How many are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
Genesis 1, "a panorama of the universe viewed by the eye of devotion." It is connected with Psalm 103., which reviews God's dealings in the realm of grace. That psalm comes first, because only through our personal knowledge of God do we gain the true understanding of the God of nature. From nature alone man gains ideas of power, and even of malice; so he makes many gods, and they are chiefly gods to fear. The good man, through his faith in God, finds good in seemingly evil things, and fears nothing. But this psalm represents the poet's observation of nature, not that of the scientific man. Sentiment, not minutely described fact, is befitting to a Psalmist. Science must always be for the few among us; pious-toned observation is for all of us. In this verse we have the impression produced by religious meditation, which dwells not on the things, but on God's relation to the things.
I. THE WISDOM OF GOD SEEN IN HIS WORKS. Marvellous is the development of a few laws, and the harmonious interaction of these laws; they work into each other so that the order of the universe is never really broken. Then every individual thing is adjusted to its mission and its sphere. There is a strange and wonderful power of repair and recovery everywhere. Things do not really fail or die; they do but pass from one form of service to another.
II. THE RIGHTS OF GOD RECOGNIZED IN ALL HIS WORKS. "Thy possessions." Then our so called "rights" are only "trusts." We have nothing. Possession belongs only to God. We are the children born of a Father who owns a large estate. We enjoy, we use, we serve our Father in the use. But we can never enter into any sort of separate and individual "possession" while our Father lives. Are we, then, sensitive as a pious poet is in the midst of mighty and beautiful nature? Are we only interested, in a scientific sort of way, in things? or do we know how to enter into the very heart of things, and let them do their true work - make God precious to us? - R.T.
I. AS THE PLATFORM OR THEATRE FOR THE DISPLAY OF THE DIVINE GLORY. It is evident that God Himself so designed it see how the account of creation closes (Genesis 1:31). But good for what? Why, good for the display of His own glory; good for the making His name illustrious to the highest orders of created intelligence; good for the satisfying of those beneficent and joy-diffusing agencies which seem to be the very necessity of the Divine nature. We cannot conceive of God but as an energy, nor yet of His operations but as directed to one end, and that end must be the one by which His own glory is illustrated, by which He will attract to Himself the homage of every responsible spirit, by which angels, and principalities, and thrones, and powers shall both partake of His happiness, and as they stand within the circling radiance of the everlasting throne, exclaim (Revelation 15:3).
O Lord, how manifold are Thy works.I. THE DIVINE EXISTENCE SHOULD CONSTITUTE THE CENTRAL FACT IN ALL CONTEMPLATIONS OF THE UNIVERSE. This reflection serves —
1. To disprove the speculations of Pantheism.
2. To annihilate the materialistic theory. Materialism recognizes no mind in the universe.
3. To invest the universe with a mystic sanctity. It is His handiwork. The grand and the simple, the sublime and the beautiful, will awaken corresponding emotions in the heart of the true worshipper.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF DEPENDENCE IS EVERYWHERE DEVELOPED IN THE UNIVERSE. "These wait all upon Thee." From this we infer —
1. That there exists an absolutely self-existent Power. We cannot comprehend the modus existendi, but there is the fact.
2. That each part of the universe has its own mission. God made nothing in vain.
3. That profound humility becomes every intelligent agent. "What hast thou that thou hast not received?"
III. AN INTELLIGENT CONTEMPLATION OF THE UNIVERSE IS CALCULATED TO INCREASE MAN'S HATRED OF SIN. "Let the sinners be consumed," etc.
1. Because sin mars the harmony of law. Unity is broken.
2. Because God, in having made so wondrous a universe, has proved Himself too good a Being to be disobeyed. Sin is not only a violation of law, but an insult to Goodness. What is the voice of this psalm to my heart?(1) God must occupy the supreme place in thought.(2) That I sustain intimate relationships to God. There is one relationship I must sustain; that of a dependant. But mere animals do so. The worm beneath my foot is a dependant. Am I not a son?(3) This beneficent Creator has also revealed Himself as man's Saviour. Do I love the Saviour?(4) The extinction of sin should form a prominent object in the life of the good. The greatest benefactor is he who does most to purify spiritual life, by the means which the Lord Jesus has appointed.
