Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion: and unto Thee shall the vow be performed.
I. THE ATTITUDE OF THE WORSHIPPERS (vers. 1-4). The opening words, "Praise is silent for Thee, O God, in Zion," describe the hush of a multitude just ready to burst forth in song. The air is full of an intention which has not yet expressed itself, but it will utter its thought immediately, because the nation has assembled to perform the vows made during the drought, when dearth was feared. The worshippers acknowledge their dependence on the Hearer of prayer: they are part of frail humanity ("all flesh"), which can never be equal to its own requirements, but must ever be dependent on a higher Power. But there is a still deeper cause for humility, which ought always to be kept in mind when an approach is made to God: "Iniquities," says the psalmist, "prevail against me." What mortal has ever existed who did not require to say so? Iniquities press in from without and they press outwards from within; and man is not able to withstand their force. Yet the psalmist has discovered the secret: "As for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away." God can overcome this terrible force, by blotting out the guilt of past sin and breaking the power of present sin. And the next verse supplies a description of the blessedness of those who, thus liberated, have free access to the throne of the Divine grace and full enjoyment of its privileges.
II. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP (vers. 5-8). He is not a God unknown, but in all the centuries of the history of Israel has shown Himself mighty on behalf of His people, by acts of salvation which have struck terror into their enemies. And not only in the events of history has His power from time to time been shown; it is exhibited continually in the great aspects of nature.
III. A PICTURE OF PLENTY (vers. 9-13). After weeks of rainless weather, when the hearts of the husbandmen were quaking with fear, the showers, earnestly prayed for, had come at last. In the clouds sweeping over the landscape the happy inhabitants saw the footsteps of the passing Deity dropping fatness as He went. Hill and dale and wilderness had all partaken of the benefit. The flocks were full of life on the mountain sides and the fields and the valleys stood in all the bravery of healthy and abundant crops; till it seemed to the poet as if a great shout of joy were going up from all the revived objects in the landscape to the heaven from which the blessing had come.
(J. Stalker, D. D.)
Homilist.I. GOD AS HE APPEARS IN HUMAN HISTORY.
1. As a prayer-answering God (ver. 2). That this title belongs to Him as He appears in human life is —
(1) (2) (3) 2. As a man-needed God. Sooner shall the Mississippi keep away from the ocean or the earth from circling round the sun, than your soul keep away from your Maker. 3. As a sin-removing God (ver. 8). 4. As a world-trusted God (ver. 5). (1) (2) (3) II. God as He appears in human history, WORSHIPPED. 1. The kind of worship. "Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion." Are we to understand "waiteth," in the sense of silence? Then the essence of worship is silent — it is in the profoundest thoughts, the deepest feelings, the strongest aspirations, which are independent of language or sound. The deepest things of the soul are unutterable. 2. The blessedness of worship (ver. 4). The idea is, fellowship with God, going into His courts, dwelling in His temple.(1) The fellowship is chosen. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest." What a distinction is thus put on man! No other creature in the world can hold fellowship with the Infinite.(2) The fellowship is permanent. "Dwell in Thy house." Not a mere visitant for a terminable period. But a resident so long as existence endures.(3) The fellowship is satisfying. "We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house." This is, and nothing else, the satisfaction of the soul. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." (Homilist.)
(2) (3) 2. As a man-needed God. Sooner shall the Mississippi keep away from the ocean or the earth from circling round the sun, than your soul keep away from your Maker. 3. As a sin-removing God (ver. 8). 4. As a world-trusted God (ver. 5). (1) (2) (3) II. God as He appears in human history, WORSHIPPED. 1. The kind of worship. "Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion." Are we to understand "waiteth," in the sense of silence? Then the essence of worship is silent — it is in the profoundest thoughts, the deepest feelings, the strongest aspirations, which are independent of language or sound. The deepest things of the soul are unutterable. 2. The blessedness of worship (ver. 4). The idea is, fellowship with God, going into His courts, dwelling in His temple.(1) The fellowship is chosen. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest." What a distinction is thus put on man! No other creature in the world can hold fellowship with the Infinite.(2) The fellowship is permanent. "Dwell in Thy house." Not a mere visitant for a terminable period. But a resident so long as existence endures.(3) The fellowship is satisfying. "We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house." This is, and nothing else, the satisfaction of the soul. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." (Homilist.)
(3) 2. As a man-needed God. Sooner shall the Mississippi keep away from the ocean or the earth from circling round the sun, than your soul keep away from your Maker. 3. As a sin-removing God (ver. 8). 4. As a world-trusted God (ver. 5). (1) (2) (3) II. God as He appears in human history, WORSHIPPED. 1. The kind of worship. "Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion." Are we to understand "waiteth," in the sense of silence? Then the essence of worship is silent — it is in the profoundest thoughts, the deepest feelings, the strongest aspirations, which are independent of language or sound. The deepest things of the soul are unutterable. 2. The blessedness of worship (ver. 4). The idea is, fellowship with God, going into His courts, dwelling in His temple.(1) The fellowship is chosen. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest." What a distinction is thus put on man! No other creature in the world can hold fellowship with the Infinite.(2) The fellowship is permanent. "Dwell in Thy house." Not a mere visitant for a terminable period. But a resident so long as existence endures.(3) The fellowship is satisfying. "We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house." This is, and nothing else, the satisfaction of the soul. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." (Homilist.)
3. As a sin-removing God (ver. 8).
4. As a world-trusted God (ver. 5).
II. God as He appears in human history, WORSHIPPED. (Homilist.)
II. God as He appears in human history, WORSHIPPED.
I. THE HOLY OFFERING OF WORSHIP WHICH WE DESIRE TO PRESENT TO GOD. There is —
1. Praise. It is the chief part of the worship of heaven, and therefore should be much regarded upon earth. It is to be rendered only to God. "For Thee, O God." For Thee only, and for Thee all. Not to virgins, or saints. And our praise is not to be formal, of lips and sound, but of the soul. And let it be continual — "waiteth for Thee." And humble; let it wait as the servants wait in the king's palace. And let it be expectant: on the look-out for more of God's blessings. What abundant reason we have for praise. Mercies temporal and spiritual.
2. The vow. "Unto Thee shall the vow be performed." We are not given to vow-making in these days. But there have been some we have made. At our conversion, at our uniting ourselves to the Church of God; when we entered on our work as Christian ministers; and, perhaps, in times of affliction. Let us keep them.
II. THE BLESSED ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. God hears prayer. "O Thou that hearest prayer."
2. And all prayer, if it be true. "Unto Thee shall all flesh come."
3. Let none of us exclude ourselves.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.
I. WHEREIN GOD'S HEARING OF PRAYER LIES. This involves —
3. His answering of prayer (Psalm 102:2). Prayer heard in heaven comes back like the dove with the olive branch of peace in her mouth.
II. THE IMPORT OF GOD'S BEING THE HEARER OF PRAYER. It imports —
1. God in Christ is accessible to poor sinners (2 Corinthians 5:19).
2. He is a sin-pardoning God (Exodus 34:6, 7).
3. He is an all-sufficient God.
4. Bountiful and compassionate (Psalm 86:5).
5. Omnipresent and omniscient, and —
6. Of infinite power.
III. WHAT PRAYERS THEY ARE THAT GOD HEARS.
1. Those of His own children.
2. Such as are agreeable to His will (1 John 5:14).
3. Made by the aid of the Holy Spirit. None else are acceptable. And —
4. Prayers offered to God through Christ.
IV. CONSIDER MORE PARTICULARLY THIS DOCTRINE.
1. The instinct of prayer in all God's people shows that He will hear prayer.
2. And so does the intercession of Christ (Romans 8:84).
5. The gracious nature of God (Exodus 22:27).
6. The experiences of the saints in all ages.
V. IN WHAT MANNER GOD HEARS PRAYER.
1. A thing prayed for may be obtained and yet the prayer be not accepted (Psalm 78:29; Psalm 34:1-38:22). So that a thing prayed for may be given in downright wrath (Hosea 13:11). Or in uncovenanted condescension. As Ahab (1 Kings 21:29; also Hosea 11:3).
