Many ask, "Who can show us the good?" Shine the light of Your face upon us, O LORD.
I. THE QUESTION OF QUESTIONS. The feeling indicated is common. Amid disappointments and cares, evermore the cry is heard, "Who will show us any good?"
II. THE PRAYER OF PRAYERS. Somewhere there must be help. Gain, pleasure, worldly honours, and such-like, give no satisfaction. But when we turn to God we find all we need. He is gracious and merciful. Light and joy and peace beam from his countenance. Here we have the gospel preached beforehand.
III. THE JOY OF JOYS. The "joy of harvest" is proverbial. Here we have more, infinitely more. Not only rest from fear, and recompense for labour, and provision for the future; but this in the highest sense, spiritually and eternally - the Giver as well as the gift. - W.F.
There be many that say, Who win show us any good?
I. THE QUESTION. They who ask such a question are not happy. They have some secret cause of dissatisfaction and disquietude. There is a great blank in their moral life; a part of their very nature is left unprovided for. But they want something shown to them, something that their senses can appreciate. Yet they neglect to seek good in God. What is the true good, and who can show it to us? What is the true good with regard to our present happiness? One seeks it in the pleasures of the mind; another in the honours, dignities, and applause of his fellow men; others in wealth, ease, and competence, in prosperous schemes, and golden harvests, and plenteous stores. But these, in themselves, prove disappointing. What is the good which God shows us? The light of His countenance, so that heart to heart, and face to face, we may continue with the invisible God. How is this true good to be obtained?
II. THE IMPLIED ANSWER TO THE QUESTION. The good man will not be satisfied with "any" good; he must have the chief good, the best good-living water, not water from the cistern. A sense of reconciliation with God, of a granted pardon from Him, of a realised covenant engagement with Him. The chief good is thus described, to "do justly," "to love mercy," "to walk humbly with thy God."
(Daniel Moore, M. A.)
1. Herein lieth the general character of these two citizens — one builds up Babylon, the other builds up Jerusalem. The whole world consists of two sorts of men — the one who are of the world; the other, though in the world, yet not of it. Every wicked man makes some creature or other to be as a God, and so the ultimate end, to him. To clear the heinousness of this wretched temper, consider,
2. That all the good things which the creatures do afford unto us, they are but as means to carry us to a further end. They are but as the rounds of a ladder, not to stand upon, but thereby to ascend higher, even to heaven.
3. Take notice that there is a higher and grosser sort of unregenerate men than happily this expression will comprehend, and that is those who make such things as are formally and expressly evil the good things they would have showed to them. Such are all gross and profane sinners, who live in the daily practice of some loathsome sin.
4. The schoolmen do well to place in every sin a two-fold respect; there is the aversion from God, and the conversion to the creature.
5. It is acknowledged by all that there is inbred in a man an appetite or desire after felicity and happiness. There were above a hundred opinions amongst the heathen in what true felicity consists: but though some were not so gross as others, yet all come short of the true end.
6. The persuasion of what is the best good, and which is chiefly to be desired, is wonderfully diversified, according to the several inclinations, humours, and conditions of men.
7. The preferring of the creature above God, though it be the sin of all mankind, and as large as original sin itself, yet, like that, is hardly discerned and discovered. Antidotes and means against this creature-affection.(1) You cannot address yourselves unto God in prayer while your heart is not above the world.(2) Thy heart; it is the choicest and chiefest treasure about thee; it is too noble for any creature.(3) Meditate on this — that all those who ever loved the creature immoderately, have at last found the vanity and unprofitableness of it.(4) God hath mingled gall with the honey of every creature, and therefore it is that everything is obtained with difficulty, and possessed with cares, so that we might not rest in the creature.(5) These creatures, whatever they are for comfort, they are not originally and of themselves so, but are only instruments and conduit pipes. They are defective in these particulars. They cannot give any comfort or content of themselves. They cannot fill themselves with any comfort objectively, any further than God puts into them. They are streams that have water no longer than the spring filleth them. The creature, in being but an instrument, and having all from God, doth thereby demonstrate how much blessedness is in enjoying God Himself.(6) Lay this to heart, heaven and glory cannot be obtained without a preeminent and transcendent affection to all other things.(7) Neglect not this meditation — what heathen and superstitious persons have done in a misguided way for some notable end.(8) If Christ hath reproved those who were godly for their external cares, how much rather will He condemn those who are immoderately addicted to these things?
I. THE LANGUAGE OF WORLDLY AND UNCONVERTED MEN. "Who will show us any good?" All pursue the object which appears to them good. But it is only some worldly good. "Corn and wine." In their search, of whom do they seek information? Only of men like themselves; of men who are following worldly objects. Many of the things after which worldly men inquire are lawful. The degree in which it is done often makes the inquiry unlawful. They pursue it inordinately. This is the circumstance which clearly marks their characters, and decidedly proves them to be worldly.
