Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 7:12). "Luther would have immortalized his name had he done no more than written the majestic air and harmony to which we are accustomed to sing this psalm, and which, when the mind is in a truly worshipping frame, seems to bring heaven down to earth, and to raise earth to heaven, giving us anticipations of the pure and sublime delights of that noble and general assembly in which saints and angels shall forever celebrate the praises of God." The psalm "is all ablaze with grateful adoration, and has, for this reason, been a great favourite with the people of God ever since it was written." It bids us "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." It means "a glad shout, such as loyal subjects give when their king appears among them." Now, let us consider this subject of thankful praise which it brings so prominently before us. Let us glance at -
I. THE HOLY DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED.
1. Our hearts are to be full of thanksgiving. It is no mere outside worship which is told of here, but such as wells up from the deepest fountains of a grateful and glad heart.
2. We are to openly avow that thankfulness. It is not, though beginning in the heart, to stay there. Openly, loudly, joyfully, we are to let all men know our delight in God.
3. We are to join with others in this service of praise. There is to be no standing aloof or pleading that we can worship God as well at home. We are to go with the multitude to keep holy day.
4. And it is to be all unto the Lord. Choirs and congregations alike are to remember this.
II. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH THIS SUMMONS IS BASED.
1. "The Lord, he is God. Our Jehovah, so good and gracious, is God Almighty also. Not only a Saviour who would fain bless and save us; but who has all power - is mighty to save.
2. He is our Creator, and so responsible for our being. It is he that hath made us," etc. (ver. 3). This is a most blessed fact. When we see what men and women are, so corrupt and evil, we often wonder wherefore God perpetuates the race. But he does so; he takes all the responsibility of it. What treasure store of hope for humanity lies in this act!
3. He is our King and Shepherd. "We are his people, and," etc. (ver. 3.) We are under his wise, holy, strong government; we are provided for by his loving care, led along as his sheep in his pasture.
4. He is good, eternally merciful, and true. (Ver. 5.)
III. THE CULTIVATION OF THIS THANKFUL SPIRIT. Many sadly fail here. They have no song, only a perpetual dirge, and against many the condemnation is written, "Neither were they thankful." Now, how may we cultivate this thankful spirit?
1. We must remove the hindrances. They are such as these: The miserable habit of looking enviously at what other people have, but which we have not, forgetting all the while what of good we nevertheless have. What folly this! and yet how common! and what a fruitful source of unhappiness, and of unthankfulness it is! And many are wont to look habitually on the dark side of their experience, and scarcely at all on the other and bright side. This is why St. Paul bids us, amid our prayers and supplications, to mingle thanksgivings, since this compels us to look at the bright side, in order to find out what we have to be thankful for. And then, too, our sad habit of regarding our ordinary mercies as mere matters of course is another sad hindrance of the thankful spirit. When health is restored after sore illness, how thankful we are! but the months and years of health which may follow give ample time to forget our thankfulness, and to let our gratitude die because we do not see anything extraordinary about our experience of God's goodness. Now, we must set ourselves to get rid of these evil ways if we would be habitually thankful.
