of disease, and mischievous results often follow it.
4. The general frailty, the passing away, the gradual decaying of the vital powers, God knows and estimates.
II. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR BODIES AND OUR MINDS. Minds are spiritual things, but they work through a material frame. The brain is the central machine, to which are attached the separate machines of the senses. The force of the machine is the blood. The spiritual operations of the mind are helped or hindered by the condition of the body. Illustrate a speck in the brain, or weakness in the heart. Sometimes we cannot think - we must just be still. Sometimes we feel depressed, and a sombre tone is put on our thinking. We fret over such things, until we remember that our God knows all. He expects no more work from us than he knows we can do; and he never counts the times of repairing and refreshing our bodily machine to be idle or wasted times.
III. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR BODIES AND OUR RELIGION. What he asks from each of us is just this - the noblest religious life we can reach under our existing body conditions. We fret to be free from the body, as St. Paul apparently did: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But precisely the test under which each one of us is placed is this - Can you live a godly life in that body of yours, and under those precise body conditions of yours? Only when you can will God find it fitting to entrust you with the immortal and incorruptible body. Oar religious life is a thing of varying moods. Sometimes our "title is clear;" sometimes "our feet are firm;" sometimes our "head is lifted up;" sometimes we "walk in darkness, and have no light;" sometimes we say, "All these things are against me;" "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." The very variety unduly troubles us, and we fear lest God should regard us as unstable. But he "knows our frame." Christian joy is very closely linked with bodily health, and Christian gloom with bodily disease. Some diseases spoil the vision. And the body is the great spoiler of the soul's vision. The glorious attainment of the religious life is to get above bodyhinderings; to become master of our bodies in Christ; to "know how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honour." Feeling this to be the great aim in life leads to the excesses and extravagances of hermits and devotees. Remember, then, two things:
1. God sees souls.
2. God duly reckons for the body.
It may be that we shall be surprised to find what soul progress we have really made, when the body-clog drops off. This tender and considerate representation of God is full of comfort to us. But then God has not left this sentence to lie in his Word as a general statement. He has taken our frame on himself, so that he might gain experimental knowledge of it. Jesus is the Brother-Man of sorrows. We may think of God's ways with us as based on the experience of Jesus. And if God's omniscience is a reason for trust, how much more is Christ's human experience! - R.T.
conditional. "The blessings of the covenant are no inalienable right. Children's children can only inherit its blessings by cleaving to it."
I. COVENANT KEEPERS REMEMBER THEIR PLEDGE. It may have been taken by themselves. It may have been taken in their names by their fathers. It may be freshly taken after a time of lapse. It is a ground of obligation. It is a source of inspiration. It should be kept ever in mind. Illustrate by the oath of loyalty taken by the servants of a king; or by the pledge taken in marriage; or by covenants entered into by those who unite in a common undertaking. See the value of special seasons - sacramental seasons - when covenant pledges are forcibly brought to mind. There is a new covenant in Christ Jesus. It is to that covenant we are pledged; and that covenant we do well to keep in mind. (Some useful covenant reminders may be indicated.)
II. COVENANT KEEPERS AIM AT OBEDIENCE. Sentiment, however good, cannot suffice them. Feelings, as mere feelings, cannot honour God. True covenant keepers try to "remember God's commandments," his requirements under the covenant, with the distinct and full intention to do them, and not merely know what they are, or feel that they are wise and good. The Lord Jesus searchingly said, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them!"
1. Set forth what the Lord's covenant was for Israel, and is for us.
2. Point out how the responsibilities of the covenant may be kept ever before our minds and hearts.
3. Impress that the only acceptable keeping of the covenant is the constant, loving, hearty obedience of all its requirements. - R.T.
I. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Its basis and foundation. These are immutably right. His is not the mere right of might, but a far higher thing, the might of right. Not δυνάμις alone, but ἐξουσί.
2. Its extent. This is so vast, that not alone is our eyesight aided with all conceivable telescopic power far outstripped, but even our thought fails to grasp in its comprehension, or even in its imagination, the wide range either of the material or moral universe over which God reigns.
