ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
I. It must be at once apparent that seeking God is a right thing—a thing fitting and becoming for man, as the creature and the child of God, to do. Whom or what should he seek if he seek not God? Is not God the Author of his being, the Supporter of his existence, the Source of all his advantages, the Giver of every good gift that he enjoys? It becomes us to seek Him that we may know Him in all the glory of His perfections and all the plenitude of His grace, to seek Him that we may bring our emptiness to His fulness, our poverty to His riches, our darkness to His light, that He may help us according to our need.
II. One reason why there is so little of earnest, hearty seeking after God on the part of His people is that we do not sufficiently keep before us the idea that this is what above everything else it is our duty and our privilege to do. There is so much said about men seeking pardon, and seeking peace, and seeking acceptance with God that we are apt to fall into a belief that these are in themselves the ultimate ends of our religion. But the Bible never represents them in that light, nor does it dwell upon them to such an extent as we are accustomed to do. It brings them forward as means to an end. Having found these inestimable blessings, we are not to rest there; there is something higher and better to which they are designed to lead us. In them we lay the foundation of the Divine life, but they are not that life itself. That life is in God, and it is only as we seek Him with our whole heart that we can enjoy that life. To bring us to Himself is the crowning design of the Gospel scheme.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Christian Thought and Work, p. 50.
References: Psalm 119:5.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 205. Psalm 119:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1443.
Psalm 119:9I. The Bible makes a great deal in its teaching about the ways of men. And nothing is plainer than that it contemplates as great a variety of ways as there are kinds of men. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? "Not any way, not somebody else's way, not the old man's way, not the way of the man in mid-life, but his own way: the young man's way. Your way is a way of hope. Your face is towards the future. You have all the possibilities still before you. Every step, therefore, is solemn, is of everlasting importance, may be a step into blessedness or a step into woe.
II. Try, next, to understand what is meant by "cleansing the way." It is the cleanness which is part of God's life which is intended. God is of purer eyes than to look upon sin. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. It is the cleanness which is also the holiness of God—cleanness from sin, from evil, from guile, from insincerity. And the question, read in the light of this explanation, means, "Wherewithal shall a young man lead a holy life, like the life of the holy God? Wherewithal shall he make his way the way of a saint?"
III. The answer to this question is, "By taking heed thereto according to God's word:" by taking God's word as the light, the guide, and the director of the way; by considering your steps in the light of that word; by taking that word as the chart, the pilot, and the propeller of your way. (1) A great practical step has been taken when you see that you are to a certain extent God's stewards over your own life and character. (2) Another great step is taken when you see that there is a contrast between the light of God's word and the life on which it falls. (3) The next step places you face to face with the grand choice submitted to every soul who follows God's word: the choice between the life you are leading and the life which that light expresses.
A. Macleod, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 229.
References: Psalm 119:9.— A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 198; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 315; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 196; F. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 519. Psalm 119:9-11.— H. Allon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 40. Psalm 119:9-12.— H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 90.
Psalm 119:15I. The Hebrew word here translated "meditate" signifies properly to speak or converse with one's self. Hence it conveys the idea of seclusion, retirement, solitude, and, at the same time, of mental activity. In meditation the mind retreats within itself; but it retreats thither to think, to ponder, to reflect. To meditate one must, therefore, first of all retire. To converse with self we must be alone, our sole companion our own thoughts, our sole witness God and nature.
II. But it is not enough that we be alone. Mere solitude is not meditation, and as little is mere quietude or mere musing. There are some minds that are given to a still, half-sleeping, half-waking passivity of thought, a habit which seems to be most seductive, but which is utterly unprofitable. Meditation involves the ideas of reflectiveness, of reverence. It is a fixing of the mind upon something interesting to ourselves and, at the same time, impressive. The man who meditates has his mind occupied by some lofty theme; especially in religious meditation the mind fixes upon God and the things of God.
III. It needs only that we should make the experiment to satisfy ourselves that the practice thus commended to us is intimately connected with our spiritual welfare and growth in holiness. (1) Meditation is that which rivets Divine truth in the memory. (2) Meditation on Divine things makes them really profitable to us. (3) Meditation gives depth, seriousness, and earnestness to our religious profession and character. Religion, whatever else it is, is a mode of thought; and hence it is only as deep and earnest thoughtfulness is bestowed upon it that it can be developed in its higher and nobler forms.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Christian Thought and Work, p. 1.
Reference: Psalm 119:15.— Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 286.
Psalm 119:18I. Consider the sense of wonder in man, and what generally excites it. That God has bestowed on man such a faculty we all know. It is one of the first and most constant emotions in our nature. The greatest minds and the truest hearts preserve this feeling fresh to the very last, and go through life finding new cause for intelligent wonder day after day. The feeling may be excited: (1) by the new or unexpected; (2) by the beautiful or grand; (3) by the mysterious which surrounds man.
II. God has made provision for this sense of wonder in His revealed word. (1) The Bible addresses our sense of wonder by constantly presenting the new and unexpected to us. (2) It sets before us also things beautiful and grand, without which the new would be a matter of idle curiosity. (3) If we come to the third source of wonder, that which raises it to awe, it is the peculiar province of the Bible to deal with this.
III.. Notice the means we are to use in order to have God's word thus unfolded. The prayer of the Psalmist may be our guide, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may see." (1) He asks for no new revelation. The request is not for more, but that he may employ well that which he possesses. (2) He asks for no new faculty. The eyes are there already, and they need only to be opened.
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 29.
I. We are all born spiritually blind. When man lost his innocence, he lost also his sight. Blindness is the effect of sin.
II. Consider some of the characteristics of this blindness. (1) Blindness deprives its subjects of many pleasures which God's goodness lavishes on us, and through our eyes pours into our hearts. (2) Blindness makes the condition of its subjects one of. painful dependence. (3) Blindness exposes its subjects to deception. (4) Blindness exposes us to danger.
III. The eyes of the blind being opened, they behold wondrous things out of the law of God. Open a blind man's eyes. With what amazement, happiness, overflowing joy, will he gaze, nor tire gazing, on all above and around him, from the sun blazing in heaven to the tiniest flower that springs in beauty at his feet! And let God open a sinner's eyes, the Bible will seem to him a new book, and he seem to himself a new creature. He will see his heart, and wonder at its wickedness. He will see the Saviour, and wonder at His love. He will see how God has spared him, and wonder at His longsuffering. He will see salvation as the one thing needful, and wonder he could have taken a night's rest, ventured to close his eyes in sleep, till he had found peace with God.
IV. God only can open our eyes. We need sight as well as light. Abroad, among the Alps, where the road, leaving the gay and smiling valley, climbs into the realms of eternal winter, or is cut out of the face of precipices, down which one false step hurls the traveller into a gorge where the foaming torrent seems but a silver thread, tall crosses stand. And so, when the path is buried in the drift that spreads a treacherous crust over yawning crevice and deadly crag, he, by keeping the line of crosses, braves the tempest, and walks safely where otherwise it were death to venture. But set a blind man on such a road, and he never reaches home; the earth his bed and the snow his shroud, he sleeps the sleep that knows no waking. Now there is a Cross that points out man's way to heaven; but unless the eyes that sin sealed are open—have been opened by God to see it, and all the way-marks that mercy has set up to that happy home—our feet shall "stumble upon the dark mountains,", and we shall perish for ever.
T. Guthrie, Speaking to the Heart, p. 183.
Two forms of Divine teaching are implied in these words: revelation and spiritual apprehension to receive that which is revealed, truth in the written word and the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, the one therefore universal, common to all men—the open Bible, the Gospel preached to every creature under heaven—the other personal, private, incommunicable by man to man. And in this prayer both these are equally recognised as God's gift. "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law."
I. Notice, first, that the distinction which is here implied is in perfect harmony and analogy with all the conditions of human knowledge. Every branch of human knowledge has its objective and subjective side. In every art, every science, every pursuit, there are these two things: (1) general laws, rules, theories, principles, illustrations, examples, which can be committed to writing, stored up in books, taught in words by the teacher to the scholar; and (2) there is the personal aptitude, which may be developed by culture if it be latent, but which can never be bestowed when it is wanting.
II. The Bible amply recognises and abundantly teaches this double character of Divine knowledge, this analogy between Divine knowledge and every other kind of knowledge, but at the same time with a broad and vital difference. According to the teaching of the Bible, incapacity for spiritual truth is not the misfortune of individuals; it is the calamity of the human race: and, on the other hand, power to receive and apprehend spiritual truth is not the gift of genius, not the acquirement of plodding industry; it is the dark gift of God; it is the open eye, which God has opened to behold the great things out of His law.
III. It is an unspeakably consoling and delightful reflection that this impossibility of attaining spiritual truth apart from Divine teaching, which God's word so plainly sets forth, puts no hindrance in any man's way, no hindrance in the way of the simplest learner, no hindrance in the way of the unbeliever any more than of the believer, if only the unbeliever is desirous of knowing what is truth.
IV. This prayer implies the Divine inspiration and authority of the Bible; for is it not plainly incontrovertible that if the Bible be a book which the wisest man cannot understand, and therefore cannot interpret, without Divine teaching direct from God, it must be a book which no man could have written without such teaching?
E. R. Conder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 280.
The life of the soul has its wonders as well as the life of the body and the life of nature. It is a complex and mysterious thing. None but "opened eyes" can discern its marvellous treasures; and with them the further we see the greater is the wonder. God's discipline, God's patience, God's adjustment of men's powers and defects, God's method of answering prayer or seeming to be deaf to it—in these and similar dealings we can, if we will, find ever-fresh food for wonder, if only He grant us the gift of a teachable heart and an open eye.
I. Think of that phenomenon, so well known to all Christians, God's strength made perfect in weakness. Sometimes it is in spite of men's weakness; sometimes it is actually in consequence of it. The wonderful thing is to see how God's strength often takes hold of a weak character, and works upon it His miracles of purification. Where the worldly critic despairs, the instructed Christian hopes.
II. Consider another phenomenon in God's discipline: the use which He makes of disappointment. Is there no room for wonder here? To a very young boy disappointment is crushing and blinding. Everything and everybody seem set against him. But when growing years or a riper Christian experience has at last opened his eyes, he begins to discern "wondrous things" in the Divine law of disappointment. He sees, and others perhaps see still more plainly that that was the rock on which his character was built.
III. Notice another wondrous thing of God's law: His permission of sin. Sin is overruled into a trainer of righteousness. There are few more wondrous things in the moral world than to trace how a good man has been trained by his own sins, or rather trained by the Holy. Spirit of God through the permitted instrumentality of his own personal sins.
IV. Once more, if we look at the method by which God works His plans of improvement, may we not find abundant cause for reverent wonder? Think of His patience; His choice of feeble instruments; His choice, too, of unexpected and, as we should have thought, inappropriate means to work out His own ends; His discouragement sometimes of the higher agencies, and apparent preference for the lower. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 169.
The man who uttered these words felt that he was under Divine law. He felt that he knew it badly, and that it deeply concerned him to know it well; that to realise its sublimity and comprehensiveness, its marvellous wisdom, its perfect righteousness, would be light, and strength, and life to his soul, but that so to realise it God must vouchsafe to him a sacred influence, a spiritual enlightenment, and, he adds, sufficient faith in his God to believe that He was able and willing thus to help him.
I. There are assuredly countless wonders to be beheld in God's law, and we need only open eyes to behold them. In the Bible and other books we have the statements of God's laws; but these laws themselves are far too real to be in any book. No law of God, natural or spiritual, can be shut up in a book.
II. While all the laws of God should, as far as possible, be objects of interest and admiration, yet these laws are not all of the same practical importance to us. There are many of them which we must all be ignorant of, and which we may safely be ignorant of; there are many of them which we might know had we only time to make ourselves acquainted with them, yet we cannot consistently with duty spare the time necessary to understand them. On the other hand, there is a class of laws of awful significance to us, of which we must on no account be ignorant. Clearly it was these laws, which he also describes as the commandments, and precepts, and statutes of God, His righteous judgments, and His testimonies, that the Psalmist prayed to behold.
III. It is not enough to have God's law before us, or His truth disclosed; but we need also to have our eyes opened to see the law, our minds helped to understand the truth. The reason of man can no more act independently of God than his will can. Just as the will has been made to find its life in the holiness of God, reason has been made to find its life in the wisdom of God. Unless God open our eyes to behold the wonders of His law, no clearness in the outward revelation of its wonders will give us a true view of it. We shall see and yet not perceive.
R. Flint, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 8.
References: Psalm 119:18.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v., p. 77; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 312; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 59.
