Psalm 128:5
Dr. Binney, in his day, made some commotion by his book on 'Making the Best of Both Worlds.' And yet he did but write in the line of all Old Testament teaching; in accordance with the teaching of our Divine Lord, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you;" and after the firm declaration of St. Paul, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." We ought to have outlived all possibility of misapprehending such teaching; and yet there are still among us those who see in religion only a safety for the world to come, which permits indifference to the interests of the present. "Living on high" is too often confused with "living on yonder." And it is too readily forgotten that this world is just as truly, and just as much, God's world as any other world can be. The devil talked about giving the world to Jesus; but a good many people besides the devil have offered to give what never was and never will be theirs. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the round world, and they that dwell therein."

I. THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF DEFERRED BLESSING. It must be distinctly recognized that the immediate connection between happiness and piety is never guaranteed. The connection is, but the immediacy is not. If man was beyond the need of moral training, happiness and piety might have no break between them. But man has to learn to trust. It is a lesson that is only learned in the school of deferred hope.

II. THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF BESTOWED BLESSINGS. For, as a rule, the good man is happy in his goodness, and happy through his goodness. And that sign of Divine favor tends to nourish and culture humility and thankfulness. In true-minded persons to win may be a peril by nourishing pride; but to receive never is a peril, for it nourishes humility. The wonder of the grateful man is the blessing of which he is the recipient. So God works his work of grace by his benedictions.

III. THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF PROMISED BLESSINGS. If the present is bright, we look up rather than on. If the present is dark, we look on rather than up. We do not always want the future; it is sufficiently guaranteed by God's grace in the present. But there are times of bodily frailty and trying circumstance, when hope dies down in the soul. Then it is we need the cheer of visions of the city of everlasting good, and love, and life. - R.T.







The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion.
1. What measure soever of things temporal the Lord shall give to the man that feareth Him, He reserveth unto him all the promises of righteousness and life which the Lord's Word holdeth forth to the Church, and of those he shall be sure.

2. The godly man shall not want succession, if God see it good for him, or if not children of his body, yet followers of his faith and footsteps in piety, whom he hath been instrumental to convert.

3. Whatsoever estate the Church of God be in during the godly man's life-time, he shall behold in the mirror of the Lord's Word, and in the sensible feeling of his own experience, he shall perceive and take up the blessed condition of the true Church of God, and rejoice therein all his days.

(D. Dickson.)

And thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. —
Is Christianity a good thing for man? Has it fulfilled worthy ideals? Does it give a satisfying revelation of God? Is it pitilessly opposed to all fresh light which comes from nature and science? Would the world get on as well or better without it?

I. THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM IS SEEN IN THAT IT SPEAKS GOOD OF MAN. The Christian revelation stands supreme in the honour, worth, and dignity it puts on man; he is sacred from the first, as having been made in the Divine image; sacred, so that even in solitude, where he can do no harm to others, he can sin against himself, by sullying the Divine image in his soul. Take away the Christian ideal, and human life becomes altogether a different thing in kind!— an altogether inferior thing, a mean thing enough, something which may be made more or less civilized, more or less worth living, but bereft of loftiness and grandeur. The Gospel alone in this great universe reveals man to himself, and in doing that it transfigures all else. Walking in the light of Christ, under the influence of His Cross and under the inspiration of His Spirit, life has a noble purpose, sorrow a sweet sanctity, suffering a sublime consolation, and death itself is a stingless transition to glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life.

II. THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM IS SEEN IN THAT IT IS A PRESENT GOOD. It is unfair to the Gospel to represent it as a system of future felicity, to be purchased at the surrender of present good, as profitable only for the life that is to come. The Christian morality has its seat within the soul. It is not a righteousness built up from without, but makes the good man out of the good treasures of the heart. Christianity rests alike its morality and its religion on the answering convictions of the great soul within us. Because we have the truth within us we can hear and know God's voice. Thus, too, the Christian nations have had a morality of the Home, as well as of the State; a morality that has condemned slavery, even when it was sleek and profitable; a morality that has made divorce an evil; a morality that has made the thought of evil and the imagination of vice guilt before God. The Gospel has been tested, lived, and tried enough to make us say, "Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life."

III. THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM IS SEEN IN THAT IT IS THE HIGHEST GOOD. Its ideal of good is not mere outward prosperity and pleasure. It can sacrifice these. It can feel a thrill of higher joy, as these, if needs be, are trampled under feet. It can bring a deep delight even when the crown of thorns is on the temple, and when the sword of human power is at the heart. We can get no joy of heroism, in the mere utilities and expediencies of earthly life. The highest good may be to drain the cup of sorrow; the highest good may he in bearing a cruel cross. Whether you think of the good of Jerusalem as meaning a restful conscience, a life at peace with God, or a joyful hope of immortality, it is the higher good, and could the sainted heroes and martyrs of old time come back to earth from the felicities of heaven, they would choose the good of Jerusalem to all other good which this world could offer them, did it exclude conscience and Christ.

IV. THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM IS SEEN IN THAT IT IS A UNIQUE GOOD. None can present aught like it to us, in type or kind. It stands alone. We cannot, I know, exactly analyze the morality, the honour, the civil integrity, the home fidelity, the philanthropic charity, the moral earnestness of English life; something may come from custom, something from native instinct, something from public estimate, but he must be impervious to truth who does not acknowledge how very much we owe to what my subject means by Jerusalem. There is a might of influence at work in it which has no other fountain so high, no other channel so deep, no other onward flow so vital and Divine.

V. THE GOOD OF JERUSALEM IS SEEN IN THAT IT IS A PROSPECTIVE GOOD. All that goes to make a saintly character here, goes to make heaven there! The innumerable array of saints, who walk in white, surround us, like the snow-clad mountains around Jerusalem, and with them we look to enjoy through eternal ages the good of Jerusalem all the days of our life, where there are pleasures for evermore.

(W. M. Statham.)

In every age the practice of religion and virtue has appeared to all prudent inquirers the likeliest and surest way to avoid the miseries of life, and secure the enjoyments of it. The first advantage which the psalmist promises to the pious comprehends in general health and success in their affairs (ver. 2). The next is a particular blessing of the nearest concern; the possession of domestic and conjugal felicity in the midst of a large and well-ordered family (ver. 3). But still, as good persons can never thoroughly relish their own private welfare, if the community suffers at the same time, or calamities are likely to befall it soon, an assurance is given them in the last place that their exemplary obedience to the laws of God will, through His mercy, contribute to their being witnesses of the prosperity, both of their country and their descendants, during a long course of years (vers. 5, 6). In which concluding part of this most pleasing view even of the present condition of religious and virtuous persons, we have it signified to us —

I. THAT A LARGE PORTION OF THEIR HAPPINESS CONSISTS IN THE FLOURISHING STATE OF THEIR COUNTRY. Everything hath an influence on our enjoyments, in proportion to the share which it hath in our affections. And affection to the public never fails to be remarkably strong in worthy breasts. It shows a rightness and greatness of mind, capable of being affected by a common interest: it shows the most amiable of virtues, love, towards a large part of our fellow-creatures, and implies nothing contrary towards the rest. For the real good of every people in the world is compatible with the real good of every other. To rule and to oppress is no good to any: and peace and liberty and friendly intercourse for mutual convenience all the nations of the earth may enjoy at once.

II. THAT THE HAPPINESS ACCRUING TO GOOD MEN FROM THE FLOURISHING STATE OF THEIR COUNTRY IS GREATLY INCREASED BY THE PROSPECT THAT THEIR OWN POSTERITY WILL CONTINUE TO FLOURISH WITH IT. How strongly must such a hope induce them to secure by good example and instruction this highest honour and blessedness to such as are to inherit their dignities! And how warm a return of most affectionate gratitude will they merit and receive from mankind, if virtue and liberty shall not only be supported by them in the present age, but transmitted to succeeding ones, by their pious care of forming their progeny to the knowledge and the love of public good! The prospect only of "children's children" would have little joy in it without that of "peace upon Israel": without a reasonable expectation of their contributing to the true glory of the family, from which they spring, and the true happiness of the nation over which they are to preside. But when due provision is made for this, both sovereign and people may take up the words of the psalmist (Psalm 127:4, 5).