3. Its regulating law. That law is holy, just, and good, and clothed with power to enforce its sacred sanctions. Its moral perfection is seen supremely in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Its purpose and aim. These are the highest possible. The glory of God is to be secured, that glory on which the well being of the whole universe depends. Let God be banished from his throne, and straightway chaos comes again. And the highest well being of his creatures. The two are never antagonistic, but joined in inseparable union. Where one is, there is the other.
5. Its duration. Forever and ever. Such are the characteristics of this blessed and glorious kingdom, whose subjects consist only of regenerated souls - souls that can say, "Oh how I love thy Law! it is my meditation all the day."
II. THE EFFECT WHICH OUR FAITH IN THIS DIVINE KINGDOM SHOULD HAVE UPON US.
1. Obedience. To know God's will should be to obey. "Blessed are they that keep his commandments."
2. Praise. What truer gospel can there be that such a rule is that under which we live?
3. Trust. We cannot always understand the ways of God; they are high above our thought; but we can ever trust, and that is ever good.
4. Confident hope. "He must reign till he hath put all enemies," etc. And he will do this. S.C.
I. CALLING OTHERS TO PRAISE THE LORD, AND YET NEGLECTING IT HIMSELF, he adds,
"Bless the Lord, O my soul!" 1. And this is a real possibility and a terrible peril. Like as a guide to the loveliest scenes of nature may lead a traveller to different points of view, which will show the glorious landscape at its best, and may expatiate on the beauties that are to be seen, yet may himself be not in the slightest degree stirred or moved by what he calls on the traveller to admire. He has come to be so familiar with it all; he has said the same thing so many times, it is part of his professional talk; he has seen all these glorious things so often, that they have lost their power to affect him. At first it was otherwise; he had become a guide to these scenes because he so delighted in them. But that was a long time ago. He had thought that he could not spend his life more happily than in conducting others to these same beautiful places, and showing them their glories. But all that enthusiasm has long passed, and he is now a mere professional guide. 2. And so, the great preacher to whom I have referred points out, it may be with the spiritual guide - the minister of Christ, the teacher of others in holy things. He may have begun with enthusiasm for the blessed truths and the bright prospects to which he was to lead others; he had such joy in them himself, that to show to others these things seemed an employment to which he might, as in fact he did, give his whole life and soul. But alas! he has got so familiar with it all; the work has become such a routine, that all the old zest and glow and enthusiasm are gone, and he too has become a mere professional guide. God help him and all such! This is the peril. II. THE SAFEGUARD is, by continual meditation, prayer, and obedience to the Lord, to maintain the freshness, the force, and the "first love." And this safeguard is sure. - S.C.
1. And this is a real possibility and a terrible peril. Like as a guide to the loveliest scenes of nature may lead a traveller to different points of view, which will show the glorious landscape at its best, and may expatiate on the beauties that are to be seen, yet may himself be not in the slightest degree stirred or moved by what he calls on the traveller to admire. He has come to be so familiar with it all; he has said the same thing so many times, it is part of his professional talk; he has seen all these glorious things so often, that they have lost their power to affect him. At first it was otherwise; he had become a guide to these scenes because he so delighted in them. But that was a long time ago. He had thought that he could not spend his life more happily than in conducting others to these same beautiful places, and showing them their glories. But all that enthusiasm has long passed, and he is now a mere professional guide.
2. And so, the great preacher to whom I have referred points out, it may be with the spiritual guide - the minister of Christ, the teacher of others in holy things. He may have begun with enthusiasm for the blessed truths and the bright prospects to which he was to lead others; he had such joy in them himself, that to show to others these things seemed an employment to which he might, as in fact he did, give his whole life and soul. But alas! he has got so familiar with it all; the work has become such a routine, that all the old zest and glow and enthusiasm are gone, and he too has become a mere professional guide. God help him and all such! This is the peril.
II. THE SAFEGUARD is, by continual meditation, prayer, and obedience to the Lord, to maintain the freshness, the force, and the "first love." And this safeguard is sure. - S.C.