Psalm 119:19I. The stranger. The literal stranger is easily recognised, not so easily, perhaps, in a great city, where there are always thousands of strangers and foreigners, but easily in country towns and villages and on country roads. The life-spelling of the word "onward" sits in his look. His home, wherever it may be, is not here. There is one word which, as it seems to me, expresses more than any other single word of the real meaning of the principal term of this verse: "stranger"—the word "reserve." A principle, an instinct, a habit, of reserve will be found running through the whole of life on the earthly side of it with the stranger, as, for instance, (1) reserve in secular occupations, in what we call the business of life; (2) reserve in pleasure; (3) reserve even in the sphere of highest duty. The stranger is one who holds himself in reserve, who lifts himself up, who looks far and high, who directs his being inwards.
II. The prayer is perfectly suited to the condition which has been described. "A stranger"—here but for a little, and yet morally beginning the great hereafter, "never continuing in one stay," and yet possessing one being, and developing and settling that being into character. God's commandments, revealed and brought home to the heart, will yield plentifully all that can be needed in the pilgrim state. In one way or other they touch all the chances and hazards of the journey and all the requirements of the traveller, while they all combine to make one supreme influence of preparation for what will come when the earthly journey is over.
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 313.
I. Man's solitude: "I am a stranger upon earth."
II. Man's true companionship: "Thy commandments."
III. Man's true source of power: "Hide not"—teach me—"Thy commandments."
Bishop King, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 243.
I. I am as a stranger in the earth because of the impermanence of my position.
II. I am as a stranger in the earth because of my life and language.
III. I am as a stranger in the earth because of the perils to which I am exposed.
IV. "Hide not Thy commandments from me." These words show that God has not been unmindful of the earthly life of His saints, but has provided for its effectual protection.
Parker, Pulpit Analyst, vol. i., p. 601.
Psalm 119:19, Psalm 119:54Taken together, these words set forth our condition as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and God's bountiful provision for meeting that condition in Christ.
I. The fact that we are strangers is forced upon us by our ignorance. Apart from revelation, we know almost nothing of the world we live in, and absolutely nothing of its Lord. In every age and to every thinking soul arise the great questions, Who sent me into this earth? Why am I here? Whither am I going? A yearning for replies to these questions springs up in every heart. "O unknown Maker, I am a stranger on the earth; hide not Thy laws from me." The Gospel is God's answer to this cry. It is the revelation of the light which is behind sun and stars. Christ puts that great word "Father" into all our thoughts. He lifts the light of it over the whole universe. And the knowledge and glory of a living, loving, personal Father stream in upon us from every side.
II. Our sins still more than our ignorance have put the sense of strangeness into our hearts and the marks of it upon our countenance. When the soul awakens to spiritual consciousness and finds itself in the presence of this great truth of the Fatherhood of God, the first fact which confronts it is a sense of farness from the Father. It is God's mercy that He has not left us to rest in this depth of strangeness. He has made a way for us in Christ—the new and living way by the blood. God's own Son has died to put our estrangement away. "We are no more strangers and foreigners." The blood has brought us near.
III. Another proof that we are strangers is the estrangement we find among men. Of this problem also the solution is provided in the Gospel. Christ comes as the great Uniter and Binder together. He comes sowing over all the waste of estrangement and alienation this healing word: "One is your Father." He comes with the grand purpose of binding those who receive that word into a holy and abiding fellowship.
IV. The last and saddest mark of the stranger upon us is death. If there had been no light for this shadow, how great our misery should be. But, blessed be God, He has not hidden the future from His child. This also is laid bare to our hungering hearts in Christ. A home awaits us beyond the grave. A new life blooms for us in the very presence of God. Our torn and suffering earthly existence is to be crowned with: glory and immortality in the world of the risen dead. Christ the Resurrection! Christ the Life!—that is our song in the home on which the shadows have begun to fall.
A. Macleod, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 291.
References: Psalm 119:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1586. Psalm 119:24.—J. R. Macduff, Good Words, 1861, p. 525.
Psalm 119:25These words express, with great intensity of humiliation, a consciousness which is universal among all sincere Christians—I mean, the power of the world and of the body over the soul. Our slowness and sluggishness in spiritual obedience is a special proof of the power of the Fall still abiding upon us, and of our proneness to linger and hold fast by earth and its attractions.
I. One cause of this disheartening feeling is that people aim at models and examples which are too high for them. There is one example for all: the life of Christ; one tendency wholly unlimited in the direction of which all must press towards His example; but the standard—that is, the manner and measure in which we are permitted to advance in that tendency—is of God. He proportions it by His providence and His grace. All that we can do, the holiest thing we can do, is to apply and mould ourselves entirely upon the lot He has meted out to us.
II. But perhaps it may be said, "This is not my distress. I have no desire to go out of my lot into disproportioned habits; but I do not comply with this tendency of which you speak. This is the point where I cleave to the dust. I make no advance in the spiritual life." In answer it may be said that we are too hasty in looking for signs of advancement. We cannot too much desire to become sinless; but whatever may be our desire, patience is our duty. God has a seedtime, and a burial, sometimes long and strange, of the germs of spiritual life, before the feast of ingathering is fully come. We must not look out for the harvest when we have only cast the seed, nor for the vintage when we have but yesterday bound up the vines. Growth in grace is slow, because it is to be attained by the progressive and persevering action of our moral nature, under the conditions of the Fall, and against the antagonist powers of temptation.
III. But perhaps it may be said again, "This would be all very well if I were not conscious of positive faults, and sometimes even of falling back into those of which I have repented. Positive evils are alive within me, and I often see them even more active than before." Speaking still to sincere minds, it may be said that we are no sure judges of this matter. A growing consciousness of sin is no certain sign of growing sinfulness, but, on the contrary, a probable sign of growing sanctification. The same will which, in wisdom, has ordained the law of slow growth for our spiritual life, has also, in love, ordained a slow perception of our sinfulness. The surest remedy for such complaints will be found in practical rules. (1) The first is to reduce our self-examination to definite points. (2) Having reduced our self-examination to definite points, let us from the sins we have so detected choose out someone against which to direct our chief watchfulness and strength.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 134.
Psalm 119:25I. The character of David, the son of Jesse, the king and sweet Psalmist of Israel, is one in which so many common points of our own characters meet, that it would be very difficult for us to lay hold of one thread of the loom and to draw it out from the others and study it separately. One leading idea runs through his whole life. David's is the character of a man who had intense human affections, tending even towards sensuous appetite, while to a strong degree he possessed a sense of all the higher aspirations of our nature. There are no stronger cables that bind down our tabernacle to the soil of this world than these two: strong affections and high ambition. A character with such conflicting elements, if it is to reach the desired haven under the guidance of God, must have very peculiar discipline and trials all its own.
II. It is remarkable to see the peculiar way in which Joab's influence over David was calculated to chasten and to keep in check the infirmities of the servant of God. Instances: the death of Abner; the affair of Uriah; the rebellion of Absalom.
III. We cannot but be struck with the almost necessity that there is that certain characters, if they are ever to be perfectly purified, should be placed in the same crucible of affliction. In a character like that of David, the grace of humility would have been left a plucked and withered flower far back on the path of life had it not been for the continual presence of Joab, whose hand, as it were, nurtured, though unconsciously, the lowly plant. We soon forget ourselves; we cannot help it. No voice more often with syren softness decoys us from the path of rectitude and lowliness of mind than that of a strong consciousness of personal influence over those around us; and where this is exercised for good, and not for evil, it is the more dangerous.
IV. It is necessary for the Church as well as for the individual that the faults of good men should be known. There is in man, and ever has been, a tendency to extol unduly, to elevate beyond their due place, the attainments of the saints of God. The faults of the good seem permitted to float on the surface that the holy may not overrate their fellow-man, nor the saint lose his balance and equipoise by the undue admiration of his fellow.
E. Monro, Practical Sermons on the Characters of the Old Testament, vol. i., p. 39.
I. "My soul cleaveth unto the dust." There is nothing to guide us in determining what were the circumstances of the man who said this, not the least need to inquire what they may have been. The words fit all circumstances. They carry us out of the region of circumstances. In any condition a man may cry, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust. There is a great weight upon me. You tell me I should exert myself to shake off the sloth, the despondency, which is preying upon me. But sloth and despondency are not raindrops that hang about my clothes; they are not even the clothes themselves; they have got hold of myself; they appear to be parts of my nature." The king who is after God's own heart must learn by some discipline or other that he has a soul which—by very slight causes indeed, by some sickness of body, something less than that: a trivial disappointment or the mere satiety of success—may be brought down to the dust, may cleave to it, may be utterly unable to lift itself up.
II. From this confession when it is really one, when it rises as a sigh out of the deeps, there comes the prayer, "Quicken Thou me according to Thy word." Then it is that man begins to believe in God, for then he begins to believe that he himself is not God. This sentence seems to contain the very essence of prayer, to be the explanation of all prayer, the necessity for it lying in a man's discovery of his weakness, the hope of it lying in the nature of God Himself and in His relation to man.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 259.
I. It is not a strange experience for believers to be in this depressed condition: the soul cleaving to the dust. Sometimes there may be physical causes connected with a man's state of health, and sometimes other providences of God are concerned in producing this state of things; but it is a stage in a man's spiritual history. Generally it is connected with indwelling sin. More particularly it arises in connection with the failure of faith on the part of believers. Looking at it from the side of God's providence, it is permitted by God just as a step in the believer's history, because it is necessary that the believer's history should include an enlarged acquaintance with himself, with his own insufficiency, with his own tendency to unbelief, and darkness, and sin.
II. It is not characteristic of a believer to be contented in this condition. How can any one who believes in the reality and presence of a living God be content with a feeling of this deadness and depression, this awful contrast to the life and glory of that life-giving God? More than that, the believer has faith in the presence and power of a life-giving Christ. He has faith also in the life-giving Spirit, and in the mission and work of the Holy Ghost in its power, and gentleness, and love. How can a man who believes this be content to go on with his soul cleaving to the dust? Therefore he casts himself on God in prayer, and you find him declaring to God the condition in which he is: "My soul cleaveth to the dust," and applying to God to meet this case of his: "Quicken Thou me according to Thy word."
III. There is a sure refuge for the believer with reference to this case of his. There is life for those who feel in themselves so much that looks like death. "Quicken Thou me"—give me life; cause me to live—"according to Thy word." This cry is not merely a cry of distress. He has the word which he can plead made known to him. It is a sure refuge and resource.
Application: (1) There is great reason for hopefulness in the condition of believers even when their souls cleave unto the dust. (2) There is great reason for earnestness. (3) There is a sure reward for those that seek the Lord.
R. Rainy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 237.
References: Psalm 119:25.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 308; C. J. Vaughan, Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 141. Psalm 119:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1344.
Psalm 119:31It is difficult to tell men what being confounded means, difficult and almost needless, for there are those who know what it means without being told, and those who do not know what it means without being told are not likely to know by any man's telling.
I. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm cxix. was a man, on his own showing, intensely open to the feeling of shame, and felt intensely what men said of him, felt intensely slander and insult. Isaiah was such a man; Jeremiah was such a man; Ezekiel was such a man: their writings show that they felt intensely the rebukes and the contempt which they had to endure from those whom they tried to warn and save. St. Paul, as may be seen from his own Epistles, was such a man, a man who was intensely sensitive of what men thought and said of him, yearning after the love and approbation of his fellow-men, and above all of his fellow-countrymen, his own flesh and blood. Of all men the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of man, had that feeling, that longing for the love and appreciation of men, and above all for the love and appreciation of His countrymen after the flesh, the Jews. He had, strange as it may seem—yet there it is in the Gospels, written for ever and undeniable—that capacity of shame which is the mark of true nobleness of soul.
If He had not felt the shame, what merit in despising it? It was His glory that He felt the shame and yet conquered the shame and crushed it down by the might of His love for fallen man.
II. Our Lord and Saviour stooped to be confounded for a moment that we might not be confounded to all eternity. As He did, so must we try to do. Every man who makes up his mind to do right and to be good must expect ridicule now and then. And the more tender your heart, the more you wish for the love and approbation of your fellow-men, the more of noble and modest self-distrust there is in you, the more painful will that be to you. The fear of man brings a snare, and nothing can deliver you out of that snare save the opposite fear: the fear of God, which is the same as trust in God.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 71.
Psalm 119:32There are two things especially remarkable in this Psalm: the variety of expressions used to describe the word of God and the corresponding variety of expressions used to describe the Son of man. In the text the Psalmist considers sin as a state of captivity and confinement.
I. The words express a consciousness of actual captivity. There is a stress laid on the words "Thy commandments." The Psalmist recognised their goodness and excellence, and desired to follow them; but he was at the same time conscious of an opposing force, of a constraint exercised on him from which he was unable to get free, and which not only prevented his going in the way of God's commandments, but compelled him to go in another way, and perhaps a totally contrary one. There is hope in such a state. There is hope for those who see God and God's word to be good, and wish, however faintly, that they could walk by it. When a soul once begins to sigh for freedom, it will not probably be very long before it is free; for that very sigh is itself the beginning of spiritual liberty.
