If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
I. THIS EVIDENCE IS THE MOST ACCESSIBLE. Like the facts of science, it is before our eyes. If you want to know the truth, "come and see." As St. Paul argues, "the works of the flesh are manifest," and a black catalogue he gives of some of them. But the works of the Spirit are also manifest; and they are so contrary to the works of the flesh, that when a man changes his life, to walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, the evidence is conclusive as to the transcendent and beneficent power of Christ. The great conversions of St. Luke, as recorded in his Gospel and in the Acts, are evidences of the highest kind; but they are but samples. From that time down through the ages there is an ever-increasing cloud of witnesses. There is much evidence that is only accessible to the learned, and to such as have leisure and capacity for investigation; but here is evidence open to all - clear, relevant, and unmistakable.
II. THIS EVIDENCE IS THE MOST CONVINCING. It is so to the individual Christian himself. There may be arguments you cannot answer, and difficulties and doubts you cannot remove; but if you have felt the power of Christ for good, you have proof which is better than all else, that Christ is from God (1 John 5:10). You know the Bible to be true. You know salvation to be a reality. It is not something you have heard of or seen in others, but something which God has done for your own soul Like the man who had his sight restored, you can say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Or like the woman healed of the issue of blood, you can, solicited by love, bear witness, even "before all the people" (Luke 8:47), as to the great things which Christ has done for you. This evidence is the most convincing to others besides ourselves. When we find a real change of mind, a transformation of character, a life made beautiful by self-denial and virtue where formerly it was otherwise, and self-ruled instead of Christ, we cannot but confess the hand of God (Galatians 1:23; Acts 4:13; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:21).
III. THIS EVIDENCE IS THE MOST ENDURING. It is not limited to one time; it runs through the ages. Here is the true apostolic succession, and it has never been broken. In spite of all opposition and hostility, Christianity lives and prevails. At home and abroad, in every department of business and in every kind of society, it has its witnesses. Wherever we go, we may find brethren in Christ; and when, like Paul, we meet them, perhaps, when we are in trouble or in unexpected places, let us thank God, and take courage (Acts 28:14). Let us also, in our several places, see that we are found faithful. If we are called of God, it is that we may live for God. If we have been enlightened by Christ, it is that we may let our light shine where he has given us our lot. What an honour to be a witness for Christ! The more closely we imitate him by holy living, by faithful work, by loving service to the poor and needy, the greater shall be our power with God and men, and the greater our reward in heaven (John 20:21; Matthew 19:28). - W.F.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.I. CONSIDER WHAT IS IMPLIED IN REGARDING INIQUITY IN THE HEART. The words do not point to open, profane and scandalous sinners. But there are many who maintain a fair character before men, who, before God, shall be found wanting indeed. They are deceiving themselves, and say they have peace when they have none really. But —
1. These regard iniquity in their hearts who secretly practise it, fearing the world, but not God. They forget Jeremiah 23:24.
2. Who indulge the desire of sin though they may be restrained from the actual commission of it. Many do this in regard to impurity, sensuality and malice. But see the words of our Lord (Matthew 5:27, 28, 21, 22). And —
3. They who reflect upon past sins with delight, or without sincere humiliation of mind. Perhaps our real disposition, both towards sin and duty, may be as certainly discovered by the state of our minds after, as in the trine of action. For sudden temptation may sweep a man away; but the question which determines what the man is, is what are his thoughts and feelings in regard to his sin afterwards (Job 13:26; Psalm 25:7).
4. Those who look upon the sins of others with approbation or without grief. Not as in Psalm 119:136, 158; Jeremiah 13:17; 2 Peter 2:7, 8. Some there are who find mirth in other's sins (Proverbs 14:9). And —
5. They are to be suspected who are loth to bring themselves to real searching of heart, or that God should try them (Psalm 19:12). Now, all such do more or less regard iniquity in their hearts. But —
II. GOD WILL NOT HEAR THEM. This means —
1. When they cry for deliverance from affliction. God does hear the cry of His children (Psalm 91:15; Psalm 50:15). There are three different objects of desire to a good man while in affliction — the Divine presence to support him under it; the sanctified use of it for the improvement of the spiritual life; and, in due time, complete deliverance from it. The two first, he that regards iniquity in his heart will hardly ask; and the last he shall not be able to obtain (Hosea 7:14).