2. Then there are positive aids to this blessed spirit. Such as taking right views of life, remembering its brevity and its educational purpose. We are not at home here, and we cannot expect on a journey the comforts of home. And a school - and such is this life - is certainly not as a home, as his father's house, to a child. Then think much of our mercies. Accustom yourself to go over them in your thoughts, and to render thanksgiving for them. And when misfortunes come, make the best, not the worst, of them. Remember bow much worse it might have been. It is told that "when the New England colonies were first planted, the settlers endured many privations and difficulties. Being piously disposed, they laid their distresses before God in frequent days of fasting and prayer. Constant meditation on such topics kept their minds gloomy and discontented, and made them disposed even to return to their Fatherland with all its persecutions. At length, when it was proposed to appoint a day of fasting and prayer, a plain, common sense old colonist was in the meeting, and remarked that he thought they had brooded long enough over their misfortunes, and that it seemed high time they should consider some of their mercies - that the colony was growing strong, the fields increasing in harvests, the rivers full of fish, and the woods of game, the air sweet, the climate salubrious, and their homes happy; above all that, they possessed what they came for, full civil and religious liberty. And therefore, on the whole, he would amend their resolution for a fast, and propose in its stead a day of thanksgiving, His advice was taken, and from that day to this the festival has been an annual one." Ah! would that we had men of this spirit, and would make the best, not the worst, of our misfortunes! "The bee when in a flower from which it cannot get nectar, gets the golden farina, out of which it builds its cells, and so it rolls up its little legs against the stamens, till they look large and loaded as golden store, and, thanking the flower as sweetly as if it had been full of honey, gladly humming, it flies home with its wax. Yes, and herein lies God's moral. If our flowers have no honey, let us be glad of the wax." The same writer who gives the above illustrations tells how the good, though self-willed, George III., when he had lost all our American colonies, and thousands of our troops had been slain, and millions upon millions of debt incurred, nevertheless, not to be outdone in piety by the Americans, ordered a day of thanksgiving. He was asked by a pious clergyman what the thanksgiving was to be for - was it to be for any of the above-named facts? He pressed the king for an answer, who replied energetically, "Thank God it is not any worse." Yes; there is something to be thankful for in all circumstances, if we will only be open eyed to note it. Remember, too, that our evils are but blessings in disguise. "Light afflictions" - so St. Paul called them - "which are but for a moment, and which work for us," etc. Above all, let us give our hearts to Christ. Yield them to him, as he bids us do; and as he will by his blessed Spirit fill them with all other good things, so he will shed abroad in them this grace also, the spirit of thankfulness.
IV. REASONS FOR SUCH CULTIVATION.
1. Our circumstances demand it: we have cause for thankfulness.
2. It will greatly bless others. For a glad, thankful spirit is winsome and attractive Christwards, whilst the opposite spirit cannot but repel.
3. For our own sake. It will brighten all our life, whilst if, owl-like, we dwell in darkness, we shall come to love it, and be as dim-sighted and night haunting as they.
4. And does not the Lord our God and Saviour deserve all our praise? Therefore, jubilate. - S.C.
I. THE CALL TO THE WORSHIP OF GOD.
1. It is to be the worship of joyful song. (Vers. 1, 2.) Not the worship of silent thought, but of glad utterance. True fear and joy not incompatible.
2. It is to be universal worship. (Ver. 1.) "All ye lands," or "All the earth" - Gentiles as well as Jews.
3. It is to be the worship of thankful gratitude. (Ver. 4.) In remembrance of all the Divine benefits and mercies received. No mention of confession of sin, or petition for blessing.
II. THE GROUNDS OR REASONS OF THE CALL TO WORSHIP.
1. He is the only true God as distinguished from the gods of the heathen. (Ver. 3.) "Be ye sure that Jehovah he is God."
2. He hath made us, and therefore we are his property. (Ver. 3.) "It is he that hath made us, and we are his. And we cannot yet fully understand what use he is going to make of us.
3. He is our Guide and Sustainer, our Shepherd. (Ver. 3.) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." We are dear to him as the sheep are to the shepherd. He is the good Shepherd pre-eminently. This is also the pre-eminent character of Christ.
4. His goodness and mercy are everlasting. (Ver. 5.) Not only enduring and constant, but unbounded by any limits.
5. He fulfils his promises from generation to generation. (Ver. 5.) "His truth" here means his faithfulness - the fulfilment of the word or promise that he has spoken. - S.