2. Whether answers come in the way of grace or not may be discerned. They do not when there is a wilfulness and unhumbledness of spirit in asking (1 Samuel 8:19). Or when men's lusts are strengthened and fed by them when received (Psalm 78:29, 80). Or when men ask on the ground of their necessity more than on the intercession of Christ. The heart loves the gift more than the giver. But a prayer may be accepted and yet not granted. So was it with our Lord (Matthew 26:39). And David (2 Chronicles 6:8, 9). And such prayers are ever submissive to God's will (Matthew 26:39); they contain in the denial of them an unseen greater mercy; and even aim at the glory of God. And though unanswered we may know they are accepted when the heart is brought to meek submission (Psalm 22:2, 3); and we are supported under the denial, as our Lord was (Luke 22:42, 43; Psalm 138:3). And helped to go back to God with new petitions in faith and hope of hearing (2 Samuel 12:20). Let us remember that delay is not denial. Abraham prayed for an heir, yet fifteen years passed before the answer came (Genesis 15:3, 4; Genesis 17:25; Exodus 2:23, 24; Daniel 9:28). There is a difference between the granting of a petition and our knowing that it is granted. They may come together, as in Matthew 15:28. But, as with Abraham, they may not. The hearing and granting of prayer is an object of faith; the answer, of sense and feeling (1 John 5:14, 15; Matthew 15:28). But the two are generally at a distance from one another. And the reason of this is manifold.
3. To prepare and fit us for the answer (Psalm 10:17).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. FROM ITS NATURE.
1. It is a spiritual thing; not any mere outward form, but the soul seeing the invisible, grasping the intangible and linking itself by sacred affinities with things eternal.
2. Consider also its dignity, it holds correspondence with the court of heaven.
3. And how important. For how unspeakably great is our need, and we can only gain supply for them as we seek it from God.
II. FROM THE PLIGHTED FAITHFULNESS OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER TO HEAR AND ANSWER IT. How, in face of all God's promises to hear us, can we doubt the success of our prayers? Objections against prayer lie equally against all human endeavour. God will give good things to them that ask Him, but only He can say what things are good. They may be such as we deem anything but good. Many have been laid on beds of languishing to save them from a bed of everlasting burnings. And when the time for the blessings we. ask for may be, we cannot know, nor fix the rate of their progress towards us.
III. THE SUGGESTING AND CONTROLLING INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE ACT OF DEVOTION.
IV. THE CO-OPERATING INTERCESSIONS OF OUR ASCENDED SAVIOUR, and the security we have in the use of His all-prevailing name. Oh! could the recording angel give you back an exact copy even of this morning's prayers — a copy in which all the thoughts which passed through your mind while in the act of devotion should be translated into words, — how shocked would ye be at the intermixture of piety and profaneness, of reverent expressions and solemn trifling, with which ye insulted the majesty and provoked the patience of the holiest and best of beings. Wherefore was it, then, that ye were not consumed? Oh! it was that Jesus, "touched with a feeling of our infirmities," stood in the gap between us.
V. THE REFLECTIVE BENEFIT WHICH, APART FROM DIRECT ANSWERS TO OUR PRAYERS, COMES TO OUR SOULS. If a man do not move God he is sure to move himself.
(Daniel Moore, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THE ANSWERABLENESS OF PRAYER. Hearing, here, means answering. He hears millions of prayers He never answers. The grand reason is, that the prayers are selfish.
1. The mind in this state looks upon God's universe in new aspects.
2. Turns all events to new accounts.
II. THE INEVITABLENESS OF PRAYER. "Unto Thee shall all flesh come." "Flesh" here means mankind. As all waters must find their way into the ocean, so all souls must find their way to God, sooner or later. Two things necessitate this.
1. Internal instincts. In all sentient existences there would seem at times to be something like an instinct of prayer.
2. External circumstances necessitate prayer. Men suppress the instinct, and sometimes make it well-nigh numb as death. But in the presence of a great danger, a great sorrow, a great grief, it bounds into earnest life.
1. The nature of prayer supposes, in the first place, that we have a just sense of our own wants and miseries, and of our dependence on God for relief. We live in a world where everything around us is dark and uncertain. When we look back on the past, we must remember that there we have met with much disappointment and vanity. When we look forward to the future, all is unknown. We are liable there to many dangers which we cannot foresee; and to many which we foresee approaching, yet know not how to defend ourselves against them. We know that we are the subjects of a supreme righteous Governor, to whom we are accountable for our conduct. How soon the call for our removal may be given, none of us know. Who amongst us can say, that he is perfectly ready to appear before his Creator and Judge, and to give an account to Him for all the actions of his life?
2. Thus it appears that there is a just foundation for prayer, in all its parts, naturally laid in the present circumstances of man, and in the relation in which he stands to God.(1) With regard to temporal blessings, though men may lay a restraint upon themselves in the expressions which they utter in prayer, yet it is much to be suspected that the inward wishes of their hearts for such blessings are often the most fervent of any. To wish and pray for the advantages of life is not forbidden. Our Saviour hath so far countenanced it, as to command us to pray that God would give us our daily bread.(2) With regard to spiritual mercies, we are unquestionably allowed to be more fervent and explicit in our requests at the throne of grace. God can never be displeased in hearing us implore from Him those graces and endowments of the soul, that beautify us in His sight, that are good for all men, good at all times, indeed, the only certain and immutable goods.(3) Intercessions for the welfare of others form a material part of prayer. When we bow our knee to the common Father, let it be like affectionate members of His family, desiring the prosperity of all our brethren.
3. In order that prayer may produce its proper effect, there are certain qualifications necessarily belonging to it, which come next to be considered.(1) One of the first and chief of these is seriousness, or an attentive and solemn frame of mind, in opposition to thoughts that wander, and to words that drop forth unmeaning from the lips.(2) To seriousness, we must join affection in prayer; I mean that devotion of the heart which is inspired by gratitude and love, in distinction from forced prayer, or what is unwillingly preferred from servile fear, or mere regard to decency.(3) Faith is another qualification required. We acknowledge our guilt; we disclaim all trust in our own righteousness; and implore grace from God on account of what His Son has done and suffered for us.
4. Having thus pointed out the chief qualifications of prayer, it remains that I show the importance and advantages of it.(1) Prayer is one of the most powerful means of recalling our minds from the vanities of life to serious thoughts; to a proper sense of God and our duty; and to all the high objects with which we are intimately connected as rational and immortal beings.(2) Prayer is useful, not only as a corrective of our natural levity and forgetfulness of God, but as an actual exercise of the best affections of our nature, which are thereby confirmed and strengthened. It implies the highest sentiments of reverence and adoration, of love and gratitude to God, of trust in His mercy, and of faith in our blessed Redeemer, all animating the heart.(3) Prayer is important, "not only as a means of high improvement in religion, but as an instrument of consolation and relief under the distresses of life.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away.
I. THE CRY OF DESPAIR. "Too strong for me," and yet they are me. Me, and not me; mine, and yet, somehow or other, my enemies, although my children — too strong for me. The picture suggested by the words is that of some usurping power that has mastered a man, laid its grip upon him so that all efforts to get away from the grasp are hopeless. But some of you say, "We were never in bondage to any man." You do not know or feel that anything has got hold of you which is stronger than you. Well, let us see. Consider for a moment. You are powerless to master your evil, considered as habits. You do not know the tyranny of the usurper until a rebellion is got up against him. As long as you are gliding with the stream you have no notion of its force. Turn your boat and try to pull against it, and when the sweat-drops come on your brow, and you are sliding backwards, in spite of all your struggles, you will then know the force of the stream. Did you over try to cure some trivial bad habit, some trick of your fingers, for instance? You know what infinite pains and patience and time it took you to do that, and do you think that you would find it easier if you once set yourself to cure that lust, say, or that petulance, pride, passion, dishonesty? Any honest attempt at mending character drives a man to this — "Iniquities are too strong for me." And so also it is with sin regarded as guilt, you cannot rid yourself of it. What is done is done. "What I have written I have written." Nothing will ever wash that little lily hand white again, as the magnificent murderess in Shakespeare's great creation found out. You can forget your guilt; you can ignore it. You do not take away the rock because you blow out the lamps of the lighthouse. And you do not alter an ugly fact by ignoring it. I beseech you, as reasonable men and women, to open your eyes to these plain facts about yourselves, that you have an element of demerit and liability to consequent evil and suffering which you are perfectly powerless to touch or to lighten in the slightest degree.
II. THE RINGING CRY OF CONFIDENT HOPE. Jesus Christ, when trusted, will do for sin, as habit, what cannot be done without Him. He will give the motiye to resist, which is lacking in the majority of cases. He will give the power to resist, which is lacking in all cases. He will put a new life and spirit into our nature which shall strengthen and transform our feeble wills. The only way to conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, is to let Christ clothe you with His armour.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE LANGUAGE OF COMPLAINT — "Imquities prevail," etc. They may do so —
1. In the growing sense of our guilt. As light increases, we see them more and more.
2. In the power of their acting. This prevalence cannot be entire, for sin shall not have dominion over the believer in Christ. He may be bruised, but he is not enslaved.
II. OF TRIUMPH. The Lord purges away our transgressions.
1. By His pardoning mercy.
2. By His sanctifying grace. And that He will do this the Christian is confidently persuaded.
Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts.
