Psalm 119:96
I have seen an end of all perfection. "The true relation of the two parts of this verse to each other seems to be that of contrast. No other relation brings out so clear and full a meaning. The meaning of the whole, therefore, must be something like this: Here is something called 'perfection' existing among men in a great variety of forms. 'But,' says the psalmist, 'according to my experience and observation, these are altogether too superficial, and too precarious, and too short-lived to make men happy, and the very best of them, the idealisms of human life, can never be attained. But thy commandment is exceeding broad,' and that will do, unless men hinder, what nothing else will do." The human hopes referred to are a man's wholly self-centered purposes and ambitions. Let a man fashion something for himself as a supreme aim of life; let it be something which he regards as "perfection;" let it bear no relation to the blessing of his fellow-men, or to the will and honor of God, and there will surely be an end to all such perfection. Let perfection be humanly conceived success and happiness, and ere life closes the man will say with the "preacher," who had such a varied experience, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

I. ALL AROUND US WE MAY SEE THE END OF PERFECTIONS. The story of the ages is the story of well-conceived ideals in social and national life that were never realized. The story of individual lives that had only self-centered aims is this wail, "My purposes are broken off." It is even a large truth that no life ever was lived that realized its ideal, reached its perfection, or accomplished its purposes. And this must be so because perfection is for the race, not for the individual, who has never more than a piece of the whole entrusted to him. And because, by man's very nature, he cannot rest satisfied with things, only with character, which finds expression in things, and is always below a possible attainment, while God is the supreme character.

II. IF WE CANNOT GET PERFECTION, WE MAY WORK TOWARDS IT. To do this we must get out of the human sphere into the Divine sphere. Man fails to reach his own perfection because it is so small. God's Word is large, broad, and towards its perfection man may move through all eternity, and get ennobled as he moves. - R.T.







I have seen an end of all perfection; but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.
Homilist.
I. The NATURE of this discovery. "An end of all perfection." Material nature is perfect in all its departments and forms; but in human history no perfection is found. It is not found in the thoughts, affections, purposes, or actions of men. It is not found in men individually or collectively. Complete moral perfection is extinct.

1. This fact should humble us in the dust. The only property in man is character; and if his character is bad, man has nothing therefore of which to be proud. His own vileness should keep him in the dust.

2. This fact should startle us into effort. In moral imperfection there is guilt, ruin, hell. How to get rid of it is the great question, and should be the great object of life. For this all should labour supremely.

II. The MEANS of this discovery. "Thy commandment is exceeding broad." Broad!

1. Because it embraces everything pertaining to man. Not only his outward actions and audible utterances, but the deepest and most secret feelings of his heart.

2. It embraces everything pertaining to every man. It takes in individuals, families, communities, Churches, and nations. In the light of this law moral imperfection is then everywhere.

(Homilist.)

I. THE SORROWFUL CONFESSION — "I have seen an end of all perfection."

1. There are severe limits to human knowledge. The wisest tell us their path leads to a point at which there is "no thoroughfare." They encounter "the Unknowable." All they know is, that there is more to be known.

2. There are severe limits to human enjoyment. The most attractive programme of pleasure palls. The gay monarch offers a fabulous sum for a "new pleasure." Restless pleasure-seekers outpace even the devil's ingenuity, for even he cannot make the programme hold out.

3. There are severe limits to human examples of excellence. We select our hero, and he enjoys our brief worship. But we find a flaw, and the homage fails. You need only know a man well enough to detect his weakness. A modern celebrity was asked if he believed in perfection: said he, " No! I have seen too many perfect people."

II. THE JOYFUL REJOINDER — "But Thy commandment is exceeding broad."

1. The "commandment" broadens beyond the limits of human knowledge. It reveals God — His counsels — eternity and its destinies. It presents us with a science of the unseen, and a redemption to which there is no human analogy.

