The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before hill eyes.I. THE CHARACTER OF THE WICKED (Vers. 1-4). Depravity is the sinner's oracle. Its impulses come to him like those responses from superhuman sources which command the reverence and obedience of mankind. He yields to the seductive influence, and presses forward in the delusion that he will Hover be found out. And so, the fear of punishment being dispelled, he becomes thoroughly bad in heart, speech, and behaviour.
II. THE DIVINE EXCELLENCE (vers. 5-9). The psalmist begins with Jehovah's loving-kindness and His faithfulness, His fulfilment of promises, even to the undeserving. These fill the earth and reach up to heaven. They transcend all human thought and desire (Ephesians 3:18). Jehovah's righteousness. His rectitude in general is compared to the mountains of God, mountains which, being produced by Almighty power, are a natural emblem of immensity. Judgments, on the other hand — that is, particular acts of righteousness — are likened to the great deep in its vastness and mystery. "How unsearchable are His judgments!" (Romans 11:33). The next clause shows one of the most touching characteristics of Hebrew poetry in the instantaneous transition from the consideration of God's unapproachable excellence to that of His providential care, which extends to every living thing, rational or irrational (Psalm 104; Psalm 145:13-16). The thought of these things makes the singer burst forth in devout rapture: "How precious is Thy loving-kindness!" It is valuable beyond all treasures, since it affords such a sure and ample protection for all who take refuge beneath Jehovah's outstretched wings (Ruth 2:12). God is represented as a gracious Host who provides for all who come to His house and His table (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 34:9). They are sated with the richest food, and drink of the stream of God's pleasures or "Edens" (Genesis 2:10). To believers, if they enjoy God's presence and favour, a crust of bread and a glass of water are incomparably better than a royal banquet without such enjoyment. For with Him is the fountain of all life, animal and spiritual. What matters it that all the streams are cut off when one stands near the fountain-head, and has direct access to it? But just as God is the fountain of life, so is He also the fountain of light (Daniel 2:22), and apart from Him all is darkness. The believing soul lives in an element of light which at once quickens and satisfies the spiritual faculty, by which heaven and heavenly things are apprehended.
III. THE CONCLUDING PRAYER (vers. 10-12). To his glowing description of the blessedness resident in God and flowing forth to the objects of His favour, the psalmist appends a prayer that it may be extended or prolonged to the class to which he claims to belong. This class is described, first, as those who know God, "and, as a necessary consequence, love Him, since genuine knowledge of the true God is inseparable from right affections toward Him;" secondly, as the upright, not merely in appearance or outward demeanour, but in heart. Great as God's loving-kindness is, it is not indiscriminate, nor lavished upon those who neither appreciate nor desire it. The last verse is a mighty triumph of faith. It is as if David said, "There! they have fallen already." The wicked may be swollen with insolence, and the world applaud them, but he descries their destruction from afar as if from a watch-tower, and pronounces it as confidently as if it were an accomplished fact. The defeat is final and irretrievable. "What is the carpenter's son doing now?" was the scoffing question of a heathen in the days of Julian, when the apostate emperor was off upon an expedition which seemed likely to end in triumph. "He is making a coffin for the emperor," was the calm reply. Faith that is anchored upon the perfections of the Most High cannot waver, cannot be disappointed.
(T. W. Chambers, D. D.)
(J. H. Jowett, M.A.)
HomilistI. THE CHARACTER OF THE WICKED.
1. Practical atheism.
3. Perverse speech.
4. Mischievous devices.
II. THE GLORY OF GOD. Here the Eternal is adored —
1. For what He is in Himself.
(1) (2) 2. For what He is to His creatures. (1) (2) (3) III. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD. 1. The subject of the prayer. (1) (2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
(2) 2. For what He is to His creatures. (1) (2) (3) III. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD. 1. The subject of the prayer. (1) (2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
2. For what He is to His creatures.
(1) (2) (3) III. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD. 1. The subject of the prayer. (1) (2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
III. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD. 1. The subject of the prayer. (1) (2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
III. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD.
1. The subject of the prayer.
(1) (2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
(2) 2. The answer (ver. 12). (Homilist)
2. The answer (ver. 12).
(Hugh M'Neils, M. A.)
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity he found to he hateful.
I. A STUDIED INFIDELITY, AND AN AFFECTED ENDEAVOUR TO DESPISE THE EVIDENCE ON WHICH THE BELIEF OF THE GREAT AND FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF RELIGION STANDS; such as the existence and perfections of Almighty God, His moral government of this world, and a future judgment.
1. It is the height of folly, either to reject these doctrines of religion, or to treat them with contempt, until we can say we have examined the evidence on which they have been received, with the utmost exactness and candour in our power.
2. Without determining the degree of evidence, which is offered in support of the doctrines of religion, we may venture, nevertheless, to affirm, with strong assurance, that it is at least equal to the evidence upon which men constantly proceed, without the smallest hesitation, in all their other interests.
II. A FOND IMAGINATION OF THEIR OWN INNOCENCE, EVEN IN THE COURSE OF AN IRREGULAR AND SINFUL LIFE. They artfully persuade themselves that there cannot be such malignity or guilt in what they do as that it should expose them to the displeasure of their Maker, or draw after it any great or lasting punishment: they presume, therefore, God will overlook the irregularities and errors of their lives, or find out some merciful expedient whereby they may escape with safety and success.
1. Notwithstanding the ignorance and corruption of our present state, so much of our original rectitude remains, that without any laboured cultivation, the consciences of men do still perceive a very odious deformity in some instances of wickedness; and lead, not only to a strong indignation against the criminal, but to a strong persuasion that Providence will some time or other interpose, and exert its justice, in his punishment.
2. The marks which God has already given, in the administration of His providence, of His displeasure with the sins of men. What extreme distress have some brought upon themselves by their intemperance; some by their dishonesty, and others by their immoderate ambition. It adds greatly to the weight of this consideration, that these expressions of Divine displeasure are made against such iniquities as are usually disguised in the thoughts of men, under the appearance of innocence, or weakness; as being only a compliance with the appetites implanted in our nature, and with the custom of the world, in which a man has no deliberate impiety and malice in his heart, no intention either to affront his Maker, or to hurt his fellow-men.
III. A GROUNDLESS AND PRESUMPTUOUS DEPENDENCE ON THE MERCY OF ALMIGHTY GOD.
1. Although the mercy of Almighty God be infinite, as all His other perfections are, yet it can extend only to those persons who are the proper objects of compassion, and to those cases to which it would be worthy of Him to extend mercy.
2. Let it be observed, that abstracting from the displeasure of Almighty God, and supposing that there was to be no positive exertion of His justice in the case, yet the future punishment of sinners will very probably proceed from the nature and influence of wickedness itself (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 1:31; Isaiah 3:10).
IV. THE SINNER'S HOPING, AT THE END OF A GUILTY LIFE, TO BE SAVED, BY THE MERIT OF THE SON OF GOD, AND THE VIRTUE OF THAT GREAT ATONEMENT WHICH HE MADE FOR THE SINS OF MEN. If the sinner is not able to convince himself that the mercy of his Maker is sufficient, by itself, to ensure his future safety, he trusts, at least, to the all-sufficient sacrifice and merit of his well-beloved Son. But, according to Scripture, they only can be saved by the sacrifice and intercession of the Son of God, who are persuaded by Him to repent of their iniquities, to believe and obey the Gospel (Acts 5:31; Acts 3:19; Hebrews 5:9; Romans 2:6). Were the matter otherwise, were sinners, continuing in their wickedness, permitted to expect salvation through the merits of our Saviour, Jesus would become the minister of sin, an establisher rather than a destroyer of the works of Satan; than which, a more blasphemous reproach could not be thrown upon His character.
V. A PRECIPITANT CONTEMPT OF RELIGION, ON ACCOUNT OF THE WEAK AND WRONG REPRESENTATIONS WHICH HAVE BEEN MADE OF IT BY SOME OF ITS MISTAKEN FRIENDS. This instance of deceit unhappily prevails, even among those who pretend to superior discernment. But the weakness of it may appear upon a very small attention. Does a wise man conduct himself in this manner in any corer action of his life? Does he despise the truth and usefulness of real science, because of the impertinence and pedantry of mere pretenders to it? Does he despise the useful schemes of commerce, accompanied with the solidest effects, because of the chimerical and idle schemes of mere projectors.
VI. THEIR HOPING AND RESOLVING TO REPENT, AND TURN TO GOD, AT SOME FUTURE AND MORE CONVENIENT OPPORTUNITY; at the farthest, in the last period of their lives, or at the approach of death. It is not proposed, at present, to show the extreme absurdity and folly of this conduct, by arguments drawn from the shortness and uncertainty of human life; the hardening influence of a sinful course, which gradually destroys the sensibility of the human conscience. I would only desire ,your attention to the prodigious presumption of the sinner who defers his repentance and return to God to the last period of his life, hoping then to obtain forgiveness from God by his penitence and prayers. What the Creator can do, or what He may have done, independent of the established laws of providence, no man reckons it of importance to inquire; and any person would be deemed a madman or a fool, who directed the measures of his conduct by a regard to such unusual departures from these laws, as the history of the world may possibly furnish some few examples of. That man seems equally foolish and absurd who seeks admission to eternal life otherwise than according to the measures of His mercy, declared and established by the Gospel.