II. The words express the consciousness of confinement and of narrowness of affection and desire after God. Thus considered, they belong to a higher religious state than the one just described. The Psalmist was conscious that his heart was narrow. He craved for more freedom of faith, for larger desires after God, for fuller trust in Him, and for warmer and stronger love towards Him. There are few Christians who will not have the same feeling, and will not be conscious how small and low is their state of grace, how poor their service to their God, compared to what it should be, and what it might be with God to help them. Here, again, our hope is in God. He can enlarge our hearts by more perfectly revealing Himself within them. He enters into the soul, and the soul grows with His presence. His glory, and greatness, and beauty snap the restraining bands, and stretch the heart in which He dwells till it becomes capable of peace and joy unknown before.
E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 213.
I. It is evident that we may "go" in the way of commandments and not "run." There is the slow creeping of a mere abstract sense of stern duty. There is the slow walk of simple conscientiousness. There is the slavish course propelled by fear. There is the capricious step, half feeling, half principle, which is continually halting. But all this is not to run. To run is a joyous thing, and shows that the affections and the heart are drawn to it. To run is free, and tells a mind unbound. To run is quick and constant progress; and the attainments are clear, and distinct, and large. To run is a light and easy motion, and marks facility. To run makes the goal of hope near, and gives the confidence of success.
II. "Largeness of heart" is a pure gift of God. Still in this, as in everything, while all is of God's grace, the grace itself lies within man's responsibility. Notice one or two methods for "the enlargement of the heart." (1) The Bible is a very expanding book to man's intellect and to man's affections. (2) Meditation on the character, and the work, and the being of God is very "enlarging" to the character of man. (3) To embrace many in our love is a great secret of enlargement of spirit. (4) Acts of open-handed charity have a strange effect to increase the heart. (5) This growth of the heart is not by sudden impulses, but by gradual increments. (6) The most enlarging thing of all is the sense of pardon; the peace of forgiveness; the feeling, "I am loved."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 95.
I. We have here a condition before we can attain that joyous spirit expressed in those words, "I will run the way of Thy commandments:" to turn from sin first of all. Many a man on looking back at his life says, "I will be devout; I will break with old associations; I will run the way of God's commandments; I will be another and better man." How about the past? How about that fortress left in the enemy's country? How about the sin? Have you dealt with that? Deal with the past before you deal with the future.
II. Repentance is a habit of mind which is continued in our life in order that we may be like-minded with God, in order that we may look on our sins in the same mind that God looks upon them. God hates sin, though He loves the penitent. We must do that; we must hate sin and remember our sin with the same sort of shame which makes us like-minded with God.
III. And then, as the Revised Version puts it, we require liberty—liberty from ignorance which prevents us from receiving the mind of God. That is the liberty which we all desire. We must enlarge our capacity for receiving large things from God. When we have fulfilled this condition and have been set free from the bondage of sin, how blessed, and happy, and joyous is the career before us. The resources of God are simply inexhaustible; the resources of the Christian life are the same.
C. W. Furse, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 188.
References: Psalm 119:32.—J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 3rd series, p. 141; New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 71; J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 417.
Psalm 119:33-34There were two thoughts in the Psalmist's mind:—
I. That there was something in the world which he must learn and would learn, for everything in this life and the next depended on his learning it. And this thing which he wants to learn he calls God's statutes, God's law, God's testimonies, God's commandments, God's everlasting judgments. That is what he feels he must learn, or else come to utter grief, both body and soul.
II. That if he is to learn them, God Himself must teach them to him. The Psalmist held that a man could see nothing unless God showed it to him. He held that a man could learn nothing unless God taught him, and taught him, moreover, in two ways: first taught him what he ought to do, and then taught him how to do it.
III. We must learn: (1) God's law. The moment you do wrong you put yourself under the Law, and the Law will punish you. Therefore your only chance for safety in this life and for ever is to learn God's laws and statutes about your life, that you may pass through it justly, honourably, virtuously, successfully. (2) God's commandments. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (3) God's testimonies; what He has witnessed and declared about Himself and His own character: His power and His goodness, His severity and His love. (4). God's judgments; the way in which He rewards and punishes men. The Bible is full of accounts of the just and merciful judgments of God.
IV. God has not only commanded us to learn; He has promised to teach. He who wrote the hundred and nineteenth Psalm knew that well, and therefore his psalm is a prayer for teaching and a prayer for light.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 120.
Psalm 119:33, Psalm 119:94I. There are too many people in the world who pray to God to help them when they are in difficulties, or in danger, or in fear of death and of hell, but never pray at any other time or for any other thing. They pray to be helped out of what is disagreeable, but they never pray to be made good. The only men who can have any hope of their prayers being heard are those who, like the Psalmist, are trying to do something for Christ, and their neighbours, and the human race; who are, in a word, trying to be good. Those who have already prayed earnestly and often the first prayer—"Teach me, O Lord, Thy statutes; and I shall keep them to the end"—they have not a right, but a hope, through Christ's most precious and undeserved promises, that their prayers will be heard, and that Christ will save them from destruction, because they are at least likely to become worth saving, because they are likely to be of use in Christ's world and to do some little work in Christ's kingdom.
II. To all such, who long for light that by the light they may see to live the life, God answers, through His only-begotten Son, the Word, who endureth for ever in heaven, "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." If you wish to have reasonable hope when you have to pray, "Lord, save me," pray first, and pray continually, "Teach me, O Lord, Thy statutes; and I shall keep them to the end."
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 130.
References: Psalm 119:37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1072; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 20.
Psalm 119:38There is a saying of Clough to which I take exception, and I quote it because it may represent the conclusion of more minds than the writer's: "The belief that religion is, or in any way requires, devotionality, is, if not the most noxious, at least the most obstinate, form of irreligion."
I. The question arises, What is meant by devotionality? We should most of us be disposed to say, A devotional spirit and tone of mind. But surely a devotional spirit is not only appropriate and in accordance with the fitness of things, but also the highest in quality of our various emotions. The only emotion which is appropriate, rational, I may say natural, when the mighty Presence of whom are all things is revealed, is awe. When that Presence is brought still nearer to us in a saving form, and through Christ we find a loving, pardoning heavenly Father, the only emotion possible is adoring, confiding reverence. Is this devotionality? Then a man who is incapable of it is less than a boor; he is a clod: to quote a verse of the same writer,—
"Neither man's aristocracy this, nor God's, God knoweth."
II. But it is possible that by devotionality may be meant the neglect of practical life for absorption in Divine contemplation. Now that this is to be condemned is evident. For he who neglects his worldly duties is as imperfect and one-sided as he who does not respond to his heavenly environment. But is there much danger of our leading a life of absorption in religion? The danger which most of us feel is that of absorption in the world and destitution in religion. I know you are not afraid of becoming too prayerful. There is no need to guard you against an encroaching devotionality.
III. It is clear that the devotional temper is necessary to all who can perceive greatness. Everything is liable to disease. But a healthy body is not to be despised because you may poison it. And just so it is with true devotion. It has its rare moments of intuition, of spiritual delight; but these moments shed a refreshing dew on all the life,—
"And touch the apathetic ghosts with joy."
W. Page-Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, p. 168.
Some more than others, but all less or more, may pray for the confirmation of God's word in respect to its truth, its preciousness, and its power.
I. In respect to its truth. Are there any serious intellectual doubts about the word of God? (1) The book itself should be read. (2) There are doubts and irresolute conditions of mind which can only be exchanged for faith and fixedness by the instrumentality of work—honest, earnest work for God. (3) There are some doubts which will yield only to prayer.
II. In respect to its preciousness. The Gospel is exceedingly precious. When first consciously received, it is accepted with thankfulness and joy. The first love is fed by fresh discoveries, by wondering thought, by rapid acts of faith, by grateful memories, by new-born hopes; these all make fuel for that holy flame. Alas that it should change, and cool, and wane, and darken! Reproachfully one day there comes a voice through the chill, through the dark, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." If you have lost anything, then take instant means to have the loss repaired. Get a baptism of repentance to cleanse your soul afresh. Pray back the dews of your youth. Pray, as with your face to the east, until morning lights quiver up the sky. For those lights will come as you pray. While you are yet speaking "the dews will gather." God will "stablish His word unto His servant, who is devoted to His fear."
III. In respect to its practical power. If there be one point in human experience more dangerous than another, it is exactly the point between faith and practice, between inward love and outward work. Let us pray God to "stablish His word" to us in this respect also, to make religion to us more than clear intellectual faith, more even than heart-joy. Let us ask Him to make it the supreme and practically regulative force of our whole life, calm, steady, onwards, guiding and ruling us from duty to duty and from day to day.
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 135.
Reference: Psalm 119:41.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1524.
Psalm 119:45I. At liberty! The very word has music in it. How full of suggestion of all that is bright and cheerful. To the captive Apostle it speaks of the bursting of chains, the angel deliverer, the restoration to friends, the recovered power of proclaiming to the people the glad tidings of the Gospel of Christ; to the nation roused at last to make a vigorous effort and throw off the long-worn fetters of despotism and superstition it speaks of the power to lift the head once more in conscious majesty to heaven, and to feel that now at length a noble future may be connected with a glorious past. To such the very word seems dearer than life itself, the only thing almost for which life is valuable, the one single atmosphere in which the breath of life can be inhaled with pleasure. And yet what advantageth freedom if we know not how to use it? The true use of freedom requires in every case, either for the individual or for the nation, moderation, thoughtfulness, self-restraint, respect for the feelings of others, definite conceptions of duty, and a deep and adequate sense of responsibility. Without these liberty is simply suicidal; with them, and just in proportion to the firmness of its hold on these principles, it grows ever more and more unto perfection.
II. Man's liberty is twofold. There is a liberty from without: freedom from all outward check or control; and there is a liberty also from within. This is the liberty without which all other liberty is valueless. Thought, speech, and action may all be free; but if the soul itself be not free also, we shall still, whatever we may be in name, be but slaves in deed and truth. The text ascends with us to this higher thought: "I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts." This is the very keynote to the music of heaven, God's will acting upon our will, the Spirit of Christ subduing and assimilating our spirit to itself; this alone is true liberty; this is taking captivity captive, and bursting the bonds of the soul in sunder. Such service is indeed perfect freedom.
T. H. Steel, Sermons in Harrow Chapel, p. 329.
Psalm 119:46A silent religion or a speaking religion—which shall it be? David says, "I will speak." What do we say? Too often we resolve that we will keep silence.
I. I hold that the difference between a silent religion and a speaking religion is the difference between a dead Church and a living one. Living men must speak. Earnestness cannot be dumb; if it pause for a moment, it is but the pause of a gathering stream, which deepens that it may flow with a stronger rapidity. Silence may be ruin. The neglect of an opportunity of speaking the right word may not only imperil, but absolutely destroy, the destiny of a soul.
II. The theme on which David says he will speak is God's testimonies. Has he chosen a barren topic? Look at the range, the explicitness, and the emphasis of these testimonies, and you will say that never did man choose so fruitful, so abounding, a theme. If there is one lesson clearer than another, it is that we are left without excuse if we fail to speak of the Divine testimonies. Opportunities occur every day. Circumstances arise under which no words can be so beautiful, so touching, so pithy, so real.
III. David says he will speak of the Divine testimonies before kings. We commit a serious error in not speaking to our equals, especially to those round about us. The testimonies of God are for every day in the week. There is something very marvellous, yet not altogether inexplicable, about human shame in relation to the Divine testimonies. In our day Gospel and sect have become synonymous terms. But let me remind you that if the believer will not speak of the Divine testimony, the unbeliever will! If there is silence in the Church, there is no silence in the camp of the enemy.
Parker, Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel, p. 87.
Psalm 119:47The love of God's laws is to be distinguished from the mere outward observance of them. As in the law of Moses, so far more in the Gospel of Christ, religion is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, consisting not in the mere observance of certain rules, however good, but in the love and delight we have in observing them, as being the gracious means appointed by our heavenly Father and Redeemer to bring us to His eternal rest.
I. Looking, then, impartially into our course of life and conduct, we ought to observe whether or not it is a sincere delight and consolation to us to meditate on what our heavenly Father and Redeemer has done for us, and to hold communion with Him in prayer, thanksgiving, and continual aspirations after His eternal rest.
II. In the same manner we should examine ourselves as to our conduct towards each other: whether that is founded on the high Christian principle of love for, and delight in, our Redeemer's will, or upon some other mean, unworthy grounds.
III. If we seriously wish to follow the way which leadeth unto life, we are bound to examine ourselves as to our self-command and power over our temper and disposition. Suppose we are called on in the way of daily duty to do or to suffer things which are naturally vexatious, irksome, and unpleasant to us. In proportion as we love our God and Saviour, we shall delight even in such trials, simply for this reason: because they are sent us by Him. If we make it our business through life to love and delight in the commands of our Redeemer, we shall not fail at last, through the atonement of His blood, to be admitted to obtain His heavenly promises, His kingdom of eternal glory.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. x., p. 215.
References: Psalm 119:49.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 119. Psalm 119:50.—Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 163; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1872. Psalm 119:53.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 309.