2. The "commandment" is exceeding broad in the extent of the enjoyment it unfolds. It presents an infinite range of delights to man's restless soul. It unseals infinite sources of pleasure. It teaches us to "joy in God." It introduces a new, subtler, more refined and inexhaustible quality of happiness. We have Christ's "joy fulfilled in" ourselves. We "enter into the joy of our Lord." It ushers us into that Presence for ever, where there is "fulness of joy."

3. It is "exceeding broad" in its provision for human attainment — its ideal. The Old Testament standard reaches the infinite word godly. The New Testament sets before us the example of Him in whom "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Man's soul can never be satisfied without a definite aim; yet at the same time an infinite aim. Here the conditions meet — "The stature of a man in Christ Jesus." Application — And this "commandment" is nigh thee! — now!

(Walter Hawkins.)

The psalmist in this verse speaks of a twofold experience in the form of an antithesis. All life is an antithesis. We touch the transient and the everlasting, the finite and the boundless, the explored and unexplored, at every turn.

I. HE SPEAKS OF THE TRANSIENT AND FINITE. He had observed that there was a great deal of perfection — many good and perfect gifts — in the world.

1. In nature. The revolving seasons, the flowers that bloom, the fruit that ripens, and the sun that shines, are each beautiful in its time. But every summer has its winter, every flower dies, all fruit decays, and every day has its night. Transiency and limitation are written upon everything. There must be a constant replenishing, or the universe would be bankrupt. The same forces are preserved and resuscitated by new combinations, and directed to new uses. The conservation of force is a means by which God upholds nature, else it would collapse.

2. In human history. The rise and fall of empires — the might of the sword — the power of governments — the sway of know-ledge — the charm of fame — the influence of wealth — are all transient. It is this "end" that perplexes men.

3. In religious externalities. Many symbols and ceremonials have come and gone. They have lost their meaning in realities. The pillars of cloud and of fire have vanished: the manna has ceased. The tabernacle, the temple, and their ritual have passed away. Even religious structures like the temple, which, of all buildings, supply the strongest resistance to the wear and tear of time, fall into decay and ruin.

4. In individual and social life. Man exhausts everything. As we advance in life all attainment dwarfs in the presence of new ideals. The ideal of the Hebrew, through the revelation of God, was very high. Contrast the self-complacency of the Greek with the consciousness of non-attainment on the part of the holiest Hebrews. Where there is no conception of holiness there can be no adequate conception of infirmity and sin, and even of non-attainment. So far, however, the psalmist has not said all; nor even the half. It were a sad tale were that all. "But" is the remedial point in the verse.

II. THE PSALMIST SPEAKS OF THE COMPREHENSIVE AND PERMANENT — "Thy commandment is exceeding broad."

1. It was comprehensive. It applied to men's thoughts and motives, as well as their words and deeds. It touched life and emphasized responsibility at every point. It left no void space, no gap or chink for the guilty to escape. It presented the divine ideal of perfection.

2. It was permanent. Our Lord teaches us that heaven and earth shall pass away; but that not a jot or tittle of the law shall pass. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the Atonement. "The love of Christ constraineth us." Our supreme hope is to be like Him. "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself as He is pure." He is "changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord," and thus becomes "perfect in Christ Jesus."

(D. Davies.)

"I have seen an end of all perfection." The man who has set his whole heart on things earthly, — no matter whether successful or unsuccessful, — comes to this at last. We should not care so much for words like these, if we regarded them only as the bitter judgment of one whose plans for life had been thwarted and blighted: we should then esteem them as the jaundiced conclusion of one who disparaged what he could not attain to: it would be a case in point to the ancient fable of the creature that cried down the fruit it could not reach. But the same estimate of this life has been reached by the earnest believer. He too has told us that all that is required that a human being should in this world see "an end of all perfection," is that such a one should live in this world long enough to let hasty impressions die away; and to arrive at those "second thoughts" of it which are proverbially "best." Yet while the case is so, that believer and unbeliever alike may express an estimate of the life in the selfsame words, there is this great difference between the two. To the man who has "set his affection on things on the earth," it is unmingled bitterness to find that they will not suffice: he has nothing else to look to: if they fail him, then all is lost. But the believer's treasure is not in this world: it is laid up where neither moth nor rust can corrupt, and where no thief can break through and steal: he has laid up for himself treasure in heaven: and that grandest possession of humanity, a part in the crucified Saviour, a soul renewed by the blessed Spirit, is a thing whose worth cannot fluctuate nor decay: always and everywhere the one thing needful.

