Psalm 131:1
That which the psalmist here affirms of himself is undoubtedly the spiritual condition which is nearest to heaven that here on earth we can know.


1. Pride of heart is absent from it. "My heart is not haughty." We may say this to our fellow-men, and deceive them by a show of humility; but it is quite another thing to affirm this, as is here done, before the Lord, "to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hid" Happy are we if before him we can say this. For pride is destructive of all real happiness: it is continually meeting with rebuffs; nothing people like so much as to take down the man who is haughty of heart. To humiliate him is the keenest delight. If the devil has planted pride in all men's hearts, as he has, God has so ordered the world that every man's hand shall be against such pride.

2. It is free from ambition. "Nor mine eyes lofty." The man's eyes are not forever fixed on and hankering after something higher up in the world than it has yet reached. Blessed is the man who is content with the lot God hath ordered for him, and is solicitous only to be found faithful there.

3. And from presumption. "Neither do I exercise myself," etc. (ver. 1). But how many there are who are forever doing that which the psalmist here disclaims! David's brothers accused him of this, though wrongly, and blamed him for leaving his sheep to come to the battle-field. But though David was innocent of such fault, many are guilty of it. They want to know all mysteries, to be able to explain all that they see around them in God's providence, and all that they meet with in the Scriptures: they want to undertake work which is beyond them, whilst that which is within their power they refuse. They could sweep a crossing, but they want to rule a kingdom; they could manage the one talent, but because they have not the five, the one they have they bury, to their infinite shame and loss.

II. HE TELLS US WHAT IT IS. To have one's soul "as a child that is weaned from its mother." Therefore:

1. It is separation from what it once loved. It is a terrible time for the child when this separation has to be made: the metaphor is as touching and beautiful as it is powerfully expressive. And the soul knows how it once loved the world, not so much, perhaps, the evil things of the world as those that were not evil; but it has come to give them all up, and to be content with what the Lord orders for him. Yet morels it separated from the sinful ways of the world. Once it loved them, but that time is past.

2. And it is not only separated from them, but has ceased to desire them. The child is happy and at rest, though no longer allowed that in which it once so delighted. The very desire is gone.

3. And this is not through any disappointment, chagrin, or disgust with the world. Some men rush from the world in anger because of the way it has treated them. But this is not the motive here: such are wrenched from the world rather than weaned from it.

4. Nor either is it the relinquishment which comes from satiety with the world's pleasures; - from having had so much that the soul has come to care no more for it, its sweets clog and nauseate rather than give pleasure.

5. Nor from want of capacity to enjoy what the world has to offer. But it is a willing abandonment of that which once it delighted in - the world's pleasures, profits, honors, comforts, as well as its more questionable belongings.


1. It was not self-produced. No child ever weaned itself.

2. It has been the Lord's work. By his Holy Spirit and his providence he has wrought this wondrous change. Hence we have come to find that what once delighted us so much fails to do so now. The world has become embittered to our taste. Our God has separated us from what we loved and clung to; there was no chance of our voluntarily giving it up, and so God took it away. And he has given us what is better far than that which we have lost (cf. Psalm 63.). Higher, purer joys are ours. Also he has blessed our own endeavors after self-denial and renunciation; he has "worked in us to will and to do,' etc.

3. And the result is most blessed. The calm quiet and stillness of the soul; its freedom from fret; its heavenly peace.

IV. WHAT THIS EXPERIENCE LEADS TO. A delight in God, and a conviction of his love and faithfulness, which make him call upon all his countrymen to hope in the Lord. When the soul has this experience, it cannot but commend the Lord to others. It must bear its testimony. - S.C.

Lord, my heart is not haughty.

1. Freedom from superciliousness.

2. Freedom from restlessness.

3. Freedom from worldliness.


1. To have the soul fixed on the supremely desirable for ever.

2. To have the soul fixed on the attainable for ever. Is the Lord desirable? Aye, supremely so. Is He attainable? Undoubtedly. He comes within the reach of all that hunger and thirst after Him.

(David Thomas, D. D.)