2. He will not hear them when they intercede for others (John 9:31). It is the prayer of the believing righteous man that availeth (James 5:15, 16). How terrible not to be able to intercede for others because we are of those whom God will not hear. How diligent we should be, who have to pray for others, to see to it that we walk with God.
1. Let the ungodly be alarmed: it only regarding iniquity in the heart cause men to be rejected of God, how shall you appear who are living in open and gross sin?
2. Let us each and all examine ourselves whether we be of those spoken of here. Do we mourn over secret sins, and grieve because of the sin of others? Ask God to search and try your ways. Guard against your besetting sins and live continually as in the presence of God.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. A SUPPOSITION STATED. When may it be said that iniquity is regarded in the heart?
1. When it is permitted to reign in the life.
2. When we offer apologies for its existence.
3. When we evince no solicitude for its destruction.
4. When we make provision for its desires.
II. A CONSEQUENCE DEDUCED. "The Lord will not hear me" (vers. 19, 20). This supposes —
1. That prayer may be offered to God, even when iniquity is regarded in the heart.. Sinners pray when they are in trouble; Pharaoh confessed his sin (Exodus 9:27, 28); the Pharisee stood and prayed in the temple, but his language evinced the pride and haughtiness of his heart.
2. That where iniquity is regarded in the heart, the prayer is unacceptable to God.
3. That the man whose prayer God will not hear is in a most pitiable state.INFERENCES.
1. How utterly impossible it is to deceive God (2 Chronicles 16:9).
2. That there may be a fair show of religious profession, even where iniquity is regarded in the heart.
3. That the most effectual way to secure success in our prayers, is to hate iniquity and put away our sin, and beseech God to prove us, etc.
4. That if God has not answered our prayers, we should be solicitous to know the cause, and find out the hindrance.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. OBEDIENCE. So long as I knowingly refuse obedience, no amount or vehemence of prayer will avail. I must lift up "clean" hands, or He will turn away in righteous anger.
II. WHOLEHEARTEDNESS. They that seek Him with "the whole heart " will find Him. None other. God is a jealous God. Therefore halfheartedness will find no favour with Him. How often does God find it necessary to try His people and keep them waiting, till their hearts wax warm and in dead earnest, and their whole being goes out to Him in prayer.
III. A CLEANSED HEART. See the text. An evil heart — of unbelief, of cherished sin, of impure desire, of malice, envy, worldliness — may spoil all our prayers and make them a very snare and a cursing. Oh, it is a fearful thing to come before God in prayer By our very prayers we shall be judged, both now and at the day of judgment. What wonder, then, that so many prayers are unanswered?
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
1. It is to have a constant and habitual love of it. This true of all the unregenerate. It is born with him and he loves it (Ephesians 5:29).
2. An unmortified habit or course of sin. Even a child of God may have this: David had (Psalm 38:5).
3. An actual retention of the mind upon sin.
II. WHAT IT IS TO HAVE OUR PRAYERS ACCEPTED WITH GOD. It is to prevail with God for the obtaining of what we desire.
III. HOW IT IS THAT SUCH REGARD OF SIN HINDERS OUR PRAYERS.
1. Because in such case we cannot pray by the Spirit, and no other prayers find answer.
2. We cannot pray in faith.
3. Nor with fervour
IV. APPLICATION. Let all seek when they pray to have sincere hearts, free from hypocrisy and the love of sin. For otherwise our prayers cannot prosper, and, moreover, we incur the danger of a heavy curse (Genesis 27:12). Therefore, before prayer, let us examine ourselves. This, if anything, will clear the coast. Sift yourselves by examining as Satan does by tempting.
(R. South, D.D.)I. THE BLESSING DESIGNED — that the Lord will hear us. This supposes —
1. That our prayer be rightly endorsed and presented, which can only be through the atonement of Christ. True, when men, like Balaam, are set on their iniquity, God will at times let them have their way. But the text speaks of a right answer to a right prayer.
