Psalm 12:3
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.







The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.
The language of agitators is indicated in this text, of men who think to carry everything by free speech, a free press, and a free pulpit. God forbid that we should ever see the day when either of these three great agencies for enlightening, exciting, and directing human thought shall not be free. However much they may be abused, they are still the chief glory of a country. It is not to be denied, however, that they are abused. Instead of being used only for the defence of truth and right, they are often prostituted to stirring up the most fearful passions that can agitate the human breast; to array brother against brother, citizen against citizen, section against section, and Church against Church. You may remonstrate with the men so engaged, but the only answer you can obtain from them is likely to be, "With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" They act as if freedom of speech implied the right to say whatever fancy may dictate, where it may dictate, when it may dictate, and as it may dictate. Hence the recklessness with which not only opinions, but characters and motives, are assailed. The right of free discussion is often indulged by its advocates, till they seem to have forgotten that men have any other rights. Nor is this lawlessness of tongue confined to partisan leaders, and to those in authority; it pervades and embitters private life. We meet, in every walk of society, persons who pride themselves on their fearlessness of speech, and who, in sheer wantonness, inflict wounds upon the characters and feelings of others that time can never heal.

(David Caldwell, A. M.)

The Book of Symbols.
The philosopher Bion, being asked what animal he thought the most hurtful, replied, "That of wild creatures a tyrant, and of tame ones a flatterer." The flatterer is the most dangerous enemy we can have. Raleigh, himself a courtier, and therefore initiated into the whole art of flattery, who discovered in his own career and fate its dangerous and deceptive power, its deep artifice and deeper falsehood, says, "A flatterer is said to be a beast that biteth smiling. But it is hard to know them from friends — they are so obsequious and full of protestations; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend."

(The Book of Symbols.)

Our lips are our own
Thoughts, words, actions: these are the three activities in which our life is spent. The first and the last, as representing the inner and the outer life, are constant topics of religious teaching; but perhaps words, on account of their ambiguous character, as midway between thought and actions, have not received equal attention. To the thoughtless a word appears the most trivial of all things; what is it but a breath carried away on the air to be immediately extinguished? Yet, in truth, this activity is one of the great sides of life, in which we may either honour or dishonour God, in which we must display our own worth or unworth, and for which we shall at the last be either approved or rejected. Our conversation, indeed, is even more than this: it is a kind of index or epitome of our whole life; what we are in it, the same shall we be found to be in every other respect. It is to this effect that St. James says, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body": and our Lord still more solemnly, "By thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned, as if nothing else required to be considered even at the final tribunal. Conversation is a daily, an hourly thing; it is continued from week's end to week's end, and from year's end to year's end; it goes on throughout life, from the time when the tongue of the child learns to babble the first words till the time when the old man eloquent is celebrating the days when he was young. It takes place in the house and by the way, where two or three are met together, and where crowds exchange their fleeting salutations. It passes between friend and friend, and between friend and foe, between neighbours and between strangers. There is no limit to the subjects which it may embrace. It takes in both the objects which present themselves to our observation in the places where we live, and those which are brought us by report from a distance. It ranges over the world invisible of thoughts and feelings, as well as the visible world of things and men. It moves easily from topic to topic, and may in an hour traverse a hundred subjects, passing from land to land in space, and from age to age in time. If the amount of our conversation could be represented to us visually it would astonish us. If it were printed, for instance, how many pages would an average talker fill in a single day? In a year it would amount to as many volumes as the collected works of a great author. In a lifetime it would fill a library. The mere bulk of this activity shows how momentous it is. But there are weightier considerations than this. Conversation is a forth-putting of the strength of the soul to produce an effect. It may be an effort of stupendous strength, or it may have no more force than the fall of a feather; for conversation, as an instrument of the mind, may be compared to those steam-hammers which can be worked either with such force as to grind an iron bar to powder, or with such gentleness as only to chip the shell of an egg. But whether the effort be great or small, that which it always aims at is an impression on another mind. Conversation is not the affair of one person, but always of, at least, two. It is perhaps the most direct and powerful means we have of influencing our fellow men. I put forth my hand and lay it on my neighbour's person; but in so doing I am not touching him so closely as if I speak a sentence in his hearing. In the one case only our bodies touch; but in the other our souls touch. Conversation is the touching of souls. Souls never touch each other except for weal or woe. Every touch leaves a mark, which may be either a black mark or a point of splendour. No doubt the impressions made by conversation are generally minute. But all the impressions which we make in this way on different persons, when added together, amount to a great influence; and to those who for years are constantly hearing us speak we cannot but be doing much good or harm. One snow-flake is nothing; it melts away on the outstretched hand in a moment; but, flake by flake, the snow accumulates till it is the only thing visible in the landscape, and even boughs of the oak crack beneath its weight. And such is the cumulative influence of the conversation of a lifetime.

(James Stalker, D. D.)

Who is Lord over us?
When we mistake our proprietorship we cease to be religious, and we give up the possibility of being religious. What is the first lesson in true Christian religion? The first lesson is that we are not our own, have no right, title, or claim to ourselves; we are branded; we have the burnt in mark upon us that we belong to Christ Jesus, that we are blood bought, that we are not our own; we have not a moment of time, not a single thought, energy, wish, will, desire, that is our own. That is the ideal Christianity, the very purpose and consummation of Christ's priesthood, the tree meaning — that is, the large and complete meaning — of self-denial, saying No when anything within us claims to have an existence or right of its own. So long as we think that our lips are our own we shall speak what we please; when we begin to learn that our lips are not our own, nor our hands, nor feet, nor head, nor heart, we shall have but one question: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? Tell me, and give me strength to do it." That will be the day of jubilee, the morning of coronation.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

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