In this brief psalm there are three different states of mind described. The first is humility: the psalmist disclaims for himself all pride and ambition (ver. 1) The second is tranquillity. The psalmist claimed for himself that he had attained to complete spiritual quiet, to perfect rest of heart (ver. 2). And the last state of mind is that of immortal hopefulness, sustained in vigour by the thought of the wisdom and goodness of the Lord (ver. 3). The psalmist claims for himself that he has attained that which in other psalms he longed for, and prayed for, and chided himself because he could not get. In another psalm he exhorts himself: "Rest in the Lord," etc. In another he chides his wandering spirit for restlessness, and says, "Return unto thy rest," etc. And what in other psalms he strives after and prays for, in this psalm he has attained. Here is the fulfilment of the promise, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee." Let us now confine ourselves to his spiritual quietude; for, as we need the example of his lowliness to rebuke our pride, so we need his quiet to rebuke our disquiet and unrest. We have to do with three portions of time — the past, the present, and the future; with three sources of disquiets — the retrospect of sins past, the sins of the present, and the gloomy anticipations of the future. There is in every man's heart a silent fountain of disquiet and unrest. Sometimes the hand of remorse, sometimes the hand of dissatisfaction, and sometimes the hand of foreboding comes, and the fountain is opened and fills the spirit with its bitter waters. Nor is there any guarantee for our spiritual quiet, till we have found something to master remorse for the past, dissatisfaction with the present, and foreboding of evil for the future. First, we must get peace of conscience, an assurance of God's forgiving love. I believe that Christ bare my sins on the tree; when I rest on that fact my assurance of perfect and everlasting forgiveness, it is then that I am sprinkled with the blood of Christ and washed in the fountain. It is only this that we can rest on, only this that will smooth and silence our spirits. For the dissatisfaction that arises from the present, there is one remedy — to cultivate such a faith in the wisdom and goodness of God's providence as will make our submission to Him in affliction cheerful and comparatively easy. Meet all the calamities that come upon you in a right spirit, and say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight"; thus the troubled spirit is smoothed and silenced. Those fears that come from the anticipation of the future — how are they to be lulled? By cultivating the same faith in God. God is love to-day. God will be love to-morrow, and for evermore. God is wisdom to-day. He will be wisdom to-morrow, and the next day, and for evermore. God is king to-day, and God will be king to-morrow, and for ever.

(C. Vince.)

The compiler of the Songs of Degrees saw a connection between this psalm of David and the anonymous hymn preceding; for each of them contains the exhortation, "Let Israel hope in the Lord." He seems to have regarded that, and may himself have composed it, as a fit introduction to the present. The same spirit of patient trust and love breathes in them both; but in David's the situation appears to be more happy. Different stages in the career of the son of Jesse are pointed out as the occasion of the psalm. One is when Saul and his servants treated him as an aspirant to the crown. Not so, he seems here to say. The Lord knows that I am not traitorous and ambitious. If I fight, it is in self-defence, not for self-exaltation; and I would be content never to war at all. I am in the hands of Providence. Another time in his life selected, with some countenance in the fact that it is the theme of the next psalm, is when he brought up the ark to the new sanctuary on Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:21, 22). Equally well the psalm may agree with other situations in his history. Disclaiming pride, showing humility, and recommending hope in the Lord, it is a permanent song of Israel, suitable for all seasons. From the point of view of those for whom the Songs of Ascents were collected, a meaning of this psalm seems to be that, though brought back to their own land, yet the Israelites must not be a haughty and defiant people. Pride is a disease of the heart. David offers a sound heart to the Lord. "Lord, my heart is not haughty. In the same way he submits himself to the Physician in Psalm 139:23, 24. It is like Peter's appeal (John 21:17). Lowliness is recommended throughout the Bible in statements, precepts, and examples; and passages which show the danger of pride proclaim the blessedness of humility. Without it nothing is pleasing to God. Our incarnate Lord taught it by example, symbol, and speech (Matthew 18:1-6; Mark 10:13-16). Childlikeness is not childishness, but the halo of the saint, the likeness of the angel, the mind that was in Christ. A subdued and quiet spirit is serenity at home, equanimity in business, wisdom in learning, God's pursuing smile. The character of the weaned child before the Father of spirits should be retained in youth, through manhood, and into age, growing more and more in heavenly promise. Why should not the watchful soul, ransomed by the Son, endued with the Spirit, loved by the Father, be childlike to the end? O Wisdom of God, our Pattern and Saviour, whose love surpasses that of women, and on whom we more depend than the weaned child on his mother, we would listen to Thy guiding voice, cling to Thee with even and peaceful hearts, and be little children in Thy protecting arms (Psalm 18:27; Psalm 51:17; Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 22:4; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8; Matthew 11:29; Matthew 23:12; Luke 18:14; Romans 12:3, 10, 16; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5).