(J. Parker, D.D.)
II. THROUGHOUT CREATION GOD HAS PRESERVED A CLEAR AND LEGIBLE INSCRIPTION TO HIS ETERNAL POWER AND GODHEAD. The Almighty foresaw that His Word would not have free course in the earth — some would hide it under a bushel, some would overlay it with human traditions, some would confine it to their own shores. And since its diffusion was to rest upon these human agencies, more than half the population of the globe would for centuries walk on still in darkness, and man's faithlessness and neglect might seem to put a stop to the work of God. Still, not utterly was it thus (Acts 14:17). The world is so constructed that it must be accepted as the product of supreme and all-directing intelligence. The ear of the untutored savage, as he is startled by the roaring thunder, fails not to recognize an emblem of the mighty power of God; the thoughtless mariner, as he plies his business on the great waters, sees a Providence in his safety, and the presence of God in the storm. Observe, too, that it is a first instinct with us to connect God and goodness. The mind's normal type of the ruling Divinity is beneficence. Evil, of whatever kind, is always an extraneous accident, its origin unsearchable, its agents unknown, its toleration the problem of all time; but, certainly, is not God, nor yet of God.
III. Our admiration of this created system was to be called forth by the contemplation of MAN HIMSELF, WITH ALL THE ABOUNDING PROVISIONS MADE FOR HIS COMFORT AND HAPPINESS. The earth is full of provisions for man's material comforts. If our world were made for angels to admire, it seems also to have been made for men to enjoy. Man found himself placed, as it were, on the throne of this lower world. Every element in nature ministered to his wants; every department of creation was commanded to do him service. He could not touch or look upon a single object around him, of which the design was not to minister to his happiness, — to refresh the body with food, to regale the sense with beauty, to fill the mind with pure imaginings, to draw forth from the heart the same daily song of praise, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all." "All," — without execptions; — and yet one work is there in which, more than all this wisdom of the great Creator has ever been conspicuous. And that work is man, in his creation, preservation, moral history, mighty endowments, in his lifting up from the lowest abyss of being, and in his designation to endless life. Mystery of mysteries is he in his creation. Contemplate him as a thing of reason and intelligence — a being that can reflect upon himself and his actions, — and to what a pitch of elevation have you raised him above the manifold works of God. Or contemplate him, again, in his moral relations; in his participation of the Divine nature; in his possession of that, which, by its resemblance to God, and by its community of mental character, connects him with an Infinite Mind; qualifies him to become an object of the Divine regard; fits him to discourse and hold thoughts with God.
(D. Moore, M.A.)
1. Our privilege: as we alone of all the mundane creation are able to do this. To us alone the universe as such exists. God who makes everything beautiful in its season, takes pleasure in His works, and in that pleasure we may suppose the angels join. And we are also permitted to join, if we will, and thus become sharers with the angels in the Divine happiness.
2. Our duty: for the possession of the power carries with it responsibility for its exercise: we who are men ought not to be thoughtless as the brutes.(1) It is a duty which we owe to ourselves, for though it will not feed the body, it stimulates and feeds our higher nature.(2) It is a duty which we owe to God; he who slights the works, slights the Worker. In meditating upon the works of God, notice —
I. HOW MANIFOLD THEY ARE, even if like the psalmist we keep to man's world.
1. The earth itself, with its mighty mountain ranges and ocean depths, its lakes and rivers, its ancient garment of rock strata, rent and folded, worn and renewed, recording in its present condition the history of its experiences in ages past, its rich stores of metals and minerals, furnishes a theme for lifelong meditation.