III. THAT BOTH DEPEND ON THE DIVINE BENEDICTION (Psalm 127:1, 2, 4). It is not indeed possible for us in many cases to discern particularly in what manner the providence of God conducts things: but we may plainly discern, in general, that as the whole course of nature is nothing else than the free appointment which He hath been pleased to make; as the motions of the inanimate world proceed from those which He originally impressed upon it; and all the thoughts and actions of intelligent beings are doubtless absolutely subject to the influence of their Maker; since we see they are greatly subject, and often when they perceive it not, to that of their fellow-creatures; it must be in His power by various ways — perhaps the more effectual for being unknown — to dispose of everything so as may best answer His wise purposes of mercy or correction. And as He evidently can do this, it is likewise evidently worthy of Him to do it; for the highest of His titles is that of the moral governor of the universe; and therefore we may firmly believe the Scripture assuring us that He doth it in fact; that He makes all things work together for good to them that love Him, and curses the very blessings of those who love Him not.

(T. Seeker.)

The good of Jerusalem was an universal benefit; and it is a source of rejoicing to every believer. His interest is identified with the welfare of the Church; and God blesses him when He blesses Zion. Is it not so? There is no security for national peace, no security for domestic happiness, except through the diffusion of that truth of which the Church is the depositary. Wherever Christianity appears, she waves the olive-branch to the shouting nations, and elevates those affections which make home the scene of quiet, enduring bliss. Mankind are all lying under the curse of a broken law; and it is the belief of the Gospel alone which reconciles man to God, delivers him from the plague of his own heart, makes him holy and useful on earth, and prepares him for the blissful activity of heaven. These things being so, the Christian is delighted to see the Church raised up from the dust, and enlivened with the presence of the life-giving Spirit. A burden is taken off his mind when he beholds a breach made in some huge wall of heathenism or Mohammedanism, through which the minister of Christ may enter, unfurl the banner of redemption, and scatter abroad those leaves of the tree of life which are for the healing of the nations. He watches with intense interest the operations of Divine providence, and loves to trace the majestic steps of Him who is making all things subservient to His own glory and to the salvation of the world. For this he labours, and for this he prays. His work sends him to his prayers, and his prayers send him to his work.

(N. McMichael.)

And peace upon Israel.
O happy land, where Home and Church and State are one system of which the common lifeblood is religion! No other nation thrives like that in which piety is pure and prosperous. Through one rejoicing citizen or household God makes many happy; and the good man is blessed in the blessedness he diffuses. It is a circle of blessing, the Lord, the saint, and the neighbour; closet prayer, family worship and temple service; the Home, the Church and the State. Like the cloud falling upon the earth, the river running to the sea, and the ocean rising to the sky, it is a perpetual round of fertility, beauty and thanksgiving, regarded with complacence by the radiant Artificer enthroned in the heavens. All goes on together. It is not the Church blest now, the government next, and then the citizen, but each supporting and supported by the rest, and all depending on God's unfailing blessing. The Christian country is His habitation, His vine is the branching Church, and His olive-plants are God-fearing people. The profitableness of walking in the ways of the Lord is not the brightness of a transient summer. No winter comes to chill the felicity, and check its circulation. "Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life." Those days shall not be few. Nothing so surely as holy wisdom and understanding prolongs life. It is interesting to see some aged statesman toiling for the public good, though he must soon leave all the work to others. A more beautiful and useful sight is a Christian still cheerfully praying and labouring for the Church's and the country's welfare as he draws near the grave. Work on, old pilgrim. Thou mayest not live to enjoy the results of philanthropic movements in which thou art taking part. The longest life closes at last; and prosperous Israel outlives the happy Israelite. Do not, therefore, fret. Thy reward will follow. The true Israelite survives the outward Israel. The land thou lovest and servest is a type of the better land which thou shalt shortly enter. According to ancient thought, not only the life that now is, but that which is to come, is indicated in the double sentence, "Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee." The Source of thy blessedness will not dry up, but gush forth more plentifully in the valley of shadows. The Spring of thy joys will more nearly reveal Himself in death. After ages and ages, more than ages will remain to thee of perfect felicity. Never declining, ever advancing, thy bliss will be eternal. For ever and ever "blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways." Religion on earth is the seed in the ground; its mighty growth is in heaven.

(E. J. Robinson.).

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth.
Homilist.
I. AS SUFFERING UNDER THE HAND OF WICKED PERSECUTION. The persecution here referred to was —

1. Of early commencement (ver. 1). It is ever so; the persecutions of godly men begin in this life in the very youthhood of their religion.

