Psalm 48:12
In this psalm, which is both song and psalm, and is one of those "for the sons of Korah," there is a general theme, illustrated by a reference to some historic event. The general theme is the loving-kindness and care of God over his Church. The specific historic illustration it is not possible to fix with certainty, although the preponderance of opinion, and also the largest amount of probability, seems to incline towards the wondrous repulse of Edom, Ammon, Moab, and ethers, in answer to Jehoshaphat's prayer, without Israel having to fight in the battle (see 2 Chronicles 20.). We see from the narrative of the Chronicles that the children of the Korahites sang a song of praise on the occasion of that signal interposition of God, although it is not likely that the song then sang was the forty-eighth psalm; for the reference in ver. 7 is against that; and at first it is not easy to see how "ships of Tarshish" should come to be mentioned in this song, if prepared with reference to the event of which we have made mention. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:25, 26) makes mention of ships of Tarshish which belonged to Tyro, being "broken" by the east wind; and it is possible that the psalm may have an allusion thereto. But, singularly enough, the chapter that records Jehoshaphat's prayer and deliverance records also his defection and its punishment; and we are told that his ships were broken so that they were not able to go to Tarshish (2 Chronicles 20:35-37). If this be the reference in the song before us, its significance would be very striking; in that case, it would mean that Jehovah, Israel's God, who put the heathen to flight for Israel's sake, put even Israel to shame when her people or her kings left the straight path of reliance on and obedience to God alone; and that this was among the "judgments" of him whose right hand is full of righteousness; showing us that God's care for his Church is just as marked when he rebukes her for her sins as when he delivers her from her foes; and that both for his faithful chastisement as for his mighty interposition, his loving-kindness is rehearsed in his temple with gratitude and song. And there is a holy pride in rehearsing the privileges of Zion as far outweighing those of the nations around - a pride, however, which refers all the honour and glory of Zion to God, and to God alone. Interesting, however, as these historic allusions are to the student, the higher spiritual bearing of the psalm is far more interesting, and far more important, as it sets before us this theme - the privilege and honour of the Church of God. We need not here argue the point that the Christian Church is the successor to the honours and privileges of the Jewish Church. A comparison of Exodus 19:6 with 1 Peter 2:9 will show this. The Christian Church, in its largest sense, is made up of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. The organization of distinct and definite communities as Churches is a necessity for the time now present, but no such organizations include all believers; many believers, moreover, are in no such organization at all; only "the Lord knoweth them that are his;" and over all such his care is exercised: in their totality as including all regenerated souls, they make up the Church of God. Of this Church as a unity we have now to speak.

I. GOD'S DWELLING-PLACE IS IN HIS CHURCH, (Vers. 1, 2.) It is quite possible that, after what we have just said about the Church in its entirety and vastness, and about the impossibility of its being scanned by any human eye, that it may be said, "But if the Church is thus undefinable by us as to its limits, we cannot conceive of it as a dwelling-place." This we can easily understand. But the demur has, in reality, no force. For it is quite clear from the New Testament that as there is "the Church" in the highest spiritual sense, so there are local and organized Churches in the geographical sense. Of this the epistles to the seven Churches of Asia are immediate and sufficient proof. And wherever a Church is faithful to its Lord, since whatever is true of the whole Church is true of any part of it, the believers in Jesus who belong to any local and faithful Church may apply to themselves that which Paul declared of the Ephesian converts when he wrote, "Ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." Thus no Christian need hesitate to apply the words to the fellowship of believers to which he belongs; he may say," God is known in our palaces for a Refuge. This Church is a city of the great King. And the real presence of a living Saviour among us is our honour, our joy, our life (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20).

II. GOD HIMSELF IS THE REFUGE OF THE CHURCH. (Ver. 3.) It is the privilege of the individual believer, in all times of trial, sorrow, and care, to betake himself to his God and Saviour as to an unfailing Friend. But this privilege rises to sublimity when a whole company of believers, encompassed with peril and threatened by foes from without, can all rush to their Saviour in faith and prayer, as to a Refuge from the gathering storm!

III. GOD'S LOVING-KINDNESS IS THE THEME OF THE CHURCH. (Ver. 9.) How much fuller and sweeter is this theme for meditation now than of old! Then it was gained through prophets; now from him before whose presence lawgiver and prophet retire, as stars are concealed in the brightness of the sun! How incomparably does Romans 8. surpass aught in the Old Testament! And what was there in the olden time so tender as Luke 15.? Verily such a theme lifts the soul heavenward, tunes the lips to song, and speeds the feet to run the race set before us.