I. THE PSALMIST HERE COMMENDS PUBLIC WORSHIP —
1. As a peculiar privilege. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest and causest to approach unto Thee." The opportunity of enjoying such an approach is not given to all, but brings special responsibility to those to whom God grants it.
2. As an approach unto God. God is never far from us, but when we meet in His courts we are able more distinctly to realize His nearness to us. We often have a deep and glad sense of His presence.
3. As the finding a new home. "That he may dwell in Thy courts." There may be a reference here, as in other psalms, to the Levites who literally dwelt there that they might attend to the performances of the services; but the latter part of this verse implies that David claimed for himself a share in the privilege. The thought is — "we, as dwellers in the courts of the Lord, shall be satisfied."
4. As an abundant provision. Here the wants both of the mind and of the heart are met.
5. As a holy service.
II. GENERAL REMARKS ON PUBLIC WORSHIP.
1. It is valuable for testimony. Christians thus witness for Christ, and confess their faith.
2. For its associations. What memories cluster round the sanctuaries where we have worshipped I
3. For communion 'with one another. Thus we are helped by association one with the other in the various acts of worship.
4. For the worship itself in its various parts — prayer, instruction, praise. Then, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and let us seek to make the highest use of the ordinances of religion.
I. EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF THIS APPROACH TO GOD.
1. Consider what it is not. It is not bowing the knee, and saying a prayer, and putting on an appearance of seriousness at particular times; it is not going often to the house of the Lord, and coming and sitting before Him as His people; the humble, self-condemned publican, that stood afar off, approached nearer to God than the Pharisee, though he confidently pushed forward to the holy of holies. To approach Him is an act of the mind, not of the body. God is a spirit, and they that worship Him acceptably, must do it not merely with a bended knee, and a loud voice, and an uplifted eye, or a head hanging down like a bulrush. These things are comparatively indifferent; if unaccompanied with sincerity, they are worse than indifferent; they are offensive and abominable to God, who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
II. IN WHAT DOES THE BLESSEDNESS OF APPROACHING TO GOD CONSIST? In the honour, the pleasure, the profit we enjoy.
III. THE HINDRANCES TO SUCH APPROACH.
1. Sin, this destroys our communion with God until we repent and return to Him.
2. The world.
I. IN FEELING THE JOYS OF DEVOTION.
II. IN OBTAINING THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN.
III. IN FINDING A RETREAT FROM AFFLICTION.
IV. IN THE ANTICIPATION OF A BETTER WORLD. As the mariner who has been long tossed on a troubled ocean, or detained in a foreign country, is desirous to revisit his native shore, and, when he first discovers the hoary rocks of the green isle rising with rugged grandeur above the waves, his eye beams with joy; so the saint who has been sojourning many a tedious year in a waste howling desert, pants to behold the beauty of paradise, and darts his eye radiant with rapture towards the delightful abode.
(T. Laurie, D. D.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY APPROACHING TO GOD. There was a time when the Lord came down and conversed with man, as one friend does with another, when no thunder, and lightning, and tempest accompanied him, and when no conscious guilt inspired the human breast with terror; and a time will come again, dark and disconsolate though our condition now be, when the veil shall be removed, and we shall so behold the glory of the Lord, as to be completely changed into the same image. Now, sin interposes a dark cloud betwixt us and our God, so that we can have but a very imperfect view of His glory and majesty. "We see as through a glass darkly." There are seasons, however, when the Christian is admitted, as it were, within the veil, when he sees the King in His beauty, and enjoys that delightful communion with Him, which is a foretaste of the heavenly bliss.
II. WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS OF APPROACHING TO GOD CONSISTS.
1. It is the highest honour; far superior to every dignity, an honour compared to which all the pomp and splendour of earthly greatness dwindle into insignificance.
2. It is a pleasure. God is the chief good. He is the source of life, and joy, and happiness. To go, therefore, to Him, and draw our enjoyments pure from the fountain from which they flow, must be peculiarly gratifying to every person who can properly distinguish between good and evil.
3. It is highly profitable.
III. OBSTACLES THAT PREVENT OUR APPROACHING TO GOD.
1. The corruption of our own heart. This may be regarded as the first and greatest of all, because while this continues unsubdued, we cannot advance a single step in our journey to heaven; whereas, if this be overcome, none of the rest will be able to obstruct our progress.
2. The world.(1) How many, oppressed with the cares of this life, are wholly unconcerned about the joys of the life that is to come!(2) How many are the slaves of unhallowed lusts! The world holds out to them the intoxicating cup of forbidden pleasures; they drink it, and the luscious draught diffuses its baneful influence over the soul.(3) How many are deterred from the service of God by the fear of suffering! They would willingly serve God if they could do it with safety; but they cannot think of submitting to difficulties and trials in His service.
3. Another obstacle in the way of our approaching to God, is Satan. He is the deceiver and the destroyer.Lessons —
1. They who do not approach to God will perish.
2. The value of the privilege we possess, of approaching to God in the ways of His appointment.
3. It is only through the mediation of Jesus Christ that we can approach to God.
(John Ramsay, M. A.)
By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us, O God of our salvation.Isaiah 26:8-11; Psalm 45:4; Isaiah 64:1, 3, 4).
I. GOD HAS HERE AND NOW HIS TERRIBLE THINGS, BUT THEY ARE ALSO RIGHTEOUS THINGS (Psalm 97:8; Proverbs 16:4). If God has terrible things, as the exhibition of His righteousness and His power, so also men become sometimes terrible things, objects of terror, and I knew of nothing so terrible as a hard, and impenitent, and proud heart. But God is love! I feel that, but few arguments have convinced me of it; it is in my own consciousness, it is affirmed to me; but nature is so cruel I know not how to hang much consolation upon the compensations and kindnesses of natural theology, and Paley's celebrated assurance that "it is a happy world, after all!" But, alas, the world is one great calamity, and the contradictions to the assurance that God is love meet us in every age. It is thus I am often compelled to say, how perfect things are, how perplexing and cruel events are. What do you see? In one age a city ablaze beneath the calm and beautiful mountains and skies. I remember, years since, visiting, one bright mocking day, a village on the coast, near the scene of the horrible tragedy of Hartley; you come to it as you walk along that fine coast from Tynemouth; a quiet little village, called Cullercoats. I forget how many boats had been lost in the wild tempest, a night or two since; there was a sob of agony in every house. I did not think of Paley's selfish aphorism, "It's a happy world, after all!" just then, although the sea was bright, and birds were sailing pensively overhead: rather should I have said, "By terrible things dost Thou answer us, O God." Natural theology has little to say in reply to such scenes as these.
II. THE TERRIBLE THINGS OF GOD ARE NOT ONLY RIGHTEOUS THINGS, BUT NOT LESS THAN THESE, MAY BE AN ANSWER TO PRAYER. "I believe you are a child of God, and I believe you will never now be prosperous in your outer life again," said an old patriarch to a new convert; and the prophecy was fulfilled. The old man spoke from some instinctive perception of spiritual means and ends; and, undoubtedly, shadowy and dark as the prophecy seems, it was far more prescient and wise than that which supposes that all pain, and adversity, and affliction, and disappointment retire from the circle in which the child of God moves. This is not invariable, but we must believe the plan and the order of our life require it. "By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us." And thus, at last, we learn that all the ends of God, in us and with us, have relation to our final coronation in the palace of His love. The terrible things, all of them, "work out for us," as Paul said (2 Corinthians 4:17). And the explanation is that —
III. GOD, IN THE MIDST OF HIS TERRIBLE THINGS, IS NOT THE LESS THE GOD OF SALVATION. "Salvation belongeth to our God." The Bible grapples with this practical difficulty of our existence and experience — this dark and perplexed state of human affairs; and by innumerable images it labours to reach the heart, and to teach the heart that life and time are a seething furnace through which souls are passing, and over which God watches till the trial is complete.
(R. W. Emerson.)
the ends of
the earth. —
I. RECOGNIZE THE BEING AND ACTIVITY OF GOD. This is a necessary call; for it is questionable how far in the average we have assimilated first principles, and in the rush of life we often slight the essentials that lie behind the activities of faith. We have yet to recognize how fully Christ's life, and teaching, and mission concentre in God, how natural was His own attitude of complete submission to God, how persistently He directed men through Himself to God, and the significance of these facts. Rather than weakening it, the revelation of Christ ought to intensify our sense of God; for He lived to give man the highest conception of God it was possible for him to receive, and to safeguard his thought from the many errors to which it had always been exposed. Christ conserves in its integrity the idea of a personal God and of a paternal God; of One who feels, and thinks, and wills; who is distinct from all the world as we are distinct from each other; and yet who is as essentially akin to us as we are to each other.