II. THE LANGUAGE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. The very form which the language takes points out a marked distinction. It is a prayer, not a question. This has always been a marked feature in the people of God. They are a people who pray. They attempt nothing and desire nothing, apart from prayer. Here, for what objects do they pray?
1. For the Lord's countenance; for His special approbation and love.
2. For the light of His countenance. Not only the possession of God's favour, but the enjoyment of it.Conclusion:
1. You who are walking "in the light of His countenance," be thankful for the great mercy vouchsafed to you.
2. Be watchful." Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
1. This is the cry of destitution.
2. Of bitter disappointment.
3. Of sensuousness.
4. Of recklessness.
5. Of despair.
II. THE PRAYER OF THE FEW.
1. It is directed to the proper source.
2. It supplicates the highest blessing. Show us Thy favour. Regard us with approval and complacency. Let us know ourselves the objects of Thy love.
(C. M. Merry.)
I. THE LANGUAGE OF THE WORLD, AS EXPRESSED IN THIS TEXT. There are in the world mistaken inquirers after happiness, and they are many. More seek it in the wrong way than in the right. These wrong inquirers are all dissatisfied — Solomon, Colonel Gardiner, Lord Byron, Cardinal Wolsey. These inquirers after happiness are ignorant of the only real source of joy. They never seek it where it can be found. They will not seek their happiness in God. The happiness of these men is evanescent. Supposing that they are happy, their happiness does not last.
II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE STATE OF THE WORLDLY MAN AND THE STATE OF THE CHRISTIAN. The Christian's joy is a specific joy; it is a joy immediately and directly derived from God. It is a satisfying joy. It is unaffected by external circumstances. It is an everlasting joy.
(George Weight, B. A.)
1. The heart joys of the individual Christian. Christianity intensifies the joys that are common to all; there are some joys that are peculiarly her own. Such as, the power to dispel those foul vapours which, as our Lord tells us, come naturally from within, and which are necessarily destructive of all inward joy. True religion also offers the joy of pardon. But the heart joy of the Christian does not end with pardon. There is the still greater and holier joy which he feels in the consciousness of being an object of love and care to a heavenly Father, a sympathising Saviour, an abiding Comforter.
2. The home joys of the Christian. In the eyes of the Christian the very idea of home has a holy and Divine meaning that reaches far beyond its earthly significance. He has before his eyes the revelation of an Eternal Father and a Divine Son. True religion enjoins, with a terrible earnestness, those sacred obligations on the observance of which the happiness of home depends; and true religion provides a further home joy in its truth of resurrection.
3. The society joys of the Christian. True religion tends to promote joy in society. The chief source of happiness in a community is liberty, and a chief friend of liberty is true religion. What are the features which give special peace and happiness to the social circle? Are they not courtesy and unselfishness? Are not these Christian virtues? In conclusion, face this question. If Christianity be a failure, what do you propose to put in its place?
(Archbishop Plunker, D. D.)kunos, and his school, "the dog school." He appeared in threadbare attire and was reproved by , who told him that his pride spoke through the holes of his clothes. His follower, Diogenes, outdistanced him, and appeared at noonday with a lantern, seeking, as he pretended, to find a man. When Alexander compassionately asked him on one occasion, "What can I do for you?" he replied, "Stand out of my sunlight." He was an incarnate sneer. "Who will show us any good? Is there any good? Are we not all dupes of delusions?" The text answers the scorner's query — "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." We learn that there is good. It can be unfolded and recognised. God is its root, blossom, and fruit. The Cynic is silenced. Satire has its place and function. It may cut to cure, may lacerate yet heal, may lash popular vices and effect good. But satire is earnest, while cynicism is not. Let us, therefore, look at this good which may be defended. Life is not a blunder. It is not a mirage, a stream that runs on only to be buried in sand. Good we can define and know it sharply. It can be made a part of ourselves, and we thereby be made rich and strong. We are not drifting clouds floating away to melt into nothingness. Human life may be opulent, and human destiny glorious.
I. THIS GOOD WE ARE TO THINK ABOUT IS PERSONAL. It is something realisable, actual, to be recognised by us all. The genesis of it is in God. God is the Saxon word for good. It is in the light of His countenance that we are to realise the possession of genuine good. God does not throw at us as a king in his chariot may fling coin to the crowd about him, but enriches us by reason of our likeness and affinities with Him. We are His children. The paternity of God broods over each life and blesses it. Supposing on one of these spring days there was held a council of the trees and grasses, and each leafless tree and spire of grass should say, "We must have the sun, the dewfall and the rain if we are to live. We must have not one warm shower, but many, if we are to lead on the beauty and bounty of summer. Are we certain of these things?" The sun whispers to each, "I will not forget you, but speak the word to the sea, which shall give of its waters to the cloud, and the cloud shall drop the rain. The dew shall also come, and I, the sun, the father of the earth, will shine upon you. Fear not, I will care for you." But is not God the primal force, the unseen Creator? He speaks by sun and sea, by cloud and dew. So in the moral world He is the atmosphere in which we are to live. Warmed by His light we shall rejoice and bring forth fruit.