"A merry heart goes all the day, I. IT IS ALL TOO RARE. That it is so is evident; for: 1. Look at the countenances of those who profess to serve God. How grave, gloomy, austere, they seem! how seldom they ripple out into sunny smiles! This characteristic of the Puritans has had not a little to do with the disfavour in which they have long been and are still held by our countrymen generally. A common epithet for earnestly religious persons was that they were "serious people." Certainly they were not thought to "serve the Lord with gladness." 2. Read their writings. Their hymns, even, are either sad or stern, and as to their books and sermons, they are fall of grave, earnest, and often terrible teaching; but "gladness" is conspicuous chiefly by its absence. And their prayers are the same. As if God were a tyrannical Taskmaster, and not our loving Father. 3. Listen to their teachings. How much too dull and sombre these are! 4. Observe their worship. How bare and uninspiring! how destitute of beauty and brightness! how much too often it depresses rather than uplifts! 5. Ask our own consciences. Must they not own the general absence of gladness in our service of the Lord? 6. If it be asked - Why is this gladness so rare? the answer is that with some the sense of sin, the remembrance of their much transgression, is ever before them; with others, the mystery of life, the presence of earthly sorrow; with others, the tyranny of inward sin; with others, misunderstanding and misreading of the Gospel; and with yet others, and most, the want of real trust in God. We are so slow to take God at his word, and when he says he has forgiven us, to believe that he has really done so. II. BUT GLADNESS IN THE LORD, THOUGH SO RARE, IS YET MOST REASONABLE. Whether we think: 1. Of the Lord whom we serve. How good and gracious he is! 2. Or of the service itself. How healthful, right, blessed beth for ourselves and for others! 3. Or of the wages. "The recompense of the reward." We are all little better than eleventh-hour workers, and yet for us there is the whole day's wage. III. AND ALONE EFFECTUAL. 1. It is so in our secular work. Slave work, task work, is never like that of free men. All the heart is taken out of it if it be not glad service such as only free men can render. 2. Yet more in the service of the Lord. See the elder son in the parable of the prodigal. He had no joy in his service, and hence how harsh and unloving he became! This is why St. Paul is forever rejoicing that we are not under law, but under grace. So only will real service be rendered. IV. AND IT OUGHT TO BE. See in that same parable the father's reply, "Son, thou art ever," etc. He was surprised at such a spirit in his son; it ought to have been so different. But if it was wrong for that elder brother, who never transgressed, how much more wrong for us who have transgressed, and yet have been freely forgiven! Pray, therefore, not only that you may serve the Lord, but that you may serve him "with gladness." - S.C.
I. IT IS ALL TOO RARE. That it is so is evident; for:
1. Look at the countenances of those who profess to serve God. How grave, gloomy, austere, they seem! how seldom they ripple out into sunny smiles! This characteristic of the Puritans has had not a little to do with the disfavour in which they have long been and are still held by our countrymen generally. A common epithet for earnestly religious persons was that they were "serious people." Certainly they were not thought to "serve the Lord with gladness."
2. Read their writings. Their hymns, even, are either sad or stern, and as to their books and sermons, they are fall of grave, earnest, and often terrible teaching; but "gladness" is conspicuous chiefly by its absence. And their prayers are the same. As if God were a tyrannical Taskmaster, and not our loving Father.
3. Listen to their teachings. How much too dull and sombre these are!
4. Observe their worship. How bare and uninspiring! how destitute of beauty and brightness! how much too often it depresses rather than uplifts!
5. Ask our own consciences. Must they not own the general absence of gladness in our service of the Lord?
6. If it be asked - Why is this gladness so rare? the answer is that with some the sense of sin, the remembrance of their much transgression, is ever before them; with others, the mystery of life, the presence of earthly sorrow; with others, the tyranny of inward sin; with others, misunderstanding and misreading of the Gospel; and with yet others, and most, the want of real trust in God. We are so slow to take God at his word, and when he says he has forgiven us, to believe that he has really done so.
II. BUT GLADNESS IN THE LORD, THOUGH SO RARE, IS YET MOST REASONABLE. Whether we think:
1. Of the Lord whom we serve. How good and gracious he is!
2. Or of the service itself. How healthful, right, blessed beth for ourselves and for others!
3. Or of the wages. "The recompense of the reward." We are all little better than eleventh-hour workers, and yet for us there is the whole day's wage.
III. AND ALONE EFFECTUAL.
1. It is so in our secular work. Slave work, task work, is never like that of free men. All the heart is taken out of it if it be not glad service such as only free men can render.
2. Yet more in the service of the Lord. See the elder son in the parable of the prodigal. He had no joy in his service, and hence how harsh and unloving he became! This is why St. Paul is forever rejoicing that we are not under law, but under grace. So only will real service be rendered.