Psalm 119:54The doctrine of the Psalmist, removing the poetry of the form, is this: that obligation to God is our privilege.
I. Consider how it would be with us if we existed under no terms of obligation. (1) There could be no such thing as criminal law for the defence of property, reputation, and life, because the moral distinctions on which criminal law is grounded would be all wanting. (2) What we call society, as far as there is any element of dignity or blessing in it, depends on these moral obligations. Without these it would be intercourse without friendship, truth, charity, or mercy. All that is warm, and trustful, and dear in society rests in the keeping of these moral bonds.
II. Consider, as regards the spiritual nature, how much there is depending on this great privilege of obligation to God. (1) This claim of God's authority, this bond of duty laid upon us, is virtually the throne of God erected in the soul. When violated, it will scorch the bosom with pangs of remorse that are the most fiery and implacable of all mental sufferings. But of this there is no need; all such pains are avoidable by due obedience. And then obligation to God becomes the spring instead of the most dignified, fullest, healthiest joys anywhere attainable. The self-approving consciousness, the consciousness of good—what can raise one to a loftier pitch of confidence and blessing? (2) Consider the truly fraternal relation between our obligations to God and what we call our liberty. Instead of restraining our liberty, they only show us, in fact, how to use our liberty, and how to air it, in great and heroic actions. (3) Obligation to God also imparts zest to life by giving to our actions a higher import, and, when they are right, a more consciously elevated spirit. The most serene, the most truly Godlike, enjoyment open to man, is that which he receives in the testimony that he pleases God and the moral self-approbation of his own mind. (4) It is also a great fact, as regards a due impression of obligation to God and of what is conferred in it, that it raises and tones the spiritual emotions of obedient souls into a key of sublimity which is the completeness of their joy. "For ye are complete in Him," says the Apostle, well knowing that it is not what we are in ourselves that makes our completeness, but that our measure of being is full only when we come unto God as an object and unite ourselves to the good and great emotions of God. Before Him all the deep and powerful emotions that lie in the vicinity of fear are waked into life; every chord of feeling is pitched to its highest key or capacity; and the soul quivers eternally in the sacred awe of God and His commandments, thrilled as by the sound of many waters or the roll of some anthem that stirs the framework of the worlds.
H. Bushnell, The New Life, p. 194.
Notice the striking combination here of one's identity, one's house, and one's pilgrimage. The great Father's children are not flesh and blood, but for a little while are "partakers of flesh and blood." The songs which are given to cheer us on our journey are not the songs of our flesh nor the songs of the world, but our songs in the flesh. They are the songs of our identity and our home, which accompany us in our pilgrimage through the world.
I. When we meet together as spirits on pilgrimage, song comes in because God comes in. We sing because we are not citizens of the world, but simply pilgrims passing through it. Love hath eternity, and eternity sings in our hearts because we are from eternity and on our way back.
II. Statutes are things that stand, things that have always stood, and will stand to eternity. These certainties of God are the sources whence comes the inspiration of all true songs. Find and enter the sphere where the eternal realities and eternal laws have their scope, and you are in the home of everlasting song. We must strongly rebuke the idea which would ascribe the songs of the soul to enthusiasm or mere impulse. It is law that sings. There is a shallow mirth of the flesh, as there is a momentary blaze from a sky-rocket; but the stars, which shine for ever and ever, are set in the eternal order of musical law.
III. If you would be lifted above the dull level and routine of mortal life, if you would silence your self-reproach and annihilate the canker of discontent, ask the statutes of God to sing your soul into order. Jesus embodies them, and by leading them into you, by establishing them in the centre of your soul, will lead you in the "way everlasting." The sweetest, the loftiest, and most soul-thrilling music of the world is an inspiration from the ascended Man. He is pulsing the harmony of His own nature through the race.
IV. If the eternal statutes sing within us in this strange land, with what songs may we expect to be greeted as we approach the gates of our true home! The way, in Christ, leads thither, and can end nowhere else. "Where I am, there ye shall be also."
V. Notice the inseverability of God and man, suggested by the "Thy" and the "my" of the text. "Thy statutes are my songs."
J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 254.
References: Psalm 119:54.—W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 27; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1652; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 197. Psalm 119:54, Psalm 119:55.—A. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 106.
Psalm 119:55-56I. The keeping of God's law is promoted by the remembering of God's name. The name of God includes all the attributes of God. (1) If I remember the attributes of God, I must remember amongst them a power before which every created thing must do homage; and if I couple with the memory of this power the thought that the undying principle I carry within me must become hereafter an organ of infinite pleasure or of infinite pain, subject as it will be to the irreversible allotments of this power, what is there which can more nerve me to obedience than the remembering God's name? (2) Or suppose that it was the love of God which was specially present to the Psalmist's mind. Who will step forward and produce a motive to Christian obedience which shall be half as stirring as the sense of having been loved with an everlasting love, and embraced from all eternity by the compassions of the Almighty?
II. Consider how the keeper of God's law is rewarded by keeping it. "I have kept Thy law. This I had, because I kept Thy precepts." While God puts man in a state of grace and afterwards keeps him there, man has a great deal to do with his own progress in grace. The Christian life is a race; no man can start in it unless he has an impulse from God: but once started, he may linger if he will, or he may press onwards if he will. Where grace is improved, more grace is imparted. If the more the Christian keeps the more he finds he has to keep, then keeping one part of the law is clearly preparatory to keeping another. From keeping we are led on to keep. If the keeping of the precepts do thus lead to the keeping of the precepts, every Christian may discern that there is a present reward allotted to those that strive after obedience; and increasing conformity to the image of Christ is that great privilege of the believer which, commencing in time, shall be completed in eternity.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2292.
Although the grace and mercy of the Holy Ghost is indeed free, all-powerful, sovereign, "blowing," as our Lord said, "where it listeth," there is yet a certain frame and temper, certain habits of conduct and behaviour, a certain disposition and preparation of heart and mind, which is likely, if not sure, wherever it is found, to draw down God's further blessing on him who has it. It is itself the good gift of God; and it prepares the way for other and better gifts. This rule and law of God's working is wonderfully illustrated by the manner in which the Gospel was first made known to the Gentiles, and the door of the kingdom of heaven thrown open, by the extension of the gift of the Holy Ghost to them also. This we read in the history of Cornelius, part of which is the Epistle for this day.
I. We see the sort of person whom the Lord delights to honour when we look at Cornelius's condition and observe under how many drawbacks and difficulties, the like of which are too commonly found enough to discourage almost any one, he contrived to be an acceptable worshipper. (1) He was not a Jew, but a Gentile, not one of God's people, but a heathen. Who can express the amount of this disadvantage? (2) He was a soldier, a pursuit and way of life not thought in general particularly favourable to the exercise of true devotion. Yet he was a devout man, and used himself to serve God, with all his house.
II. Consider the sort of service which Almighty God is likely to bless and approve in persons unfavourably situated, as Cornelius was. (1) He was a devout man, and lived in a sense of God's presence. (2) He served God, with all his house. No doubt he brought on himself the wonder, and sometimes the laughter, of his associates in the Roman army; but still he went on praying himself, and teaching and encouraging his servants to pray. (3) To his prayers he added both alms and fasting—the two wings, as they are called, of prayer. This part of Scripture teaches that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, every condition, under every sort of disadvantage, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness will surely be accepted of Him.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. ii., p. 118.
References: Psalm 119:57.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1372; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 134. Psalm 119:58-60.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 198.
Psalm 119:59I. Hebrew scholars tell us that when they get to the root of these words, "I thought on my ways," they find a weaver there working at his loom. That is the figure that lies deep beneath this word—the figure of a man working skilfully at his web, looking to his garment, that he may not be ashamed whatever side may be exposed, careful that on both sides his workmanship is faultless. "I thought on my ways." I turned my life upside down, round about, looked at it from all points of view, as a weaver with his web, so as to have no seamy side, but that it might be equally perfect in its workmanship in all its parts. And when I saw I was wrong, I turned my feet unto God's testimonies.
II. We are not too ready to think about our ways; it is not so easily done as you may think. We learn from the words of David that there are various ways of helping ourselves to look at our ways, to get a sight of ourselves. When David looked at his web embroidery, after looking at the pattern on his frame, he would, as he was anxious to work, and in the measure of his being anxious, and as it grew in his hands—he would become displeased. That is always the sign of a fine worker. No matter what the work is, it is always the sign of a first-rate craftsman to be never content. That is one feature of the good artist, whatever he is working at; he goes back to the inception of it in his mind, and thinks how fair, and beautiful, and without flaw it lay in his mind: and when he sees it on the frame, on the loom, he sees how far short it has fallen of the image he had about it when it lay on his mind. Always when we look from the stage of hope and intuition we see how far short our present life is. But we can also look at our present ways not only from the past, but by going forward and looking down on them as they are now. Nothing is more stimulating or more improving than to go out of the present and look back, or to ask how we would wish it to be when the work is no longer in our hands. What is it that demoralises the present and makes us weary? That demoralising thing we have yet the present spared us to turn from into the way of God's commands.
A. Whyte, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 165.
Reference: Psalm 119:59.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1181.
Psalm 119:59-60Such is the history of almost all solid conversion. The great destroyer of the souls of men, which throughout the whole world is so widely wasting, is not so much wilful, deliberate sin as thoughtlessness. At first sinners do not think; then they will not think; at last they cannot think.
I. This is the history of most of mankind: a thoughtless childhood, careless youth, too thoughtful manhood; one half of life without thought, the other with misplaced thought—thoughtful to things of time and sense, thoughtless of Him who made them and of their real selves.
II. "I thought on my ways." Before this, then, he had not thought on them. "I took account of, reckoned up, calculated, my ways," for our ways, although leading in one direction, are many; there are as many ways as there are acts, or passions, or temptations: and he reckoned them up and took account of them all, whither they were all leading, to turn them all and his whole self into the way of God. Such is the way of all solid conversion.
III. We cannot understand what we are now unless we look back, as far as we may, on all we have been. Not fully to know thyself, as far as thou canst, is to walk blindly on a precipice, where to fall is to perish for ever. Make haste and delay not to keep God's commandments. Nothing besides lingers. Time is sweeping by. Thy life is hasting away. "Make haste and delay not."
E. B. Pusey, Occasional Sermons, p. 142.
References: Psalm 119:59, Psalm 119:60.—Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 48. Psalm 119:63.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. vi., p. 172; W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 52.
Psalm 119:64The Bible has been constructed in such a way that it is an armoury of mercy, a magazine of kindness. It is a great institution of mercifulness.
I. Notice the mercifulness of its eminent secularity, united to tendencies towards eminent spirituality. The Bible is a book of business from beginning to end. It is a book in which a man, although his thoughts touch some of the pinnacles of the new Jerusalem, stands with his feet on the ground. The temporal and secular element of the Scriptures tends to the growth of the great ideal of manhood.
II. Notice the mercifulness of Scripture in using the highest ideal of life in such a manner as not to oppress the great mass of mankind. Throughout the Old Testament and the New, there is this lenity in dealing with men who are striving for an ideal, which makes the Bible the most wonderful of books. On the one side it keeps the picture radiant, so that the eye is dazzled in looking at it, and turns toward the ground; on the other side, with arms about us and with kindly words, as a schoolmaster, it helps us to Christ: and Christ, as our elder Brother, brings us to the Father.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, July 30th, 1873.
Psalm 119:67I. The Psalmist was certainly of a different opinion from nine persons out of ten of every country, every age, and every religion. For he says, "Before I was troubled I went wrong: but now have I kept Thy word," whereas nine people out of ten would say to God, if they dared, "Before I was troubled I kept Thy word; but now that I am troubled, of course I cannot help going wrong." The general opinion of the world is that right-doing, justice, truth, and honesty are very graceful luxuries for those who can afford them, very good things when a man is easy, prosperous, and well-off, and without much serious business on hand, but not for the real hard work of life, not for times of ambition and struggle, any more than of distress and anxiety or of danger and difficulty.
II. What the special trouble was in which the Psalmist found himself, we are not told. But it is plain from his words that it was just that very sort of trouble in which the world is most ready to excuse a man for lying, cringing, plotting, and acting on the old devil's maxim that "cunning is the natural weapon of the weak." His honour and his faith were sorely tried. The ungodly laid wait to destroy him. But against them all he had but one weapon and one defence. However much afraid he might be of his enemies, he was still more afraid of doing wrong. His only safety was in pleasing God, and not men. This man had one precious possession, which he determined not to lose, not though he died in trying to hold it fast; namely, the Eternal Spirit of God, the Spirit of righteousness, and truth, and justice, which leads men into all truth. By that Spirit he saw into the eternal laws of God. By that Spirit he saw that his only hope was to keep those eternal laws. By that Spirit he vowed to keep them. By that Spirit when he failed he tried again; when he fell he rose and fought on once more to keep the commandments of the Lord.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 142.