II. NOTICE THE FORM WHICH THIS GOOD HAS TAKEN. God's beneficence is incarnated. Its concrete form is the living Christ. He is the answer to the query, "Who will show us any good?" He, the express image of God, meets man's spiritual nature perfectly, shining into and enriching it as the sun vitalises and fructifies the earth. This higher nature needs Divine ennobling. We live in the lower too much. We materialise ourselves too much and forget our spiritual selfhood to which the abiding good must minister. He comes, not as a transient, but perennial supply; not to a transient need, but to our permanent wants as immortal beings. It is not food or raiment which we most need. Christ gives character. If that be built up in man he is a recognised child of God. It is not an easy work, the toil of a day, but that which requires earnest endeavour so long as life shall last. There are endless possibilities in each of us. What possibilities with God indwelling! A good man is a God-man. This is the grand outcome. He dwelleth in us. When then the peering, muttering cynic comes groping round with his lantern asking, "Who will show us any good?" our answer is, A GOOD MAN!
III. HOW IS SUCH A GOODNESS BUILT? Only through the same line that Christ passed Himself. Every noble soul grows into other lives. Goodness grows by giving itself away. A good life is a great argument. As the sun streams into a dark cloud and washes out its gloom, clothing it with splendour, so does the Sun of Righteousness shine into a human life and make it glorious with the Divine lustre of the heavenly life.
IV. GOD IN CHRIST TAKES HOLD OF THE WHOLE OF US, AND THE POSSESSION IS PERPETUAL.
(J. Wesley Davis, D. D.)
I. THERE IS DISSATISFACTION AND INQUIRY. Alone of all the creatures, man seems to have an ill-fitting lot; and alone of all the creatures, he is conscious of his misery. Very wretched according to our standard is the life of the worm that crawls in the damp earth, or the mole that burrows blind and cold in the ground; still more wretched are the lives of those animals that riot in putridity and fatten on corruption: but whatever their lot may appear to us, they are conscious of no want, and may quite contentedly fulfil the ends of their being. It is otherwise with man. He is not in his right place; he is not "in harmony with his surroundings"; he was meant to be happier. The bee is quite satisfied gathering its honey; the sheep is quite pleased nibbling the green meadow; the swallow desires nothing better than to skim the summer air, and build its nest and rear its young under the eaves of the old castle, and be oil again in winter to the sunny south. Of all creatures, man alone feels that his lot is not satisfactory. In his nature alone there is an unsatisfied longing. He is ever on the alert to hear of "good," in case it be the thing that will allay his craving. But commonly he looks in the wrong direction. Are there any instances of true repose and satisfaction of soul obtained from the broken cisterns? It is not on what men have, but on what they are, that their true happiness depends. And men cannot be what they should be till they come to Christ. "I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst!"
II. THERE ARE VARIOUS ANSWERS. How poor and unsatisfying are the answers often given to, the quest, for good! "I have been reading such, an amusing book," says one, "a very delightful tale; do get hold of it, you will enjoy it so much." "Have you been to such and such an entertainment?" asks another; "it is so superior to anything of the kind." Or, taking some of the answers given in a somewhat different sphere of life — one tells of a market where commodities are got cheap; another of an improvement in the management of his business; and another of a way of making the house more snug, or the person more comfortable or more comely. The advertisements of the newspapers, the prospectuses of new companies, the circulars of tradesmen, the critiques of reviewers, the arguments of politicians, are all in their way answers to the question, "Who will show us any good?" All very well in their way and in their place; but very miserable surely if there is no higher level of good — no higher region to which the soul may aspire.
III. THE TRUE ANSWER. The Psalmist tacitly puts all these aside; one blessing, and one only, fills his eye and his heart; and it deserves our best attention — "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." It was common among the Hebrews to speak of a person's countenance as low or fallen when he was grieved or angry, and as lifted up when he was pleased and happy. We hold down our face when we are dejected, we hold it up when we are glad. So, also, a radiant or shining countenance stands opposed to a dark or gloomy one. The lights of the countenance, the eyes, sparkle in the one ease, and are dull in the other. The two emblems are combined in the request to God to lift up the light of His countenance on us. The thought is, "Look on us with a happy, shining face — with the happy, shining face with which Thou didst look on our Elder Brother, when Thy voice was heard from the clouds, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Transfer to us the satisfaction which Thou hast for Him; accept us in the Beloved. Transform our hearts into His image; make us to resemble Him, 'the firstborn among many brethren.'" If only we are in a right relation to the Son of God, the countenance of the Father is sure to be lifted up. Has the light of God's countenance never yet been lifted up on someone? Why should it not? "God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses." We are His ambassadors entreating you to be reconciled! And the way to all good is so open and so glorious.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D. , LL. D.)