(W. Craig, D.D.)
I. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.
1. That all the proofs of the deceitfulness of the heart, which we mean to offer with regard to sin, may not be found in every person, especially in those who are under its power.
2. Many of those things, which are evidences of the deceitfulness of the heart, may be used as temptations by Satan. The wind of Satan's temptation commonly blows along with the tide of corruption within, whether by deceit, or by violence. Were not this the case, Satan would be divided against himself, and opposing the interests of his own kingdom.
II. How THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE HEART APPEARS.
1. In raising doubts in the mind, with respect to what One is inclined to, whether it really be sin.
2. In trying to persuade him that it is a little sin. If the understanding will not be betrayed into a belief that the matter proposed is no sin at all, the heart will strenuously plead that it scarcely deserves the name.
3. By representing the mortification of sin as affording far less pleasure than the gratification of it. Nay, it will presume to urge, not only the difficulty, but the unreasonableness, the cruelty of attempting totally to subdue sin.
4. Sin is exhibited as far more pleasant than it is really found in the commission. The enjoyments of sin are like the apples of Sodom, which, how fair soever they appear to the eye, when grasped by the hand are said to fall to ashes (Proverbs 22:8; Romans 6:21).
5. It represents a renewed opportunity of sin, as promising far greater satisfaction than was ever found before.
6. It pleads that one may indulge sin a little, without altogether yielding to the sin particularly in view.
7. It throws a veil of forgetfulness over the whole soul, with respect to all the painful consequences of sin, formerly felt. That loathsomeness of sin, hatred of self on account of it, or fear of Wrath, which the person experienced after a former indulgence, are entirely vanished; and he now appears to himself as one who feared where no fear was.
8. It entices the imagination into its service. This is not only Satan's workhouse in the soul; but it may be viewed as a purveyor, which the heart engages in making provision for its lusts.
9. It engages the senses on its side. These are volunteers to the corrupt heart, which it arms in its service, and by which it accomplishes its wicked purposes, when enticing to outward acts of sin. For the voice. of the senses will always overpower that of the understanding; if they be not brought into subjection, or presently restrained by grace.
10. In representing sin as properly one's own, as something belonging to one's self.
11. By insinuating that committing such a sin once more cannot greatly increase our guilt.
12. By urging the vanity of attempting to resist the temptation. It will plead for yielding to the present assault, from former instances of insufficiency In opposing one of the came nature.
13. It may sometimes endeavour to persuade a man that the present commission of sin will be an antidote for the future, because he will see more of its hatefulness.
14. The heart sometimes urges the commission of sin, as immediately clearing the way to the performance of some necessary duty (Romans 3:8; Genesis 20:11; Genesis 27:19; 1 Samuel 13:11; 1 Samuel 15:22).
15. By persuading a person to lay the commission of sin to the charge of the flesh, and solacing him with the idea that, although he fall into it, he does not really love it.
16. It dissuades him from prayer. Perhaps it reminds him that he has often tried this exercise before, in like circumstances, when he found an inclination to sin, or was assaulted by a temptation; and that it was attended with no success. Or, it may reason that if God hath determined to permit his fall at this time, prayer will not prevent it.
17. It strives to banish a sense of the presence and omniscience of God.
18. The deceitfulness of the heart about sin eminently appears in its self-hardening influence. Sin is the instrument which it uses in this work (Hebrews 13:8). The strength of every lust is commensurate with the power of deceit.
19. The heart will even urge God's readiness to pardon as an excitement to the commission of sin. This is indeed a dreadful abuse of pardoning mercy.
20. By endeavouring to drive one to despair, after the commission of sin, as being beyond the reach of mercy.
III. MEANS FOR OBTAINING VICTORY OVER THE DECEITS OF THE HEART WITH RESPECT TO SIN.
1. In a dependence on the Spirit, resist the first motions of sin within you.
2. Beware of entertaining doubts with regard to what Scripture and conscience declare to be sin. To doubt is to begin to fall, for it implies unbelief of God's testimony.
3. Carefully avoid light notions of any sin. To think lightly of sin is to think lightly of God.
4. Guard against the solicitations of your hearts. If these promise you honour, profit, or pleasure in the service of sin, believe them not.
5. Beware of tampering or dallying with sin. Temptation is, to the corrupt heart, sharper than a two-edged sword, and if the point once enter, you may be pierced through with many sorrows.
6. Try to get all your senses armed against sin, or rather barred against it; for this is the best mode of defence. Like Job, make a covenant with your eyes. Endeavour to stop your ears against it. Strive for the mastery over your taste. Put a knife to thy throat, lest thou be given to appetite.
7. Seek a constant sense of the Majesty and Omniscience of God.
8. Pray without ceasing against the deceitfulness of the heart.
9. Improve the strength of Christ, and the grace of His Spirit, for the mortification of sin.
(John Jamieson, D. D.)
He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good.I. THE CHARACTER OF AN HABITUAL SINNER. He is one who "deviseth mischief upon his bed," his hours of leisure are employed upon it.
1. The time of retirement is the fittest and most likely season for religious influences to take place, and to have a due effect (Psalm 119:55). If ever our reason re-asserts its authority, it should be when there is nothing from without to interrupt its pretensions, or to oppose its claim. If ever religion can raise up our souls to God, it should be when our souls are free from all external impediments.
2. When this time of solitude and leisure is misapplied to contrivances for vice, it must needs improve those ill dispositions which it finds in the mind, and overspread it more and more with the contagion of sin.
II. To GIVE SOME ACCOUNTS, AND TO SHOW SOME CAUSE OF HIS THUS PROCEEDING; OF THE ABUSE HE PUTS UPON HIS HOURS OF LEISURE. "He setteth himself in a way that is not good."
1. The abuse of a trust reposed in us all by a gracious Providence. We have a work to do, and a time assigned us for it. The work is improving our souls, and disposing all our faculties to a ripeness and capacity for eternal bliss. But how great will be the guilt which is contracted when the time allotted us to do the work of Him who sent us into this world for His glory, is employed to His dishonour, and in disobedience to His laws! To somewhat to forget, but more to betray a trust.
2. He who makes no advances forwards will certainly go backwards; he who has not laid in a fit provision for a good use of his time will certainly put it to a bad one. The ground we might gain in virtue will be gained to vice.
III. A FURTHER AGGRAVATION, AND INDEED A FURTHER REASON OF HIS SIN. "He abhorreth not evil." His affections are all wrong turned; and, being so, it is no great wonder that they should run riot upon wickedness.
1. That he abhorreth not evil is an aggravation of his sin, for it implies that his reason is subdued to it, and grace extinguished. It is a common progress to defend upon principle what had its rise from frailty; to proceed from infirmity to wilful guilt; and, from sinning against conviction, to sin away all conviction.
2. If a man loves and likes it, he will, at one time or other, be gained upon to embrace it. For a state of neutrality between vice and virtue is impracticable, and impossible to human nature. He who "abhorreth not evil "will soon abhor that which is good.
(N. Marshall, D. D.)
Thy mercy, O Lord, Is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
I. WE HAVE GOD IN THE BOUNDLESSNESS OF HIS LOVING NATURE, His mercy, faithfulness and righteousness are set before us. Now, the mercy spoken of is the same as the "love" told of in the New Testament, or, more nearly still, the "grace." Mercy is love in its exercise to persons who might expect something else, being guilty. As a general coming to a body of mutineers with pardon and favour upon his lips, instead of with condemnation and death; so God comes to us forgiving and blessing. All His goodness is forbearance, and His love is mercy, because of the weakness, the lowliness, and the ill desert of us on whom the love falls. And this same "quality of mercy" stands here at the beginning and the end. All the attributes of God are within the circle of His mercy, like diamonds set in a golden ring. But next to mercy comes faithfulness. "Thy faithfulness," etc. This implies a verbal revelation, and definite words from Him pledging Him to a certain line of action. "He hath said, and shall He not do it." "He will not alter the thing that is gone out of His lips." It is only a God who has spoken to men who can be a faithful God. He will not palter with a double sense, keeping His word of promise to the ear, and breaking it to the hope. The next beam of the Divine brightness is Righteousness. "Thy righteousness is," etc. The idea is just this, to put it into other words, that God has a law for His being to which He conforms; and that whatsoever things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure down here, those things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure up there. All these characteristics of the Divine nature are boundless. "Thy mercy is in the heavens," towering up above the stars and dwelling there like some Divine ether filling all space. The heavens are the home of light, the source of every blessing, arching over every head, rimming every horizon, holding all the stars, opening into abysses as we gaze, with us by night and by day, undimmed by the mist and smoke of earth, unchanged by the lapse of centuries; ever seen, never reached, bending over us always, always far above us. For even they, however they may dissolve and break, are yet subject to His unalterable law, and fulfil His gracious purpose. Then "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains." Like them, its roots are fast and stable; its summits touch the clouds of fleeting human circumstance: it is a shelter and a refuge, inaccessible in its steepest peaks, but affording many a cleft in its rocks where a man may hide and be safe. But, unlike them, it knew no beginning and shall know no end. Then, with wonderful poetical beauty and vividness of contrast, there follows upon the emblems of the great mountains of God's righteousness the emblem of the "mighty deep" of His judgments. Here towers Vesuvius; there at its feet lie the waters of the bay. The mountains and the sea are the two grandest things in nature, and in their combination sublime; the one the home of calm and silence, the other in perpetual motion. But the mountain's roots are deeper than the depths of the sea, and though the judgments are a mighty deep, the righteousness is deeper, and is the bed of the ocean. There is obscurity, doubtless, in these judgments, but it is that of the sea: not in itself, but in the dimness of the eye that looks upon it. The sea is clear, but our sight is limited. We cannot see to the bottom. A man on the cliff can look much deeper into the ocean than a man on the level beach. Let us remember that it is a hazardous thing to judge of a picture before it is finished; of a building before the scaffolding is pulled down, and it is a hazardous thing for us to say about any deed or any revealed truth that it is inconsistent with the Divine character. Wait a bit.
