He led them on a straight path to reach a city where they could live.
I. INQUIRE AS TO THE SOUL.
1. The psalm tells of ransomed exiles, of redeemed Israelites, and recounts the sad but varied experiences through which they had passed. Some had been wanderers, some captives, some stricken with mortal sickness, some all but lost at sea.
2. But in all ages of the Church this psalm has been taken as telling not merely of the literal facts which it records, but as setting forth in vivid and varied way the history of every soul as yet unsaved. It is, then, of the soul not yet saved that this fourfold portraiture is given.
II. LOOK AT THE PORTRAITS.
1. That of the wanderer. Out of the right way, in the wilderness, and going astray there; very miserable since he can find no home or rest; famine stares him in the face, and his soul faints within him. Is not this a true description of such as are unsaved? Every detail answers to his experience and condition. "All we like sheep have gone astray." Wanderers from God, and weary because of it, - such is the unsaved soul.
2. That of the captive. He is shut up in some dark dungeon, fettered hand and foot, doomed to die; he has brought it all on himself by his rebellion; the weight of his trouble has utterly east him down; he lies prostrate on the ground, without help or hope. Here, again, the real resemblance between this portrait and the unsaved soul can be readily seen. Many such can bear testimony that they have been through it all. Christ speaks of such as captives, held fast behind prison doors and bound (Luke 4:18). Then:
3. That of the man stricken with mortal disease. Fools are they, and not simply unhappy, for these also have brought their misery on themselves; they are sinners as well as foolish. But now, so stricken with sickness are they, that they turn from all food, and are at the point of death. Sin is such a disease, and they are fools who bring it on themselves; and the effects of it are just what is said, and there is but a step betwixt them and death.
4. The storm-driven mariner ready to perish. Again we have a portrait of the soul, so driven and tossed by the tempests, trials, and storms of life, that he has almost made shipwreck. We may be going on in our ordinary pursuits when these dreadful tempests rise; and then, at our wit's end, not knowing what to do, our soul is melted because of trouble. Oat of Christ, we are ever exposed to such storms; for his word alone can still the tempest, and bring us to the haven where we would be.
III. OBSERVE THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE AND RESEMBLANCE.
1. Of difference. The first tells of the unrest and failure of the soul to find satisfaction apart from God. The second, of the awful power, oppression, and cruelty of sin. "O wretched man that I am! who," etc.? (Romans 7:24). The third, of the paralysis of all spiritual energies, and the drawing ever nearer death of all the faculties of the soul, which sin causes. The fourth, of the liability to sudden and overwhelming destruction of the soul unpiloted by Christ.
2. Of resemblance. All such souls have to suffer. That suffering reaches extremity ere succor comes. Nor does it come then until prayed for; but then it does come and according to the need of each. The Lord alone sends it. The effect of it is ever to wake up praise; to make the soul long that others may praise, and to grieve that they do not. - S.C.
He led them forth by the right way.I. THE END for which the people of God were led forth from Egypt was that "they might come to a city of habitation"; in other words, "to a city, or cities, which they might inhabit." Are you by faith in Christ Jesus the sons of God? He, who has given you the adoption of sons here, will not withhold the inherit. ante of sons hereafter.
II. THE WAY by which the believer is led to that city of habitation.
1. It is not the nearest. His heavenly Father knows t.hat it is expedient for him, as for Israel, to be led about and instructed.
2. It is not the pleasantest. Like a wilderness, it is a dry and thirsty land. The soil is barren — its waters are bitter and often fail. The road is "the narrow way," intricate to discover, difficult, to pursue, and having "but few that find it."
3. To all appearance, it is not the safest. An enemy's country. A snare at every step.
4. Yet it is the only sure road to those pleasures which are for evermore.
III. THE GUIDE.
1. He is experienced.
2. He is fitted to sympathize with those who are toiling along the difficult road, in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted.
3. He is a watchful, careful Guide.
4. He is also a supporting and upholding Guide; not. merely leading His people through every difficulty, but either removing every impediment, or enabling the pilgrim to overcome it.Conclusion:
1. See the necessity of a guide in the journey of life.
2. Is the wilderness the right way to the city of habitation? Then how easy should it make us under all the discouragements, weariness, temptations, dangers of the journey!
3. Remember that none reach that city but "the redeemed of the Lord." Is this your character?
(R. Davies, M.A.)
Preacher's Analyst.I. THE WAY OF THE REDEEMED.
4. A desert way.
II. THE RECTITUDE OF THE WAY. It is "the right way."
1. It is the Divine way.
2. To what it leads: "the city of habitation."Two lessons.
1. Take an enlarged view of the Divine conduct. Remember the end of it. all.
2. Ever seek the Divine guidance. God goes before; follow, trust Him.
I. THE COMPANY. Any considerable company of men is imposing. Nothing more quickly raises our interest than a large assemblage of human beings. The march of an army, the movement of a procession, the gathering of some great multitude for deliberation or for worship, even the rush of a common city crowd, will make the heart throb with unusual emotion. But here is a company more illustrious than any other upon earth, a company overwhelming in its vastness, and yet ever growing in numbers — calm in aspect, and yet irresistible in power — aiming at the noblest objects, manifesting the purest character, adorned with supernatural symbols of distinction, and pursuing her sublime and silent march from time into eternity under the direction of a guide invisible to all but her!