2. That our prayers are for permitted things.
II. THE DECLARED HINDRANCE to prayer — "If I regard iniquity in my heart." Now —
1. This is not sin in the life so much as in the heart which is contemplated. The blind man's reasoning was right (John 9:31). And yet men will keep up the form of prayer though purposing to sin.
2. And it need not be some definite sin that is designed, but if the desires of the mind be turned to sin, then prayer is hindered.
III. THE REASON OF THIS DECLARED CONNECTION between sin and disregarded prayer. Because in such state of heart we cannot pray. We may recite words, but we cannot pray. Let us deal honestly with God in our prayers.
(Daniel Moore, M. A.)
I. PRAYER MUST BE INSINCERE.
1. For the most part, when men engage in prayer, they ask those things for which they are taught to pray.
2. If they regard iniquity in their heart, they cannot be sincere.
3. For they cannot really desire such blessings.
II. PRAYER MUST BE FAITHLESS.
1. Without faith, there is no prayer.
2. Faith, if it exists, is one of many graces, and itself purifies.
3. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, we cannot have faith, and, therefore, God cannot hear us.
III. PRAYER CANNOT BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE WILL.
1. Supposing that the man who regards iniquity in his heart be sincere, his prayer must be for what, etc.
2. He must be rejected.
IV. GOD WILL SHOW HIS DISPLEASURE BY REFUSING TO HEAR.
1. Supposing that the man, etc., is offering a prayer for promised blessings, and —
2. That he is sincere, yet —
3. God has a controversy with him.
V. THE ENDS OF WHICH WE SEEK THE ACCOMPLISHMENT, THROUGH THE BLESSINGS ASKED, MUST BE DISCOUNTENANCED BY GOD.
1. The man asks what is right.
2. He asks sincerely. But —
3. He asks right things for an improper end. We plead the glory of God — the name of Christ.
Homilist.I. THERE WOULD BE INIQUITY IN THE HEART, IN PROFESSING TO BE PENITENTIALLY HUMBLED ON ACCOUNT OF ANY COURSE OF ACTION, WITH WHICH WE HAVE HAD NOTHING TO DO, OR THAT IS RIGHT IN ITSELF.
II. THERE WOULD BE INIQUITY IN THE HEART, IF WE COMMITTED OURSELVES TO ANY ENTERPRISE, WITHOUT CONSULTING GOD'S WILL AT THE OUTSET.
III. THERE WOULD BE INIQUITY IN THE HEART, IN IMPLORING THE ALMIGHTY TO BLESS MEANS ESSENTIALLY INADAPTED TO THE END.
IV. THERE WOULD BE INIQUITY IN THE HEART, IN SUPPLICATING THE ALMIGHTY TO ENABLE ONE CLASS OF HIS SINFUL CREATURES TO INFLICT INJURIES UPON ANOTHER.
V. THERE WOULD BE INIQUITY IN THE HEART, IN ENTREATING HIM TO BLESS ANY INSTRUMENTALITY WHICH HE HAS PROHIBITED. If Christianity expresses the will of God, and if Christianity is embodied in the life of Christ, then war is prohibited. And to ask Him to bless it, is to ask Him to promote rebellion against Himself.
(G. H. Whitaker, M. A.).
God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us.
