Jeremiah 17:5

The prophet here presents before us a vivid contrast between two types of human character. He does this by the use of suggestive images drawn from the realm of nature, as one accustomed to see the great lessons of man's moral life and destiny reflected in visible forms in the sandy desert and sterile places of the wilderness, and in the fertile valleys and woody banks of the flowing river. The imagery is peculiarly Oriental We can all appreciate it in some measure, but those who have seen the scanty, stunted vegetable growths of the desert side by side with the rich foliage that clothes the moist ravines and the borders of the water-courses, can best understand the exquisite truth and fitness of the analogies. Consider these two opposite kinds of trust -

(1) trust in man,

(2) trust in the Lord.

I. TRUST IN MAN. To "make flesh one's arm" is suggestive of personal reliance on merely human and earthly resources, in neglect of the spiritual and Divine. It takes the form of undue self-confidence - confidence in one's own wisdom and strength, or confidence in our fellow-creatures, who are as ignorant and weak and fallible as ourselves, or confidence in that which is outward and circumstantial - worldly riches, sensible gratifications, material guarantees. The features of such a trust are:

1. Vanity. Its hope is false and delusive. It has no sure foundation. It seeks life in the region of death. As the plant finds nothing to nourish it in the barren sand, so man can never draw the nutriment his being needs from mere human and earthly resources.

"Unless above himself he can erect himself,
How mean a thing is man!" And how can that which is fleshly, and therefore perishable, ever satisfy the necessities of an immortal spirit?

2. Loss: "He shall not see when good cometh." As the influences that come down upon it from the heaven above are lost upon the plant that is rooted in the desert ground, so this earthly trust robs a man of the power to use aright even the opportunities of higher good that are within his reach. Heavenly influences appeal to him in vain. He knows not the richer possibility of good that surrounds him, fails to apprehend it, cannot see when it cometh.

3. Fruitlessness. The "parched places in the wilderness' yield no solid food. Labor bestowed on them is profitless. Such is the "curse" that rests upon the man who makes the "arm of flesh "his trust - a vain hope, destitution of the good that might be his, a withered, wasted life.

II. TRUST IN THE LORD. Blessed is the man whose whole being is rooted and grounded in God. His is a life fed at the unseen and eternal fountains. "Your hearts shall live that seek God" (Psalm 69:32). The image of the "tree planted by the waters" is suggestive of certain important aspects of that life.

1. Growth. As the trees by the mysterious prolific energy with which it is endowed, strikes its roots deeper, and spreads forth its branches over a wider space, so the freshness and force of Divine life in the soul manifests itself in ever-deepening, enlarging, heightening forms of moral and practical goodness. This is a matter both of Divine purpose and of natural organic tendency. Spirit-life, like plant-life, knows no stagnation. Where there is no growth there is decay.

2. Beauty. Of all the fair objects of nature, a well-grown tree is one of the fairest. The symmetry of its proportions, the blending in harmonious negligence of its forms and colors, the play of light and shade among its leaves and branches, all combine to make it the fitting type of moral dignity and loveliness. We cannot wonder at the graceful imagery of Hebrew poets and prophets when we remember how they dwelt in a land of olives and palm trees, of cedars and lime aloes and pomegranates. Godly character is supremely beautiful. The actual forms of religious life that one sometimes meets with are intensely displeasing. But these are caricatures, not just representations. Only as our piety is pleasing and attractive to men is it divinely true. "Whatsoever things are true,.., honest," etc. (Philippians 4:8).

3. Strength. Here is the idea of a resistive force. The tree, in the vigor of its life, is able to resist the pressure of unfriendly climatic influences. It fears not the scorching heat, or the driving blast, or the rushing torrent. It is as though it "saw ' them not. All religious life is a conflict with difficulties. It flourishes just so far as it is able at once to appropriate the good and repel the evil that environs it. Christ gives "the spirit of power" to them that believe in him - power to overcome the most oppressive and the most seductive influences of a hostile world.

"Where is true faith, all change comes graciously," And neither providential trials nor the assaults of evil can shake the steadfastness of him whose heart is thoroughly "established with grace."

4. Productiveness. "Neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (see also Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:14). The fruit of the producing tree is the final development, the end and aim of its life. All religious thought and feeling, and all Divine methods of spiritual culture, point to this as their ultimate issue - the production of enduring forms of practical goodness. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). If Christ is our living root, there can be no limit to this process. The newborn soul knows no decay of its vital energies, but rather an eternal enlargement. "It gives, but still increases." The more it gives the more it increases. "As the outward man perisheth, the inward man is renewed day by day." And when death comes and cuts the body down and lays it in the dust, it only sets the spirit free to put forth the powers of its sanctified life in new forms of service in a nobler sphere, to bear fruit forever in the paradise of God. - W.

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
I. THE FOLLY AND EVIL OF TRUSTING IN MAN. To "trust in man," in the sense of our text, is to expect that from creatures which can only come from the Creator: to confide in them, not as mere instruments, but as efficient causes; to look to them so as to look off from God; to cleave to them so as to depart from Him.