Reference: Psalm 119:67.— F. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 178.
Psalm 119:71Times of political decadence are times of spiritual growth. It is out of the inner experience of hidden lives, in ages when statesmen saw little hope, that such priceless contributions have been made to the devotional treasury of humanity as the hymn of Cleanthes, the Meditations of Aurelius, the Confessions of Augustine, and the Imitation of Christ. But first and foremost among these products of the ages of the hidden life is the great Psalm of which the text is the summary. To the literary critic it has all the notes of a silver age. Its structure is artificial, its language stereotyped, its length excessive, its thought monotonous. It might be almost the latest utterance of the dying voice of Hebrew psalmody. And yet the words of this nameless sufferer epitomise exhaustively the religious aspirations and joys and sorrows of the human soul, and have remained, and will remain, without doubt, to the end of time, the great manual of Christian devotion. And at a time like the present it would be well to strengthen our wavering faith by looking as boldly as did the psalmist at the spiritual fruitfulness of sorrow, and to ask ourselves whether we are making our own sorrows bear their fruit.
I. The earliest form of trouble is for most of us physical pain, and our instinctive tendency is to view pain as an unmitigated evil. But such a view of pain is not in accordance with the facts of life. Pain is beyond question the great educator of the soul. Pain makes men real. It indurates their character. It endows them with spiritual insight. But, beyond all this, pain invests a man with a mysterious attractiveness for others. There is a heroism in the very fact of suffering which lifts the sufferer above us, and makes us feel that he is moving in a realm of being to us unknown, till our sympathy is hushed into something of awe-struck admiration, and from the blending of sympathy with awe comes love.
II. But pain is, after all, but the beginning of troubles. There is the pain which does not unite, but separates—the pain which ends in death. Look below the surface, and death is everywhere. But if it is good for us to have been in the trouble of pain, still more is it good for us to have been in the trouble of parting. The use of death and parting is not to end our human ties, but to translate them into that region where alone they can be everlasting.
III. There is yet another trouble which casts a shadow upon death itself—the trouble of doubt. Many men who are willing enough to believe other troubles good and God-sent shrink back cowardly from the pain of doubt, as if that alone were devil-born. But it is not so. From the moment when the cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" went up out of the deep of the midday midnight upon Calvary, doubt was for ever consecrated as the last trial of the sons of God, and a trial needed for their purification, no less than pain or parting.
J. R. Illingworth, Sermons in a College Chapel, p. 18.
Reference: Psalm 119:71.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1629.
Psalm 119:72This is a very hard thing to believe. We are to prove that the Bible is a better thing than heaps of money taken by themselves. The Bible can give you better things than money can ever buy, and the Bible can give you some things that money will not buy at all.
I. Money can buy fine clothes, but the Bible can tell you where you will get better, and get them for nothing. Many a bad man wears a fine coat, just as many a ragged coat covers a glorious soul. The Bible, by telling you where to get your souls adorned by Christ's righteousness and the grace of the Spirit, has a power of adorning the body too. The clothing which Christ gives is better immeasurably than all the fine clothing that all the gold in the world could buy.
II. Money can buy fine houses, but the Bible can tell you where to get a better house for nothing. If you want to know what kind of a house it is, read the account of the new Jerusalem. There you will find your own proper mansion, and nobody will turn you out.
III. Money can buy fine lands, but the Bible tells you where you can get better. For every human being that trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ there is an estate in the heavenly Canaan; there is a lot in the land for him, as was said to Daniel, "at the end of days."
IV. Money can buy friends. Rich people have fine friends; but when the money goes, their friendship cools. Christ is a Friend that will stick closer than a brother.
V. The things which money cannot buy, but which the Bible gives, are: (1) pardon of sin; (2) peace with God; (3) holiness; (4) a happy death.
J. Edmond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 312.
I. This glowing expression of David's love toward God does not stand alone. It is not a solitary, nor even a rare, revelation of his thoughts. Psalm after psalm flows forth in the same strong strain of love; his heart continually overflows; he cannot but give vent to what he feels; he seems constrained to free or ease himself of his thoughts; he is urged by the spirit within him to frequent utterance; and whenever he speaks, he seems to search for the strongest expressions, the strongest figures and forms of speech, to represent what he feels within.
II. In regarding David's state of feeling toward God, this sustained and constant warmth of love which he continually reveals, the sort of holy rapture with which he speaks continually of heavenly tilings, we feel that it is in this very point of devout warmth, of religious zeal, we fail to resemble or to approach him. He hurries us beyond our pace; it is difficult to us to praise, to lift up the voice with thanksgiving. There is the want of any strong emotion among us about heavenly things.
III. Some may be greatly sorrowing over their want of zeal and longing to catch David's spirit. Let such patiently persevere in all acts of Christian service, in all Christian duties, in all prayer and supplication, in all faithful use of the means of grace, and the stream will at last break forth in the desert, and the dry heart will blossom as a rose.
J. Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 104.
References: Psalm 119:72.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 11; W. A. Essery, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 212. Psalm 119:73.—S. Gregory, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 252.
Psalm 119:73, Psalm 119:116I. Consider the care of the Creator for the lower creatures of His hand. The lower creatures have instincts given to them by God for their preservation. These instincts are adapted to their wants, and they never mislead the creatures to which they are given. In man's spiritual nature, so far removed above the level of the beasts, we find certain instincts implanted by God—instincts evidently given to us to be to our souls in a spiritual way just the same sort of guide that the instincts of the lower creatures are to them in a bodily way.
II. Let us see what these spiritual instincts are. (1) Conscience. We have within us a moral instinct which directs us towards that which is good, which warns us against that which is wrong. Why does God give us this instinct, why does He speak to us through and by it, but because He would guard us from spiritual evil? (2) The sense of justice. This sense of justice is as purely an instinctive feeling as any that man has. And this being so, does it not bear witness to the nature of that Divine Being who has implanted it in man? (3) Prayer is an instinct of the soul of man.
III. It is certainly true that many of the highest of our instinctive moral feelings and powers point towards a life beyond the grave. The whole energy of our spiritual nature does so. For what is this hope that burns within us so vehemently? What is this but an instinctive feeling of our nature? Deep as our faith in God Himself is seated the hope of a life beyond the grave. It is not a belief which is derived from the outward world. It has its roots deep in man's spiritual nature; it springs from the depths of the soul—an instinct implanted by God to guide man to his distant home. The psalmists had not received the blessed promises of God in Christ; yet they believed that at God's right hand there are pleasures for evermore, so plainly do the spiritual instincts which God has given to man confirm the blessed promises of God in Christ.
G. Forbes, The Voice of God in the Psalms, p. 109.
References: Psalm 119:83.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 71; S. Cox, Expositions, 2nd series, p. 19. Psalm 119:88.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1779. Psalm 119:89-91.—S. Cox, Expositions, 2nd series, p. 34. Psalm 119:89-92.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1656.
Psalm 119:89-96I. In the Bible usually the Word of the Lord means not only the message which God sends, but Him by whom God sends it. The Word of God, Word of the Lord, is spoken of again and again not as a thing, but as a Person, a living, rational Being, who comes to men, and speaks to them, and teaches them, sometimes seemingly by actual word of mouth, sometimes, again, by putting thoughts into their minds and words into their mouths.
II. The Psalmist wants to know his way through this world and his duty in this mortal life. Therefore he must learn the laws and rules of this world. And he has the sense to see that no one can teach him the rules of the world but the Ruler of the world and the Maker of the world. Then comes the terrible question, Are there any rules at all in the world? Does the Lord manage the world by rules and laws? Or does He let things go by chance and accident, and take no care about them? To that the Psalmist answers firmly, because be is inspired by the Spirit of God, "O Lord, Thy Word endureth "—is settled—"forever in heaven. In Thee is no carelessness, neglect, slothfulness, nor caprice." The world is full of settled and enduring rules and laws, and God keeps to them.
III. Jesus Christ is the Word of God, who speaks to men God's words, because He speaks not His own words, but His Father's, and does not His own will, but His Father's, who sends Him. He speaks to us and to all men in many ways, and to each according to his needs. He is the Word who endures for ever in heaven; and though heaven and earth may pass away, His words cannot pass away.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 151 (see also Town and Country Sermons, p. 403).
References: Psalm 119:94.—C. Kingsley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 346, and Westminster Sermons, p. 165.
Psalm 119:96It is not difficult, at least for an earnest and thoughtful person, to see "an end of all perfection" among men; and here below nothing comes to perfection. But we are reminded that there is something else that does not come to an end, something that cannot be exhausted, lost, depreciated, something that rises above us immeasurably high and stretches away around us immeasurably far, with which, too, we are in vital relations from which we can never be released. "Thy commandment is exceeding broad."
I. We understand the word "commandment" in its proper meaning: a law, an authoritative announcement of the will of God. "As the man is, so is his strength." As God is, so are His commandment, word, will, and way.
II. This commandment extends over all the universe of intelligent life, higher and lower, over angels of every rank and men of every colour and clime, over them, again, in no merely external way, for restraint and direction, but over all intelligence, over all responsibility, over all emotion, over all motive, and of course over words, and action, and conduct.
III. The law or commandment is "exceeding broad" because it is gospel. It is an education, a development, a joy that never palls, a prospect that is never darkened, although our eyes are not always open to see it. This commandment of God, with the Gospel in it, is the very soul of consideration, and tenderness, and grace. It drops down rest on the weary, and brings balm to the wounded, and breathes fresh hope into despairing hearts. It seems to speak to us as though it were a God, and says, "Cast all your cares on me. I am broad enough and strong enough to bear them all."
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 126.
The lesson of the Psalmist, in modern Christian language, is this: "Amidst all the limitations of nature there is one law which has an infinite working; it is the law of righteousness. And there is one form of life which is exempted from the general decay; it is the life of holiness, truth, and love."
I. Consider this truth with reference to the lives of individuals. Life may be compared to a various web, in which the bright woof is crossed with many sombre threads; and while the dark warp becomes closer at the further end, the strength of the whole fabric depends in part on the skill and care of the weaver, who is the human soul. Mankind have tried various devices with a view to obviating the great, dark, inevitable fact of human loss and change. Christ clearly taught the blessedness of sorrow. "Blessed are they that mourn." (1) In sorrow we are often best able to realise the love and faithfulness of God. (2) The experience of sorrow gives a deeper and more comprehensive view of the whole meaning and purpose of our existence. (3) The power of sympathy is also increased. (4) Out of the ashes of sorrow there break forth new fires of practical devotion. (5) Suffering, change, logs, appear generally to strengthen in reflective minds the hope of immortality.
II. The life of a community has often been compared to that of an individual. The resemblance is necessarily imperfect. No community can have a unity or continuity of life approaching that of personal consciousness. But the individual and the community have at least this in common, that they are alike liable to change. They have a past and future and also a present, which is different from either past or future, while possessing the elements of both. They have in them the certainty of alteration, the possibilities of progress and decay. They have also their crises of transition, when old things are passing and the new things are not yet clearly seen. What is the practical religious lesson for such a time? How is the reality of progress to be secured? How shall men secure that change be not decay? It may be answered briefly, By the candid recognition of facts; by unabated faith in God and His goodwill to men; and by labouring honestly, according to the light that is given us, to promote what seems to us to be the cause of truth and goodness.
L. Campbell, Some Aspects of the Christian Ideal, p. 109.
Psalm 119:96Our text means not the wide compass of the scene and subjects, but the quality of the law, as imperative on man; its authority and requirement applied to so many points; the comprehensiveness, the universality, of its jurisdiction. It reaches and comprehends the whole extent of things in which there is the distinction of right and wrong, good and evil.
I. In multitudes of minds there is apprehension enough of such a widely extended law to cause disquietude, to excite reaction and a recourse to anything that will seem to narrow that law. We might notice several of the expedients and the aiding causes for this effect of contracting and reducing the extent and magnitude of the Divine law. (1) The bold, direct, decisive one is infidelity, to deny the existence of the supreme Lawgiver Himself. (2) To reject revelation is an expedient little less summary and effectual for the purpose. (3) The indulgence of sin in action or in the heart throws a thick obscurity over the whole vision of the Divine law. (4) The general operation of self-love in a corrupted being is adverse to any clear and effectual acknowledgment of the exceeding breadth of the Divine law. (5) Add to this the influence of the maxims and customs of the world. There is among us a great deal of an accommodating way of thinking of the Divine law, an unsound and treacherous casuistry, a sort of middle principles, by which those of Divine authority are altered, and qualified, and shaped to suit better the habits of the world and the temper of the times, and a defective faith in our Lord's declaration, "No man can serve two masters."
II. All the while, and after all, the Divine law remains in its exceeding breadth. (1) It is "exceeding broad" by the comprehensive applicableness of its grand, simple rules. (2) It is so by the ample order of its special injunctions. (3) It is so by laying an authoritative hand on the first principles and origin from which anything can proceed in human spirit and action; then it reaches to all things that do or can proceed thence.