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
I. The first remark I wish to make is that this psalm, in the scope and sweep of its petitions, supplies us with A PATTERN AND EXAMPLE FOR OUR PRAYERS. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us." That is how the psalm begins. The psalmist's first thought is for his own people, for his own kindred, according to the flesh. But that is not where the psalm ends. In the very next verse the horizon recedes, the outlook broadens, the national need gives Way to the universal need. He has scarcely offered up his prayer for his nation before his compassions are running out to the countries beyond, and in the very next breath he is interceding for all nations and for the wide earth. There is nothing local, there is nothing exclusive about this prayer. The psalmist overleaps all national boundaries, and brings the wide world before God. He has all Christ's passion for those other sheep which are not of the Jewish fold. He has all Paul's desire that the Gospel may be preached to those who have not heard it. True prayer is always world-wide and universal. It is right to begin where this prayer begins — at home; it is not right to finish there. You must enlarge the scope of your petitions, and you must not rest till you have brought the "ends of the earth" before God. I pity the man who in his prayers never gets beyond "God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us"; for he has simply not learned the elements of prayer. For that is a marred prayer, a narrow prayer, and a selfish prayer. And whatever Christianity is or is not, it is the very antithesis of selfishness. "Let this mind be in you," said the apostle, "which was also in Christ Jesus." What was the mind that was in Christ Jesus? It was an unselfish mind. Our Lord was always thinking about other people. His thought travelled far beyond His own kindred to those peoples lying in ignorance and sin; to all the millions who lived without God and without hope. Am I wrong in thinking that, speaking generally, Christian people do not possess our Lord's wide-world outlook, that our affections are cramped by national and racial differences, that we do not realize that men everywhere are the loved of God, the redeemed of Christ, and that we do not pant and yearn for their enlightenment and salvation as our Lord did? Some do, I know. David Brainerd — his enthusiastic spirit had no rest in his passion for prayer for his Indians. This lack of concern for the salvation of the world results in parochial and narrow and selfish prayers. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us" — we begin there, and there oftentimes we finish. None of Christ's melting passion for the "other sheep" creeps into our prayers. The psalmist's prayer, while beginning with himself, expands till he embraces the whole earth.
II. But notice EVEN IN HIS PERSONAL PRAYER HE HAS GOT THE UNIVERSAL GOOD BEFORE HIS EYES. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us" — what for? "That Thy name may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations." He does not ask for personal blessing for merely selfish ends. He asks for it that it may serve the universal good. He asks God to bless Israel in order that through Israel, so blessed, God's way may be known upon earth, His saving health amongst all nations. The psalmist has grasped this truth, that Divine favours and blessings are never bestowed upon men or nations for merely selfish enjoyment, but they are always bestowed upon them for service. Our Lord appointed twelve, "that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach." He chose these twelve men that they might be with Him to be His friends and associates, to accompany Him in all His journeys, to share His intimate fellowship. He conferred upon these twelve the highest privilege ever bestowed upon mortal men. The high privilege conferred upon the twelve was meant for the enriching of the world. "He appointed twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth." That illustrates a law. God's blessings are never for selfish ends, they are always meant for the benefit of the wide world. For instance, God reveals to a doctor, let us say, some secret that makes for the health and wellbeing of mankind. He reveals it to him, not that he may hug it to himself, but that he may share it so that the whole world may be the better for it. The manifold religious privileges that this land of ours enjoys were never meant for England's sake only. They have been conferred upon England in order that through England they may become the possession of the wide world. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God which you and I enjoy is not for our own personal gratification merely. It has been given to us that we may share it and diffuse it. You have the light. Have you shared it, diffused it, spread it abroad? Or have we, like some stagnant pool, tried to keep that Which we have received? My brethren, the Christian ought never to be represented by the pool; he ought always to be represented by the stream. The pool takes all it can get and gives nothing; receives everything, parts with nothing; and reaps the penalty of its own selfishness in putridity and stagnation. The stream is always giving itself away. It runs down the hills, and as it runs down it gives greenness to the fields, cleansing and refreshing to the dwellers in the towns. Starting in the mountain, where all is at its sweetest and loveliest, it does not linger in its mountain home. It says, "There are thirsting people crying out for me; there are parched lands crying out for me," and so it hurries down the mountain slope, past the village, into the valley, through the town, on and on, so long as there is a single yard of land to be blessed by it; on and on until the great sea is reached.