1. Idolatrous in its principle.

2. Grovelling in its aim. It looks no higher than present good, and things altogether unworthy of an immortal spirit.

3. Unreasonable in its foundation. It supposes that man can do what God cannot.

4. Destructive in its issue. "He shall be like the heath in the desert," — worthless, sapless, fruitless; "he shall not see when good cometh," — shall not enjoy it; "but he shall inhabit the parched places," etc.He shall prosper in nothing.

(1)The frustration of his projects and hopes.

(2)The melancholy state of his soul.

(3)The unhappy end of his career.

II. THE WISDOM AND BENEFIT OF TRUSTING IN THE LORD. Jehovah is his hope. He seeks and expects his all from Him. To know, love, and enjoy Him, — behold his chief good, — the object of his hopes, — his highest and ultimate end. Now this conduct is the complete contrast of the other.

1. It is pious in its principles.

2. Elevated in its aim.

3. Rational in its foundation.

4. Glorious in its issue.Blessed is the man, etc. "For he shall be like a tree," etc.

(1)The success of his enterprises.

(2)The settled comfort and satisfaction of his soul.

(3)The loveliness and dignity of his character.

(4)The usefulness of his life.

(5)His eternal felicity.Application —

1. It is a great mistake to suppose the rich and gay happy; the poor and pious miserable.

2. An entire renunciation of creature confidence, and an unreserved dependence on God, can alone secure the Divine favour and our own felicity.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)


1. In what consists this dependence upon man for the salvation of the soul?(1) In being led by the example of others to the commission of sin and neglect of God.(2) In looking for that rest in the creature which is only to be found in God.(3) In depending on our own good works, in part, for our justification before God.(4) In taking our religion from the opinions of men, instead of the Word of God.(5) In resting in the means of grace.

2. See the consequences of trusting in man. "Cursed," etc. He that does so shall be —(1) Useless "as the heath in the desert."(2) Miserable. "Shall not see when good cometh."(3) Solitary, or forsaken of God. "Shall inhabit a salt land not inhabited."(4) Cursed by Jehovah Himself. "Lord, is it I?"


1. What is meant by trusting Jehovah? With the light of this dispensation, we may safely say it embraces dependence on the atonement of Christ; and implies —(1) Knowledge of it, as a fact and doctrine of Scripture.(2) Approval of it, as adapted to our circumstances.(3) Personal reliance on it for salvation; — a "confident venture" of our souls upon it.

2. The blessedness of trusting in Jehovah.(1) Nourishment. "Planted by the waters." A Christian's source of strength is out of himself.(2) Stability. "Spreadeth out his roots."(3) Comfort. "Shall not see when heat cometh." "Shall not be careful in the year of drought."(4) Adornment. "His leaf shall be green." Beauty of the woods in early spring. "A Christian is the highest style of man" (Titus 2:10; 1 Peter 3:4).(5) Fruitfulness. "Neither shall cease from yielding fruit."

(Edward Thompson.)

