"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted over the earth."
Psalm 42. It is "a song upon Alamoth," which, according to Furst, is the proper name of a musical choir. As the word "Alamoth" means "virgins," it is supposed that the song was for soprano voices. We have, however, to deal with the contents of the song itself. It has long been a favourite with the people of God. "This is my psalm," said Luther. To this we owe his "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," and many other songs of the sanctuary. It would seem to have been suggested by some one of the many deliverances which the Hebrews had from the onsets of their foes; but to which of those it specially refers, is and must be left an open question. There are phrases in it which remind us of the redemption from Egypt (cf. ver. 5 with Exodus 14:27, Hebrew). There are others which recall the deliverance for which Jehoshaphat prayed (cf. vers. 10, 11 with 2 Chronicles 20:17, 22, 23). Other words vividly set forth the boasting of Sennacherib and the destruction of his army (cf. vers. 3, 6 with 2 Kings 18:29-35; 2 Kings 19:6, 7, 15-19, 28, 35). At each of these crises the four points of this psalm would be
(1) a raging storm;
(2) a commanding voice;
(3) a humbled foe;
(4) a jubilant song.
And how many times this song has been sung by individuals, by families, by Churches, by nations, the closest students of history best can tell. And in setting forth this song for homiletic use, we might show that it records the repeated experience of the Church; that it becomes the grateful song of the family; that it fits the lips of the believer in recounting providential mercy; that it is the constant song of the saints in rehearsing redemption's story. To deal with all these lines of thought would far exceed our space. We will confine ourselves to the last-named use of the words before us, showing that this forty-sixth psalm means far more on the lips of the Christian than it did on the lips of Old Testament believers. It is not the song itself that is our chief joy, but that revelation of God which has made such a song possible for believers - first under the Old Testament, and specially, in Christ, under the New Testament.
I. THE SAINTS NOW HAVE A CLEARER VIEW OF GOD. (Hebrews 1:1, 2.) Of old, God spake through prophets; now he speaks in his Son. And when we hear our Lord say, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father," we know at once to whom to turn for the interpretation of that greatest of all words, "God." To the Hebrews, their covenant God was revealed in words (Exodus 34:6, 7); but to us he is revealed in the living Word, in the Person of the incarnate Son of God. "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."
II. THE SAINTS NOW CAN RECORD A GREATER DELIVERANCE than Israel of old could boast - an infinitely greater one. Not only was there all the difference between rescues that were local, temporary, national, and one that is for the race for all time, but also the difference between a deliverance from Egypt, Ammon, Moab, and Assyria, and one that is from Satan and from sin; from the curse of a broken Law, and from the wrath to come. The song of Miriam is infinitely outdone by the new song, even the song of Moses and the Lamb.
III. THE SAINTS CAN NOW REJOICE IN A BETTER COVENANT. At the back, so to speak, of the psalm before us there was a recognized covenant between God and the people (Exodus 19:5, 6; Psalm 46:7, 11). In the later days of David "the everlasting covenant" was the aged monarch's hope and rest. But now, in Christ, we have the "better covenant," "the everlasting covenant," sealed and ratified with blood (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 13:20; Matthew 26:28). This covenant assures to the penitent, forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified. It includes all that Christ is and has, as made over to those who rely on him, for ever and for ever. It is not dependent on the accidents of time or sense. No duration can weaken it; no ill designs can mar it; not all the force of earth or hell can touch these who look to "the sure mercies of David."