II. RECOGNIZE THAT THE WORLD IS GOD'S WORLD AND MAN GOD'S CARE. This also is a necessary call. There are dark facts in nature and in life that seem to belie the "loving wisdom" of the Creator, and that have made men doubt the gracious providence of the Father. They press themselves in upon us with a pertinacity that wearies us and often forms a severe trial to our faith. Even Wordsworth finds that the "aching joys" and "dizzy raptures" that came to him from his delight in woods and hills, and all beautiful sights, pass, are left behind as the hours of thoughtless youth; and in their place the sounds of nature sob with a human cry; he is chastened and subdued because he hears in them the still, "sad music of humanity." Thomas Hardy finds a verdict of pessimism in nature confirming his verdict of pessimism on life. R.H. Hutton in an essay on Cardinal Newman, writes: "Now, the more earnestly Newman embraced the doctrine that the universe is full of the types and instrumentality of spiritual things unseen, the more perplexing the external realities of human history and human conduct, barbarous or civilized, mediaeval or modern, seemed to him. His faith in the sacramental principle taught; him to look for a created universe from which the Creator should be reflected back at every point." But Newman kept his faith in God and its corollary, faith in redemption. The light within him was not turned into darkness, and he saw that his faith in God demanded faith in redemption also. The human race was implicated in a "great aboriginal calamity," and that calamity he saw could only be rectified by "some equally great supernatural interference." We believe this; it is our only way; it is the faith of the psalmist, and it is the faith that has been at the root of all human progress. The outgoings of morning and evening, the surety of seed-time and harvest, are our pledges of Divine faithfulness. God is not defeated, nor has He forsaken either His creation or His children. He is the God of our salvation; His tokens are in the uttermost parts; and in Him is the confidence of all the ends of the earth.
(J. J. Leedal.)
And of them that are afar off upon the seaI. WHAT GOD IS TO US WHO ARE HIS PEOPLE — "God of our salvation." Salvation is of the Lord in every point. Not a bit of it is of us. All of Him from first to last, and all the points between the first and the last. Have any of you got a salvation that you have manufactured of yourselves? Then lay it down and run away from it. It will be of no use to you. The only salvation that can redeem from hell is the salvation that comes from heaven.
II. WHAT GOD WILL DO FOR US. He will answer us. This shows that we must all pray. There is not a believing man in the world but what must pray, and we shall never get into such a state of grace that we have not need to pray.
III. WHAT THE LORD IS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. He is the confidence of all the ends of the earth. I am going to spiritualize that — Who are the ends of the earth?
1. Well, the people that live in the frozen regions, or, taking the other end, the people that live in the equatorial regions, beneath the burning sun. All that live at the extremes of heat or cold, we may liken them to the ends of the earth. They are furthest off from us. Well, and God is worthy to be the confidence of those who are furthest off from His Church, from Himself, from the Gospel, from hope, from anything that is good.
2. The people least known. We know those round us, but not those far away.
3. Those least thought of.
4. Those most tried.
5. Those hardest to reach.
IV. WHAT GOD IS TO SEAFARING MEN. What should He be to them? He is "the confidence of all them that are afar off upon the sea." I have often likened the life of a seafaring man to what the life of a Christian should be. Hundreds of years ago, when man went to sea at all, the boats always kept within sight of shore. Your Tyrian or your Greek might be quite the master of his vessel, but he could not bear to lose sight of the headland. And it is a wonderful thing, common as it is now, that a ship should lose sight of land for a month together, seeing nothing that belongs to land. It is just like the life of a Christian, a life of faith. We ought not to see anything, we ought not to want to see anything. We walk by faith, not by sight. We take our bearings by the heavenly bodies. We are guided by the Word of God, which is our chart, by the movement of the blessed Spirit within, which is our compass. We have bidden farewell to things below', we seek a heaven that we have not seen, we are sailing across a life of which we know nothing. Trusting in Him, we shall come to our desired haven without fear of shipwreck. Sailors live on the sea — an unstable element, full of danger. Now, you and I are often brought into difficulties. We have not any strength left at all. We look up to God and cry, "I am lost." Oh, then, let God be your confidence. I exhort all believers here to have more confidence in God. The sailor is often brought where, if God does not keep him, he will be swallowed up. You and I ought not only to be brought there sometimes, but keep there, feeling that God is all, and we rest in Him without any other help.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Which by His strength setteth fast the mountains: being girded with power.
Homilist.I. God in material nature WORKING.
1. Settling (ver. 6). He keeps all things in their place. There is a principle of dissolution in every part of nature. All things that are settled in nature are settled being "girded" by His "power."
2. Tranquillizing (ver. 7).(1) How tumultuous is the sea at times! When the stormy winds lash it into fury; then its billows rise high as the hills, roar like thunder. Who can quiet them? God, and He only.(2) The excited passions of men, of mobs or nations, are oven more furious and terrible than the ocean in a tempest. He "stilleth" them also. This is a slow work, but a work possible to God, a work which He alone accomplishes.
3. Cheering (ver. 8). He sets the whole day to music. At dawn the strains are jubilant with hope, and at eve they swell into the rich deep notes of thankful memories.
4. Fructifying (ver. 9). The rich harvest is the coronation of heavenly goodness, and all the antecedent and preparatory mornings and evenings are so many sparkling jewels in the diadem.
II. God in material nature WORSHIPPED.
1. His presence is discoverable in nature. God is in nature in a higher sense than the engineer is in his machine, or the author in his book. The personalities of men are not in their works; but God is personally in nature. He is here — not merely His influence, His works, but Himself. It is because we are spiritually blind that we do not see Him.
2. His adorable character is discoverable in nature. You cannot worship the mere presence. Worship implies character, and the worshipful character must be benevolent. You cannot worship stolid indifference. Still less can you worship malice. In nature you see Divine goodness everywhere.
Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.I. THE BODY OF THE PEOPLE, LIKE THE BODY OF WATERS, IS NEVER ABSOLUTELY AT REST; AND WHEN IT IS MOST SO, IT IS ALWAYS DISPOSED TO BECOME OTHERWISE.
1. Dissatisfactions with measures of government are most easily conceived; and, when they begin to operate, are extremely productive of those murmurs and rumours amongst the people, which are the forerunners of troubles, and sure signs of approaching tempests in the State.
2. They are further subject to be moved either by affluent, or by desperate, circumstances in their private fortunes. It should seem strange that two so directly opposite causes should concur in producing the same bad effect; but so it does happen, that the very prosperity of those who mistake the use of it, instead of begetting in their minds that content and thankfulness which one should expect as its most natural consequence, is apt to excite in them those turbulent and unruly passions, from whence wars arise.
3. It must be confessed with regret, since it cannot be denied with truth, that the sacred name of religion, which one might have hoped would have contributed to allay these troubles, has but too frequently conspired to foment them.
4. The discontents which arise from these different causes are excellent instruments in the hands of factious and ambitious men, who, under the profession of seeking public interest, are better able to promote, while they conceal, their own.
5. A very superficial view of human nature may serve to convince us, that any one passion adds wings to a man in the progress he makes towards accomplishing his end. It is natural, therefore, to suppose, that when all these different and even contradictory impulses to action, like so many boisterous and contrary winds, have raised the ferment in a people, it must be "like the troubled sea when it cannot rest."
II. AND THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN, MUST INEVITABLY HAVE BEEN, OUR CASE; IF THE ALMIGHTY, WHO ALONE CAN GOVERN "THE RAGE OF THE SEA, AND THE MADNESS OF THE PEOPLE," HAD NOT PROVIDENTIALLY PRESCRIBED THE SAME RULE TO ONE, WHICH HE HAS, NATURALLY, PRESCRIBED TO THE OTHER. "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
1. Let us learn to distinguish, as much as we can, between our own preservation and the destruction of our enemies; and though we cannot ever be sufficiently thankful for one, let us not show an unmanly triumph in rejoicing over the other.
2. Since, by the good providence of God, we are now entirely free from the danger, let us not be weak enough to imagine that we never were in any.
3. As we now commemorate a day which "the Lord hath," undoubtedly, "made, we ought," indisputably, "to rejoice and be glad in it"; but let not that gladness be shown in a giddy round of mirth and wantonness, in successive scenes of intemperance and excess and riot; but in a sober and modest complacency, in the consciousness of having had God for our protector; in contemplating His adorable power; in addressing our thanks to Him for His unmerited goodness, and in supplicating the continuance of His protection to us.
4. Let not our gratitude end with the day; let it live as long as we have hearts to conceive, and breath to express it.
(T. Ashton, D. D.)
Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
I. THE INCOMPARABLENESS OF GOD'S FAVOURS. The matchless phenomena of the dawn and sunset are unique in nature. When God sows the "earth with orient pearl," and the fragrance of a thousand flowers exhales upon the morning air; or when eve, all clad in sober grey, comes forth, the "firmament with living sapphire glowing." We have a hint, too, of the kingdom of grace in our text. There is probably an allusion to the morning and evening sacrifice, a God-appointed ordinance, and therefore an allusion to Christ and His atonement.
II. THE FRESHNESS OF GOD'S FAVOURS. Each new morning and evening is as much a new thing as if just created. The beauty of dawn and sunset never pale. It is not only our lives that He crowns with lovingkindness and tender mercies, not only the year that He crowneth with goodness, but each morning and each evening He visiteth us. Day unto day uttereth speech. Night publisheth to night His mercies.
III. THE FITNESS OF GOD'S FAVOURS. "Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice." Just the time when we most need a fresh supply. The issues of the day are taken at their fount and the results of the day are blessed at their fruition. Some of the outgoings of the morning are —
1. Forebodings. Bright mornings often usher in sad thoughts, 'tis well to be met at the threshold of the day by God's benison and smile.
2. Duty lies before us every morning. The law of duty transformed to blessed personal service, if we meet Jesus at the door of the day, His statutes then shall be our "songs in the house of our pilgrimage," and "the joy of the Lord shall be our strength."
3. Uncertainty. We never know what a day may bring forth, but if God bless its outgoings we shall not be afraid of evil tidings nor of sudden fear, our heart is fixed.
IV. THE FULNESS OF HIS FAVOURS. From outgoing to outgoing, He fills up the whole day with the light that comes ix the dawn, and the whole night with the sweet peace and protection that comes at eve.
V. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GOD'S FAVOURS. Once in twenty-four hours each hemisphere of the world is alternately bathed in light, or rests in the peaceful shadow of night. This is true also of His grace and Gospel.
VI. THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD'S FAVOURS. The covenant of day and night was made with Noah. Every dawn and sunset is a pledge of His unchangeable fidelity to His promise (Genesis 8:22; Jeremiah 33:20, 21). The morning fails not by the thousandth part of a second, nor shall God's Word ever fail.
(F. A. Trotter.)
I. LIFE BOTH IN PROSPECT AND RETROSPECT IS BEAUTIFUL. To look on at the start, to look back at the close, are both a delight. Old age corroborates childhood, evening renews the morning; and whoever fails to enjoy life, both these succeed.
1. First, the glorious days of childhood, the sweet hours of early life. We often speak of youth's power of prophecy, of the young soul's anticipation of the future, the expectation of what life is going to be; oh, enchanting first days! But that is not what I mean. I speak of a time that comes before even that — of youth's pure enjoyment of life. You believe in life; you open out your souls trustfully to it; you have not begun yet to be suspicious; you do not imagine every cup which life sets to your lips to be poisoned; you dare smell every fragrant flower; you believe in to-day as well as yesterday, and you are not afraid of to-morrow with any fresh truth which it may bring. You never feel inclined to suspect every new prophet to be a traitor, and every new book to have the inspiration of the evil one in it. You are willing to hear every new call that comes; the charm has not disappeared for you from the work of the Lord, and you could know no shame so great as to be dismissed from His service. No prophecy has ever failed to you — "the Word of the Lord standeth sure"; you discount nothing which God has promised, and the fulfilment will be richer than the promise itself. Welcome, life! Hail, blessed future! "The outgoings of the morning... rejoice."
2. The retrospect will be blither still. Believe me, the brightest season is yet to be. "And the evening to rejoice." The surging process through which your faith may be passing will be over, and your faith will be richer than ever. The scares which many of us have through criticism; through the testing fires into which the Word of God is cast; through the rapid succession of books that crime questioning the authority of the Bible, absolutely denying its right to the deference it has always received; through the breaking up of old forms of thought, the recasting of old theories, the new terms in which we have got to speak of the Atonement and future retribution; — this scare will have ceased. The confusion and uncertainty in which you feel as if everything were breaking up and you were losing every truth you had treasured most, will have passed into a firm hold of all absolute verities.
II. THE PROSPECT AND THE RETROSPECT ARE BOTH MADE BEAUTIFUL BY GOD. Youth and old age — it is God touches both into beauty. Not one word of what I have said is true apart from God. Youth possesses no power of icy but in Him, old age is ugly severed from Him; the morning opens with the mutterings of a storm, evening closes in blackness and hopelessness God puts into both the lines that constitute their charm. You have climbed through a narrow mountain-pass. Morning was radiant when you started, and every foot you climbed the scene became more enchanting, and your spirits rose with every step. But presently the prospect narrows, the mountains close in upon you, the sun is hidden, and a cold wind sweeps through the defile; your spirits droop, and you can only doggedly plod along. But by and by the mountains open out again, the pass is over, and far away under your feet stretches a fairer scene than that which thrilled you in the early morning. Many of you, perhaps, are to-day in the pass. Youth is a memory which you find it hard to realize; you have left it far behind you. But you will be out of the pass soon. The prospect will open out again, and the sun will set upon a fairer world than you have ever seen. The best of life is yet to come. "Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice."
(J. Morlais Jones.)
(J. W. Earnshaw.)
Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it.I. GOD'S VISIT TO THE EARTH IN HIS PROVIDENCE. It is to this visit that our text immediately refers: "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it." It was not to cast fire upon it that the Lord came. It would not have been strange had He done that; but there is enough of fire in the composition of the globe to burn it to a coal, only the Lord waters it from His chambers, and keeps down the flames by casting showers of water upon them.
1. He visits the earth to soften its heart towards man.
2. He visits the earth to bring down the blessings upon it. 3 He visits the earth to assist it to serve man. The Lord blesseth the increase of the earth, so that one man can raise enough of corn to support scores of others, who in their turn serve him in some other way. The earth is full of His riches.
II. GOD'S VISIT TO THE EARTH IN HIS SALVATION. This is the great visit to us. But for this visit it would have scarcely been worthy of the God of love to visit us in His providence.
1. He comes on this visit without being invited.
2. The earth was armed against God when He came on this visit.
3. The earth is the only place that He visits in the character of a Saviour.
4. Of all God's visits, this is the one that cost Him most.
5. Of all the visits God has ever made, this is the one that will redound most to His glory.
III. GOD'S VISIT TO THE EARTH IN JUDGMENT.
1. Although there are many things concerning this visit which have not been revealed to us, we know that He will come with terrible majesty. He will not humble Himself, neither will He be humbled by any one else "at that day." He will be accompanied by a glorious throng. "Ten thousands of His saints." "All the holy angels with Him."
2. His object in coming will be to "reckon" with His servants. We know not whether He will "reckon" with the sun when giving it liberty; but I know that He will reckon with me, and that He will reckon with you.
3. The chief thing in view to be done then, will be to gather His subjects together, to glorify them openly, and to take them home with Him. He, too, will be for ever glorified in His saints.
(D. Roberts, D. D.)
Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God
I. THE CONTINUITY OF THE STREAM. The missionary spirit, like everything God-like in man, presses forward, acts for the future, hopes for the future, lives in the future, but it draws strength and refreshment from the experience, the examples, the accumulated power and wisdom of the past. Nay, just in proportion as we are animated by this reverence for the past, as we acknowledge our obligations to it, as we feel our connection with it; in short, as we realize this idea of continuity in the Church of Christ, in the same degree will the true missionary spirit — wise, zealous, humble, self-denying, enlightened, enterprising, innovating, in the best sense — because conservative in the best sense — prevail. The Church of Christ is a tree souring upward to heaven, spreading its branches far and wide, but its roots are buried far below the surface in a dark antiquity. Christian men, above all, Christian missionaries, are the heirs of all the ages.
II. THE COURSE OF THE RIVER IN ITS VICISSITUDES. The present time is confessedly a crisis fraught with manifold anxieties. If there are many bright gleams — and are there not many? — it is no less true that dark clouds overhang the horizon, threatening at any moment to deluge the Church of Christ. At such a crisis, what lessons does the image of the river, interpreted by the history of the past, suggest? Do they tend to dismay or to encouragement, to despair or to hope? To this question there is one clear and decisive answer. The river has its eddies and its back currents; it has its retrograde movements and its meandering channels, when it seems to recede even from its goal; it buries itself perhaps underground, or it loses itself in marshy swamps; it is hemmed in amid rocky heights, intrusive boundaries, which threaten to close in upon it and obstruct its course for ever. If we saw only one reach of the river, we should prophesy its failure in reaching its ultimate destination; but we know that despite all obstruction, despite all treacherous appearances, it must flow onward and downward and empty itself into the ocean. Whatever partial aberrations there may be, its general course is the same. This is the law of its being, and so also with the Church of God. We ought to know, and we ought to feel, independent of history, that the truth cannot perish; that the Church of God cannot fail. This is a spiritual law as the other was a physical law. It must survive, it must flow ever onward and onward till it reaches the ocean of the eternal truth.
