Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. WHOM WAS IT WRITTEN BY?
1. Some assert that it is David's work. They profess to be able to find proofs of his style and manner, and there is no limit to the laudations they pass on this psalm; but extravagant rhetoric proves nothing.
2. But all the chief and most reliable of expositors refuse to admit the Davidic authorship. The style is far later than that of David. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah there is a similar alphabetical composition. It is altogether an artificial and didactic composition, widely different from that which we have most reason to assign to the age and pen of David. Moreover, so far as we know, that general reading of the Law, which this psalm presupposes, could not have been without the wide circulation of copies of the Law. But of such circulation we have no evidence until the time of Ezra. Moreover, the life of David, as it is portrayed in the Scriptures, seems quite out of keeping with the tone, spirit, and allusions of this psalm.
3. It is not possible to name any individual person as the author. But we gather from the psalm that it was written by a devoted servant of God, whoever be may have been; that he was probably a young man - one of those of whom St. John would say, "I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and have overcome the wicked one." Vers. 9, 99, 100, warrant the supposition that he was young. But, nevertheless, deeply taught of God to love the Word of God, and to continually feed upon it. Very lowly minded and humble before God. See the general tone of the psalm, and especially the last eight verses. He seems to have been much tried (vers. 21, 23, 36, 37). His one fear being lest he should prove unworthy, and be ashamed (vers. 6, 7, 22, 31), If we were to look for one in whom the various conditions of authorship meet, we should turn to the Book of Daniel; either he himself, or one of those three noble Hebrew youths his book tells of, might well have been the writer of this psalm.
II. WHEREFORE IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. Perhaps as a memoir of the writer's own experience, and for his own help.
2. But yet more probably for the instruction of others. Hence the alphabetic, acrostic style, which was adopted as an aid to memory; just as preachers now divide their sermons into various heads.
3. And for the glory of God - that his grace might be praised.
4. For the commendation of the Word of God. The psalmist would bear his emphatic testimony to the preciousness of that Word.
5. And for the stirring up of those who should read the psalm to diligent search for the treasures of that Word. Personal testimony such as is so largely given in this psalm has ever great power over the minds of others.
III. ITS GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS.
1. It is from a believer to believers. The infidel and scoffer are not contemplated in the design of the psalm.
2. It is for the edification and growth in holiness of the people of God.
3. It is intensely spiritual. Rites and ceremonies and appeals to the mere reason are absent from it; it speaks to the soul.
4. It is universal in character. Limited to no one period, to no one land, to no one nation, but for all.
5. Its spiritual force and power are witnessed to by the God-fearing of all ages. - S.C.
I. IT IS CALLED THE "LAW." (Vers. 1,18, 34, etc.) The word implies that which rules guides, directs, therefore a rule of conduct. And this was evidently the psalmist's meaning, God's Word was not something to be merely talked about, praised, or argued over, but it was to order a man's life, and be his constant guide.
II. "TESTIMONIES." The word signifies that which bears witness to. And the Word of God is this.
1. It bears witness to us of God, and of his will concerning us; and:
2. It bears witness to our hearts of the acceptableness or wrong of our lives and conduct in the sight of God. It will ever bear true testimony, which it is at our peril if we neglect. By it God's sentence upon us will be determined.
III. "PRECEPTS." This expression comes from a word which signifies "that which is entrusted to us." And so God's Word is the deposit of faith, which we are to keep and guard. St. Paul declared, at the end of his career, "I have kept the faith;" and he exhorted Timothy to "keep that which was committed unto" him. We shall be asked at the last what we have done with this precious entrustment. God's words to us are the talents which, whilst he is absent from our sight, we are to "occupy," that is, trade with, until the Lord comes.
IV. "STATUTES." The term is derived from a word which tells of that which is engraved, definitely and clearly drawn, as a chart, a map, and so prescribes the way that is to be taken. And is not this true of the Word of God? Is it not ever saying to us, "This is the way, walk ye in it "? How clear and plain is the course it marks out for us! And, perhaps, the psalmist thought also of the depth and clearness with which this word is written on the human heart, and especially on the believing heart. There God has engraved deeply and definitely his will for us. Christ, the Word, is the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
V. "COMMANDMENTS." That which is ordained, as the commander of an army orders what is to be done. God's people are the army of the living God, and in this holy war success is only to be gained by strict and diligent obedience to his commands.
VI. "JUDGMENTS." This expression is used of the verdict in a court of law, that which has legal sanction, and which governs the sentence of the judge. And so the Word of God is the Divine sentence, and is in accordance with the law of nature, of reason, and of righteousness. Who are we to set up our flimsy ideas against the precedents, principles, and judgments of the righteous Judge?
VII. "WORD." (Vers. 9,11,17, etc.) This answers to that sacred name of Christ, who is the Word of God. It tells, not of a written letter, a series of documents drawn up by men; but it is that inner word of God which the spirit of man hears - it may be through the written or spoken Word, but it may be also independently of either. It is that Word which, if not heard, no preaching or teaching of man is of any avail. This is the Word we need to hear.
VIII. "WAY." The road, the course, the path, along which God himself walks, and that in which he would have us walk. And that the Word of God is. It is the way of holiness, the King's highway, and blessed are they that walk therein. - S.C.
I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF SUCH AS RENDER IT.
1. They are undefiled in the way. They are not merely in the way, but keep themselves undefiled. How difficult this!
2. They walk in the Law of the Lord. It is the habit of their lives, and its pleasure.
3. They keep his testimonies. Keep them in their memory, their affection, and their conduct.
4. They seek him with the whole heart. This sadly rare. The mass of Christians are of a divided heart; but whole-hearted service, how rare this is!
5. They do no iniquity. It is possible not to sin, and to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man.
II. THEY ARE DECLARED TO BE "BLESSED." And that they are so let all experience tell. Certainly half-hearted service can lay no claim to such blessedness. Such have just enough religion to spoil them for the world, but not near enough to give them the blessedness here spoken of. Theirs is a miserable round of sinning and repenting, falling down and rising up again, a life under the perpetual rebuke of conscience and the sense of God's displeasure. But the life told of here in this psalm is lived in the sunshine of the love of God, and in the possession of that loving-kindness which is better than life.
III. SUCH SERVICE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT ANSWERS TO GOD'S COMMAND. (Ver. 4.) It is that which he has specially enjoined. Anything less would be dishonoring to him and disastrous to us, whilst this glorifies him, and is for us most blessed.
IV. THE BELIEVER KNOWS THIS AND LONGS FOR IT. (Ver. 5.) The vision of the true life has been shown him, and he desires it with a great desire. He would be holy as God is holy. And he has good reasons; for:
1. This only will give him confidence before men, and, what is more important, before God. If he has it not, he must "be ashamed."
2. It will enable him to offer worthy praise - praise with uprightness of heart (ver. 7). Insincerity, half-heartedness, vitiates and destroys all praise such as God can accept. He turns from it.
V. THEREFORE IN DEEP HUMILITY HE CONSECRATES HIMSELF TO GOD.
1. "I will keep thy statutes." It is a sacred vow. He knew that only in the path of obedience could he hope to realize what he so longed for.
2. But he says this in deep humility. "Oh forsake me not utterly!" He knows that God might justly do this, but he trembles lest he should. - S.C.
i.e. having every part and faculty according to standard, and every part and faculty in full health, vigor, harmonious development, and activity. The older writers have in mind rather what we understand by "simplicity," "genuineness," "sincerity." To the pious mind the supreme evil was doubleness, the divided heart, fearing God and worshipping other gods - the man whose body was in God's temple, but whose soul was absorbed in self-interests. And therefore, to the pious mind, the perfect became the sincere - the man who was what he seemed to be. This readily becomes the "undefiled," the man who is not stained by self-seeking motives or a spirit of hypocrisy; the man who professes to walk in the Law of the Lord, and does. The psalm affirms, in its opening verse, the blessedness of walking genuinely in the way of God's Word, and thus gives the key-note of the whole psalm, with which may be usefully compared the composition of Tennyson's 'In Memoriam.' Like that poem, the psalm represents a variety of moods in which a poetic soul may meditate on some leading thought or fact. It is not only that the subject is dealt with all round; it is that it is approached from a variety of points of view; and the points are decided by the mental and spiritual moods of the poet. It has been well said that in the first three verses we have described the three elements of obedience to the Law.
(1) Purity of intention;
(2) reverence in treasuring up;
(3) and, as a result, freedom from the power of sin.
Absolute perfection, that is Perfection tested by comparison with the sublime idea we have of God, is necessarily unattainable by the creature. The perfection of a creature must be in the range of possible attainment for the creature. We can think of a man reaching the standard or ideal of manhood. We know that the standard manhood has been presented to us historically in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that life helps us to realize the point before us now - that, for the created being, man, who must stand in dependent relations to his Creator, perfection is sincerity. We may recall the saying of Shakespeare -
"To thine own self be true, and it shall follow... I. INSINCERITY LIMITS PERFECTION IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. Some advantage is gained by putting the truth before us in this negative form, because we are so much quicker to discern the evil than the good, to condemn insincerity than to praise sincerity. The one supreme offence to man, and to our Divine Lord, the Son of man, is hypocrisy. The suspicion of it kills trust. Let a man have an apparently complete set of good qualities, if we suspect insincerity it is all spoiled for us, as is the good shield across which lies the "bar sinister." All the goodness will not suffice to win confidence. And, on the other hand, if we are convinced of a man's sincerity, we are well able to deal with his infirmities. This may be illustrated from imaginative literature even more effectively than from actual experience. The one thing we look for in the characters presented to us is sincerity; and the most fascinating persons lose all charm for us if we are led to suspect that they are not genuine or true. Nothing so convincingly limits human perfection as the sense of two-facedness - the sense that a man is not when away from us what he seems to be when before us. II. INSINCERITY LIMITS PERFECTION IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. Distinguish between God's idea of perfection for himself and his idea of perfection for man his creature. God looks for no perfection that is not within the range of possibility for the creature man, and for the particular man whose character he may be estimating. But, to use familiar language, God draws the line somewhere. He draws it at sincerity. A man must be true; he must be what he seems to be. No profession can take the place of fact. Illustrate by the glass carefully ground for the telescope. It seems to be perfect. Nay, there is a flaw, and it must be rejected. The acceptance of God is absolutely conditioned upon this - the man must be "undefiled in the way" by any trace or suspicion of insincerity. - R.T.
I. INSINCERITY LIMITS PERFECTION IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. Some advantage is gained by putting the truth before us in this negative form, because we are so much quicker to discern the evil than the good, to condemn insincerity than to praise sincerity. The one supreme offence to man, and to our Divine Lord, the Son of man, is hypocrisy. The suspicion of it kills trust. Let a man have an apparently complete set of good qualities, if we suspect insincerity it is all spoiled for us, as is the good shield across which lies the "bar sinister." All the goodness will not suffice to win confidence. And, on the other hand, if we are convinced of a man's sincerity, we are well able to deal with his infirmities. This may be illustrated from imaginative literature even more effectively than from actual experience. The one thing we look for in the characters presented to us is sincerity; and the most fascinating persons lose all charm for us if we are led to suspect that they are not genuine or true. Nothing so convincingly limits human perfection as the sense of two-facedness - the sense that a man is not when away from us what he seems to be when before us.
II. INSINCERITY LIMITS PERFECTION IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. Distinguish between God's idea of perfection for himself and his idea of perfection for man his creature. God looks for no perfection that is not within the range of possibility for the creature man, and for the particular man whose character he may be estimating. But, to use familiar language, God draws the line somewhere. He draws it at sincerity. A man must be true; he must be what he seems to be. No profession can take the place of fact. Illustrate by the glass carefully ground for the telescope. It seems to be perfect. Nay, there is a flaw, and it must be rejected. The acceptance of God is absolutely conditioned upon this - the man must be "undefiled in the way" by any trace or suspicion of insincerity. - R.T.
spirit that finds expression in the doing. This is made quite plain in the Mosaic persuasions to the keeping of the Law. "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently;" "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments, that ye may learn them, and keep and do them;" "Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee."
I. DILIGENCE IN OBEDIENCE AS A SIGN OF CHARACTER. It is more especially the indication that a man has his heart in his work, and that is the condition of all good work. None so aggravate the business man as the servants who only get through their work. Character is revealed by the heartlessness of it, and there is no disposition to put fuller trusts in the hands of such persons. Diligence is distinct from ability. And it is quite possible to trust ability and neglect diligence. But ability has nothing to do with character, and diligence has everything to do with it. Diligence is a sign of
(2) of a cherished sense of duty and obligation;
(3) of reverence for high things;
(4) of humility;
(5) of desire to win approbation. Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings. Diligence in the spheres of Divine obedience is precisely what it is in ordinary relations.
II. DILIGENCE IN OBEDIENCE AS A CONDITION OF ACCEPTANCE. Is it conceivable that God's favor can rest upon a mere doing of what he requires? A father will accept such obedience, but he hardly cares to smile on the child who has only that to offer. A business man accepts such obedience, and does nothing for the man who has only that to offer. God accepts it as bare duty, but he has no favor, no smile, for him who has but that to offer. We must put our hearts into keeping God's Law. Then we shall be diligent, and meet the conditions of full acceptance. - R.T.
I. THE PRAYER OF OUR TEXT RISES UP FROM MANY HEARTS.
1. From even the careless and the worldling. They, not seldom, have to eat of the fruit of their own ways, and it is nauseous to their taste. They often realize how wrong they are, and then there rises up from their hearts such prayer as this. Only, alas! these desires fade away so soon.
2. From the beginner in the Divine Life - the newly regenerate. This is the holy, healthy appetite of such a soul. Not alone desire for being saved from hell or admitted to heaven, but to be made like God, and so, well-pleasing to him.
3. The backslider. No more miserable soul can live on the earth than the backslider. Again and again is he made conscious of his wretched folly in leaving the ways of God, and he mourns and yearns for the better way. It is God who will not lightly let them go: it is his call; let such listen to it and obey, and that at once. Then this good desire may be as the slender thread which draws up the cord to the prisoner in the dungeon, and that the trusty rope whereby escape is gained. So this desire, if well used, may draw to you other gifts of God's grace, and they yet more, and so, blessed deliverance shall be yours.
4. The earnest believer. For he sees defects in himself where others do not, and is conscious of failure where others only praise his goodness. But he has an ideal, a vision of God, after which he is forever punting, and hence this prayer, "Oh that my ways were directed," etc.!
II. THE REASON OF THIS.
1. It is the way in which Christ walked. Every place where he has been is invested with a charm and delight to those who love him.
"Those holy fields, 2. It is the way for which we were designed. Nothing works well in that for which it was not intended. The delicate instruments of the mathematician will not serve for the coarse work of the artisan. And so with man's nature - it is made for God, and in his obedience finds its real welfare. 3. It is the way of peace. 4. And of eternal life. III. BUT FOR THIS WE NEED GOD'S DIRECTION. - S.C.
2. It is the way for which we were designed. Nothing works well in that for which it was not intended. The delicate instruments of the mathematician will not serve for the coarse work of the artisan. And so with man's nature - it is made for God, and in his obedience finds its real welfare.
3. It is the way of peace.
4. And of eternal life.
III. BUT FOR THIS WE NEED GOD'S DIRECTION. - S.C.
(1) the disposition to judge others by our own ways; and
(2) the loss of spiritual force through the routine character of our doings. But we need never depreciate good things because it is possible to misuse them and make mischief out of them. In a thousand things of daily life we prove the usefulness of good habits. We do things again and again, or do things at the same time and in the same way day after day, until they become not so much easy to do as a joy to the doer. They make up the life, and provide the pleasure of the life. Let, then, any one purpose to live the godly life, and he must take due account of the helpfulness of well-formed habits. The subject may be illustrated in connection with both the culture and the expression of the religious life.
I. GOOD HABITS IN RELATION TO THE CULTURE OF GOODNESS. The gardener knows well the importance of regular habits in the tending of plants. The godly life is cultured by the Word of God, prayer, and pious conversation; and in each of these the formation of good habits early in life is singularly helpful. The custom of devoting some time daily to Bible-reading may become a mere routine, and even to the liveliest Christian it is at times a formality; but its helpfulness is clearly seen when the negligences of those who have formed no such habit is duly contrasted. The best of us are constantly needing to be carried over our wilfulness's and indispositions, as only good habits can carry us.
II. GOOD HABITS IN RELATION TO THE EXPRESSION OF GOODNESS. We have no right to permit any divorce between the cultured heart and the devoted life. If we have soul-life, it must find fitting expression in daily service. These may be classed under acts of worship and acts of ministry. Habits very materially aid in maintaining family worship, and in meeting the obligations of God's house; and they exert an important influence on our acts of charity and ministry. We all need to have our "ways established," that we may thus be helped in "observing God's statutes." - R.T.
I. WE ALL SHRINK FROM SHAME. Whether it be:
1. Before our own conscience. An inward blush, though unseen by any fellow-man, is to many, and to all who are capable of it, a source of pain, and to some of very real pain. To be ashamed of one's self is the reverse of pleasant.
2. Yet more, before our fellow-men. That has often driven men to self-destruction, so intolerable has it been. Or:
3. Before God. (See Psalm 40:12.) And who has not known, by reason of ingratitude and sin, what this shame is? And there is the last awful shame - that
4. Before the Lord at his coming. (1 John 2:28.) May he keep us from that!
II. THE SURE WAY OF AVOIDING IT. By having "respect unto all thy commandments."
1. But can any one have respect unto all God's commandments? Not so as to merit salvation thereby; for "by the works of the Law shall," etc. And even if we could for the future, what about the past? People often talk of turning over a new leaf, but what of the old ones? The new leaf will not blot out those old ones. If a man has broken the law of his country in the past, the plea that he will never do the like again will not avail for his pardon.
2. But in reference to God's commandments it is possible (ver. 3) to "do no iniquity." Christ will keep the soul that daily, hourly, trusts in him. As the pebble that lies in the bed of the stream is ever kept bright and clean by the constantly flowing water that passes over it, so he who will "walk in the light," that is, honestly strive to live in such wise as that his whole conduct will bear God's light, and who will, so to speak, keep touch with Christ, continually looking to him for grace, he will find that the blood of Christ does, as a fact of experience, cleanse him, keep cleansing him, from all sin. There are thousands that can attest this. And:
3. This is what we should desire. Not out of dread of wrath, but out of love for God (Psalm 63.), has come to be our deep longing.
4. Such desire will lead to conduct very different from that of most. For most men do not have respect unto all God's commandments. They may be public duties, but not private ones. So the commands of the first table, but not those of the second, or it may be vice-versd. Or in great matters, but not in the little ones of daily life. The agreeable duties, but not the disagreeable.
III. BUT HE WHO WILL HAVE RESPECT UNTO ALL GOD'S COMMANDMENTS, SHALL NOT ONLY AVOID SHAME, BUT BE FILLED WITH THE LOVE OF GOD. - S.C.
I. A DIFFICULT QUESTION. "Wherewithal shall a young man," etc.? (ver. 9).
1. The very word "wherewithal implies this. It seems to suggest that all manner of means had been tried, but found inadequate.
2. It is also implied that the way is already defiled. And this most true, as most sad. The young man starts with an evil bias, and he has made this stronger than before by frequent compliance with it. So that it is not a clean way that has to be kept clean - that is difficult enough, but a defiled way that has to be made clean.
3. And youth is so open to temptation. The passions and appetites of the body clamoring like a set of foul harpies for indulgence. The mind, impatient of control, giving heed to all manner of unbelief and doubt and denial of the truth; the heart inexperienced and untaught, ready to be ensnared with the varied deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Here is the fuel ready and the fire, and they come together in youth. What can prevent the conflagration?
II. BUT IT IS NOT A QUESTION THAT CANNOT BE ANSWERED. It has been again and again. See the history of Joseph; of Daniel and the noble Hebrew youths in exile with him; see the young men to whom St. John writes (1 John 2:13, 14). And there are many such today, glory be to God!
III. HERE WE ARE TOLD HOW THE QUESTION IS ANSWERED. By taking heed. thereto," etc. (ver. 9).
1. There must be taking heed to the way: thought and care given to it. It will not come right by chance, or when we are asleep, but it will need strenuous endeavors.
2. And this must be according to God's Word. For that Word supplies the pattern and model of such cleansed way; especially in Christ, "who did no sin," who was "holy, harmless, and undefiled." And it supplies the all-constraining motives - the love of God, the cross of Christ, the beauty of holiness, the eternal reward. And it gives the wisest counsel as to all holy living; there the right road is marked out for us. God's Word is a sure guide (ver. 105). And it points to the one source of help - the Holy Spirit of God, by whom God causes us to will and to do according to his good pleasure.
3. And all this he had done. See the following verses in this section. He tells how he had sought God with the whole heart, had hidden God's Word in his heart, etc., so that he had come to rejoice therein; and this, doubtless, because of their help. - S.C.
1. Among us are always boys coming out into the responsibilities of youth and young manhood.
2. While phases of youthful sin may vary for each generation, Bible counsels fit to every age, because they deal with principles.
I. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH THE INQUIRY OF THE TEXT IS BASED. The moral perils to which the young are exposed. The text does not say that the way of the young is actually unclean, but it views the young as just beginning to walk in a way that is miry and dangerous. To compass the whole truth we should consider:
1. The moral weakness of the young man himself. It partly lies in
(1) the relics left of evil influences, and the imperfect and incomplete results of early training;
(2) in an inexperience of life which young people never estimate worthily;
(3) in susceptibility to influences that are merely attractive, not deeply true;
(4) in the intensity with which they enter on present pleasures, heedless of future issues and results. These make dangers on the side of the young man himself.