Two contrasted types of experience, or laws of life, are brought before us — the one a life of trust in man, and the other a life of trust in God. These two types of experience are contrasted with each other — not primarily, with respect to their outward moral characteristics. The thought that our attention is first of all called to is, that these two lives stand in a contrasted relation to God. The man who lives the first of the two lives that are described here is represented as assuming and maintaining an attitude of independence of God; and the man who leads the second of these two lives is represented as living in a state of consciously recognised dependence upon God. The one finds his resources in self; the other finds his resources in Deity. Now these two lives are not only contrasted with each other, first of all, as to this their essential characteristic, but they are also contrasted as to their result in respect to the personal happiness and enjoyment which belongs to each. The one is represented as a life lived under a curse, and the other as a life lived under a blessing. Either your experience may be described, in the words of Paul, "The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me"; or else you are living a life of which nothing of the kind can be affirmed, and, therefore, a life in which you are practically cut off from all direct communication with your Maker by sin and unbelief. And if the latter be your condition, you are at this moment, in spite of all your privileges, actually under the ban of God's curse and the frown of His wrath: one or other of these two cases you may be sure is yours. You will observe that in the first sentence of our text the prophet utters a curse on the man that trusteth in man; and he says this before he goes on to speak of the heart departing from the living God. This trust in man renders it impossible for the man who entertains it to trust in the living God; and it is, I am persuaded, just because, before we can really and honestly trust in the Father through the Son, it is absolutely necessary for us to turn our back upon all other forms of confidence, that so many lose the enjoyment of this blissful life of faith, and make proof in their own miserable experience of the blight and desolation of a life of practical unbelief. We are not prepared to strip ourselves of our false supports and of our fatal self-confidence, and thus we are not in a position to trust ourselves to the living Father through the Son. Consider some of these various forms of false confidence which it is absolutely necessary for us to abandon before we can enter upon the enjoyment of this life of faith. First, if I am to live by faith in God, I must make up my mind to have done with living by faith in the world. If I am to trust God at all, my trust in God must be exclusive of all other confidence. Or, again, it is possible that our confidence is reposed upon human systems — perhaps it may even be religious systems — which, practically, are allowed to take the place that belongs to God in the heart. How many a man one meets with who will tell us that he has opinions of his own. That may be, my brother, but the point is whether those opinions of yours coincide with God's facts; for opinions of our own may be the cause of mortal injury to us, if it should so happen that those opinions of our own are in direct opposition to facts. Or perhaps it is that we base our confidence on the opinions of other people. Some will tell you that they are earnest Church folks, others will state that they are conscientious Nonconformists; some that they are strong Catholics; some that they are decided Evangelicals. God calls upon us to trust to Himself, and to nothing but Himself; and when we substitute for personal trust in the living God confidence in any kind of system, whatever that system may be, or in any mere doctrine, whatever that doctrine may be, we are cut off by that attitude of heart from the possibilities of the life of faith. Perhaps you will ask, "Well, but why should my trust in doctrine, or my trust in ritual, or my trust in churchmanship, preclude me from trusting in God too?" Just because these things are not God; and, as I said a few moments ago, you cannot trust God and not-God at the same time. But we must consider yet another and still more frequent ease. There are a large number of persons who are strangers to the life of faith — not so much because they are wedded to any particular system on which they have based their confidence, as because they are reluctant to renounce their confidence in themselves. Now, we never really begin with God till we come to an end of ourselves. A considerable number of persons trust in their own quiet, even respectability. They really cannot see that they do anything to be distressed or alarmed about. What means all this hue and cry — this red-hot excitement or attempt to get up a red-hot excitement — these frequent services going on hour after hour all day long — these after meetings — these invitations to earnest inquirers? What does it all mean? The explanation of it all lies in the fact that you ask for an explanation. Let a man be dissatisfied with himself, let a man have a low opinion of himself, and then he will be ready to receive good from any kind of instrumentality, and a very commonplace sort of instrumentality will probably be used to bring that man to the attainment of that spiritual benefit which his ease requires. But let a man be sunk in the sleep of self-complacency — let a man be going on leading a calm, quiet, easy, regular life; but, observe, a life which is not a life of conscious, personal faith in God, but, on the contrary, a life of self-reliance, and therefore a life of self-complacency; and he is as much under the power of the great deceiver as it is possible for a man to be. And of all the undertakings which lie before the Divine Spirit, it seems to me that the very hardest undertaking which even God Himself can engage in is that of penetrating this impervious armour of self-complacency, and of bringing such an one to feel his need of salvation, and to seek and to find that salvation on God's own terms. If these, then, are some of the barriers to our leading a bright and happy life of faith, we shall perhaps, by God's blessing, be the more disposed to avoid or have done with them as we dwell for a little on the contrast offered between these two forms of life. Let us look at these pictures. