Psalm 116:14
An important duty of Christian life is keeping ever fresh and vivid the memory of God's saving mercies to us. Constantly throughout their history the Israelites were reminded of their deliverance from thee house of bondage, and of the vows and pledges involved in that deliverance. The effect of every quickened memory should be a new examination of our vows, that we may discover what of them we are failing to pay or to keep. God does expect a return from us for all his mercies towards us. That return is put in three forms.

I. "I WILL TAKE THE CUP OF SALVATION." It honors God for us cheerfully to accept the blessings which he sends. It may be proper to refuse gifts offered by our fellow-men. It is never a true and worthy humility that hesitates to act upon God's promises or to accept what God offers. And yet that we find beginners in the Christian life, and even experienced Christians, often do, especially when what God provides is not just "according to their mind." Note also how the very freeness of God's gifts makes them unacceptable to human pride. We like to have things on our conditions, and at our price.

II. "I WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD." That is, in the spirit and act of thankfulness. Thankfulness should be regarded

(1) as an important Christian obligation;

(2) as an enjoined Christian duty; and

(3) as a most real help to the brightness, the joyfulness, and the steadiness of the Christian life.

The utterance of thankfulness is a public testimony of our recognized and happy dependence on God. "I have set the Lord always before me."

III. "I WILL PAY MY VOWS UNTO THE LORD." Give some account of Jewish vow-making in times of special thankfulness; as when recovering from a serious sickness.

1. Sincere and right-intentioned, vow-making is acceptable and pleasing to God.

2. The earnest endeavor at vow-paying is much more acceptable. Our resolves match the ancient vows; and our lives have witnessed many resolves made and few resolves carried out. Illust.; resolves in times of conversion, of success, of sickness, of trouble, of rescue from peril. Try to think what unpaid vows or resolves of yours God has on his record. Vow, but be sure to "pay your vows unto the Lord." - R.T.







I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.
Whoso doth engage himself by a well-ordered vow, doth set his religion in the whole, or in some particular part of it, in very good forwardness. Religion is a gainer by this bargain well made; the bond is to God, but religion receives the interest at least: well-composed vows are religion's engines, able to move the weightier burdens and loads, and fit to be only employed in them.

I. WHAT A VOW IS.

1. A promise.

2. Voluntary.

3. Made to God alone.

II. WHETHER IT BE LAWFUL, IN ANY CASE, FOR US NOW TO MAKE A VOW.

1. What is not evil in itself, nor evil by accident, unless made evil by the undue ordering of it through our fault, may lawfully be done by us.

2. Vows may be lawfully made now by us Christians, because what was lawful to the Jew on moral considerations, and not on any ceremonial considerations, that is also lawful now unto us Christians.

3. Vows may lawfully be made by us Christians; for it is a kind of thankfulness and acknowledgment made to God, with the universal approbation and consent of men.

4. Unless such vows may be accounted lawful to us, I cannot see how we have any way of making free, voluntary, and extraordinary acknowledgments unto God.

5. But that is lawful to us Christians which doth most certainly ensure our duty to God, yet doth not ensnare us in the ensuring of it.

III. WHEN VOWS ARE WELL-COMPOSED, AND SO CONSEQUENTLY FOR THE ADVANTAGE ON RELIGION.

1. If you would duly and well compose your vows, you must wait a fit season; not vow on every occasion.

2. When the extraordinary case warrants thee to this extraordinary obliging of thyself, then be sure to proceed deliberately, and with advice. Consider what thou doest: every one condemns rash vows; and, I am sure, inconsiderate vows are rash ones. Here Jephthah failed. Consider —

(1)Whether that thou vowest to do be lawful.

(2)Whether acceptable to God.

(3)Whether that thing which thou vowest bear a proportion to that thou didst expect and pray for when thou vowedst, or to that thou hadst received, for which thou dost now make thy vow.

3. Thou must vow cheerfully, and with a ready mind.

4. Vow sincerely and uprightly.

IV. HOW WELL-COMPOSED VOWS PROMOTE RELIGION.

1. Religion hath its concernment in the credit and reputation which it hath in the world. Religion hath a name to look after, so well as you or I; and it loseth or gaineth, as it is either honoured or reproached by the professors of it. Now, when times of extraordinary danger drive us to our prayers and vows to the true God, and we resolve to have mercy from Him, or to choose to fall into His hand, this sets the credit and honour of religion, that it can have recourse to God, who, we know, can deliver us. This is somewhat; but the making a vow doth not so much honour religion as the performing of it doth, when it is hereby declared to the world, — that religion is the thing that makes men the same in their mercies which they were in their distresses; that the God whom they worship is the true God, able to require their vows, if they should neglect to pay them.

