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.
Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. For present purposes associate the psalm with the anxious time of David's life, when he was persecuted by Saul. The point of his sadness was that nobody seemed to care for him. That was likely to make him restless. If he had further said, "and even God does not care for me," he would have grown desperate, and exclaimed, "Why should I care for myself? Why should I try to be true and good and faithful?" By his word "soul" David meant "life;" but we mean spiritual and eternal interests.
I. CARING FOR SOULS IS NOT THE WORLD'S WORK. We use the term "world" in many senses. Sometimes for the evil element in the midst of which we are set. So far as men come together in mutual interest and service, men as men, apart from any such distinctions as godly men, their interest in each other is limited to morals. There is such a thing as the welfare of the race. There is an "enthusiasm of humanity." But see what it embraces, and where are its limits. Trace through an ascending scale.
1. Physical well-being; bodily development, conditions of health.
2. Social well-being; all that pertains to the relationships which men sustain.
3. National well-being; the attainment of the highest civil liberty consistent with stable government.
4. Intellectual well-being; education in elementary, middle, and advanced stages.
5. Moral well-being; the general conception of virtue as the moderate and harmonious use of all faculties, or emotional culture. But there the world stops. Even the best men who care for the race seem to recognize no souls, no spiritual natures. (The spirit of modern philosophy may be thus expressed: Dismiss noumena, and deal only with phenomena.) And if men did recognize souls, they would be incompetent to render the care that souls need. They have not the suitable powers or agencies at their command. Chemistry, electricity, and education will not touch souls. So far as men are souls, they may look abroad over the world and say, "I can get much for body and mind, but 'no man careth for my soul.'" And yet the part that men miss caring for is the chief part. They care for the box and the setting, but they neglect the jewel. Consciousness testifies that we are souls. Revelation deals with us as souls. God cares for souls. Christ cares for souls. The true care for man is care for his soul; and this includes care for all lesser things that are interesting to him.
II. CARING FOR SOULS IS PRECISELY THE WORK OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. Physical, intellectual, and moral good is not the Church's first work. The Christian is, of necessity, also a philanthropist.
1. The Church exists to give testimony to the worth of souls in the sight of God.
2. The Church exists to devise and carry out schemes for the salvation of souls. This is indeed the work of every regenerate individual; but it is especially the duty of the Church as an organization. In it men are banded together for the care of souls.
III. IN MANIFESTING ITS CARE FOR SOULS, THE CHURCH WILL HAVE A SPECIAL CARE FOR THE YOUNG. Why?
1. Apprehending the peril of souls, the Church will want to keep the young from temptation, rather than to deliver them when overcome by it.
2. Apprehending the hardening influence of sin, the Church will try to deal with it in its initial stages. Youth is the plastic time when men may be fitted to good life-moulds.
3. Apprehending the nobler possibilities of a godly life, the Church seeks to secure for it the earliest possible beginning. Every godly life is rich in blessing; but those who serve their generation best as Christ's servants are those who began the service in early youth. - R.T.
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.