III. And now, just for a moment or two further, let me ask you to notice THE WORDS WITH WHICH THE PSALMIST DESCRIBES THE BLESSINGS THUS GIVEN TO THE WORLD THROUGH THE AGENCY OF ISRAEL. It is really the blessing of salvation, but he uses two figures that describe it. He first speaks of it as "God's way," and in the second place as "God's saving health." Just look at these two figures for a moment. First, he asks that Israel may be blessed in order that "God's way" may be known upon earth. Now, you see that the psalmist uses a figure which is familiar to all Old Testament writers — the figure of a man as a traveller, a wayfarer, a pilgrim; a traveller, as John Bunyan has put it, from the City of Destruction to the City Celestial. Or, if you like to put the same truth in a rather different form, let us say man is a traveller whose goal is happiness and peace, and there is a certain way along which he must travel if he is ever to reach that goal, if life is to be ever happy and peaceful in its course and triumphant at its end. Enoch walked with God — that is the way. He is the only successful traveller who walks with God. When the psalmist looks around him he sees multitudes of people out of the way. Like sheep they have gone astray, they have turned every one to his own way. That means misery, wretchedness, despair. God's way is the only right way. There has been no other way discovered. But as I look out upon the world to-day I see millions of people out of the way, turning every one to his own way and reaping misery and unrest as the result. Now, did you never feel any desire to bring these wandering people back? He has blessed us just in order that His way may be known upon earth. And the second figure the psalmist uses is this — "God's saving health." "Thy saving health among all nations." And if the first figure of "the way" suggests a lost and wandering world, this figure of "saving health" suggests a sick world. Here is the world from the Bible standpoint — "The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and festering sores." And it is not the Bible only that says it. Modern literature says it in equally plain and emphatic terms. Listen to this from Thomas Hardy: "Did you say that the stars were worlds, Tess?... Yes." "All like ours?" "I don't know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to me like apples on our tree, most of them splendid and sound, but a few blighted." "Which do we live on, Tess?... A blighted one." A sick world, that is what the Bible says, that is what literature says, that is what experience says. And this is how God's salvation comes to us — it comes as "saving health." God's purpose is wholeness for every man. God's end for you and me is to make us morally sound. God's salvation restores unto perfect soundness and complete health. Life becomes absolutely normal. It is "saving health." The evangelist Matthew emphasizes the healing work of Christ again and again. "He healed all manner of diseases and all manner of sicknesses." But it was not bodily sickness alone that Christ healed. He healed the broken and the sick soul. To the sick of the palsy He said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." It is for the Christian Church still to make God's "saving health" known among all nations. Wherever the missionary goes you find a hospital. Jesus can give what no doctor can give — He can give healing to the soul. There are people who preach in these days a religion of healthy-mindedness. They tell us to ignore sin and evil and death. But sin and evil and death are here. They will not be ignored. An ostrich policy of that kind does not get rid of these things. "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." "He that believeth on Me shall never die." Well, ought we not to get the good news about God's "saving health" known amongst all nailers? The world to-day is full of sick souls. India, China, Africa, are full of men and women burdened and troubled and oppressed with sin, haunted by the fear of death. Ought we not to tell them to come to Jesus Christ? Pass on the good news. Do you not think that we ought to tell every stricken soul about Him who is able to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease? Now, I lay the case of these sick souls upon your consciences — blighted by sin, and you and I know about the blood that can cleanse from it; all their lifetime in bondage through fear of death, and you and I know who can give them the victory over it. I lay the ease upon your consciences. God has blessed us and caused His face to shine upon us and been gracious unto us simply in order that His way might be known upon earth and His saving health among all nations. May He help us to spread the news, that we may share thus in the icy of the Cross that makes Christ's kingdom come.
(J. D. Jones, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THAT FRESH SUPPLIES OF DIVINE GOODNESS ARE CONSTANTLY NEEDED BY MAN. "God be merciful unto us," etc. The benediction which the Almighty Himself put of old into the mouth of the high priest, to be pronounced on Israel, is the spirit and model of these words (Numbers 6:24-26). Hence our text is Divine, and may be used with reverent and unbounded confidence. It invokes fresh communications of His love. "Bless us." Has not God always blessed us, through the whole of our life? Verily. Still we need a continuation. A rest in the flow of His beneficence would be our ruin, would terminate our being in black extinction. The words invoke also a fresh assurance of His love. "Cause His face to shine upon us." The face is the symbol of the soul and the expression of its deepest things. Hence the meaning of the prayer is, Assure us of Thy love. This conscious dependence of the soul upon God is the very essence of religion.
II. THAT THE UNIVERSAL DIFFUSION OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE TO MAN. "That Thy way may be known," etc. What are the things relating to God, a knowledge of which is so devoutly sought for the race?