III. We infer from this: (1) Great self-complacency is a treacherous, deluded, and dangerous state. (2) If such be the law, how impossible is human salvation by it! This gives beforehand a high and rational probability to the new economy constituted in the Mediator: acceptance, justification, salvation, solely and entirely through the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 324.
If we use the word "perfection" as meaning the attainment of completeness, the writer would seem to say this: "I have seen that everything has its limits; it grows up to a certain stature, it develops certain qualities, and then comes the end: it finishes its work, and can be and do no more. But the Divine law, the truth of God, is not of this character; its boundaries have never yet been reached; it knows nothing of age, of limitations, of decay. Its heights and lengths, its breadths and depths, have never yet been fully perceived by man, and assuredly never yet manifested in his life and conduct. There is far more than he has yet understood, far more than he has ever obeyed."
I. Present attainments. Few persons will dispute the statement that it is every man's duty to make his nature as complete as possible, to set before himself some ideal of perfection and to work towards that. Having souls capable of growing into the beauty of Divine virtue, capable of becoming Christlike, we ought to have that object as a clear, constant, unfailing purpose before us. Yet with all this, with such an ideal and such aspirations, what cause there is to take up the lament of the words, "I have seen an end of all perfection"! The results of the struggle do sometimes seem to be very disheartening and full of disappointment. The attainments are exceedingly limited when judged by the expectation. There is no reason for despair, for despair even of the ultimate result; but there is reason that we should cast ourselves more on God. Though we are often disappointed, and exclaim, "I have seen an end of all perfection," yet we ought to add, "I will reach toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
II. Unfulfilled demands. By this I understand that, though our attainments in the Divine life are limited, the law of the Divine life is unlimited, and always will be so, so that we set over in direct contrast against human frailty and imperfection the demands which are made by God upon us. The law of life is embodied in Christ; what He is we are to be; the commandment is as broad as that, and nothing less. We are called to be imitators of Him, to be perfect even as He is perfect. It is better to have a perfect law to obey even though the obedience fail again and yet again. We shall be more like Christ, because we try to be perfect even as He was perfect.
"Sink not in spirit; who aimeth at the sky
Shoots higher much than he who means a tree."
W. Braden, Catholic Sermons, vol. ii., p. 49.
Psalm 119:96The text describes the difference between everything that is of man and everything that is of God. The one has limits, has an end; the other is exceeding broad.
I. "I see that all things come to an end, but Thy word endureth for ever in heaven." What an impression is forced upon us, by the progress of life, of the poverty of man and all that belongs to him in point of duration! It is not only as observers that we feel this. How fleeting are our own possessions, our own treasures, our own topics of absorbing interest. "I see that all things come to an end," not least human wishes, human aims, and human ambitions. How comforting, then, how satisfying, ought it to be to us to know of just one thing which will not thus fail and terminate. "Thy commandment, Thy word, endureth for ever in heaven." The march of centuries affects not that. That is still right which God commanded; that is still wrong which God has forbidden: that is still true which God has revealed; that is still false which God has contradicted.
II. "I have seen an end of all perfection." That which has been said of human life may be said also of human character. Human excellence, human goodness, have a bound, and a narrow one; if you sound it, you reach the bottom; if you measure it, you can take its compass: there is an end of all human perfection, as there is an end of all human duration. We turn with relief to that character, that mind, that word, "exceeding broad," in which there has been no risk of reaching the end, of sounding the depth, or exhausting the fulness.
III. The breadth of God's word, in contrast with the narrowness of human doctrine, is a topic full of interest. How does the Bible comprehend and gather into one all the good parts of all the human systems of theology that were ever framed! The revelation of God as made by Himself is exceeding broad, and the largest of minds and hearts can find room for themselves within it.
C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, p. 239.
References: Psalm 119:96.—Bishop King, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 149; C. Pritchard, Good Words, 1875, p. 843; H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines of Sermons for Parochial Use, 1st series, vol. i., p. 341. Psalm 119:97.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 17.
Psalm 119:99-100By obeying the commands of Scripture we learn that these commands really come from God; by trying we make proof; by doing we come to know. Now how comes this to pass? It happens in several ways.
I. Consider that the Bible tells us to be meek, humble, single-hearted, and teachable. Now it is plain that humility and teachableness are qualities of mind necessary for arriving at the truth in any subject, and in religious matters as well as others. By obeying Scripture then, in practising humility and teachableness, it is evident we are at least in the way to arrive at the knowledge of God. On the other hand, impatient, proud, self-confident, obstinate men are generally wrong in the opinions they form of persons and things.
II. Consider, next, that those who are trained carefully according to the precepts of Scripture gain an elevation, a delicacy, refinement, and sanctity of mind which is most necessary for judging fairly of the truth of Scripture.
III. Those who try to obey God evidently gain a knowledge of themselves at least, and this is the first and principal step towards knowing God. The more a man understands his own heart, the more are the Gospel doctrines recommended to his reason. The Bible then seems to say, "God is not a hard Master to require belief without affording grounds for believing. Only follow your own sense of right, and you will gain from that very obedience to your Maker which natural conscience enjoins a conviction of the truth and power of that Redeemer whom a supernatural message has revealed: you will bear witness to the truth of one doctrine by your own past experience of yourselves; of another, by seeing that it is suited to your necessity; of a third, by finding it fulfilled upon your obeying it."
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. v., p. 239.
Consider the facts in which lie the germs of the control which the Scriptures must exert over the progress of mankind.
I. The Scriptures contain the most ancient forms of truth now known to men. In any enlarged form of the forces which civilise communities, a place must be found for the instinctive reverence of the human mind for antiquity. A thing is presumptively true if it is old, and an old truth men will revere.
II. The sovereignty of the Scriptures in the progress of mankind is further suggested by the fact that they contain the only development of Oriental mind which can be an authority in the civilisation of the future.
III. The Bible is already wrought into all the dominant forces of the civilisation of the West. Christianity has wrought such revolutions of opinion; it has thrown into the world so much of original thought; it has organised so many institutions, customs, unwritten laws of life; it has leavened society with such a powerful antiseptic to the putrescent elements of depravity; and it has therefore positively created so much of the best material of humanity, that now the noblest type of civilisation cannot be conceived of otherwise than as a debtor to the Christian Scriptures.
IV. The Bible discloses the only groundwork and process of a perfect civilisation, as a practicable result. The idea out of which the future civilisation must grow is here, there, everywhere, in the book of life. That idea is the moral regeneration of the individual. (1) Christianity exalts spiritual over material forces. (2) It intensifies individual being. (3) Its whole process is a process of symmetrical elevation. (4) It works a power which is diffusive. (5) It is affluent in the production of certain auxiliary ideas. These, like itself, are spiritual; and they take on social, and civil, and political forms. (6) While throwing out these ideas, the Bible does exhibit a certain Divine consciousness that they must and will, and a purpose that they shall, become constructive elements in society. This is exhibited, e.g., in that most luminous fact in Scriptural history that God educates nations as the representatives of principles. Starting thus with the idea of the moral regeneration of the individual, the word of God conducts us, by easy and inevitable stages, to that truth which becomes its own witness to a Christian believer that the civilisation of the future and the triumph of Christianity are identical.
A. Phelps, Sermon, preached Jan. 2nd, 1861.
References: Psalm 119:99, Psalm 119:100.—J. Keble, Sermons Academical and Occasional, pp. 1, 24; J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. no.
Psalm 119:105The two parts of this verse are not two different ways of saying the same thing. The word of God is a lamp or lantern to the feet at night; it is a light like that of the sun by day. It makes provision in this way for the whole of life. It is the secret of life's true sunshine; it is the guide when all around is dark. Now here we are met by the fact that in an age and country like ours the Bible is everywhere to be met with; and yet of the millions who possess, and now and then read, it how many can say at all seriously, "Thy word is a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my path"? What is the reason? The answer must be that certain conditions are attached to this guiding and illuminating function of the Bible, and that when it fails to guide and to lighten these conditions cannot be complied with. It is important to ask, What are they?
I. The first condition is that the Bible should be diligently searched for those truths, those precepts, those examples, which will directly guide us through life to our eternal home.
II. Again, in order to succeed in the search for the true import of Scripture, we need method, order, regularity, purpose—above all, purpose in reading it.
III. If the Bible is to light us on the road to eternity, we should surely welcome the guidance of the Church of Christ when we read it.
IV. If the Bible is to do its work, we must be careful to act upon each truth it teaches us as we learn it. While ordinary knowledge, as a rule, is remembered until the memory decays, moral and religious knowledge is soon forgotten if it is not acted out. The reason for this is that in the one case the will is interested and in the other it is not interested. Just so far as the will is exerted in order to make truth practically our own, just so far does it become to us present and real, not merely a light without, but a light within, us.
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 369.
What a lamp is to us in the night or in darkness, the word of God is said to be to us in the journey of life; it is a lamp to the feet and a light to the path. This implies that life is like a journey in the dark or a sojourn in some place of gloom, and that it is the Bible which is to supply to us the illumination that is needful for us in such circumstances.
I. Whether we view man in relation to the great end of his existence as a free agent, subject to the law and responsible to the judgment of God, or as a moral being, capable of appreciating the right and finding his true felicity and dignity in choosing and following it, or as a creature capable of happiness, yet exposed to many accidents, by which he is sorely tried and his peace is apt to be utterly disturbed, we shall alike arrive at the conclusion that without such a guide as the Bible supplies his path through life would indeed be dark, hopeless, disastrous.
II. Think of the certainty of this light. In it there is no wavering, no ambiguity, no indefiniteness. It is a pure light, a dear light, a steady light, an unfailing light. It burns with a lustre that never grows feeble, and casts a radiance from which nothing is hid.
III. Think of its sufficiency. It is not only a light to lighten the eyes, not only a lamp to throw its lustre over our path; it is also a light to the feet, discovering to us all even the minutest features of the path we have to tread—all its roughnesses, all its breaks and hollows, all on it that would impede our progress or cause us to stumble if unobserved, but which observed we can avoid.
IV. And what a marvellous vitality there is in this light! Other lights have flashed and faded; other guides have offered themselves and been followed, and the blind has led the blind into the ditch, and both have perished. But this light abides as clear, and bright, and beneficent as ever.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Christian Thought and Work, p. 39.
References: Psalm 119:105.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 257; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 199; T. Champness, Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 424; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 336.
Psalm 119:109The character of Isaiah.
I. The character of Isaiah is apparent through his writings, in all its clear and separate parts, as the pebbles of a beach seen at the bottom of translucent water or the objects of the wood and hill seen through the atmosphere which bathes and penetrates them. His writings show him to have been a man having a greater tendency towards objective than subjective religion. While Jeremiah is ever studying and lamenting over his own internal condition, Isaiah is ever looking outwards on the external objects of the kingdom of God; Jeremiah seems to discover God through personal experience, Isaiah through His word and works; while Jeremiah laments over his own shortcomings, Isaiah rejoices over the coming glories of the Gospel.
II. We might without much difficulty divide the whole of Isaiah's prophecy into three parts, the first being the description of the sinfulness of the people, the second the remedy in the atonement of Christ, the third the establishment of the Church in its great external system, each of the portions being considered in a peculiarly objective manner.
III. Men who are described in Holy Scripture range themselves under each class: the objective and the subjective. The deep self-searchings of David, the melancholy wailings of Jeremiah, the mournful dirges of Jacob, the wild death-song of Hezekiah, the pathetic appeals to God's protection of Micah, the communings of Moses, and the bold yet morbid reasonings of Jonah range these under the standard of what I have called subjectiveness. On the other hand, the sombre dignity of Samuel, the unquestioning obedience of Abraham, the magnificent hosannas of Isaiah, the stern simplicity of Daniel, the unflinching rebukes of Elijah, and the mystic parables of Ezekiel make them fitting heralds for the silent footsteps of the ever-pondering Virgin, the rapt gaze of St. John, and the unhesitating simplicity of St. Andrew and St. Nathanael.
IV. Both spirits are needed for the Church. But neither spirit is safe by itself. It is as a single wing to a bird, wanting the other wing to bear it safely through the counter-currents of mid-air. Without the one tone we may fail in reverence, without the other in love. Without the one we may fail in obedience, without the other in a living hope.
E. Monro, Practical Sermons on the Characters of the Old Testament, vol. i., p. 177.
Psalm 119:111I. Consider, first, the claim asserted by David: that God's testimonies are his heritage for ever. The term "testimonies" denotes all those revelations of His own nature, attributes, and will which God has been pleased to make of Himself. They are facts which we know not by the light of reason, but by God's witness, facts not which man demonstrates, but which God testifies. Speaking as a Jew, David declares, with feelings of thanksgiving and triumph, that he from his birth has had a rightful possession of God's revelations. In examining into the cause of David's thankfulness, we are brought to the broad subject of ancestral religion. If we had not received our religion as a heritage, we might never have enjoyed it at all. Those who have inherited their religion and walk in righteousness have nothing to regret, but all to be thankful for, in their present position. Those who have inherited their religion and walk unrighteously in all likelihood, if they had not inherited it, would never have believed. Which of us is certain that if we had met Christ face to face in the valleys of Judah, we should not have despised Him?
