Psalm 119:19
Open thou mine eyes. This figure of speech is a familiar Eastern one. It is based on the observed fact that the eye, as an organ, is dependent on the mind and the will. Men have to be helped to see everything that is really worth seeing; and if they are to apprehend Divine and spiritual things, it can only be with Divine illuminations. He who sees the unseen must have come into the eye-opening power of God. The servant of Elisha, with the partly closed eyes, could see nothing but the chariots and horsemen of Syria. With opened eyes he saw all round the hills the chariots and horsemen of God. Our Lord opened the blind bodily eyes of men in order to illustrate his gracious work in souls. And the living Lord counsels his half-blinded Church at Laodicea, "Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." The opening of the soul-eyes is a figure of speech for the quickening of the spiritual discernment. Nothing do we need more than keen sensitiveness to Divine and eternal things; insight of the Divine will; the sharpness of vision that can detect at once the pointing of the Divine finger. The prayer of the text implies -

I. A CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE DIMNESS OF OUR SPIRITUAL VISION. Our Lord reproached the Pharisees because they were blind, yet thought they saw with unusual clearness. "Ye say, we see, therefore your sin remaineth." There is no prayer in the man who thinks he sees. There is no conscious want to find expression. It is not merely that the vision is distorted by the self-willed spirit; it is that in the godly life things seen and temporal have the power to dim and darken the vision of things unseen and eternal. If humility proves mightier than self-satisfaction, the sense of dimness is a constant source of anxiety; but that is an anxiety which is altogether healthy.

II. A CONSCIOUSNESS OF OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD FOR THE CLEARING OF OUR SPIRITUAL VISION. A man may feel the imperfectness of his soul-vision, but think to clear it himself. It is not always duly considered that the idea of self-help spoils the religious life as truly as it prevents our entering the religious life. It may have to come through a bitter experience, but it must come somehow, that we may discover the helplessness of self-help for clearing the soul-vision; and then we pray to God, "Open thou mine eyes." - R.T.







I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me.
(with ver. 54): — Two cries ascend from the human heart to God — the cry of the lorn spirit for its Father, and the cry of icy after the Father has been found. A sad life, astir with perplexities, hedged in by shadows, utters its natural longings in the words, "I am a stranger in the earth," etc. The same life, emerging from the shadow, with God's light shining on its path, exclaims, "Thy statutes have been my songs," etc. Taken together, these words set forth our condition as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and God's bountiful provision for meeting that condition in Christ.

I. The fact that we are strangers is forced upon us by our IGNORANCE. Apart from revelation, we know almost nothing of the world we live in, and absolutely nothing of its Lord. In every age, and to every thinking soul, arise the great questions, Who sent me into this earth? Why am I here? Whither am I going? The Gospel is God's answer to this cry. It is the revelation of the light which is behind sun and stars. What sun and star, what hill and stream cannot disclose of themselves, their Maker has disclosed in Christ. He reveals Himself in Christ as our Father. By His Spirit He says to each of us, "My child." He puts the faith and assurance of His fatherhood into our hearts. And this great truth of His fatherhood becomes the first round of the song which He has given to cheer us in the house of our pilgrimage.

II. OUR sins still more than our ignorance have put this sense of strangeness into our hearts, and the marks of it upon our countenance. When the soul awakens to spiritual consciousness, and finds itself in the presence of this great truth of the fatherhood of God, the first fact which confronts it is a sense of farness from the Father. It is God's mercy that He has not left us to rest in this depth of strangeness. He has made a way for us in Christ: — the new and living way by the blood. Christ dying for sinners, coming near to the lost to bring them near to God: — this is the light which God has kindled for all strangeness between the soul and God, the light which, touching the heart of the sinner, dissipates his estrangement and fills him with thankfulness and song.

III. Another proof that we are strangers is THE ESTRANGEMENT WE FIND AMONG MEN. Think of the conflicts, oppressions, misunderstandings among the inhabitants of the earth at any moment; think of hatreds so fierce and vital that only bloodshed can express their fury; whole races in subjection to other races over large sweeps of the globe, and during many generations; sectarian and selfish policies of nations, of the pride and isolation of classes; narrownesses and spites and arrogances of society, of the evil-speaking and backbiting and talebearing, and the hot and sullen tempers of men; quarrels and contests and ambitions which make up such a sum of the general sum of life: — these are the footprints of the stranger. Christ comes to us with the olive branch in His hand, as the great uniter and binder together. "One is your Father." He carries it up into the region occupied by thinkers and men of science, and down to the lowest levels of active and suffering life. He comes with the grand purpose of binding those who receive that word into a holy and abiding fellowship. Out from the contending and shifting crowd He calls a people for Himself, baptizes them with His own Spirit, inspires them with His truth, builds them into a holy nation, and rules over them as King.