III. HOW IS THIS STREAM FED? What accessions does it receive? What are its tributaries? From all quarters of the heavens the streams fall into the main channels, fall direct from lofty mountain heights, draining here broad tablelands, there flowing amid barren rocks and rolling meadows and extensive plains; from the right hand and from the left they issue to swell the bulk of the rolling tide. But, as they joint the main stream, they betray their separate sources; they have their own colour, their own swiftness, and they seem almost to keep their own channel. At length the fusion is complete, they have mingled their waters in the main stream, they are lost in it; but meanwhile, and this is what I ask you specially to mark, they have communicated to it their own characteristics, their purifying or fertilizing qualities, and thus, strengthening and strengthened, giving something and receiving more, they roll down in one broad, irresistible, ever-flowing stream, bearing on their breast the natives of divers climes and the products of many soils, sweeping their rich argosies of men and treasure onwards towards the one far-off ocean which is their common goal. The tributaries of the mighty river — are we not reminded by these words of another image Under which the same truth is prefigured by psalmist and prophet, when the nations of the earth gather together from the four winds of heaven to the Holy City and pour in, each its special products, its choicest gifts as a tribute to the treasury of the God of Israel? One offers its finely woven fabrics, another its elaborately chased vessels and its rich carvings, another its costly perfume, another its ivory, its rare woods, its precious metals. Do we ask what is the counterpart to all this in the history of the Christian Church? Has not each Christian nation on its accession, as it was gathered into the fold of Christ, given some fresh cause of strength to the Church, emphasized some doctrinal truth, or developed some practical capacity, or fostered some religious sentiment, and thus contributed to the more complete understanding, or effective working, of the faith once delivered to the saints? And can we suppose that this mighty stream, this river of God, has no more great tributaries to receive, that all the literary streams which might swell and purify and fertilize its waters, have been dried up? Has the Hindoo, with his calm resignation and quiet endurance, with his quick, subtle intellect; has the Chinese, with his stubborn pertinacity and utter fearlessness of death — have these no rich offering, think you, to present at the altar, no new contribution to the fulness of the Gospel of Christ?
Thou preparest them
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Thou waterest the regions thereof abundantly: Thou settlest the furrows thereof1. Spring follows winter and ushers in summer according to an appointed order. This fact teaches the continuous control and government of God. The regular succession of the seasons seems to declare that "the Lord reigneth." In some respects, during winter, God seems like a man travelling into a far country. Darkness and barrenness and coldness suggest absence on the part of God. The spring looks like His return.
2. The spring season is a time of resurrection to life throughout the vegetable kingdom. This suggests the continued life-inspiring power of God. There is not only infinite life in God, there is also an immeasurable life-giving power in God.
3. The great and various changes which the spring season involves show forth the unchangeableness of God.
4. The loveliness of the spring season is a reflection of the beauty of God. Every living thing is a thought of God expressed. What a glorious nature that must be which could devise and originate all that is beauteous in the spring!
5. The joyousness of spring speaks to us of the happiness of God. Beauty and joy are not always combined, but they exist together in God. God is happy, and His happiness is of a Godly sort.
6. The combination and co-operation of influences in the spring season are illustrations of the wisdom and power of God. "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it," — in the margin, "after Thou hadst made it to desire rain." The dryness of the early part of spring works together with moisture and with spring rains to promote the fruitfulness of the earth.
7. The provision made in spring for a present and future supply of food exhibits the benevolence of God: "Thou providest them corn, when Thou hast so provided for it." Sustenance of some kind or other would seem on some grounds to be the due of man. In this case, however, the quality, and abundance, and character of the provision may all afford scope for the display of goodness. The support of a prodigal child, however, is a matter not of debt, but of grace. God made man for himself, and when man began to live for his own self, he forfeited all claim upon God's bountifulnessConclusion —
1. Praise God for the spring season. And let no scientific or philosophical view of the changes involved in the spring at all exclude God from your minds and hearts. Whatever may be the law of these changes, God makes them.
2. Let the spring teach you the folly of anxiety. See, at this season, how God clothes the grass of the field and the flowers of the field. The grass of the field chides and reproves us for our carefulness, and exhorts us, saying, "Neither be ye of anxious mind."
3. Let the spring encourage you in broad and unrestrained prayer. He who gives to us so bountifully in the spring season, is not likely to withhold any good thing.
4. Make all the sights and sounds of spring occasions of communion and intercourse with God.
5. God is renewing the face of the earth; let us seek the renewing of the Holy Ghost. We may be conscious of declension in the inward spiritual life. There is a power which can renew our spiritual life, and to that power let us turn with holy longing for its manifestation within us.
6. Let us learn from the spring season the firm foundation we have for hope. Time more or less is still before us. Cheered by the spring let us sing, "Jehovah is my shepherd, I shall not want." We may be forewarned of a passing through fire and water; aroused by the spring, let us listen to His voice who saith, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee." The religious state of mankind is most gloomy and depressing. Cheered by the spring, let us expect the day when the wilderness shall become a fruitful field, and when the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose. Let this spring season give to us all a lesson in hope, and let it teach us to hope in God.
(S. Martin, D. D.)
I. NOTE THE WORK PREVIOUS TO THE SPRINGING.
1. The ploughing, God's preparing the soul by conviction. The law with its ten black horses drags the ploughshare of conviction up and down the soul till it is all furrowed over. And then comes —
2. The sowing of the good seed.
3. The harrowing, the praying over what has been sown; this must by no means be neglected. But —
4. There is a work beyond our power. "Thou visitest the earth and waterest it," says the psalmist. In vain are all our efforts unless God shall bless us with the rain of His Holy Spirit's influence. Three effects are spoken of. First, we are told He waters the ridges. As the ridges of the field become well saturated through and through with the abundant rain, so God sends His Holy Spirit till the whole Heart of man is moved and influenced by His divine operations. Next, it is added, "Thou settlest the furrows," by which some think it is meant that the furrows are drenched with water. Others think there is an allusion here to the beating down of the earth by heavy rain till the ridges become flat, and by the soaking of the water are settled into a more compact mass. Certain it is that the influences of God's Spirit have a humbling and settling effect upon a man. He was unsettled once like the earth that is dry and crumbly, and blown about and carried away with every wind of doctrine; but as the earth when soaked with wet is compacted and knit together, so the heart becomes solid and serious under the power of the Spirit. Yet again, it is added, "Thou makest it soft with showers." Man's heart is naturally hardened against the Gospel; like the Eastern soil, it is hard as iron if there be no gracious rain. How sweetly and effectively does the Spirit of God soften the man through and through.
II. DESCRIBE THE SPRINGING THEREOF. It is gradual. Remember the Lord's words, "First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Some of our friends are greatly disturbed because they cannot see the full corn in the ear in themselves. They must learn to wait. What, then, is the springing up of piety in the heart? We think it is first seen in sincerely earnest desires after salvation. The man is not saved, in his own apprehension, but he longs to be. That which was once a matter of indifference is now a subject of intense concern. "The springing thereof " shows itself next in prayer. It is prayer now. Once it was the mocking of God with holy sounds unattended by the heart; but now, he really prays. There will also be manifest a hearty love for the means of grace, and the house of God. The Bible, long unread, which was thought to be of little more use than an old almanack, is now treated with great consideration. And then there comes faith in Jesus Christ; it may be small, but it is real.
III. THERE IS ONE WHO SEES THIS SPRINGING. Thou, Lord — Thou blessest the springing thereof. I wish that some of us had quicker eyes to see the beginning of grace in the souls of men; for want of this we let slip many opportunities of helping the weaklings.
IV. WHAT A MISERY IT WOULD BE, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, TO HAVE THIS SPRINGING WITHOUT GOD'S BLESSING! "Thou blessest the springing thereof." Think of how the springing would have been without the blessing. Suppose we were to see a revival amongst us without God's blessing. It is my conviction that there are revivals which are riot of God at all, but are produced by excitement merely. If there be no blessing from the Lord, it will be all a delusion, a bubble blown up into the air for a moment, and then gone to nothing.
V. THE COMFORTING THOUGHT THAT GOD DOES BLESS "THE SPRINGING THEREOF." Let me tell you what that blessedness is; you have probably now a greater horror of sin than professors who have known the Lord for years; they might wish that they felt your tenderness of conscience. You have now a graver sense of duty, and a more solemn fear of the neglect of it than some who are further advanced. You have also a greater zeal than many; you are now doing your first works for God, and burning with your first love; nothing is too hot or too heavy for you; I pray that you may never decline, but always advance. Lessons:
1. Let older saints be very gentle and kind to young believers. God blesses the springing thereof — mind that you do the same. Do not throw cold water upon them.