2. The evils actually lying in the way of the young.
(1) The appeals of evil to the sensual side of human nature. See the warnings in the Book of Proverbs.
(2) The pride of independence loosening the moral restraints of education and home influence.
(3) The false maxims that are attractive to opening mental faculties, and readily meet youthful dispositions; such as "Youth is the time for pleasure;" "Gaining wealth is the true end of life;" "Religion is a gloomy affair, and awfully dull;" "No certainty - nothing that can be called 'knowledge,' is to be obtained about morals, or about spiritual things." Show the moral influence exerted by such prevailing evil sentiments.
II. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH A WISE ANSWER TO THIS INQUIRY MAY REST.
1. No other answer than that given in the text can fully meet the case.
2. The Word of God can become a deliverance from young men's moral weaknesses and perils. It can be a power of practical wisdom and self-restraint. Illustrate by our Lord's use of the Word, as a weapon, in the time of his temptation as a young Man.
3. The Word of God acts as do beacons and lighthouses and sign-posts - it points out the dangerous parts of the way, and indicates the safe and direct roads.
4. The Word of God delivers us from the mischievous influence of false maxims by its revelation of truth and duty. But the Word does not, once for all, cleanse any man's way. All through life the way in which we walk will be foul and full of perils, traps, and temptations. The Word enables us to pick our path safely amidst the dirt and the snares and the pitfalls that may be put in our way. "Not defiled their garments;" "Unspotted from the world." Appeal thus: In view of life, do you think you can safely go all alone? Can you certainly triumph over all the subtlety and all the strength of evil in your own sufficiency? "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - R.T.
man," we need not imagine that, at the time of composing the psalm, he was himself a young man. The stanzas represent a variety of moods; and for this one the psalmist was in a mood of retrospection; he was looking back over the past, and seeing what a help God's Word had been to him amid the perils and temptations of his youthful years. He had "ruled himself after God's Word," and rejoices in having come through his youth-time clean-souled and unspotted from the world. The Prayer-book Version suggests that no external defenses will ever suffice to keep the young man from "city snares and town traps." He will be kept if he keeps himself; he will only keep himself if he asks God to keep him; and God will only keep him as he diligently seeks direction and counsel from God's book of instructions and warnings. "Even by ruling himself after thy Word." It is implied in the expression, "cleanse his way," that there are things surrounding the young man that may easily defile him. But that is true for old men as well as young men. What is of special importance to young men is that
(1) by bodily constitution,
(2) by disposition,
(3) and by inexperience, they are unusually exposed to defiling influences.
I. THE YOUNG MAN WANTS A STANDARD AND A GUIDE. The ship of a young life has to sail over unknown seas, and there must be culture for managing the vessel, and a chart for directing its course. This the young are not ready to admit. "Why not wait and gain power out of experience?" Experience is a dear school, and its lessons are only learned aright when the life is in the ordering of God's infallible guide. Experience is to a man according to what the man is.
II. THE YOUNG MAN CANNOT SAFELY RE A LAW UNTO HIMSELF. Can any man? "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." If any man can, it is the experienced and sanctified Christian. But he is the very man who is sure that he cannot. If he cannot, how can the youth? What always happens when youth takes the ordering of life into its own hands?
III. THE YOUNG MAN CAN GO RIGHT WITH THE HELP OF GOD'S WORD. Which is no mere set of rules, but the Father-God finding counsel and warning and help for every emergency. It is a strengthening of the soul to resist, as well as a clearing of the eyes to avoid all that would befoul. - R.T.
Psalm 37:31). The point of the text lies in the assertion that the Word of God is in the man's heart because he had put it in, and put it in carefully.
I. STORING THE MIND WITH SCRIPTURE AS THE DUTY OF TEACHERS. It is a primary duty of all who have to do with children. Storing the memory with the material of after-thought comes before the cultivation of the mind for using its material. And if we would have the after-thought of life inclusive of the highest things, we must take care that the mind is early stored with Scripture truth and fact and counsel. It is not suggested that the child-mind should be crammed even with that which is good, nor should Scripture ever be made a task. But that child is in an especially effective manner equipped for life who has God's Word stored as a treasure in his memory. In modern times this hiding of Scripture in the heart is sadly under-estimated.
II. STORING THE MIND WITH SCRIPTURE AS A MAN'S OWN DUTY. It will not, in his case, be a merely formal memorizing, as it must largely be in the case of the child. A man will store what the Scripture says to him, and not merely what the Scripture says. This involves:
1. A personal interest in the revealed Word of God.
2. Well-formed habits in relation to its study.
3. Careful attention to the relations of the Word to personal life and needs.
4. Such persistent habits of meditation as press the Word in, and lay it up on the secret places of the soul. It is not necessary to say any strong things concerning the "criticism" of the Bible, because of that the psalmist knew nothing. To him the Word of God was a book of practical directions for godly living. And we need to have its actual relation to life and conduct so deeply impressed on us, that we should feel impelled to store its truths and counsels.
III. THE AVAILABLENESS OF SCRIPTURE-STORES FOR THE EMERGENCIES OF LIFE. From those stores our Lord readily fetched effective weapons in the time of his temptations. We have often fetched our best comfortings in time of trouble; our best warnings in times of danger; our best answers when the enemies of faith and righteousness assailed. "He who hides can find;" and if the laying up has been carefully done, the recovery for use is sure to be prompt and easy. - R.T.
I. THE GRANDEST AIM. "That I might not sin against thee."
1. This is the highest object of man's pursuit. Intrinsically the greatest object of life, as calling forth the greatest faculties, in the direction of the greatest object, for the grandest achievement. The assimilation of the human to the Divine mind. And we are bound to it by the greatest obligation.
2. Yet it is a practicable object. This proved from three considerations.
(1) That we are responsible for it. That is, we can attain the fundamental principles of all obedience. Faith and love. And we are capable of continued effort and attainment in connection with it.
(2) And that God's love furnishes sufficient and adequate motives to it. These motives are the strongest spiritual forces which can act on man's soul.
(3) And that God helps man in his efforts by his Spirit.
3. It is the most profitable object of human pursuit. In two ways. in the pure and ever-growing delight which the pursuit of it affords. And in the present and future rewards of every kind which are graciously connected with it.
II. THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. The hiding of God's Word in the heart.
1. God's Word is to be the light and guide of our lives. In opposition to all conventional standards of conduct, and to the casuistic reasonings of our own minds.
2. That a sacred passion is to be cherished towards the Divine Law. God's Word is to be enthroned on the seat of the affections. "Oh, how I love thy Law!" He would hide it in his heart as the most valued treasure.
3. God's Word is the nourishment of our spiritual nature. He would hide it in his heart as the vivifying principle of his nature, on account of its enlightening, strengthening, hope-giving properties. "I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end." - S.
study of God's Word. But in the West meditation is almost despised. It seems like doing nothing, and that is offensive to active and energetic Westerns, who are so keen for results. Consequently, meditation on God's Word has become almost a lost art. It has little or no place in the ordinary routine of a Christian life. The West has much to learn from the East, but it need not copy any of its exaggerations. Perhaps we are misusing the Bible, failing to make it in our lives what it was intended to be, because we do not meditate in the precepts, dwell on them long and lovingly, so as to realize their helpfulness.
I. MEDITATION IS A NECESSARY METHOD OF DEALING WITH THE REVEALED WORD, It is necessary that we should see this clearly. There are some studies which only call for active mental application. Put your whole mind into them while concerned with them, and put them wholly out of your mind when you have done. But these lie outside the man himself, and are but matters of knowledge. The revealed Word gives truth in relation to men - truth for the sake of men; and the relations will only appear in response to that kind of mental action which we call "meditation."
II. MEDITATION DEPENDS MUCH MORE UPON HEART-MOOD THAN UPON BRAIN-POWER. It is really moral faculty using brain-power as its agency, and carefully keeping the brain-power in subjection. Interest in meditation is found to be in precise relation to spiritual culture; and it is akin with the spiritual insight that gets to the heart of things, and the deeper relations of things, and cannot be trammeled by the mere forms and settings of things.
III. MEDITATION PROVIDES THE MOST SATISFYING PLEASURES OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE. It unfolds the most precious truths, and gives them personal relations and personal interest. And it brings to a man the most satisfying sense of Divine communion; for God speaks his best things to the soul that is still and open to receive Divine thought. - R.T.
I. IN HIS DESIRE FOR GOD'S CHIEF MERCIES ONLY THAT HE MAY KEEP GOD'S WORD. If most of us were called on to fill up this ver. 17 after the word "and," what should we insert? Most desire to live and have God's bounty, that they may get rich and become prosperous or achieve some other earthly good. But the psalmist desires God's bounty and life only that, etc. What an estimate of that Word does such prayer show!
II. IN HIS PRAYER FOR OPEN VISION. (Ver. 18.) He desires this because he is certain that there are wondrous things in God's Word which as yet he has never seen, and which he never will see until God cloth open his eyes. And this is true of us all. To how many the Bible is all dark and dull, incomprehensible in many parts, and void of interest in others! It is because the films of sin and prejudice have rendered their eyesight dark and dull. Let their eyes be but opened, and they will behold, not, as now they do, mere words, but wondrous things out of God's Law.
III. IN HIS PITEOUS PLEA THAT GOD'S WORD MAY NOT BE HIDDEN FROM HIM. "I am a stranger in the earth." Hence homeless, friendless, helpless, with none to sympathize or succor, lonely, unused to the ways of those around him, desolate in heart, and often in all else. Therefore thou who hast commanded thy people to show kindness to strangers, will not thou do so for me? Hide not thy commandments from me, for they are to me as home and friends and all needful help. Illust.: Robinson Crusoe's joy on finding a copy of the Bible when on his desert island. The joy of the persecuted Malagasy in the Scriptures they had managed to preserve.
IV. BY HIS DEEP DISTRESS WHEN GOD'S WORD IS WITHHELD FROM HIM. (Ver. 20.) He may have had the letter of the Scriptures, but what he wanted was to find God in those Scriptures. Until this longing was satisfied, "all times" were alike sad to him. They who have known the joy of God's manifestations through his Word will know no joy until they are thus blessed again.
V. BY HIS DEPRECATION OF THE DOOM OF THOSE WHO DESPISE GOD'S WORD. (Ver. 21.) Misery, shame, and ruin are along the path they tread - a path which he would ever shun. It is well for us to look steadily on to the end of the sinner's path - the broad road - that we may the more steadily adhere to the ways of the Lord.
VI. BY HIS CONVICTION OF THE SURE DELIVERANCE THERE IS FOR HIM IN GOD'S WORD.
1. From reproach and contempt. (See homily on ver. 6.) He had kept God's testimonies, and he knew that therefore reproach and contempt in all their power to distress or harm him would be taken away.
2. From all fear of man. (Ver. 23.) Princes may, and probably did, strive to browbeat and terrify him - as with Paul, Luther, and many such another; but the memory of God's Word mused and meditated upon made his soul strong. How true is the verse! -
"Fear him, ye saints; and you will then
VII. BY HIS CONFESSION OF THE GOOD HE HAD GOT OUT OF IT. (Ver. 24.)
1. God's testimonies had been his delight. See how our Savior delighted in God's Word.
2. His counselors. No one finds God's Word his delight unless he first makes it his counselor. But if we will, then, etc. - S.C.
Psalm 116:7), "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." It reappears in the assurance of the New Testament, "He giveth more grace;" "He is able to make all grace abound." The psalmist felt straitened in his own circumstances, but he was quite sure that there was no straitening of the sufficiency of God. His very straitness seemed to make large demands on God; but he felt that he might pray for large and bountiful dealings.
I. THE LARGENESS OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS INVOLVES COMPREHENSIVENESS, A large thing covers all. No satisfaction can be felt in God unless we are sure that every feature of our life stands in relation to him. The author of Psalm 139, puts this into poetical figure when he presents the hopelessness of ever getting from the presence of God. In heaven he is. On earth he is. In hell he is. Go where we may, God's hand is on us. Do what we may, God's grace and strength are there for our helping. We could not rest in God if we could, even mentally, fix any limit to the sphere of his operation. He would not be God to us if there was a single relation of life with which he was not dealing, or could not deal.
II. THE LARGENESS OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS INVOLVES ADAPTATION. The charm of all human relationships lies in adaptation. A thing that fits us helps us much more than a far better thing that does not fit. We have a notion that largeness tends to make us indifferent to adaptation. If it covers, it need not fit. But all the best things we possess are not quantities, but adaptations. And God's bountifulness is chiefly apprehended in the surprise with which we find he can meet every form of recurring need.
III. THE LARGENESS OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS INVOLVES GENEROSITY. The man who barely and exactly does for us what we immediately need gives us no impression of bountifulness. It seems to us that he has not much to give, so must carefully watch his giving. God shows himself in nature, pouring out a wealth of flowers and fruits, and going altogether beyond our need. He giveth spiritual grace and help generously, as if he would convince us of a sufficiency which should inspire us to "trust in him at all times." - R.T.
helped to see everything that is really worth seeing; and if they are to apprehend Divine and spiritual things, it can only be with Divine illuminations. He who sees the unseen must have come into the eye-opening power of God. The servant of Elisha, with the partly closed eyes, could see nothing but the chariots and horsemen of Syria. With opened eyes he saw all round the hills the chariots and horsemen of God. Our Lord opened the blind bodily eyes of men in order to illustrate his gracious work in souls. And the living Lord counsels his half-blinded Church at Laodicea, "Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." The opening of the soul-eyes is a figure of speech for the quickening of the spiritual discernment. Nothing do we need more than keen sensitiveness to Divine and eternal things; insight of the Divine will; the sharpness of vision that can detect at once the pointing of the Divine finger. The prayer of the text implies -
I. A CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE DIMNESS OF OUR SPIRITUAL VISION. Our Lord reproached the Pharisees because they were blind, yet thought they saw with unusual clearness. "Ye say, we see, therefore your sin remaineth." There is no prayer in the man who thinks he sees. There is no conscious want to find expression. It is not merely that the vision is distorted by the self-willed spirit; it is that in the godly life things seen and temporal have the power to dim and darken the vision of things unseen and eternal. If humility proves mightier than self-satisfaction, the sense of dimness is a constant source of anxiety; but that is an anxiety which is altogether healthy.
II. A CONSCIOUSNESS OF OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD FOR THE CLEARING OF OUR SPIRITUAL VISION. A man may feel the imperfectness of his soul-vision, but think to clear it himself. It is not always duly considered that the idea of self-help spoils the religious life as truly as it prevents our entering the religious life. It may have to come through a bitter experience, but it must come somehow, that we may discover the helplessness of self-help for clearing the soul-vision; and then we pray to God, "Open thou mine eyes." - R.T.
I. THE WILL OF GOD IS THE LAW OF MAN'S LIFE.
1. A law that reaches to every part of man's nature. To the inward and outward life. A law that claims to rule over reason and affection and conscience.
2. A law that guides by aiming at the renewal of our nature. In this respect how different from all human law! "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." This Law not merely bids us obey, but urges us by grand arguments of love and obligation. And helps us by the energy of the Holy Spirit, which it promises and gives.
II. THIS "LAW" CONTAINS WONDROUS THINGS.
1. Wonders of doctrine. Forgiveness through Christ. Demands the perfection of our nature. An immortal and blessed life.
2. Wonders of precept. Supreme love to God and man. No one can love God with all his soul and mind and strength without loving his neighbor as himself, any more than the earth can gravitate towards the sun without attracting toward itself the moon by the same force of gravity.
3. Wonders of promise. In personal union with Christ we find the fulfillment of all Divine promise.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST GIVE US TO DISCERN THESE WONDERS. The best Christians feel that our perceptions of spiritual truth are infirm and obscure; but things are greater than we see them - more wonderful than they now appear. Hence this prayer, for the opening the eyes of the heart and soul. To be a philosopher, or artist, or orator, there must be two things - some genius for it, or natural capacity; and training, or instruction and discipline. To be a Christian there must be spiritual eyesight - the gift of God's Spirit. "Open thou mine eyes." And trained and disciplined insight - the work also of the Spirit, our Teacher. - S.
I. IT IS WELL TO HAVE THE SOUL BIGGER THAN THE CIRCUMSTANCES. Consider this especially in relation to the obedience of God's Law which circumstances permit. Bodily conditions and earthly circumstances put limits on our obedience. It is a bad sign if a man keeps contentedly within his limits. We must want a higher, fuller, worthier obedience than we have ever attained.
II. IT IS WELL TO HAVE THE SOUL ACTUALLY PRESSING OUT OF THE LIMITS OF ITS CIRCUMSTANCES. What a humdrum life it would be if we had always to keep within what we call facts! We press beyond facts into the glorious world of imaginations and possibilities. And so there is an imagined obedience to God, and joy in his Word and will, toward which we should ever be pressing, breaking bounds to get into that higher world of service. And a measure of triumph over circumstances limiting obedience is attainable now, and it prepares us for the full liberty unto righteousness which is the glory of our by-and-by. - R.T.
I. THE PENITENT CONFESSION AND PRAYER. (Ver. 25.) The psalmist owns that the world is getting too much and terrible power over him; that his soul, instead of mounting up to God in holy aspiration and endeavor, cleaves to the dust; and he dreads lest he should fall away altogether, and therefore prays, "Quicken thou me," etc.
II. HE ENCOURAGES HIMSELF BY RECALLING GOD'S ANSWERS TO HIS PRAYERS IN THE PAST. When before he had made like confession and supplication, it had not been in vain.
III. HE PRAYS DEFINITELY for what he feels will really help him.
1. That God should teach him his statutes. (Ver. 26.) That God should do this; he cannot teach himself, others cannot teach him, but God can. This is what we all want.
2. That God should make him understand his Word. He had heard it, read it, but he wanted that deep realization of it which only a true understanding of it could supply.
3. And he wanted this that he might bear effectual testimony. "So shall I talk," etc. (ver. 27). Such testimony would not only bless others, but would react on himself, as it ever does, and would be one of the effectual ways in which God would quicken him.
IV. HE TELLS THE LORD HOW GREAT HIS TROUBLE IS, and prays and pleads for help.
1. His trouble was that he feared he was losing hold of God. He was breaking his heart over it, for, to a godly man, there is no greater trouble than to feel as if every good in him, all that God had given him of his grace, were falling away from him. That is trouble indeed.
2. He prays for help. "Strengthen thou me." As if he would say he could not hold on much longer; unless help came, he must give way.
3. He pleads the Word of God. "According to thy Word" (see homily on ver. 25).
V. HE CONFESSES AND PRAYS AGAINST THE EVIL WAY INTO WHICH HE HAD FALLEN - "the way of lying." Not - so scholars say - the habit of falsehood and lies in common Speech, but rather of unfaithfulness, falseness to God. Uttering vows and never fulfilling them, making holy resolves and forgetting and breaking them. How many do this! How easy it is to fall into this way! We use strong impassioned expressions in hymns and prayers, and when we look for the corresponding acts they are not to be found. And this, like the veriest vice, does, as Burns says-
"... hardens all within, 1. The taking away of the old evil. In all spiritual reformation this must come first. Repentance is just this. Then: 2. The imparting of God's Law. The forming and fashioning of the soul after that Law. VI. HE MAKES PROTESTATION. 1. That his will is ever on God's side. (Ver. 30.) "I have chosen," etc. His deliberate choice and preference is, not the way of lying, but the way of truth, and hence he keeps ever before him God's judgments. 2. That he has acted according to his resolve. He has stuck unto God's testimonies. He had held on, clung tightly. He could appeal to the Lord's knowledge of this, and plead that he should not be put to shame. 3. That he will live the quickened life if God will enlarge his heart by shedding abroad therein his own love and the knowledge of his will. - S.C.
1. The taking away of the old evil. In all spiritual reformation this must come first. Repentance is just this. Then:
2. The imparting of God's Law. The forming and fashioning of the soul after that Law.
VI. HE MAKES PROTESTATION.
1. That his will is ever on God's side. (Ver. 30.) "I have chosen," etc. His deliberate choice and preference is, not the way of lying, but the way of truth, and hence he keeps ever before him God's judgments.
2. That he has acted according to his resolve. He has stuck unto God's testimonies. He had held on, clung tightly. He could appeal to the Lord's knowledge of this, and plead that he should not be put to shame.
3. That he will live the quickened life if God will enlarge his heart by shedding abroad therein his own love and the knowledge of his will. - S.C.
I. THE DEPLORABLE CONDITION THAT CALLED FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS PRAYER. It was a very sad one; for consider:
1. What it was that the psalmist confesses that his soul cleaved to. "The dust." By this contemptuous phrase he means the things of this world generally. And he is right in thus speaking. Not that in themselves the things of this world are no better than dust. Health, wealth, success, reputation, power, pleasure - the things that men strive after - these have their value, and that is far higher than mere dust. But it is when these things are put in opposition to, and too often preferred before - as they are - things that are spiritual and eternal, and that have to do with the destiny and character of the soul, that then they are rightly called "dust." And they are like the dust, not only by their comparative worthlessness, but for other reasons - their power to defile the soul. Even the believer, though, by the blood of Christ, he is made clean, yet needs - so Christ tells us - that he wash his feet (John 13:10). Contact with the world's dust, inevitable though it be, involves the continual need of the washing of the feet, that is, that portion of our spiritual nature that is exposed to the world's defiling power. And how blinding is this dust! Men can see nothing as it really is, when thus blinded. And how suggestive as to the destiny of the soul that cleaveth to it - to be driven away "like the chaff which the wind driveth away"! Its proper place is under our feet; but how terrible that the soul should cleave to it!