IV. THE SAINTS NOW MAKE UP A MORE PRIVILEGED CITY. (Ver. 4.) While nations were proudly and angrily raging like the wild waves of the tossing sea, there was a calm, peaceful river, whose branches peacefully flowed through the city of God. Thus beautifully does the psalmist indicate the calm which took possession of believers then, while the nations roared around them. And in "the new Jerusalem," the present "city of God," which Divine love founded, and which Divine power is building up, there still flows the deep, still, calm river of Divine peace and joy and love. Or, if it be preferred, let Dr. Watts tell " That sacred stream, thine Holy Word, That all our raging fear controls; Sweet peace thy promises afford, And give new strength to fainting souls." Through the new city of God, the Holy Catholic Church, made up of all believers, this peaceful stream ever runs, refreshing and fertilizing wherever it flows. No frost congeals it; no heat can dry it up; it will eternally make glad the city of God. Hence -
V. THE SAINTS NOW PEAL FORTH A MORE JUBILANT SONG, We can sing this psalm, especially its first verse, with wider intelligence, larger meaning, deeper peace, and more expansive joy, than were possible to the Hebrews of old. As revelation has advanced, the believer's joy in God has grown likewise. Faith becomes larger as faith's Object becomes clearer. And no Hebrew could sing of the deliverance of his fathers so joyously as we can sing of the redemption of a world - a redemption in which we can rejoice, not only in our days of sadness, but in our days of gladness too. And as the psalmist could think of God as the Lord of hosts, and yet the God of Jacob; as the Leader of the armies of heaven, and yet the Helper of the lonely, wayworn traveller; so the believer, in thinking of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, can say, "He died for all," and also, "He loved me, and gave himself for me."
VI. THE SONG IS GRANDEST WHERE TROUBLE HAS BEEN THE GREATEST. "He has been found a Help in trouble exceedingly " - the adverb expressive of intensity may refer to the greatness of the trouble. But however this may be, certain it is that it is in the troubles of life that the believer finds out all that God is to him. And the man who can sing this psalm most jubilantly is the one who has been weighted with care most heavily. This is the glory of our great redeeming God. He is a Friend for life's dark days, as well as for the bright ones. Note:
1. The troubles of life often bring out to us our need of God. It is easy to be serene when trouble is far from us, and to spin fine philosophic webs; but let trouble come upon us, - that will make all the difference. The late beloved Princess Alice was almost led to the dark negations of Straussianism; but when she lost her child, her trouble led her to feel her need of a Refuge, and then she sought and found the Lord. Ellen Watson, the accomplished mathematician, revelled in exact science, and "wanted nothing more," till the death of a friend broke in on her exact science, rent her heart, opened her eyes, and was the means of leading her to Jesus. The experience of a young civil engineer, whom the writer visited in his last illness, was precisely the same.
2. Those who can give us no comfort or rest in the troubles of life are of little use in such a world as this. In a letter of an aged Unitarian minister to a friend of the writer, the expression is used, "I am just battling with the inevitable." "Battling with the inevitable!" So it must be, if men turn away from our God as the Redeemer from sin, the Saviour of the lost.
3. It is the glory of Christ as our Refuge that he can hide us securely in the fiercest troubles of life.
"Should storms of sevenfold thunder roll, And shake the globe from pole to pole No flaming bolt shall daunt my face For Jesus is my Hiding-place." ? C.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
1. Let us consider the words first from this point of view, which is that of the psalmist. Then we can go on to think of them in the sense in which faith has loved to interpret them. "Be still from war, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth." Admittedly, when God is exalted among the nations in the earth, there will be no more war. Where selfishness and tyranny have given place to obedience to God and consequent love to man war cannot possibly be. It is quite true that God has made desolations in the earth by means of war. From the history of Israel to the history of England the Spirit of the Lord has come upon God-fearing men, and bidden them make war either in self-defence or in defence of the weak against some tyrant. On the other hand, it is equally true that God maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. The more God-fearing a nation becomes, the more reluctant it is to make war. The knowledge of God involves forbearance towards enemies, the desire to use every persuasion rather than come to an open rupture. Above all, it involves regard for human life and for the sentiment of goodwill amongst men, which is more precious even than life. God says that men are not to learn war any more, but to learn to know Him. Let be, and know that I am God; and let all the nations know. Go ye into all the world, not carrying weapons of war, but the Gospel of peace.