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that spreadeth out her roots by the river." Observe, the tree is dependent, not upon a chance shower, but upon a perennial supply. The river is always flowing, and the tree has stretched out its roots beside the river, and so is in a position continuously to draw for itself from the river all the sustenance and all the moisture which it requires. Christian, if thou art a real Christian, here is thy picture. Thy roots are struck down into God. Thou art dependent upon no mere casual visitation of Divine mercy. It may be very advisable, from time to time, that extraordinary efforts should be made to reach the careless and to awaken the unconcerned, but thou, true child of God, art not dependent upon these for thy life and health. Thou hast struck down thy roots into the river, and there thou standest — uninjured by prevalent drought, unscathed by the fiery rays of the sun, thy leaf green, thy fruit never failing. Is this your ease! Are you drawing your life supplies from God? There are two ways in which the Christian grows. He grows in personal holiness of life and conversation, but he only grows in outward conduct, because he also grows in the knowledge mad love of God. Upon the depth and reality of his relation with God, his moral and religious character will depend. As God becomes more and more to him "a living, bright reality," so his personal life and character become more fully developed, and the beauty of the Lord will be exhibited in his conduct. As the result of the establishment of these relations with God, the supply of all the necessary wants of the soul is insured, and it has nothing to fear from the trials and disappointments of life: the tree planted by the waters shall not see when heat cometh. Observe, the prophet does not say that it shall be exposed to no heat, but that it shall not be injured by it. Let us ask ourselves, Are we growing in the knowledge of God? Are we getting fresh revelations of His character and His ability to meet and satisfy our every spiritual need? Oh, how vast is our spiritual wealth in Him, and how many a fear and misgiving might not be saved, if we would only acquaint ourselves with Him and be at peace. And this leads us on to the second feature mentioned here, "it shall not be careful in the year of drought." Happy the Christian man who realises his full privileges in this respect, and lives in the enjoyment of them! Happy the man of business on our own Stock Exchange, who, in the midst of all the vicissitudes of a commercial life, can leave himself calmly in the hands of God, and while the year of drought which has so long been affecting our own and other lands fills others with despair, enjoy a blessed immunity from anxiety, because he knows that he is planted by the waterside. Happy the mother who can cast all the cares of her family upon Him who careth for her, and leave them there, not fretting and fuming when things do not go as she would wish them, not cankered by cares or worried by troubles, but trusting Him in whom she finds the true calm of life to draw her ever the nearer to Himself by all its changeful circumstances! But further, the leaf of such a tree is described as being always green. The leaf of the tree shows the nature of the tree, and just so the profession we make should show what our religious character is. Now, it is a grand thing to have a fresh and green profession, so to speak! Once again we read, "Neither shall cease from yielding fruit." The Christian will always be a fruitful tree, because he is planted by the water. There will be no lack of fruitfulness when living in full communion with God. Some of us, perhaps, have had an opportunity of looking at that wonderful and famous vine at Hampton Court. A more beautiful sight you can scarcely see in all England than that vine when it is covered all over with the rich, luscious clusters of the vintage. Report attributes its extraordinary fertility to the fact that the roots, extending for a very considerable distance, have made their way down to the Thames, from whence it draws continuous moisture and nourishment. Such a sight is presented to the eyes of God by the Christian who lives in God, planted by the riverside. The fruits of good works will manifest themselves, not one here and another there, but in a rich and lifelong vintage that will not fail. God Himself reaps a harvest from such a life which redounds to His own glory, and is productive of blessed consequences to mankind. Such is the one picture; now let us glance at the other. "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man." We have left the grapes of Eshcol behind us now — we have turned our backs upon the land that flows with milk and honey. We are making our way towards the bare stretch of arid, desert waste. The smile of God's favour rests no longer upon the miserable being, but the frown of His wrath broods over him; and the thunder of God's curse is sounding in his ear, "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." Departeth from God! Ah, it all lies there! As the satisfaction of the saint arises from the closeness of his relations with God, so the want and wretchedness of the sinner arise from his separation from Him. The wilderness begins where conscious fellowship with God ceases. "He shall be like the heath in the desert." As you wander over the dreary waste of barren sand, your eye falls upon a poor, miserable-looking, half-withered, half-dead thing, that still struggles to maintain its woe-begone and sickly existence. There it lingers on wretchedly, cut off from all surrounding vegetation, scarcely living and yet not finally dead, but devoid of all the freshness and luxuriance of life, shrivelled and parched and desolate looking in a salt land and not inhabited. Tar away in the distance there you can see the green tree that is planted by the waterside only just in sight; but here there is no kindly river, no kindred forms of vegetation, in solitude and drought it measures out its dreary existence. In this miserable object, man of the world, see a picture of yourself. Solitude and thirst! in those two characteristics of this woeful picture, you have faithfully represented to you the characteristic elements of your own present experience, and the dread foreshadowing of what its end must be. Thirst and solitude, yes, thou knowest something of that even now, for is there not already within thee a desire that nothing earthly can satisfy — a sense of inanity and want? Verily thou dwellest in a parched and salt land. A mighty famine reigns within thy soul, and thou hast begun to be in want. An irrepressible, an urgent desire now goads thee on from one effort to another, if, haply, thou mayest escape from thy own miserable self-consciousness and lose the sense of thy own want amidst the excitements of thy life. But it is there all the time — this inward thirst, and thou canst not escape from it; and remember the salt land which thou now inhabitest is but the way to, and the dread anticipation of, that salt land of doom to which the sinner is to be banished; and the thirst which even now tortures thy agonised heart is but the prelude to the thirst of hell. Thirst and solitude! yes, and thou knowest something of this last also. How solitary and lonesome already is that poor heart of thine. The plain, simple truth is, that in his inner life the man of the world is always alone — the solitude which sin brings with it has already commenced, and already you are shut out from the true enjoyments of social intercourse; you are lonely, even in the very midst of numbers, and desolate even in the very heart of your family. And in that loneliness you have a prelude to the utter loneliness which lies beyond — the desolation, the solitude, the loss of all, when he who has wandered from the love of God is shut out from the world of love, and given over to that dark region where love cannot come; the loneliness of him who leaves the society of heaven behind him, and finds instead only the weeping and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)