2. And that the soul should do this. For think of what the soul of man is. Its nature - formed in the image of God. Its capacity - able to commune with God, to become like God. Its destiny - eternal blessedness or woe. The cost of its redemption - nothing less than the precious blood of Christ. The strife that is ever going on for its possession - between the gracious powers of heaven on the one side, and the awful powers of hell on the other. Can that be of small account concerning which all this can be said? And yet it is this soul which, too often, cleaves to the dust.
3. And that the soul should cleave to it. The attractions of this world we cannot but see, and their fascination we cannot but feel, and the devil is ever busy to make that attraction more fascinating still. But that we, the redeemed of the Lord, the temples of the Holy Ghost, should yield to this, and not only yield, but be so mastered as to cleave thereto, as the limpet cleaves to the rock, spite of all efforts to detach it, - how deplorably sad all this is! And yet our consciences must own how deplorably common a fact this is. Blessed be God, if we are led to see it, to mourn over it, to confess it, as here; and, best of all to turn to the sure remedy. For note -
II. THE HELP THAT IS CRAVED. "Quicken thou me."
1. The psalmist was wont to pray this prayer very often. Seven times over in this psalm does it occur (vers. 25, 37, 40, 88, 149, 150, 159).
2. What does he mean by it? Not the bestowment of spiritual life - he had this already, or he would never have made this confession and prayer; but "more life and fuller," the enlivening and reinvigoration of the soul, - this is what he craved.
3. And he turns to God for this. It is God's work; he alone can answer this prayer. Man does not even know what life in its meanest forms is, much less is he able to create it. How, then, should he be competent when it is the highest form of life that is needed?
4. But this does not mean that we are to be absolutely passive in the matter. We are not. We can and we must pray for it, as does the psalmist here.
5. And never does God refuse such prayer when coming from a sincere heart. See the miracles of our Lord - how he quickened into life again the child-daughter of Jairus; the young man, the widow's son; and Lazarus, on whom corruption had already fastened. Nothing can bar his power.
III. THE PLEA THAT IS URGED. "According to thy Word." This answers to our "through Jesus Christ our Lord;" for he was the Word, the means by which we read the heart of God. He was the Word incarnate. But in the days before his advent, the Word which is here told of served the same end; not so much the written Word as that message of God to the soul which came through the written or spoken Word. Now, according to that, in harmony with the love, truth, wisdom, power, of that, so is it prayed, "Quicken thou me."
IV. LET US PRAY THIS PRAYER. Maybe we need it, though we do not think so. Dislike of prayer and holy service, fret and anxiety, worry and continual care about earthly things for ourselves or for our children, - such are some of the signs that we need thus to pray. And think of the harm that such cleaving to the dust must ever involve. - S.C.
suggests the fact, and does not pretend to state it. And that is strictly true which it suggests. We may think of the worm, laboriously creeping over the ground, and longing to become a butterfly, and be quickened into the higher life that is possible to it. It is possible to find allusion to the custom of sitting in sackcloth and ashes as an expression of mourning. Sitting in dust is the attitude of humiliation, and so it fittingly expresses the depressed and exhausted spiritual mood of the psalmist. It may be that in the Christian life we ought never to be depressed; it is certainly the fact of Christian life that we often are. Depression does not always come as response to outward circumstances, but it often does; and we may think of conditions that encourage it.
I. DEPRESSION FOLLOWS ON THE DIFFICULTIES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS OF BUSINESS LIFE. "Souls cleave to the dust" of worldly care. When things will not go rightly, mind and heart are very full day and night, and brooding always tends to encourage fears, and to make the dark things grow darker. When the soul is full of care, better things are pushed out, and faith fails. At such times we need the prayer, "Quicken thou me" - give me life, new life, life of energy to battle with difficulty; life of hope to keep me in good cheer.
II. DEPRESSION FOLLOWS ON BODILY PAIN AND VARYING CONDITIONS OF HEALTH. Then the "soul cleaves to the dust," self and feeling are made too prominent; they force themselves out of place and proportion; and all truth seems discolored and distorted. Illustrate by the effect of looking through colored glad. The self of feeling can never give other than distorted views of life. At such times we need the prayer, "Quicken thou me" - give me the life of strength to bear; give me to keep sure of the fatherliness of chastisement, and to cherish the trustful and patient spirit of a son.
III. DEPRESSION FOLLOWS ON AFFLICTIONS AFFECTING THOSE WHOM WE LOVE. We cleave to the dust of kindred, and are afflicted in their afflictions. Some of our worst times of depression are times of sympathy. Then we need to pray, "Quicken me into the life of trust, that will enable me to commit all I love to God." True Christian life is a series of Divine quickenings into higher forms of life. - R.T.
I. WE HAVE HERE AN ILLUSTRATION OF IT. "I have stuck unto," etc. If, as we believe, this psalm is the production of one who in the days of Israel's exile was pressed upon by all manner of inducements to renounce his faith in God, but who, like Daniel and his companions, stuck unto God's testimonies, then his history would justify the assertion here made. And there have been many such.
II. TENACITY WILL ALWAYS BE TRIED.
1. It could not else be known. It might be professed, but could never be proved. Hence:
2. Our Lord was wont to test the sincerity of all who came to him. And he does so still. See the history of the Syro-phoenician woman. How terrible was the strain and test to which she was subjected, but which, as the Lord knew she would, she triumphantly endured!
III. IT Is A VERY BLESSED GIFT. For, as this verse suggests:
1. It delivers from shame. The shame of a rebuking conscience; of men's contempt; of God's being ashamed of us; and of our dishonoring God. The want of such tenacity involves all this shame; and a terrible thing it is.
2. It secures great blessing. Inward peace and confidence towards God; the respect and admiration of our fellow men; they cannot help themselves; they must admire such steadfastness; they ever have done so, and thus the blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the Church. It receives also God's great reward (Matthew 10:32), and brings glory to him now.
IV. IT IS ATTAINABLE BY ALL. This may seem an exaggerated, if not an untrue, statement, but it is neither. No doubt there are men, who by their temperament and physical constitution, their sound health and well-balanced and not too susceptible nervous organization, seem incapable of fear; but there are others, and these the majority, who seem constitutionally weak. But, nevertheless, this blessed endowment of strength all may have. See St. Peter giving way and cowardly denying his Lord at the challenge of a servant-girl; and that same man, when emptied of his self-confidence and baptized with the Holy Spirit, dauntless and firm as a rock. Out of weakness he, as myriads more, was made strong. God is able to strengthen us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man. Let self-trust go, his love come in, and the Spirit fill us, and so this great gift shall be ours. - S.C.
I. WHAT THIS IS.
1. It is not a common thing. In ordinary men you do not see it at all; they very often run, and at headlong speed, but it is the reverse of the way told of here. And even when we have become Christians, there is too often only a creeping along, a very slow walking, and that interrupted by many a halt, and sometimes by positive turning back; but how little of this running!
2. For running means increased energy in God's service. The very word implies that. It is the very opposite of listlessness, taking our ease, and of all indifference. Go along by the side of a country mill-stream in the hot summer months. As you come to the mill you hear no sound. The pleasant beat of the wheel, the murmur of the grinding, and the cool plash of the water on the far side of the stream, are all missing. You draw near, and you see the cause. The stream has well-nigh disappeared; the muddy banks are steaming in the heat; there is but a small dribble of water at the bottom; the mill-wheel is motionless and blistering in the sun. But come that way again after the spring or autumn rains, or during the wet winter months. How the water rushes along! How it whirls the mill-wheel round! how it compels the miller to find an overflow, lest its force do serious damage! Now, the contrast between the miserable, scant supply of water in the hot summer months, and that other full, rushing flow, is no greater than that between the common life of too many Christians and that running in the way of God's commandments of which the psalm here tells.
3. And careful laying aside of hindrances. Many of our hindrances allow of quiet walking, but not of running (cf. Hebrews 12:1).
4. More steadfast looking to the end of the way. "Looking unto Jesus." If we look aside, we linger, swerve, and slacken our pace. 5. Greater joy in God's service. Running is a symbol of joy (Acts 3:8).
II. IT IS VERY DESIRABLE.
1. For its effects on our own spiritual life.
2. For its influence on the world.
3. And on the Church.
4. And, above all, for the honor of Christ. Note -
III. ITS CONDITION. "When thou shalt enlarge my heart." That is:
1. The understanding; that we may see and know the truth.
2. The affections; that we may feel it.
3. The conscience; that we may be aroused.
4. The will; that we may resolve. - S.C.
running. The Revised Version gives, "when thou shalt enlarge my heart." The Prayer-book Version gives, "when thou hast set my heart at liberty." Putting these together, we learn that the "enlargement of the heart" is not so much any expansion of the faculties, as deliverance from oppressing fears that prevent the free movement of the soul. The heart enlarged is the heart set in a large place, where there is room to run; then run it will. So often, by reason of bodily conditions or hindering circumstances, our hearts are limited and confined - they can neither "fly nor go." It is a good sign if then the heart frets against the bondages, and is ready to run whenever God is pleased to set it free. The key-note of the whole psalm may be expressed in the words, "I would if I could;" and the whole prayer of the psalm is, "O God, let me."
I. IT IS WELL THAT WE SHOULD WANT TO RUN IN THE WAYS OF OBEDIENCE AND GODLINESS. The peril of the godly life is drifting into ease and indifference; the doing of religious duties as mere routine; the meeting of religious obligations listlessly and without heart. It may be that we cannot run; it ought always to be that we want to run. We must not rest without energy and activity in the religious life. A formal obedience should be as distressing to us as it is to God.
II. IT IS WELL THAT THE CHERISHED WANT SHOULD KEEP US WAITING ON GOD FOR THE OPPORTUNITY. The want would soon die down if we trusted to ourselves for cherishing it. It never dies down if we keep turning it into the prayer of patient, but persistent, waiting upon God.
III. IT IS CERTAIN THAT GOD RESPONDS TO THOSE WHO IN THIS SPIRIT WAIT ON HIM. The liberties and enlargements always come. And God makes the waiting for them as true a blessing as getting them. - R.T.
hope and confidence. A time will come when God will enlarge his heart. Also the hungering of joyful purpose: "I will run," etc. Two main thoughts.
I. SPIRITUAL LIBERTY IS NECESSARY TO DOING THE WILL OF GOD.
1. It is freedom from the bondage of worldly passions and appetites. There can be no spiritual active obedience to the will of God as long as we are under the dominion of worldly principles and affections.
2. Spiritual liberty is freedom from the fear that springs from a sense of guilt. We must be free from the terror of guilt before we can serve God with joy and freedom. Remove Jesus Christ and his doctrine from between God and ourselves, and we stand in the presence of terrifying law; and have the feeling of helpless weakness. Faith is the instrument of our freedom: What we can perceive and trust in Christ by the faculties of the mind.
3. The highest liberty is found in love. Love to God and love to man. Here we ascend beyond faith to the loftiest pitch we are capable of - to the development of the most perfect freedom, and we run in the ways of God. The profoundest aphorism of Scripture is that "love is the fulfilling of the Law."
II. THE PRODUCTION OF THIS LIBERTY IS A DIVINE WORK. "When thou shalt enlarge," etc. If God has laid upon us laws which his power must enable us to obey, how is our duty to be explained, and where lies our sin, if we fail in obedience?
1. God is the First Cause of all life; but man is a second cause. He "worketh in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure." It is his will and work that our will should coincide with his, and work towards the same holy ends.
2. But he does this by methods which impose duty and responsibility upon us. The principle on which God enriches men with increasing gifts of power and grace is - the use we make of them. The Divine teaching attributes to us the power of increasing the talents entrusted to us, so that future bestowments are made to depend upon our appropriation of those that have gone before. - S.
I. LACK OF PERSEVERANCE. What knowledge he already had gained was sufficient to make him set out on the way; but soon he became ready to halt, and did halt. God must instruct him if he were ever to continue steadily on to the end. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" So said St. Paul to some of his converts: and how often the like has to be said still (cf. the seed on the stony ground, Matthew 13.)!
II. HALF-HEARTEDNESS. (Ver. 34.) Here was another difficulty, as it is to this day. People can be got to keep part of the Law of God, but not all of it - they will make some reserves. And if they are not conscious of this, they know that it is not with the "whole heart" that they serve God. The psalmist confesses his failure here, and prays that God would so give him understanding that he may observe God's Law with his whole heart.
III. INABILITY TO DO WHAT HE WOULD. He delighted in the path of God's commandments (ver. 35), but yet was unable "to go" therein. No doubt he could talk about it, pray about it, feel warmly, speak fervently, and desire sincerely about it, but then came this miserable powerlessness which he asks God to overcome, and to make him "go in," etc. (Romans 7:14-19). Here is another reason for seeking the help of God, and it exists still.
IV. COVETOUSNESS. (Ver. 36.) If the Lord does teach the soul, then there will follow "understanding" (ver. 34) - power of will (ver. 35) and inclination of the heart to God's testimonies (ver. 36), so that all these requests are but different forms of that with which the section begins, "Teach me, O Lord." And here in this thirty-sixth verse he names another hindrance - covetousness. St. Paul speaks of it as "the root of all evil," as indeed it is (cf. 1 Timothy 6:9, 10; Colossians 3:5; Matthew 13:22). It so drags the heart away from God, that only he can turn it back again.
V. LOVE OF VANITY. (Ver. 37.) The runner in the race that does not keep his eye fixed steadily on the goal, but turns his eyes now to this side and now to that, whenever they are attracted by some vanity, will indeed need quickening in God's way. This wandering gaze of the soul, how many failures in the Christian race is it answerable for!
VI. INSTABILITY. Here it is again, as in vers. 35 and 40 - delighting in the path of God's commandments, yet needing power to go; so now here is the soul devoted to God's fear, but yet needing to be established. The Word of God is not insecure and unstable, but the soul is so m regard to it. As to its truth, as to its value, as to its power, Lord, make it sure to us!
VII. FEAR OF REPROACH. This does, indeed, bring a snare. How many know God's judgments are good, but yet fear "reproach"!
VIII. LACK OF SPIRITUAL ENERGY. (Ver. 40.) Longing, yet unable to attain. Longing without God's quickening will not avail. - S.C.
mind to explain how we can be "working out our own salvation" and God can be "working in us," and it is baffled into silence. Ask the heart if this twofold-ness of the religious life is ever actually realized, and it will say, "It is true, I know it to be true in the experience of my life." He who said, "I live, yet not I, Christ liveth in me," was at the very heart of the deepest truth. The psalmist, in his own way, arrives at the same conviction. Let the Lord teach him his will, and he will set all effort upon keeping it. Let God give understanding, and obedience shall be maintained. "I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me"
I. MAN MUST CHERISH RIGHT PURPOSES. God puts no force on any man; he overrides no man; he does nothing for any man that the man can and ought to do for himself. Unless we resolve to live the godly life; unless we set ourselves upon seeking first God's kingdom and righteousness, nothing can be done for us. God never comes with help until he is wanted.
II. MAN MUST WANT DIVINE HELP IN CARRYING THEM OUT. This sense of need is often a later experience, into which a man comes only on the failure of his self-effort in carrying out his resolves and purposes. But it must come before godly living can take on its higher and more hopeful forms. The earnest man comes at last to say, "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake thou for me."
III. MAN OBTAINS DIVINE HELP WHEN IT IS MADE EVIDENT THAT HE WANTS IT. It would be wasted on him before; it is fully effective on him then. It is true that God "helps those who help themselves," but the point to dwell on is, that he who tries to help himself in Divine things is the man who most feels his need of God's help. - R.T.
go is to keep moving, to keep advancing. The earnest man wants to progress in the Divine life. The Christian stamp is put on this truth by the apostle, when he says, "I count not myself to have apprehended;" "I press toward the mark." The good man wants -
I. PROGRESS IN THE APPREHENSION OF GOD'S COMMANDMENTS. All the command-meats of God cannot be made clear even to the understanding of a child or of a young Christian. They concern spheres and things which are known only through the experience of life, and cannot be made plain to the child or the young Christian. And it is a deeper thought that only the formality and externality of Divine Law can ever come to any man at first; he must grow into the spirituality of it. Contrast the spheres for which the young Christian needs Divine rules, with the spheres for which the advanced and experienced Christian needs the guidance of the Divine eye, and the progression will at once be manifest.
II. PROGRESS IN FIXING THE RELATION OF THE COMMANDMENTS TO LIFE. At first the commands seem outside us, and are interesting studies. As we "go in the path" of them we gradually recognize their personal relations; they directly concern us; they fit to unfolding circumstances and conditions. Getting God's will applied to cherished moods of mind, to fixed habits of conduct, to unfolding relations and responsibilities, to unexpected times of strain, comes to be the most real work of the religious life. Life is the path which God's revealed will marks out for us, and it is our work to keep the path.
III. PROGRESS IN THE CHARACTER AND SPIRIT OF THE OBEDIENCE OFFERED. At first the service of God, and obedience to his holy Law, is a strain. Perhaps not absolutely at first, because the waves of early impulse bear young souls for a while into an easy obedience. Just after the first a rebound comes, a time of dullness, and then obedience is the strain of constant effort. The will battles with the feeling. But we go in the path, and gradually the strain passes, the love dominates the will, and bears it to an obedience that says, "I delight to do thy will, O God." - R.T.
want is precisely what is here called the "inclining" and "quickening" work of God's Spirit in men's hearts. He puts the laws into our hearts, and in our minds he writes them. When a child wants to obey, he ceases to need any formal law - he is a "law unto himself." With the inclined heart the life of obedience becomes easy, becomes even a delight.
I. THE CONDITION OF MAN'S HEART IN WHICH GOD WORKS. By the heart here is meant the seat of motives and impulses by which the will is moved, and action inspired and directed. The heart is regarded as subject to outside influences, and as actually in the sway of influences both bad and good. It can be moved by the self-spirit to things that are evil. It can be moved by the Divine Spirit to things that are good. It can be inclined. If a thing is moving, the least deviation from the straight line involves an ever-widening departure. In man there is always a sort of centrifugal tendency to fly away, and the constant need of a centripetal tendency to restrain it, and keep it in the right line. "Covetousness" is named as the representative of all the alien inclinations, because the very essence of covetousness is "getting for self." And that is a perpetual enticement to the natural man, which only the grace of God can enable him to overcome. The point of this prayer is that the good man, in the experience of life, will be sure to find the old evil inclinations return upon him as temptations, especially when anything appeals to covetousness. So he finds that he always needs the preventive, and the readjusting, inclinings of God.
II. THE KIND OF WORK WHICH GOD DOES IN MEN'S HEARTS. This is often represented as quickening, the renewing of vitality, strength, right purpose, energy. What is here set forth is a more precise, and more unusually recognized, form of Divine dealing with men. The Spirit is the inward power that sways decisions, inclines to good judgments, by putting force into the good motives, reasons, and considerations. Or, to express it in the mode of the psalmist, he inclines to righteousness by making God's testimonies more attractive and persuasive than our own covetousness. - R.T.
I. IT ENABLES HIM AND URGES HIM TO ANSWER HIM THAT REPROACHETH. (Ver. 42.) If a man knows that God's salvation has come to him, he has that in his conscious possession which will make him despise, as mere idle tales, all and every reproach of the scoffer and the unbeliever. They may as well deny or decry the light of the sun as to do the like for that salvation in which the soul rejoices. His only fear is lest he should not be able to give clear testimony - lest, whilst he feels it in his heart, he should be unable to declare it with his lips; hence he prays (ver. 43), "Take not... out of my mouth." God will not take it out of his heart, but he may out of his mouth, by refusing him power or opportunity of utterance. He longs to bear bold testimony for God and his salvation.
II. ENDUES HIM WITH PERSEVERING GRACE. (Ver. 44.) He will never desire to forsake the Law of God, but will go on therein continually forever and ever. Its ways are ways of pleasantness (Proverbs 3:17).
III. CAUSES HIM TO WALK AT LIBERTY. (Galatians 5:1; John 8:36.) Christ's yoke will give rest; but then we must have it really on, not half on and half off, for then it frets and chafes and galls. How could it be otherwise? The liberty of the children of God is glorious.
IV. GIVES HIM FEARLESSNESS. (Ver. 46; cf. Matthew 10:18-20.)
V. AND PURE DELIGHT. (Ver. 47.) There is such delight as is here told of (vers. 16, 35; Psalm 37:4). This delight was "the meat to eat which ye know not of," of which our Savior spoke (John 4:32-34). And what servant of God is there that has not known this delight? It is "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
VI. AND HOLY RESOLVE OF CONSECRATION TO GOD. (Ver. 48.) The lifting-up of the hands tells of solemn vows made to God (cf. Genesis 14:22). So here the psalmist takes his solemn oath - his sacramentum - that he will be true to God. How often, when the sense of the infinite love of God has come into the soul, has the like vow been made!
VII. MAKES HIM TO BE EVER MEDITATING UPON GOD. The run of his thoughts is ever after God and his ways. - S.C.
right-willed. The psalmist may only mean freedom from special circumstances of constraint and intimidation, but we can use his words in a more comprehensive and more general sense.
I. RIGHT-WILLEDNESS AS A CONDITION TO BE GAINED AND KEPT. Here it is the disposition to seek the guidance and help of God's precepts in every emergency of life. Wrong-willedness is an undue tendency to trust in self for wisdom and guidance. Dependent man never comes right until he wants God; and he never keeps right unless he leans on God. The very essence of the example of the Lord Jesus lies in his right-willedness. No restraint had ever to be put on him, because he always wanted what God wanted for him. We only get our wills set in harmony with God's in the persuasion and power of God's Spirit; but we can set ourselves, and keep ourselves, open to his gracious leadings and inspirings and inworkings.