2. Frequent in its occurrence.

3. Violent in its character (ver. 3). (Isaiah 51:23; Micah 3:12.) This language finds its application in —

(1)Christ.

(2)His Church.

II. AS ENGAGING THE MERCIFUL INTERPOSITION OF HEAVEN (ver. 4).

1. He is engaged in sustaining them. The bush burned on, but was not consumed. The branches were torn up, but the roots struck deeper. Not all the enemies of Christ "prevailed" against Him. Heaven always sustains the good.

2. He is engaged in delivering them. The plough is fastened by "cords" to the yoke of the oxen, and they draw its tearing iron through the ground. If you would stop the plough you must cut the "cords." This is the figure, God in righteousness will one day stop the plough of persecution, He will deliver His people out of all their troubles.

III. AS RISING TRIUMPHANTLY OVER ALL THEIR ENEMIES (vers. 5-8). Persecutors will be utterly routed, driven back with burning shame, with panic dread. This was the case with Pharaoh, Sennacherib, with Haman, Herod; aye, with persecutors in every age. "I will break your church in pieces with a hammer, if you do not obey me," said a French monarch to a Protestant pastor. Calm and dignified was the reply: "This anvil has broken many a hammer."

(Homilist.)

The life of the Lord Jesus Christ is the picture of the life of His people. "As He was," says Paul, "so are we also in this world." This is so remarkably true that, in the Psalms, we sometimes can hardly tell whether the writer is describing himself or the Lord Jesus. Shall the disciple be above his Master,? Shall the servant be above his Lord? If they have persecuted Him, they will also persecute us.

I. First notice, concerning Israel's affliction, WHENCE IT CAME: "Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth." Who was it that afflicted Israel? The text says, "they." And why is the word "they" used? Because to enter into particulars would rather obscure the sense than impress anything upon the memory. "They." I hardly like to think of who they are who, in many cases, have afflicted God's true servants; but it is still true that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household." A woman is just brought to Christ, and her greatest trouble comes from him whom she loves best. of all living mortals; her husband becomes her terror. Outside, in the world, the Christian man frequently meets with those who would rejoice to see him halt, who try to make faults where there are none, and exaggerate little mistakes into great crimes. He is a pilgrim through the midst of Vanity Fair whom the traders there cannot understand. In his case, that ancient word is again fulfilled (Jeremiah 12:9).

II. HOW DOES THIS PERSECUTION COME? The psalm says, "Many a time"; that means very often. So, then, you who are faithful to God must expect that you will frequently be assailed.

III. WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ALL THIS PERSECUTION? There are two reasons; and the first is the hatred of the serpent and his seed. There are two things that are inconceivable in length and breadth. The first is the love of God to His people, which is altogether without limit; and the next is, the hatred of the devil, which is and must be finite, for he is only a creature; but, still, it is as great as it possibly can be. Still, there is a higher reason for the persecution of the saints. The second reason is because God permits it. Why does He permit it? Well, very often for your safety. The Church of God has often been preserved by persecution; she was never purer, she was never truer, and she never lived nearer to God and more like her Saviour, than when she was persecuted. Next, it is for our trial and testing, to separate the precious from the vile. Satan, in persecuting the saints, is simply a scullion in Christ's kitchen, cleansing His pots and pans; they never are so bright as when he scours them, and it is a scouring with a vengeance. Yet, in that way, ha separates, or God through him separates, between the precious and the vile.