2. In the second place, let us take the words of our text in the more generally accepted sense. It is almost a commonplace that men in the midst of trial do not think of the love of God except to conclude that tie has forgotten to be gracious. And yet all the time He is keeping watch, as much is the time of darkness as in the light. I sometimes think that life is like a voyage regarded from the point of view of a passenger. Some travellers are good sailors, others are not. Some make their voyage easily, others not; but the captain of the vessel is equally concerned for the lives and safety of all. While you are lying in your berth ill during the storm you don't blame the captain because the sea is rough. You do not see the man at his post on the bridge while you are below, but you are quite sure he is there. You saw him there during the fair weather when you were on deck. You noticed his vigilant care even when the sea was calm. You do not imagine for a moment that his vigilance is relaxed during the storm. God is watching over your soul in all its voyage through life. No storm can endanger your safety if you are trusting Him. But you will make shipwreck of your life if you take the control of it out of His hands in time of storm. I do not wish to pretend for a moment that faith is always easy, that it is easy to put a restraint upon impatience. But the effort must be made. It is calamitous if in the storms of life we lose our faith in the Captain. If we obey His order, "Be still, and know that I am God," our confidence and peace will be maintained. Trouble does not always become easier to bear with time: sometimes it becomes harder; and there is nothing left but a choice between faith and despair. George Eliot well expresses this when she says: "The first shock of trouble may produce an excitement which is transient strength. It is in the slow changed life that follows — in the time when sorrow has become stale — in the time when day follows day in dull unexpectant sameness, and trial is a dreary routine — it is then that despair threatens; it is then that the peremptory hunger of the soul is felt, and eye and car are strained after some unlearned secret of our exist. once, which shall give to endurance the nature of satisfaction." Whether we recognize it or not, glumness is the result of shutting the door of our heart against the Holy Spirit, and putting our foot against it. No sufferer is ever glum who says, "I cannot close my heart to Thee who seekst me through pain." They sometimes call it" temperament; it is selfishness pure and simple, the refusal to cultivate a heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize, the refusal to cultivate the sympathetic spirit which rejoices with those that rejoice and weeps with those that weep.
3. We are not all sufferers, by any means, and many of us are active workers for God. There is a message for us also in this verse, "Be still, and know that I am God." We sometimes leave too small a part for God in our work. We think that our carefully prepared sermon or lesson will do its own work, and forget to pray that the Holy Spirit may carry it home. We can teach truth. God alone can make that truth life-giving. Recall the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea. The sculptor Pygmalion had made a perfect statue of a beautiful woman. She was so beautiful that he fell in love with her. But one thing he could not do, and that was to give her life. So he prayed to the goddess of love and she granted his petition and touched the statue into life. Burne-Jones has painted the incident in four scenes, which he calls — "The Heart Desires; .... The Hand Refrains; .... The Godhead Fires; .... The Soul Attains." Every Christian worker must pass his work through these four stages if he is to be successful.
(R. M. Moffat, M. A.)
I. It is addressed, above all others, TO THE CAREFUL, WHO KNOWING NOT WHAT A DAY MAY BRING FORTH, OUT OF THAT IGNORANCE DRAW FEAR AND ANXIETY THAT KNOWS NO REST. IS there One who feeds the young lion and clothes the grass of the field, and shall He not much more feed and clothe thee, O thou of little faith? If God be for thee who can be against thee?
II. HE WHO IS EARNESTLY LOOKING FOR THE TRUTH, with serious search and humble inquiry and importunate prayer seeking to be taught more of the love of Christ and the will of God, and who makes it part of his daily joy and duty to search the Scriptures that so he may grow in the knowledge his soul desires, that man finds his task a healthy exercise; no feverish excitement waits upon his inquiry, but more and more of peace is shed over his heart and life as he advances in this heavenly knowledge.