IV. GOD'S DELIVERANCES MARK THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH. (Vers. 4-8.) The effect of this vivid description is pictorial. We can almost see the kings eyeing Jerusalem with envy, plotting her capture, seized with panic and hurrying away as for very life. The psalmist says that he had heard of such deliverances in times past, and now had seen them. And any student of Church history who has been withal for fifty years a close observer of Church life, can say the same. That God is the perpetual Deliverer of his Church is the story of the past and the testimony of the present. Nor may we forget the double kind of deliverance:

(1) from foes without;

(2) from mischief within.

If the view given above of ver. 7 is correct, the verse suggests that the Church owes quite as much to God's chastening love in correcting her for her sins, as to his rescuing power in spoiling her foes. That he will do this is part of the covenant (Psalm 89:28-33).

V. THE HONOUR OF GOD'S NAME IS HIS OWN PLEDGE TO THE CHURCH. (Vers. 10,11.) In the attribute of God's righteousness is the Church's repose and glory. Through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, faithfulness, justice, righteousness, can be the supports of sinful men. This is the supreme wonder of redeeming grace. Think of it! Sinful people rejoicing that God's right hand is full of righteousness!

VI. GOD'S GRACIOUS RELATIONS ARE THE GUARANTEE OF THE PERPETUITY OF THE CHURCH. (Vers. 12-14.) We omit the italic "it in ver. 13 (Authorized Version), and translate the first word in ver. 14 that." The psalmist incites to a study of Zion's towers, bulwarks, palaces, privileges, that it may be declared to the generation following, that "this God is our God for ever and ever." And when we study the redemption in Christ which has founded the Church, the spiritual power which is building up the Church, the watchful providence which has for eighteen centuries guarded the Church, the story which we have to hand down to the coming generation is the same, but told with vaster emphasis, surer faith, and more rapturous joy. "This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our Guide above death, and beyond it!" "Happy is the people that is in such a case! yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!" - C.

Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
So they revered the city on the hill. Their affections clustered round about its sacred courts. They loved the very tracks which led to it. "Blessed is the man in whose heart are the highways to Zion." The beaten roads were trodden deep in their affections. The stones of the building were clothed in rich and mystic meaning. "Thy servants take pleasure in her stones." A radiant history made worship eager, grateful and assured. "We have heard with our ear, O God; our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old." The hoary pile was beautified with the association of the spiritual splendours of other days. They gloried in their heritage. Such was the sentiment of the olden days. The nation found its unity in its common love of Zion. There are now many Zions. The exaltation of one particular mountain has ceased. Spiritual affections no longer find their points of convergence in a lonely and isolated temple. To-day religion has many homes, but because of the many abiding-places the strength of the general fellowship need not be impoverished. The zealous reverence for particular faiths creates the religious atmosphere of a people. Here, then, is our own Zion. What is the significance of this building to the family which gathers within its walls? To an uncounted host the plain old pile is a dear and honoured home. The very stones are revered. They are the shrine of a sacred sentiment. Here our fathers met and prayed. Hero they had such visions of the Master as made them bold to confront the world. But it is not only that these stones are the shrine of a sacred sentiment; they are to many of you the house of a sacred experience. It was here you first saw the face of your Lord. It was here you were born again. I do not wonder that you love the old Zion. Every other place is a strange and unsuggesgive lodging: this house is your birthplace and your home. "Tell the towers thereof!" What are the towers of our faith? Here is the primary stronghold: Christ is the alone-exalted head of the Christian Church. No one shares His headship or pre-eminence. No one can claim a deputed sovereignty. There is only one throne, and to that throne we may all come boldly, and find grace and mercy in every time of need. Christ is the alone-exalted head of the Christian Church. That is one of the strong towers of our faith. "Tell the towers thereof." Here is another of our strongholds: The Christian Church is constituted of Christian believers. The confines of a country do not mark the boundaries of a Church. Geographical measurements cannot delimit the magnitude of a Church. The Christian Church begins where Christian believers begin; it ends where they end. "Tell the towers thereof." Here is a third of our strongholds: Every body of Christian believers enjoys the guiding presence of the Holy Ghost. He has called Himself the Spirit of "Counsel and of Might," and as such will He stand revealed. "Mark ye well her bulwarks!" Yes, what are the bulwarks of our faith? What is the character of its walls? What is the nature of its defence? The defences of our faith are the resistance of its own redemptive grace. Spirituality is to be safeguarded by the spiritual. The bulwarks of a saving grace are to be found in the powers of its own salvation. "Consider her palaces!" Yes, we are not afraid to consider the home-life created and sustained by the forces of our faith. "Consider her palaces," her dwellings, the family life which is nourished behind the ramparts of our faith. Can you conceive of any surer and firmer cement for the solidarity of a home than the immediate fellowship of each member with the Christ, in the common bond of the Holy Ghost? The palaces created by our faith, its family and its social life, are the abiding-places of the Eternal God. "Walk about Zion, go round about her: tell the towers thereof, mark ye well her bulwarks: consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generations following." Is it worth the telling? Or shall we close the book and shelve the story? Can the twentieth century do without our faith? Is there no need for our towers, and our bulwarks, and our palaces? Have we a gospel which will redeem the coming man? Have we a faith which will sanctify the coming home? Have we a hope which will be directive and preservative of the purest elements in the State? Then let us proclaim it, and let us make provision for its proclamation.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The walk about Zion is an examination of her position and extent; going round about her implies a complete view of the entire circumference of the holy city. Filling her towers is an examination of her resources; marking the strength of her bulwarks is to admire her stability; considering her palaces is to exalt and glorify the majesty of her internal state. The study of the external and internal condition of the Church fills the heart with rapture and the lips with praise. In figurative martial terms the psalmist celebrates the position, strength, glory and perpetuity of the Church. Based upon the eternal rock, it will stand until the long-groaning creation awakes to hear the Easter hymn that is to be sung in the Jubilee of the final Sabbath. The uppermost questions that now challenge the attention of the chief nations of the world are of and concerning the Church. Much is being said about organic unity, which is another thing than ecclesiastical unity. A forest may be a unit — that is, one forest, all its parts nursed on the same soil and under the same conditions of climate, but it is not an organic unit, for it contains twenty species of trees, all trees, indeed, but not the same in trunk, fibre or branches. They grow together, but they have each their own special development. When, therefore, we talk of organic unity among Protestants, let us remember that the unity of a common life does not imply the necessity of ecclesiastical consolidation. Still, various branches of the Evangelical Catholic Church are every day coming nearer toward one another. And they are coming in virtue of the assimilating force that is deeper than creeds, and deeper far than preferences for mere forms, whether of worship or of government. That force is defined in Holy Scripture as "the Unity of the Spirit." And this is the only unity for which we need to pray or labour. To understand this unity, consider the meaning of three words.