IV. THE BLESSINGS WHICH COME TO THE TRIED CHILDREN OF GOD THROUGH THEIR TROUBLES. I do so enjoy the reading of that part of the psalm where it says, "But they have not prevailed against me." You see a troop of horsemen riding into the very midst of the battle, and you lose sight of them for a moment amidst the dust and smoke; but out of the middle of that cloud you hear the brave captain's cry, "They have not prevailed against me." You see that little band advancing into a yet more crowded host, all glaring upon them like wolves. Surely they will be cut to pieces now; but in the very centre of the struggling mass you see the banner still waving, and again comes the cry, "They have not prevailed against me." That is, in brief, the story of the Church of Christ, and that shall be the story of every man who puts his trust in God; he shall have to say, at the close of every trouble, — aye, and even in the midst of it, — "They have not prevailed against me." What is the reason why the enemy cannot prevail against the saints? "The Lord is righteous." He may delay the overthrow of His people's foes; but He will in the end take their part, and display His almighty power. For the present, He is patient; He bears long with the ungodly; but He will not always do so. The fact that "the Lord is righteous" is the pledge that the wicked shall not prevail over His saints. Then notice the next sentence: "He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked." Literally, "He hath cut the traces of the wicked." They are ploughing, you see; and, in the East, the oxen are fastened to the plough by a long cord. What does God do in the middle of their ploughing? There are the bullocks, and there is the plough; but God has cut the harness; and how wonderfully He has sometimes cut the harness of the persecutors of His people! Look at the way He did this for our poor hunted brethren in Piedmont. They were likely every one of them to be crushed; and, apparently, there was nobody to protect them. The Duke of Savoy, whose subjects they were, had given them up to be destroyed. The next country was France, and the King of France was a Roman Catholic, and as eager for their destruction as was the Duke. But, one day, Oliver Cromwell sent for the French ambassador, and said to him, "Tell your master to order the Duke of Savoy to leave off persecuting my brethren in Piedmont, or he shall hear from me about the matter." "Sire," said the ambassador, "they are not the subjects of the King of France; he has nothing to do with them. The Duke of Savoy is an independent prince; we cannot interfere with him." "I do not care for that," replied Cromwell; "I will hold your king answerable if he does not stop the Duke of Savoy from persecuting the Piedmontese." And they knew that "Old Nell" meant what he said; so, somehow, the King of France managed to interfere with that precious independent prince, and told him that he had better cease his persecutions, for, if he did not, Oliver Cromwell would take up the quarrel.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE AFFLICTIONS AND TRIUMPHS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. Scarcely was the Church organized, after our Divine Redeemer's ascension into heaven, when she was assailed by three descriptions of enemies, either all at once, or consecutively, viz. the prejudices of authority and human wisdom, — the violence of persecution, — and the errors and heresies of false teachers. In all these respects the Church has been afflicted from her youth, yet her enemies have not prevailed against her.

II. THE IMPRESSIONS WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE AFFLICTIONS AND TRIUMPHS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD OUGHT TO PRODUCE UPON OUR MINDS.

1. In the Church, always afflicted and persecuted, yet still subsisting, — like the bush, burning but unconsumed, — behold a confirmation of our faith, and an evident demonstration that the religion of Jesus Christ is from God.

2. Further, the conformity of our own reformed Church, as well as of all the other orthodox Protestant Churches, with the primitive Christian Church, in her afflictions and triumphs, furnishes us with an irrefragable proof of the truth of the holy religion which they and we profess.

III. What, now, are the PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS which we may derive from the important topics which we have been considering?

1. Since God has, in His mercy, called us out of papal darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel, let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; seeing that it is based, not upon unauthorized human traditions, but upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; — the great and fundamental object of all the predictions of the prophets, and of the preaching and writings of the holy apostles.

2. Let us devoutly bless the Father of Mercies, who remembered the Church of Christ in her low estate, for His mercy endureth for ever; and through whose propitious aid, and providential interpositions, the Reformation was accomplished, and our civil and religious liberties have been secured and transmitted to us.

3. Let us pity and pray for those nations of the earth who are yet under the yoke of papal dominion and superstition, — would that I could say, are groaning under it.

4. Above all, since the Almighty, when lie bestows extraordinary favours upon man, expects from him a proportionate return of gratitude, let us remember the solemn obligations under which we are individually laid, as Protestant Christians, to exhibit a corresponding excellence of Christian character, as the necessary result of "a true and lively faith"; since we enjoy advantages and privileges which involve the possessors of them in no ordinary degree of moral responsibility.

(T. H. Horne, B. D.)

Care must be taken not to make too much account of the effect exercised by the great convulsions of nature on the moral condition of a people. The need of this precaution is well shown by the social history of Iceland. This country has for the thousand years of its history been subjected to imminent peril from the instability of the earth as well as from the inhospitable nature of its climate. In almost every century of the world's history famine caused by the accidents of the earth and air has menaced the life of the population. Many successive volcanic outbreaks, attended by serious earthquakes, have convulsed this island, and yet amid these mishaps the people have maintained the highest measure of social order in any state of which we have a history. The Icelanders have had the moral strength to rise superior to such afflictions. In this state, as in certain individuals, chastise-merit which would have destroyed weaker natures served to affirm the vigour of the strong people.

(Shaler: "Aspects of the Earth.")

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