(E. J. Robinson.)

Nor mine eyes lofty.
Pride has its seat in the heart; but its principal expression is in the eye. The eye is the mirror of the soul; and from it mental and moral characteristics may be ascertained, with no small degree of precision. What a world of meaning is sometimes concentrated in a single glance! But of all the passions, pride is most clearly revealed in the eyes. There can scarcely be a mistake here. We are all familiar with a class of phrases which run in pairs. We speak of sin and misery; holiness and happiness; peace and prosperity; war and desolation. Among these may be numbered the proud heart and the haughty look. A proud look is one of the seven things which are an abomination unto the Lord. It is said of Him, "Thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks." And hence David makes the acknowledgment: Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that pride has no existence in my heart. Thou knowest that no pride flashes forth from mine eyes.

(N. McMichael.)

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or
1. The deep things of God should be approached by us with all lowliness of heart; and they should be studied, as it were. on our knees. There are mysteries in the Divine nature which cannot be understood (Job 11:7). An inscrutable darkness rests on all those points where the Divine and the human elements come into contact. The purpose or the foreknowledge of God: how can it be reconciled with our responsibility? How can the Eternal Spirit touch the springs of the heart, and move them at His pleasure, without destroying the moral freedom? How can the Divine and the human natures meet together without confusion, so as to form the one person of our adorable Redeemer? A loving humility is of more value here than theological science. If we would understand Divine things we must first love them, and place ourselves under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. One cannot admire enough the prayer of Anselm, a profound divine of our own country, in the eleventh century. "I do not seek, O Lord, to penetrate Thy depths. I by no means think my intellect equal to them: but I long to understand in some degree Thy truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe; but I believe, that I may understand."

2. Meanwhile, amidst this partial darkness, there are two topics of consolation.(1) On all matters connected with our salvation, whatever difficulties may exist in theory, there are none in practice.(2) What we know not now, we shall know hereafter.

(N. McMichael.)