1. When we fortify ourselves in sin, by human refuges and supports (Isaiah 28:15, 16; Isaiah 30:1, etc.; Obadiah 1:3, 4).

2. When we look for that rest in the creature, which is only to be found in God (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).

3. When we seek to please men more than God. Not as Moses, Daniel, Peter.

4. When we use unlawful means to rid ourselves of trouble (Jonah 1:2, 3).

5. When we form our religion by the opinions of men instead of God's Word (Matthew 15:1-9; Galatians 2:11-13).

6. When we lean on ourselves instead of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:3-7).


1. God will take out the enjoyment of what he possesses (Ecclesiastes 6:1, 2).

2. The object of his hope shall be removed, or turned against him (Psalm 41:9).

3. God will leave him to his own corruptions and Satan's temptations (Hosea 4:17).

4. Guilt shall make him a torment to himself. Judas.

5. When blessings come, he shall not perceive them (Luke 19:41-44; Acts 13:38-41).

6. Death shall snatch him from his enjoyments (Luke 12:1, etc.; Acts 12:1, etc.) .

(H. Foster.)

1. He that trusts in man is cursed in the weakness on which he relies. "The strong shall be as tow." In general, God employs weak and inconsiderable ones to break the arm of flesh; thus, the shouts of the Israelites, and the blowing of horns, brought down the walls of Jericho, and reduced it to the dust: the Midianites, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, lay along the valley of More like grasshoppers for multitude, and yet the sudden display of only three hundred lamps, and the sounding of as many trumpets, put them all to flight: the champion of the Philistines defied the whole army of Israel, yet a shepherd boy overcame him with a sling and stone. So with all earthly strength on which man builds himself up; the moment God speaks the word it melts away.

2. He that maketh flesh his arm is cursed also in the short-lived nature of his ground of confidence. How often does man, in the very noonday of his journey through life, feel his heart sink within him on finding that the distant places, which in the morning of life he had looked forward to as fresh and beautiful, are but as the parched heath or thirsty sand; he thinks of the days of boyhood, when an untried world promised happiness and security, and sighs on learning the hard lesson, that neither is to be had on this side of the grave.

3. Deceitfulness is moreover part of that curse which those may expect to reap, and that abundantly, who trust in man and make flesh their arm. Put God out of the question; let there be no recognition of any other than human obligations, and you have no security in the faithfulness of the nearest or dearest friend.

4. There is a curse also in the bitterness of disappointment. This is what makes the wretched old worldling like the parched heath; friends, or children, or other relatives, have either died or forsaken him, or his riches have slipped out of his hands and flown away; all his worldly plans and schemes have failed; he has no love of God in his heart to bear him up against so many cruel disappointments, and the bitterness of his spirit has therefore increased day by day, till he is completely soured; he feeds on his morose temper, and in turn it preys upon him; the curse eats into his vitals, drying up every little show of better feeling which would have kept his heart still green and salt; he hates and suspects everyone; the world is looked upon by him as one great lie, and of the truth he knows nothing; or the things wherein he foolishly expected to find happiness, have proved incapable of affording it, even while he had them in his possession.

(C. O. Pratt, M. A.)

As a traveller overcome by a storm, having sought the shelter of some fair-spread oak, finds relief for some time, till suddenly, the fierce wind tears some strong branch, which, falling, hurts the unsuspecting traveller; so fares it with not a few who run for shelter to the shade of some great man. "Had I served my God," said poor Wolsey, "as faithfully as I served my king, He would not have forsaken me now."

He shall be like the heath in the desert.

1. Those who do not realise their dependence on God for all true happiness, but think it lies in worldly gain.

2. Those who trust in man and make flesh their arm, and neglect to fix all dependence on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. Those who depend on a form of godliness without the power, and, excepting a little animal sympathy, remain cold as ever.


1. In barrenness and deformity.

2. In being desolate, forsaken, and unblest.

3. While the holy land is refreshed with dew from heaven, the desert remains parched as before.

4. Showers falling on desert heath only promote the growth of deformed shrubs; and the influence of heaven falling on this class calls forth a more fatal resistance of the Holy Spirit.

5. The heath cannot be made fruitful; and all God's visitations fall unregarded on many.

6. It is plain that, while many obey the Gospel call, others remain desolate and uncheered by any heavenly influence.

(E. Griffin, D. D.)

The prophet puts before us two highly-finished pictures. In the one, the hot desert stretches on all sides. The fierce "sunbeams like swords" slay every green thing. Here and there a stunted, grey, prickly shrub struggles to live, and just manages not to die. But it has no grace of leaf, nor profitableness of fruit; and it only serves to make the desolation mere desolate. The other carries us to some brimming river, where everything lives because water has come. Dipping their boughs in the sparkling current, and driving their roots through the moist soil, the bordering trees lift aloft their pride of foliage and bear fruits in their season. So, says Jeremiah, the two pictures represent two sets of men; the one, he who diverts from their true object his heart capacities of love and trust, and clings to creatures and to men, "making flesh his arm and departing from the living God"; the other, a man who leans the whole weight of his needs and cares and sins and sorrows upon God. We can make the choice which shall be the object of our trust, and according as we choose the one or the other, the experience of these vivid pictures will be ours.