I. CHRISTIANITY. The Rationalist regards it as a system more or less divine which must needs be measured by human reason before it can bind the consciences of men. This low and inadequate view may be Protestant as against the superstitions of the Papacy, but it is not evangelical, inasmuch as it denies the infallibility of Scripture, the vicarious atonement of our Lord and its related doctrines. But Christianity is the complete revelation of the Divine will in the Scriptures. It is Christ revealing Himself to the human consciousness.

II. THE CHURCH is one in historical transmission; and it is catholic, including all who fear God. Ecclesiastical arrangements are not of its essence, and do not interfere with its real unity, which is that of the Spirit. Rome has been fighting on a thousand battlefields to compel an external unity, but human nature will never submit to it. Such unity is but a dream, an ecclesiastical device.

III. RELIGION. This is to some —

1. An intellectual conception only. To others —

2. Feeling, rapture. To others —

3. A devout performance on the Lord's day. But —

4. To the evangelist it is faith and holiness.

(Elbert S. Porter, D. D.)

A diligent search into, and consideration of, the means and causes of the preservation and protection of the Church in the greatest dangers and difficulties, is a duty incumbent on us for our own support against sinful fears, and to enable us to that testimony which is required for future generations, to encourage them to trust in the Lord.

1. What is to be understood by the preservation and protection of the Church, so as we may look neither for less nor more than what we are like to meet with?

2. What is meant by searching into, and considering of, these causes and means of the Church's preservation? "Walk about Zion, tell her towers, set your heart to her bulwarks, consider her palaces," etc.

3. What are those causes and means of the Church's preservation, those towers and bulwarks which will not fail, whenever Zerah or Sennacherib comes, or whatever attempts are made upon Zion?

4. What reason is there why we should thus search into and consider these causes of the Church's preservation and protection?

5. What is the testimony which we have to give concerning this matter to the ensuing generation? "That ye may declare it to the generation to come."

( J. Owen, D. D.)

d: —


1. Our soil is fertile, liberally rewarding the husbandman with "grass for cattle, and herb for the use of man"; with all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life.

2. No country in the world is more sufficient for itself, or more independent of every other; while from innumerable ports we disperse our superfluities and the fruits of our industry to every nation under heaven.

3. Our climate is mild, temperate and salubrious. We are neither scorched by excess of heat, nor made torpid by intense cold.