IV. AND IT OUGHT TO BE. See in that same parable the father's reply, "Son, thou art ever," etc. He was surprised at such a spirit in his son; it ought to have been so different. But if it was wrong for that elder brother, who never transgressed, how much more wrong for us who have transgressed, and yet have been freely forgiven! Pray, therefore, not only that you may serve the Lord, but that you may serve him "with gladness." - S.C.
song service was connected with the Mosaic tabernacle. David systematized, if he did not actually introduce, that element. And it made a vital change. Previously the Divine worship had been a ceremony; from that time it became a service. Previously it had been an affair exclusively of priests; from that time it became an affair of priests and people. Singing is the portion of service in which the people can share. Instrumental music, in the olden time, was not the refined expression of various moods of feelings that we know. Noise was thought more of than harmony; though the stringed instruments must have been capable of delicate expression. Just as children now express their joy by noisy "hurrahs!" so the Hebrews expressed joy by great shouts, loud blasts, and noisy clangings. What we may properly learn is that the elements of joy and gladness, which find their easiest and best expression in music and song, are the proper accompaniment of all worship offered to God. It has been pointed out that "thanksgiving and praise are the higher elements of worship, and so the essence of the worship of heaven;" confession and prayer belong to the imperfection of earth.
I. GLADNESS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD'S HOUSE IS BECOMING. In view of God's gracious ways with us. They who receive gifts from friends are cheered and gladdened by the gifts; and we are receiving fresh gifts from our heavenly Friend continually. Dulness and sadness would say that God's favours are little valued. As the thing that is fitting, becoming, God's people should nourish a bright, cheery, hopeful, happy spirit.
II. GLADNESS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD'S HOUSE IS HONOURING. Note that it has ever been this feature that has made Divine service attractive. And the supreme anxiety of each generation has been to get brightness into its service that will make it attractive. So joy in God's house honours God by winning men to him.
III. GLADNESS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD'S HOUSE IS INSPIRING. We are consciously helped by sunny cheerful services. Nothing carries away our cares, doubts, fears, like joining together in holy song. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." - R.T.
I. NOW, WE CANNOT CONCEIVE OF GOD AS ACTING WITHOUT MOTIVE. And -
II. THEREFORE THERE MUST HAVE BEEN MOTIVE FOR THE CREATION OF MAN. We can trace reasons and evidence of purpose in all God's works, and hence we are sure there must have been such when he created man.
III. AND THIS MOTIVE MUST HAVE BEEN GRACIOUS OR THE REVERSE.
1. It could not have been the reverse; for, whether we look at the structure of man's body, where all seems so adapted to secure health and happiness; or whether we look at man's mind, the source to him of such unspeakable good; or whether we think of man's dwelling place, this earth on which he lives, and which is so stored with all that ministers to his comfort, delight, and well being; - whichever way we turn there is proof abundant that no malignant motive, or any the reverse of gracious, could have prompted the creation of man.
2. Therefore we are shut up to the conclusion that love, grace, goodness, can alone explain what we see all around us and in ourselves.
IV. BUT IF THE MOTIVE WAS A GRACIOUS ONE, WHAT WAS IT? For answer:
1. We look to our own constitution, for that is the nearest idea we can have of God who made us in his own image. And we find:
2. That the purest pleasure springs from love - loving others and being loved by them. Why is home so blessed, but because there they are whom we tenderly love, and who love us in like manner?
3. But love that has stood trial and testing is the most precious of all. If, in spite of every inducement to be untrue to us, love has been faithful, how precious that!
4. But all this reveals the reasons wherefore God hath made us, and placed us where we are. He desired objects on whom he might lavish his love, and who would love him, in whose love is our eternal life. And that love would be more precious and more fruitful unto our eternal life in proportion as it endured test and trial (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). Hence we are born into a world of temptation, for so only can our love be perfected.
5. But such temptation will in no case be greater than we can bear. A father may let his son enter for a contest which he knows his son can and will, if he rightly strive, come out with honour; but he would not let him enter where defeat was certain and inevitable. And so our heavenly Father will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, though what we are able for we have to endure, because it is good for us that we should. He will submit no child of his to what must issue in ultimate defeat. We cannot conceive of his having created us, knowing that that would be the final issue.