II. RIGHT-WILLEDNESS AS A CONDITION IN WHICH FREEDOM CAN BE ENJOYED. Where there is that disposition and purpose there is always sensitiveness to evil. It is detected at once. It is disliked. To it there is a natural resistance. It is illustrated in Joseph, who "could not do wickedly;" and in the Hebrew youths, who could not "defile themselves with the king's meat." These young people could be trusted anywhere, because they were set on doing right. The only man in God's world who is really free, and can be safely trusted with freedom, is the man who means to do right, who is resolved to do God's will as he may get to know it. - R.T.
is done. It cannot matter to him whether it is done with a grumble or with a smile. And it must be the same with God. We may reasonably expect him to be satisfied if what he wishes to have done is done." It is easy to answer that formal obedience involves no personal relationship; but as soon as that is recognized, the moral quality of the obedience becomes the true ground of acceptance. What is really accepted is the man in the obedience, and not the mere act of obedience. The best figures of the Divine relations with men are taken from family life. A master may be satisfied with formal obedience, and so may a king (though the deeper truth is that both want to find willing love-service in the obedience), but a father never is. He wants his child to obey; but he never can rest content until his child loves to obey, and is manifestly happy in his obedience.
I. AN OBEDIENCE WHICH CAUSES STRAIN.
1. There is the strain which follows upon the feeling that we must. A power is compelling us - a power which we fear; a power which can punish, "casting body and soul into hell." Much of the obedience of life has no higher range than this. Men obey, but there is neither credit nor joy in their obedience, for in their hearts they say, "We would not, if we dared not." Neither God nor man cares for such obedience as that.
2. There is the strain which follows upon the feeling that we ought. This is altogether higher and nobler. Duty is one of the most exalted inspirations. And yet it may keep the strain, and a man may but force himself to meet his duty. If man may be satisfied with that, God cannot. The true obedience is out of the range of strain. God's acceptance waits until heart and hand go well together, and we love what we do.
II. THE OBEDIENCE WHICH KNOWS NO STRAIN. It is no trouble to do what we wish to do. There is no sense of strain when we love and choose and persist in finding our pleasure in what we do. The soul moves freely in its delights. Make a joy of your obedience, and the result is that obedience becomes your joy. - R.T.
I. GOD GIVES THEM. (Ver. 49.) The Word which it is prayed the Lord would remember is God's own Word; and it is told what that Word has done - "caused me to hope." This God's Word ever does.
II. THEY ARE OUR COMFORT IN AFFLICTION. (Ver. 50.) And what a number of these precious words there are! There is no conceivable stress of soul which is not thought of and provided for by some fit and sure word of the comfort of God.
III. THEY HOLD US FAST IN THE RIGHT WAY. (Ver. 51.) To be held up to scorn and derision is more than most can bear; they give way, yield, and swerve beneath its pitiless power; but not so he to whom the comfort of God is known. The sense of his approval, the gleam of the crown of life, the anticipation of his "well done." and of the joy of the Lord, hold fast the heart, and steady the wavering will. It has ever been so, and will ever be so.
IV. THEY BRING TO MEMORY THE VERDICT OF GOD. (Ver. 52.) This:
1. When man's verdict has been clearly and cruelly given against us. (Ver. 51.) They deemed him a miserable fool
2. When thinking of how God will judge them who are now judging him. He can leave them to his tribunal, whence righteous judgment will go forth.
3. When contemplating the high-handed wickedness of those that forsake God's Law. (Ver. 58.) Burning indignation and horror take hold of him at the sight of them, but again the memory of God's judgments has been his comfort. The history of Israel had recorded many such judgments.
V. THEY HAD BRIGHTENED THE WEARY JOURNEY OF THE DAY AND THE DARK HOURS OF NIGHT. (Vers. 54, 55.)
"Such songs have power to quiet "And the night shall be filled with music, VI. BUT ONLY THE FAITHFUL CAN HAVE THESE SONGS. (Ver. 56.) How true this! The joy of the Lord comes not to the half-hearted and the compromiser and the unfaithful. But to him who keeps God's precepts they do come. - S.C.
"And the night shall be filled with music,
VI. BUT ONLY THE FAITHFUL CAN HAVE THESE SONGS. (Ver. 56.) How true this! The joy of the Lord comes not to the half-hearted and the compromiser and the unfaithful. But to him who keeps God's precepts they do come. - S.C.
because he trusts me." We may in everything that is good, or that works out good, rise from man to God, seeing that in God's image man is made. In another psalm the feeling of God towards the man who trusts him is precisely expressed (Psalm 91:14), "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him."
I. THE GROUND OF MAN'S TRUST IS GOD'S OWN PROMISES. This needs to be opened up both in a lighter and in a deeper sense.
1. Man's trust rests upon God's spoken promises. "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises." How God makes spoken words the basis of trust may be illustrated in a very precise way from the promises to Adam (Genesis 3:15); Abraham (Genesis 12:2, 3); Moses (Exodus 3:7-10); Joshua (Joshua 1:5, etc.). Later on, such books as Isaiah contain most gracious Divine promises. And the wonderful discovery of advancing religious experience, and of increasing knowledge of God's Word, is that promises in exact adaptation to the ever-varying disposition and circumstance of godly men have been given; so that a man can never be so circumstanced that he need fail to find a written promise on which to ground his trust in God.
2. Man's trust rests on him who gives the promises. And the promises never fulfill their true purpose unless they lead a man to this higher trust. If we seem to hope in God's Word, we really hope in him who spoke the Word. When this is seen, it is further seen that if God found it best to change his word to us, that would not affect our trust in him.
II. MAN'S TRUST BECOMES AN EFFECTIVE PLEA WITH GOD. Because the honor of God's Name is bound up in response to trust. Illustrate by Joshua's plea (Joshua 7:9). Reminding a man of his promise is the highest plea man can use with man. "You told me to trust you." That is just what God has done - told us to trust him for life, for redemption. He will remember his Word unto his servants. - R.T.
I. DERISION IS ONE OF THE MOST POTENT FORCES OF THE TEMPTER. We all want to stand well with others. We all love praise. It is right that we should. Many a man can bear blame, reproach, and denunciation, who is quite mastered by scorn and derision. Let a man "make fun" of him, and his amour propre is wounded. In this light, what a sublime triumph our Lord won by his patience on the cross when the scorners were all about it! But the godly man more especially wants to stand well with others, because in that way he testifies to them of the grace of God that is upon him. To be derided then seems to spoil his witness. So derision does two things, and serves the tempter's purpose well.
1. It wounds the good man's sensibilities.
2. It damages, and may even destroy, the good man's witness. Young men have stood strong before open temptation who have bent like reeds before subtle, yet strangely powerful, derision. And they who deride and misunderstand are the proud - a term which does not here suggest the "boaster," but rather the "self-confident." The man who relies on himself is ever ready to deride him who relies on God. Such reliance he cannot appreciate.
II. STEADFAST GOODNESS HOPEFULLY RESISTS THIS TEMPTATION. Steadfast goodness is steadied goodness; and the steadying that is specially in mind in this psalm is that which comes from familiarity with God's Word, love for it, and practiced skill in the use of it. And the supreme instance of this steadying power is found in the temptation-scene of the Lord Jesus. - R.T.
his privilege. Here is surely an unusual thing; the man is glad to be placed under restraint, only it must be clearly seen that it is Divine restraint. "Let me fall into the hands of God, and not into the hands of man."
I. A GOOD MAN'S SONGS BEAR THEIR OWN PECULIAR STAMP. Song is the relief of life; but it is one of the most genuine expressions of life. It may be said that a man can be judged by the songs that he loves to sing or to hear sung.
1. The good man always wants to sing. Joy is one of the necessary constituents of goodness.
2. The good man wants the singing to match himself. And since his joy is in God, his singing must be about God.
3. The good man's supreme concern is loyalty and duty, and therefore his songs are about the statutes by which duty is controlled.
II. A GOOD MAN'S SONGS ARE THE EVIDENCE OF HIS GOODNESS. They surprise his fellow-men, who wonder how he can find rest and pleasure in what seems to them so dull. He could not but for that vital change through which he has passed, which we recognize in calling him "a good man."
"I thirst, but not as once I did, 1. The delight in vulgar and comic songs evidences the low, uncultured man. 2. The delight in high-class music evidences the educated taste. 3. The delight in songs whose interest lies in their religious tone and suggestion rather than in their music, evidences the renewed man. The delight in songs that encourage and inspire obedience evidences a noble sense of the Divine obligations and responsibilities that rest on human life. - R.T.
1. The delight in vulgar and comic songs evidences the low, uncultured man.
2. The delight in high-class music evidences the educated taste.
3. The delight in songs whose interest lies in their religious tone and suggestion rather than in their music, evidences the renewed man. The delight in songs that encourage and inspire obedience evidences a noble sense of the Divine obligations and responsibilities that rest on human life. - R.T.
I. APPROPRIATION. The word "my" denotes that. Until our faith in God advances to this personal appropriation of him, it will not do much for us. We must believe in God, not only as a Portion for his people, but each one of us must be able to say, "He is my Portion" (cf. Psalm 91:2).
II. CONSECRATION AND CONFESSION. "I have said that I would," etc. (ver. 57). Not only is there the inward resolve to live the life of obedience, but the open avowal thereof. Wonderful is the increased hold of God which confessing him gives to the soul.
III. SUPPLICATION. "More of God is the soul's craving and cry; with the whole heart his favor is entreated (ver. 58). The hunger after God grows by what it feeds on. God is the One only satisfying Portion of the soul (cf. Psalm 63:1, 2). His loving-kindness is deemed better than life.
IV. CONSIDERATION. There will be the thinking on our ways. We shall consider them, examine them, hold them up to the light, so as to see if they be what God would have them be. And such consideration will be followed by its proper consequence - it will not stop short with itself, but will go on, and that speedily (ver. 60), to the practical result of turning our feet unto," etc. (ver. 59). There is much consideration which never advances so far as this, much thought which never bears this blessed fruit. Then there will be -
V. CONSOLATION. This ever follows, never precedes, such practical consideration as that just spoken of. But it does follow. There will be trials to be met, and burdens to be borne, and many temptations; but there will be support and consolation abundant (vers. 61, 62).
VI. ASSOCIATION. The instinct of the regenerate soul is to find others like itself They will associate, let the cost be what it may.
VII. ASPIRATION. The soul recognizes how full the earth is of God's mercy. It would enjoy more for itself. - S.C.
1. It may be turned into introspection, which concerns itself only with moods and feelings.
2. It may be conducted in the light of fictitious human standards of goodness. The first is the error of sentimental religion; the second is the error of ceremonial religion. Both are mischievous in the same way. They nourish untruthfulness. The one forces feeling, the other exaggerates frailties into sins. The true sphere and the true standard of self-examination need to be presented.
I. THE TRUE SPHERE OF SELF-EXAMINATION. It is that of a man's conduct in his relationships; not that of a man's thoughts and feelings. It is that which a man has beyond himself, which, nevertheless, bears the impress of himself, upon which he can look, which he can appraise. A man cannot examine his own thoughts and feelings; but let thought find expression in act, and feeling put tone and character on the act, then the man can exercise judgment. Thought and feeling are too variable ever to be arrested for examination. They are the "secret things which belong only to God." Illust.: what weakness is brought into Christian lives by introspection! It makes a particular type of religious life, and leads in a subtle form of trusting the self instead of trusting God. True self-examination is "considering our ways." We can estimate the conduct of others; we can estimate our own. We cannot estimate the feelings of others; we cannot estimate our own.
II. THE TRUE STANDARD OF SELF-EXAMINATION. There are three possible standards that are manifestly unworthy.
1. The priestly standard, provided for the confessional.
2. The sectarian standard, which manufactures an experience through which all must pass.
3. The personal standard, which a man shapes according to his particular disposition and temperament. The true standard is twofold.
(1) The revealed idea of right conduct in the relations of life. That was the standard wholly for the psalmist, and in part for us.
(2) The revealed model of right conduct in relations - the Lord Jesus. That is the standard especially provided for us; and it was the full obedience of God's will. - R.T.
I. AS A MENTAL EXERCISE. "I thought on my ways." Religion revives the past, rouses the moral memory.
1. The supreme interest of the past is of a religious nature. What we have been intellectually or socially is of great interest. But what have been our convictions and conduct religiously? We thrill with joy or shiver with misery according to the answer we give to this question - What are our "ways"? what are we?
2. But to think upon our "ways" is difficult and repulsive. To think of good fortune in worldly speculation, success in business, formation of esteemed connections and friendships, fills us with complacent delight. But to think of a youth wasted in thoughtless frivolity or in impure pleasures, of manhood hardening itself against all religious impression, of a past whose track has been fouled with the slime of the serpent, - we turn away from this as from folly, loss, guilt, shame, and misery.
3. To think upon our "ways is necessary and salutary. Necessary to realize our sin, to a change of life, and renewal of the soul. The connection there is between thought and practice.
II. RELIGION AS A PRACTICAL PRINCIPLE. And turned my feet unto thy testimonies."
1. Practical resolves should be the result of earnest thought. Fits and impulses too often precede our resolutions and efforts. But thought, deliberate and earnest, summons up the grand motives, surveys the difficulties to be conquered, counts the cost, and prays for Divine help, and should go before every effort after a change of life.
2. The great end of religion is active obedience to the will of God. True understanding of our ways brings the grand conclusion - that man's "way ought to be God's "way." We are forgiven in order to this.
3. If we are not led to this, we miss the end for which Divine intelligence was given. Reason is under an eclipse if it does not light us to this end. Conscience is a corrupted judge, bribed to betray us, if it does not pronounce this verdict. The whole nature of man suffers loss and ruin if we fail to turn our feet to the Divine testimonies. - S.
haste, and delayed not to observe thy commandments.
I. A GREAT PART OF MAN'S IRRELIGION IS IN THE DELAY OF PRESENT DUTY.
1. Most men purpose turning to Christ some time.
2. This purpose is one of man's greatest deceivers. It is the excuse for neglecting the present duty.
3. This purpose not fulfilled, progressively increases the difficulty of turning to Christ.
II. OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST IS OUR IMMEDIATE IMPERATIVE DUTY.
1. The wickedness of trifling with our convictions is very great.
2. The claims of Christ upon us are before all others, both in time and in importance.
3. God sometimes sends special influences to turn us to Christ. To neglect these is the quenching of the Spirit. - S.
I. THE GOOD MAN FINDS FRIENDS. Every living thing looks for something akin to it, and finds that God has always provided the answering thing. This is typified in the fact that God provided for Adam a "help meet for him." If a man is a good man, he will discover that he need not, and must not, live a lonely life. He is not the only good man, and his good life will only grow aright, grow healthily, when it grows in company. The individual and personal relations of converted men to God are often presented in an exaggerated form. The true ideal is presented by Malachi, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another." The ordinary laws of human friendship apply to religious friendship. For close relationship there must be felt kinship; but for ordinary relations the common object and common interest will suffice. All who fear God, and obey him, can be true helpers one of another.
II. THE USE THE GOOD MAN MAKES OF FRIENDS DEPENDS UPON HIMSELF. It depends upon the maintenance and culture of his own godly life. So one of the first signs of flagging Christian life is flagging Christian friendship. Loosen your relations with God, and you will soon hold loose relations with his people. The law of friendship is this, "He that would have friends must show himself friendly;" and the friendliness of the godly man is bound up with the maintenance of his godliness.
III. THE USE A GOOD MAN CAN MAKE OF HIS GODLY FRIENDS DEPENDS UPON THEM. They must maintain their godliness. They can be nothing to him as helpers unless they keep fearing God, and observing his precepts. The good man soon finds his friends cease to help him when they fail from the godly life. Let each be at his best, and then godly friendship becomes one of the truest and best helps in the godly life. - R.T.
I. THEY ARE CONFESSED. (Ver. 65.) Did not the following verses tell us, we should hesitate to say that the frank confession, "Thou hast dealt well with thy servant," referred to afflictions that he had suffered. But such is the reference. Many a child of God has made the confession here on earth; all will make it in heaven.
II. WE NEED THE TEACHING OF GOD ERE WE SEE THEM. (Ver. 66.) This is what is implied; it is as if he had said, "Unless thou dost teach me, I shall never be able to see that it is good for me that I have been afflicted." He would have the teaching, that he may yet more clearly see how well God hath dealt with him. But it is so; for -
III. AFFLICTION OFTEN RESTORES AND RESTRAINS THE SOUL. (Vers. 67, 71. See history of Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33.) The burnt child dreads the fire. "Lord, with what care thou hast begirt us round!" If the way of transgressors was not hard, we should all go that way. The meaning and intent of affliction is to keep us near and to draw us nearer to God. Happy are they who, when the storm of life beats heavily, hide the more closely within the sure shelter of the love of God! And this is what God would have us do. And what a holy restraint the memory of past affliction exercises upon us! The sin which before was very attractive has now, because branded with the dread marks of God's displeasure, lost most, if not all, of its attraction. And this is another end God designs.
IV. RIGHTLY READ, IT PROVES THE GOODNESS OF GOD. (Ver. 68.) It is because it is so often wrongly read that unbelief, pessimism, and atheism so largely prevail. But submission, prayer, trust, will ever lead to the right reading.
V. THEY RENDER THE PRACTICES OF THE PROUD POWERLESS TO DO US HARM. (Vers. 69, 70.) They would shrink from no falsehood to injure the godly, but they cannot separate him from the God in whom he trusts and delights.
VI. THEY MAKE GOD AND HIS WORD VERY PRECIOUS. (Ver. 72.) We say, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." But if when in deep affliction God came to our help, and sustained us under it, and sanctified us through it, and comforted us continually, must not that God be precious to our soul? Assuredly yes! - S.C.
practical life of duty and relationship. It masters that growing self-willedness which leads the good man to try and take life into his own hands; and brings to him the humility and self-distrust which incline to keep well within the limits of God's Word. "If any of us remember a time in which we had no trouble, we also probably recollect that then grace was low, and temptation was strong." As an illustration in a larger sphere, Bishop Wordsworth's suggestion may be taken, "This was eminently true of the Hebrew nation. Before the Captivity, they had been torn by schisms - Israel against Judah, and Judah against Israel, and corrupted by idolatry; but they were purified from these evils by their afflictions."
I. AFFLICTIONS PROVIDE TIMES OF MEDITATION. They are to the moral life what sabbaths are to the bodily life. They stop the rush; they affirm that there is something more important than self-interest; they compel quietness; they give opportunity for reviewing. When we can do nothing, we have a chance of thinking. Let life go on without changes or trials, and the sell must assume exaggerated importance. How can a man keep nobly dependent on God, who finds everything prosper under the hand of his energy? Affliction comes, makes him stop and think, and look back and up.
II. AFFLICTIONS TONE TIMES OF MEDITATION. Distinguish between the tone of meditations in our holiday-times, and in our times of affliction. In the one case we have bodily health; in the other, bodily weakness. It is an element of importance that suffering and pain should give tone to meditation; but it is needful to bear in mind that affliction may make meditation exaggerated, one-sided, or unworthy. The meditation of such times needs Divine guiding and sanctifying.
III. AFFLICTIONS PASS INTO NEW OPPORTUNITY. When a man comes back to life from a sick-bed, it is as if he began life afresh; with this difference - he had to grow into experience, now he has the opportunity to use experience. Habits are broken. He can make a new way, ordered and shaped by the new resolves based on the meditations of his affliction. - R.T.
I. CONVICTION. This relates:
1. To the fact that his life has been ordered of God. (Ver. 73.) "Thy hands have," etc. He is speaking not merely of his body, that God created that, but rather he speaks of that as proof that all else concerning him had been made and fashioned of God - his life was according to the settled purpose and plan of God. "He knoweth the way that I take." Blessed is it when we come to recognize this truth; for then shall we know that we are not the sport of mere caprice or blind chance, but are under the control of God, who cannot err, and who, "like as a father, pitieth his children."
2. That in righteousness and faithfulness God had afflicted him. (Ver. 75.) Men find it very hard to say this now; they never do say it of themselves; but God's grace can enable a man to say it, as here and hereafter in heaven we shall say it. But it is good to be able to say it now.
II. ASSURANCE (ver. 74) that his trust in God under his affliction would win for him the glad welcome of those who feared God. The warm welcome of the people of God is one of the many recompenses with which those who for Christ's sake suffer will be met (Matthew 19:29).
III. PRAYERFULNESS. Note his petitions:
1. For understanding, so that he might learn, etc. (Ver. 73.) This is a petition he is perpetually offering (see vers. 34, 125, 144, 169, 27, 100, etc.). It implies that if men did but understand, their hearts would turn to God (Psalm 14:2; Psalm 82:5; Isaiah 6:10). And, undoubtedly, it would be so. The failure is not in the intellect, but in the heart.
2. For more knowledge of God's promised mercy (vers. 76, 77); so that he may be comforted thereby, and that he might live (ver. 77). Life without the realization of God's tender mercies would not be worth having.
3. For the bringing of the proud to shame, if so be God's will; if it were not, then he would not be without help, for he would meditate in, etc. (ver. 78).
4. For the friendship of the good. How blessed to have this (ver. 79)!
5. For soundness of heart in God's statutes. The heart is the all-important thing. - S.C.
"Who guideth mortals to wisdom, maketh them grasp lore
I. GOD HAS UNDERTAKEN A WORK OF GRACE IN THE RENEWED MAN. He has "begun a good work" in the quickening of a new and Divine life in the man. To begin a work is for God to pledge himself to carry it on to perfection. The work undertaken is to give man full share in the regeneration of the world, and complete personal deliverance from the particular form in which moral evil affects him. The deliverance from physical evils comes after deliverance from moral evils, and is of interest only so far as it is related to and follows on the higher work. Physical evil for man would only be what physical evil is for animals, if man were not a moral being. God's work in man is his deliverance from moral evil, and then from all the physical disasters and disabilities which have come from moral evil, or have followed in its train.