4. Our people are hardy and vigorous; patient of toil; docile, generous and open; attached to their country; intrepid in war, industrious at home.


1. Ye have personal liberty, which, as it cannot be taken from you without a crime, so neither can ye alienate it of yourselves but for a time, and upon such terms as still keep you under the protection of the laws, to guard you from abuse, and to secure your hire.

2. Ye have political liberty. Every man is allowed to declare his sentiments concerning the measures of government, and to animadvert on them in the most public manner.

3. Ye have religious liberty in a very eminent degree. Every man is allowed to hold his own creed, and to worship God in his own way.


(J. Adamson, D. D.)

I. THE CHURCH OF GOD IS OUR BIRTHPLACE. Angels said, "This man was born there."

II. THE CENTRE OF OUR CHIEF SOCIAL ATTRACTIONS. Are not our grandest associations connected with the house of God? These are the men that are to stand by us in times of trouble. These are they who are to counsel us when we go astray. These are the men who are to carry us out to our last slumber when we have done with our earthly toil. Oh! I want to be surrounded by church friends, some to counsel me, some to encourage me, some to cheer me and strengthen me. I want to sit with them, and sing with them, and pray with them, and die with them.


IV. A REFUGE. Seafaring men do not always expect smooth sailing. Neither ought we on the sea of life always expect to have smooth sailing. You have not always had it the way you wanted it in the past. You will not always have it the way you want it in the future. But when trouble came you went into the house of God and found it a refuge. You had your troubles explained to you.

V. OUR MONUMENT. It seems a very silly thing to expend one or two or three thousand dollars on a tombstone. But that which you do for the Church of God is your eternal monument. It is a living memento.


(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Homiletic Review.
I. HER TOWERS. These naturally represent the great truths that are lifted into prominence. There are some ten great truths curiously related and parts of one system. Five of them are like corner towers — the Being of God is central to all — then the doctrine of the Son, the Spirit, Man, and the Word of God. The intermediate connecting truths are the Mediation of Christ in Atonement, the Mediation of the Spirit in Regeneration, Justification by Faith, the Inspiration of the sacred writers, and the right of private study of Scripture. No one of these truths can be sacrificed without weakening the whole structure.

II. Her BULWARKS. These as naturally represent the great barriers or defences of the Church, which act as restraints against wickedness and worldliness, serving both to keep in disciples and keep out evildoers. The Church has certain separating barriers which define her province and life, and restraining barriers which repel and restrain evil. No small part of the service of the Church in the world is found in the resistance to evil. What the dykes are to Holland the Church is to the community: it keeps out the flood of evil.

III. Her PALACES. These suggest beauty, honour, delight, privilege, and may stand for all the privileges of the children of God.

1. Worship, with all the ordinances, sacraments, prayer, praise, etc.

2. Fellowship, both with God and saints.

3. Holy living and growing both in knowledge and grace.

4. Service to God and man.

(Homiletic Review.)

Cities are prominent waymarks in human history. With them began the distribution of rights from the few to the many. Cincinnatus at his plough had his patriotism fed by voices from the city. Cities show us the most of man; they exhibit what life can be made; they fortify genius so that its power runs not to waste; and out of the struggles of commerce, the breadth of view concerning human relations to which commerce leads, has sprung the best thought of what is duo from man to man. When Henry the First — called "The City Builder," gave to cities peculiar privileges to induce his people to congregate, unwittingly he laid the grand basis of opposition to the Feudal system, and the legal foundation of popular rights. The people united to ward off the attacks of the lords or barons; union gave strength; the limit of locality made them develop their resources; commerce, art and wealth increased within their walls; energy grew and multiplied; the people became wealthy, respectable, educated and refined; better laws and institutions were desired; and thus the principle of human rights, leading to political equality, was gradually developed. Towers and bulwarks, high walls and fortified castles, were the defences of old; to walk about an ancient city was to mark these things; and the great story that was carried down from one generation to another was of hugs walls and mighty gates — stories which we can hardly believe as we see the variety of these defences in the presence of modern arts of destruction. Then cities had to be set upon a hill, that no mountain might give the archers of the enemy a position of assault; or they must be reared, like Babylon and Palmyra, in the midst of a vast plain. But not so now. He who now walks about a great city to note its strength, its defences, its promises of superior greatness, does not mark down upon his map of survey walls, towers, bulwarks, palaces; for he looks into the character of homes, the intelligence and virtue of families, and he counts up schools and institutions of learning, benevolence, religion. Undazzled by all the glitter and show of wealth, unimpressed by the stately palaces, unmoved by the boasts of trade and commerce, and disregarding the growth of material prosperity that makes the grand exhibition of thronged streets and crowded marts — the river dotted with the white sails, amid which the floating vapour from the steam craft rises as incense, sending the thoughts out to sea and to the infinite, unimpressed, in his deepest nature, by all this, his great question is, How true is it that God and the Lamb have their thrones and servants here? How much is God the light of this city? How much of all this glory is as the costume of this oriental bride adorned for her husband, as we think of the city wedded to Christ? No interest of the city can be secured by deserting the Church or profaning the Sabbath. Religion is the patron of all good. She consecrates the child to God, that daily duty towards it may be more and better felt. She invokes a blessing in the school, and sanctifies education as the process of unfolding the mind, as the sun opens the flower, ripens the fruit, gives the seasons of the year. She comes to the workshop and to the lad at his apprenticeship everywhere, telling him labour is a great ordinance of God, and bids him aim to do well his task as a part of religious duty, assuring him that all effort or improvement has its relation to the moral culture and condition and prospects of the soul. Join the elements of duty thus presented, and we may be able to speak in Scripture language, with more than its original meaning, of "the crowning City, whose merchants are princes, and whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth." The city will be great. To walk round about her will be to walk about Zion, and to find something worthy of telling to the generations springing up around us. God will be known in her palaces for a refuge.