II. So much, then, for the great picture here of these boundless characteristics of the Divine nature. Now let us look for a moment at the picture of MAN SHELTERING BENEATH GOD'S WINGS. "How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings." God's loving-kindness, or mercy, is precious, for that is the true meaning of the word translated "excellent." We are rich when we have that for ours; we are poor without it. That man is wealthy who has God on his side; that man is a pauper who has not God for his.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. GOD'S MERCY. He declares that it is throned in the heavens. These suggest —
1. Its height. Climb the loftiest mountain, and yet they look down upon you. And so with the mercy of our God. It is the one all-enfolding, all-transcending fact in God's moral universe. It is high; we cannot attain unto it.
2. Its age and changelessness. The earth which the sky overshadows has seen many mutations. Beneath there is nothing but flux, restlessness, change. But the sky has looked down on it all, serene and unvarying, amidst all the overturning and mutations of the countless years. Time writes no wrinkles on its stedfast blue.
3. Akin to this is another thought — the heavens are all-embracing, ever-present, and ever-free. "The noblest scenes of earth," it has been said, "can be seen and known but by few. The sky is for all," Be your dwelling-place on the bleakest and dreariest swamp, without a tree or a hill to diversify its surface, you have still overhead a picture of loveliness and of mystery as often as you choose to look up. Thread the narrowest thoroughfare of a crowded town, and far above the filth and squalor, between the eaves of the tall and tottering tenements that enclose you, there are strips of clear blue sky, reminding you that, whatsoever be the restlessness, the sorrow, and the vice below, there is nothing above but beauty, purity, and peace. So again with the mercy of our God; it is exceeding broad. It is the attribute of all attributes that is ever engirdling the world. Mercy is the very sphere in which we live and move.
II. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS. Faithfulness has its close connection with mercy. Mercy is that which gives the promise, faithfulness is that which keeps it. Mercy determines the character of God's dealing with a helpless and sin-stricken world, faithfulness secures their continuance. Mercy defines the nature and the terms of the covenant of grace, faithfulness provides for its stedfastness, and carries it out to its final completion. Faithfulness is mercy bonded and pledged.
III. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. The element is one that cannot be spared from the picture. A God may be merciful, He may be faithful, too, but what avails it if both attributes do not rest upon justice? Yonder vault of God's house, curtained with clouds and fretted with innumerable fires, is raised on its pillars. The everlasting hills bear it up, and their columns support the overarching dome. So with God's righteousness. It lies at the base of His other attributes. It is as the mountains.
1. Stable. Nothing — storm or tempest — can move them.
2. Conspicuous. Long after the city's spires have disappeared, and wood and river, field and vineyard have been lost in the distant blue, the outline of the sentinel hills may remain, massive and majestic as ever — every summit and jag cut clear against the sky. So again with the Divine righteousness. There is much that will pass away, but this, never.
3. The mountains are the sources of many blessings. To them we owe the moisture that laves and that gladdens the thirsty earth. If the waters go "down by the valleys," they "go up by the mountains" first, and the rivers that fertilize our fields, turn our mills, and give drink to man and to beast, have their springs in green nooks and cool stony caverns on their distant slopes. Thus with the righteousness of God. So do "the mountains bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness."
IV. GOD'S JUDGMENTS. From the sky, the clouds and the mountains, the psalmist now turned to the floods. Those, perhaps, of "the great and wide sea." What are all God's attributes that we have considered without wisdom to direct the whole? "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom," etc. We can see but little, but that is enough. Let us thank God.
(W. A. Gray.)
I. GOD'S MERCY. This means His loving-kindness to a sinner, His gracious disposition to receive again into favour those who were aforetime the objects of His wrath. Now, this mercy, says the psalmist, is in the heavens, which indicates —
1. The conspicuous and prominent position which it occupies in the kingdom of grace.
2. Since God has set His mercy in the heavens, it must overtop the highest mountain of man's transgression.
3. If God's mercy be in the heavens, we shall never be able to get beyond it.(1) This is true in a very important sense of the entire family of man. For we live in a world of mercy.(2) What is true of the human family as a whole, is likewise true and pre-eminently true of the individual saint. God's mercy surrounds him like the blue vault of heaven.
II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. No doubt the psalmist refers to the particular character of rectitude which God maintains in all His dealings with His sinful creatures. At the same time, we cannot greatly err in attaching to the term its New Testament Signification of God's gracious provision for saving men through the obedience unto death of His Son.
1. The great mountains, "the mountains of God," as David calls them, suggest the idea of stability, or strength. Hence they are fit emblems of the righteous character of God, which nothing that may happen can ever prevent from ruling in all His dealings with His creatures; and of the righteous work of Christ through which grace reigns unto eternal life. It is everlasting as the high hills of God (Isaiah 51:6).
2. The great mountains speak of security or protection. Yet the security and protection of the hills are only emblems, beautiful and significant, but still faint, of that impregnable defence which is enjoyed by him who is arrayed in Christ's robe of righteousness, and who puts his trust in the righteous character of God.
3. The great mountains afford a shade to exhausted travellers as they pass along beneath a burning sky; and the like refreshment does a saint enjoy when in spirit he reposes in the finished righteousness of Christ.
III. GOD'S JUDGMENTS. These are His ways, acts, providential dispensations. Rightly called judgment is, as not being haphazard operations, but the solemn decisions of His infinite mind. Every step of the Divine procedure is deliberately weighed. God's judgments are like the sea in respect of —
3. Immensity.They relate indeed to the little speck of time in which we live, and the little spot of ground on which we stand, but they stretch away out as well beyond the confines of the tomb, away out into the unnumbered ages of that illimitable eternity into which we are fast going, as the sea spreads itself out beyond the gaze of men.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. THY MERCY, O LORD, IS IN THE HEAVENS.
3. Encompassing the whole human family.
II. THY FAITHFULNESS REACHETH UNTO THE CLOUDS.
1. The clouds are changeful. The small one becoming large. The dark one becoming clear. One joining another till the entire face of the heavens is covered with them. All these mutations required and produced by the Lord. He proclaimed, through Jonah, the destruction of Nineveh in forty days. The citizens repented, and the threatening was not executed. This shows that He did change His proposed course of action. All God's threatenings and promises are conditional.
2. The clouds at times move slowly. Creep along so tardily, as if they were unwilling to move. Seem to stop altogether for hours. Like the promises and threatenings of the Lord. Prayers not answered for ten, twenty, and thirty years. Wait on the Lord patiently, lie shall bring it to pass.
3. The clouds sometimes move rapidly. Resemble war-horses rushing over the battle-field, or horses sweeping along the race-course. Koran, Dathan and Abiram, Achan, Ananias and Sapphira. Many sudden deaths. The sword of Divine justice is suspended over the sinner's head. It may not fall for a long time, it may fall in a moment. "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh."
(A. McAuslane, D. D.)
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.I. THAT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JEHOVAH WAS FIXED AND UNCHANGEABLE. Nothing in the world so impresses the mind with the idea of unchangeableness as the great mountains. All things on, beneath and around them change, but they remain the same. And so it is with God's righteousness.
II. IT IS ONLY AS YOU COME NEAR THE GREAT MOUNTAINS THAT THEIR REAL GREATNESS APPEARS. So also is it with God's righteousness. The man who has climbed highest in the way of righteousness knows best how great is the distance he has yet to climb.
III. ONLY AS THE SUN LIFTS THE CLOUDS ARE THE HIGH SUMMITS CLEARLY REVEALED. And so in regard to God, clouds and darkness are round about Him; and it is only as the Sun of Righteousness arises, that we can look upon God. You cannot see the mountains without the sun — the moon is only reflected sunlight — and so all true vision of God is by means of Christ.
(W. O. Horder.)
I. THEIR SUBLIMITY. Come up into the hill of the Lord, climb these mountains of God, contemplate the righteousness of the Most High, who can by no means clear the guilty and will not wink at sin. View the vast expanses of His righteousness, and the towering masses of His holiness, and wonder, with a great amazement, that they have not crushed you long ago. Instead of that catastrophe you are permitted to climb among these highlands, and to sun yourself upon their summits. But oh, with all our familiarity of approach to God, let us not forget how great and good God is.
II. THEIR PURITY. How clear the air on those sunlit summits! How bright the sky above the traveller's head! I would fain enter, as far as it is possible, into a comprehension of the absolute holiness of God. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
III. THEIR STABILITY. A process of disintegration is perhaps always going on; sun, and wind, and rain, and snow, all these things affect our mountains somewhat, but despite that fact they remain, their roots fixed in the heart of the earth, and their peaks piercing the passing clouds. So is it with the righteousness of God. You cannot bribe God; neither threatenings nor persuadings will turn Him from His course. He keeps His promises to the letter, every one of them, and the covenant which He has signed, and which Christ has sealed with His own most precious blood, can never be set aside.