2. How pleasing and varied are the forms of vegetable life which adorn its surface from the humble lichen which discolours yet adorns the face of the rock to the lofty fir tree which overhangs it.
3. How infinitely manifold are the manifestations of animal life from the mere dot of living albumen to the specialist in biology who is investigating its chemical and vital characteristics!
4. If with the telescope we search the heavens, or with the microscope pry into the marvels of minute structures, we shall find further illustrations of the wonderful unity joined with endless diversity manifested in the works of God.
II. THE WISDOM MANIFESTED IN THEM ALL.
1. This wisdom is apparent not only in the contrivance, formation, and management of the whole, but in the adaptation of each to its element and to its place in the scale of being. The fish is perfectly adapted for the water, and the swallow for the air. The marvellous instincts of the bee and ant are out of all proportion to the development of their nervous system, but are essential to them in the struggle for existence. The strength of the horse makes him a useful servant to us, but if he excelled us as much in intellect as he does in strength, he would be our servant no longer!
2. This wisdom is further manifest in the perfection of workmanship, finish and colouring even in the most minute of the works of God. The microscope shows that the wing of the moth is as perfectly feathered as that of the bird, that the joints of an insect's limbs are as perfect as those of the horse, that the sting of the bee is pointed with a smoothness impossible to the art of man.
III. THEY ARE ALL THE WORKS OF GOD. "My Father made them all." Cowper well says, "Nature is but the name for an effect whose cause is God." If the scientific theory of evolution were proved completely true, which at present it is very far from being, it would only unveil to us the process by which in the ages of the past our Father wrought so as by degrees to bring about the present condition of things; and the power possessed by many creatures to adapt themselves within certain limits to changes in their surroundings, only places in clearer light the wisdom of God in imparting to those creatures a power without which they must soon fall out of the ranks of the living. It was our Father's mind that planned, and His the hand that wrought. Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of His glory.
IV. THEY ALL BELONG, TO HIM. "The earth is full of Thy riches." Divine ownership is not like human, acquired by inheritance, conquest, or purchase. It is original and essential, grounded upon the absolute dependence of all things upon the great First Cause. Without Him there had been no universe, and without His continued support and providential care all things would sink into their primitive nothingness. His ownership is absolute and eternal grounded in the nature of things, they must ever be dependent. He must ever be the Fountain of good to all His works.
(C. O. Eldridge, B.A.)
(Canon Duckworth.)etc. Think, when you are at your work, how all things may put you in mind of God, if you do but choose. The trees which shelter you from the wind, God planted them there for your sakes, in His love. The birds which you drive off the corn — who gave them the sense to keep together and profit by each other's wit and keen eyesight? Who but God, who feeds the young birds when they call on Him? The sheep whom you follow — who ordered the warm wool to grow on them, from which your clothes are made? Who but the Spirit of God above, who clothes the grass of the field, and the silly sheep, and who clothes you, too, and thinks of you when you do not think of yourselves? The feeble lambs in spring, they ought to remind you surely of the Lamb of God, who died for you upon the cruel cross, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and like a sheep that lies dumb and patient under the shearer's hand, so He opened not His mouth. Oh, that I could make you see God in everything, and everything in God.
(C. Kingsley, M.A.)
