I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
It may be that the psalmist was thinking only or chiefly of his life; but more commonly the soul refers to that which is of far more worth than the body - to that in us which is spiritual, immortal, and made in the image of God. And thus we shall understand the word here, and speak of "the evil and danger of neglecting the souls of men." See Dr. Doddridge's great sermon on this theme. The psalmist declares, "No man eared for my soul."
I. IS THE ASSERTION TRUE?
1. It often seems so. How many there are to whom no one ever speaks, for whom no one makes any direct effort to win them for God! They are just let alone. And it is not because they would resent such endeavor. Often they greatly desire that some one would speak to them; for they know they are wrong, and need help to be other than they are. But it seems as if no one cared.
2. But, strictly speaking, it is not universally true. For there have never been any periods of time when there were not some faithful workers for God, and earnest intercessors for sinful men. And often it has been that, unknown to the soul that thinks itself uneared for, fervent prayers have been going up to God for that soul. And if not specially for that soul, yet for all such souls, that God would have mercy upon them, and lead them into the way of truth, for that they have erred and are deceived. When do God's people ever gather together without such prayers being offered?
3. Still, it is far too largely true. The neglect of souls on the part of those who should care for them is a terrible and distressing fact.
II. WHO ARE TO BLAME?
1. All Christians generally. For if we be saved by the compassion and grace of God ourselves, we are bound by every motive to try and get others saved likewise. If we do thus try, prayerfully and earnestly - let men call us by any ill name they please - the consciousness of Christ's approval and benediction will become surer and fuller of holy joy and help every day we live. If we make no such endeavor, the salvation we have will dwindle and starve, and, ere long, utterly disappear, and our last state will be worse than the first.
2. But more especially those who are nearest to such souls, and who have, therefore, most influence over them. Fathers and mothers first and chief of all. As they are, so the children will be. Then teachers, especially teachers in Sunday schools. What is the good of such schools if the teachers do not, above everything else, care for the souls of those they teach? And ministers: theirs, beyond most others, is the cure of souls. How awful, if they to whom this charge has been especially given, should be found faithless! What will such answer, when asked by the "chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls," as they will be asked, what they have done with those entrusted to their care?
III. HOW COMES THERE TO BE SUCH NEGLECT? The causes are many.
1. With some it is unbelief. They doubt almost every truth which the Church teaches. Some actually deny, others do not more than half believe.
2. With others it is misbelief. They pervert the doctrine of the sacraments, of the eternal mercy of God, of final perseverance, and, on such grounds, say, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.
3. With more it is that they are not saved themselves. Their belief, whatever it is, does nothing for them, gives them neither peace, purity, strength, nor joy. They profess, but do not possess, and therefore cannot impart to others what is not their own.
4. Fear of man. How many, who should be directly and avowedly caring for souls, are ensnared here! And they salve their consciences by thinking that such work belongs to the clergy or the ministers - not to such as they. We shall never do anything until we are willing to be thought "fools for Christ's sake."
5. Dread of doing harm rather than good. But duty is ours, not consequences; and if God, by his Spirit, prompt, and bids us speak for him, as he very often does, all we have to do is to obey. He will take care of the consequences. Such are some of the causes of this sad lack of care for souls.
IV. THE EVIL OF IT.
1. The glory due from us to Christ is not reordered. The martyrs whom St. John saw overcame "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." Christ claims our confession of him.
2. Men are hardened in sin. They say, "If these people believed what they profess, they would not leave us alone as they do. They don't believe it, and we won't."
3. Our own souls perish; for we are guilty of our brother's blood.
V. HOW IS IT TO BE REMEDIED? What is involved in the caring for souls?
1. Belief in the existence of the soul. In its worth; its peril; in the willingness of God to save it.
2. Solicitude for its salvation.
3. Open, active, and definite endeavor to secure this.
4. Be sure that we are saved ourselves.
CONCLUSION. To those who bring the charge, "No man careth for my soul," we would say:
1. Mothers do not care, see to it that you care yourself. It is your concern, after all.
2. If others care ever so much, and you do not, you will be only worse off titan before.
3. But if you care, then, whether others care or not, you will certainly be saved. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.