IV. THEIR MYSTERY. One cannot climb even one of our own little hills without risk of becoming enveloped in the driving mist and in the falling cloud. Have you ever wondered that God is not found out by man and understood by finite comprehension? The wonder would be if He were. His righteousness is like the great mountains.
V. THEIR UTILITY. They are ornamental, it is true, but they are even more useful than they are ornamental. God's righteousness is not merely to be looked at from a distance, wondered at, and admired; it is to be rejoiced in, and trusted in. It serves a purpose that nothing else can serve.
1. Think, for instance, of the shelter that is provided by the great mountains.
2. Although we can hardly say that the mountains provide pasturage, yet the fact remains that some of the best of land is found among the hills.
3. There is light upon the mountains, too. "In Thy light we shall see light." I have heard of those who have ascended the mountain over-night, that they might see the sun rise on the morrow. Things that were dark and inscrutable before will become comparatively plain when the light that is to be viewed from the peaks of God's righteousness shines forth.
4. The mountains of every country have a very distinct influence upon the peoples of those countries, just as the plains have. You will find a different race down there, where all is level, from those who dwell among the hills. There are the hardy and stalwart men, the men of brawn and brain. If we could only acclimatize ourselves to dwell as it were among the high doctrines of God's Word, and the noble thoughts that are in the Bible concerning our blessed God, how it would alter us; our very complexion would be different, our manhood would be increased, our spiritual strength would be intensified.
I. As we wander through the world from land to land they strike upon our view by their PROMINENCE. From afar we see them, conspicuous above tower and battlement, temple and dome. Such in its prominence is the righteousness of God (Psalm 145:17). His dealings with His creatures illustrate the character of righteousness, the principle of rendering to every one his due.
II. God's righteousness is like the great mountains in its PERMANENCE. The "cloud-capped towers" are dismantled and destroyed, "the gorgeous palaces" of kings fade and perish, "the solemn temples" are deserted and crumble into dust, but the great mountains remain. The revolutions of governments, the shocks of nations in deadly strife, the scourge of pestilence and the slaughter of war disturb not their repose, and even Time, the great innovator, in his destroying course passes them by So God's righteousness is an everlasting righteousness. His righteous wrath "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). But, on the other hand, His righteous grace is revealed in our blessed Saviour, and all the pride and rebellion, the selfishness and hypocrisy, and sinful unbelief of the world shall not change His purposes of grace to them that trust in Jesus.
III. God's righteousness is like the great mountains in the PROTECTION it affords us. What cause men have to bless God for mountains! They form a barrier and defence against the hostile elements of nature and the cruel oppression of men. How refreshing are the mountainous parts of India compared with the hot and unhealthy plains! Behold the range of mountains that separate Morocco from the great Sahara, and see in them the only barrier against the encroachments of the desert. Morocco is not a wilderness because of her mountains. Or, again, turning to the political map of Europe, why is it that while Poland is divided and despoiled, Hungary in subjection, and Denmark crippled and reduced, Switzerland still flourishes in her ancient vigour? Surely it is because of her mountains. Within those wild fastnesses Freedom has trained up, age after age, a generation to call her blessed. Their mountains, rising in noble defence all around them, have bidden defiance to the invader and the oppressor, and the hardy race to-day rejoices in the freedom it so dearly loves. And "as the mountains are round about that land, so is the Lord round about His people" (Psalm 125:2). The prophecy spoken of old has been fulfilled (Isaiah 32:2). We need protection —
1. From the punishment of sin.
2. From the accusations of Satan.
3. From the ills of this mortal state.
(J. Silvester, M. A.)
I. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE UNCHANGEABLE. All round the Alps revolution has been the normal state for centuries. Thrones have tottered, governments have changed, monarchs have been deposed; but Mont Blanc has stood unmoved amid it all. Everywhere the great mountains "mock the eternities of history," and the permanence of human institutions. It is even so with God's righteousness; nay, infinitely more so. Infatuation has even attempted to alter it, infidelity has tried to impair its foundations, and subvert it; human philosophy has called it in question; arrogant caprice would carve it after its own designs; but such attempts are as futile as a man trying to move the Alps. God's righteousness, like Himself, is "without variableness or shadow of turning."
II. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE CONSPICUOUS. Travellers tell us the Himalayas may be seen two hundred and fifty miles off. And how conspicuous is God's righteousness. In the history of the world there is nothing more prominent; in all the great episodes of the past it is first to arrest our attention.
III. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE OBSCURABLE NOW, all is bright and sunny; anon, all is dark and gloomy. The intelligent traveller knows these obscurations are from beneath; indeed, he sees the vapour rising rapidly from the valley to thicken the canopy over his head. So the Divine righteousness is obscurable, but the obscurations are from beneath. The mists of distrust will hide it; the fogs of unbelief will shut it out; the vapour of doubt will shroud it; the dark, thick, murky atmosphere of scepticism, bordering on the very darkness of despair, will conceal it altogether: But, though you see it not, it is there. The traveller may put his hand through the mist, and feel the palpable rock.
IV. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE DANGEROUS TO EXPLORE WITHOUT A GUIDE. Some have foolishly attempted it, and valuable lives have been sacrificed in the attempt. And, alas, what a perilous position, and what a painful end have men come to, by essaying the exploration of God's righteousness without a guide! The Bible is the only unerring directory. Let us pray the Divine Spirit to guide us into all truth.
V. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE PROTECTIVE. It is pleasing to see many towns and villages in Switzerland and Savoy nestling in happy, peaceful security in fruitful valleys at the foot of the great mountains. Not only are they protected in some instances from easterly winds, and northern blasts, but these advantages have enabled the inhabitants to win and maintain an honourable independence amid the great military and aggressive powers of Europe. I was shown in the early part of the valley of the Rhone, two lines of hills which almost met, and there I was informed a comparative handful of brave Swiss defeated an invading army. And the spot is considered a sort of Thermopylae in the annals of the country to this day! God's righteousness is protective and defensive. It graduates the present salvation and future security of His people. All His other attributes, pledged in their behalf, have their foundation in this.
VI. GREAT MOUNTAINS COMMAND THE MOST GLORIOUS VIEWS! Views your imagination cannot picture. The varied tints of the sunlight upon the pinnacles of snow. The distant ranges, so illusively near. The spreading valleys and calm blue lakes. The harmony of the landscape, light and shade blending marvellously together. So from the mount of God's righteousness most wonderful views are obtained. Aspects of the Divine character, which cannot possibly be seen from the flats of reason and science. From the height of this attribute the agreement of all the Divine attributes is beheld, and the glorious harmony between the dispensations of nature, providence, and grace, is discovered. From this elevation may be seen "Mercy and Truth meeting together, Righteousness and Peace kissing each other."
(T. J. Guest.)
I. That God's righteousness is like the great mountains BECAUSE IT IS DURABLE. Sometimes God compares, sometimes contrasts Himself with the mountains. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so," etc. "Mountains may depart, yet His kindness shall not depart," etc. They are after all only relatively durable. The mountain is not the same as it was a thousand years ago. But God's righteousness is unchangeable, from the necessity of His nature: because not exposed to accident or peril.
II. IN MYSTERIOUSNESS. There is a mystery about all mountains, but the greater the one is the greater the other. There is mystery about God's righteousness; about His person. Would it not be strange if we could see the full extent of God's righteousness? The eye of the soul, like that of the body, is restricted in its power of vision.
III. HAS HEIGHTS DANGEROUS TO CLIMB. And even when men do scale the heights of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, they could not live there. And men can no more live on the mountains of theology than on these others.
IV. ARE A BULWARK AND A DEFENCE. And because Christ's is a righteous atonement, therefore its defence is sure.
(Enoch Mellor, D. D.)
Christian Weekly.The great mountains are planted in the earth for signs, and they are instinct with spiritual truth. They are the outward and visible manifestations of Jehovah's righteousness.
1. For like the great mountains, the righteousness of God produces a deep and awful feeling in the mind when first beheld in all its greatness and transcendent glory. Before the righteousness of God, the human spirit, filled with a deep and abiding sense of impurity and transgression, bows and worships. One hand alone — that of the Great Architect who planned and built the world — formed the soft ethereal substance into the solid earth, smoothed out the valleys, and lifted up the great mountains until they kissed the skies. And as no human hand could create, so no human power can destroy those great mountains. It is so with respect to the righteousness of God. It was God who planned it, wrought it out, and embodied it, and fully manifested it in the person and work of Christ. And no human power can remove or destroy the righteousness of God. The hand that planted can alone uproot. The power that establishes and supports can alone remove. Like the great mountains, that are girded with a strength which is invincible, and rooted with a firmness which is immovable, is the righteousness of God. "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains."