I. THE ONE IS IN THE DESERT; THE OTHER BY THE RIVER. The poor little dusty shrub in the desert, whose very leaves have been modified into prickles, is fit for the desert, and is as much at home there as the willows by the water courses with their rush vegetation in their moist bed. But if a man makes that fatal choice, of shutting out God from his confidence and his love, and squandering these upon earth and upon creatures, he is as fatally out of harmony with the place which he has chosen, and as much away from his natural soil as a tropical plant amongst the snows of Arctic glaciers, or a water lily in the Sahara. You, I, the poorest and humblest of men, will never be right, never feel in native soil, with appropriate surroundings, until we have laid our hearts and our hands on the breast of God, and rested ourselves on Him. Not more surely do gills and fins proclaim that the creature that has them is meant to roam through the boundless ocean, nor the anatomy and wings of the bird witness more surely to its destination to soar in the open heavens, than the make of your spirits testifies that God, none less or lower, is your portion. As well might bees try to get honey from a vase of wax flowers as we to draw what we need from creatures, from ourselves, from visible and material things. Where else will you get love that will never fail nor change nor die? Where else will you find an object for the intellect that will yield inexhaustible material of contemplation and delight? Where else infallible direction for the will? Where else shall weakness find unfailing strength, or sorrow adequate consolation, or hope certain fulfilment, or fear a safe hiding place?

II. THE ONE CAN TAKE IN NO REAL GOOD; THE OTHER CAN FEAR NO EVIL. (See R.V., ver. 8.) "He cannot see when good comes." God comes, and I would rather have some more money, or some woman's love, or a big business. So I might go the whole round. The man that cannot see good when it is there before his nose, because the false direction of his confidence has blinded his eyes, cannot open his heart to it. You are plunged, as it were, in a sea of possible felicity, which will be yours if your heart's direction is towards God, and the surrounding ocean of blessedness has as little power to fill your heart as the sea to enter some hermetically sealed flask dropped into the middle of the Atlantic. Turn to the other side. "He shall not fear when heat cometh," which is evil in these Eastern lands, "and shall not be careful in the year of drought." The tree that sends its roots towards a river that never fails does not suffer when all the land is parched. And the man who has driven his roots into God, and is drawing from that deep source what is needful for his life and fertility, has no occasion to dread any evil, nor to gnaw his heart with anxiety as to what he is to do in parched times. Troubles may come, but they do not go deeper than the surface. It may be all cracked and caked and dry, "a thirsty land where no water is," and yet deep down there may be moisture and coolness.

III. THE ONE IS BARE; THE OTHER CLOTHED WITH THE BEAUTY OF FOLIAGE. The word translated "heat" has a close connection with, if it does not literally mean, "naked," or "bare." Probably it designates some inconspicuously leaved desert shrub, the particular species not being ascertainable or a matter of any consequence. Leaves, in Scripture, have a recognised symbolical meaning. "Nothing but leaves" in the story of the fig tree meant only beautiful outward appearance, with no corresponding outcome of goodness of heart, in the shape of fruit. So I venture, here, to draw a distinction between leafage and fruit, and say that the one points rather to a man's character and conduct as being lovely in appearance, and in the other as being morally good and profitable. This is the lesson of these two clauses — Misdirected confidence in creatures strips a man of much beauty of character, and true faith in God adorns soul with a leafy vesture of loveliness. "Whatsoever things are lovely, and of good report" lack their supreme excellence, the diamond on the top of the royal crown, the glittering gold on the summit of the Campanile, unless there be in them a distinct reference to God.

IV. THE ONE IS STERILE; THE OTHER FRUITFUL. The only works of men worth calling "fruit," if regard be had to their capacities, relations, and obligations, are those done as the outcome and consequence of hearts trusting in the Lord. The rest of the man's activities may be busy and multiplied, and, from the point of view of a godless morality, many, may be fair and good; but if we think of him as being destined, as his chief end, "to glorify God, and (so) to enjoy Him forever," what correspondence between such a creature and acts that are done without reference to God can there ever be? At the most they are "wild grapes." And there comes a time when they will be tested; the axe laid to the root of the trees, and these imperfect deeds will shrivel up and disappear. Trust will certainly be fruitful. There we are upon pure Christian ground which declares that the outcome of faith is conduct in conformity with the will of Him in whom we trust, and that the productive principle of all good in man is confidence in God manifest to us in Jesus Christ.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord
I. He is blessed WITH A VITAL CONNECTION WITH THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE. His soul is rooted in the fountain of life.

1. His intellect is rooted in God's truths.

2. His sympathy is rooted in God's character.

3. His activity is rooted in God's plan.

II. He is blessed WITH MORAL FRESHNESS AT ALL TIMES. He has permanent beauty. There are two reasons why the most beautiful evergreen tree in nature must fail.

1. Because it is limited in its own essence. No tree has unbounded potentialities; though it live for centuries it will grow itself out, exhaust all its latent force. Not so with the soul. It has unending powers of growth.

2. Because it is limited in its supplies. The river at its roots may dry up; the nutriment in its soil it may exhaust. Not so with the soul; its roots strike into the inexhaustible fountain of life. Its leaf shall be green, — ever green.

III. He is blessed WITH MORAL CALMNESS IN TRYING SEASONS. The position of such a tree is independent; its roots have struck deep into the eternities, and it defies the storms of time.