II. THAT WORK OF GRACE CAN ONLY BE CARRIED ON THROUGH AFFLICTION. We see plainly that when man works on character in the child he must use discipline, which involves chastening, correction, limitation, pain. It is, indeed, impossible to conceive of moral training, under human conditions, that does not require the agency of pain and suffering. A father cannot be faithful to his son unless he can be a chastener. Much more may we say that since God is pledged to the culture of the higher moral character, and that must even more certainly require discipline and affliction, it is only being true to himself, and faithful to his pledge, that he becomes in each individual life the Chastener for our profit. - R.T.
I. A RECOGNITION OF AFFLICTION AS ONE OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS. God's judgments are:
1. Remarkable punishments which God inflicts for sins. "Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools" (Proverbs 19:29).
2. The chastisement which God brings upon his children for their trial and instruction. In a modified, but true and deep, sense health and riches are judgments - tests and trials of our faith and character.
II. AN ASSURANCE OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS IN HIS JUDGMENTS. His judgments are a great deep, and his righteousness like the great mountains.
1. Just. Though we cannot comprehend them.
2. Beneficent. Though they inflict suffering. He does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men.
III. AN ASSURANCE OF GOD'S FAITHFULNESS IN HIS JUDGMENTS. Faithfulness here means:
1. That he always purposes our good.
2. That he always keeps his promises.
IV. THE GROUND OF THIS ASSURANCE.
1. Our past experience. Personal history.
2. Our knowledge of what he has done for us in Christ. - S.
is a school; experience can teach, does teach. In a satirical spirit Froude says, "Experience is like the stern-lights of a ship, it casts its rays over a way that has been taken." But that is not in any large, or practical sense, true; the actual experience must be a thing of the past, but the lessons learned by experience are available forces for the ordering of the life that we have to live. The distinction between animal and man, instinct and intelligence, is that man can profit by experience, the animal does not.
I. THE EXPERIENCE WHICH TEACHES IN THE RELIGIOUS LIFE IS EXPERIENCE RELATIVE TO DIVINE COMMANDMENTS. What the good man wants his past life for is the study of conduct in the light of what was known to be God's will. What has happened in our lives does not much matter, and of themselves events teach very little. How did what happened stand related to what we knew to be right? That is the supreme question; and that alone reveals failures and frailties. That experience alone teaches, and provides forces for the endeavor to live a better life. In measure we have "known God's testimonies;" but how has our actual life been ruled and toned by what we knew?
II. THE ONE THING THAT EXPERIENCE TEACHES IS OUR ABSOLUTE NEED OF DIVINE SUPPORT. The one thing which the past has to show every honest and earnest-minded man is, that he has always failed when he trusted to his own judgment and strength, and ventured to neglect or to go aside of God's revealed will; and that he has always succeeded when, in a spirit of true humility, he persistently endeavored to know God's will, and shape conduct and meet emergencies in its gracious leadings. Experience when consulted has always the same teaching to give. It may be summed up in this way, "You have always needed God as your Helper and Guide; you need him now as much as ever; you always will need him." - R.T.
animal, and mean completely and healthily organized, according to the standard of that particular animal. We speak of a perfect machine, and mean one that entirely and efficiently accomplishes everything that it is required to do. We speak of perfect conduct, and mean that which in every detail conforms to the rule. We speak of a perfect statue, and mean one that in all points realizes and satisfies our ideal. Then what do we mean by a perfect heart - using that term as meaning the will inspired by the emotions? Both the will and the emotions are such fluctuating things that it may not be possible to create an ideal, or to find a standard, by which every heart must be judged. Even here we cannot say of the Lord Jesus that he has presented an absolute standard. He has with his particular environment found a model expression for the highest principles; but righteousness for each man must be the expression of the principles of right in his own particular environment, and with his own particular disposition. A perfect heart cannot mean a will always biased to decision by particular considerations; and getting the bias by a particular condition of the feelings. Perfection when applied to the heart must mean genuineness, sincerity. But it means this made even more distinct and precise. It means unity, absolute agreement; the whole being brought in and bound together in one purpose. And if taken in its fullest suggestiveness, it farther means an instructed heart, not one carried into conduct by any accident, but borne to it by a deliberate choice, based on competent knowledge. Perfect-hearted may be apprehended as whole-hearted, true-hearted, and as opposed to half-hearted. - R.T.
I. PERSECUTED. That he was so is clear from the verses before us. For he says:
1. "Thy soul fainteth," etc. (Ver. 81.) He was heart-sick at the long delay of the hoped-for help. Year after year, generation after generation, it has been at times the lot of God's people to suffer persecution. And then the piteous confession of these verses is heard.
2. "Mine eyes fail," etc. (Ver. 82.) As one who steadily gazes out into the distance, looking for aid promised, expected, but does not come, at length his eyes become weary and dim, and his sorrow finds utterance in the plaintive words, "When wilt thou comfort me?" Hard, indeed, is the lot of such.
3. His very countenance and his body generally showed the marks of his distress. (Ver. 83.) Like as a wine skin-bottle hung up in the smoke of the fire would blacken and shrivel, become dry, parched, wrinkled, and useless, so the deep lines and the wasted look and the shrunken form told of the inward anguish of the soul.
4. It was near the close of his life, and his persecution, so wrong and unjust, still continued. (Vers. 84-86.) They sought to trap him as if he were a wild beast (ver. 85). So did the ungodly deal with him. Persistent, cruel, cunning, unjust, ever seeking his life - how piteous such a condition!
5. He was "almost consumed." (Ver. 87.) As a brand blackened and charred, and all but burnt up and reduced to ashes. It is an emblem of uttermost distress. Yes; he was persecuted, and it was hard to bear.
II. BUT HE WAS NOT FORSAKEN.
1. For the promises of God were his stay. He hoped in them still (ver. 81). Did not forget God's statutes. Forsook not his precepts (vers. 83, 87).
2. He was sure that God would fulfill his Word. (Ver. 84.) It was only a question of "when?"
3. His soul still turned to God. Praying for help (ver. 86). For quickening, so that he might keep hold of God's testimonies. Believing absolutely in the loving-kindness of God (ver. 88). Now, a man who can do all this, persecuted he may be, as this man was, but forsaken he is not. Oh the blessedness of real faith in God! Life is often terribly stern. Gethsemane and Calvary are along the way God's people often have to take, though never can they be to us so awful as they were to our Lord. But as unto him, so to us, light ariseth out of darkness; for such is the blessedness of the people of God. - S.C.
skins. Rosenmüller tells us that it was a custom of the ancients to hang skins of wine in the smoke of a fire, for very much the same reason that we stand a bottle of claret on the hearth, in order to mellow the wine by a gradual and moderate warmth, and to bring it to an earlier perfection. And in that custom the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning, and of the mercy, of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine - to refine, mellow, and ripen his character; and because, under them all, he has refused to part with his faith in God and duty; because he has been true to God and God's statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect upon him (S. Cox). This explanation gives a fresh suggestion to the text, but it may be doubted whether the mood of the psalmist is fairly represented by it. The older view seems more in harmony with the general tone of the stanza. Though, under the severe pressures of trial and affliction, the good man shrinks and wastes and blackens like a wine-skin hung in the smoke of the chimney, he still remembers the Divine statutes, and holds fast his faith in God and duty. What seems to be in mind is a long waiting-time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. The watching for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come; much had to be borne while he was waiting; he seemed to get dry, shriveled, and blackened, like the wine-skin in the chimney that had waited so long (and seemed to get tired of waiting, even as he did) for the moisture and refreshing of being used, and filled again with wine. But the question of supreme importance was this - What was he doing during this hard waiting-time? He has the joy of this confident assurance - he was holding fast his integrity; he was keeping on his obedience and trust; he was persistently ordering his life according to the Divine statutes.
I. WAITING-TIMES ARE A PART OF THE DIVINE AFFLICTIVE DISPENSATIONS. It sometimes seems as if God would do more for a man by making him wait than by making him suffer.
II. WAITING-TIMES HAVE A PECULIAR INFLUENCE ON A MAN'S SPIRIT. It may be represented by the effect of smoke on an empty wine-skin.
III. WAITING-TIMES SHOULD THROW US UPON THE COMFORTING AND STRENGTHENING OF THE DIVINE WORD. Everything for us depends on the cherished moods of our waiting-times. - R.T.
I. IF A MAN BELIEVES IN HIMSELF, HE WILL ALWAYS TRY TO AVENGE HIMSELF. Then a man's enemies are entirely in the self-sphere, and must be dealt with in that sphere. This essential idea of unregenerate and self-circumscribed humanity may be efficiently illustrated in the mission of the family blood-avenger. A man was expected to avenge himself upon his enemies. But if he was killed, he could not avenge himself, and so his next of kin had to do this duty for him. Retaliation seems noble and right only so long as a man is self-centered, and thinks the ordering of life is wholly in his own control. Civil government does but make public this system of dealing with our enemies ourselves. The state protects itself, provides its own sanctions and avengements. And the individual and the state are constantly in peril of acting upon impulse, or in the unreasoning sway of vindictive feeling.
II. IF A MAN BELIEVES IN GOD, HE WILL LEAVE HIS ENEMIES WITH HIM. To believe in God takes a man out of the self-sphere, and consequently gives him another point of view from which to regard his enemies. To believe in God is to apprehend God's personal interest in a man's highest welfare; and this must include concern for the influence which enemies and enmities may have upon a man. To believe in God is to be absolutely assured of his ability to defend from our enemies, and to punish them for their enmity. To believe in God is to be willing to let him undertake dealing with our enemies for us, and upholding us while we have to suffer their power. The godly man prays, "Help thou me."
III. IF A MAN BELIEVES GOD IN CHRIST, HE WILL, WITH THE CHRIST-HELP, WIN HIS ENEMIES. This leads into familiar topics. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him;" "Love your enemies;" "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves." Let God in Christ undertake our enemies, and he will teach us how to save them from their enmity. - R.T.
I. IT IS SETTLED IN HEAVEN FOREVER THAT SUCH AID SHALL BE FORTHCOMING. (Ver. 89.) Therefore:
1. No power of man can hinder it. It is "settled."
2. Nor any lapse of time. Generations may come and go, but that matters not. God's promise abides, even as the earth which he has established.
3. Nor any events or changes whatsoever. (Ver. 91.) Divine decrees have ordained them, and all have to serve and minister thereto. Here is great consolation for the tried soul.
II. IT SUSTAINS THE SERVANT OF GOD IS UTTERMOST PERIL. (Ver. 92.) But for God's settled love, which was full of delight for his servant, he could not have lived. God has ways and means by his Holy Spirit to so write his Word on our hearts, that they shall be filled with delight, and all the power of hell cannot destroy us. So was it here; so will it be with all like-minded men.
III. THE EXPERIENCE OF ITS POWER MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE MEMORY TO LET IT GO. (Ver. 93.) If we have been "quickened" by it, as was the psalmist, memory and heart and will cleave to it with a tenacity which never relaxes, but ever tightens its hold. Nothing but the experience of religion in the heart will do this. Creeds and rituals and sacraments, religious profession and work, have all been proved frail and feeble in this respect; but he who knows by actual experience how God can quicken his soul will simply never leave him.
IV. AND LEADS TO ABSOLUTE SELF-SURRENDER AND CONFIDENT TRUST. (Ver. 94.) "I am thine." The man is no longer his own. "Save me" - I know thou wilt; such is the implied meaning.
V. IS AN ANTIDOTE TO ALL FEAR. (Ver. 95.) What matters it that the wicked wait, etc.? He will consider the testimonies of God, those borne to him by redeemed souls, those borne by them in the psalmist's own soul. Such considering banishes fear.
VI. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. All human schemes and teachings are naught compared with thy commandment. - S.C.
circumstances it is endurable. We make too much of human afflictions when we fix our attention on them, and miss estimating the ways in which men are affected by them. What affliction is to a man, what amount of strain it involves, depend on the man's emotional nature, the condition and character of his will and affections. We often observe that things are afflictions to one man which are no afflictions at all to another; and that the same afflictions affect men differently at different times. Here the psalmist recognizes that his afflictions would have altogether overwhelmed him, but for the condition of his heart, cheered as it was by the assurances and promises of the Divine Word.
I. THE STRAIN OF AFFLICTION DEPENDS ON ITS RELATIVITY TO A MAN'S INWARD CONDITION. This can be shown by illustrating what affliction is to a man when he is in a normal condition of bodily, mental, and moral health. Then nothing seems to be overwhelming; there is an activity of endurance and resistance which prevents a man's "perishing in his affliction." But man is seldom, if ever, found in this normal state. We can conceive it; but it is seldom realized. Man is usually below it, and therefore affliction becomes such a strain. Sometimes below it through untrained natural disposition; through temporary states of bodily health; or through neglect of spiritual life. So man is unfitted, and affliction overwhelms. Man may be above the normal; and this he is by the infusion of Divine life through the Word. Then he is a nobler self. He has a consciousness of power which masters the strain. The power brings a joy and delight which put a man above himself.
II. THE GRACE OF GOD BEARS RELATION TO A MAN'S INWARD CONDITION. Therefore in it is found both the relief and the sanctifying of affliction. God makes and keeps the heart right, fills it with the joy of his Word and promise, and then man becomes master of all circumstances. - R.T.
contrast. No other relation brings out so clear and full a meaning. The meaning of the whole, therefore, must be something like this: Here is something called 'perfection' existing among men in a great variety of forms. 'But,' says the psalmist, 'according to my experience and observation, these are altogether too superficial, and too precarious, and too short-lived to make men happy, and the very best of them, the idealisms of human life, can never be attained. But thy commandment is exceeding broad,' and that will do, unless men hinder, what nothing else will do." The human hopes referred to are a man's wholly self-centered purposes and ambitions. Let a man fashion something for himself as a supreme aim of life; let it be something which he regards as "perfection;" let it bear no relation to the blessing of his fellow-men, or to the will and honor of God, and there will surely be an end to all such perfection. Let perfection be humanly conceived success and happiness, and ere life closes the man will say with the "preacher," who had such a varied experience, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
I. ALL AROUND US WE MAY SEE THE END OF PERFECTIONS. The story of the ages is the story of well-conceived ideals in social and national life that were never realized. The story of individual lives that had only self-centered aims is this wail, "My purposes are broken off." It is even a large truth that no life ever was lived that realized its ideal, reached its perfection, or accomplished its purposes. And this must be so because perfection is for the race, not for the individual, who has never more than a piece of the whole entrusted to him. And because, by man's very nature, he cannot rest satisfied with things, only with character, which finds expression in things, and is always below a possible attainment, while God is the supreme character.
II. IF WE CANNOT GET PERFECTION, WE MAY WORK TOWARDS IT. To do this we must get out of the human sphere into the Divine sphere. Man fails to reach his own perfection because it is so small. God's Word is large, broad, and towards its perfection man may move through all eternity, and get ennobled as he moves. - R.T.
I. CAUSES THAT WARRANT OUR THOUGHTS OF THE DIVINE LAW.
1. Indulgence of sinful habits.
2. Tendency to justify ourselves in what we do - or self-love.
3. Deference to worldly maxims.
4. False views of its relation to our salvation.
II. ILLUSTRATIONS OF ITS BREADTH.
1. It applies to every relation we bear to God and man.
2. It has to do with omitted duties as well as positive transgressions.
3. It is spiritual - widening to our view the higher we rise.
III. LESSONS SUGGESTED.
1. It rebukes self-complacency.
2. It shows how impossible it is that we can be justified by it. - S.
I. IT FURNISHES HIM WITH HAPPY THOUGHT ALL THE DAY LONG. (Ver. 97.) It is good to cultivate the habit of turning our thoughts to the things of God as they are told of in his Word. The habit is not natural to us, but God, by his Spirit, will help us to cultivate it. And how full of help and blessedness it is, none but those who have acquired it can declare; but such have declared this, as the psalmist here, again and again.
II. WITH PRACTICAL WISDOM, SO THAT HE CAN ORDER HIS WAY ARIGHT. This is what is meant here by "wisdom" and "understanding." By means of it he can:
1. Outwit his enemies (ver. 98), no matter how crafty their policy.
2. Become wiser than his teachers. They may be full of sound doctrine, but the soul that is partaker of God's grace is wiser than they.
3. Understands more than the men of olden time. "Understanding gotten by the precepts of the Word is better than that gotten by long experience.
III. HOLDS HIM BACK FROM SIN. (Ver. 101.) He has come to love righteousness and hate iniquity; but he knows that if he is to keep in this mind he must refrain, etc. He that will go into sin grieves and banishes from his soul the Spirit of God. Many people desire to be holy, but they desire ever so many other things along with it - this, for example, that occasionally they may allow themselves in some evil way. And so they never attain to holiness; such double-hearted ones never can. God must teach us this (ver. 102).
IV. BECOMES HIS DELIGHT. (Ver. 103.) This is the meaning of the metaphor of this verse. The soul has its relish as well as the palate. And it is a blessed thing when the soul has a real relish for the things of God. Christ said, "I delight to do thy will, O my God." So was it foretold of him (Psalm 40.). And he himself said, "My meat and my drink is to do the will of him that sent me." The religion of fear, of conscience, of sense, of duty, of hope, of reward, is feeble - must be so - but the religion that delights in God is strong for all things.
V. GIVES HOLY HATRED OF ALL SIN. (Ver. 104.) He whom God has taught so to understand will thus hate all sin. Blessed hatred is this. - S.C.
I. WE MAY OBEY BECAUSE WE MUST: THERE IS THE OBEDIENCE OF FEAR. Preachers seek to help men with this inspiration when they declare the "terrors of the Lord," testify of a coming judgment, and cry, "Prepare to meet thy God." And presumably there are persons to whom fear is an effective inspiration. All we need say is that they are not the nobler members of our race. A person amenable to the influence of fear is either uneducated, untrained, or un-self trained. As science destroys superstition, so knowledge and self-knowledge and Divine knowledge destroy fear. Fear God, and you need fear nothing else. It is not yet worthily seen that Christianity has something with which it intends, absolutely and entirely, to replace fear.
II. WE MAY OBEY BECAUSE WE OUGHT: THERE IS THE OBEDIENCE OF DUTY. This is an altogether higher kind of inspiration. In it we still recognize a power above us; but it is now a power personally related to us and interested in use power with which we are in sympathy, and whose authority to rule us we recognize. No man is his true self until he says, "I am not independent. I am under authority. There is something that I ought to be. It is the will of a Personal Divine Being, in whose image I have been made." The sense of duty has been the inspiration of the noblest things in every sphere of human life - in the family, the business, and the nation. Duty has often inspired heroism. Poets have sung its praise so much that it would hardly be unreasonable to regard it as man's highest inspiration. And yet we must see that its power is altogether surpassed.
III. WE MAY OBEY BECAUSE WE WISH TO: THERE IS THE OBEDIENCE OF LOVE. "Oh how love I thy Law!" It is sometimes said that this is the Law "getting into a man," and becoming himself, so that when he obeys he simply expresses himself. And this is true. Even duty keeps law outside us; it remains something which we must conform ourselves to. Love brings law in, makes it one with us, and so becomes an actual force of obedience in us. The inspiration of love is our best selves carrying our conduct into righteousness. - R.T.
I. THE NECESSARY LIMITS OF HUMAN TEACHINGS.
1. They are limited by the mental capacity of those who teach and those who are taught.
2. They are limited by the imperfection of the vehicle by which human knowledge is conveyed. No human word has the same connotation for every one who uses it, and few words keep the same connotation for one man through a long life.
3. They are limited by the variableness of the material at their command. New facts are continually displacing old ones, and new theories condemning old ones. In science, a book ten years old is comparatively useless.
4. They are limited by the range over which they extend, which is compelled to keep away from all knowledge of God and the things of God. "Who by searching can find out God?" And yet it is in that higher range of knowledge alone that man's true nature can be unfolded. The queen of sciences is theology.
II. THE DIVINE TEACHINGS BEYOND THE HUMAN LIMITS. Is man only a mind? Many seem to think of him as having no more than a mental organization. A man is a spiritual being, kin to God, having for his present agency and use a body and a mind. The Divine range is the soul, which is the man himself. - R.T.
I. THE HINDRANCES TO OBEDIENCE MAY BE EXTERNAL TO A MAN.
1. They may lie in a man's friendships. There are associations of life which a man can arrange for himself, and he can secure that these shall be helpful. But there are associations in life which are made for a man, and these may be hindering to his purposed obedience. Illust.: Joseph, Daniel.
2. They may lie in a man's circumstances. The straitened man is put upon guileful and self-trusting schemes to improve his circumstances, and is thus hindered from obedience. The well-to-do man is in danger of being self-reliant and over-confident, and so made indifferent to obedience. Virtue is man's triumph over external hindrances. Innocence only becomes virtue through its struggle with hindrance and evil.
II. THE HINDRANCES TO OBEDIENCE MAY BE IN THE MAN HIMSELF. These hindrances are in the mind of the psalmist. He found something wrong with his own feet. They did not stand firm; they inclined to slide; they seemed to have a bias outward; if he was not careful, of themselves they carried him over the line. In this way he represented that carnal, self-seeking tendency with which the good man has continually to deal. He may will to obey; but he will find self-interest ever ready to resist good resolve. The hindrances that are in the man himself are never wholly mastered while a man lives, so that he can feet safe. Indeed, to "feel safe" is to be in the gravest peril. Through a long life, if a man really means to live for God and obey, he will find that he must always be at work at his own hindrances, "refraining his feet from evil ways." - R.T.