2. But the righteousness of God is like the great mountains in another respect, namely, that of spotless purity. There the snow lies white and pure upon the crown and bosom of the great mountains, pure and white as it fell from the hand of the holy God. It is only where the great mountains strike their massive roots into the earth, that moraines or detached masses of rock and loose earth or sand are to be seen casting their dark shadows, and leaving their stains upon the pure whiteness of the glacier and the virgin snow. And it is thus with the righteousness of God. It is only at that point where it comes into contact with the righteousness of man, which is a filthy righteousness, that you see elements of impurity appearing, and appearing there, because the human spirit at its best is so imperfect, that stains and shadows lie upon it, and the very purity of God seems marred by the human soul that reposes on its bosom. But beyond the region where human imperfection touches the perfection of God, there is a vast and lofty range of spotless purity and Divine righteousness, where no shadows fall, where no stain can be detected.
3. Again, the striking comparison of our text proclaims with great power and beauty, that in order to attain the true vision of God we need to be lifted up. By our sinfulness we have left the "heights," and have come into "low places," where we raise to a bad eminence our lower passions and propensities. But, in the hour of our trouble, we instinctively look up to the mountains, feeling, like true hillsmen, the attraction of the Fatherland, and knowing that there is help for us there. And that our observations may be true, we must not only take but keep the heights. Only when standing on the hill of God, when surveying all things from the great mountain of God's righteousness, do we arrive at the knowledge of the eternal truth.
4. God's righteousness is like the great mountains, inasmuch as it is the throne, the source of our help. The great mountains are said to prolong, and do prolong, the world's day, to do battle with its storms, to bring peace, to purify and lighten the corrupt and heavy atmosphere; they enlarge, defend, and bless the whole sphere of human life, and keep open the windows of heaven for the pouring down of its righteousness — its bountiful liberalities. The mountains are as the throne of help. The mountains defend and bless the valleys and the plains, as the heavens defend and bless the earth. The mountains stand for the calm and majestic home of goodness and truth and eternal might. The mountains are above the changes they control. The mountains gather and disperse the clouds; they attract and revivify the air; they condense the atmosphere, and distil its living waters, and send them forth to refresh and fertilize the plains. The mountains are as the earth's lungs to restore to the atmosphere its used-up virtues. They brace the air, and keep the mildew from the growing corn. By the powerful influence of the mountains the valleys are always green, and food is abundantly provided for man and beast! And the mountains represent the help of other heights — the righteousness of God. For our help cometh from the hill of the Lord.
Thy judgments are a great deep.I. THE MYSTERY OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS. That wondrous ocean that occupies two-thirds of all the space upon this globe — how little is known of it! How true this is of the ways of God! They, then, are fools who pretend to criticize and carp and complain at that which He does.
II. THEIR CEASELESS ACTIVITY. More than anything in all creation besides, the ocean, I think, is the type of tireless and perpetual activity. And it is well for us, if we can believe in the same thing as regards the rule and government — the beneficent providence of Almighty God. It is the pulse of creation, and is always beating, even when creation sleeps. It is the engineer whose hand is on the handle, and whose eye is on the steam gauge, however the passengers may read or sleep, or deport themselves in the ship or train. God is, God works, God wills, God governs, and that as the sea is never at rest, so God walketh always,
III. THEIR HEALTHFUL AND BENEFICENT POWER. The storms of ocean have sent many a mariner to an untimely grave; but we know that the wild commotion of storm and billow, when the salt waters are churned into a seething cauldron of yeasty foam, means the charging the winds with the liberated ozone, iodine, and other health-giving elements of life; these raging tempests mean the keeping fresh and pure and salutary the waters that roll to every coast, the billows that lave and lap on every shore. A quiet ocean, a stagnant sea, an inactive deep, would mean ultimate pestilence, and death to the wide world of man and beast. No, the storm and tempests have their mission of good, their errand of mercy for man, and in this the judgments of God are a great deep, for its storms and tempests, its pains and disappointments, its wild waves of trouble as well as its sparkling ripples of peace, are healthful, useful, salutary and beneficent, both to body and soul. "He doeth all things well."
IV. THEIR UNCHANGING CHANGE. The ocean's sudden, various, unaccountable, and seemingly lawless changes have, nevertheless, in and through them all, fixity and certainty. All are subject to ascertained laws than which nothing is more exact and sure. And so of all that happens to us here, nothing, however apparently so, is really of chance. "The Lord knoweth the way that I take, and when I am tried I," etc.
V. THEIR SUSTAINING POWER. The sea is very deep — very mysterious, and at times very stormy, but what a splendid water-way it is! How grand a well-captained vessel, floating proudly over its surface to seek some far-off shore, and gain the precious things of far-off land! England is the England she is, rich and great, and powerful and prosperous, because she has learned to trust the sea. Yes, the great deep is a grand thing to sail on; but not so grand as is the providence and gracious government of God. Trust to that; put out on that sea; spread wide the sails of prayer to catch the breezes of heaven; steer your course by God's own sun and star; and be you sure of this, whatever of head-winds you may meet, whatever of chopping seas you may contend with, whatever storm and gale may menace your safety or toss your craft about — that great deep will bear you up; that Divine ocean will bear you on; that unfathomable sea will ensure you a safe voyage. Faith never suffers shipwreck.
VI. THEIR PRECIOUS TREASURES. Precious things are hidden in mysterious recesses. Ocean contains innumerable buried treasures. Gold, silver, and precious stones are laid up there. But "how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee." Treasures both of grace and glory, for the life that now is and for that which is to come.
(J. Jackson Wray.)
I. CONSIDER THE REASONS FOR EXPECTING THAT GOD'S JUDGMENTS WOULD BE "A GREAT DEEP." Even now amongst men the dealings of the wise are often founded on maxims not understood or appreciated by the great mass of their fellows; so that conduct appears unaccountable, which, nevertheless, proceeds from a very high sagacity. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that God, whose wisdom is as far above that of the wisest of the earth as the heaven is above this lower creation, should be inexplicable in His actings, often doing that which we utterly fail to understand. And there may be other reasons for the inscrutableness of which we now speak. Why may it not be supposed, that God often of set purpose veils Himself in clouds, working in a mode which transcends our understandings, in order to conciliate our reverence, and keep faith in exercise? If we were always able to discern the reasons of the Divine dealings, who does not see that our own wisdom would soon come to be considered as well nigh equal to that of God? And then, again, what place would there be for faith, if there were no depths in the Divine judgments; if every reason was so plain, every design so palpable, that no one could do otherwise than acquiesce in the fitness and goodness of all God's appointments? It is very easy, if you cast but a cursory glance over the dealings of the Divine Being, observe the jostling and confusion which seem almost universal, and mark the unexpected turn which things take, to endeavour to assign the reason of this appointment, or to assign the possible use of that; it is very hard to feel assured that all is ordered for the best, that there is not a spring in motion which God does not regulate, and not a force in action which He does not control. Yet when we come to search into what was to have been expected, we do not find that we could reasonably have looked for any other state of things. Ought we not to feel that it is the very darkness in which the Almighty doth dwell which obtains for Him the reverence of such creatures as ourselves, excites their faith, and perpetually reminds them of a judgment to come?
II. THE POSITION IN WHICH THESE WORDS ARE PLACED. They are inserted between two other propositions, from which they derive and on which they throw no inconsiderable light. Consider, then —
1. The connection between the first two clauses of the text. Now, there is no better way of preparing the mind to contemplate the unsearchableness of God than the settling it in its persuasion of the righteousness of God. For we cannot be thoroughly persuaded of the righteousness of God, and not be thoroughly persuaded that, even when His dealings are the darkest, they have only to be seen in the light of His wisdom, and they will commend themselves as the best that could have been devised. And this is the reason why good men are, practically, so little perplexed by the intricacies of the Divine providence. They are certain of God's righteousness. In this manner the psalmist may be said to fortify himself for considering the inscrutableness of the Divine dealings by assuring himself of the Divine righteousness. And so, possessed of that which must keep him from sinking, he throws himself into the vast profound, and exclaims, "Thy judgments are a great deep." Aye, it is in this way that we should all endeavour to equip ourselves for trial. We launch into the great deep of God's judgments with but dim apprehensions of God's righteousness; and no marvel, then, if we are presently as mariners without a compass, and cry out as though God had forgotten to be gracious. But if we are busied, whilst not yet driven upon that vast ocean, with certifying ourselves that God cannot swerve from His purpose, that God cannot cease to overrule evil, we could not fail, when we found ourselves in the dark waters, to have our eye on the star which is to teach us how to steer. The imagery employed in this psalm is very beautiful. The psalmist combines the mountains and the deep. The mountains are to be considered as rising out of the waters, and girding them round on every side. We know, from the parts of the mountains which are visible, that there are lower parts concealed from us by the waters, and just as confident that the lower parts make the basin from which the waters flow. And thus we should learn from seeing, when we look towards the heavens, that there is righteousness all around this lower obscurity which we are unable to penetrate, that the foundations which are beneath the waves are of the same materials as the summits which are above, and which often glow in the sunlight, though they may sometimes be hidden in the mist. This, we say, is the idea figuratively conveyed by the expression of the psalmist. Once give the character of "mountains" to the righteousness, regard that righteousness as immovable, and as girding round the whole economy of Providence, and it can hardly come to pass that you should be overwhelmed by the Divine dealings, however little you may be able to fathom them. And thus is the transition from the "righteousness" to the "judgments" of God in our text exactly indicative of the process which should take place in our minds. And now consider —
2. The connection between the two last propositions of the text. There seems to be something very abrupt in this second transition, to pass from the great deep of God's judgments to the preserving man and beast; from so great mysteries to the everyday mercies which are showered upon the world. But even a believer in God's righteousness may, as he looks out upon the great deep of Providence, desire some distinct, some visible evidence of that goodness of God which seems so opposed to all this darkness and confusion. And this is what the last clause of our text gives him. For from all creation witnesses are summoned to attest the goodness of God. Man and every beast of the field, every fowl of the air, yea, all that passes through the paths of the sea, are to furnish proof of the watchful care and love of God. Will you say that all the animation which is kept up in the universe, and all the sustenance which is so liberally provided for every tribe, must be referred to the workings of certain laws and properties irrespective of the immediate agency of an ever-present, ever-actuating Divinity? This is nothing better than idolatry of second causes, and denial of the First; this is substituting nature — an ideal — for Him who is the Creator and Preserver of all. How comes it to pass that morning after morning the sun wakens huge cities into life, and causes the silent forests to echo with the warbling of birds, and calls into activity thousands of creatures in every mountain and in every valley, and yet, that out of all the interminable hordes thus revivified at every dawn, there is not the solitary being for whom there is no provision in the granaries of nature? Can it be that God is unmindful of the world, that He is not studying in what He arranges and appoints, the good of His creatures, when He shows Himself attentive to the wants and comforts of the meanest living thing? It seems to us that there is thus a beautiful, though tacit, reasoning in the text, and that the second proposition is most admirably placed between the first and the last. It is as though David had said, "Come, let us muse on the righteousness of God. He would not be God if He were not righteous in all His ways; and therefore we may be sure that whatsoever He does is the best that could be done, whether or not we can perceive its excellence. This being settled, having determined that His "righteousness is like the great mountains," let us look upon His "judgments." Ah! what an abyss of dark waters is here! How unsearchable, how unfathomable, are these judgments! Yes, but being previously convinced of God's righteousness, we ought not to be staggered by what is dark in His dispensations. True; yet the mind does not seem satisfied by this reasoning. It may be more convincing to the intellect, but it does not address itself to the feelings. Well then, pass from what is dark in God's dealings to what is clear. "He is about your path, and about your bed." "The eyes of all wait upon Him; He openeth His hand, He satisfieth the desire of every living thing." Is this a God of whom to be suspicious? Is this a God to mistrust? No, surely. If you be able to say, "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains," did it not quite prepare you for the fact, "Thy judgments are a great deep," every remaining suspicion will be scattered when you can join in the confession, "O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. THE DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS PEOPLE ARE OFTEN UNFATHOMABLE. But why does the Lord send us an affliction which we cannot understand?