III. IMPULSIVE HEARTS THAT RISE WITH EVERY HOPE AND SINK WITH EVERY DISCOURAGEMENT IN THE WORK OF LIFE, full of purposes and aims for good, seizing upon every instrument to help them, and finding the insufficiency of each, and with every successive failure adding to that store of disappointment which may one day overlay the springs of hope within them; or minds of steadier energy ever active and not easily east down, who have thrown their strength into labours of love and usefulness, but are struggling to do the Lord's work without the arm of the Lord, who are ever ready to charge their failures upon secondary causes, and to impute their successes to the instruments used in effecting them, these perhaps are taught at length that "the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong,"
IV. WHEN AMBITION IS FRETTING THE MIND AND DISTRACTING IT WITH WORLDLY HOPES AND JEALOUSIES, when the flattery of man on the one hand and the selfishness of man on the other are stirring up delusive expectations and creating bitter disappointments, when all the influences of earthly desire and the fascinations of wealth and honour and ease are leading a man on to trust the shadows of strength which many have fatally trusted before, to believe in idle promises, to exaggerate unmeaning professions, to sacrifice an honest independence, to let meanness creep into his spirit and the fever of self-seeking into his veins, the Word of the Lord says to that foolish heart, "Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? Be still, and know that I am God."
V. WHEN WE ARE CALLED UPON TO WORK OUT OUR OWN SALVATION it is with fear and trembling indeed, but with the calm assurance nevertheless that it is God which worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Be still then and put your trust in the blood of the everlasting covenant; work, but work in peace and the spirit of an unofficious service; seek your God, not as the prophets of Baal did, with extravagant zeal and obtrusive crying and impatient torturing of their flesh, but as Elijah the prophet of the Lord, who in calmness and confidence "at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice came near and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel and that I am Thy servant,"
VI. "To strive about words to no profit but to the subverting of the hearers," TO MAKE RELIGION THE WORK OF A BABBLING TONGUE AND A CONTENTIOUS SPIRIT, TO THINK THAT THE VICTORY OF TRUTH IS TO BE WON AS NATIONS WIN THEIR VICTORIES IN THE FIELD, BY PLANTING ARMY AGAINST ARMY, meeting rage with rage, and stratagem with stratagem, and clamour with clamour; this is not pleasing to the Lord, who says — (2 Timothy 2:24).
VII. And ye, the CHILDREN OF HABITUAL SADNESS, who live among the memories of the past and carry sorrow with you as your heart's raiment, and would not part with that familiar companion which lives with hope and faith in your breast, and is sanctified with that holy communion, forget not that human grief carries with it and will always retain the seeds of mortal rebellion; the impulses of natural affection and the longings of human passion will break out from time to time; and many a heart whose burthen has long been cast upon the Lord, which has long been familiar with the love of Christ, which has long felt the consolation of prayer and the strength of the Word of God, has moments when it would seem as if the whole lesson of trust must be learnt again, moments of unrest and craving in which it longs for the voice that shall gently call it back to the Cross and whisper, "Be still, and know that I am God!"
(A. D. Macleane, M. A.)
Homiletic Review.The command is assuring. Fear not for the ark, for the kingdom, for yourself. God will not fail.
I. WHY WE NEED THIS INJUNCTION, "Be still!"
1. On account of our ignorance and presumption, we see but a fragment of God's design and work. If we saw the whole campaign and consummation!
2. Haste and rashness of our judgment.
3. Conclusions without taking God into account.
II. THE STILLNESS ENJOINED not that of indolence, indifference, stoicism or despair, but of humility, observation, expectation.
III. THUS SEE GOD IN ALL, riding the whirlwind, bringing forth judgment unto victory.
(Homiletic Review.)Isaiah 30:15).
I. BE STILL, AND THOU SHALT KNOW I CAN PUT ALL ENEMIES TO SHAME.
II. BE STILL, AND THOU SHALT KNOW THAT I CAN UPHOLD MY OWN TRUTH IN A DAY OF ERROR. IS not My truth precious to Me? And My Book of truth, is it not above all books in Mine eyes? I am God.
III. BE STILL, AND THOU SHALT KNOW THAT I CAR SAY TO THE NATIONS, PEACE, BE STILL. The waves rise, but I am mightier than all. These tumults do not touch My throne. Take no alarm because of this world-wide resistance to My authority and law. I am still God.