IV. He is blessed WITH MORAL FRUITFULNESS WITHOUT END (Galatians 5:22). A good man is ever useful, an ever productive tree to the hungry, an ever welling fountain to the parched, an ever burning lamp to the benighted.


I. LOOK AT MAN AS FITTED FOR TRUST. He is simply the most dependent creature in the world. In a hundred ways man is more dependent than any other animal that lives. Of all creatures he comes into the world the most utterly helpless, as if his weakness should be impressed upon his earliest being. By far the greater part of all other living things are at once able to take their place and care for themselves. See the child in its mother's arms unable to do anything for itself, needing continual care and tenderest pity and constant provision. See, too, how in the case of man this dependence is prolonged immensely beyond that of any other being. The child of three or four years is vastly more helpless than any other creature of three or four months, and for many years after that the child needs to be provided for in a thousand ways. It is not too much to say that of the allotted span of human life one-quarter is spent in complete dependence upon others for food and clothing and shelter and teaching. Again, in the case of every other creature this dependence is quickly forgotten. Nature makes haste to sever the tie that binds the parent to the offspring, but in the case of the man it is prolonged until the reason can perceive it and the memory of it is made imperishable. Why this helplessness? Does it not involve a heavy burden upon the busy and toiling? Where, then, is the compensation? It is this, that out of this dependence grows the Divine relationship of father, mother, and child, — that blessed trinity in unity. So out of his littleness is born his nobility; and he is fashioned in helplessness that he may learn the blessed mystery of trust. Look at a further unfolding of this truth. The dependence of which we have spoken does not end with childhood. Strange as it may seem, yet it would be true to say that the man is more dependent than the child. Increased knowledge brings increased care. Greater strength brings greater need. The dependence of the child becomes the dependence of the man upon his brothers. Contrast man for a moment with the other creatures in his need of organisation, combination, cooperation. What thousands of hands must toil for us that our commonest wants may be met. To how many am I debtor for a crust of bread! And here again, let us ask, What is the purpose of this dependence? Is not man often hampered by it? Does it not open the door for arrogance and pride, for cruel bondage and slavery? But do you not see how by this very dependence man is to learn further the mystery and blessedness of trust? And dependence is to develop the further nobleness that binds men into a brotherhood. But the needs of childhood which are met by the parents, and the needs of man which are met by his fellow man, are not all nor even most of all. Besides these are a thousand wants, deep, mysterious, and pressing more heavily than any others. No other creature has a future. Of all else a present want is the only suffering; a present supply is the satisfaction. But to us the future is ever most of all. The past is gone away behind us; the present is ever slipping from us; the future only seems to be ours. For the very food he eats man is compelled ever to be looking forward. What is reason but a clearer sight of our helplessness? The forward-looking creature, looking whither? Who can help him here? Only man has a sense of death. All roads lead to the grave. Here no parent can help the child: no man can help his neighbour. What then can he make his trust? Again, only man has a consciousness of sin. A whole world's altars and temples and sacrifices are its doleful confession: we have sinned! Now for these greater needs, is there no remedy, — no rest? What is the good of all else if here the man is to be forsaken?

II. AND HERE IS GOD REVEALED THAT HE MAY BE TRUSTED. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord." Does trust need power? Here is the Almighty. Lo, He sitteth upon the throne of the universe and all things serve Him. Does trust demand the unchanging, the everlasting? Does trust need wisdom? Here is all that my want can ever desire. But these attributes, whilst trust demands them all and whilst they make trust blessed, do not win my trust. My heart needs more. And blessed be God, a great deal more is given. Trust needs love. And yet one thing more is needful to perfect trust. Trust is born of fear: and fear is born of sin. How can I who have sinned against God draw near to Him? Till that question is answered God is but a terror to me. Love may pity: love may weep: but true love cannot hush up and hide my sin. Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. My sin is not hidden. It is brought out into the very face of heaven and hell: and there its penalty is met and satisfied. Have you found this blessedness?

(M. G. Pearse.)


1. The object.

(1)He who always was.

(2)He whose being is in and of Himself (Acts 17:25-28).

(3)He who gives being and fulfilment to His Word (Exodus 6:1-4; Jeremiah 23:7, 8).

(4)He who is our kinsman by incarnation (Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Timothy 3:16).

2. The disposition of the heart toward this object. "Trusteth Me," i.e.



(3)Relies on.

(4)Waits for.


1. He shall lay faster hold on God and religion.

2. He shall not feel the weight of trials.

3. He shall hold fast his profession when others drop off.

4. He shall be sustained in old age and death.

5. He shall not cease from yielding fruit —

(1)Under trials;

(2)In death;

(3)To eternity.

(H. Foster.)


1. This duty implies positively an entire resignation to the wisdom, a dependence on the power, and a firm assurance of the goodness and veracity of God.

2. Negatively this duty implies that we should withdraw our confidence from all inferior beings; and in order to this we must begin at home, put off all trust in ourselves, our parts, abilities or acquisitions, how great or how many soever they may be.