I. A BLESSED FACT, WITNESSED TO BY THE EXPERIENCE OF MYRIADS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. (Ver. 105.) There has been no age of the world since God's revelation has been given, no period of life whether in youth or age, no rank of society from the lowest to the highest, no condition of life in which men have been placed, but what they have found this Word true. God's Word has counsel for every difficulty, comfort in every trouble, guidance in all perplexity. Men go wrong, not from want of knowledge of the right, but from unwillingness to follow the right.
II. NOTABLE RESULTS TEAT FOLLOW.
1. A steadfast resolve to keep to this path. (Ver. 106.) The soul has seen how well it is to abide in God's way, and here declares that what it has seen and resolved upon it will also do. And this is the secret of the perseverance of the saints. They have known by experience how blessed the ways of the Lord are that nothing will induce them to depart from them. Their one desire is to be found walking in the ways of God more steadfastly and more vigorously.
2. The soul will turn to it in trouble. (Ver. 107.) Even the ungodly, when they are afflicted very much, will send for the minister, take down the hitherto neglected Bible, and begin to read it, under the influence of a conviction they have never been able to shake off, that here, after all, are to be found the words of eternal life, which can alone help them. But the godly soul at once turns to them. They are his songs in the night, the joy of his heart.
3. Unbounded gratitude. (Ver. 108.) For what, when we look back on our way, can we find that more makes up our grateful acknowledgments than the fact that God has so illumined our faith by his Word that we have been kept in the right way, and have not fallen? Oh, the joys of this! May we all know it, as we may, if we will! Of course, it leads to the insatiable longing to know more of God's judgments.
4. Perpetual peril cannot drive him off from it. (Ver. 109.) Such condition - "my soul continually in my hand" - by its distracting, alarming, depressing influence, is apt to banish all holy thought and all recollection of God's Word. Men have been known to become very beasts under such circumstances - selfish, sensual, brutal; the sort of spirit which the sauve qui peut is ever seen to engender in the ordinary run of men. But how different what is said here! - the calm, holy, soul-sustaining remembrance of God's Word.
5. The traps and snares which the wicked plant for the soul utterly fail. (Ver. 110.) Keep in that illuminated path, and you may laugh at these snares. For they are never placed where the light shines on them, but where there is no light.
6. Desire that it may be the heritage of himself and his children after him. (Ver. 111.) He who knows the blessedness of what is here told of longs for it, not for himself alone, but for a heritage for those who shall come after him.
7. Steady guard upon the restless heart that would wander from this path. (Ver. 112.) Strenuous care must be taken - watchfulness and prayer-or else the deceitful heart will wander away. Who knows not this?
III. HOW THIS BLESSEDNESS MAY BE REALIZED. If the Word is to thus illumine our path, we must take the Word, keep it continually, and bring it to bear on the path we are to take. Many turn the light of the Word skywards, or backwards, or on the right hand or left. Hold it down on your path. - S.C.
Proverbs 6:23). For the "commandment is a lamp, and the law is light." And Wordsworth calls duty "a light to guide." The "lamp" is kindled specially for the hours of darkness; the "light is the natural light for all time. The need for the lantern on dark nights is well understood by those who live in country districts. A minister without a lantern, one dark night, got over a stile, intending to take a straight line across a most familiar field; but in a little while he found he had wandered round to the stile again. In the East the figure of the text is even more expressive. The streets of the towns are narrow, unlighted, ill-kept, and specially dark at night, because of the high walls of the houses on either side. The causeway often has dangerous holes, and soft muddy places, and great loose stones; and if a man is to pick his way safely, he must not only have a lantern, but hold it right down to his feet, so that its light may guide his next footstep. That gives point to the text. God's Word is not just a general light for the guidance of our route; it is something to hold close, for the direction of each step in life that we take.
I. LIFE IS TOO FULL OF PERILS FOR A MAN TO TRUST HIS OWN EYESIGHT. What can a man do with his eyesight in a dark Eastern street in the night-time? He may have the best eyesight, but it will not serve him then and there. It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Human life is dark relative to human experience. "Ye have not gone this way heretofore." Human life is full of perils. Such as affect everybody, and such as affect particular dispositions. Every man is in danger of being taken at unawares; tripped up by some stone of offence; sore wounded by slipping into some hole of neglect. Some can manage life better than others; but every man is beaten by life in the long run, if he undertakes it himself.
II. LIFE-PERILS CAN BE PASSED SAFELY THROUGH WITH THE HELP OF GOD'S LAMP. The Word of God is relative to all possible human experiences and dangers. Its light acts in two ways.
1. It gives the man general principles and moral strength, so that he is ready prepared for every testing-time.
2. It gives precise counsels guiding actual conduct in every emergency. It is the lantern held down close to the feet, so as to direct the next footfall. The adaptation of the Divine Word to a man's every circumstance and need is the surprise of religious experience. - R.T.
upon impulse, and need confirming. There are two ways of confirming resolves.
I. BY RENEWING THE RESOLVE AFTER "COUNTING THE COST." For illustration of this we have our Lord's teaching. On sudden and untested impulse, a passionate movement of feeling, very many made the resolve to become his disciples, and in great excitement offered themselves to him. How well he knew human nature! The fire that too suddenly blazes up soon fades. Our Lord showed no eagerness to receive them. He even somewhat coldly repressed them, setting them upon quietly thinking over what they were doing. He would have them "sit down and count the cost." He would have nobody upon an exclamation. He would have anybody who had resolved again quietly. This needs to be remembered in view of the exciting missions of our day, which work towards an impulsive resolve to become Christ's disciples. That may be good; but it is only good when it is followed up by a second resolve, made quietly in view of thoughtful estimates of all discipleship involves.
II. BY MAKING IMMEDIATE EFFORT TO KEEP THE RESOLVE. It is never safe to allow any gap between the resolve to do a thing and the effort to do it. That gap gives time for the impulse to die down, and for other interests to come in and fill up mind and heart. A man seldom keeps his resolve if he puts off beginning to keep it. It is carrying it out that keeps the resolve alive, and enables it to continue a moral force. Heart-rightness and life-rightness go together, and are mutually helpful. Doing what we purpose renews the purpose, and works passing resolve into ever-controlling principle. - R.T.
I. SOUL-LIFE IS BETTER THAN RELIEVED SUFFERING. But we find this very hard to believe. We only do believe it as we realize that God's idea for a man's life is not the providing of a pleasant time, but the providing of a scene which shall become a moral discipline, out of which spiritual character may be evolved. The suffering has in view the character; and to remove the suffering may be the worst thing that could happen to the man. The sigh of the Divine using of the suffering for the highest ends is found in the imparting of soul-strength. It shows the suffering to be a blessing to us.
II. SOUL-LIFE REALLY MATES AND MASTERS THE SUFFERING. For the real measure of the suffering is the measure of power to bear which the sufferer has. Some can bear nothing; some can bear anything. At one time we can bear what at another overwhelms. Then strength to bear - the soul-life of full trust in God - does actually lift us above our sufferings, and make them feel, as Christ's yoke is, easy and light. - R.T.
snare. Illustration may be taken from our physical relation to infectious disease. A man may, in the way of his duty, have to go where there is infectious disease. Then he braces up his will to a positive resistance, and so is in great measure guarded. But a man may, in the ordinary course of life, without knowing it, be subject to infection; then his safety absolutely depends on the measure of his vitality. Vital force is resistance of disease. Fungus grows on the parts of trees in which the life is flagging. The psalmist here declares that the resolute will and persistent effort to keep God's commandments, had proved to be a power of moral health and life which had kept him from insidious temptations that were like snares.
I. EVIL CANNOT PUT ITS SNARES IN THE GOOD MAN'S PATH. Not actually in the path. The highway of holiness God keeps, and makes a plain path. It is a well-kept road; he allows no obstructions, and removes all perils. If a man will only keep in the way of righteousness, his path shall be clear right through, his life shall be like the light which "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." It is God's narrow way, and nobody and nothing can put obstacles or snares into it.
II. EVIL CAN PUT ITS SNARES JUST ON ONE SIDE OF THE GOOD MAN'S PATH. There is a line which it may not pass, but it puts its snares as near to the line as it possibly can. They are well in the good man's sight, and always most attractively disguised. But the good man must swerve a little from the right, and step over the line, before he can possibly fall into the snare. The man is in the wrong before he does the wrong.
III. THE GOOD MAN'S SAFETY LIES IN GOING STRAIGHT ON. Swerving is the peril; looking about is the mistake. We know God's will; then let us keep on doing it. "Let thine eyes look straight on." - R.T.
bent his heart, as a thing bending too much to other things; set his mind on musing on it. He found his heart and the Law of God too far asunder, and so would continue, unless he brought them together and made them one. If he had not brought his heart to the Word, he had never meditated; the object cannot apply itself to the mind, but the mind must bring itself to the object. No holy duties will come to us; we must come to them" (Nathanael Ranew, 1670).
I. WE RECOGNIZE OUR POWER OVER OUR OWN LIVES. We say that a man may make of his life what he pleases. He can set before him standards and rules of conduct, and compel his actions to conform to them. His power is indeed within limitations, so that he cannot always do the things that he would. There are limitations arising from
(1) natural character, feebleness of will, etc.;
(2) imperfect mental and moral training;
(3) hindering circumstances;
(4) resistance of other wills.
And yet every man knows that the dominion given to man in this world includes, and indeed reaches, its higher forms in the dominion of his own conduct and relationships.
II. WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE OUR POWER OVER OUR OWN HEARTS. Because a vague sentiment easily grows on us that our hearts are the sphere only of the Divine operations, and we can do nothing with them, but must leave them wholly to the indwelling Spirit. This, however, is exaggerating and misrepresenting a most vital and precious truth. What we cannot do in the inclining and shaping of our hearts or affections should bring to view how much there is that we can do. We can put ourselves in the way of nourishing all good affections and emotions. We can keep out of the way of things that would unworthily bias or occupy our hearts. And we may keep ever fresh in our convictions that the power which we have to incline our own hearts is power on which God's power rests, and through which his power works. - R.T.
I. HOLY SOULS HATE THEM. (Ver. 113.) They constitute and create that lukewarmness which is so nauseous in the esteem of Christ (Revelation 3:16). He would prefer that men were cold altogether rather than this (cf. also Elijah, 1 Kings 18:21). This double-mindedness, ever seeking to serve God and mammon, compromising and tampering with truth, well may it excite the hate of holy souls. For:
1. It dishonors God. The man makes profession of religion, and men judge by what they see in him, and, instead of God being glorified, he is dishonored day by day.
2. The Church of God is weakened. Such men spread an awful contagion in a Church; they chili the ardor of fervent souls, they encourage those who are like themselves.
3. The man himself is in fearful peril. He is forever saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before him. And who is to arouse and waken him?
4. He enjoys none of the great blessedness which ever accompanies real religion and single-minded service of God. Such as peace of conscience: the Spirit never beareth witness to such that they are saved, and there is often a terrible misgiving, especially at the hour of death. Purity of heart: that cannot be theirs. Calm amid trouble. Power to bless others, etc. For all these and other reasons such double-mindedness cannot but be hateful to all holy souls.
II. BUT IT IS A CONDITION VERY PREVALENT, NEVERTHELESS. Men like it: it avoids extremes; they would not be altogether without religion - that would be very sad; but yet they do not want to be considered as enthusiastic or fanatical; it enables them to get on very well with the world, and to maintain a pleasant religious reputation at the same time. No wonder, therefore, that it is common.
III. WE ARE SHOWS HERE HOW TO GAIN DELIVERANCE FROM IT.
1. Let God be our Hiding-place and our Shield. When such thoughts assail us, as they often will, let us turn to God. It is not enough to drive away the wrong; we must bring in the right. Therefore "with thoughts of God and things Divine" let us occupy our minds, and so will deliverance come. And we should habitually cherish such thoughts, for so they will serve as a shield to ward off thoughts of an opposite nature.
2. Keep away from evildoers. (Ver. 115.) For they are ever tempting us to such deceitful serving of God: they will inevitably, if we make companions of them, lower the tone and sap the fidelity of our thoughts.
3. Commit yourselves to the Lord for safety, so that you may not be ashamed. Ask him day by day and hour by hour to uphold you and keep you true (vers. 116, 117).
4. Call to mind the dreadful end of such double-mindedness. (Vers. 118, 119.) They are trampled down, they are rejected like dross.
5. Cherish a holy fear lest you should incur a like doom. (Ver. 120.) Therefore bare your heart before him, and pray him to help you always and everywhere to hate all such deceitful and double-minded thoughts. - S.C.
1 Kings 18:2). "Perhaps we are to think of those among the Jews who were for political reasons favorably inclined towards foreign customs and ideas, and who would not throw in their lot frankly and courageously with the national party." Compare St. James's "double-minded man" (James 1:8). The good man has a natural repugnance to the "two-faced" man. He revolts from him. He cannot trust him. He shrinks from him as from the serpent, which is the type of subtlety in a bad and perilous sense. When the ideal Man moved to and fro among men, this characteristic of the good man was most marked in him. He was keenly sensitive to insincerity; he most vigorously denounced the hypocrite; the two-faced man was ever an unendurable offence to him.
I. THE INSINCERE ARE AN OFFENSE TO EVERY MAN. Genuineness is the basis of all human trust. The schemer undermines society. We can only deal with our fellow-men on the assumption that they are what they seem to be. Home, friendship, business, society, nations, Churches, all are so seriously injured by the influence of the insincere, that they are always on the watch for them. To stand in any relation in this world, a man must be true to himself.
II. THE INSINCERE ARE AN OFFENSE TO THE GOOD MAN. Everything that is characteristic of man is sharpened and polished (furbished) by his becoming a good man. And this may especially be observed in relation to truth and truthfulness. To apprehend and know God is to gain an altogether higher estimate of sincerity; for he "desireth truth in the inward parts." And to endeavor to live a godly life is to establish and confirm truth as the basis of character and relationships; and the man of truth requires truth in others. And he is keen to detect and to renounce that almost unconscious insincerity into which men fall whose lives are not ruled by high and noble principles. Their "permissions" are an offence to him.
III. THE INSINCERE ARE AN OFFENSE TO GOD. This can be illustrated from Old Testament character-studies, from Psalms, Proverbs, and Prophets; but more fully from the relations of the God-Man, the Lord Jesus, with the hypocrite and the insincere (Matthew 23.). - R.T.
I. HE PRESENTS AN EVIL EXAMPLE. This is familiar, but point may be gained by showing that in every sphere of life there are the immature, who are specially susceptible to influence, and unable to resist the attractiveness of evil example. For instance, the insidious doubtings and questionings of the evil ones have no power on the matured, but seriously affect the immature.
II. HE BREAKS UP THE UNITY OF ENTERPRISE. He is always the other one, the objector, the one who pulls the other way, who wants something else. He is the drag on all good effort. This may be illustrated in relation to united prayer. He prays against the prayer, and so prevents the blessing which is promised to unity.
III. HE BEINGS ON THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD WHICH AFFECT OTHERS BESIDE HIMSELF. "The wicked shall not go unpunished," but it is not possible, under the conditions of human existence, to isolate the punishment to the evildoer. Those in association with him must share in the effects of the judgment (see the cases of Achan, Korah, etc.). The evil-disposed persons in the new Jewish nation might bring judgments on the nation by their willful doings. Therefore the psalmist is anxious for distinct and entire separation from them. - R.T.
hope. "A man would be ashamed of his hope if it turned out that this was not based upon a sure foundation." But here the psalmist evidently expresses a kind of fear of himself. He is afraid lest he should be ashamed of his hope, and so earnestly cries to God to save him from himself.
I. SELF-DISTRUST AS A SECRET OF MORAL POWER. It belongs to the normal condition of man as a dependent creature. He ought to distrust himself; if he does not, he cannot be reliant on a Power beyond himself. A self-confident man is making the attempt to be something that he is not. He is trying to transcend his normal condition; and in the measure of his success he becomes an unnatural being. He is a "law unto himself," and that a created being never can be. Further than this, a self-distrust kept within due limits is an element of moral power, because it leads him
(1) never to act without due consideration and care;
(2) never to act without outlooking and uplooking for grace and help from a higher power.
And man is only the moral being that he can be, and was intended to be, when he is man inwardly guided, moved, restrained, inspired, by the indwelling God. Normal man says, "I cannot, but God can through me."
II. SELF-DISTRUST AS A WEAKENING OF MORAL POWER. And this it is when it is only in a small degree intellectual, and in a very large degree emotional. Self-distrust becomes perilous sentimentality in some forms of sectarian religious life. It is exaggeration of sentiment to assume that, in the matter of redemption, or in the ordering of the godly life, God must do everything and man can do nothing. So long as self-distrust holds itself ready to respond to what comes of its reliance on God, it is healthy. When self-distrust is fostered by introspection, by examination of variable feelings, or by attempting to match feeling with impossible human standards, it is unhealthy, and utterly weakening to the moral fiber. Self-distrust that makes a man miserable and idle is, by its influence, stamped as bad. Self-distrust that inspires trust, self-distrust that persists in keeping on doing active duty, is healthy and good, honoring to God, and every way hopeful for man. - R.T.
I. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE GREATEST HOPE WHICH GOOD MEN CHERISH?
1. That which relates to our everlasting state.
2. That which is based upon the revelation of God in Christ.
II. HOW MAY SUCH A HOPE TURN TO SHAME? What brings disgrace upon men in relation to their hopes is that they cherish unreal objects; that they expect too much; that they fail in the attainment through want of rational calculation, indolence, self-indulgence, etc. It is not from the nature of the objects that our disappointment can come, if we are building upon the hopes of the gospel. We cannot expect tot much, or draw too largely upon our imagination, as to the good that is to come. But we may fail - and there is the shame - and fail from various causes.
1. We may fail in perceiving the essential things, confounding the ritual with the spiritual, the ceremonial with the substantial.
2. Through careless contentment with our spiritual state. Not being assured that devotion to Christ, activity, and self-denial are indispensable.
III. SOME REASONS FOR EVERY ONE TO BE APPREHENSIVE AS TO THE FATE OF HIS HOPE.
1. Present things may be absorbing so as to endanger the issue.
2. Tendency of our nature to flattering views of ourselves.
IV. WHAT MEASURES NECESSARY TO ENSURE THE SUCCESS OF OUR HOPE?
1. The maintenance of constant interest in it.
2. Fidelity towards ourselves in demanding the practical influence of piety.
3. Habitual reliance upon God for help and direction. - S.
I. WHAT THE GOOD MAN SEES. In some moods - as that of Asaph - all he can see is the wicked prospering, and then he is tempted to question the justice of the Divine dealings. In other moods he can see how short is the tether of the wicked, and how certain and overwhelming are the Divine judgments. The difficulty is that the seeing is usually so unqualified; it is exclusive and exaggerated on the one side or on the other.
II. WHAT THE GOOD MAN FEELS. Based on what he sees. He seldom can trust his feelings, because they respond to sense-conditions, and are inefficiently toned by the sanctified will. So he either feels as if God were neglecting him, or as if he would be borne away by circumstances. Then he needs the cheer of God's Word. - R.T.
I. PLEADS HIS INNOCENCE AND INTEGRITY. (Ver. 121.) "If I will not oppress others, I may hopefully pray that others may not oppress me" (1 John 3:20). It was a great thing in those days of old, when might stood for right in well-nigh all men's estimation, when -
"They should take who have the power, II. IMPLIES GOD'S PROTECTION. (Ver. 122.) "Be Surety;" that is, "be my Champion, my Defender." He knows the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and therefore he confidently appeals to him. Nothing so secures the putting forth of the Divine power as the consciousness and confession of the littleness of our own. III. DEPRECATES ITS LONG DELAY. (Ver. 123.) "He wept, waited, and watched" for its coming, until from very weariness his eyesight began to give way. It is good to tell the Lord our trouble, to pour it out before him as the psalmist does here. Trouble is like water; it gets less by being poured from one vessel into another. IV. CONFESSES HIS NEED OF MERCY. (Ver. 124.) Before men he could hold up his head, and declare that he was guilty of no wrong, as in ver. 121; but before God it is mercy that he implores, for he, as all who know themselves, knew full well his need thereof. V. FOR THE THIRD TIME AVOWS THAT HE IS GOD'S "SERVANT." (Vers. 122, 124, 125.) Why this repeated avowal? Surely it is: 1. A confession of God's absolute right to deal with him as he pleases. He is the absolute property of God by creation, redemption, preservation, and personal choice. But: 2. A profession of confident trust that the Lord wilt be mindful of his own, will not give him over unto the will of his enemies. 3. It is a renewal of his self-devotion. He does not want to renounce his service, to take anything back, but rather, under the oppression of his enemies, he would all the more consecrate himself to God. Where God gives a spirit like this, it is the sure harbinger and herald of the speedy coming of the needed help. It lays hold upon God. VI. CALLS ATTENTION TO THE PREVAILING CORRUPTION. (Ver. 126.) How often God's servants have said, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work"! and when they have been made deeply sensible of the sins and sorrows of men, so that their hearts grieve over them (see ver. 136), then it is a token that the time for the Lord's interposition is at hand. "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures be gathered together." VII. PROTESTS THAT, HOWEVER IT BE WITH MEN GENERALLY, HE LOGES AND ESTEEMS THE LORD'S COMMANDMENTS AS ALTOGETHER RIGHT AND PRECIOUS. (Cf. John 21:15-17.) Such are the appeals and the appellants that have favor with God and prevail - righteous, lowly, earnest, devoted, grieved at sin, true, believing. - S.C.
II. IMPLIES GOD'S PROTECTION. (Ver. 122.) "Be Surety;" that is, "be my Champion, my Defender." He knows the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and therefore he confidently appeals to him. Nothing so secures the putting forth of the Divine power as the consciousness and confession of the littleness of our own.