IV. BE STILL, AND THOU SHALT SEE THE GLORIOUS ISSUE OF ALL THESE CONFUSIONS. This world is My world, and thou shalt see it to be such; this earth shall yet be the abode of the righteous.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)I. OUR DUTY. "Be still."
1. A negative kind of submission; I mean the restraints we ought to lay upon our angry and tumultuous passions. This is the first thing to be attempted, when perhaps we can proceed no farther.
2. To be still is to preserve a calm and composed temper of mind under affliction.
3. A higher degree of patience and submission than even this is required of us; and that is, to justify, approve and commend the Divine proceedings.
II. OUR OBLIGATIONS TO THE PRACTICE OF THESE GREAT AND DIFFICULT DUTIES.
1. There is a God. Set Him before you, in all His adorable perfections. Apprehend Him present — immediately present with you, closely watching and accurately observing all your thoughts, reasonings, dispositions and affections.
2. God, who is thus a witness of what passes in our breasts, is the great Governor of the world, and hath a concern in bringing about those events which occasion all this tumult of our passions.
3. The God who does it has an unquestionable right to do
4. While God thus proclaims Himself a Sovereign, He would have us consider Him as most just and wise in all His proceedings.
5. The goodness of God, and the covenant-relation which subsists between Him and us.
6. All that God does is in reference to some future design.
III. THE REGARD WE ARE REQUIRED TO PAY TO THESE INTERESTING TRUTHS. It is our duty to —
1. Well weigh and consider them.
2. Believe them.
3. Apply them to ourselves, and to our own immediate circumstances.
4. Use fervent prayer.CONCLUSION.
1. As to such who make light of their afflictions, or, to use the words of Scripture, despise the chastening of the Lord. That insensibility which you account your happiness is not the stillness and composure which the text recommends. Know the rod and who hath appointed it. Inquire wherefore it is he contends with you. Implore the forgiveness of what is amiss. And rest not satisfied without feeling the salutary effect of your affliction, to embitter sin to you, to wean your hearts from the world, and to raise your affections to heaven.
2. As to those who are apt to faint under the rebukes of Providence — a temper to which Christians are usually more prone than to that just described. With you I most tenderly sympathize. Let me, however, entreat you to turn your attention for a while from your affliction; think with yourselves how much worse your condition would have been if God had treated you according to your deserts; consider the mercies you still enjoy; above all, take sanctuary at the throne of grace, and there pour out your tears of sorrow to Him who hath an ear to hear, and a heart to pity, the afflicted.
3. As to those who are enabled to practise the great duties I have been describing, how great is your mercy! You may well glory in your infirmities, since the power of Christ thus rests upon you. An end, an important end, is already attained by your having been afflicted. Oh, let patience have its perfect work!
(J. Stennet, D. D.)I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE CONVEYED IN THE WORDS. The spirit of man must be taught by the Spirit of God, or it cannot know Him; and being taught implies receiving impressions; it implies a gradual advance in knowledge, the pupil imbibing the mind of the Teacher, and becoming more and more like Him till it knows even as it is known. Now it is beyond question that this education of the spirit for God is the highest work of man; and must it not then require the shutting out of all other sights and sounds that the heart may be alone with God? Why you think it needful to sit alone hour after hour, day after day, to unravel the intricacies and overcome the difficulties of business! You think it a matter of course that if you are to master a book, or a subject, or a science, you must have leisure from distracting occupations, and give yourself for a time to that one thing I If then to learn man's business requires stillness from other work; if to understand any of God's works demands stillness from other thoughts, shall we not, to know God Himself, need stillness of spirit, stillness alike from the bustle of active life, and the engrossment of thinking upon earthly things, and the distraction of fear, add the uneasiness of anxiety?
II. ITS PARTICULAR APPLICATION OF THE TEXT TO OURSELVES.
1. Let it speak to the man who is engrossed in work, trade, business, or profession. The week is gone. Sunday and working day are past. And when was the spirit still and alone with its God? When did it read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His holy, Word? When did it examine itself, and confess its sins, and dwell on God's promises, and listen for the whispers of His Spirit, and as a docile pupil receive and reflect His mind?