1. His general method of action. "Thy way." God has a method by which He gives His harvests: the farmer must practically recognize and follow it, if he would have his labour rewarded by abundant crops. God has a method by which He restores exhausted energies and impaired health; the physician must follow that method, if he would succeed in his profession. God has a method by which He imparts knowledge to mankind; the inquirer must follow it, if he would obtain intelligence and wisdom. And He has a method by which fallen souls may be redeemed; and this method must be followed before salvation can be reached.
2. His special method of salvation. "Thy saving health among all nations." God has a method of moral restoration. He has salvation, He has health for the diseased, liberty for the captive, knowledge for the ignorant, pardon for the guilty, and immortality for the dying. And He has a method for imparting this salvation. What is that? (John 6:40).
III. THAT GOD'S CONNECTION WITH THE WORLD IS THE GREAT HOPE OF MAN (ver. 4).
1. God judges the nations righteously.
2. God leads the nations on. "And govern the nations upon earth." Margin, "lead." God does not drive men, but leads them. He leads them, as a commander does his army, against the mighty hosts of evil principles, institutions, and habits.
IV. THAT SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE IS CONDUCIVE TO THE TEMPORAL INTERESTS OF MAN. "Then shall the earth yield her increase." The language implies that it is when "all the people praise God," that all the people shall have temporal plenty, that "the earth shall yield her increase." It is not difficult to see how spiritual excellence is conducive to temporal prosperity. Let the people be industrious, then they will put forth those efforts by which worldly good is generally obtained. Let them be temperate and economical, then self-indulgence and extravagance, which are the prolific sources of poverty, will cease.
V. THAT TRUE WORSHIP COMPREHENDS THE SUPREME GOOD OF MAN. The whole psalm implies this.
That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nationsI. THE RIGHT MORAL CONDITION OF THE CHURCH IS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE.
II. THE CHURCH BEING MORALLY RIGHT, SHE IS TO BE THE MEDIUM OF MAKING KNOWN THE SUPREME KNOWLEDGE TO OTHERS. THE VITAL POSSESSION OF THIS KNOWLEDGE GIVES EXISTENCE TO THE SUPREME JOY.
1. The joy of Divine satisfaction.
2. The joy of a Hew experience.
3. The joy of melody and praise.What a change this knowledge produces! It turns night into morning, sadness into songs. Being the supreme knowledge, it creates the supreme joy.
IV. THE PREVALENCE OF THIS KNOWLEDGE, AND THE PRESENTATION OF THIS PRAISE, WILL ENSURE A GOLDEN HARVEST OF PROSPERITY.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)I. THINK OF THE GREAT THINGS THAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US, AND SURVEY OUR PRESENT CONDITION.
1. The duty of a Christian congregation to aid in sending the Gospel to Jews and heathen is not a matter of indifference or choice; it is essentially and inseparably, as it were, a part of our existence.
2. The graces of the Spirit cannot remain inactive within us. If we have love, it shows itself in the Saviour's cause.
3. It is by His Church that His Church will be completed.
4. As the Lord has appointed His Church as the channel to supply the waters of grace, so He has honoured those churches and congregations especially who have been the most forward to fulfil their office; for the congregation that scattereth is that which increaseth; and they that water shall be watered also themselves.
II. THE BEST METHOD OF FULFILLING OUR DUTY IN THIS MATTER.
1. Let us endeavour to have it wrought into our minds as a Christian principle, as a part of our Christianity, as a matter of course, to be concerned and interested in promoting the Redeemer's glory by the extension of His Kingdom.
2. That this missionary spirit may be maintained and duly directed among us, I would counsel you to make yourselves acquainted with the progress of the Gospel in the world.
3. Seek to feel more deeply the conviction that that which lies nearest to the Saviour's heart is, that the Father may be glorified in the conversion of sinners, and the building up of His Church.
4. Watch for opportunities of serving in His cause.
(John Tucker, B. D.)
Outlines of Four Hundred Sermons.I. THAT GOD'S WAY IS NOT AT PRESENT KNOWN IN ALL THE EARTH, NOR HIS SAVING HEALTH AMONG ALL NATIONS.
