Psalm 12:1
This psalm has no indication of the time in which it was written. At whatever time, however, it may have been penned, there is no doubt about the general features of the age here represented. It was one in which good men were becoming more and more rare, in which the wicked abounded, and took occasion from the numerical inferiority of the righteous to indulge in haughty and vain talk against them and against God. The psalmist looks with concern and distress upon this state of things, and sends up a piercing cry to God to arise and make his glory known. We have in the psalm three lines of thought fierce trials; fervent prayer; faithful promise.

I. FIERCE TRIALS. They are not personal ones merely; they are such as would be felt mainly by those of God's people who, possessed of a holy yearning for the prosperity of his cause and the honour of his Name, grieved more acutely over the degeneracy of their age than over any private or family sorrow. There were six features of society at the time when this psalm was written.

1. The paucity of good and faithful men (ver. 2).

2. Wicked men being in power (ver. 8).

3. The righteous being oppressed (ver. 5).

4. Falsehood, i.e. faithlessness.

5. Pride.

6. Vain-glorious boasting and self-assertion.

When wickedness gets the upper hand in these ways, times are hard indeed for good and faithful men. In such times Elijah, Jeremiah, and others lived, and wept, and moaned, and prayed. Many a prophet of the Lord has had to look upon such a state of things, when all day long he stretched out his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people. Note:

1. This description of the degeneracy of the writer's age is not a Divine record of the state of the world as a whole. The psalm is made up of words of man to God, not of words of God to man.

2. Still less is the psalm to be regarded as stating or implying that the world as a whole is always getting worse and worse. Let the student take the psalm simply for what it professes to be - a believer's moan over the corruptions of his age - and he will find it far more richly helpful and suggestive than on any forced hypothesis.

3. The special ills of any age may well press on the heart of a believer; yea, they will do so, if a becoming Christian public spirit is cherished by him.

4. There are times when Christian men have to sigh and cry, owing to the abominations of the social life around them; and when Faber's touching words are true -

"He hides himself so wondrously,
As if there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad."

5. And trials not less severe are felt when there is a widespread defection from the faith once delivered to the saints, and when men are calling for a "religion without God;" and are even, in some cases, forsaking Christianity for Mohammedanism or Buddhism. Through such trials believers are passing now (A.D. 1894). At such times they must resort to -

II. FERVENT PRAYER. The psalmist gives expression to the conviction that nothing but the immediate and powerful interposition of God will meet the crisis (cf. Isaiah 64:1). In what way this Divine aid shall be vouchsafed it is not for the praying man to say. He must leave that with God, content to have laid the case before him. The answer may come in the form of terrible providential judgments, or in the sending forth of a new band of powerful witnesses to contend with the adversaries, or in a widespread work of grace and of spiritual quickening power. All these methods are hinted at in Scripture, and witnessed to by the history of the Church. Note: Such prayers as this agonizing "Help, Lord!" while they are the outcome of intense concern, are yet not cries of hopeless despair. True, our help is only in God; but it is there, and an all-sufficient help it will prove to be - as to time, method, measure, and effect. In every age the saints of God have thus betaken themselves to him, and. never in vain. For ever have they proved the -

III. FAITHFUL PROMISE.

1. The contents of the promise are given in ver. 5.

2. The value of the promise, as proved and tried, is specified in ver. 6. There is not an atom of dross in any of the promises of God - all are pure gold.

3. Having these promises, the believer can calmly declare the issue in the full assurance of faith.

(1) The false men and proud boasters shall be cut off (ver. 3).

(2) The Divine preserving guard will keep the righteous from being sucked into the vortex of corruption (ver. 7).

Note: The Christian teacher will feel bound to remember that in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the gift of the Spirit, and in all the resulting activities of the Christian Church, the Lord has put forces in operation for the rectification of social wrongs, more effective than any of which the psalmist dreamt, and that these forces have only to be given time to work, and "all things will become new." The disclosures to this effect in the Book of the Apocalypse are an abiding source of comfort to God's people in the worst of times. - C.







I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
1. By obeying the commands of Scripture we learn that these commands really come from God; by trying we make proof; by doing we come to know. Now, how comes this to pass? It happens in several ways.(1) The Bible tells us to be meek, humble, single-hearted, and teachable. Now, these are qualities of mind necessary for arriving at the truth in any subject, and in religious matters as well as others. On the other hand, impatient, proud, self-confident, obstinate men, are generally wrong in the opinions they form of persons and things. Prejudice and self-conceit blind the eyes and mislead the judgment, whatever be the subject inquired into.(2) Those who are trained carefully according to the precepts of Scripture gain an elevation, a delicacy, refinement, and sanctity of mind, which is most necessary for judging fairly of the truth of Scripture. The pure in heart shall see God; whereas the proud provoke His anger, and the carnal are His abhorrence.(3) Those who try to obey God will evidently gain a knowledge of themselves at least; and this is the first and principal step towards knowing God.

2. The Bible, then, seems to say, "God is not a hard master to require belief, without affording grounds for believing; only follow your own sense of right, and you will gain from that very obedience to your Maker, which natural conscience enjoins, a conviction of the truth and power of that Redeemer whom a supernatural message has revealed; do but examine your thoughts and doings; do but attempt what you know to be God's will, and you will most assuredly be led on into all the truth: you will recognize the force, meaning, and awful graciousness of the Gospel Creed; you will bear witness to the truth of one doctrine, by your own past experience of yourselves; of another, by seeing that it is suited to your necessity; of a third, by finding it fulfilled upon your obeying it. As the prophet says (Malachi 3:10).

(J. H. Newman, B. D.)

Homilist.
I. THE POWER OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE.

II. THE INFERIORITY OF MERE INTELLECTUAL ATTAINMENTS. The meanest student of Scripture is wiser than the most learned professor of scientific knowledge. He is wiser —

1. Scientifically. Boasted science is all chaff; after all, it comes back to the Scripture.

2. Morally. No system of ethics is perfect but the Scripture system.

3. Practically. No other writers can tell of what is beyond and what is the course to be pursued in relation thereto.

III. THE POWER AVAILABLE, TO ALL. Meditation on God's testimonies. Meditation includes —

1. Reading. This is the first step.

2. Digesting. Dwelling on, feeding upon, making them part of our intellectual selves.

3. Carrying out in action. The real test of all consists in development and the outward proof of the inward principle.

(Homilist.)

Homilist.
I. MEDITATION ON THE DIVINE. It is by meditation alone that men become philosophers and artists; by it they penetrate the veil of phenomena, descry and grasp the eternal principles that govern the universe. By it alone we can get mental nourishment. From the impressions that are made upon us, the observations we make, and the thoughts that flash through us from the works we read. It is the digestive faculty of the soul. As the best food taken into the stomach is not only useless, but injurious to the system if not digested, so the richest information rather encumbers than strengthens the soul if not reflected upon. But the subject of meditation must be Divine in order to reach the highest wisdom. "Thy testimonies." Meditations upon human history, speculation, or enterprise, will conduct to a certain kind of wisdom, but not to the highest wisdom — the wisdom that cometh from on high.

II. PRACTISING the Divine. "I keep Thy precepts." it is only as a man translates his ideas into actions that they become part of himself. The greatest ideas of God are comparatively worthless unless embodied in life. In temporal matters the highest philosophy helps on the world just as its theories are reduced to practice. "Genuine work alone," says Carlyle, "what thou workest faithfully, that is eternal as the Almighty Founder and World Builder Himself."

(Homilist.)

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