2. Let the text speak to those who are distracted by sorrow, fear, or anxiety. The heart broken by sorrow chafes and frets, and is often too unsettled for a season calmly to receive the lesson which God is come to teach. The spirit trembling in fear looks to the right hand and to the left, and despairing of human help is too agitated quietly to wait for God. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." "Be still, and know that I am God."
3. This text will speak to those who resist God's Spirit and oppose His will.
(Canon Morse.)I. A WORD OF WARNING ADDRESSED TO NATIONS WHEN INFLAMED WITH THE PASSION FOR CONQUEST AND AGGRANDIZEMENT. War is a time when the worst passions of men are roused, the purest motives of the most patriotic are misunderstood, political life is embittered with the acrimony of party strife and ambition, the unscrupulous are tempted to make capital out of the public troubles, and the mind is too disturbed and demoralized to rise to the calm sublimities of Divine things. Not in the wild commotion and brazen clangour of the battlefield, not in the whizzing hurricane of national strife and uproar, not in the rush and fret of excessive worldly care, is the knowledge of God best acquired; but in the solitude of retirement, in the hush and stillness of some meditative retreat, where the tocsin of war is never heard, and the roar of cannon and clash of arms never penetrate — "Be still, and know that I am God."
II. A WORD ADDRESSED TO THE SINCERE INQUIRER AFTER THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, BY PURELY INTELLECTUAL MEANS. Not in the strain and tussle of intellectual strife, not in the fret and ferment of the proud and restive mind, can God be known; but when the baffled inquirer acknowledges his weakness and defeat, when he looks with humble wistfulness into the darkness that has deepened around him, when he surrenders and stakes his all on the mercy of the Unseen — then, in that solemn moment of pause and conscious self-helplessness, God draws near, and there glows before the soul a sublime vision of the greatness and goodness of the only living and true God — "Be still, and know that i am God!"
III. A WORD ADDRESSED TO THE MAN WHO IS TEMPTED TO MURMUR AT THE HARDSHIPS OF A SUFFERING LOT. Life has its sombre side to all, more or less; and bravely as we may strive to look at the bright side, and to make the best of things, there are moments when our way is dark. Can it be wondered that from the pierced heart of suffering humanity a cry of anguish should rise that now and then overpowers the meekest submission and the most heroic patience, and find a plaintive voice in the trembling remonstrance — "O Lord, how long? Why these repeated strokes? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent!" It is then that God draws near and speaks — "Be still, and know that I am God. Cease thy sad complaining. Be hushed, my child. Know that I am here. I have not forgotten thee. I am ruling still. It is thus I am leading thee to teach thee. Know that i am God, even thy God!" There! thou art blessed.
I. WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN. We are not here recommended to sit down in a state of utter indifference and inaction, waiting with folded hands until God shall marvellously interfere for our deliverance.
II. WHAT IT DOES MEAN. "Be still;" cease from all vain opposition, from all ineffectual struggles; restrain all petulant curiosity; subdue all unruly desires; submit meekly and thankfully to His irresistible authority, and be convinced, whatever may befall you, that the Judge of all the earth shall assuredly do right.
III. APPLY THE COMMANDMENT TO PARTICULAR CASES.
1. With regard to worldly successes and worldly reverses, what continual cause we find for mistrusting our first impressions respecting them! That which seems most adverse to our happiness often proves the very means of establishing it upon a right foundation; while the realization of our most ardent desires entails countless evils and disappointments which far outweigh all the joy of success. In the Lord's Prayer there is but one direct petition for earthly good, and that couched in the most moderate terms, "Give us this day our daily bread." Every other need is embraced in that humble expression, "Thy will be done!"
2. Look now to God's dealings in things spiritual. No doubt there is such a thing as a wholesome and righteous uprousing of the powers and desires which God has bestowed, lest they sink into mere lethargy and insensibility; but there is danger, on the other hand, of our mistaking an active state of the soul for a fruitful one. Our Lord speaks of the good seed which is received in an honest and good heart as bringing forth fruit "with patience." It is no forced and hasty growth, shooting out in the showy but unproductive luxuriance of leaves, and bearing little, if any, perfect grain; there is a solidity and strength in the stem, and a gradual development of power, which gives certain promise of a plentiful harvest in the end.