I. The psalmist said these words truly, and we may say them truly, as to THE HAPPINESS THIS WORLD CAN YIELD. The psalmist did not say, and no more do we, that in this world there is no happiness at all. What is said is that there is no perfection of happiness: no life which is evenly joyous or evenly cheerful. The heavy, bitter blow falls now and then; and there are manifold drawbacks from the pleasantest earthly lot; a thousand little anxieties, vexations, — well, there is no better word, worries: things which, if they do not absolutely embitter the cup of existence, certainly deprive it of all right to be called the perfection of worldly good.

II. We may say these words with truth, in regard to THE EXCELLENCE OF THE PEOPLE WE KNOW.

III. We have learned to little purpose, if we have not done the same in regard to OURSELVES: our own good purposes, our own devout feelings, our own faith, and hope, and charity. It is a lame life we lead: it is but a very rough approximation to the right line. In some kind of way we keep to religious rule; but we need not even talk of perfection who know that we come short, in everything we do.

(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Those of you who have visited Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster Abbey must have noticed in the south-east corner the tomb of Dean Stanley and that of his wife, Lady Augusta There are many words engraven on the stone beneath Dean Stanley's tomb, and at the foot of them are the words of our text (P. B. Version). The words may well be taken as an epitome of the Dean's life. He saw an end of all perfection, he saw that all things human pass away, but he held on to the great eternal truths of religion, knowing that God's commandment, like God's love, is exceeding broad.

I. THE TEMPORAL. "I see that all things come to an end." We live in a world of change; nothing is lasting, nothing is permanent down here. The little life of man, the little work of man sooner or later comes to an end. "I see that all things come to an end." The beautiful summer-time which delights us all changes at last into the long dreary winter. Nature changes, "the grass withereth, the flower fadeth." There are changes in public life as well as in private life; changes abroad and changes at home; changes in our own individual lives. The boy changes into the young man; school life is over. The young man changes into the man in his prime; youth is over. And old age creeps on, then cometh the end. Whether it be beauty, or wit, or learning, or pleasure, or honour, or position, or riches, experience will soon show us the end of all these things.

II. The writer turns from the temporal to THE ETERNAL. He tries to fix our minds on the one Supreme Being who never passes away. "I am the Lord, I change not." "Thy commandment is exceeding broad." The great Rock of Ages remains unalterably the same.

1. God's love is exceeding broad.

2. His forgiveness.

3. His mercy.

4. His power to save.

5. His Church.

6. Heaven.We may differ in opinion down here, we cannot all think alike on earth, but there will be perfect unity there, for heaven, like God's commandment, is exceeding broad.

(A. E. W. Lait.)

I. THE IMPERFECTION THAT IS ASCRIBED TO ALL CREATED OBJECTS.

1. Everything pertaining to the present world, its riches, honours, and enjoyments so earnestly coveted by carnal minds, will be found greatly deficient in their promised good when weighed in a just and equal balance. Experience proves them incapable of affording satisfaction; they first allure, and then deceive, and raise our expectations only for the purpose of producing disappointment.

2. There is nothing perfect in the Church of God, collectively considered, though it is composed of the excellent of the earth, in all ages and parts of the world. The tares and the wheat grow together until harvest.

3. The same imperfection which marks the general body attaches to the character of individual believers in various degrees; for as is the root, so are the branches.

4. As the psalmist had seen an end of all perfection in others, so also in himself; and this is what the best of men have seen in their own characters as well as he. There is neither intellectual nor moral perfection to be found on earth.