2. Fulfil the duty of gratitude. If God blesses the springing thereof, we ought to be grateful for a little grace.
3. If God does so much for you now at "the springing," what will He not do in after days? Trust Him, then, always.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. SPRING IS THE SEASON OF RENEWAL — such is the aim of the Church — to renew by God's grace spiritually, the face of the earth. And to do this, first, by a prior change within. No outward work without that can avail.
II. SPRING IS THE SEASON OF SEED TIME, of preparation, of promise. But what is all our Church work but simply the casting in of seed. Now is not harvest. Are we wondering that after nearly two thousand years, the Church should be still almost at the beginning of her sacred enterprise, and that we still have to wait? Perhaps it is not wonderful if we think what the preparation means, and how it has had to be carried on.
III. SPRING IS A SEASON OF DELAYS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS. And so it is in our spiritual work. But be of good cheer; the harvest will, must, come.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
I. AN INTELLIGENT RECOGNITION OF DIVINE INTERFERENCE. Let this fact, which is so readily admitted, produce the proper practical effects on your heart and conduct.
1. Diligence will then result, under the powerful conviction that it is not the earth uncultured which God blesses, but that which has been furrowed by the plough, and sown with the valuable grain; this He smiles upon, there He "causes the bud of the tender herb to spring forth."
2. Faithful dependence.
II. A CLAIM ON YOUR GRATITUDE. To whom are you indebted for the refreshing verdure of your fields, for the tender herb which appeareth? That which we hope to gather, God giveth. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren," etc. (Romans 12:1). And has God blessed those other fields which you have cultured with a solicitous and parental care? When you are permitted to see your sons growing up as plants in their youth, to witness the domestic regularity of your children; and at the same time observe some neighbouring households, like the field of the slothful, grown over with the thorns and thistles, the nettles and briars, of unholy tempers and conduct; when you notice these things, and consider the inadequacy of your talents and toils to effect these pleasing prospects, can you refrain from praising God even with a loud voice, in that He has been mindful of His promise that "He would pour out His spirit from on high, so that the wilderness should become a fruitful field"?
III. AN ANTIDOTE TO YOUR APPREHENSIONS. When God begins any good work, the commencement is the best pledge of its completion. As farmers watch over their rising corn, but God alone preserves it from danger, and brings it to its destined maturity, — as fathers are solicitous about the health and support of their families, but find that it is vain to rise early, or sit up late, unless God giveth them the needful supply, — as mothers tenderly nourish their offspring, and dandle their little ones on their knees, — so will the Great Author be also the Finisher of their faith. He will watch with care the rising grain, He will support the life He has imparted, He will cherish the endeared resemblance of Himself; He will, in fine, bless the springing of the precious seed, will not let one grain be lost, but gather all into His garner. Conclusion —
1. Although God is the great Agent, He works instrumentally.
2. Is it not a painful consideration, that the promised benediction of Heaven shall prove to some the heaviest calamity?
3. The springing of the corn is frequently employed as an emblem of the resurrection of the body; the subject may therefore profitably lead our thoughts to that great day of decision — delight or despair.
I. CHANGE. This tells that God is here, visiting the earth, and that He is at work.
II. LIFE. All really scientific experience tells us that life can be produced from a living antecedent only. All life is from God.
(W. W. Sidney.)
I. WHO IS THERE WHO HAS NOT FELT AND ACKNOWLEDGED THE SOFTENING, EXPANDING, GENIALIZING INFLUENCE OF THE SPRING; ITS SWEETENING EFFECT UPON THE MENTAL MOOD AND TEMPER? It is a Divine means of grace. What you have to do is, just to seize the vernal feeling that has risen in you, and cherish and go forth with it: namely, by starting from the height of it, under the impulse of it, with new resolves and endeavours to cultivate the genial and generous temper; and by seeking to put it at once, before it fades, into some corresponding deed.
II. DOES NOT THE PRESENT SEASON TEND TO EXCITE IN US, AT TIMES, STRANGE, VAGUE, MYSTERIOUS YEARNINGS — YEARNINGS AMOUNTING OFTEN TO PAIN?... I recall vividly a sketch I once saw — a slight but very striking sketch — a lone evening shore, with the sun slowly sinking into the sea, and a woman sitting gazing at it from the beach, her hands clasped round her knees, a far-off, weary, wistful look in her eyes, her face as the face of one who listens for something that is unheard, and longs for more than is seen. It was as though the dying sun were drawing her to himself; as though presently she must arise and seek him through the waves, aching to find with him — she knew not what — but the larger, the brighter, the happier that seemed to be calling her. Now, that is an illustration of what I mean; when nature lays her hand upon us, and sees us dreamily yearning, as she is especially apt to do in her annual springing. Turn the feeling before it dies into a prayer — a prayer to be filled and satisfied from the Lord; a prayer to be made willing to seek and do in harmony with His will... It is an accepted time, a day of salvation; do not lose it.
III. HAS NOT THE LOVELINESS OF SPRING, AND THE BEAUTIFUL ORDER WHICH IT EXPRESSES AND REVEALS, BROUGHT HOME TO US NOW AND AGAIN, BY THE FORCE OF CONTRAST, THE UGLINESS AND DISORDERS THAT ABOUND IN MAN'S WORLD, AND CONSTRAINED US TO PONDER AND BEWAIL THEM AFRESH?... Whenever the spring leads you to lament thus, what is it but a fresh Divine call to you to philanthropic labour and effort; a fresh Divine impression upon you of humanity's sore needs and woes; that you may be awakened to increased sympathy with them, and urged to attempt more towards their relief? Seek, then, to waken and urge yourselves with it. Go, with the tears for the miseries and evils of man's world which the musical groves and the fine order of nature may have started in your eyes, to weep helpfully with them that weep, and to strive with renewed endeavour against the works of the devil. So shall the springing which the Lord blesses be blessed indeed.
(S. A. Tipple.)
Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness: and Thy paths drop fatness
I. CROWNING MERCIES CALLING FOR CROWNING GRATITUDE. All the year round God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we work, His mercy waits upon us.
1. If we begin with the blessings of the nether springs, the joyous days of harvest are a special season of favour. The psalmist tells us that the harvest is the crowning of the year. What would it have been for us as a nat:on had there been a total failure of the crops? Or even a partial scarcity. We none of us can fully estimate the amount of happiness conferred by a luxuriant yield. How shall we give praise? By inward gratitude; by words of thanksgiving in psalms and hymns; and by our gifts.
2. And there have been heavenly harvests. In ancient days there was Pentecost. And we have had revivals where spiritual life has been awakened and quickened. How the Lord has blessed us in this respect. As for conversions, has not the Lord been pleased to give them to us as constantly as the sun rises in his place? Scarce a sermon without the benediction of the Most High. We must not forget this. And we are looking for greater things still — the conversion of the whole world to God.
II. PATHS OF FATNESS SHOULD BE WAYS OF DUTY. The paths of war, how terrible are they, but the paths of God — they drop fatness. It is so in providence. Do but trust the Lord. Yet more in things spiritual. In the use of the means of grace. If you come to them desiring to meet with Jesus, you shall do so, and you shall find our text true. And so is it with the path of prayer, and of communion, and of faith. Let the Lord come into our congregations by His Spirit, then would His paths drop fatness. This is what we want: let us pray for it.
III. SUGGESTIONS AS TO OUR DUTY. Yield yourselves to Christ. What a harvest for you that would be. Serve Him more. As Churches let us pray more.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. As to our COUNTRY.
II. As to our FAMILIES.
III. As to our PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
IV. As to THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH.
I. THE DIVINE GOODNESS ORDERED. "Thou crownest the year," etc. Now, praise must be for God alone: not for any man, however helpful to your souls he may have been. And in this spirit of praise every action of the Church ought to be performed. We shall be helped to praise by remembering how God has answered our prayers; and this in spite of our sins; and what sacred privileges He has admitted us to.
II. THE ENCIRCLING BLESSING OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS IS TO BE CONFERRED. "Thou crownest the year," etc. See it in the history of our own Church.