II. The Jewish king claims God's testimonies as his inheritance not for the brief period of his mortal life, but for ever, as though implying that they would hereafter form the source of his joy and triumph. The world and the works that are therein shall pass away, but in the midst of the universal wreck one thing shall remain: the word of God. The testimony of the Most High has been the heritage of the elect, and that shall endure. Inheritors of Christ's faith, let us walk worthy of our portion; inheriting it from the saints of old, let us keep it undefiled, using it while we live for our own salvation, and labouring to hand it down unmutilated to the generation to come.
Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. i., p. 15.
References: Psalm 119:111.—J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 6th series, p. 94; M. R. Vincent, Gates into the Psalm Country, p. 231; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 199.
Psalm 119:113I. First, what are vain thoughts? (1) There are the vain, worldly thoughts, which we must hate. Thoughts which in themselves are perfectly harmless and innocent may become vain through being welcomed and entertained at the wrong season. The same thoughts may become sinful and vain through mere excess, through occupying our minds overmuch. The world must be very near us when the worldly thought is ever with us. Our treasure, our best treasure, must assuredly be there, else our heart and the thought of our heart would not be always there also. (2) But if a wise man will watch against these thoughts about this world, which are only sinful when indulged or allowed at a wrong time or in excess, how much more will he hate those that in their nature and essence are sinful, as, for example, impure thoughts, being such as more than any other sully and defile the mirror of the soul, and render it incapable of giving back the pure image of God. (3) The transition to other thoughts, to such as we more immediately ascribe to the devil, is easy. It will be enough to indicate proud thoughts in general as the third division of those we have to consider.
II. Consider the remedies for vain thoughts. Chase them wholly away we never shall, but let them find no entertainment from us. As often as they visit us, let them drive us to Him by whose holy inspiration alone we are able either to think those things which be good, or to refuse to think those things which be evil; let them drive us to Him in a real, though it may be a voiceless, prayer, in a brief meditation on the glories of heaven or on the pains of hell, or on Christ hanging upon His Cross and bearing there the penalty of our sins, or on Christ coming to judgment and bringing to light all hidden things of darkness, and this wicked thought of ours among the rest. In devices such as these we must find our help.
R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 123 (see also Sermons Preached in Ireland, p. 201).
References: Psalm 119:113.—J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, pp. 109, 120; H. F. Burder, Sermons, p. 13; New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 253.
Psalm 119:116The fact that hope may spring from tribulation, though only hinted at by the Psalmist in the text, is largely asserted by St. Paul when he says, "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope."
I. Take the case of those in whom a work of grace is going forward, who are striving to submit themselves to the operations of God's Spirit; and how true it is of them that "tribulation worketh patience." There is nothing else which can work it. We can only know ourselves possessed of any particular quality when God, in His providence, shall put that quality to the proof. Patience is wrought out by tribulation, not by tribulation in itself, but by tribulation bringing the Christian to reflection and to prayer.
II. "Patience worketh experience." There are various senses in which the word "experience" may be taken; but it properly denotes the putting something to the proof, making the sort of trial which is made of metals by placing them in the fire, in order to the detecting and disentangling the dross. Hence the experience here mentioned by St. Paul must be the ascertaining the precise worth, veracity, and power of the consolations and promises of God. The season of tribulation is the season chosen of God for the especial manifestation of His faithfulness and love.
III. And from experience how natural, how easy, the transition to hope. Surely he who has tried the chart and found it correct, so far as he had the power of trying it, has the best ground for confidence in that chart with regard to ports which he has never yet entered. If we do not register our mercies, or if we never recount them, they are not likely to throw light on coming events. He must be grateful for the past who would be hopeful for the future.
IV. "Ashamed of my hope." This accords accurately with the concluding words of the passage from St. Paul, "Hope maketh not ashamed." How different, then, from any other hope. For is not hope commonly spoken of as most delusive and deceitful? There is nothing airy and unsubstantial which is not taken as too faithful a representation of hope. But Christian hope "maketh not ashamed." It paints no vision which shall not be more than realised; it points to no inheritance which shall not be reached. How should it make ashamed, when it altogether rests itself upon Christ, who is not "ashamed to call us brethren"?
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2080.
References: Psalm 119:117.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 180; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1657; Archbishop Thomson, Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 16.
Psalm 119:126The text brings before us:
I. A melancholy fact: "Men have made void Thy law." This might at first view seem impossible, as if it were the defeat of Omnipotence itself by the creature it has made; but there is a sphere in which even the function of Omnipotence itself becomes restrained or transformed, in order that there may exist created wills, and that there may be a kingdom in which subjects obey not because they must, but because they choose. The sphere and sweep of these laws and their action are not to be without the man, but within him. God stands related to us now chiefly through these laws. In conscience, in the Decalogue, and in the Gospel of His Son, the law of the Spirit of life—in all that expresses the Divine will—He speaks to us. They together make up that law which, in the words of our text, "men have made void." If it be inquired how men have made void the law of God, we answer: (1) By assailing its authority (a) in denying the personality of its source; (b) in palliating the gravity of its transgression; (c) in restricting the area of its rule. (2) By disparaging its sufficiency.
II. The urgent appeal, "It is time for Thee, Lord, to work." There is a wonderful boldness, I might say audacity, in this language of the Psalmist—a summons of God to the rescue of His own world. And yet such challenge is the privilege of earnest men. It is the violence which takes heaven by force. God does not resent it; He hears it; He invites it; He answers it. When God arises to work, we know not what will be the form and fashion of His operations. If the Lord begins to work, we may expect a wondrous effusion of the Holy Spirit both upon His Church and the world, which is still estranged from His law and love. With the outpouring of the Spirit the Church in reality began. In the New Testament the work of Christ has no meaning except as it is unfolded by the Holy Spirit; it has no power except as it is applied by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is as much the Gospel of the Holy Spirit as it is the Gospel of the Son of God.
E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 19.
I. Look, first, at the complaint. A law is made void: (1) by misinterpretation; (2) by being encumbered with contradictory or inconsistent requirements; (3) when, being understood, it is in practice ignored and accounted a dead letter; (4) when the obligation is denied; (5) when, the obligation being acknowledged, the penalty is incurred and braved, and the lawgiver defied.
II. The appeal, "It is time for Thee, Lord, to work." What in such a case can God do? (1) Vindicate His law by punishment. This He did in the Flood. (2) Bring forward His law by republishing it. Thus did He work at Sinai. (3) Pardon the transgression and rewrite His law on the heart. This is the work of God alone. Creature may punish creature; man may republish God's law, and call to it universal attention; but who can forgive sins but God alone? who can write his law so as to secure obedience upon the heart? Pardon is God's prerogative, and purification is God's own work.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, No. xvii.
References: Psalm 119:126-128.—A. Maclaren, The Secret of Power, p. 81, and Old Testament Outlines, p. 146.
Psalm 119:129I. Consider, first, how the wonderfulness of God's word is calculated to produce the observance of it. The human mind is possessed of certain faculties, and subject to certain sensations. Amidst these sensations very prominent is that feeling of surprise which overtakes us at the sight of what is unexpected, or exceeds all our conceptions, or extends beyond the grasp of our understanding. This is the faculty of wonder. We have many instances before us of wonder acting upon the soul and constraining it to obey. The mind is more moved by the words of one whom we have not seen, and whom we image to ourselves vaguely, often untruly, than by one of whom we feel that we know all about him. And we can easily transfer our argument to the instance of God and revelation. If God were a being whom we felt we could measure, if there was nothing to baffle our deepest inquiries, nothing to awe, to prostrate, to overwhelm, we might not indeed have to meet the jest of the scoffer or the sneer of the infidel; but neither, on the other hand, should we find spirits rapt away from earth and earthly things and loving to build their homes in the word of the Lord. The wonderfulness of the law constitutes its bondage over the spirit.
II. From the above doctrine flow several important practical lessons. (1) It it be true that wonder is closely connected with reverence, that, in short, the marvellous exerts in religion, as in other things, a great power over the soul of man, then we shall cease to be surprised that the Almighty has not spoken more clearly. (2) The statutes which are to be kept must be not a theory of reason, but of wonder; they must afford food for the imagination as well as exercise for the understanding. (3) There is also an application of the text to the subject of public worship. You must have in your religious ceremonial also something which will appeal to the imagination as well as to the reason, otherwise you will soon have coldness and indifference.
Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. i., p. 258.
Reference: Psalm 119:129.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 200.
Psalm 119:130I. There is no book by the perusal of which the mind is so much strengthened and so much enlarged as it is by the perusal of the Bible. There is nothing so likely to elevate and endow with new vigour our faculties as the bringing them into contact with stupendous truths and the setting them to grasp and measure these truths. If the human mind grows dwarfish and enfeebled, it is ordinarily because left to deal with commonplace facts, and never summoned to the effort of taking the span and altitude of broad and lofty disclosures. The Bible, whilst the only book for the soul, is the best book for the intellect, The sublimity of the topics of which it treats, the dignified simplicity of its manner of handling them, the nobleness of the mysteries which it develops, the illumination which it throws on points the most interesting to those conscious of immortality—all these conspire to bring round a result which we insist upon as actual and necessary; namely, that the man who should study the Bible and not be benefited by it spiritually would be benefited by it intellectually.
II. The text ascribes to the Bible precisely that energy for which we have contended. The assertion is that the entrance of God's word gives light, and that it gives also understanding to the simple. We have shown that a mind dark through want of instruction or weak through its powers being naturally poor or long unexercised would become either illuminated or strengthened through acquaintance with the contents of Scripture. But the passage applies with far greater force to the converted than to the unconverted. (1) On conversion there is given to man an increased measure of understanding. In all cases a marked change passes over the human spirit when the heart is renewed by the influences of God's Spirit. The man will have a clearer and less biassed judgment. His views will be wider, his estimates more correct. His understanding, having been exercised on truths the most stupendous, will be more competent for the examination of what is difficult or obscure. His reason, having learned that much lies beyond her province, as well as much within, will give herself to inquiries with greater humility and greater caution, and therefore, almost to a moral certainty, with greater success. (2) Consider certain of the reasons of this fact. (a) The truths which have been commended to the belief are the most sublime and spirit-stirring of all that can engage the attention of mankind. (b) The moral renovation at conversion will be also to a certain extent an intellectual one. Since at the entrance of God's word the man is renewed in holiness, we have a right to expect that he will also be renewed in understanding. (c) The entrance of God's words denotes such an application to the soul of the truths of revelation that they become influential on the life and conversation.
H. Melvill, Sermons, vol. i., p. 147.
Psalm 119:131We shall consider the Psalmist as here drawing a contrast between the unsatisfying character of what is finite and the power which there is in Divine things of filling all the desires of the soul.
I. David is speaking as a man who had made trial of created good, and had proved its insufficiency. He had not indeed exhausted the good, though its pursuit had exhausted him; but he had tried it to such a point as to ascertain that it was limited. He saw how far wealth or wisdom could go in filling the desires of man, and he ascertained their inadequacy; they would still leave him exhausted and panting. With the generality of men the opinion seems to be that the dissatisfaction arises from there remaining still so much unpossessed, but we maintain that the soul can be satisfied with nothing of which it can discover the limits. It will exhaust all which it can prove to be not inexhaustible. And therefore wherein can the soul be satisfied but in God, of whom alone we may affirm that He is not to be overtaken by the marching of the soul, not weighed in her balances, not comprehended within her horizon?
II. "I longed for Thy commandments." The whole Law is summed up in the injunction of love—the love of our Maker and of all men for His sake. And if love be thus the fulfilling of the Law, we cannot wonder that David should set the commandments in contrast with all created things, as though you could not take the span of the one, though you might of the other. It is the surprising property of the law of God that, though condensed into few precepts, it spreads itself over every department of conduct, so that no possible ease is left unprovided for. And yet, notwithstanding this largeness of the commandment of God, the Divine law is not that which at first sight we should be disposed to compare, in respect of satisfying power, with finite perfection. We should have been inclined to fix on the favour of God, or on the joys which He communicates to His people, as affording that material of satisfaction which is so vainly sought in any earthly good. But let the matter be carefully examined, and we shall find that it is strictly for the commandment that the wearied soul ought to long. (1) Man's happiness lies in obedience to the commandment. (2) The commandments are summed up in love. In loving God, we throw down the burden which, if unremoved, must press us down everlastingly into the depths of wretchedness, and we take hold of immortality, as purchased for us, and prepared, and reserved.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2380.
Psalm 119:132What is this love of God's name which is so very precious, and how is it to be obtained?