IV. The last and saddest mark of the stranger upon us is DEATH. If we are all to die, if there is nothing beyond the grave, then, indeed, we are strangers in the earth; we are without a home or a fatherland. If there had been no light for this shadow, how great our misery should be! There could be no hope of an immortal fellowship for society, or of an immortal life for individual men. But, blessed be God! He has not hidden the future from His child. A home awaits us beyond the grave. A new life blooms for us in the very presence of God. Our torn and suffering earthly existence is to be crowned with glory and immortality in the world of the risen dead.

(A. Macleod, D. D.)

There is something very affecting in this expression. It is emphatically repeated, at long intervals, in the Scriptures. (Psalm 39:12; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Genesis 23:4; Hebrews 11:13.) The emotion which the very phrase excites, running down from the earliest times to the present generation, shows that it refers to something permanent in human nature. felt it when he tried to prove, from the nature of the soul's operations, that it was but a mysterious visitor from some pre-existent state. A modern author felt it when he described men as ships passing each other on the ocean, and hailing each other in vain for directions on the way. Very shallow must have been our experience, very lightly must we have pondered our condition, if we too have never felt it, and responded to the declaration, "I am a stranger on the earth." The world is beautiful and glorious: it lies around us, as one has said, "like a bright sea, with boundless fluctuations." But we are not at home in it. We are lost and bewildered amid is splendours. We are unsafe amid its wasting forces. We are but little versed in its capacious stores. Our hold upon it is faint and transient. So, across the gulf of past ages, we enter into eager sympathy with those old believers who confessed that they too were strangers; and we would seek with them " a city which hath foundations." But my object is not only to verify the feeling indicated in the text, but to show the deliverance offered us in our religion, from everything in the feeling that is painful or sad. By the terrors of doubt that cloud the prospect of the unspiritual, I would warn — by the satisfaction of Christian hope, I would win you, vitally to embrace the peculiarity of the Gospel, in the ties of fellowship it offers you, not only with the living and present, but with the unseen beings of another world — no longer the dim, shadowy, flitting, uncertain phantoms they were to the pagan faith — with the saints, truly worthy that name, elder and younger, in "the household of God." As the New Testament is true, this association is offered us. Death, terrifier of the world, stands back to let the light stream through his gloomy house, and reveal the holy and happy assembly. Sorrow bends aside her head, so as not to obstruct the inspiring vision. Sickness lifts from the couch her heavy eyes, to catch a glimpse of it. What refinement! What elevation! What generosity and joy! What motive and impulse! There, alive, appear to us the good departed, whom we have known here below, and those we have not known; the celebrated in the calendar, and the uncanonized, as worthy as they; those whose names stand as monumental exemplars on She page of the Bible, with names no less pure, written only in the Lamb's book of life; — and we "strangers on the earth," in these crumbling garments of clay, are invited to be fellow-citizens with them all. But there are conditions. We must give up our selfishness, and every shape of sin. We must leave behind our spiritual sloth and our sensual excess. "So live," says our subject to us, cultivate such sympathies with the departed "wise" and "good," that, when the body goes to mingle with theirs in the dust, the soul may meet theirs in the heavens, not as an alien and a stranger, but as a fellow-citizen and a friend.

(C. A. Barrel.)

I. THE PETITION. The psalmist does neither plead by this form of language that God would reveal a new system of precepts to him, which he had never before made known, nor that these already revealed should be expressed in plainer terms; but he prays for grace to improve them, and To apply them to practice, that he might see the proper use of his knowledge; for the internal illumination of God's Holy Spirit to render the external revelation of the Word profitable to his soul; for the practical saving knowledge of his duty in opposition to mere speculation. Now, God is said to hide this knowledge from us, when He doth not actually impart it; and the psalmist here means, by negative expressions, the very same thing which he speaks in positive terms in ver. 18.

II. THE ARGUMENT the psalmist makes use of to enforce his petition; "I am a stranger in the earth." Consider the several respects in which good men may be styled strangers in the earth.

1. In respect of their heavenly extraction; they are natives and citizens of heaven.

2. In respect of their inheritance. The children of this world have their portion in the things of this life only. But the resting-place of saints is not in this world; it remains, it waits them.

3. In respect of their affections and desires. As their treasure is in heaven, their hearts are there. No characters can be more unlike, nor tempers more strange, than these are to earthly minds. Their ends, their motives, their principles, their employments are contrary to one another.

III. CONCLUSION.

1. Let us learn, as strangers upon earth, to keep a close correspondence with heaven, to live near to God, much in the exercise of prayer, under a lively sense of our own necessities, and with believing views of Divine grace to direct and uphold us; otherwise, it will be no wonder if, instead of coming well to our journey's end, mischief befall us by the way.