II. THE PERFECTION THAT IS ASCRIBED TO THE DIVINE LAW.

1. It includes the whole of our duty towards God, ourselves, and our neighbour.

2. It extends to all persons and to characters of every description.

3. Its dominion reaches to the inward 'as well as to the outward man, the heart as well as the life. It rules over the understanding, for obedience is founded in knowledge; the will, which must be bowed to the will of God; the affections, which are required to be set supremely on Him.

4. It comprehends the manner of our obedience, as well as the matter of it, and shows that nothing can be acceptable but what proceeds from a right principle. Love is the fulfilling of the law, both as to its spirit and design.

5. Its authority is perpetual, reaching forward to eternity. It is a perfect transcript of the Divine mind, and is necessarily as unchangeable as its great original (Psalm 119:89, 152).

6. It is exceeding broad with respect to its sanctions, or the rewards which it promises and the punishments it inflicts.

(B. Beddoms, M. A.)

The psalmist's words imply what Jesus and His apostles taught with far greater fulness, not only that while man changes, God changes not., but that man may rise out of change in boundless progress by active obedience to the commandment, that is, by living and practical communion with the Divine will.

The true relation of the two parts of this verse to each other seems to be that of contrast. Here is some. thing called "perfection" existing among men in a great variety of forms. "But," says the psalmist, "according to my experience and observation, these are altogether too superficial, and too precarious, and too short-lived to make men happy, and the very best of them, the idealisms of human life, as we have seen, can never be attained. But 'Thy commandment is exceeding broad,' and that will do, unless men hinder, what nothing else will do." "Thy commandment is exceeding broad;" we say all when we say that it is as broad as the Divine nature, and that is limitless and eternal; beyond all bounds, above all heights, beneath all depths. "As the man is, so is his strength." As God is, so is His commandment, word, will, and way. And what does it tell me? It tells me that these earthly and human "perfections." which can never be realized, even the partial realizations of which so soon begin to fade and fall into ruin, are yet, if I will, the symbol to my faith of that which will not deceive, will not fail, and that all will come to me through this very law or commandment which is "exceeding broad," because it is Gospel. It seems to shut the door of hope, only that it may fling it more widely open. It seems to lock and bar the prison gates, only that they may be burst asunder by a conquering Redeemer, and that the very walls of the prison-house may be thrown to the ground, while the prisoners are called into largeness and eternal liberty. Then they begin to find the commandment of God, in this better, sweeter sense, "exceeding broad." It is the high but fair standard to which they conform; it is, at the same time, the power that upholds and strengthens while such conformity is sought. It is an education, a development, a joy that never palls; a prospect that is never darkened, although our eyes are not always open to see it. It is high above us and away beyond us, yet it is always bending down to help us, and never casts an unfriendly look, and never speaks in a harsh tone. It is the very soul of consideration, and tenderness, and grace. It seems to speak to us as though it were a God, and says, "Cast all your cares on me. I am broad enough, and strong enough to bear them all. I am for God in this world, I — His Gospel commandment, with law, and love, and light in it — I am the will of God and His uplifting power, and all whom I bless I lead onwards to more and more, to better and better, never lowering the standard, never suspending the education, never suffering a limit to be put to it. Ever teaching my subjects that the law of life they have in me is a law of breadth, liberty, enlargement, until the scantiness and the failures of earth are exchanged for the fulnesses and the realizations of heaven."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

There is an ancient tradition that Abraham, as he stood on the hills above Damascus, was converted to the true faith in one God, from the worship of the heavenly bodies, by observing that the stars, the moon, and the sun, however bright and glorious, at last sank, and were succeeded by others. "I like not," he said, "those that set;" and so turned to the one unchangeable Lord and Maker of all. This, but in a higher and more precise form, is the force of the psalmist's argument. He prefers — and we ought to prefer — the commandment, the revelation of God, not only because it lasts longer than anything else, but because it includes, and comprehends, and absorbs into itself all that there is good in everything else.