V. THEREFORE WE SAY THAT THE FACT OF OUR CREATION BY GOD IS A VERY GOSPEL with which the gospel that "God so loved the world," etc. (John 3:16), fitly and beautifully harmonizes. Yes, we may well be joyful in the Lord, because it is "he that hath made us," etc. - S.C.
I. GOD AS THE MAKER OF THE INDIVIDUAL.
1. It is true that God made man. The design, the capacities, the possibilities, and the relations of man, are all and wholly the Divine idea and the Divine handiwork. It is well to see clearly that man's own creative power stops short at life. Man can make forms; he can quicken no forms into life. But we want to see more impressively the truth that God made each man. However the individuality of men may surprise us, we may be sure that we never can get an individuality which was not the Divine thought. Man makes neither himself nor his peculiarity. Then God, as our Maker, has first claims on those he has made.
II. GOD AS THE MAKER, OR FOUNDER, OF THE NATION. Take "nation" as type of all kinds of ways in which men combine together. What is true of the nation is true of the family and of the Church; we are to recognize God as the Arranger of, and Presider over, all forms of human combination. Illustrate from the way in which God created the nation of Israel. Note that the creation of a nation is no simple and sudden act; it is a long process, a shaping and using of various agencies. God selected the nation's beginning, disciplined a set of tribes through long generations, provided a location for it, etc. The fact of the making of a nation being a prolonged work should not prevent our seeing that it is God's work. Illustrate by the 'Making of England.' So God, as the Nation maker, has the first claim on the nations he has made.
III. GOD IS THE MAKER, IN THE SENSE OF REMAKER, OF THE NATION. For nations seem at times to break up, and require remaking. Illustrate by Israel's experiences in the days of the Captivity, and our England's in the days of the Stuarts. In this remaking we too easily overvalue the human agents. God alone can remake; and the agents are his agents to do his work. - R.T.
has done for us. It is fitting that we should bless his Name as we recognize what he must be, who has done for us such good and gracious things. Possibly a distinction may be made between thanking God, as a duty which every one who receives his bounties ought to perform; and blessing God, which is the expression of that personal feeling towards God which only his own redeemed people can cherish. We thank those who do us a kindness; we bless those who evidently show their personal love to us in the kindness they do us.
I. RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS WHICH CALLS FOR THANKSGIVING. See in life the:
1. Divine providings. We have wanted no good thing.
2. Divine guidings. So that we can say, "It has been a good way wherein the Lord our God has led us."
3. Divine overrulings. We can in some measure already see that "all things do work together for good." Since God "giveth us all things richly to enjoy," what should we do but be thankful? Illustrate by Moses calling upon the people to review their wilderness life for forty years, in order that, in renewed thankfulness and trust, they might bind themselves forever to God's service (see Deuteronomy 8.).
II. RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE LOVE IN THE DIVINE DEALINGS WHICH CALLS FOR BLESSING. This requires the opened, quickened, spiritual vision. Character is shown in all action, but only the thoughtful minds watch for it, and find pleasure in dwelling on it. And so many are quite satisfied with the things God does, and do not concern themselves with the revelations in them of the character of the Door. So they cannot rise up to the height of "blessing his holy Name." But to the spiritually quickened, the reading concerning God himself in his doings is the unceasing delight; and in the revelations of his love made to them they learn to "bless his Name." - R.T.
I. AS TO WHAT GOD HIMSELF IS. He is ever true. None of the miserable motives which lead men to be untrue can have any power with him. Examine all his works, whether in nature, providence, or grace, and in all it will be found that he acts consistently with himself.
II. AS TO HIS WORD OF TRUTH. That is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and whether we appeal to the testimony of conscience, or to that of history, their witness agrees to and affirms the declaration of our text.