In wisdom hast Thou made them allIsaiah 6:3): — Every mental quality is subordinate and inferior to wisdom, in the same sense as the mason who lays the bricks and stones in a building is inferior to the architect who drew the plan and superintends the work. Wisdom should determine when we are to act and when to cease; when to disclose a matter and when to hide it; when to give and when to receive; and to provide the means to be pursued in every deliberate course of action. The wisdom which essentially and necessarily belongs to an eternal and self-existent Being, differs as to its character and extent from what He gives to man. The essential differences are as to extent, certitude, and the Divine power associated with them in the eternal God. We can perceive, both by our organs of vision and by our minds, what we specially turn our attention to; but God is everywhere, sees and knows all things everywhere, every atom of matter, every movement of mind, and hence of His knowledge and wisdom we say they are infinite, and without limit. Man has the power of reasoning upon means to an end; the reasoning may be wise or foolish; and he has the power of aiming at an end by the means he can command; but he has neither sufficient wisdom nor power to command the end he desires. The absolute and perfect knowledge of God, of all causes, and of all effects, is necessarily associated with His wisdom and power in creation, and development of all His wonderful works. To arrange and fit together the many parts of a vast and comprehensive design, so that they shall accomplish the contemplated end, is an operation demanding much wisdom; and when we apply this remark to the wide range of all God's works, comprehended by us under the term Universe, surely, if anywhere we can find proofs of perfect, of infinite wisdom, it must be here. The infinite mind knows how to combine perfect wisdom with intricacy of execution, while the marvellous range of objects in the seas, on the dry land, in the stellar system, the ruling of the day by the sun, and of the night by the moon, exhibit to man what is nothing less than wisdom without limit. I take but one illustration, and it is of a practical character, and intimately connected with our comfort at this season of cold and rain. Our means of warmth, our coal: we throw it on the fire and burn it, but bow little de we think of it! It is the produce of the destruction of plants preserved from former worlds long anterior to the existence of man. It is the result of mortality. Primarily it is the product of a fecundity exceeding all the other uses which animals could have derived from it; and, we may safely infer, directed to the end for which it is now employed. Peat and coal are the most striking cases, independently of food, for our uses derived from the fecundity and mortality of plants. Even the globe itself, with others that in the progress of ages may succeed it, has been ordained to depend in part in its very structure and materials on the succession and destruction of animal and vegetable lives, as its surface has been committed to the labour of man, chiefly for its modification and improvement. The beauty and glory of man, of woman, and their marvellous adaptation for the happiness of one another, when their moral natures are educated and controlled, and their daily will is to promote each other's happiness, is worthy of the infinite wisdom of God; thus blessing one of the races of His creatures with a happiness which to a large extent He has put within their own power. Of the holiness of God who can speak with sufficient diffidence and reverence? we learn nothing of it from His works. It has been a necessary conclusion in the minds even of Pagans, that an intelligent Creator must be good, pure, and holy. The Scriptures everywhere proclaim it. It is to us a consolatory thought that the God we worship is holy, just, merciful, of longsuffering and compassion, and full of pity and love to the children of men.
(R. Ainslie.)I. THE PRODUCTION AND PRESERVATION OF LIFE. Wherever there is a proper receptacle or habitation, there we find suitable inhabitants; and in many states and conditions, in which we should think it impossible for living creatures to subsist, did we not find them actually subsisting. These all draw their support from the world around them, fill up their place and time, till others succeed in their room.
II. THE PLEASURE AND FELICITY OF HIS CREATURES IN THE ENJOYMENT OF THAT LIFE. Even the lowest creatures have their enjoyments, and show more symptoms of ease and delight, than of pain and trouble.
III. THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE.
IV. THE ATTAINMENT OF VIRTUE AND RELIGION.
(H. O. Mackey.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
The earth is full of Thy riches
Homiletic Review.The earth is God's treasure-house assigned supply the temporal needs of man.
1. This treasure-house is full. God is not stingy in the bestowment of His gifts. His supplies are immeasurably greater than the necessities of the human population can possibly require.
2. This treasure-house is filled with varied gifts. There is something to gratify every taste and meet every want. They stream from the heavens, flow in the atmosphere, abound in the land, burrow in the mountains, sparkle in the river. These gifts show the versatility of God's power and the wisdom of God's mind.
3. These riches are all God's property. Man is only the beneficiary, the recipient, the steward. All God's riches, of which the earth is full, should be used only as God designed they should. All abuse and waste of these riches by man is a spoiling and robbing of God. God will one day say to all guilty of malfeasance, "Give an account of thy stewardship."
(G. B. Austin.)
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