Christian Observer.Various as are the tastes and pursuits of mankind, all are pursuing one object — to be happy. But what is true happiness, and where is it to be found? There are two classes of mankind.
I. THE CLASS MENTIONED IN THE TEXT.
1. They are numerous. Not confined to persons of any particular age or station.
2. The nature of this restless inquiry is shown in the question itself. The question is thrown out to the whole world, to the good and the bad, to the wise and the ignorant, that each may answer it as he sees fit. How various and inconsistent are the answers made!
3. Not only are persons thus restlessly inquiring, but their expectations of finding satisfaction in it are constantly disappointed. They are perpetually trying new experiments, but always with the same result.
II. CAN ANY SATISFYING GOOD BE FOUND? Our text furnishes the answer. God's favour, the light of His countenance, His presence, His protection, these are satisfying good. God is indeed the source of all good. Then why do not all men seek happiness in God? The temptations to make the world our portion are ever at hand, and press upon us; they appeal to our senses and appetites; they present themselves according to our ages and circumstances in life, in the various forms of profit, pleasure, or worldly distinction, and exhibit innumerable allurements adapted to every taste. Mankind, having forsaken God, find a painful void which the manifestations of His favour alone can fill.
(Christian Observer.)I. THE WORLD'S CRY. With the question, as such, no fault is to be found, seeing it is natural to man. But the questioners are of varied type.
1. The unrestrained sensualist.
2. The orderly, selfish, even tempered, moral, prudential worldling, against whom society can bring no positive charge, but from whom it can expect no conscious benefit.
3. The striving and ambitious, whose ruling passion is acquisitiveness.
4. The recluse student, calculator, bookworm, who gives his ,life to the pursuit of knowledge. Many of them are martyrs of science. "Oh," cried one, "for a century to study a grain of sand, or a blade of grass!" "More light!" exclaimed the dying Goethe. But many and potent as are the charms of science, if pursued as a chief aim, it can only end in disappointment.
5. There is the agnostic, and the insatiable man of action, whose delight is in adventure, discovery, heroic achievement, social influence.
6. There is the type aesthetic, the worshipper of the beautiful in literature and art. But the beautiful alone can never satisfy.
II. HEAVEN'S ANSWER. It is the light of God's countenance that will fill our hearts with gladness and peace. This "good" is —
1. Universally accessible to the earnest seeker. A certain writer speaks of "youth as a blunder, manhood a labour, and old age a regret." God could not have meant that they should be so.
4. Without it nothing else can be of real use to us. Classical story, tells of a philosopher, who was admitted to a grand merrymaking of the Celestials. He was informed that, among the noble and majestic forms around him, there was one, and only one, earth born like himself. He was asked whether, looking at them in all the pomp of royalty, he could pick out his fellow mortal. Contrary to expectation, there was not the slightest difficulty. Though enthroned among gods, and though, like them, he carried a sceptre, and wore golden sandals, and a purple fillet, and talked and nodded as divinely, the man was instantly and unmistakably detected by the restlessness of his eye. That ,is a profoundly melancholy, and yet a triumphantly suggestive allegory. "Rest!" exclaimed Peter of Russia to his jaded soldiers; "you will have rest enough in the grave." Is that all? Have we no "parish rights" anywhere in the universe? Yes, there is a love if you will but accept it, a power which, if you yield to it, will make this earth the very gate of heaven.
(R. Griffith, F. G. S.)I. THE UNRENEWED MEN SEEK FOR HAPPINESS IN WORLDLY ENJOYMENTS.
1. The frequency of this conduct. The disposition of mind, expressed in this inquiry, belongs to every man until, by renewing grace, he is enabled to set his affection on things above. It is the language of their hearts, their lips, and their actions. There is, indeed, a great variety of objects that engage their attention and pursuit.
2. The foolishness of their conduct. Though desirous to enjoy good, they. apply not to God, who alone can give that which is good. Thus they show that they are under the influence of corrupt passions, and wish to live, if it were possible, independent of God.
3. The dangerousness of their conduct. The creatures are unable to help you in your greatest extremities when you most need assistance. This practice entails upon them that follow it certain misery and woe. It gives to the creatures the glory and honour which is due to the Creator.
II. THE GRACIOUS, GODLY MAN ESTEEMS THE FAVOUR OF GOD ABOVE EVERY EARTHLY ENJOYMENT. When men are reconciled to other men, they view them with complacency and delight. Any good will not satisfy the godly man's desires; the wealth of the world cannot make a portion for his immortal soul. The "light of God's countenance" includes —
1. God's reconciled favour and love.
2. A sense of its excellence and sweetness.
3. Experience of its joyful fruits and effects. All the temporal and spiritual mercies proceed from God's favour and goodwill.