2. Let us never satisfy ourselves with the knowledge without the practice of our duty.

3. We should meddle as little with the world as may be.

4. We should live indifferent to the pains and pleasures of this world.

5. We should accustom our minds to look forward to our latter end.

6. We should learn to be kind and hospitable to all mankind, as all are strangers in the earth in some respects; and our common lot is a powerful inducement to offices of kindness.

(W. Beat.)

I. I am as a stranger in the earth because of THE IMPERMANENCE OF MY POSITION. Here we have no continuing city.

II. I am as a stranger in the earth because of MY LIFE AND LANGUAGE. If there be but a slight difference between the Christian and the secularist, it is because the Christian has not been "transformed by the renewing of his mind," for though bearing a new name he carries an old nature. We instantly detect a foreigner by so small a sign as an accent or a posture; and the Christian is known to men of the world by a glance or tone, by a frown or smile. This should be the Christian's business as a stranger — to operate as the light, not as the lightning — to master men by attraction, and not by reprobation.

III. I am a stranger in the earth because of THE PERILS TO WHICH I AM EXPOSED. The adventurous explorer feels that he is in constant danger.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. A REMARKABLE CONFESSION.

1. A stranger is absent from home.

2. A stranger has no fixed residence where he is liable to remove, he looks for changes, and meets them without surprise.

3. A stranger feels no particular interest in the place through which he passes, or in the events which transpire around him: he is not wholly unaffected by them; yet many things which concern a resident are of little or no consequence to a traveller: his home is elsewhere, and his main business lies in another quarter.

4. A stranger forms no intimate connection with the society among whom he is cast. He converses with them; he shows to all civility and respect; but as a stranger he never thinks of close alliance and lasting friendship.

5. A stranger reckons on inconveniences, and prepares to meet them. If he cannot have things altogether to his mind, he submits: if he be treated with neglect, it gives him not much concern: direct affronts do not deeply affect him — he is but "a stranger," and he looks forward to home as the seat of comfort, and the place of rest.

II. AN APPROPRIATE PRAYER.

1. The Word of God is the stranger's best companion.

2. It is his kindest comforter. It makes up for all he needs, and supports under all he endures.

III. CONCLUSION.

1. The delusion of ungodly men. They are "strangers on the earth" in regard to the fluctuations that await them, but too much at home in the temper of their minds. What awful surprise will such feel when the summons of departure comes! Go they must, however reluctant, however unprepared!

2. The importance of a right spirit in professors of religion. And what is this, but a spirit of abstraction from a polluting world, of holy indifference to its fascinating smiles, and of noble superiority to its forbidding frowns?

(T. Kidd.)

Homiletic Magazine.
I. AN ESTIMATE OF LIFE. The Christian is a "stranger in the earth," because he is conscious of an intense longing for a land of greater purity and perfect rest. His principles also may appear strange to others.

II. A SURE SOLACE IN LIFE.

1. God's commandments his solace, because they told him —

(1)What to be.

(2)What to do.

(3)Where to go.

(4)What to avoid.

2. They were revealed,

(1)By the Spirit speaking in the soul,

(2)By the Word of truth,

(3)By the openings out of prudential dealings. God is always going before us.

III. CONCLUSION.

1. We need not think of ourselves as such strangers, that we are to despise the ordinary joys of life or beauties of the world.

2. We must not try to find our permanent home in this world. We could not if we would. Abraham and David recognized this (Genesis 23:4; 1 Chronicles 29:15).

3. We should increase daily in our appreciation of God's commandments.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

Homilist.
This language may be looked upon in two aspects:

I. As expressing a NECESSARY fact in man's earthly history. "Stranger in the earth." Two ideas here:(1) Ignorance. A stranger in a neighbourhood is ignorant of it.(2) Unsettledness. "No abiding city."

II. As expressing a VIRTUOUS fact in man's earthly history. A desire to be guided by God's commandments. "Hide not," etc. These are necessary to guide through the labyrinthian path of life.

(Homilist.)

When a child is born, it is spoken of sometimes under the designation of "a little stranger!" A stranger, indeed! come from far. From the presence, and touch, and being of God! And going — into the immensities again — into, and through all the unreckonable ages of duration.

I. THE STRANGER. Such, in regard to earth, and this human life altogether here, is he who makes the confession and breathes the prayer which these words express. He does not belong to this place. He is, consciously, intentionally, and earnestly passing through. In the ordinary sense, no doubt, he is as much of the earth as any other; yet has he, truly, a higher nativity, for he is "born from above." Let him show that he is, by living as a citizen of the higher land. Let him be in spiritual life a true patriot. Let him be loyal to the kingdom that claims his soul, that has his name registered in its book of life, and that will one day — if he be really of it — call forth its mighty, shining multitudes to receive him and his brethren with acclamations of delight. Let him be "a stranger in the earth," and then it will not only be possible to believe, but it will be impossible not to believe, that he justly claims citizenship in the higher country. A principle, an instinct, a habit of reserve, will be found running through the whole of life on the earthly side of it with the stranger. As for instance:

1. Reserve in secular occupation: in what we call the business of life. Will a man find fittest preparation for calmness, and nobleness, and purity in the everlasting kingdom by giving all his actual energies, and all his time in this world, to these earthly, transient things? It must be the better part to aim high, to "look" far, to disengage ourselves not only from what would corrupt and injure, but from what would over-occupy and thus insensibly degrade and betray us, and in the serene and lofty spirit of the "stranger," to do our duties, and pass through our days.