1. Because He is the Lord. He is God, and therefore it becometh us ofttimes to sit in silence, and feel it must be right, though we equally know we cannot see how it is so.
2. God sendeth us trials of this sort for the exercise of our graces. Now is there room for faith. When thou canst trace Him thou canst not trust Him. Here is room, too, for humility. The feeling that everything is beyond our knowledge brings to us humility, and we sit down at the foot of Jehovah's throne. I think there is hardly a grace which is not much helped by the deeps of God's judgments. Certainly love has frequently been developed to a high degree in this way, for the soul at last comes to say, "No, I will not desire the reason; I do so love Him; let His will stand for a reason; that shall he enough for me; it is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good."
3. We have sins which we cannot fathom, and it is little marvel, therefore, if we have also chastisements which we cannot fathom.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP: THEN THEY ARE SAFE SAILING. Ships never strike on rocks in the great deeps. When the sailor begins to come up the Thames, then it is that there is first one sandbank and then another, and he is in danger; but out in the deep water, where he finds no bottom, he is but little afraid. So in the judgments of God. When He is dealing out affliction to us, it is the safest possible sailing that a Christian can have. For then he need fear no fall; when he is low, he need fear no pride; when he is humbled under God's hand, then he is less likely to be carried away with every wind of temptation. God's judgments are a great deep, but they are safe sailing, and under the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit they are not only safe, but they are advantageous. I greatly question whether we ever do grow in grace much except when we are in the furnace.
III. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP, BUT THEY CONCEAL GREAT TREASURE. Down in those great depths who knows what there may be? Pearls lie deep there. And so with the deep judgments of God. What wisdom is concealed there, and what treasures of love and faithfulness, and what David calls "very tenderness," "for in very tenderness," saith he, "hast Thou afflicted me." We do not, perhaps, as yet, receive, or even perceive the present and immediate benefit of some of our afflictions. There may be no immediate benefit; the benefit may be for hence and to come. The chastening of our youth may be intended for the ripening of our age. I do not know that that blade required the rain on such a day, but God was looking not to February as such, but to February in its relation to July, when the harvest should be reaped. He considered the blade not merely as a blade, and in its present necessity, but as it would be in the full corn in the ear.
IV. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP: THEN THEY WORK MUCH GOOD. The great deep, though ignorance thinks it to be all waste, a salt and barren wilderness, is one of the greatest blessings to this round world. If, to-morrow, there should be "no more sea," it would be the greatest of all curses. It is from the sea that there arises the perpetual mist which, floating by and by in mid-air, at last descends in plenteous showers on hill and vale to fertilize the land. The sea is the great heart of the world — I might say the circulating blood of the world. There is no waste in the sea; it is all wanted. It must be there; there is not a drop of it too much. So with our afflictions which are Thy judgments, O God! They are necessary to our life, to our soul's health, to our spiritual vigour. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," said David.
V. IF GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP, THEN THEY BECOME A HIGHWAY OF COMMUNION WITH HIMSELF. We thought at one time that the deep separated different peoples; that nations were kept asunder by the sea; but lo! the sea is to-day the great highway of the world. The rapid ships cross it with their white sails, or with their palpitating engines they soon flash across the waves. And so our afflictions — which we thought in our ignorance would separate us from our God — are the highway by which we may come nearer to God than we otherwise could. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business on the great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. You that keep close in shore and have but small trials, you are not likely to know much of His wonders in the deep.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
1. God's right of dominion over His creatures; which is founded not only on His creative power, but on His governing wisdom and preserving providence.
2. Entertain admiring and grateful thoughts of the Divine care and goodness in our preservation.
3. Imitate, according to our capacity, the Divine providence and goodness, by extending our care and contributing our part to the support and welfare of our fellow-creatures.
4. Rely upon the Divine protection for the future. Timid and anxious cares about our own preservation are inconsistent with true piety or a just confidence in the Divine care and goodness.
How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God.
Helps for the Pulpit.I. THE SUBJECT OF THE TEXT. "Thy loving-kindness, O God."
1. Manifested —
(1) (2) (3) 2. Felt or experienced — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) II. ITS EXCELLENCE. This appears — 1. In being manifested to the most unworthy. 2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source. 3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence. 4. It is infinitely satisfying. 5. It is constant. 6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.APPLICATION. 1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness? 2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance. 3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
(2) (3) 2. Felt or experienced — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) II. ITS EXCELLENCE. This appears — 1. In being manifested to the most unworthy. 2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source. 3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence. 4. It is infinitely satisfying. 5. It is constant. 6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.APPLICATION. 1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness? 2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance. 3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
(3) 2. Felt or experienced — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) II. ITS EXCELLENCE. This appears — 1. In being manifested to the most unworthy. 2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source. 3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence. 4. It is infinitely satisfying. 5. It is constant. 6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.APPLICATION. 1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness? 2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance. 3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
2. Felt or experienced —
II. ITS EXCELLENCE. This appears — 1. In being manifested to the most unworthy. 2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source. 3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence. 4. It is infinitely satisfying. 5. It is constant. 6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.APPLICATION. 1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness? 2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance. 3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
II. ITS EXCELLENCE. This appears —
1. In being manifested to the most unworthy.
2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source.
3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence.
4. It is infinitely satisfying.
5. It is constant.
6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.APPLICATION.
1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness?
2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance.
3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste.
(Helps for the Pulpit.)
(J. H. Jowett, M.A.)
I. TAKE THE WORDS DIRECTLY AND ABSOLUTELY, AS THEY LIE IN THEMSELVES.
1. God's loving-kindness is most excellent, that is, His favour and good-will (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 63:3; Psalm 106:4).(1) In regard of the subject of it, by considering whose it is.(2) In regard of the fulness of it. He that hath but God's favour, what can he be said to want? There's nothing here in the world, but when a man has as much of it as his heart can wish, yet he will still want somewhat with it, and that sometimes which he can least be without; but he that hath an interest in God's loving-kindness, he hath all good things made over to him, so far forth as he hath use and need of them.(3) In regard of the efficacy of it, it is such as is of sweet influence wheresoever it is; it makes comforts to be so much the more comfortable, and it makes crosses to be so much the more tolerable and beneficial.(4) For its freeness and impartiality.(5) For its continuance and duration. Whom He loves, He loves to the end (Isaiah 54:8).
2. The psalmist blesses God for His activity of goodness to His church, for that loving-kindness which does put itself forth in His proceedings and dispensations to them. Now this also as well as the former is very excellent, and that in these regards.(1) In regard of the substance of it, and the materials whereof it consists, which are various. God has shown His loving. kindness to His church in divers expressions. In giving them His Son for their redemption, and reconciliation to Himself; how excellent is His loving-kindness here (Romans 8:32). In the ordinances and means of grace. In His Spirit, and the workings thereof, whereby His ordinances and ministry are made effectual to those who enjoy them. In His care of it, and providence towards it.(2) In regard of the extent of it, enlarging and diffusing itself.(3) In regard of the peculiarity and appropriation of it.