1. It may be asked by the misanthropist. Whatever such persons contemplate is viewed, not only with an expectation, but an intention, to spy out imperfection or deformity. Habits of moroseness and suspicion will contaminate the purest actions.
2. Another vain inquirer after good is the sceptic, and minute philosopher. Surrounded with mists, or dazzled with excess of light, they can never see their way clearly. Every question begets a string of possibilities. Such persons often enter into tedious and perplexed labyrinths of thought, which terminate in no practical result.
3. Another is the voluptuary, and the mere man of the world. Those who, at their first outset, so far mistake the road, as to suppose that the gratifications of sense, or the vanities of ambition, can constitute the happiness of a creature that was formed for immortality, must, in a short time, expect to be disappointed. The pleasures of novelty soon grow familiar, and those of appetite are quickly cloyed.
4. The melancholy inquiry may express the desponding complaint of those who have suffered much, and who seem to sorrow without hope. We are all children of discipline, passing through this land of shadows into a state of immortality, in which we must give account of the things done in the body. Let me advise everybody, who feels this evil doubt and despondency gathering round his mind, to approach the throne of grace with the short but energetic prayer of the holy Psalmist, "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us."
(J. Hewlett, B. D.)
(Charles Voysey.)Summum bonum: —
1. In the history of ancient Greece we read of two sages — the Weeping and the Laughing Philosopher. The one saw nothing but the dark side; the other looked always at the bright. We all know people belonging to both of those schools. It depends very largely on natural temperament to which of the two any person belongs; for some are naturally melancholy, others sanguine. Partly, too, it may depend on fortune; an early disappointment or the treachery of a supposed friend may poison a man's mind to all healthy influences; whereas those into whose soul the iron has never entered are disposed to think lightly of the sufferings of others.
2. Somewhat analogous to this division of mankind is that in the text; only, it goes far deeper. It speaks of a dissatisfaction with life which is consistent with much surface gaiety, and of a satisfaction which may be felt amid misfortune.
I. THE RESTLESS HUMAN HEART. You may have seen a picture called The Pursuit of Pleasure, in which pleasure is represented as an airy winged figure of dazzling beauty, floating just above the ground, turning her enchanting face towards those who are in pursuit of her; but still retreating from them, as she draws them on. In the forefront of her pursuers are the young, with flushed faces and confident eyes, almost touching with their outstretched hands the fringes of her robe. Farther behind are those who have been longer in pursuit; they are falling back in the race, and there is the dread of disappointment in their eyes; but their determination is all the stronger not to miss the prize. In the rear are those following in despair; and some have stumbled and fallen, and are being trodden upon as the mad pursuit rushes by. Is it not too true? Who can say, My desires are fulfilled, and I am satisfied? If the blinds were drawn up from the windows of our hearts, what would be seen within? The pain of desires which have found no fulfilment, the disappointment of hopes once cherished but abandoned now, the dread of coming change, which may strew the ground with the fair fabric of our prosperity. So difficult is it to catch the butterfly of happiness, and it is still more difficult to keep it. The men of thought and the men of action and the men of leisure arrive by different ways at the same result. They are seeking some great good which will satisfy the heart, but they have not found it; and they are going about asking, Who will show us it? And then life is so short. Now or never you must find the secret. Are we to live and die without once clasping our fingers over the prize, without once getting our hearts filled to the brim?
II. THE HEART AT REST. "Lord, lift upon us the light of Thy countenance." He is not asking, "Who will show us any good?" for he knows the secret, he has found the supreme good, and he has nothing else to desire but this — that more and more God would lift on him and those for whom he speaks the light of His countenance. What does it mean? The phrase is a very Oriental one. It is derived from the experience of an Eastern court. The light of the countenance is the expression which it wears when it is pleased. We know on what conditions God is now well pleased with the children of men. He is always well pleased with Christ, and with all whom He sees in Christ. This, therefore, in the language of Christian experience, is the solution of the problem — to have Christ, and ever more of Christ. How is this the solution? How, in other words, does Christ give the heart rest?
1. He does so by taking it off itself. When the kindness and love of God are revealed to the heart, when the self-sacrifice of Christ becomes the great theme of our joy and hope, a similar disposition is begotten in us: we love all those whom God loves and for whom Christ died, and we are ready to serve them, because Christ has said, Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of these, ye do it unto Me. You cannot help thinking well of mankind when you are trying to do them good, and you can never despise any soul if you believe Christ has esteemed it worthy of His life.
2. Not only does Christ draw the heart off itself, but He also gives it an object large enough to satisfy its desires. It possesses the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Who can estimate all that this implies? How can anyone with such a heritage go about moaning, c, Who can show us any good?" No, "the voice of rejoining and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous"; "the shout of a King is in their midst." The human heart is large and hungry; but Christ can fill it, and He can keep it full.