II. CONSIDER WHEN THIS TRUST IS GROUNDED AS IT OUGHT TO BE, or what conditions are required on our part to assure our confidence in the favour and protection of God. The most important qualification for a successful performance of these duties, is a sincere obedience to the laws of God, an unfeigned devotion of the heart to His service, a steady adherence to the faith, and a purity and holiness of life agreeable to the precepts of our religion.

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF HIM WHO CAN THUS TRUST AND HOPE IN THE LORD. He relies on a wisdom who sees the utmost consequence of things, on a power which nothing can obstruct, on a goodness of infinite affection to his happiness, and who has bound Himself by promise never to fail these who trust in Him. If this God be with us, who or what can be against us? But if He be angry, all our other dependencies will profit us nothing, our strength will be but weakness, and our wisdom folly; every other support will fail under us when we come to lean upon it, and deceive us in the day when we want it most.

(John Rogers, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS A JUST CONFIDENCE IN GOD? This duty implies an humble dependence on Him for that protection and those blessings which His supreme perfections both enable and incline Him to bestow on His creatures; a full conviction of His goodness and mercy; and a steady hope, that that mercy will, on all occasions, in all our dangers and necessities, be extended to us, in such a manner as to His wisdom appears most conducive, if not to our tranquillity in this life, to our everlasting felicity in the next. This duty can hardly be so far misapprehended as to repress the efforts of industry, or be supposed to supersede the necessity of due care and application to the employment and duties of our respective stations. For we have no grounds to expect that God will provide for our interests, if we are improvident ourselves; or that he will, by a particular interposition, favour the idle and the negligent. Let the duty and business of today be our concern; the event of tomorrow we may trust to God.

II. WHEN OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD IS WELL GROUNDED. Our confidence must rise or fall, according to the progress or defects of our obedience. Conscious of right intentions, and approved by our own heart, we may approach the throne of grace with superior assurance. If our heart in some degree condemn us, we may have our intervals of diffidence and apprehension; but, if, unreclaimed, we go on still in wickedness, and persist in determined disobedience; should we then trust in God, it were, in the most literal and criminal sense, to hope against hope. Till we repent, and return to duty, we can have no expectations of favour, no confidence in our Maker; nor can we lift up our eyes to heaven with any hopes of mercy and forgiveness there.

III. THE HAPPINESS RESULTING FROM A WELL-GROUNDED DEPENDENCE ON GOD. He whose conscience speaks consolation, and bids him confide in his God, confides in a wisdom which sees the remotest issues of all events, on a power which ordereth all things, and on a goodness which ever consults the well-being of His creatures. And though this gives him no absolute insurance against evils, no privilege of exemption from calamities and afflictions; yet he feels the weight of them much abated by internal consolations. He acquiesces in all the dispensations of heaven, submits with humble resignation to the severities of providence; assured that God alone can know what is best, what is most expedient in his present circumstances, and what most instrumental to his future felicity. In the darkest night of affliction, some light will spring up, some beam of joy dart upon his mind, from this consideration, that the God whom he serves is able to deliver, and in His own good time will deliver him out of all his troubles, or reward him with joys unspeakable in His own blissful presence.

(G. Carr.)


1. We owe it to the supremacy of the Divine nature.

2. Entire resignation to God's wisdom and will.

3. Entire withdrawal of our trust from all inferior things.

4. Sincere acceptance of Christ as our Saviour.

5. Sincere effort to live a holy and pious life.

II. THE BLESSEDNESS WITH WHICH GODLY TRUST IS CROWNED. This may be seen by contrast with the unbeliever.

1. The objects of the unbeliever's trust are uncertain and insignificant; the believer's, certain and glorious.

2. The one inadequate and perishing; the other, all-sufficient and abiding.

3. The one bears a burdened conscience and a character ill at ease; the other enjoys peace and rest.

4. The one regards God as his foe, and resembles the inferior objects of his trust; the other regards God as his friend, enjoys His protection and fellowship and resembles Him.Learn —

1. Not to be deluded by inferior things.

2. Seek this blessing by submission to God's will in a crucified Saviour.

(E. Jerman.)

? — Manton says, "If a man promise, they reckon much of that; they can tarry upon man's security, but count God's Word nothing worth. They can trade with a factor beyond seas, and trust all their estate in a man's hands whom they have never seen; and yet the Word of the infallible God is of little regard and respect with them, even then when He is willing to give an earnest of the promised good." It is noteworthy that in ordinary life small matters of business are transacted by sight, and articles valued by pence are paid for over the counter: for larger things we give cheques which are really nothing but pieces of paper made valuable by a man's name; and in the heaviest transactions of all, millions change from hand to hand without a coin being seen, the whole depending upon the honour and worth of those who sign their hands. What then? shall not the Lord be trusted? Ay, with our whole being and destiny. It ought to be the most natural thing in all the world to trust God; and to those who dwell near Him it is so. Where should we trust but in Him who has all power and truth and love within Himself? We commit ourselves into the hands of our faithful Creator and feel ourselves secure.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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