(T. Ainger, M. A.)
I. THE MODE IN WHICH THE ANGEL OF DEATH DOES HIS WORK is fitted ever to impress on us this lesson. It might have been that a generation should have had its allotted time and its peculiar work — that side by side the companions of childhood and youth should have pursued their path, till for all it terminated at the same moment in the grave. The term fixed for human life might have been uniform add invariable. Every element of uncertainty might have been removed, and a man have been able from the very dawning of intelligence to calculate and anticipate the hour of his death. Need I say how great a change would thus have been introduced, or indicate how evil the effects that would have been produced on the majority of men? The thought of death would have been put away until the dreaded hour approached God has mercifully not left us thus. He has encircled us with monitors to remind us of our mortality, to silence every thought of self-confidence, to make us feel how frail we are. We are told of the great Sultan Saladin, that in the midst of the magnificence by which he was surrounded, he had a slave whose business it was daily to remind him that he was mortal. Wise, indeed, to perceive that the consciousness of his power, the pride of majesty, the adulations of those round him were fitted to banish this thought from the mind, and that the fact, thus liable to be forgotten, was that which ought to be ever present to the mind. Yet, surely, there were voices distinct enough to render such a monitor needless. Death doing his work around us is ever speaking to us. Sudden death, especially, should produce this impression. Now, God by such deaths rebukes our carelessness and pleads with us on our own behalf. Yours may be the next door at which Death shall knock.
II. LET US LEARN A LESSON OF RESIGNATION, A more wretched feeling cannot come across the soul in moments like these, than the agonizing doubt of the reality of God's providence. A calamity, sudden, terrible and overwhelming, has come upon us — the reason staggers and the heart sinks beneath the blow. The whole appears so contrary to every principle of God's government, and every conception of His love, that we begin to ask, "Is there a God that judgeth on the earth? Is there a Judge of the whole earth who will do right? Are we the children of a loving Father who makes all things work together for good?" If so, how can these things bey "Surely Thou hast made all men in vain." Happy for the spirit that in such dread hour can hear and obey the voice, "Be still, and know that I am God."
III. LET US CHERISH PATIENT BUT CONFIDENT HOPE. There is deep significance in the apostle's words, "We sorrow not as those who have no hope." We must sorrow. These partings rend oar hearts within us, and we cannot but sorrow. But we must not so discredit our profession and misrepresent the Gospel as to sorrow with that wild despair which may not unnaturally be associated with unbelief. Our burden may be very heavy, but hope relieves its pressure, and as it whispers in our ears tales of the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," not only helps us to toil on, hut teaches us some of the songs of Zion to which we haste, with which to beguile the way. That hope, which rests on the promises of a faithful God, and therefore cannot make ashamed, is your strength and consolation.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)I. AN IMPLICATION OF RESISTANCE. For when it is said, "Be still," resistance, turbulence, commotion are implied. And there is in all men a disposition to resist, to murmur and to rebel. Sometimes —
1. Against the dispensations of Providence, when there are afflictions. And sometimes —
2. Against those of Divine grace. Now —
3. Why is this? It is owing to human ignorance and human sin.
II. AN ASSERTION OF SUPREMACY. "Know that I am God." Note —
1. The fact — "I am God." He is here asserting His superiority to the idols of the heathen. But the recollection of His supremacy will help us to cease from rebelling against Him. We think of His absolute and unimpeachable sovereignty: His pure and equitable justice.
2. Let us apply this fact. Let it be understood, admitted, and let it have all the influence which its importance demands.
III. A CLAIM OF SUBMISSION. "Be still" — be silent and submissive. As Eli, say, "It is the Lord."
(A. A. Livermore.)I. A SUBMISSION TO WHATEVER GOD COMMANDS.