II. THAT IT IS GOD'S WILL THAT HIS WAY SHOULD BE KNOWN IN ALL THE EARTH, AND HIS SAVING HEALTH AMONG ALL NATIONS. This is demonstrable —
1. From all those passages of Scripture which teach that all nations are to be blest in Christ.
2. From our Lord's commission to His apostles.
3. From our Lord's parables of the mustard seed and the leaven.
III. THAT THIS WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED BY HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY.
IV. THAT THE DIRECT INSTRUMENTS TO BE EMPLOYED IN MAKING GOD'S WAY KNOWN IN ALL THE EARTH ARE HIS OWN PEOPLE. Other instruments are frequently employed as their harbingers. Such are war and commerce. These remove obstructions, level mountains, fill valleys, drain marshes, and build bridges. They have been the precursors of the Gospel in many places, particularly in the East. But the direct instruments of making the way of the Lord known, are His own people.
1. By an enlightened, pious, and zealous ministry.
2. By the consistent piety of Christ's people.
3. By their individual and united exertions to promote the cause of Christ.CONCLUSION.
1. If piety be necessary to usefulness, let us pray for an increase of it in ourselves and others.
2. If many of our own countrymen are yet strangers to God's way, let us labour to instruct them.
3. If hundreds of millions in other lands are perishing for lack of knowledge, let us cheerfully contribute our mite to the support of pious missionaries, and pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into the harvest.
(Outlines of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. There is a prayer for the REVIVAL of the Church.
II. There is a prayer for the INCREASE of the Church.
III. The connection between the revived life of the Church and ITS BENEFICENT INFLUENCE UPON THE WORLD is indicated in the words, "That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations."
1. Such Church will be most secure against error and unbelief.
2. Will be most chosen of God to extend His Kingdom.
3. In such Church there will be a spirit of dependence leading to abounding prayer; great moral power; much brotherly love, and a spirit of unreserved consecration. Seek, then, above all else the Spirit of God.
(Andrew Thomson, D. D.)I. We may regard these words as THE PRAYER OF BRITISH CHURCHES IN REFERENCE TO THEMSELVES. The text involves —
1. The avowal of conscious unworthiness. It is the prayer of the publican, God be merciful unto us, sinners.
2. The acknowledgment of dependence on God for His blessing.
3. The desire of unusual and extraordinary manifestations of Divine grace and favour.
II. THE AVOWED FAITH OF BRITISH CHURCHES IN REFERENCE TO THE WORLD. "That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations." We may regard this part of our text in a threefold light: as the language of prayer; as the subject of prophetic anticipation; and as the recognition of a system of legitimate means.
1. True revival will remove many obstacles which now impede the way. By the augmentation of Christian principles it will prove the death-blow of party zeal, in all its subtle or more revealed forms.
2. It will purify all the passions of our nature. It will be the destruction of everything worldly in principle, of everything unholy in affection.
3. And will multiply agents also for the conversion of the world.
(J. Morison, D. D.)
I. TRUE RELIGION IS EXPANSIVE BOTH IN ITS NATURE AND EFFECTS. The highest form of life is exhibited in the most complex organization. In lower types we find that comparative simplicity of structure is sufficient to maintain and manifest vitality. But when we come to man, and examine the human organism, we see the highest type of life on earth. And so in the history of civilization. In the rude ages of the past little organization was needed. But how different now. The human life of man only reaches its perfect type when men are bound together with strong ties of mutual interest and dependence, sympathy and love. And so the true spiritual life of the soul seeks its growth by spreading its life-inspiring influence in every direction; by working in every possible way for the good of others, and by striving to bring the whole race into the brotherhood of the Kingdom of God.
II. IN SEEKING GOD'S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR OURSELVES, WE SHALL HAVE REGARD TO THE INFLUENCE TO BE EXERTED FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE WELFARE OF MEN. We are mindful of these high motives when we are seeking to stimulate others and ourselves in preaching and teaching the Gospel, but we are not so when we pray for blessings upon ourselves.