III. AND THIS, ALSO, IS OF GOD. Again, we look back on the same history for these last twenty-five years, and we see the goodness of God everywhere. In conversions, in consistent character maintained, in triumphant departures to heaven. Let more come to Him now.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. HOW THE HARVEST, THE CROWN OF THE YEAR, DISPLAYS THE GREAT GOODNESS OF OUR GOD. For think —
1. Of the perils that beset the harvest.
2. How God demands man's co-operation, yet reserves to Himself the sole efficiency.
3. The manner of conducting the whole to a successful issue — so slow, still, imperceptible, and yet so all at once.
4. Its fulfilment of the ancient promise.
5. The universality of the blessing.
II. WHAT RETURN IS DUE FROM US TO GOD? Praise, for —
1. We celebrate the bestowment of forfeited blessings.
2. Harvest blessings serve purposes higher than themselves. They minister to life, and that may lead to salvation.
3. They are pledges of yet greater blessings which God will give.
I. LIVELY GRATITUDE. The ravages of famine have been averted, suspense has been relieved, anxious forebodings dissipated, and a rich recompense has crowned the husbandman's toil. Surely a world so full of God's goodness should be vocal with His praise.
II. ADORING WONDER. Instead of assuming a stolid indifference and unconcern, as many do, or taking the laws of nature and arrangements of Providence as things of course, in presence of processes whose operation, repeated from year to year, testifies to a Power before which all the achievements of human skill are utterly insignificant, let us go through life finding each day new cause for intelligent wonder and admiration, and fresh reason for declaring to all around "the wondrous works of God." Nor, while cherishing feelings of adoring wonder in contemplating the wonders of nature and of Providence, ought we to forget the more amazing things in God's character and in God's law, in the person and work of Him who is "Wonderful," in the operations of the Holy Spirit on the hearts and lives of men.
III. HUMBLE DEPENDENCE. And, while cherishing feelings of humble dependence for the bounties of Providence, let us be daily constrained to acknowledge ourselves debtors to Divine grace.
IV. RESTFUL CONFIDENCE. Men may alter their intentions or be defeated in their purposes; their promises are precarious, being dependent upon many contingencies; but the laws of nature reflect the immutability of their Author. As the seasons revolve fresh proof is afforded of God's faithfulness which anew should strengthen confidence and call forth praise. After we have done our part we can repose our faith in the constancy of nature and experience the satisfaction and comfort which proceed from committing the result to Him who giveth the increase. Besides, our confidence is based not only on the high attributes of a God whose nature is unchangeable, and on the covenant into which God was pleased to enter with Noah and his seed, but specially on the securities of that covenant which cannot be broken into which God has entered with Jesus as our representative and Saviour. We may well trust in the Lord.
V. ENLARGED BENEVOLENCE. The world's harvests are for the world's inhabitants. We are all children of the common Father, members of the same great family, and if some perish from hunger or are stinted in their supply of bread, this is due, not to want of the precious commodity in the world, but to the thoughtlessness and improvidence of men. Let us imitate the Divine example by devoting of the gifts of His bounty as He may prosper us for the relief and help of those whose necessities are greater than our own, and who have, therefore, a claim on our sympathy and assistance. "Freely ye have received, freely give."
(T. B. Johnstone, D. D.)
(W. Wright, D. D.)
I. GOD'S GOODNESS IS MANIFESTED IN THE HARVEST. Certain seasons speak to us and teach us lessons; and it is necessary, in the hurry and scurry of modern civilization, that something should remind us of the hereafter, or we might think, with the secularist, that this life only demands our attention. And in contemplating the harvest we are led to think of the goodness of God. The harvest is, as it were, the crowning point of God's goodness. "Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness." As if the psalmist would say that the goodness of God in preparing the ground and in blessing the springing of the seed reached its highest manifestation in the ingathering of the earth's increase. God's promise to Noah still stands secure, although our friends the farmers, with their usual characteristic, have prophesied with lugubrious faces the failure of the harvest. The goodness of God is further exhibited in the bountiful provision which He has made for all His creatures. So ample is it that even birds know how to get their food. He provides for man physically, intellectually, and spiritually. In the physical world man's wants are supplied, both for food and clothing, from the lower order of animals and from plants. In the intellectual sphere man finds food for his intellect in the realms of agriculture, astronomy, physics and metaphysics, arts and sciences, and in the more humble, and yet, perhaps, more useful occupations of the home life. But does God's goodness stop here? Oh, no. God has provided in His Word for all man's requirements in the spiritual world.
II. NOTE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD'S GOODNESS. It is continuous. "The goodness of the Lord endureth continually." God's goodness is satisfying. "We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house." Nothing short of God and His goodness can satisfy the soul's deep longings. "None but Christ can satisfy." We cannot understand the soul's yearnings, but we know they are there. But, says somebody, God's goodness does not satisfy me. Then be assured that you are out of harmony with goodness and with God. A man who has no soul for the beautiful will spend a miserable half-hour if taken to the Royal Academy. One with no soul for music can see no beauty in the production of the "Elijah." God's goodness is universal. "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." Why, then, so much misery and starvation in our streets? Because man has placed himself outside the pale of God's goodness by sin. If we could dig clown deep into the very cause of misery, we should find this true.
III. GOD'S GOODNESS DEMANDS MUCH OF US. What are we going to give Him? An adequate return? We cannot. At best we can but pay a few shillings in the pound. Shall we give Him our intellect, to think for Him, and use the best means of building up His kingdom? Shall we give Him our possessions, our riches, our wealth, to be used in His service? Shall we give Him our hearts, that He may rule and reign as Lord of every motion there? Shall we give Him our life — aye, and before the best of it is gone?
(H. M. Draper.)
I. EVERY YEAR IS CROWNED WITH GOD'S GOODNESS.
1. The annual revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and the benefit we receive by their light and influences, in the several seasons of the year.
2. The annual fruits and products of the earth, grass for the cattle, and herbs for the service of men, with these the earth is every year enriched for use; as well as beautified and adorned for show. The harvest is the crown of every year, and the great influence of God's goodness to an evil and unthankful world.
II. SOME YEARS ARE, IN A SPECIAL MANNER, CROWNED WITH THE GOODNESS OF GOD MORE THAN OTHER YEARS.
1. God and His providence must be owned in all the blessings of the year. Whatever has been or is our honour, our joy, our hope, comes from God's hand, and He must have the praise of it.
2. The goodness of God must in a particular manner be acknowledged, as that in which all our springs are, and from which all our streams flow.
3. These blessings which flow from the goodness of God have crowned this year; He in them has crowned it. That word shall lead us into the detail of those favours, which we are this day to take notice of, with thankfulness, to the glory of God. A crown signifies three things, and each will be of use to us.
(1) (2) (3) III. APPLICATION. 1. Has God thus crowned the year? Let us cast all the crowns of it at His feet, by our humble, grateful acknowledgments of His infinite wisdom, power, and mercy. What we have the joy of, let God have the praise of. 2. Has God thus crowned the year? Let not us then profane our crown, nor lay our honour in the dust, by our unworthy walking. Let the goodness of God lead us to repentance, and engage us all to reform our lives and families, to be more watchful against sin, and to abound more in the service of God, and in everything that is virtuous and praiseworthy. 3. Let God's goodness to us engage, and increase, our goodness to one another: it is justly expected, that they who obtain mercy should show mercy, and so reflect the rays of the Divine goodness upon all about them; being herein followers of God as dear children; followers of Him that is good, in His goodness. ( M. Henry.).
(2) (3) III. APPLICATION. 1. Has God thus crowned the year? Let us cast all the crowns of it at His feet, by our humble, grateful acknowledgments of His infinite wisdom, power, and mercy. What we have the joy of, let God have the praise of. 2. Has God thus crowned the year? Let not us then profane our crown, nor lay our honour in the dust, by our unworthy walking. Let the goodness of God lead us to repentance, and engage us all to reform our lives and families, to be more watchful against sin, and to abound more in the service of God, and in everything that is virtuous and praiseworthy. 3. Let God's goodness to us engage, and increase, our goodness to one another: it is justly expected, that they who obtain mercy should show mercy, and so reflect the rays of the Divine goodness upon all about them; being herein followers of God as dear children; followers of Him that is good, in His goodness. ( M. Henry.).
(3) III. APPLICATION. 1. Has God thus crowned the year? Let us cast all the crowns of it at His feet, by our humble, grateful acknowledgments of His infinite wisdom, power, and mercy. What we have the joy of, let God have the praise of. 2. Has God thus crowned the year? Let not us then profane our crown, nor lay our honour in the dust, by our unworthy walking. Let the goodness of God lead us to repentance, and engage us all to reform our lives and families, to be more watchful against sin, and to abound more in the service of God, and in everything that is virtuous and praiseworthy. 3. Let God's goodness to us engage, and increase, our goodness to one another: it is justly expected, that they who obtain mercy should show mercy, and so reflect the rays of the Divine goodness upon all about them; being herein followers of God as dear children; followers of Him that is good, in His goodness. ( M. Henry.).
( M. Henry.).