2. Reserve in pleasure. A pleasure-loving soul never can be unselfish, magnanimous, serene, brave, pure. It is therefore one of the Christian's daily lessons to teach himself effectually how to "use this world as not abusing it"; i.e. how to extract from present things all fair and honest enjoyment, without allowing selfishness and mere appetite so to touch and transmute them in the process that the enjoyment shall have in it some admixture of baser elements, and be no longer the thing which the Divine beneficence provides for man's hunger and thirst.

3. This principle of reserve must run through the whole of life.(1) There are many who would freely allow that it is rightly applied to business and to pleasure, but who have no idea that the application of it is as legitimate and as necessary within and through all the darker spheres of human life — those of pain, and trouble, and sorrow. But this is so. For these things, just like their opposites, are temporal and evanescent. They belong to "the fashion of this world which passeth away." Weep, then, but dry thy tears. Mourn, but be comforted. The great to-morrow will soon be here, whence you will look back, and be ashamed that you made so roach fret and moan in this little yesterday.(2) Nor must we fail to apply the principle and cultivate the habit of reserve even in the sphere of highest duty. Underneath all outward, upward manifestation lies the steady purpose — "One thing I do." But in holding to this one purpose and secret law of our life we are subject to many changes, disappointments, reverses. Rather we are subject to a higher will, the faultless, loving will of our heavenly leader, who shapes His own perfect plan and builds it out of the toils and conflicts, the triumphs and reverses, of His servants; and to that will we ought to be always ready to bow. We ought to plan, and purpose, and will our very best, and throw all our heart and strength into our work, and yet have some reserve, and stand ready for some otter issue. The fruit may be as good as the flower is fair, or the "blossom may go up as dust." No matter. I lose nothing if my purpose is true and my will is loyal. My harvest in such case is not really loath — it is only postponed.

II. THE PRAYER, as we cannot but see, is perfectly suited to the condition which has thus been described. "A stranger" — here but for a little, and yet morally beginning the great hereafter. " Never continuing in one stay," and yet ever possessing one being, and developing and settling that being into character. Passing through a fleeting life, and yet, at every step, gathering and carrying forward what must be the elements of the endless life to come — what need there is of light, direction, sacred influence, so that the passage through this world, which must be swift, may also be prosperous, the traveller finding not merely the supply of momentary needs as they arise, but extracting nourishment out of the vanishing scenes of life as they vanish, for the life everlasting. God's "commandments" revealed and brought home to the heart will yield, plentifully, all that can be needed in the pilgrim state. In one way or other they touch all the chances and hazards of the journey, and all the requirements of the traveller, while they all combine to make one supreme influence of preparation for what will come when the earthly journey is over. And will not God hear such a prayer, offered in such circumstances, and with such consciousness? Can there he the doubt of a moment about this?

(A Raleigh, D. D.)

Dr. South has made the striking observation that one world is enough for one man, and God has given us the choice between this and the heavenly. We cannot reign princes in both, or hold one in one hand and the other in the other. If strangers and pilgrims here we shall be at home in the other, and vice versa.

(E. P. Thwing.)

The Jews never seem to lose sight of the fact that they were descendants of pilgrim forefathers. In the most brilliant periods of their history they still regard the life of the moving patriarchs as a type of their own. The confession of Abraham as he stood asking from the children of Heth a place for his dead, that "he was a stranger and a sojourner," finds an echo in the prayer of David as he consecrates the treasures that had been offered for the building of the temple. "We are strangers and sojourners as all our fathers were." The same characteristic view of life is heard again in the prayer of Hezekiah, when he compares his life to a shepherd's tent. Peter, who was a true type of his race, exhorts as "strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." The same refrain surges back from the Epistle to the Hebrews, "We have here no continuing city." Now large numbers of men feel themselves aliens because they have no stake in the soil and land is unequally distributed. But this was not the ease with the twelve tribes to whom Canaan was apportioned by lot. Attachment to the soil became a passion of unrivalled fervour, even in those who had not been schooled into a lover-like devotion to the fatherland by years spent in bondage in an alien land, and yet in spite of this Jewish feeling the rational temper seems to have been ever haunted with a sense of the forlorn loneliness of life.

(T. G. Selby.)

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