III. DEPRECATES ITS LONG DELAY. (Ver. 123.) "He wept, waited, and watched" for its coming, until from very weariness his eyesight began to give way. It is good to tell the Lord our trouble, to pour it out before him as the psalmist does here. Trouble is like water; it gets less by being poured from one vessel into another.
IV. CONFESSES HIS NEED OF MERCY. (Ver. 124.) Before men he could hold up his head, and declare that he was guilty of no wrong, as in ver. 121; but before God it is mercy that he implores, for he, as all who know themselves, knew full well his need thereof.
V. FOR THE THIRD TIME AVOWS THAT HE IS GOD'S "SERVANT." (Vers. 122, 124, 125.) Why this repeated avowal? Surely it is:
1. A confession of God's absolute right to deal with him as he pleases. He is the absolute property of God by creation, redemption, preservation, and personal choice. But:
2. A profession of confident trust that the Lord wilt be mindful of his own, will not give him over unto the will of his enemies.
3. It is a renewal of his self-devotion. He does not want to renounce his service, to take anything back, but rather, under the oppression of his enemies, he would all the more consecrate himself to God. Where God gives a spirit like this, it is the sure harbinger and herald of the speedy coming of the needed help. It lays hold upon God.
VI. CALLS ATTENTION TO THE PREVAILING CORRUPTION. (Ver. 126.) How often God's servants have said, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work"! and when they have been made deeply sensible of the sins and sorrows of men, so that their hearts grieve over them (see ver. 136), then it is a token that the time for the Lord's interposition is at hand. "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures be gathered together."
VII. PROTESTS THAT, HOWEVER IT BE WITH MEN GENERALLY, HE LOGES AND ESTEEMS THE LORD'S COMMANDMENTS AS ALTOGETHER RIGHT AND PRECIOUS. (Cf. John 21:15-17.) Such are the appeals and the appellants that have favor with God and prevail - righteous, lowly, earnest, devoted, grieved at sin, true, believing. - S.C.
2 Corinthians 4:18). By "understanding" is said to be meant "a deeper knowledge of God's Law and dispensation," but this keeps us outside, on the surface of things; and what the good man wants is inward discernment of the relativity of Divine counsels, warnings, revealings, and promises, to himself. We only understand moral things as we discern their relativity. The immediate connection of the verse may be the delay of God's judgment on the wicked. The good man often finds himself puzzled to explain God's ways with the wicked. "If our heart fail in its longing for speedy retribution, 'it is our own infirmity;' fuller conception of the mind of God would take away perplexity and impatience."
I. SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT AS ONE OF THE POWERS OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE. The Divine life in man involves two things:
1. A quickening of the powers of the soul that have been dimmed and deadened by the service of self and sin.
2. A bestowment of fresh powers, as trusts (gifts) for the ministry to which the renewed man is called. Spiritual discernment is one of the natural powers that get quickened, freed from entanglements, and exercised. But it is a power whose vigor depends on the general culture of the spiritual life. It fades and revives with the variation of our soul-moods. So its renewal is a subject of prayer.
II. SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT AS THE WORK OF THE INDWELLING SPIRIT. This leads us into the Christian apprehension of the matter. In the renewed man the Holy Ghost abides. He works his work of grace in us through our faculties. These and especially our spiritual discernment, he quickens into power. - R.T.
effective, he wants it to be ineffective.
I. MEN MAKE VOID GOD'S LAW BY SIMPLY NEGLECTING IT. And this is the most successful way. It gains the end with the least trouble, and involves no conflict with conscience. The Bible on the shelf, only dusted, is void enough. It does nobody either good or harm.
II. MEN MAKE VOID GOD'S LAW BY MISUSING IT. And this they do when they employ it for bolstering up their sectarian opinions; regard it as a storehouse of material for doctrinal conflicts rather than as a guide to practical life.
III. MEN MAKE VOID GOD'S LAW BY THROWING DOUBTS UPON IT. Such doubts have been thrown in every age, and do but take on some new form for each new age. The mischief of the doubts is their plucking away from us the sense of authority in the Word. It is the serpent's perpetual whisper, "Yea, hath God said" To which the proper answer is, "Yes, he has."
IV. MEN MAKE VOID GOD'S LAW BY FAILING TO DO WHAT IT ENJOINS. The test of right treatment of God's Word is obedience. "Surely in vain made he it, the pen of the scribes is in vain," if men hear and do not; know and obey not. For them the Law is void. - R.T.
I. SELF-WILL SELECTS FROM GOD'S WORD WHAT SUITS IT. It is true that every one does and must select from God's Word what is most helpful; and that all Bible-readers find different parts and portions helpful in different moods and circumstances. The Bible of each individual is a much smaller book than the Bible God has provided for the world. But the good man
(1) recognizes the value and authority of all;
(2) seeks relativity to his passing spiritual needs; and
(3) depends on Divine illumination and guidance for the parts he finds; giving due heed to them, whether he likes them or not.
The self-willed man takes out only what he likes or what will serve his ends, and consequently his Bible is his own; it is not God's.
II. SELF-WILL DISTORTS EVEN WHAT IT GETS. Only the sincere, God-honoring mind sees in the Word what God put there. If a man brings his own ideas to the Word, looking in it for what he wants to find, the mere language will easily take shape that satisfies him. He will loudly assert what it says, in entire indifference to what it means. This self-willed distortion of God's Word to support preconceived doctrinal ideas is the treacherous basis on which all sectarianism rests. But it is more important to rebuke the distortion of God's Word which is made to support practical unrighteousness. It has even been made the minister, and the excuser, of man's sin. - R.T.
I. THESE WORDS DECLARE A FACT.
1. In the psalmist's own experience. He had found God's testimonies wonderful. They had lifted him up from the depths of sorrow to blessed calm, confidence, and delight in God. Not that his outward circumstances appear to have been much changed, but the mood of his mind about them, and the thoughts of his heart, had greatly changed.
2. And this was because of the light-giving power of God's Word. (Ver. 130.) Light reveals what was hidden before - truths that had remained in obscurity, and which had great bearing on his condition, he could now see. His mind had been illuminated, and he was as in a new world. And light cheers and gladdens the heart. By means of the Word of God such light had come to him, and with such power, that he could only exclaim, "Thy testimonies are wonderful."
3. And the like experience has been reproduced in all men like-minded to the psalmist. Wonderful is the book of Holy Scripture, for its age, preservation, interest, adaptation to all, for its inspiration, for its spread, for its blessed and ever-increasing power, for the revelation of God given in it, and for many more and personal reasons beside.
II. THEY REVEAL THE INFLUENCE AND EFFECT THEY EVER HAVE.
1. They explain the tenacity with which the soul clings to God's Word. (Ver. 129.) Of course, the soul which has had such experience of its power will "keep them." Do we fling gold away? Neither will such soul the testimonies of God.
2. They produce deep humility. Ver. 139 is a plea for mercy. The psalmist knew that he needed that. These wonderful testimonies had made that clear to him, as they ever do. But as one of the company of them that loved God's Name, he pleads for the mercy he needs.
3. Made him long for complete rectitude in God's sight. (Ver. 133.) He would have his every step, not merely his general walk, ordered in God's Word, and he would that no iniquity should have, etc. This is a constant result of such a realization of the power of God's Word. Nothing less than complete obedience win serve.
4. Gives renewed force to his prayers .for grace to obey. Hence he prays
(1) that man's oppression may cease (ver. 134). How often such oppression does hinder the keeping of God's precepts! Not entirely, but largely. How many would openly serve God, but are cruelly forbidden or held back by fear! God's people have to hide away; they cannot do the things that they would. Also he prays
(2) that God's face may shine upon him; for that is like the warm shining of the sun upon the plant-world, causing it to spring and grow as otherwise it could not.
5. Made him deeply grieve over men's sin. (Ver. 136.) We do not grieve over what we do not value. If, therefore, we do not value the grace of God, we shall not, etc.
III. THE CONDITION OF REALIZING ALL THIS. Fervent desire (ver. 131). - S.C.
(1) the matter which they contain;
(2) the manner in which they are written; and
(3) the effects which they produce.
The following outline is from T. Manton: Wonderful
(1) in their majesty and composure; which striketh reverence into the hearts of those that consider.
(2) They are wonderful for the matter and depth of mystery, which cannot be found elsewhere, concerning God, and Christ, the creation of the world, the souls of men, and their immortal and everlasting condition, the Fall of man, etc.
(3) They are wonderful for their purity and perfection. The Decalogue in ten words compriseth the whole duty of man, and reacheth to the very soul, and all the motions of the heart.
(4) They are wonderful for the harmony and consent of all the parts. All religion is of a piece, and one part doth not interfere with another, but conspireth to promote the great end of subjection of the creature to God.
(5) They are wonderful for the power of them. There is a mighty power which goeth along with the Word of God, and astonisheth the hearts of those that consider it and feel it. Wonderful, as a term, does much more than express admiration and appreciation. It implies unusualness; the thing to which it is applied is other than we expected. And the otherwiseness suggests a higher and Divine source. The wonderful is the supernatural. - R.T.
he takes God in, and he therefore has not knowledge only, but knowledge and power. He knows what he ought to do; he feels what he wants to do; but beyond and above this, he realizes what he can do. God is no distant Being communicating a rule for his guidance. God is with him, and in him, prepared to order his footsteps, to help him in ordering his footsteps by the rule. - R.T.
I. THE VALUE OF FREEDOM DEPENDS ON THE USE WE MAKE OF IT. A child had better not be free, because he does not know what to do with freedom. He gradually gains the freedom as he gains the control of himself and the control of his circumstances. Some men never can be free. They are not masters of themselves enough to have so serious a trust. Freedom is a passionate desire of humanity everywhere, and in all its stages. It is God's gift to man, and his inalienable right. And yet with this passion for his own freedom there goes another passion to hold his brother in bonds. Man would use his freedom to take away his brother's; or to satisfy his lower animal nature. There is dignity and peril in mental freedom and in moral freedom. They depend on the use we make of the trust.
II. WE USE OUR FREEDOM ARIGHT ONLY WHEN WE PUT OURSELVES IN BONDS. The psalmist wants his liberty in order that he may keep God's precepts. Liberty for man is but license when it is simple freedom from restraint. It is a noble anti intelligent thing only when a man uses it to fix rules for himself, or to put himself into the Divine rule. Men think of freedom as getting rid of the restraints of righteousness, so that they may do what they like. But the true liberty, the only liberty a man can desire who looks aright on life, is getting rid of the restraints of evil, self will, and self-pleasing, so that he may be free to do what God likes. He wants liberty to be righteous. - R.T.
I. GOD'S SHINING FACE IS THE SIGN OF DIVINE FAVOR. The face of God is constantly referred to in the Old Testament. To turn the back on a person is to show one's self angry with him. To turn the face towards a person is to show one's self favorable to him. "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled;" "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us;" "No man hath seen God at any time." All man ever has had, or can have, is a spiritually realized presence. And if our spiritual senses are duly cultured, we do not need the help of bodily appearances. Soul-apprehensions become real and satisfying. And it comes to this with us - God gives us the inward feeling, the assurance of his Divine favor and acceptance, and we want to express what we feel, and plain prosaic language does not satisfy us, so we call it "the shining of his face upon us." But what must we be if God's face is to be ever shining on us?
II. GOD'S SHINING FACE IS THE INSPIRATION TO NOBLE ENDEAVOR. There may be some who can never do right and good things unless they are kept up to duty by threatening and the whip. But the better-natured men respond to approval and encouragement. Their inspiration is their master's smile. Kindly praise, the cheerful word, a loving approval, will draw out a man's best. The good man will do anything for him who treats him kindly and trustingly. Let God's shining face be on us, and it is our joy to do his will. - R.T.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS SORROW.
1. It is the sorrow of only good men. (Philippians 3:18, "Many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you," etc.) It can be felt only by those who have wept over sin in their own hearts. Three ways of feeling towards the sins of others by men of the world - apathy, pride, mockery.
2. It is an unselfish sorrow. Most of our griefs are personal and selfish. When they are so they often weaken and debase the mind. But this is a disinterested sorrow, akin to Christ's sorrow over Jerusalem; it comes from the noblest sympathies, and braces the mind for the highest exertion.
3. It is inexpressible sorrow.
II. THE REASON OF IT. The transgression of God's Law is a subject of grief under two aspects.
1. As that transgression has reference to God. Sins of the Church and the sins of the world.
2. As it has reference to man. A reasonable sorrow. This sorrow should lead to exertion. Sinners should weep for themselves. - S.
I. JEHOVAH IS RIGHTEOUS. (Ver. 137.) To receive, retain, and hand on this foundation-truth was Israel's great function. To no other nation had God so revealed himself. It was not merely the unity of God that Israel was commissioned to teach, but, what was yet more important, the righteousness of God. But no other nation knew either the one truth or the other. When we remember that men become like the gods they worship, it is evident that the truth of the righteousness of Jehovah cannot be over-estimated in its practical power. And today, amongst ourselves, it is the foundation and stability of all our national life. We cannot understand all we see, but we can and do believe in a righteous God.
II. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS EVERLASTING. (Ver. 142.) In days when the oppression of ungodly men was rampant and raging ruthlessly against the righteous, what could sustain their soul but this immovable conviction that the Lord's righteousness was everlasting? It might be for a while obscured, but it should surely shine out again ere long. Men die, but God liveth (Psalm 90:1).
III. HE HAS GIVEN TO US TESTIMONIES OF HIMSELF. (Ver. 138.) The Scriptures in a very real sense are God's Word. They contain, embody, and enshrine it for all generations. To assert that they are of purely human origin, as are the poems of Homer, the works of Shakespeare, or any other product of human genius, is to be insensible to their distinguishing characteristic as a revelation of God. The treasure is often in earthen vessels, but it is there all the same, and is ever to be distinguished from the vessel that contains it.
IV. THESE TESTIMONIES ARE THEMSELVES RIGHTEOUS. (Vers. 138, 140.) Compare them with any, even the purest of human laws, or philosophies, or sacred literatures, and let honest verdict be given: will not their righteousness shine out as the light? There are few who will now dispute this.
V. THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS, LIKE HIS WHO GAVE THEM, IS EVERLASTING. The lapse of ages, the increased light of science and experience, the testing to which they have been and yet are perpetually subjected, has not lessened, but rather heightened, the estimate of their righteousness (ver. 144).
VI. THE RESULTS OF THESE CONVICTIONS UPON THE BELIEVING SOUL.
1. Intense zeal. (Ver. 139.)
2. Ardent love. (Ver. 140.)
3. Affectionate retention of God's Word in the memory. (Ver. 141.)
4. Rejoicing in tribulation. (Ver. 143.)
5. Longing to understand more. (Ver. 144.) - S.C.
tz, and the key-word is "purity." The expression, "Righteous art thou, O Jehovah," we should express by saying, "Ideal, or standard, or absolute Righteousness art thou."
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS CONCEIVABLE. Man is able to create in his mind the idea of absolute right - the moral straight line. But this suggests a philosophical difficulty. Is that an innate idea, or is it dependent on acquired knowledge? Can man know right without knowing wrong? Can man conceive perfect right without a revealed standard? Man has the mental power of conceiving completion. No matter what he deals with, he can think of it in a perfect state. And this power can be applied to moral things; he can conceive complete rightness. But the fact must be noted, that man cannot think without using the materials provided by God's revelation in nature and in his own nature. Man knows nothing of himself, of the world, or of God, save through revelations made to him, which are the necessary materials of his thinking. God helps him to conceive righteousness.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS CONCEIVED AS PERSONAL. A philosopher may conceive such a perfection of morals as he can call "righteousness," but his conception is absolutely ineffective to him. It lies wholly outside the man himself. The idea must be associated with a person, and the person must be kin to the person having the idea, or it can be no power. Absolute perfection in morals, or righteousness, associated with a person kin with man, is God. "Righteous art thou, O Jehovah."
III. A RIGHTEOUS PERSON CAN BECOME THE SOUL'S REST. Because righteousness then ceases to be an abstract thing. It becomes relative. The person may have a personal interest in making us what he is. "The Eternal, who makes for righteousness." - R.T.
I. THE SELF-ESTIMATES OF THE WORLDLY MAN. Except with the hypocrisy of a Pecksniff, or a Uriah Heep, the worldly man never talks like our text. If he feels small, he never tells anybody what he feels. He makes the most of himself, and is only too ready to see a strength and goodness which are not really there. But it is, perhaps, truer to say that a Complete self-estimate a man never makes, because he does not take into consideration his moral and spiritual condition. And a man is, first of all, a moral being. And also because he has no adequate standard by which to judge himself. He can but make himself a law, judge himself by himself; and he cannot possibly reach any wise or worthy conclusions in that way. "Could an emmet pry into itself, it might marvel at its own anatomy. But let it look on eagles to discern how mean a thing it is" (Tapper).
II. THE SELF-ESTIMATES OF THE GODLY MAN. There is always grave danger of his erring on the side of undue depreciation. The good man is usually half afraid of his goodness. His religious life begins with a deep sense of sin and helplessness. He regards himself as a monument of grace. He wants to keep up absolute dependence on God, and so he is gravely afraid of every form of self-confidence. He dare not "think of himself more highly than he ought to think," and so his thinking is incomplete, exaggerated on one side. And there is a further danger associated with particular sections of religious professions. It is assumed that God is honored and pleased by man's self-abasement, and even self-debasement; and men think it is pious to "write bitter things against themselves." But God always wants truth and sincerity. And it is neither truth nor sincerity to say that we are "small, and of no reputation," when, in fact, we are not. - R.T.
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness. The psalmist uses the word "everlasting" in a figurative way. He would never take the trouble to say so small, and indeed so unnecessary, a thing as that God's righteousness would last forever. That is a truism. All righteousness, God's and man's, lasts forever: it can do nothing else. There are no forces that can stop it or kill it. Goodness is in its very nature eternal. And everlastingness is but one Of the qualities or attributes of righteousness; but in view of the limitations of human language, it may be used to represent all the qualities of it; or, as we have expressed it, everlasting righteousness may stand for complete, all-round righteousness.
I. ALL-ROUND RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. This is true not only of that abstract idea of righteousness which we connect with God, but also of that practical idea of righteousness which concerns his relations with men and dealings with them. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Find God where you may, he is always doing right. You never take him at unawares; you never find him below himself. His righteousness is an always righteousness, and "always" includes "everlasting," but suggests much more than "everlasting." We think of man as a dual being, having an internal life of thought and feeling, and an external life of action and relation. As man is made in the image of God, we may think of God's righteousness as including himself and his doings. There is no kind of falling harmony, but righteousness all round and quite through. A righteousness that never fails.
II. ALL-ROUND RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TO BE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN. Can man be satisfied with the assurance that the righteousness he may gain will last forever? Must he not say, "I am: quite willing to leave that, if I can only be assured of the quality of the righteousness'? The man who wants a present righteousness, and must have an all-round one, alone gains what is worthy to receive the everlasting stamp. All-round righteousness is the sublimest conception a man may form. It includes right thinking, right willing, right feeling, right acting. Righteousness within. Right relations. And a bloom on all - the Christly bloom - wonderful and beautiful as that which lies on autumn fruits. - R.T.
I. ITS EARNESTNESS. It was "with the whole heart" (ver. 145). The very word "cry," repeated in this section so often, is full of suggestion as to what kind of seeking God this is. It denotes not only earnestness, but also sense of helplessness: if a man could do anything he would not "cry." It indicates, too, humility, simplicity, trust. It is the kind of prayer that has prevailing power
II. ITS PETITION. "Save me" (ver. 146). We know not what the nature of the peril was in which he then was, but it was evidently very great. This petition, though very concise, is very complete and direct and definite. We have many such prayers recorded. Blessed is it when the soul seeks to be saved - seeks with a cry like this told of here! If we knew our need of salvation, there would be more such crying unto the Lord.
III. ITS SEASONS OF UTTERANCE. (Vers. 147, 148.) Very untimely they seem. Sleep, surely, should have claimed such seasons. Very early in the morning, in the dim twilight, and through the silent watches of the night. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence," etc. (Matthew 11:12). Here was one of these violent ones. Blessed is the soul that is stirred to such intensity of earnest seeking as this man was!
IV. ITS TRUSTED PLEA. "Thy loving-kindness." (Ver. 149.) As suppliants for mercy, not as demanders of right due to us, must we come to God. As the publican, not the Pharisee.
V. ITS PROMPTING MOTIVE. (Ver. 150.) The drawing nigh of ungodly men. When we are going into the company of such, as we often have to do, we should specially seek for grace to be faithful and true. Here is a fit preparation for such a peril.
VI. ITS ENCOURAGEMENT. (Ver. 151.) True, they that follow after mischief are drawing nigh, but then, thou, Lord, art nigh likewise. Blessed recollection is this. It has helped God's people many a time, and ever will.
VII. ITS UNDERLYING CONVICTION AND SUPPORT. (Ver. 152.) He who possesses this will go to God, not as one who thinks his prayer may possibly do some good, there is just a chance - what a vast deal of prayer is of this sad sort! - but as one who knows that he cannot seek the Lord in vain.
VIII. ITS SUPREME AND CONSTANT AIM-HOLINESS OF HEART AND LIFE. See in every verse of the section how this aim is directly or indirectly avowed. To be right with God was his abiding desire. - S.C.