I. We know how it is with us when we love any person among men very dearly. It is a joy and satisfaction to us only to hear his name, or to see it anywhere written or printed. So it is with those who have any spark of true love towards God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God. They are glad to see these sacred names in the Bible or in any other good book, and to hear them pronounced with religious reverence.
II. If we truly loved that name, would we not bear it in mind continually, and hide it in our heart, that we might not sin against it? Would not this saying of the wise man be ever present in our minds: "I will not sin, knowing that I am accounted Thine"? One way or another, true love will make us evermore on the watch that the name of the Beloved which we carry about with us may in no way suffer through our neglect.
III. Those who so love God's name see what a mighty encouragement is held out to them. They are sure of being looked on and of obtaining mercy. For it is said, "Thou usest to do so unto those that love Thy name." Almighty God will look upon devout persons; He will not turn His face away from them; He will be merciful to them when they confess their sins. He promises that nothing at all shall be lost which we do simply and truly for the love of His name.
J. Kehle, Sermons for the Christian Year: Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 245.
Psalm 119:133I. This verse recognises and accepts the obligation of moral order: "Order my steps."
II. It fixes the legitimate source and centre of that order: "In Thy word." The Bible centres, regulates, restrains, and establishes a man.
III. It deprecates the consequences of moral lawlessness, the dominion of iniquity.
M. R. Vincent, Gates into the Psalm Country, p. 247.
References: Psalm 119:133.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 878. Psalm 119:136.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xxi., p. 15. Psalm 119:140.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, pp. 290, 299; A. Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 25.
Psalm 119:141I. Man, among all his other weaknesses, is so prone to vanity, conceit, and pride that in teaching the lesson of self-respect, in pressing on you the truth that we are greater than we know, some might fear that we were but putting one more stumbling-block in the path of that humility which is the rarest, as it is the sweetest, of all Christian virtues. But the self-respect which God would have us yield is the parent of humility and the annihilation of pride; it is founded on just those things which every one of us enjoys, which none can monopolise, wherein no man differs from another. It is founded on the possession of that immortal soul which God has given alike to the prince and to the beggar.
II. All but a few of us have a lot in life all the harder to bear because in the pathos of it everything is below the level of tragedy, except the passionate egotism of the sufferer. Our complaints and miseries arise in no small measure from our failure to grasp the real meaning and to understand the universal experience of life; they rise because, dropping the substance, we grasp at the shadow; they rise because we take for solid realities the bubbles which burst at a touch. It is of infinite importance to ourselves and to the world that we should not yield to these feelings. We need for ourselves, the world needs for us as fellow-workers with God, all the joy, all the spring, all the elasticity, all the vigour, all the hope, which man will leave us.
III. Our lot is nothing exceptional, nothing to complain of, nothing to be depressed at. It is just the common, the all but universal, lot. Be good and true, and you cannot then be in reality or in the truth of things commonplace or insignificant. Each one of us is exactly as great as he is in God's sight, and no greater. You may think yourself nothing now and here, but for every good soldier of Jesus Christ all trumpets shall sound on the other side. The Psalmist deeply felt this truth when he wrote the words of the text: "I am small and of no reputation: yet—"and what a burst of triumph, what a rush of hope, what a force of conviction, lies in that word "yet"!—"yet do I not forget Thy commandments."
F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 337.
References: Psalm 119:144.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1572. Psalm 119:148.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1613. Psalm 119:151.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 445.
Psalm 119:158Consider what there is in the breaking of God's law to justify such manifestation of grief as you read of in the writings of David.
I. Look, first, at the dishonour done to God by the violation of His law. Every one who reflects at all on his relationship to his Maker and the accuracy with which that Maker has written Himself in His laws must readily acknowledge that it is to insult the Supreme Being to set at nought His precepts. If a man loves God, zeal for the glory of God will be necessarily the chief and dominant feeling of his mind. Can it then be with indifference, can it be without emotions of the most lively concern, that he beholds this Being dishonoured by his fellow-men?
II. Consider the ruin which transgressors are bringing upon themselves. The good man is not void of affection for his fellow-men, but, on the contrary, feels for them a love which true religion is sure to produce. He must feel for the wicked as he beholds them following courses which he is sure will issue in destruction.
III. Think of the injury which transgressors are causing to others. Let the Law be universally kept, and all that is most glorious in prophecy would be rapidly realised. And shall it not, then, be with a genuine and deep sorrow that the righteous man, eager for a period of universal happiness, beholds the transgressors who are deferring that period and prolonging the reign of confusion and misery? Let none, therefore, rest till, having sorrowed deeply for their own sins, they feel themselves made sorrowful by the sins also of others. "This," as Archbishop Leighton says, "is perhaps a stronger evidence of sincerity. There seems to be more of God in it, because less of ourselves and our own particular interest."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2053.
Psalm 119:160I. We cannot read the Old Testament without seeing that the whole of it rests on the basis of a history—the history contained in what we call the books of Moses. Now, if you turn to the New Testament, you will find that it begins, in like manner, with a history: the history of the four Gospels; and what the Pentateuch is to the Old Testament, the Gospels are to the New. Here, then, is a symmetry in the two parts of the Bible. Each begins with a history which pervades and inspires all that follows. Only, the two histories are different, while they are connected. The one is that of a Divinely chosen people, selected for a special purpose. The other is that of a Divine Person. And a person is superior to a people merely as a people, as a corporate body, for a person has an immortality: a nation has not; and a person can be charged with far higher lessons than a nation. The two histories are on two planes, a lower and a higher; the lower is imperfect without the higher, and the higher assumes and completes the lower.
II. If you look to the Old Testament, you will find that there is a second stage after the Pentateuch. It is a struggle to obtain a place where the original history may find a firm footing, and may unfold itself for the good of the world. This is the history of Joshua, and Judges, and Samuel, and those that follow after. In the New Testament there is a similar period, contained chiefly in the Acts of the Apostles; but it penetrates also the Epistles. The Apostles and disciples are struggling to find a lodgment for the history of the great Person with whom they have come in contact. Only, the place is no more one country, but the whole earth.
III. If you turn again to the Old Testament, you will find a third stage. It is the period of reflection. Thought is folded over on the past in meditation. This brings us into the centre of the Old Testament—to the books of Psalms and many of the prophets. In the New Testament there is a corresponding period, showing the same marks. It is in the Epistles of Paul and of his fellow-disciples. The Gospels give us great events, but the conclusions are not fully drawn; and Christ promises the Spirit of Truth to guide, to show the way into all truth.
IV. Notice one closing period in this comparison. We may call it the sense of incompleteness. This is the period of prophecy proper, of many of the Psalms, of Isaiah and the later prophets. As the sun of the past is setting, another Sun arises: the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings; and that Sun shall no more go down. The Old Testament closes with this intent, bending gaze on the future, and closes not having received the promise, but being persuaded of it and embracing it. And the New Testament has this period also. As the Old Testament ends by looking for Christ's first coming, the New finishes with a cry for His second. Its last words breathe out a response to His promise, "Behold, I come quickly:" "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 186.
Reference: Psalm 119:162.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1641.
Psalm 119:165In the margin of the Bible the latter words of this verse are rendered, "They shall have no stumbling-block."
I. Consider the character of the parties whom the Psalmist describes: they "love the law of God." It is no ordinary degree of spiritual attainment which is indicated by the fact of loving God's law. If a man do not feel assured of pardon through the blood of the Redeemer, what but terror—heartfelt terror—can be excited by the contemplation? We must have stepped much beyond the first elements of religion if we can vouch as a truth that we love God because His essence is holiness, and that we love Him because His essence is justice. When we have come to love redemption because into it are gathered all the attributes of God, we are prepared also to love the law in which all these attributes are imaged.
II. Consider why there are no stumbling-blocks to those who thus love God's law. (1) The unequal distribution both of good and evil in this life is often a perplexing thing to the righteous; but he who loves the law is quite assured of the justice and faithfulness of God, and can refer with the greatest cheerfulness to the disclosures of the final assize for the solution of every problem which is too hard for present investigation. (2) When afflictions come thick on the godly man, they have a tendency to stagger him or to serve as a stumbling-block. But the man who loves God's law, knowing each attribute, loving each attribute, will be meekly confident that the issue must be right, though the process may be dark. (3) Christ Jesus Himself is a stumbling-block to the great mass of mankind. But let a man have that knowledge of the law which shows him its requirements, and therefore that love of the law which would make him shrink from its compromise, and it is not possible that he should be offended at all at what St. Paul calls the "offence of the Cross;" and thus it is as a lover of the law that he surmounts the stumbling-block.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 4984.
From these words we learn:—
I. That true religious peace consists in maintaining a sincere love of Almighty God and of His declared will: "Great peace have they which love Thy law." By the law of God may be understood either the exercise of that providential power by which He sustains, governs, and directs the whole course of the world, the circumstances of nations and of individuals, or more strictly that revealed law of life and conduct by which we are bound wholly to regulate ourselves, as they who must hereafter "give an account of their own works." (1) Great is the peace of those who love to live "soberly." They are thoroughly and heartily satisfied with their own condition in life, whatever it be. (2) Great is the peace of those who love to live "righteously;" that is, with a sincere love of all others. For whereas it is the want of this love which causes so much quarrelling, malice, and unkindness in the world, the possession of it would at once produce peace and harmony, if not in others towards us, at least in us towards others. (3) Great is the peace also of those who love to live "godly" in this present world of darkness and corruption. For, having their affections set on things above and their conversation in heaven, they sit loose to all the interests of this transitory state.
II. "Nothing shall offend them"—offend, that is, make them to stumble or fall. Whosoever then truly loves God's law, nothing will offend him; nothing will be of power sufficient to turn him aside from his steady course of faithful obedience. (1) Thus as he sincerely loves to live soberly, so, whatever difficulties or obstacles occur, he is not offended, will not give up his resolution. (2) Again, as he loves to live righteously, so nothing will offend him in the practice of it. (3) As he loves to live godly, so nothing will prevent him availing himself of all the privileges which accompany the practice of true devotion. He endeavours to make everything which befalls him the occasion of some direct religious act of confession, faith, or thanksgiving.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 28.
I. We see here, first, a possession: great peace. (1) There may be peace without great peace. (2) This peace is connected with obedience. (3) Love must be the affectional bond.
II. An exemption: "Nothing shall offend them." (1) Circumstances do not hurt them, or are not a stumbling-block to them. (2) Temptations do not hurt them. (3) Death does not hurt them.
W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 88.
Psalm 119:176I. Like all true prayer, the text begins with confession. It describes our condition as it is in God's sight; it penetrates to the heart, and shows us whence it is that sin flows, whatever be its visible and outward manifestations. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." We know well who is that Shepherd of our souls from whom we have wandered. We know, with our understandings at least, what God has done for us in redeeming us by the blood of Christ. We know, too, what it must be to have wandered from Him; that it implies a want of love to God, a want of gratitude for His kindness to us, a want of interest in thinking and hearing of Him, a want of regard for His word and for all the means of grace which He has given us.
II. "O seek Thy servant." How much is implied in these few words. We have wandered from God; and now, like a sheep that has strayed from its fold and lost all trace of the way by which it should return, we ask God to seek us: we ask Him by His Spirit to track, as it were, our wanderings, to come after us into that waste, howling wilderness in which we have lost ourselves, and to give us at once the will and the power to hear His voice and follow Him. Such is the mystery of our spiritual life. God must first seek us if we are truly to seek Him, and yet it is in our seeking of Him that we can best recognise His search after us.
III. "Seek Thy servant." How does God seek man? Not alone in the direct call of His Son's Gospel, which is come unto us, as it is to all the world; but in every circumstance of our life, in every mercy we enjoy from His hands, nay in every interruption of our comfort and happiness, we have a speaking sign of His presence, a fresh pledge of that love which will scarcely allow us to forget it, unless already our eyes and ears be closed in wilful hardness against its appeal.
C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 1.
References: Psalm 119:176.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 171; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 25. Psalm 119—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 261. Psalm 120:5.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 249. Psalm 120:6.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 182. Psalm 120—S. Cox, The Pilgrim Psalms, p. 1.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
GIMEL. Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.
My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.
Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.
Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.
Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.
Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellers.
DALETH. My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.
My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.
I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.
I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
HE. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.
Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.
Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.
VAU. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.
So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.
So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.
And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.
My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.
ZAIN. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.
The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.
This I had, because I kept thy precepts.
CHETH. Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.
I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law.
At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.
I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.
TETH. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.
I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.
Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.
Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.
Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.
Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.
CAPH. My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.
How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.
All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.
Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.
LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.
I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.
I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts.
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.
Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments.
My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.
SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.
Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.
Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.
Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
AIN. I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.
Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.
Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.
Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.
I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.
It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.
Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.
Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.
PE. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.
Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.
Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.
TZADDI. Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.
Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.
My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.
Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.
I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.
Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.
The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.
KOPH. I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.
I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.
I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word.
Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment.
They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.
Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.
Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
RESH. Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.
Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.
Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.
Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
SCHIN. Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.
I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.
Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.
My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.
I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.
TAU. Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.