II. A SUBMISSION TO WHATEVER GOD DOES.
III. A SUBMISSION TO THE VARIOUS WAYS IN WHICH HE IS PLEASED TO CARRY ON HIS WORK, EITHER IN OUR OWN SOULS OR IN THE SOULS OF OTHERS.
IV. A SUBMISSION TO GOD, IN REFERENCE TO WHATEVER HE HAS PROMISED.
(N. Bangs, D. D.)
I. THE HEATHEN BELONG TO GOD. He makes the claim, "All souls are Mine!" But "other sheep I have." He is the God of the valleys as well as of the hills. The Asiatic is as nearly related to God as the European, and the African is as dear to Him as an Englishman.
II. IN THE LOWEST AND THE MOST IGNORANT OF THE HEATHEN THERE IS A CAPACITY FOR GOD. When we speak of "the heathen world" we know that we are to distinguish between some races and others. Among some we find old civilizations, philosophies and religions; China and Japan are different from Africa; India and Ceylon are different from some of the islands of the seas. But the people who have the greatest knowledge and civilization are as much in need of the Gospel as those most deeply sunk in the abyss of barbarism and ignorance. "Leave them alone to work out their own salvation if they need it, by and by they will evolve into something better." Yes, we are thankful for the conviction that they will evolve into a higher state, but there are means essential for this purpose. The same Gospel is needed by the most advanced as by the most degraded, by the barbarians of Melita, and the philosophers of Athens, by the painted savage and the proud Brahmin. There is a capacity in the very lowest for God. When you deal with the dullest, the most stolid, the most ignorant, only get beneath the crust of habit, formed by years of sensuality, indifference, and prejudice, and you will find a home for the truth — a something within responding to the Word without. "I will be exalted in the earth." We are warranted in saying that the victories already achieved are such as to encourage and strengthen confidence; but our firmest ground of trust is this, we know that He is God.
(J. H. Jowett.)
I will be exalted among the heathen.Philippians 2:9-11). If it be true that in spite of freedom of inquiry, and that licence of speculation which has accompanied the advancement of science, there never was a time when the Church exercised so wide a beneficence as she does to-day, when her followers were so many, so courageous, and so united; when her influence upon the politics and literature of the nations was so commanding, we must ascribe it to the revival of foreign missions. That spirit of enterprise and unselfish love which is the direct inspiration of missions must be the animating genius of all Church work. The ascended Christ pervades by His Spirit everything that touches the mind of nations — the tides of public opinion, their ebb and flow, the changing bases of the religious sentiment, the circulation of literature, the strife and the issue of the battlefield, the revolutions of commerce, and the fate of governments. Christ is in all these movements. He appropriates every force, and uses it for the exaltation of God among the nations. The ultimate fate of the Christian religion is a subject of intense interest even to those who do not believe in its divinity. I refer to the thoughtful men who study the forces that are moving the world. These intellectual observers see in Christianity a tremendous power with a history behind it, and a prospect before it, which not only places it above the frvalship of other faiths, but leaves it absolutely alone as the one religion which educates the highest principles of humanity, and commands the civilization of the world. They assail its dogmas, they predict its fall; and yet are compelled to acknowledge that, in spite of the disunion which distracts its labours and weakens its federations, its march upon the convictions of mankind was never so swift, never so triumphant as it is to-day. The becoming attitude of those within the Church in their observation is stillness. Not the stillness of inactivity, nor the stillness of a sullen disappointment, and still less the quiet of a settled despair. When God says, "Be still," He enforces the stillness of waiting — of watching the unfolding of ways and the development of thoughts which are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. But why should we be still? Because we know in part, and, therefore, prophesy — that is, utter Divine things — in part. We are ignorant of God's plan and God's method. But there are two things on which our ignorance may rest itself. First, the immutable declaration, "I will be exalted among the nations"; secondly, the proofs that this declaration is in process of fulfilment. Let us leave God to work out the realization of His designs in His own way. If the light of His operations is not clear to our understanding, if surrounding events appear to contradict our impression of His mind and character, can we expect any other result when passing finite beings are watching the steps of the Infinite?
(E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)
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