3. This is a satisfaction which will never fail, but become deeper and more precious at the very stage when all other satisfactions are failing. It is not a wise view of religion which represents it as a substitute for all the good things by which life is enlarged and enriched — such as knowledge, love, health, work, and success. Rather is religion the sunny atmosphere in which all these things are to be enjoyed.
(J. Stalker, D. D.)
Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us.I. WHAT IS THE LIGHT OF GOD'S COUNTENANCE?
1. That we are noticed by the Divine Being. He takes cognisance of your affairs.
2. That He is interested in us, as a father in the doings of his children.
3. That we are the objects and recipients of His favours. He favours our undertakings, circumstances, and conditions.
4. That He approves of our acts — accepts and fills us with peace.
5. That He helps us. God's favour is no empty pretence — His aid comes timely.
6. That He blesses us. His benediction conveys the good.
II. THE RESULTS. It puts "gladness into the heart." Why? Because —
1. It is the countenance of a powerful, wise, omnipotent Being.
2. It is the exuberant gladness — overflowing joy — beyond any worldling's mirth — unending. How disquieted should those be from whom God's face is averted and for whom there is on His countenance a frown!
(William Landels, D. D.)1. A gracious heart doth more esteem the favour of God, and the light of His countenance, than any earthly thing whatsover. What does the phrase "the light of Thy countenance" express? It supposes that all our iniquities and sins are pardoned and blotted out. So long as our guilt is upon us, and God seeth that, He turneth His face from us. There is implied, God's favour and love toward us. The original and cause of all God's gracious mercies in time. That God hath a peculiar respect unto His children. The efficacy and powerful effects thereof; for as the sun by its beams doth enlighten the whole earth, and give life and motion to everything, thus also doth God where He favours. This acting of God's face in reference to the godly, emptieth itself in two ways, in respect of outward and temporal mercies; and in respect of spiritual mercies.
2. The qualifications or characters of those who do value and desire God's favour above everything else. They are such as have a deep and true sense of the guilt of their sins. Such are often afflicted, persecuted, and of great exercises in this world. They who renounce their own righteousness. They who are spiritually-minded. They who live by faith, and are affected with things as revealed by the Scripture. They can esteem the favour of God, who have had experience of the sweetness and excellence of it. They who have the Spirit of God working in them. They who walk closely with God.
1. True and satisfying enjoyment is not to be found in the pursuit or possession of the things of time. There is an obvious and acknowledged disparity between all the objects and pursuits of time, and the capacity of that being which was formed after the image of God. Various are the expedients which the wise men have recommended for the attainment of happiness.
2. The chief end of man, in so far as happiness is concerned, is the enjoyment of God Himself. Jehovah is the infinite source of all good. If a consciousness of His favour and love can be acquired, this will give the assurance of every blessing. The very conviction that God is, is a source of joy unspeakable. The contemplation of the relations in which the eternal God stands to us, is the source of His highest enjoyment. Above all, it is the knowledge of God as in Jesus, his reconciled Father, his covenant God, that gives him peace, and confidence, and joy. It is thus that, even now, Jehovah is enjoyed by all His believing people.
(Alexander Turner.)I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE LIGHT OF GOD'S COUNTENANCE. The light of one's countenance denotes that peculiar aspect which bespeaks affection and favour. By the light of God's countenance we understand that clear and full manifestation of God to the soul, which assures it of an interest in His favour. There is a manifestation of God to the soul of the Christian, which is not enjoyed by other men, even with the Bible in their hands, nor always by the Christian himself. Though he does not pass beyond the limits of the written revelation, yet he sees in a peculiar manner what lies within its limits. He sees God, the great object of this revelation, in the light and radiance of reality. This manifestation of God is made to the Christian in the exercise of holy affections, and he is therefore assured of the Divine favour through the promises. In proportion to the strength and intenseness of holy affections, the misgivings of doubt, and fluctuations of faith, vanish. The assurance consequent on this manifestation of God to the soul is through the medium of the Divine promises. Whether God has promised — whether God is faithful, is not a matter of doubt to the Christian's mind.
II. WHY THE CHRISTIAN DESIRES THE LIGHT OF GOD'S COUNTENANCE ABOVE ALL EARTHLY GOOD.
1. He thus values and desires it, as it removes a sense of quilt from his mind.
2. He desires it for its own inherent consolation. This state of mind implies the serenity of unreserved confidence. Confidence in God, under a full manifestation of God. In this state there is a peculiar manifestation of God's love to the Christian. There is, also, between the soul and God, a delightful fellowship of affection and of interests.
3. He desires it, as it gives assurance of those future blessings which are the objects of hope. Thus we see why Christians so often mourn the hidings of God's face. The subject addresses those who have been taught to value and desire the light of God's countenance above all things.