2. By setting forward the growth of religions in the midst of those who profess it.

3. Vows well made, and kept well, very much improve And promote religion in the heart and life of him who so voweth and keepeth his vow.

V. WHENCE THESE WELL-COMPOSED VOWS HAVE SUCH INFLUENCE ON RELIGION, WHAT HAVE THEY IN THEM MORE THAN ORDINARY THUS TO PROMOTE IT? To this I will answer as briefly as I may: There is in such vows a most notable awakening and quickening power, which sets all a man's care, wisdom, truth, and strength on work, to do the things whereby religion is so much promoted.

VI. APPLICATION.

1. If well-composed vows do indeed much promote religion, it will teach us how careful we should be in making our vows to the greatest advantage of religion.

2. Do well advised and composed vows so much promote religion when well and faithfully kept? Are they also such sacred and inviolable bonds? Then look what vows you are under, look how you have performed them.

(H. Hurst, M.A.)

I. THE ELEMENTS OF WHICH RELIGIOUS DECISION CONSISTS.

1. A settled faith in the principles of Christian truth.

2. A self-denying conformity to the precepts of Christian holiness.

3. A public dedication to the interests of the Christian cause.

II. THE ARGUMENTS BY WHICH RELIGIOUS DECISION IS COMMENDED.

1. It is a due and proper return for the mercies you have received.

2. It must greatly elevate your own character.

1. It is the source of the purest and highest happiness.

III. THE PRACTICAL RESULT WHICH OUR CONTEMPLATION OF RELIGIOUS DECISION AND THE ARGUMENTS COMMENDING IT OUGHT INVARIABLY AND UNIVERSALLY TO ANSWER.

1. It is that you should thus be decided and devoted for yourselves.

2. Resolve upon it without delay.

(1)By hesitation you lose time.

(2)By hesitation you diminish the probabilities of devotedness at a future time.

(3)By hesitation you presume guiltily upon the probabilities of future life.

(J. Parsons.)

I. A VOW IS A DISTINCT AND CONSCIOUS ASSERTION OF OUR RELIGIOUS NATURE. It is made with the most perfect consciousness of personal responsibility, in the presence and under the authority of that august Being to whom all obedience and worship are due. And it is void of all significance and solemnity if the whole religiousness of man's nature does not find expression in it.

II. A vow Is THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF MORAL RESPONSIBILITY, AND A CONFESSION OF GUILT BEFORE GOD. In this vow it is confessed that God holds man responsible for what he does. There is no significance in the vow if it is not based upon the recognition of his individual responsibility before the law. And as this springs from a conscience under the pressure of guilt, it is a confession of judgment identical in character with that which will be made by the sinner at the bar of God in the last day.

III. THE VOW IS A VOLUNTARY ACT OF THE WILL, AND IS, THEREFORE, OF THE NATURE OF A COVENANT WITH ALMIGHTY GOD. It cannot be broken, therefore, without the guilt of perjury.

IV. EVERY PROPER VOW IS IN THE DIRECTION OF ORIGINAL DUTY, AS WELL AS IN THE DIRECTION OF OFFERED GRACE. A vow is, therefore, doubly binding. It has absorbed into itself an obligation that existed before. It has embodied a duty which was in itself binding, and by its form ratifies, endorses and strengthens that obligation under the sanction of an oath. A voluntary pledge to perform that which is in itself a duty, rivets the obligation upon the conscience, and leaves no loophole for escape. But the vow is also in the direction of offered grace. Being made to Almighty God, with entire reliance upon Divine aid in its fulfilment, it is clearly in the line of the grace which is offered to man.

V. THE VOW IS MADE UNDER THE SANCTION OF THE ETERNAL WORLD. For a moment the spiritual eye has been opened to catch a partial glimpse of all that is blessed in heaven, of all that is dreadful in hell, of all that is awful in the judgment-day, of all that is sublime in the vastness of the silent eternity to which we are hastening. How solemn the obligation becomes under the pressure of such a sanction as this!

(B. M. Palmer, D. D.)

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