I. TRUST DRAWS OUT THE REST OF EVERY MAN. It is perhaps the mightiest of all moral forces. The parent gets the best out of the child by trusting him; and the child gets the best out of the parents by trusting them. In common business relations, the keen man, who trusts nobody, is badly served; the man who trusts his fellows is indeed occasionally deceived, but usually he gets the best attention, the best goods, and the best services. The master who trusts his servants and employees puts them on their mettle, and secures their best of energy and devotion. Show little or no confidence in your fellow-men, and all you can get from them is drudgery. It is often noticed how positions of trust rapidly develop a man's powers. It would be a world full of poor characters but for the ennobling power of mutual trust. Society is built on mutual trust.
II. TRUST DRAWS THE MOST GRACIOUS RESPONSES FROM GOD. "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him."
1. God is to be thought of as a Father, and his relations with us understood through our paternity; and we have suggested what wonders child-trust works in family life.
2. God is to be thought of as a Master; and we have seen what response the workman makes to the trust of the master, and the master to the trust of the workman.
3. God is to be thought of as a King; and we know how he is moved when any one relies upon his gracious Word. It is but using imperfect human language, based on human analogies, if we say, "Would we take God at his best?" Then we must trust him fully, absolutely rely on him, take him at his word, commit ourselves to him. This is our all-prevailing plea, "I have hoped in thy Word." - R.T.
I. MEDITATION HELPS US BY MAKING US KNOW' MORE. Illustrate by the difference between the tourist who rushes through delightful scenery, getting no more than general impressions, and the tourist who tarries awhile in one place, finding out ever-fresh charms, and seeing everything beautiful in new moods and settings. The man who only read God's Word may know much, but the man who quietly meditates therein knows more.
II. MEDITATION HELPS US BY MAKING US KNOW BETTER. Illustrate by the stereo-scope. Just look into it, and you can see nothing unusual. Look fixedly, quietly, and everything in the picture seems to get place and relation. You realize vistas and distances, and the full charm is revealed. The Word of God has but little to give in response to a mere look; all its best things come to view when the soul is quiet enough to fix its gaze, and look long and lovingly. - R.T.
as thou art wont;" but this is given also in the Prayer-book Version, and for Per. 156. The point suggested is, that when a soul has received spiritual blessing from God, it can never be satisfied unless that blessing is renewed. Or, to put it in another way, the good man can heartily rejoice in the gracious past, but he cannot be satisfied with what has been, or with what he has had - he always wants the past to become the present.
I. A MAN MAY SAVE SINGLE BLESSINGS FROM GOD. We are accustomed to think of "quickening" as a single Divine act, and to say, "Ye must be born from above." And if by quickening we mean the imparting of new life, that must be a single blessing. But a life existing may need quickening; and in that sense the blessing may be renewed. Life is full of single blessings from God, and these may unduly occupy our attention. They really are the only indications of the blessings that attend us every day in life. They are like the miracles of Jesus, which do but show what the Father God is doing for us, in healing and providing, every day.
II. A MAN MAY HAVE CONTINUOUS BLESSINGS FROM GOD. If we may use language that properly applies only to man, we may say that God gets into the habit of blessing us with his daily quickenings. He blesses us as he is wont to do. There is a ground of confidence in this. God in the soul's life is like God in nature. He is in such a way of making his sun rise day by day, that we have come to depend on it. But there is a side of peril in this for us. God's regularity in blessing makes us either set up a claim, or miss the recognition of God's hand. He has sometimes to break the continuity in order to arouse our attention.
III. A MAN MAY HAVE PRESENT BLESSINGS FROM GOD. That is, blessings recognized as present; the soul awake to observe that they are present, and so responding aright to them. When the soul wants more it is prepared to recognize God's quickening grace actually with it to-day. What God has done, and what God usually does, are not enough. The soul cannot rest unless it knows and feels what God is doing. - R.T.
I. AFFLICTION WAS ABUNDANTLY PRESENT. (Vers. 153,154, 157.) He prays God to consider it, to deliver him from it, and he tells how that it was caused by many persecutors and enemies. Hence, here as throughout the psalm we have presented to us the case of a man much troubled, but also much helped of God by means of his Word; and who can over-estimate the worth of this portraiture to the troubled children of God, who have needed his comfort in all the ages of the Church's history (2 Corinthians 1:4)?
II. THE RESORT OF THE AFFLICTED SOUL WAS TO GOD. He prays God to "consider," etc., that is, as of old he considered the affliction of Israel when in Egypt, and in many like distresses since, for such considering ever led to his delivering them. The psalmist trusts to no stratagem, or clever policy, or armed force for his help, but to God alone.
III. THAT WHICH HE ESPECIALLY DESIRED OF GOD WAS HIS QUICKENING GRACE. "Quicken me" is the repeated prayer of this section, as indeed of the whole psalm, where it occurs nine times, three of which are in these verses before us (vers. 154, 156, 159).
1. It does not imply that there was no spiritual life. He was not dead in trespasses and sins, so that he needed to be quickened from that; unconverted, unregenerate men do need this, but the psalmist was not such as they. For he possessed a true and deep spiritual life, as all this psalm testifies (see here, vers. 153, 157-159).
2. But what he craved was a renewed and intensified life. More, far more of what he had already - that "more abundant life." which our Lord said he came to give: ha would be "filled with the Spirit."
IV. THIS DESIRE MOST REASONABLE. For if it were granted:
1. He would be strong for his burden. It would not matter how heavy that burden, if he had - as he would have if this quickened life were given him - the strength to sustain it.
2. He would be able to rise above his affliction. His soul would mount up on wings as eagles, he would be able to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint. This is one of the choice present privileges of the soul that is filled with the Spirit of God. Often and often has it been proved (cf. Romans 8., at end).
3. He would be able to enjoy God in the midst of it. Many such a one as himself had done so. God and his Word had never been so precious, nor so clearly seen and understood.
4. He would be able to comfort others as he could not have done before. Then his words would come with power, for he himself would know not merely what deep affliction was, but how God can sustain the soul beneath it all.
5. This very affliction would prove a means of heavenward ascent - a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, up which his soul would surely mount.
6. And God would be glorified. His persecutors would see how God-sustained he was, and they would be compelled to confess the mighty power of God. How reasonable, therefore, was and ever is this prayer! Let it be our own. - S.C.
intervention when what they really need is Divine help; not that God should do for them, but should enable them to do. Apply this to the deliverance of the soul from sin. Here man is helpless. "God must save, and God alone." But usually the saved man must unite his labor and his dependence on God in every endeavor to live out the godly life. Only very occasionally has he to put down his tools and absolutely wait while God works for him. Bunyan's pilgrim only once in his journey had to put down his weapons, and betake himself to "All-Prayer." It is weak sectarian feeling that exaggerates self-helplessness, and thinks thus to honor God. Here the psalmist shows his anxiety by two petitions.
I. "CONSIDER MY AFFLICTION." He wants God to consider it, estimate it, see what it really is, involves, and needs, because he feels how easily he might misapprehend it. It might not really be as serious as he thought it was. He might so easily read it through his feeling rather than through his judgment. So he wants God to take it into his consideration, and so find out what could best be done with it. Was not this what St. Paul wanted when he prayed about his "thorn"?
II. "DELIVER ME." If God would give the matter consideration, he felt sure he would invent the wisest way of deliverance. He would be well content whichever way of deliverance God thought to be best. "Help me to do it, Lord, or do it altogether thyself." - R.T.
(1) such a salvation would do the wicked man no good; and
(2) because when God saves a man, what he saves is his bad will. Therefore the absolute first condition of salvation must necessarily be "repentance." And this truth has its further application in the life of the saved man, who is ever needing God's further salvations. He cannot have them if he is self-willed and rebellious. They can only come as he keeps the spirit of sonship, and is "obediently disposed."
I. SALVATION IS FAR FROM THE WILFUL. It is, and it must necessarily be. Illustrate by the paper which is to receive the photographic picture - it must be in a prepared state. The willful man does not want the salvation. He has no intention of responding to it. God's salvation is always a work in the man himself, not in his circumstances. The father, in the parable of the prodigal son, could do nothing for his boy so long as he kept in his willful mind. Hope for him dawned when "he came to himself." So penitence is the door of salvation. No man can ever have God's soul-salvation until he feels that he both needs it and wants it. There can be no waste in God's spiritual dealings; and it would be waste to give salvation to a man who did not care for the gift, and would make no return for it.
II. SALVATION IS NEAR TO THE WILLING AND OBEDIENT. These represent the attitude and mood of mind with which God can work. Let a man want to obey, God will help him to obey. Let a man want to get free from sin, and God will deliver and save him from sin. Let a man be in any kind of disability and distress, if he be a son of God, and cherishing the spirit of sonship, he may be sure of the Father's deliverance. So the preservation of right attitudes and moods of soul bears direct relation to the workings of the Divine Deliverer in our lives. - R.T.
I. PATRIOTISM MAY INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. There is a sentiment which possesses the soldiers of an army, which we call "patriotism," though it but poorly represents that term, and which makes the soldier a model of strict, exact, unquestioning, but, to a great extent, unintelligent, obedience. There are answering sentiments, in the religious sphere, which have similar and no higher powers of inspiring obedience. They carry us over into obedience as a big wave carries a boat over the bar.
II. FEAR MAY INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. Of this principle animals are, for the most part, trained to obey. And fear is effective on men just in the measure in which the animal in them is trained and the spiritual undeveloped. Fear has its moral influence - at least in its coarser forms - on those who occupy low and servile positions in society. Culture a man, and one thing you do is deliver him from fear.
III. DUTY MAY INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. Relationship involves duty; and obligation creates duty. And man is a higher being as the sense of duty grows in him. But a certain hardness, self-restraint, characterizes all obedience that is inspired only by duty. The man does what he must.
IV. LOVE MAY INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. Then the man is in the obedience. His feeling runs with it as well as his will. The whole man is borne into the service. There are no resistances to occasion distress. In obeying the man has the joy of doing just what he wishes to do. - R.T.
I. BY IT HE HAD BEEN DELIVERED FROM THE FEAR OF MAN. (Ver. 161.) Princes, with "the awe and majesty of kings," had persecuted him, innocent though he was; but instead of being abashed and afraid, the greater holier fear, the awe of God's Word, came to his help and drove out all other fear. It is ever so; but only by the fear of God is it so.
II. HIS JOY IN IT WAS THAT OF ONE WHO FINDETH GREAT SPOIL. Sometimes spoil is found unexpectedly, as by the lepers in the Syrian camp (2 Kings 7.); or as by the man who found the treasure hid in the field (Matthew 13.). But the finding here spoken of seems to be that of the warrior who, after stern struggle and the hard conflict of battle, has at length conquered, and is rewarded by the great spoil which he now takes possession of. And it is in such way that the great spoils of the Scriptures are won. Doubt, indolence, distraction, love of sin, the world's clamor, and much beside, have to be met and overcome by faith and earnestness, toil of brain and heart, and by persevering prayer. To those who will thus strive, the Scriptures will open up to them its reachest treasure, and they shall rejoice therein, as is here said.
III. IMPARTS A HOLY AND DEEP DETESTATION OF ALL DECEIT. (Ver. 163.) He who loves God's Law must hate and abhor lying. As the one comes in, the other goes out, and vice versa. And what a blessing this holy hatred of lying is! All society and commerce of man must be based on truth and honesty. Lying is destructive of all good both in the liar and those lied to; but truth, the sure product of the love of God's Law, is for the blessing of us all.
IV. ITS PRAISE IS NEVER WEARISOME TO HIM. (Ver. 164.) He means that he is always, on all possible occasions, to praise God because of his Word, so great is his delight in it. And the reason is not far to seek. The sense of God's loving-kindness is the highest and purest joy of the soul (Psalm 63:3). But that is given only to the pure in heart and life. This purity, however, is the product of the Law of God loved and obeyed, and of this only. What wonder, then, that the instrument of such blessedness should be prized by him so highly?
V. IMPARTS A PEACE WHICH NOTHING CAN DESTROY. (Ver. 165.) For such peace has its anchor in God, and that anchor holds. Experience has proved this perpetually.
VI. SUSTAINS GOOD HOPE OF SALVATION. (Ver. 166; cf. Genesis 49:18.) The commandments of God obeyed create sunshine in the soul, part of which is this hope of salvation. The unfaithful and disobedient have it not.
VII. THE MORE IT IS KEPT THE MORE IT IS LOVED. (Ver. 167.) When not alone, there is external obedience; but that which is inward, of the soul, the love which led to this obedience, now becomes exceeding great. But all such keeping of God's Word is owing to his having set the Lord always before him (ver. 168; cf. Psalm 16:8). - S.C.
I. THE JOY OF FINDING THIS WORLD'S TREASURE. This is indicated in our Lord's parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." Worldly treasure is gained in two ways - by the persistent labor of a life, and by the accident of fortuitous circumstances. But the joy is chiefly felt when the treasure is found, lighted on, unexpectedly gained; as when success suddenly attends a business venture, a vein of precious metal or a spring of mineral oil is struck, or a fortune is left us. Then it is thought that we are to be specially congratulated, and we heartily congratulate ourselves. A higher joy ought to be found in getting treasure as the result of a lifelong labor; but then the capacity for enjoyment too often wears out with the labor. Treasure accidentally gained too often demoralizes. Treasure gained by force of will too often becomes temptation and a snare. Treasure gained worthily fails to satisfy the soul.
II. THE JOY OF FINDING THE TREASURE OF GOD'S WORD. Did we but think rightly, and get free from the enslaving power of the physical and the temporal, we should see that the treasures of character, of the interior life, of the soul, which is the self, are the treasures which should bring real joy to us. And the truths, counsels, promises, of God's Word are the treasures that enrich the soul, that alone satisfy, alone meet the needs of the man, who is essentially a spiritual being, and alone bear relation to that continuity of life which is man's prerogative. - R.T.
I. FALSEHOOD IN RELIGION REGARDED AS SELF-SERVING. It is necessary to keep in mind that to the Israelite the very essence of falsehood was idolatry. Represent the unseen, spiritual Jehovah by any earthly form or figure, and to him the representation was a lie. No form or figure could represent all God, or anything about God perfectly. But it was falsehood in another way, for it did but hide the fact that the man who made the image was really worshipping himself, his own idea, and that was acting a lie. In whatever way man constructs his own religion, and creates his own deity, in thought and imagination he is not only false to revelation, but he is false to himself; for he deceives himself with the idea that he is worshipping God, when all the while he is only projecting himself outside himself, in order to worship himself. Both formal and mental idolatry are phases of idol-worship; and in them both man is false to himself and false to God.
II. FALSEHOOD IN RELIGION REGARDED AS TIME-SERVING. The stronger man thinks for himself, and makes his own religion; the weaker man simply is carried along the current of his age, and does as his generation does. But he is false to the responsibility under which his manhood lies, lee he is bound to decide for himself whom or what he will serve. In the way of agreeing with what exists around him, common opinion and common worship, with the ease and comfort of life. Resisting the age for the sake of truth means disability. So the man is willing to be false. And timeserving in religion is really the same thing as worshipping self. However it is done, it is always being false to God to say we are worshipping him when we, in fact, only bow in the temple of self. - R.T.
I. GOD'S WORD STEADIES BY BRACING US UP. This may be illustrated by the careers of two youths, who leave their country homes for business city life, and the peril of city snares and town traps." The one is braced up with good principles, and is able to resist temptation, and to throw off morally infecting disease. The principles of the other hang all lax and loose about him; and he has no ready resisting force when the enemy "comes in like a flood." Just what familiarity with God's Word. does is brace up our principles, brace up our moral nature, hold. us together; nourish the vitality in every part of us, so that we are kept in health and energy. Mind braced up with knowledge; heart braced up with right feeling; will braced up with motive. "Let your loins be girded about"
II. GOD'S WORD STEADIES BY GIVING US SOMETHING SURE TO LEAN UPON. Illustrate by the ship-captain who can always fortify his own judgment by appealing to his chart. It is of the utmost importance that we should preserve our sense of the authority of God's Word, as an absolute and final appeal; a trusty staff on which we may lean. This form of the steadying power of God's Word was effectively illustrated in the time of our Lord's temptation. - R.T.
I. WHENCE IT SPRINGS.
1. From the effect on the mind of his afflictions. If we would have the grace of humility, we must be content to be humbled; and so precious is this grace in God's sight, that he sends affliction for this very end.
2. From his advance in the knowledge of God. No human soul can thus perseveringly seek God without coming into very close contact and converse with him; but the result of that is ever the prostration of the soul in adoring humility (cf. Isaiah 6.; Luke 5:8; Revelation 1.). The vision of God's infinite holiness and glory bows down the soul of the beholder. But such vision had often been before the mind of the psalmist - seems to have been especially so here, when drawing to the close of this psalm.
3. From the longing after God's salvation. Earnest desire is ever lowly.
II. HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS!
1. Because it is just and becoming to man in relation to God. It is what it should be. The opposite of it is revolting to the mind.
2. Because we are made instinctively to admire it.
III. AND HOW DESIRABLE!
1. It has ever been a distinguishing mark of God's saints.
2. It is well pleasing to God. He delights in it; will dwell with him in whom it is.
3. It is such sure safeguard for all other virtues of holy character. - S.C.
I. JOY FINDS EXPRESSION IS PRAISE. "IS any merry, let him sing psalms." There are natural expressions, by the body and the bodily faculties, of all the various emotions. Let a man be unsophisticated, and free from external restraints, and his body will respond to his moods. He will tear things if he is vexed. He will drop his head if he is convicted of doing wrong. He will flush if lie is taken by surprise; and so on. If a man is glad, he wants to sing. Send a party of young people out for a day of pleasure, and they must sing. The genuine religious man, who finds joy in God anti in God's Word, must praise; he cannot help it. He must become ungenuine in order to keep praise in. Our public services have so much of the element of praise, because it is expected that God's people will ever be full of the "joy of the Lord."
II. PRAISE FINDS RENEWAL FOR THE JOY. Many things live and grow through expression, and soul-joy in God is one of them. Silence joy, and it will fade and die down. Let it speak, let it sing, and it will ever grow louder, stronger, worthier. We shall love to sing, delight in singing, and so the joy of our hearts will grow stronger and stronger. Praise has its aspect as a duty we owe to God. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me." But we need not miss seeing how much it does for us, in the renewing of our soul's joy in God. - R.T.
helplessness rather than of sin. For in this entire psalm we have no confession of sin, no prayer for its forgiveness, though there be not a few for more of purity and knowledge of God. The prayer of the whole psalm is not that of a penitent returning to God from the paths of sin, but of one who has long known God, but yearns for yet deeper knowledge. We have many declarations of the psalmist's distress, and of the persecution under which he suffers, and of the extremities to which he has been reduced; and we have protestations many of desire after God, of cleaving to God, of delight in God; but have no confession of sin. This is very noteworthy. Not a few godly men deem it right, whenever they approach God, to make confession of sin and to bewail their wickedness. But there is none of this here in this protracted outpouring of the thoughts and desires of the great saint who wrote this psalm. Before he was afflicted he tells us that he had gone astray (ver. 67); "but now," etc. And the whole tone of the psalm is of one who had done with going astray, and was now faithfully walking in the ways of God. In this very verse he declares, "I do net forget thy commandments." If he had been conscious of sin, he would surely have confessed it ere he came to this last stanza of the psalm. It seems, therefore, impossible to put upon the expression here the meaning of ver. 67, or that of the Lord's parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. But the idea of weakness, defenselessness, helplessness, is meant (cf. Jeremiah 1:6; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 10:16). And so the psalmist protests that he is lost, as a stray sheep would be, unless the shepherd goes and seeks for him. There is no Pharisaism in all this, no coming under the condemnation of 1 John 1:8, 10; but there is, what there ought to be far more of, a simple taking the Lord at his word. He had been sinful (ver. 67), but he had been led to repentance and faith; and now he believed that, according to God's Word, he was forgiven, even as he knew he was an altered man. God had pardoned him and renewed him. Why, then, should he think or speak of himself as if neither of these blessed facts was true? And for ourselves, if the blood of Jesus Christ is keeping me cleansed from all sin - and if I am sincere and walking in the light, I am so cleansed, not once for all, but hour by hour. Then, if I assert this, and confess it, I am not, any more than the psalmist, condemned as a serf-deceiver, and without the truth, because of such confession. And this psalm is a perpetual and precious protestation and assertion of deliverance from sin. This last verse, then, tells of his sad circumstances, and not of sinful character. But it implies these three facts -
I. MAN'S HELPLESSNESS. We cannot make one hair white or Mack (Matthew 5:36). "We are crushed before the moth."
II. GOD'S LOVING, SHEPHERD-LIKE CARE OF US. He will be sure to come after us when in peril, and see that we come to no real harm. "I am the good Shepherd."
III. THE INWARD GUARANTEE AND PLEDGE THAT GOD WILL DO THIS FOR US. I do not forget thy commandments. God has begun a good work in us, or this would not be true. Therefore, etc. (Philippians 1:6) -
"His honor is engaged to save
I. SINS, AS ABERRATIONS OF SELF-WILL, DO NOT DISTRESS THE SINCERE MAN. "He cannot sin, because he is born of God." The sincere man of the Old Testament is represented by the new man, the man born of God, the man in whom is the Divine life, of the New Testament. Let that man genuinely express his life, and he will not commit sin. Sin is the act and purpose or' a man's will; but his will is regenerate, and set on conformity to the will of God. The good man is "clean every whit;" he does not sin with his will.
II. FRAILTIES, AS ABERRATIONS DUE TO INFIRMITY, DO DISTRESS THE SINCERE MAN. He knows how he needs to "wash his feet." He cannot help getting them soiled. The man with the renewed will has to make that will work through a biased, enfeebled, physically weak body; and by that body he finds himself led into mistakes, infirmities, negligences, and even into things that look like wilfulness's. This is the sense in which a sincere man may mourn over himself as "prone to go astray." - R.T.