(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)1. There is necessarily implanted in the very nature of man a desire of promoting his own happiness. This is a self-evident truth, and needs no proof. The only difference in men lies in determining wherein their true happiness consists, and by what methods it may best be attained. True religion is so far from discouraging men in their search after happiness that it forbids not the enjoyment of any one temporal blessing which God has created for the use of man, but only disorderly instances and unreasonable excesses.
2. Wicked and corrupt men seek this happiness in the sinful enjoyments of the present life; and their choosing to do so is their great error and folly. The enjoyments of this world are ranked by St. John under three heads, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life": that is, pier, sure, riches, and honour. Every one of these has a great mixture of evil attending it, has at best much emptiness and imperfection in it, and has much unsatisfactoriness and disappointment going along with it. They are not at best complete enough to satisfy the mind of man; and if they were, they cannot continue long enough to maintain and preserve its happiness. Whatever will make the mind of man happy, must be able to satisfy it both in its whole capacity and in its whole duration. Whatever is not sufficient to effect this, cannot be man's chief and final happiness.
3. Virtuous and good men place their chief happiness in the knowledge and favour of God, in the practice of virtue and true religion; and their acting according to this principle is the greatest and indeed the only true wisdom.(1) Wherein does this true happiness consist? Partly in their contemplating with delight, and meditating with pleasure, on the perfections of God the supreme good. Partly in the sense of God's present favour to them, arising from the consciousness of their agreeableness and conformity to His holy and Divine will. They know that God's favour and protection always accompanies righteous and just men. The favour God bears to virtuous and good men, they find belongs to themselves; and this affords them at all times and in all cases, a solid and rational satisfaction. Partly in the expectation of eternal rewards, with which hope they are supported here, and the actual possession of them, which they shall enjoy hereafter.(2) In what respect it excels the happiness of sensual and corrupt minds. I shall only observe that this happiness, which is the reward of virtue, exceeds all other pleasures infinitely in the two forementioned qualifications of happiness, namely, perfection in degree, and continuance of duration (Psalm 16:11).
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
I. SPEAK TO THE CASE HERE SUPPOSED. The saint, the child of light, may sometimes sit in darkness. How far may this darkness proceed? It may go so far that they cannot see to read their evidences for heaven; they cannot see above them, nor look up to heaven. The very thing that was their light before may be as darkness to them. They may be unable to discern their best friend from their foe. They may lose sight of their guide, and of their way-marks. They may be weary of their very lives.
II. THE DESIRE OF THE GRACIOUS SOUL. To have the light of God's countenance implies a state of reconciliation with God; the Lord's laying aside any special controversy with the soul; a communication of gracious influences, and an intimation of God's love to the soul.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. A DISPOSITION IN ALL MEN TO SEEK AFTER SOMETHING THAT MAY MAKE THEM HAPPY. It is true, indeed, that naturally men do not distinctly know wherein their happiness lies; but, as Aquinas observes, there is a general knowledge of happiness, add there is a distinct and right understanding of it. Now though all men have not this distinct knowledge of our happiness, yet all men have a special knowledge of it, and they know that it is good for them to be happy; surely, therefore, there is a disposition in all the children of men to seek after something that may make them happy.
II. MEN ARE GENERALLY MISTAKEN IN THE MATTER OF THEIR HAPPINESS. Is not he mistaken herein that doth bless himself in the way of his sin; or in the enjoyment of the creature? Some place their happiness in pleasure, or riches, or honour, or power, or health, strength, and beauty of body, or knowledge, wit, and learning, or in moral civil life. But what creature excellency is there that can give happiness to the sons of men? Certainly none. How comes it to pass that men are thus mistaken? Sometimes the mistake arises from ignorance of the right and true notion of happiness; or from the misapplication of the true notion of happiness; or because men measure their happiness by their present want; or because they do not hearken to and consider what is spoken to them about true happiness.
III. THERE IS A GENERATION OF MEN WHO HAVE FOUND THIS BLESSEDNESS. They are blessed because their sins are forgiven: when the Lord teaches them the mysteries of the kingdom. They are blessed who wait at the posts of wisdom, and are made wise thereby; they who are meek; they who know and do the work of their place and office; they who wait for the coming of Christ; they who die in the Lord.
IV. WHEREIN DOTH THIS TRUE HAPPINESS CONSIST? In the shine of God's face. The face of God is His favour. If God hath ever blessed you in truth, then hath His face shined upon you.
(W. Bridge, M. A.)
I. THE DISPOSITION OF UNREGENERATE MEN, as represented in this text. "Who will make us to see good?" To see good is an expression which denotes the enjoyment of it. This desire, and the manner in which it is expressed, imply —
1. A departure flora the original constitution of human nature. Man was a creature flamed to derive all his happiness from intercourse with his Maker. While he continued in a state of rectitude, he enjoyed consummate blessedness. Man, in innocence, found in the Divine favour and fellowship a source of happiness pure and inexhaustible. What a melancholy change sin produced. Communion with God was wholly interrupted. Man came to ask for "any good," any present, sensible, worldly good.