II. CONSIDER THE WORDS REFLEXIVELY, AS COMING FROM THE PSALMIST.
1. Here is a sound judgment.
2. A special favour. David does not only speak here out of judgment, and the strength of his understanding; but out of sense and the certainty of his experience, who had found and felt the workings of this special favour, and accordingly speaks triumphantly about it. The frequent thoughts upon this point are such as may be very beneficial to us; and may have a very great influence upon our lives.(1) To quicken us to duty, and to make us so much the more diligent in our business.(2) To restrain us from sin, and to make us so much the more shy of our miscarriages.(3) To satisfy us in our afflictions, and to make us more contented with our condition.
3. Here is a thankful acknowledgment.
(T. Herren, D. D.)
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.I. THEIR CHARACTER. They highly esteem the loving-kindness of God.
II. THEIR PRIVILEGES.
1. "They shall be abundantly satisfied," etc.
2. They drink of the river of His pleasures. All joy is theirs.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house, and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.I. SATISFACTION. Allusion is made, no doubt, to the festal meal of priests and worshippers in the temple, on occasion of the peace-offering. And there is also the simpler metaphor of God as the host at His table, at which we are guests. In either case the plain teaching of the text is, that by the might of a calm trust in God the whole mass of a man's desires are filled and satisfied. Heart, mind, will, appetites, tastes, inclinations, weaknesses, bodily wants — the whole crowd of these are crying for their meat. Now, where shall be found supply for all these? The one answer is, God; God alone is the food of the heart. Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life, he that cometh unto Me shall never hunger."
II. JOY. "Thou makest them drink," etc. Perhaps "the rivers" point back to the rivers of the Garden of Eden, for "Eden" is the singular of the word here rendered "pleasures." Paradise is restored for them who trust in the Lord. The whole conception of religion in the Bible is gladsome. There is no puritanical gloom about it. True, a Christian man has sources of sadness which other men have not. Life will seem to be graver and sadder than the lives "that ring with idiot laughter solely," and have no music because they have no melancholy in them. That cannot be helped. But what does it matter though two or three surface streams be stopped up, if the pure river of the water of life is turned into your hearts? We hear a great deal about other Christian duties. We do not hear so much as we ought about the Christian duty of gladness. It takes a very robust faith to say, "Though the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit he in the vine, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." What a blessing it is for us to have, as we may have, a source of joy, frozen by no winter, dried up by no summer. We have but to lap a hasty mouthful of earthly joys as we run, but we cannot drink too full draughts of this pure river of water which makes glad the city of God.
III. LIFE. "With Thee is the fountain of life." The words are true in regard of the lowest meaning of "life" — physical existence, — and they give a wonderful idea of the connection between God and all living creatures. Wherever there is life there is God. But it is of higher than the physical life that our text tells — the life of the spirit in communion with God. There is such a thing as death in life: living men may be "dead in trespasses and sins."
IV. LIGHT. "In Thy light shall we see light." God is "the Father of lights." The sun and all the stars are only lights kindled by Him. It is the very crown of revelation that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. All joyous things come with it. It brings warmth and fruit, fulness and life. Purity, and gladness, and knowledge have been symbolized by it in all tongues. This great word here seems to point chiefly to light as knowledge. This saying is true, as the former clause was, in relation to all the light which men have. The inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding. Now the sum of the whole matter is, that all this four-fold blessing of satisfaction, joy, life, light, is given to you, if you will take Christ. And if you will not have Him, you will starve, and your lips will be cracked with thirst; and you will live a life which is death, and you will sink at last into outer darkness. Is that the fate which you are going to choose?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE CHILD OF GOD IS PROVIDED WITH WHAT IS NECESSARY.
1. The food is strengthening; he is fed with the grace of God. What Satan gives enfeebles; what God gives strengthens.
2. It is rich — rich as befits the house of a monarch, the table of a king. It is the love of God. Life without love is death. "Greater love hath no man than this, that," etc. And this is the assurance of God's love to us.
3. And it is plentiful. A dole would be more than our right, but God gives us all. Open then your hearts to receive His mercy. So shall we be content and at rest.
II. WITH WHAT IS PLEASANT. "The rivers of God's pleasures." There shall be the sense of safety: elevation of thought and high communion with God and with the saints: foretastes of heaven.
(P. B. Power, M. A.)
I. DIVINITY SUPPLIES THE SOURCE OF OUR HAPPINESS. It is "the river of thy pleasure." God is happy, the ever blessed God. His happiness is a "river" — pure, boundless, overflowing. What is this river? It involves —
1. An approving conscience.
2. A consciousness of security.
3. A loving nature.
4. A beneficent activity.God Himself could not be happy without them. Man is happy as he participates in the happiness of God.
II. DIVINITY LEADS TO ITS SOURCE. "Thou shalt make them drink," etc. The human soul has gone so far away from this river that none but God can bring it back. This He has done, is doing, and will continue to do, through Christ. "He, every one that thirsteth, come," etc.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. ADMIRE THE FATNESS OF GOD'S HOUSE. This includes all the blessings God bestows through His house.
1. Life (ver. 9). It is the life bought for us by the death of Christ, and brought to us by the ministrations of the Holy Spirit; the life which will go unscathed through the death that guards the close of this world, and pass on untouched by the blasting fires of the second death; the life which will grow on and glow on amid the beauties and glories of the New Jerusalem as long as God Himself shall last.
2. Love (ver. 7). The love of God Himself — infinite, undeserved.
3. Protection (ver. 7). Against world, flesh, devil.
4. Refreshing (ver. 8). This refreshing will remove discomfort, weariness, pain, weakness, sorrow and distress from the hearts of all who wait on God. It will make the soul joyful, singing through life, singing in death, and singing through the joys of eternity.
5. Cleansing (ver. 8).
6. Light (ver. 9.) This is the light that "shineth in darkness," of which John came to bear witness. It is the true light. It shines on the darkness of our ignorance, and rolls away the deep shadows of error and prejudice, lighting up the pathway of truth so plainly "that he may run that readeth."
7. Warmth (ver. 9). Light brings warmth.
II. BE ABUNDANTLY SATISFIED WITH THE FATNESS OF GOD'S HOUSE.
1. Life is the necessity of your soul. Not the life of the body, for that you have; nor the immortality of the soul, for that you cannot lose. But you need something within you that will live when the light of this life has gone out. This life God can give you in His sanctuary. Put your soul in connection with Jesus Christ the God-man now, by a penitent and believing application for His favour, and you will feel the start, and thrill, and glow of this new life stirring in your soul.
2. Love is desired by your soul. The tendrils of your affection go out to find something to which they may cling, and on which they may climb. But you have learned that many of the objects of your trust prove unworthy; more of them insufficient, and all that are earthly, liable to wither and die. When you are tired of the disappointments, deceitfulness and failures of earthly love, you can come to the house of God, and here find the offers of Divine tenderness and infinite affection ready to encircle you in their blessed embrace.
3. Protection is needed by your soul. And here in this house of God you may experience the blessedness of possessing it. How weak you are to resist evil, your own experience has thoroughly taught you. You need protection against the swelling waves of this world's troubles, the mighty billows of the judgment day.
4. Refreshing is sought by your soul. Here you may have blessed foretastes of the glorious companionship and blissful employments of heaven.
5. Your soul needs cleansing, and you can obtain it here. The filthy covering of your soul will be replaced by the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness.
6. Your soul needs light. And coming to this house of God it will shine on you. It is a certain remedy for all darkness and blindness. It shines on the future, showing you how to avoid the pit of despair, and how to reach the glories of the celestial world.
7. Your soul needs warmth. And you can get it in this house of God. This warmth is the kindling of the spirit; the glow that comes from the pulsations of life, from the embrace of love, from the consciousness of protection, from the cup of refreshing, from the waters of cleansing, and from the beamings of light.
(H. D. Williamson)
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light.
I. ILLUSTRATE THE DOCTRINE OF THE TEXT. AS waters in a fountain are continually rising up and flowing forth, so life in God is naturally springing up, and ceaselessly overflowing. Life natural, intellectual, spiritual. Life in its simplest and life in its sublimest forms. Thought carries us back to the infinite past when nought but God was. So it might have remained and the happiness of God none the less. But it pleased Him to manifest His glory by creation. First the heavens, then the earth, then the tribes of-animated nature, all that roam in the forest, or swim the sea. Then man was created, as completing the chain of natural life, and at the same time connecting this world with others, that may be the sphere of intellectual and spiritual existence. Thus has the Fount of living waters filled this lower world with streams of life — and ever since the memorable days of creation — from Him have those streams flowed on, supplying all that is necessary for the unbroken succession, and whatever the form of life, however glorious, however beneficent, to God man is indebted for them all. But the highest life is the spiritual, the life of God in the soul. Now, man had this at the first, but lost it by sin, yet receives it back again through Christ.
II. IMPROVE IT,
1. Let the Fountain of all life have the glory due to His name.
2. Let the powers of natural and intellectual life, which we have received, be dedicated to the Author of them. Let all we have be devoted to the Lord who gave them. But the subject comes home to us also with all the force of Gospel obligation. The Redeemer of our life says also, "Ye are not your own."