The text carries us into the region of thought. It recognizes the responsibility of thinking. It presupposes the possibility of choosing and refusing in the entertainment of subjects. It implies that there are wholesome topics of thought and unwholesome; and that a man is just as much bound to discriminate in the things he thinks of as in the employment of his hours, the formation of his habits, or the selection of his friends. Most men know perfectly well that they can control thought — that they can make "the porter watch" the comings in as well as the goings out — the entrances of thought as well as the exits of action. But the remarkable thing in the text is the enlargement of the responsibility of this self-control from the nature and quality, to the scale and size, of the thoughts. We can well believe that the holy and devout psalmist did not suffer his heart to entertain licentious and lascivious thoughts — that he did not compose these sweet songs, or wend his way towards Zion, with the love of sin allowed in him, or with the power of sin reigning. He speaks not of low but of high thoughts — not of grovelling but of soaring imaginations — as the disallowed and discountenanced inmates. And there can be no doubt that there is a danger in this direction. There are not only evil desires, sinful lustings, to make frightful havoc of the life and of the soul; there are also speculations and rovings of thought, which give no other warning of their nature than this, that they belong to districts and regions beyond and above us — that they are fatal to the quietness and the silence of the spirit — that they cannot be entertained without reawakening those restless and unsatisfied yearnings which were just beginning to still themselves on the bosom of infinite love. Of this sort, sometimes, are the ambitions of this life. Ambition has a use as well as an abuse. St. Paul himself, who had counted all things loss, yet, thrice in his epistles, speaks of ambition as his life. We use ambition in our education. We waken up drowsy energies by proposing to them prizes of effort. We bid them even "strive for masteries." Competition itself, though it be the near kinsman of that "emulation" which St. Paul puts among the works of the flesh, is yet enlisted among the soldiers of Jesus Christ, if so be it may sublime itself at last into an effort which desires no man's crown. Nevertheless, we all feel that there is an ambition "which o'erleaps itself," not more in the arrogance of its successes than in the extravagance of its expectations. There are men who would have been not only happier but greater if they had been less ambitious. There are men whose humbler efforts would at least have been respected, but whose more adventurous seatings have ended only in ridicule. That which is true in the ambitions of this life, whether professional or intellectual, is not less true in religion. It might seem that the psalmist wrote of this — it is for the sake of this, certainly, that we make his words our text to-day. They are exemplified within the Church, and without. They are exemplified in the treatment of Revelation — by believers, by doubters, by foes. The doctrine of the Trinity has been turned oftentimes, from a "mystery" in the Divine sense, into a "mystery" in the human. The soul should have calmed and hushed itself in that presence, as before the revelation of a Father, a Saviour, and a Comforter, not three Gods but one God — each Person necessary to the repose and to the activity, to the comfort and to the life, of every one of us, as we struggle along the path of difficulty into the clear light and into the perfect peace of a world in which God shall be all in all. Instead of this, speculation has been busy, and controversy has been busy, and logic has been busy, and rhetoric has been busy, and the whole matter has been referred and relegated from the tribunal of the soul to the tribunal of the intellect — theologians have exercised themselves in matters too wonderful for them — prayer has been intermitted for wrangling, and every nutritious particle has been extracted and exterminated out of the bread of life. It is impossible to live the life of this age and not to inquire. Close ear and eye — scepticism is in the air. It was always in books, now it is in society. But how shall a young man in such times, educated or uneducated, exercise that calming and hushing, that behaving and quieting which the text speaks of? Who shall prescribe the right to speculate, and the no right? Who shall lay down the conditions, present or retrospective, under which a rational being, ordained or unordained, shall be at liberty to exercise himself in great matters, foe high for him or for any man? It cannot be done. We will not say that there is always a want of seriousness in the scepticism of to-day, None the less there may be many a grievous error, many a deep-lying fallacy, in the process of that search. I will name two. There are those who, as soon as a doubt enters, cease instantly to pray. They count it an insincerity to call upon Him in whom they are not certain that they shall always continue to believe. If there be a word of truth in the Gospel, the way of faith is the way of prayer, and the man who has ceased to call upon the God of his life is no longer so much as an inquirer whether that God has spoken to us in His Son. Let the cry go forth even into the darkness — it shad "calm and hush," it shall "behave and quiet" the soul that would inquire, the soul that would know. "They worshipped" although — yea, "they worshipped" because "they doubted!" Yet one other thing. Many, when the faith is shaken, count it an insincerity to listen to any evidence but what they call the logical. They resent it as almost a fraud put upon them if any one offers the moral beauty of the Gospel, or the spiritual satisfaction to be found in it, or the cumulative force of recorded effects and consequences of believing, as furnishing, alone or altogether, any argument at all in belief of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If mathematical demonstration is impossible, then, for them, it shall be impossible to believe. That conviction which the first Christian doubter made to hang upon the sight and upon the touch, they suspend upon the cogency of the Christian syllogism as it stands for the nineteenth age. We protest against this splitting and parcelling of the being. The man is one, and but one. Intellect, and heart, and conscience; the power to judge, the power to admire, the power to adore; the instinct of truth, the instinct of good, and the instinct of beauty — all these things must march as one towards the investigation of the Divine: the thing which we believe must be the satisfaction of them all, and each one must contribute its quota to the evidence, and its voice to the verdict. The counsel of the text is the counsel of wisdom, when it makes reverence, when it makes humility the condition of all knowledge that is worth the name. We may so educate and so discipline our own soul as that health shall be the reward.