2. An idolatrous attachment to the world. Fallen man having cast off God, exalts the world into His throne. All natural men set their hearts on some created good, from which they expect their best happiness. Whatever draws the heart away from God, and occupies His room in the affections, is a sin of the deepest dye, it is the vilest idolatry.
3. A disposition strictly to examine all the sources of worldly bliss. Every object that promises entertainment is greedily embraced.
4. The question is expressive of the dissatisfaction attendant on all earthly pursuits. Many are the expedients which are devised by the lovers of this world to obtain the "good" which they do ardently pant after, but they all fail of success. The world, with all its splendid ornaments, is a mere picture of felicity, and ever disappoints and deceives its votaries. True peace and rest they never find.
5. A disposition to renew the pursuit after worldly happiness, notwithstanding repeated disappointments.
II. CONTRAST THE DISPOSITION OF THESE WITH THAT OF RENEWED AND SANCTIFIED SOULS. The text gives the breathings of their hearts. The terms used are figurative, but highly significant. God is a Spirit, and therefore hath no bodily members. He is pleased to address men in their own language. Men express favour or displeasure by the different appearances of countenance which they assume. The "light of God's countenance" denotes a sense of His love as a reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. This ardent desire to enjoy the smiles of God's benign countenance includes in it —
1. Some knowledge and experience of the condescension and grace of God in accepting sinners through Christ Jesus. God has manifested His love in providing a Saviour for us exactly suited to our wants.
2. This prayer is expressive of supreme delight in communion with God. Nothing is more characteristic of a Christian than this. He pants after the Divine fellowship, as the principle of all his enjoyment, the very happiness of his being.
3. Cordially to join in this prayer of the Psalmist, supposes the high value and diligent use of every means of Divine institution where God has promised to meet with His people.
4. It also implies a longing desire for the full enjoyment of God in heaven. Conclusion:(1) Let everyone here inquire what is the temper of his mind and the tendency of his heart.(2) See the extreme folly of those who yield themselves to this worlds influence for the attainment of happiness.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
1. The first hindrance Christians find is, allowing themselves in a formal and indevout character of service. If we rest in the acts of worship or devotion, we lose that which is their chief benefit, communion with God. The same loss is incurred by making religion to consist in "feelings" of devotion.
2. Christian men form too low a notion of the holiness which God has put within their reach. They are too apt to think of holiness as mainly valuable because it is an evidence of faith. Hence, when they are satisfied about their faith, they are in danger of becoming somewhat languid in seeking after holiness.
3. Another hindrance is a multitude of worldly cares. There is such a natural agreement between our heart and earthly things, that they are apt to lay hold again and again of those affections which we perhaps had hoped were truly weaned from them, and set upon things above. Two chief means by which the power of the world may be resisted are, first, on the appearance of the danger, honestly examine whether you are not multiplying cares which you are not really called upon to meet, and which therefore are more than you can bear. And, secondly, do all this worldly business as unto the Lord; endeavour to bring the presence of God into it all.
4. The want of earnestness is a hindrance. This is seen in many ways — in the evident coldness of prayer; in frequent absence from some among the means of grace; or in a careless walk, and remissness in resistance of temptation; and in their being ready to acquiesce in such a state as that in which they must continue. The want of earnestness may spring from different causes. It may be the effect of a lurking infidelity. Another cause of this inaction is a secret hope that some time or other you will find it easier to turn to God, to serve Him heartily. Sometimes it pleases God to withhold spiritual comforts, and the sense of His gracious presence from the soul, even when we cannot find any cause of carelessness in the believer. This is, when it happens, a fearful part of the believer's discipline. Doubtless it is sent to work some blessed end.
(Bishop Wilberforce.)Happiness in God's favour: — Four things briefly put about the happiness that comes of God's smile.
1. It goes to heighten other joys where they are possessed. There are such joys, sources of satisfaction for the intellect, for the social heart, for every want of man except that of the soul. Let this deepest need of man be met, and all other things will yield more good.
2. Further, true happiness remains when other sources of joy have passed away. Failures, reverses, losses, are always saddening; but have we not known men m whose heart happiness has held its seat even amidst the wreck of their fortunes? Yet again, the joy of God dwells within the soul of many a man who never had many other sources of comfort. God's poor are gladdened by the light of His countenance.
3. Lastly, this happiness will be enjoyed in proportion as we are seeking it. The Christian living beneath the sunlight is the happy Christian. The Christian who often lives without seeking it, lacks the joy. So, then, here is the secret of a happy life — it is with God. It is living in friendship and fellowship with God; it lies in the consciousness of His favour and love. The one spot on earth where happiness is to be found is the heart of a good man.
(J. B. French.)
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