Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
The earnestness with which the psalmist repeats again and again this benevolent wish — as devout as it is benevolent, and expressive of the gratitude that it invokes — implies that men are remiss in paying their thanks to the Supreme Benefactor, and that they have need to be urged to the performance of that cheering duty. Not that the human heart is naturally disinclined to acknowledge God in His benefits, but because it is so easily led to forget Him altogether in the multitude of its cares and .pleasures; and because it knows that it can never estimate fully the number and extent of His mercies; and because it is so apt to misunderstand the truest occasions of thankfulness, and so not pay its tribute aright. The sacred poet describes under four distinct figures the lovingkindness, of which He would impress the memory upon the minds of His people. They are fitted to represent all those examples of deliverance which are often vouchsafed, and which challenge in a peculiar manner the admiring gratitude of those who are permitted to witness them. But we perceive that they are all of one class. They all look to some extraordinary exhibition of the saving might of the Most High. If we await such as these, we shall soon be capable of appreciating none. Cases of visible and imminent peril are always rare. A long life will often stand in no need of rescue from such. But few have found themselves in the situation of the fainting traveller in search of his way. Few have been compelled or have chosen to expose themselves to such a risk. As for the second example, the preacher might address many a crowded assembly without finding one person who had felt chains upon his wrists, and sat in undeserved captivity, abandoned of all companionship, and trembling for his life. Sickness, on the other hand, we must admit, is a common visitant, and sickness of the most alarming and fatal character no unfrequent one. And yet it is almost a singularity, compared with comfortable health, and the answer, "I am well," to friendly inquiries. Then, as to the last succour named — that amidst the horrors of shipwreck — what a small proportion of people have ever undergone any personal hazard of this kind , — have ever been likely to be swallowed up in that treacherous highway, whose dust is the salt spray and its pavement thousands of fathoms down! We should have to make similar abatements and allowances as to any other of those uncommon demands on our thanksgiving, which are the most striking to the most common minds. And when we have made all these, there is another set of exceptions that claims equal consideration. They remind us, and how truly, that such occasions as have been alluded to are not only seldom experienced, but are in the highest degree doubtful as to their result; the issue being for the most part deadly, and not gracious. The bones of the poor traveller are found in some unknown spot, or never found. The loaded captive is left to his fate. The diseased man sinks away from a bad state to a worse, till the grave is friendly enough to open its last refuge from weariness and distress. The shattered vessel goes down in the gale, and the sailor's cry of entreaty or despair is drowned in the hollow gust, as if none regarded it. What, then, is the inference? It is, that we should not found our praises of the Lord on things that are precarious in their event, and far apart in their occurrence. It is, that we should look for His "wonderful works" in those that are most constant. We should think more of our continual preservation than of a fortunate escape, — more of the benefits that millions partake of with us, than of those by which we may be for a moment distinguished, — more of the merciful laws of our being, than of its transient incidents, — more of the great truth that a parental Providence reigns, than of any fact that may seem to illustrate its singular interferences. The spirit, then, of the contemplative man should be filled with the love of the Being that fills all in all. The succession of our years should be one thanksgiving day.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!