II. THE LEADER. The leader of this ransomed company is the Lord himself. The Bible abounds with intimations of the nearness of God, and particularly with assurances of His actual and perpetual presence with His people as their guide, and guard, and everlasting friend (Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20.)
III. THE WAY. Happily to some it is covered with the clouds of disappointment; to others it is bleak and cold with the gales of adversity; to others it is drenched with the rains of sorrow. It has places of heart-wringing separation from fellow-pilgrims, and even deep, dark gulfs of sin; but netwithstanding all its mystery, and all the wrongness put into it by ourselves and others, as God's way, it is always right — right in shade as well as in sunshine, — right in winter as well as in summer, — right to all alike who are in the way, — and right on to the end.
IV. THE END. The idea chiefly brought before us is that of heaven as a fixed and settled home, "a peaceable habitation," "a sure dwelling," "a quiet resting-place " for ever. The way is narrow, but it leads on to the "large and wealthy place." It is rugged; but it opens at last into "green pastures," and winds beside "still waters," over which no blight or blast can come. It is a way of ceaseless toil and watchfulness; but they will be repaid by the rest that cannot be broken, by the joy that cannot end. It is long — at least in our days of suffering and dreariness we think so; but seen in retrospect, and when it has been all trodden, it will look but like the journey of a day.
(A. Raleigh, D.D.)
I. THE MORAL SIDE OF LIFE IS HIGHER THAN THE MATERIAL. To please self is the aim of most men, yet most patent is the fact, that to deny self-indulgence to ourselves is beneficial. The very physical frame, its laws of health and vigour, declare that! It requires, however, little self-denial to give up what is simply pleasant to the taste or to the eye. These are mere outward things. The more thoughtful student of life will see that God places human life under a higher and more searching discipline. A man is placed where his pride must be denied, his mental prepossessions laid aside, his will subordinated, his inmost purpose chastened.
II. THE PILGRIM SIDE OF LIFE IS ALWAYS PROSPECTIVE. It is no mere maze. We never return. Ours may be a long way, a winding way, but it is forward. A Christian man will feel with modesty, and yet with certainty, that his path is progress, that he does know more of the love of Christ, that his affections are more set on heaven, that salvation is nearer than when he believed, that the pilgrimage is one of temptation conquered, grace bestowed, and glory nearer to the soul. Spiritual pilgrimage is not a deceit in the moral sense. God is not allowing us to experience all these emotions merely that the circle of our little life may complete itself in the grave. We are nearing home, we shall soon be with Christ, which is far better.
III. THE LEADERSHIP OF LIFE IS IN THE HANDS OF CHRIST. Tell me who is leader, and I can also tell you much. Men admire sacrifice of ease and wealth, absence of bribe and advantage; and in Greece they glorified Socrates and Aristides, and in Rome, Quintus Curtius and Regulus. Men crave leaders, and can appreciate courage and self-control; only too often, alas, men do not ponder on the sacredness of the cause, the end of the ambition, the spirit of the campaign or pilgrimage. What we have to teach and to live in this age is that the Christ-led way is the right way.
IV. THE PILGRIMAGE ENDS IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF HOME. The discontinuance of things here below is the saddest of all experiences. Vessels keep coming and going out of this little bay of life. Along the roads new pilgrims appear where others rested; they loose their sandals, refresh themselves at the wells, and rise betimes for their onward way. We are quiet spectators of such pictures, and note the effects of change and time on others. For us, too, there is change and discontinuance. What we want is permanence! It is the beauty of the Christian Revelation that it uses all the symbols of a home to give our hearts rest in the thought of departure; that is what we want, that has been dearest after all to judge and soldier, merchant and statesman, monarch and peasant — the home! Yes, no image of court or temple is so inspiring as this — my Father's house.
(W. M. Statham.)I. THE RIGHT ROAD. Christianity is much more than sentiment; it is right living. The road that leads to the Cross of Christ.
II. THE LEADER. We need these elements in a leader:
1. Strength. "Who is stronger than this mighty King of kings?" etc.
2. Wisdom. "He knoweth all things," etc.
3. Tenderness. Christ taketh in His arms the little helpless child.
III. THE END OF THIS ROAD.
1. There is no entrance to the Eternal City except by this right way.
2. The Bible is the only guide-book for the pilgrim in this way.
3. The Christian who is helped by his Leader should also freely help all weak and overloaded brethren in this way.
4. Always bear in mind the end of your journey — heaven.
(T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)
Homilist.God is the leader of humanity. The way He leads is always the right way. There are many wrong ways; there is only one right.