III. AS TO HIS FAITHFULNESS. The onus probandi lies on those who deny this. Where can it be shown that one of his promises, when rightly understood, has ever failed? What thing hath he spoken that hath not come to pass? Trace the records of the Bible, and they form a great cloud of witnesses to this truth. Trace the course of providence, and its varied events all show that his truth endureth. Trace the experience of God's people, and it is the same. Let the following quotation illustrate: "Now instead of taking you back to ancient or modern history, I would like to take you to the history of your mother or of your grandmother. I think of my dear grandfather, and of what he used to say to me. If he were here tonight - I am glad he is not, because he is in heaven, and that is a much better place for him; but if he could come from heaven, and could talk as he used to do when he was here on earth, he would say, 'Ah, my boy, I did find him a faithful God.' He had a large family and a small income, but he loved his Lord, and he would not have given up his preaching of the gospel for anything, not even for an imperial crown. He has told me often how the Lord provided for him. He had a little farm to get his living upon it, and he had a cow which used to give milk for his many children, and one day when he came up to the cow it fell back with the staggers, and died. Grandmother said, 'James, how will God provide for the dear children now? What shall we do for milk?' 'Mother,' said he, 'God said he would provide, and I believe he could send us fifty cows if he pleased.' It so happened that on that day a number of gentlemen were meeting in London - persons whom he did not know - were sitting as a committee for the distribution of money to poor ministers, and they had given it to all who had asked for it. My grandfather had never asked for any; he liked to earn his own money. He did not send any petition or appeal. Well, after the gentlemen had distributed to all who had asked there were five pounds over, and they were considering what they should do with this balance. 'Well,' said one, 'there is a Mr. Spurgeon, down at Stambourne, in Essex, a poor minister; he stands in need of five pounds.' 'Oh,' said another, 'don't send him five pounds: I will put five to it; I know him; he is a worthy man.' 'No,' said another, 'don't send him ten pounds; I will give another five pounds, if some one else will put a fourth five to it.' The next morning came a letter with ninepence to pay. Grandmother did not like to pay ninepence for it; but there was twenty pounds in it, and as my grandfather opened it, he said, 'Now can't you trust God about an old cow?' These things I tell you, and you smile, and well you may; but, oh, my soul laughs, and my face laughs on both sides when I think how faithful God has been to me. He has never lied unto me, or failed me, or forsaken me; but has kept his word to this moment in every respect" (Spurgeon). But such experience as this the whole army of the saints of God can furnish instances of. It is no solitary example.
IV. THEREFORE BELIEVE FOR ALL THE FUTURE. Go forward with a cheerful courage, thou child of God, fully persuaded of what all the past of all the people of God abundantly proves, that his truth shall endure, and that he "will never leave thee nor forsake thee." - S.C.
goodness is made up of two things:
(1) his mercy;
(2) his truth. Goodness is a very comprehensive quality. It is love, kindness, benevolence, that which leads you to wish well and to do good to those around you; and the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, because it is so full of his works and ways, which are the fruits and manifestations of his goodness.
I. THE GOODNESS OF GOD AS MERCY. He is gracious, kind, pitiful. Mercy is the grace of our dealing with those who are weaker than we are; and with those who have wronged us. It has in it the idea of "dealing otherwise with us than according to our stern deserts." Take this as chief point, and illustrate from God's gracious ways with his people Israel. Make this provide for a careful reading of our own life histories, so as to discern the Divine mercies in them.
II. THE GOODNESS OF GOD AS TRUTH. Here his faithful promise keeping. And it is noticed that there is this steadfast sameness of God to all generations. He always has been, and he always will be, "the faithful Promiser." "Hath he said, and shall he not do it?" Deal with this point in the same way. Find proofs of the Divine faithfulness in the story of ancient Israel; and make what is found illustrate the faithfulness and truth of the Divine dealings with us. For practical applications, show:
1. "The goodness of God ought to be one of the strongest barriers that can be raised up against sin.
2. The goodness of God should 'lead us to repentance.'
3. The goodness of God should lead us to do good to others.
4. The goodness of God to us in this world should inspire us with confidence in his goodness to us in the world to come." The goodness of God may be thought of as the infinite fountain; the mercy of God is the ever freshly flowing stream; and the eternal truth and righteousness is the ocean out to which God's mercy flows. - R.T.