III. ALL EFFECTIVE WORK FOR GOD MUST BE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPIRITUAL LIFE AND PROGRESS IN OUR OWN SOULS. Christian life, like the light, radiates from a centre, and the brighter the light the farther its rays extend in every direction. Have, then, life in your souls.
(Harvey Phillips, B. A.)I. THE PRINCIPLES THAT PERVADE THIS BEAUTIFUL PRAYER.
1. Humility-here is no claim for justice, no word of merit, but a cry for mercy.
2. Patriotism. It is a prayer by Jews for Jews. And we may take the words for ourselves.
3. Mercy, regard for others.
II. THE OBJECT OF THIS PRAYER — the conversion of the world. The world for Christ. This is what we are bidden seek, and for which provision has been made. There must be room for the world in your hearts, your prayers, your purses. Sink not down into a littleness which belongs not to the missionary enterprise. But for the unfaithfulness of the Church the world would have been converted ere now.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS OBJECT IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. This country must be blessed in order that it may bless the world; our Churches must be blessed, in order that they may bless the country; we ministers must be blessed, in order that we may be a blessing to the Churches
(J. A. James.)1. Our Lord graciously purposes for each of His children perfect health. He would have every power and faculty in our being working in holy vigour. Our health is our only safety.(1) To be in any way sickly or weak is to offer welcome hospitality to the evil one. He seeks out our weak points, and at the undefended place he makes his entrance. Fulness of health is fulness of resistance. The healthy soul by its very vigour is fortified against the invasions of evil and night. Indifferent spiritual health is exposed to incessant peril. The city of Corinth abounded in evil. Epidemics of worldliness and vice pervaded every grade of social life. The Christian needed to be in perfect health if he were not to be smitten by the ill contagion. Men of weakly wills and indifferent consciences and lukewarm affections fell before the invader, and became the victims of the prevalent vanity or lust. And you will remember that the Apostle Paul, looking at the little Corinthian Church, was filled with anxiety concerning some of its members. "Some are sickly!" He felt that their silliness was a friendly condition to the worldliness that besieged the gates of the Church. Their weakness exposed them to its attacks. Now, the Lord purposes that we should be in perfect health. He yearns to destroy our easy susceptibility to sin, and to place the whole bias of our life in the direction of holiness. When all our powers are perfectly healthy, our very health will be our resistance to the encroachments of the devil.(2) But spiritual health is more than self-protective; it is contagious. Common thought and common speech have made us familiar with the contagion of vice. I wish that we were equally familiar with the conception of the contagion of virtue. An evil effluence proceeds from the life of the sin-possessed; an invigorating and purifying effluence proceeds from the life of the sanctified. "Out of Him shall flow rivers of living water." We impress and influence one another not only by what we say and what we do, but even more deeply still by what we are. Our presence itself is vitalizing if we are possessed by vigorous moral and spiritual health. In the home, in the workshop, in society, in the place of worship, our presence counts for something, counts for much, and "virtue" is going out of us as a river of operative energy in all the many relationships of our varied life. Our health is not only self-protective, it acts as a saving ministry in the lives of others.(3) But spiritual health is not only self-protective and contagious, it is actively aggressive. "Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him." The God-possessed exercise a repressive influence over the vices and passions of men. Everybody knows that we can create conditions that incite another man's temper and lust, and we can create conditions by which these fires and cravings can be suppressed and destroyed. Our medical men sometimes provide medicated atmospheres to help to heal the ailments of their patients. They can soften and moisten the air, and so give comfort to the struggling and help to regain them to health. The Christian man supplies a medicated atmosphere to his brother. His very presence helps in the creation of conditions which are unfavourable to vice and friendly to virtue.
2. As for the secret of this "saving health," it is to be found in the first verse of this psalm. The psalmist is a suppliant; he is kneeling in the presence chamber of the King. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us!" He is pleading with the good Lord to stoop in pity, and to lay upon him the forgiving and liberating hand. "Cause Thy face to shine upon us!" But that means that the suppliant's face is turned towards the face of the Maker! We are renewed into the same image. Our countenances catch the light and life that we contemplate. He is the "health of my countenance." We become possessed of the saving health of God.
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
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