3. Especially let spiritual life be sought from God, the "fountain of life."
4. Let believers rejoice in hope of the time when spiritual life shall be perfected.
I. THE NATURAL LIFE. This is a noble gift, bestowed for noble purposes; our bodies are material, composed of matter, that is, of earthly substance; evidently made from the dust, as to the dust returning. Whence comes it, then, that one portion of matter should be gifted with life, and be endued with faculties which have a living power, whilst another portion lies dull and heavy and incapable, as it was originally created? The Church calls us to thank God for our creation: let us see that it be indeed a blessing.
II. FROM GOD IS OUR PROVIDENTIAL LIFE, the preservation of our existence; and when we consider the numberless casualties to which we are exposed, this preservation is one continued marvel, nothing less than the constant exercise of God's almightiness on our behalf, by day and by night.
III. OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE can be derived only from the Father of spirits, from "the God of the spirits of all flesh": our blessed Lord has placed this upon the clearest possible footing, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
IV. THERE IS ANOTHER LIFE which we profess to be seeking, another world to which we are on our journey; the very purpose and end of our present spiritual being. So says our blessed Lord, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
V. Then "IN HIS LIGHT SHALL WE SEE LIGHT." All the shadows of earthly imperfection will fly away before the sun of righteousness, which is the sun Of glory. And as He led Israel through the wilderness, by the pillar of a cloud and the pillar of fire, so will He, by the light of His Spirit and His Word, lead every humble obedient servant through the world's wilderness, and bring them safely to the heavenly shore.
(J. Slade, M.A.)
1. Alas, some have no life — no spiritual life; the physical, the intellectual, the social are there, vigorous enough; but there is death towards God. "Lay hold of the life which is life indeed," writes Paul, and many a one has come to feel that even the best of life without God is not "life indeed." "A man's life consiteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Life cut off from God is but another name for death.
2. Some have deteriorated life. They have gone back. They are not what they were in their feelings towards Christ and His service. It is as when after months of severe physical strain we have no heart for anything; are tired of everything, and most of all of ourselves, and need to get away to some bracing mountain side to drink in new strength. As sudden torrents from the newly melted snows course down the half-empty channels of the plain, and sweep away the foul things gathered there, and waken into fragrance and vigour the drooping verdure on their banks, so the inrush to the soul of more life from the everlasting hills would sweep away our bad moods, and the fruits of holiness would once more deck our character.
3. And some have insufficient life. They thirst for more. Desire for more life is characteristic of the higher piety rather than of the lower. The more we have the more we want. The further we get in Divine things the more we have of dissatisfaction with present attainment, and of longing for higher. We read promises of a heritage we have not possessed. Would that all this — this larger, better, richer life were mine! And, intensifying that desire, we see that we are confronted by temptation, or work, or perhaps by sorrows, which need more life on our part than we have. The old life is not enough for these; we shall fall in the conflict, or fail in the task, or be crushed by the burden without more life. But more life! — we should override our difficulties then, and smite down our adversaries, our character and speech would be charged with a resistless inspiration, and we ourselves from walking, or even climbing, should mount up as on wings to those high places which are bathed in the full sunlight of God's face.
Homilist.Life and light are the greatest blessings of which we have any conception. All feel life to be valuable. What would life be without light? A world without light would be cold, dark and monotonous. God is the source of both.
I. HE IS THE SOURCE OF BEING. "Fountain of life." The word fountain suggests —
II. HE IS THE SOURCE OF WELL-BEING. He is the light — the blessedness of being. His revealed character is the light of the soul. Two things are necessary to make light a blessing —
1. A healthy visual faculty. If the eye of the soul is not sound, light may be a pain, a curse.
2. Beautiful objects of vision. If the eye is made to look upon the monstrous, and the horrific, light will be a bane.
In Thy light shall we see light.Hebrews 1.). But all such revelation was partial and incomplete; what the prophet saw or heard was only a glimpse of the real truth. Hence Christ was needed as the Revealer of God. And in like manner the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of Christ.
(J. B. Heard, M. A.)
I. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE SCRIPTURE WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN NATURE AND ON HUMAN LIFE. Scripture contains God's solution of man's pro-roundest mysteries. The light which earth could not supply has been revealed from above. The Scriptures are not only a revelation of God to man, they are a revelation of man to himself. In the light of Divine truth our mysteries are solved, or souls are quieted, we emerge out of the darkness to follow Him who is the Light of the world. We feel that we are not left to our own fancies, to the mere phantoms of our own imagination; but that over all, guiding all, and allowing us to note His ways, is the Divine care and guidance of the living God.
II. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE ATONEMENT WE SEE THE LIGHT OF HUMAN SALVATION. Here is heaven's cure of earth's deep sorrows, God's solution of earth's blackest mystery.
III. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE PROMISES WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN ADVERSITY AND CARE. They assure us that every care is under Divine control, that every trial has its purpose, and that no burden too great shall ever rest upon our hearts.
IV. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE REVELATION WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN DESTINY. To unassisted man there is no darkness so dense as that which rests on the future. We cannot anticipate the conclusion of a single hour. But on this darkness there is light. If a man die we know he will live again; if a man die in Christ he shall live for ever with Christ.
(W. H. King.)
I. FOUR FACTS CONCERNING HUMAN KNOWLEDGE WHICH CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE OF THE PSALM.
1. The constant sense of the essential unity of knowledge. Men study many things. Each man finds for a time contentment in his special science in the mastery of his peculiar facts; but as each man goes deeper into the knowledge of the chosen subject of his study, he becomes aware of how impossible it is for him to know that subject well, unless he knows far more than that. All truth makes one great whole; and no student of truth rightly masters his own special study unless he at least constantly remembers that it is only one part of the vast unity of knowledge, one strain in the universal music, one ray in the complete and perfect light.
2. A second fact with regard to human knowledge is its need of inspiration and elevation from some pure and spiritual purpose. It is a fact which is assured by all the testimony of man's experience of study, that, not upon the lower grounds of economy and the usefulness of knowledge to man's physical and social wants, but by some sense of a preciousness inherent in itself, of a fitness between it and the nature of man, of a glory in seeking it and a delight in finding it for its own pure sake, that only so have all the great revelations of truth come to mankind.
3. Another characteristic of the best search after wisdom is the way in which it awakens the sense of obedience. In other words, all of man's loftiest search for knowledge has always seemed to be aware, not merely of two parties to the great transaction, but also of a third — not merely of a knowledge to be sought and of a man to win it, but also of a knowledge-giver, who was to stand between the treasure and the needy human life, and give to the obedient humanity the boon it sought.
4. Closely allied to this fact is the other one which yet remains to be mentioned with regard to the search of man after knowledge, which is the constant tendency which it has always shown to connect itself with moral character. All the old initiations to the mysteries of knowledge bore knowledge to this instinct. The man to whom the deepest known secrets of things were to be opened to-morrow must be purified to-night by lustrations that should signify his inner baptism.
II. IS THERE NO ONE CONCEPTION IN WHICH THESE FOUR CONVICTIONS ALL UNITE, and in whose embrace they. become not scattered discoveries or results of various experience, but parts of one complete idea which needs and which harmonizes them all? If it be true that in the thought of God most simply and broadly apprehended — in the thought, that is, of a great, strong, loving Father, who knows all truth, and loves all men, and feeds men with truth as a father feeds his children with bread, making them with each new food fit for a richer food which He has still to give them — these four conceptions find their meeting-place; if as the young light-seeker goes with these four convictions working together in his soul they almost necessarily seek one another and unite into what is at first the dream, and by and by becomes the faith of a personal presence, lofty, divine, loving and wise; if this is true, have we not reached as the result of all this long analysis something like that which David puts with such majestic simplicity in his glowing verse. The combination of these consciousnesses makes, almost of necessity, the consciousness of God. As they are necessary to the search for light, so is the God in whom they meet the true inspirer and helper of the eternal search. Look at the life of Jesus Christ. He knew the streets of Jerusalem and the lanes of Galilee and the history of His mysterious Hebrew people, and the hearts of the lilies and the souls of men; but He knew them all differently from the way in which the Hebrew scribes and scholars knew them. To Him they were all full of light. There is no other description of His knowledge that can tell its special and peculiar character like that. It was all full of light. It was full also of God. He knew everything as God's child in God's house. It was God's light in which He saw the deeper light in everything. Picture Jesus of Nazareth set down in Rome with all the flashing splendour of imperial power all around him! or in Athens, with the wisdom of the philosophers on every side. Would the young Jew have cast his faith away? Too real for him the visions that had come to him in Nazareth! Too real for him the glory of His Father, which had filled His Father's house! He would have laid fresh hold upon that truth and love which he had never so needed until now. He would have stood undazzled in the Roman glory, unpuzzled in the Grecian wisdom, because He would have known that in His heart He carried the light by which they should give light to Him. The knowledge of God lies behind everything, behind all knowledge, all skill, all life. That is the sum of the whole matter. The knowledge of God! And then there comes the great truth, which all religions have dimly felt, but which Christianity has made the very watchword of its life, the truth that it is only by the soul that God is really known; only by the experiences of the soul, only by penitence for sin, only by patient struggle after holiness, only by trust, by hope, by love does God make Himself known to man. So may He give us all the grace to know Him more and more.
(Bp. Phillips Brook,.)