(Dean Vaughan.)

It is something to know that there are such things. To know that well is to be wise. What is one of the secrets of power? It is to keep within your own ability; you can describe a circle six feet in circumference, but not seven feet. To know that is true wisdom. To know that I cannot write the "Iliad" saves me time; it amounts to a revelation; it guides, limits, chastens my ambition. To know that you are not a statesman is half the battle of life. God has not put the flame of statesmanship within you, nor the flame of poetry, nor the flame of music. It is when people are trying to be and to do what the Divine election never intended them to be or to do that they are foolish and weak, and that life ends in futility. To know this and to do it would remodel our whole life.

1. Who can understand the mysteries of Providence? They are too high for me. Here is a soul all purity, and yet God seems to frown upon that poor life more and more. That life has no opportunity, no home, no work, no joy, no song. Oh, it is sad! How is it? We cannot tell; we must wait; in centuries to come we shall know. But I have noticed that even such a soul complains less than the people who look upon it. The soul has its own inmost delights; it says — It is well; I must wait for the Lord patiently, and at last I will see why it was; meanwhile, I have bread to eat that the world knoweth not of" there is a general impression that I am forsaken, but in my soul I know that God is with me. This is a mystery of grace. God's children are not so forsaken as they sometimes appear to be; the Lord knoweth His own, and He will not deny His own autograph, His own seal of love.

2. Who can understand Providence itself? It is its own greatest mystery. There is a greater mystery than the mysteries of Providence, and that greater mystery is Providence itself. The greatest mystery is God. What is Providence? Shall we break up the word into provideance? "Provide" — it is the word of a housewife; provide — see for, prepare for, arrange for; they will be back presently from the plough, have the meal ready; from the school, be ready with the little feast; from abroad, have the welcome ready prepared. This is providing for, seeing for, seeing after, being eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. This is the mystery of the Divine rule. It is too high for me.

3. But need we go so far away as to speak of the mysteries of Providence and of Providence itself? There is a mystery quite as great, and that is me itself. Who am I? What? Whence come? What is this life, this palpitation, this perpetual wonder and mystery? I think, I pray, I disbelieve, I harden myself into distrust; I have said, in moments of madness, "There is no God." Why, I am a mystery myself; the me stands next to the God in mysteriousness. If men would heed this doctrine they would be quieted often. Why go out of themselves to find mystery? The greatest mystery is at home — your own soul. Understand man, if you would understand God. So then we are humbled down into little services, domestic ministries, fraternal action of sympathy and healing and assistance. Yes, that is so. We do not need our wings yet. There is no humiliation in growth. Let us realize this doctrine and be sober-minded. Let us do just what little we can do. Yet it is not little, but very much; for God directs it, God accepts it, man needs it; all love is a gift Divine.

4. Here is a lesson to those who have great spiritual ambitions; men who want to be great readers of Divine mysteries, of Providence, of the plans and purposes of God. The Voice says — By and by, in a century, in a millennium, thou shalt see God. This is a hidden hope; this is not a mere sentiment, it is an inspiration, a source of strength, a great confidence; hold it and be strong. And here is a lesson to those who want to push their inquiries too far here and now. There be those who say to the preacher, and the teacher, and the expositor — How so? Explain this; what about this mystery? What is the answer to this great question? The answer is — Wait: what thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter.

5. Here is a great lesson for all those of us who wish to live to-day, simply, earnestly, usefully. A man may stretch himself so high to see things beyond the stars that he may fall over the next stumbling-block: it should be ours to look around us, and below us, and see what we can do that is useful. Do not be the great man, the grand, mysterious soul, the cloud-flier, the planet, discoverer and wanderer, but keep thee near the shore, and keep thee near the haunt of poverty, and the bed of pain, and the nursery of childhood, and the school where ignorance seeks to be taught; be faithful in few things, and God will make thee ruler over many things.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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