I. "The right way " IS ALWAYS GOD'S WAY.
1. His existence is the foundation of right.
2. His will is the law of right.
3. His Son is the revelation of His will to fallen man.
II. "The right way" IS ALWAYS A TRYING WAY. That is, always trying to fallen man. It involves great struggles, and often much anguish. It involves the abandonment of the old and the adoption of the new.
III. "The right way" IS EVER THE PROSPEROUS WAY. Right is always expedient. The path of duty is at once the path of safety and success.
IV. "The right way" IS ALWAYS SUPERNATURAL.
(Homilist.)I. THE HAPPY PLACE TO WHICH EVERY TRUE BELIEVER IS TAKING HIS JOURNEY. How great a satisfaction does it afford, to the weary pilgrim that has borne the burden in the heat of the day, to hear of a rest to which he shall soon arrive? a city of habitation, where he shall for ever dwell? a crown of glory which he shall ever wear? And this is the lot not only of some, but of all God's children; they shall not always be tossed with tempests.
II. THE INTERMEDIATE SPACE THROUGH WHICH THE BELIEVER IS TO PASS, IN HIS WAY TO THIS CITY OF HABITATION.
1. This present world is a state of distance, and in this respect it may be fitly compared to a wilderness.
2. This present world through which we were passing may be justly styled a wilderness, as it is a solitary and barren way.
3. This present world through which we are passing is also properly compared to a wilderness, as it is likewise a dangerous way.
III. GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE BY THE RIGHT WAY TO THE CITY OF HABITATION. Let us only take a view of three particular seasons, wherein we are most apt to question the lovingkindness of our God, and we may by them determine the happy issue of all the rest.
1. Let us begin with the melancholy state and condition of those from whom God hides the light of His countenance. Were He never to hide His face, we should live upon the streams rather than the fountain; we should be too ready to say with the three disciples, "Lord, it is good for us to be here"; without pressing after any further manifestations in a better world.
2. Concerning the various outward afflictions with which the believer is exercised. They are all of them, let them arise from what quarter soever, useful to us, and necessary for us.
3. The temptations of Satan every one of them answer the same general end. The powers of darkness are suffered to dwell amongst us, for the same reason that some of the Canaanites were left among the people of Israel; that is, to try us, and show us how weak we are without Christ; and how strong we are when we depend upon that grace which is treasured up in Him.
IV. PRACTICAL REMARKS.
1. Has God prepared for His people a city of habitation? how great then is that grace, how free and sovereign is that love, to which this was originally owing.
2. Are we to pass through the wilderness to this city of habitation? How much need have we of a guide to show us the way, and how thankful should we be to Him who has undertaken to perform this kind office for us.
3. Is the way of the wilderness the right way to a city of habitation? How easy should this make us under all the temptations, trials, and afflictions with which we are now exercised.
4. Can none get admission into this city of habitation but the redeemed of the Lord? (ver. 2). Let this lead us to Christ Jesus, the only person who is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
(John Hill.)I. THE LEADER. Every true man is proud of his leader. If we had asked those brave men who lately sailed to the far north whom they followed, they would have uttered, with flashing eye, the name of their captain; if we could have asked those who fought at Waterloo who was their general, they would have answered, with eager pride, "Wellington!" So we, if the world asks us of our leader, can answer Jesus, Name which is above every Name, Name of victory, Name of power, Name of love, Name of sweetness.
II. THE RIGHT WAY. There is but one way to heaven, that which God chooses for us, and where Jesus leads. That way may take us through various scenes and circumstances. Some amongst us are destined to be rich, others poor; for some the way of life lies in active scenes, for others in quiet retirement; some are frequently exposed to the fierce sun of trouble, others are more sheltered from the storms of life. Still, through whatever scenes our way of life may tend, we must strive to make it the right way. What, then, is this right way? It is the King's highway, the way of holiness.
I. A LONG WAY. For example, the answer to prayer is sometimes long delayed; but if the blessing tarry, wait for it, — it is worth waiting for, and will come at last.
II. A DESOLATE WAY. Your way to heaven lies through the wilderness — the wilderness of His world. There is no other way, and there could be no better way. There might be a smoother, easier, more flowery, less thorny path; but such a path might lead you to lose sight of your journey's end, and of your own character as pilgrims.
III. A DIFFICULT WAY. All our powers are improved by exercise; the very muscles of our bodies require labour to form and bring them to their full strength. So it is with our powers of mind; their education consists in meeting and overcoming difficulties. So it is in regard to the higher powers of the soul; they are matured and perfected by the labours and difficulties that meet us in the way to heaven In all our labours we have a direct object in view, which may often seem very ignoble and temporary. Much of our time and effort are engaged in securing the bread that perisheth, gold that perisheth, and other things that perish in the using. But in this very labour, God has another object in view — our preparation for the active duties of heaven, and the forming in us of qualities that may fit us to act our part there.
IV. A DANGEROUS WAY. Our pilgrimage, like theirs, is a warfare. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of darkness. Therefore we must not only be strong in the Lord, but take to ourselves the whole armour of God.
V. AN UNKNOWN WAY.
(C. G. Scott.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
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