1. "I see that all things come to an end." So we may say of all human institutions and customs, especially when we have gone through many lands, and seen many forms of opinion and worship.

2. "I see that there is a boundary beyond which they cannot pass" — I see that the institutions of the West come to an end almost abruptly when they reach the extremity of Europe. I see that the institutions of the East come to an end no less abruptly when they reach the extremity of Asia. We have followed each to their utmost limit; they cannot pass farther. But there is one thing which is broad enough to embrace them both and cross them both, namely, the commandment of God.

3. "I see that all earthly pleasures and enjoyments, one after another, have their natural ending." Not only wicked and selfish pleasures, which last only for the moment of their gratification, but innocent, just, good enjoyments, of necessity come to an end, or pass into something else. "But the commandment of God is exceeding broad." God's commandment widens, opens, and expands with new interests, enjoyments, affections, hopes, at every successive step we take, till we find ourselves at last in that Presence where there is indeed fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore.

4. "I see that all human greatness comes to an end." Every station in life, however great or prosperous, has its drawbacks, its checks, its limits. But moral or Christian greatness is "exceeding broad." The basis on which it is built up is as broad and firm as the conscience and heart of man, as the grace and goodness of God. Even the most far-reaching intellect and its effects come to an end at last. Look at those greatest of all monuments of the mind of man — books. How rapidly they come to an end! One Book alone has outlasted many generations, in all nations equally, and that is the Bible; and this is because of its "exceeding breadth" — because it embraces every variety and element of thought, and every phase of society; above all, because it embodies in every part the moral commandment of God, which endures for ever in heaven, and which speaks not to one condition of life only, but to all.

5. "I see that all human characters come to an end." How often do we see those who are good and wise up go a certain point, but beyond that we come, as it were, to a precipice — they break down, as we say; we wonder that, being so good as they are, they are not better; that, being as wise as they are, they are not wiser. One Character there is which is so "exceeding broad" as to grasp and overlap all others. This is the true sign of the Divinity of the character of Christ.

6. "I see that human life comes to an end." Our earthly life, the earthly life of those whom we have known and loved, is cut short by that dark abyss into which we cannot penetrate, and over which our thoughts can hardly pass. But God's commandment, and the fulfilment of God's commandments, is "exceeding broad"; it is broad enough to span even that wide and deep river which parts this life and the next. For it is this which makes this life and the next life one. Knowledge, prophecies, gifts of all kinds pass away, but the love of God and the love of man never fail.

7. Yes, "I see that all things come to an end." I see that human systems, human pleasures, human greatness, human wisdom, human excellence, human life, come to an end. But the commandment, the revelation, of God never comes to an end, because God Himself is Infinite — God, whom we adore in His three infinite perfections.

(Dean Stanley.)

Thy law; that is, the rule of our duty natural and revealed; or, in a word, religion, which consists in the knowledge and practice of the laws of God, is of greater perfection than all other things which are so highly valued in this world; for the perfection of it is infinite, and of a vast influence and extent; it reacheth to the whole man, to the happiness of body and soul; to our whole duration, both in this world and the next; of this life, and of that which is to come.

I. THE REASONABLENESS OF RELIGION, which is able to give a very good account of itself, because it settles the mind of man upon a firm basis, and keeps it from rolling in perpetual uncertainty; whereas atheism and infidelity wants a stable foundation; it centres nowhere but in the denial of God and religion, and yet substitutes no principle, no tenable and constituent scheme of things, in the place of them.

II. THE WISDOM OF RELIGION.

1. True wisdom begins and is founded in religion, in the fear of God, and in the keeping of His commandments.

2. This is the perfection of wisdom; there is no wisdom without this, nor beyond it.(1) The first point of wisdom is to understand our true interest, and to be right in our main end; and in this religion will best instruct and direct us. And if we be right in out" main end, and true to the interest of it, we cannot miscarry; but if a man mistake in this, he errs fatally, and his whole life is vanity and folly.(2) Another property of wisdom is to be steady and vigorous in the prosecution of our main end; to oblige us hereto religion gives us the most powerful arguments — the glorious happiness, and the dismal misery of another world.