(H. Bacon.)

As the Jews were very proud of their temple, and greatly inclined to magnify themselves on account of it, we feel as if we could sympathize with them in their joy and admiration when we picture them walking about Zion literally, and marking the towers thereof; but it may not occur to us, when under this feeling, that we ourselves, as a nation, have a far more magnificent temple than even the Jews had, for we have part and portion in the great Christian temple of which Solomon's was after all but the appointed type or symbol. The foundation of our Zion is not concealed. It is all before us in explict revelation, and the great master builder Himself thus brings it fully into view, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." And, alluding to it still further, in telling believers on whom they rest, it is said of them that they "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." So close is the spiritual connection between Christ and believers. But we wish to show now that it is for the sake of the Church the world itself exists.

I. THE IMPORTANCE TO BE ATTACHED TO THE TOWERS AND BULWARKS OF ZION, AND THE DUTY OF ALL TO HELP IN MAINTAINING THEM. The world is spared for the sake of the Church to be redeemed out of it, and the Church is to aid in gathering together the souls that shall be saved. How much, then, does the world owe to the Church, for it is only for her sake that it is preserved. As the Canaanites were for Israel, who should inherit their land.

II. ALL PEOPLE IN A CHRISTIAN LAND, WHATEVER THEIR POSITION, ARE UNDER STRICT OBLIGATION TO AID IN TEE BUILDING OF ZION, Now, this duty is binding, not on private individuals only, but on men in their official capacities as kings, rulers and having authority. It would be strange if those who, by their position, could do most for this work, were free from obligation to do anything. All past history, as given in Scripture, contradicts those who would have no connection between the Church and the State. For kings and governments have helped the Church, have been commanded to do so, and been blessed for that which they have done. Then, "my soul, come not thou into their secret." Who would separate what God has joined?

(J. Allen.)

Mark well her bulwarks; consider ye her palaces.
The psalm speaks of Jerusalem, the pride of the Jewish heart, and the boast of the Jewish glory. It is described from two points: from that of admiring friendship, and from continuous enmity. In this symbolical poem the kings are represented as enemies.

I. BULWARKS SYMBOLIZE POWER AND STRENGTH. I fail to discern any of the marks of decay and weakness with which the Church of God in our day is charged. Her towers are growing stronger, her glory more resplendent, her foes decrease, and her friends become more numerous. Some of the manifest emblems of power are —

1. Christian civilization. The very air men breathe is charged through and through with Christian thought.

2. The Bible, for it is a great source of power. One of the surest proofs of its power is the virulence of its enemies. Men would not attack a book which is a dead letter.

3. The vast accumulation of wealth, and the number of churches. These are signs of power. The value of Church property in our land is unparalleled, and increases greatly every year. There is not a single heathen temple in process of erection in the world. The Church gives hundreds of thousands a year for mission world. Her light flashes away up in frozen Greenland, in Central Africa and in Polynesia. Christ will be universal King.


1. There is the palace of assurance — the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit. These need no witness of guilt — of that men are conscious. When pardon comes we have the witness of the Spirit that we are taken into the family of God.

2. The palace of Christian fellowship.

3. That of Divine communion. Zion with her towers, her bulwarks, her palaces, is the joy of the whole earth. Now she is the Church militant, but shall be soon the Church triumphant.

(J. H. Bayliss, D. D.)

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