3. The next point of wisdom is to make all things stoop and become subservient to our main end. And wherever religion bears sway, it will make all other things subordinate to the salvation of our souls, and the interests of our everlasting happiness; as the men of this world make everything to submit and give way to their covetous, and ambitious, and sensual designs.

4. Another part of wisdom is to consider the future, and to look to the last end and issue of things. It is a common folly among men to be so intent upon the present as to have little or no regard to the future, to what will be hereafter. But religion gives us a clear prospect of a life after death, and overlooks time, and makes eternity always present to us, and minds us of making timely provision and preparation for it.

5. Again, another main point of wisdom is, to do as little as we can to be repented of, trusting rather to the wisdom of prevention than to that of remedy. Religion first teacheth men innocency, and not to offend; but in case we do (as in many things we offend all), it then directs us to repentance as the only remedy.

6. The last character of wisdom I shall mention is in all things to consult the peace and satisfaction of our own minds, without which nothing else can make us happy; and this obedience to the laws of God does naturally procure.

(Abp. Tillotson.)

One of the greatest fallacies with which we have to contend in modern times is the opinion that everything of the nature of finality in religion — everything of the nature of clear and settled conviction — is opposed to the progress of the world and the liberty of the individual. It is assumed by some that progress consists in a perpetual movement from one position to another, rather than the steady upward movement of a tree from its root or of a building from its fixed foundation. They think of progress as a leaving of the past continually behind us, and an advancing towards the future; and that, consequently, whatever claims to be fixed, immovable, and determinate, whatever says to the advancing waves Of human power and ambition, "Thus far shalt thou come, but not farther," puts an arrest upon the progress of the world that ought not to be put, and fetters the legitimate action of the human spirit. Hence the outcry against creeds and dogmas of every kind as things to be entirely shaken off. It is said that they must all of them be of necessity transitional and temporary, because they are attempts to formulate a something — a something that is for ever beyond us, and is no sooner formulated than the mind has already travelled beyond its own conception. What I wish to point out is that we cannot escape finality in some shape or form if we are to think at all. We must have clear and settled convictions of some kind; but this finality of thought, when truly come to, is not in the least degree opposed to liberty or progress. It is indeed the very starting point and permanent ground of all that is true in the progress of the world. The text appears to afford a very suitable basis for such a theme. The psalmist says, "I have seen an end of all perfection." There is the finality, the fixed and determinate position; but he also says, "Thy commandment is nevertheless exceeding broad"; there is the room for growth, for progress — there we have the free and indeterminate element. There is, indeed, a certain opposition at first sight between the two clauses of the text; but there is no real opposition. In the ground of the matter they are substantially and essentially one. Take the letters of the English alphabet. Here you have from twenty to thirty absolutely fixed signs — no more than that; and we are not at liberty to add to or to alter one of them. Here we have finality surely. And yet upon that fixed and limited basis all human thought and human speech are built. The Bible and Shakespeare, with all their subtle essence of thought and wonders of expression, are reducible to twenty-six letters. Why is it that no one says, "What an absurd thing it is to chain the genius of the world to twenty or thirty little signs that can be made upon a sheet of paper! How can those signs, invented, moreover, in remote antiquity, be adequate to the wants of the world to-day? Such finality is the enemy of progress." To talk in that way about the alphabet would indicate the madman, because the mastering of those twenty-six letters is the beginning of all our progress. And yet that is precisely how many talk in regard to the doctrines and facts of Christianity. They say that to fix anything here is to make progress impossible. What I say is that the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are no more the unalterable basis of all our learning than the essential doctrines of Christianity, as clearly formulated and tabulated as they can be, are the basis of all that is true in the spiritual history and progress of the world. The same thing may be said of any other branch of learning, Bay of arithmetic or of mathematics, with its rigid formularies and absolutely fixed signs. Out of the nine units of arithmetic the whole science of numbers is evolved. Those fixed factors that lie at the foundation of the whole, and out of which the whole arises, put no arrest upon the thinking mind at all. So far from that, the mind could not take one step without them, and it would be thrown into confusion if one of them were altered. What I plead for is that in this matter of finality and progress people should apply to religious truth the common sense they apply to other subjects; and they ought not to object that finality in religion puts an end to progress when they find in every other sphere that it is the very basis and spring of all the liberty we require. The Sabbath law and the Bible, the Church and its Sacraments, with its essential creed — with regard to all these important matters a certain amount of finality has undoubtedly been reached. They represent a certain number of ultimate facts; the essential explanation of which we unquestionably have in our possession. Those ultimate facts, those fixed and determinate conclusions about God and Christ, about life and death, about sin and salvation — those great facts do not stand in the way of the liberty of man or the most perfect freedom of thought. Instead of that, they are the foundation of the world's peace, and the perennial spring of all its progress. In a word, the more finality we have truly come to, so much the more liberty and progress we also may have. When a young person goes on from one stage of learning to another, from the letters of the alphabet to numbers, and circles, and squares, and from these, again, to all the definite and fixed forms of science and art, he is coming to finality at every step, he is fixing matters permanently in his mind, from stage to stage, all along the line. Is he thereby putting fetters upon himself? You know that it is not so. You know that he is advancing in the path of liberty and power. Those clear and settled ideas which he takes into his mind, from stage to stage, are but stepping-stones in the upward and onward path of his progress. "Eternal process moving on from state to state the spirit walks." And not only may he "wear all that weight of learning lightly as a flower," but the whole burden of existence is becoming lighter and lighter to him the more clearly he sees into the heart of the whole. Every clear idea, fixed and final as it is, that takes possession of his mind, is lifting him above the fact of which it is the idea — the otherwise hard and oppressive fact. It is thus that man rises superior to time and circumstances, misfortune and chance. Those clear and settled convictions as they arise within his mind one by one, like stars coming out in the midnight sky, and as they form themselves into a harmony of lights within the being — what are they but the mighty leverage by which the man himself is lifted up out of the bondage of darkness and spiritual death into the light and liberty of perfect truth, and by which he is enabled to breath at last the very atmosphere of eternity?

(F. Ferguson, D. D.)

We may read the words in two ways.

1. "I have seen an end of all perfection; for Thy commandment is exceeding broad." Read in this way they suggest the animating thought that our haunting consciousness of imperfection springs from the bright and awful perfection of the law we are bent on obeying, of the Ideal we have set before us. It is not because we are worse than those who are without law, or who are a law unto themselves, that we are restless and dissatisfied with ourselves; but because we measure both ourselves and our fellows by the lofty standards of God's commandment. That commandment is so broad, that. we cannot embrace it; it is so high, that we cannot attain to it; it is so perfect, that we cannot perfectly obey it.

2. But we may read the verse in another way, and still derive comfort and encouragement from it. We may say: "I have seen an end of all perfection in myself, and in the world; but Thy commandment is exceeding broad: that is perfect, though I am imperfect, and in its perfection I find the promise of my own." For shall God give a law for human life, and that law remain for ever unfulfilled? Impossible! "The gifts of God are without repentance" — irreversible, never to be lessened or withdrawn. His purpose is not to be made of none effect by our weaknesses and sins. In the law He has shown us what He would have us be. And shall we never become what He would have us to be? Can the law remain for ever without any life that corresponds to it and fulfils it? Nay, God will never take back the fair and perfect ideal of human life depicted in His law, never retract His purpose to raise the life of man till it touches and fulfils that ideal. And so the very law which is our despair is our comfort also, for if that be perfect we must become perfect; its perfection is the pledge of ours.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

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Psalm 119:96 German Bible

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Psalm 119:95
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