Surely I would speak to the Almighty.
Homilist.There is a great deal of human speaking that has to do with God. Most speak about God, many speak against God, and some speak to God. Of these there are two classes — Those who occasionally speak to Him under the pressure of trial; those who regularly speak to Him as the rule of their life. These last are the true Christ-like men.
I. SPEAKING TO GOD SHOWS THE HIGHEST PRACTICAL RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. It indicates —
1. A heart belief in the fact of the Divine existence.
2. A heart belief in the personality of the Divine existence. What rational soul would speak to a vain impersonality? Man may justly infer the personality of God from his own personality.
3. A heart belief in the nearness of the Divine existence. It feels that He is present.
4. A heart belief in the impressibility of the Divine existence. It has no question about the Divine susceptibility.
II. SPEAKING TO GOD SHOWS THE TRUEST RELIEF OF OUR SOCIAL NATURE. Social relief consists principally in the free and full communication to others of all the thoughts and emotions that must affect the heart. Before a man will fully unbosom his soul to another, he must be certified of three things —
1. That the other feels the deepest interest in him. Who has such an interest in us as God?
2. That the other will make full allowance for the infirmities of his nature. Who is so acquainted with our infirmities as God?
3. That the other will be disposed and able to assist in our trials. Who can question the willingness and capability of God?
III. SPEAKING TO GOD SHOWS THE MOST EFFECTIVE METHOD OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE.
1. The effort of speaking to God is most quickening to the soul.
2. The effort of speaking to God is most humbling to a soul.
3. The effort of speaking to God is most spiritualising to the soul. It breaks the spell of the world upon us; it frees us from secular associations; it detaches us from earth; and it makes us feel that there is nothing real but spirit, nothing great but God, and nothing worthy of man but assimilation to and fellowship with the Infinite.
IV. SPEAKING TO GOD SHOWS THE HIGHEST HONOUR OF A CREATED SPIRIT. The act implies a great capacity. What can show the greatness of the human soul so much as this exalted communion?
But ye are forgers of lies.
Will ye speak wickedly for God and talk deceitfully for Him?
(R. A. Watson, D. D.)
Though He slay me, yet will I trust in HimJob 25:5) that the very stars are not pure in God's sight though God made them, and then falls into what I may call the vermicular strain of self-depreciation. "How much less man, that is a worm and the son of man who is a worm?" We have to judge theologies by our own innate sense of right and justice; and any theology which requires us to defame ourselves, and say of ourselves evil things not endorsed by our own healthy consciousness, is a degrading theology, one dishonouring alike to man and to God his Maker. Job's inward sense of substantial rectitude, both in intention and in conduct, revolted against this God of his contemporaries who was always requiring him to put himself in the wrong whether he felt so or not. And Job obeyed a true instinct in taking up that attitude. God does not want us to tell Him lies about ourselves in our prayers and hymns. But I will venture to say that any attitude that is not truly manly is not truly Christian or religious. "Stand upon thy feet," said the angel to the seer. The fact is, the conscience of good or evil is the God within us, and supreme. What my conscience convicts me of, let me confess to; but let me confess nothing wherein my conscience does not condemn me, out of deference to an artificial deity. Let us dare to follow our own thoughts of God, interpreting His relation and providence towards us through our own best instincts and aspirations. This is what Jesus taught us to do. He revealed and exemplified a manly and man making faith, as far removed as possible from that slavish spirit which is so characteristic of much pietistic teaching. Christ said, Find the best in yourselves and take that for the reflection of God. Reason from that up to God, He says. "How much more shall your heavenly Father!" Bildad and the theologians of his school transferred to their conception of Deity all their own pettinesses and foibles, and consequently conceived of Him as a being greedy of the adulation of His creatures, jealous of a monopoly of their homage. One who could not bear that anybody should be praised but Himself, and who was pleased when they unmanned themselves and wriggled like worms at His feet. To think thus of God is at once to degrade Him and ourselves. Let us not be afraid of our own better thoughts of God, assured that He must be better than even our best thoughts. I say Job was the victim of a false theology. When he was left to his own healthier instincts he took another tone. In the early chapters of this book he is represented to us as one of the sublimest heroes of faith. Under a succession of the most appalling and overwhelming calamities that stripped him of possessions and bereaved him of almost all that he loved in the world, he rises to that supreme resignation to the Divine will which found expression in perhaps the noblest utterance that ever broke from a crushed heart, "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." It is difficult to believe that it is the same man who rose to this sublime degree of submission who now adopts the semi-defiant tone of the words of my text — "Behold, He will slay me. I will wait for Him; I will maintain my cause before Him." The fact is that while it is the same mane it is not the same God. The God of the earlier chapters is the God of his own unsophisticated heart. In Him he could trust as doing "all things well." But the God of this later part of the story is the God of perverse human invention; not the Creator of all things, but one created by the imaginations of men who fashioned an enlarged image of themselves and called that "God." Job would not have wronged God if he had not had the wrong God presented to him. It was his would be monitors who had thought that God "was altogether such an one as themselves," who were guilty of this crime. And again, had Job himself been a Christian, had he possessed the ethical sense, and judged himself by the ethical standards that the teaching of Jesus created, he would not have adopted this attitude of proud self-vindication. For then, though his outward life might have been exemplary, and his social obligations scrupulously fulfilled, he would have understood that righteousness is a matter of the thoughts and motives, as well as of the outward behaviour. Judging himself by the moral standards of his time, he felt himself immaculate. It is pleasant to know from the last chapter, that before the drama closes Job comes to truer thoughts of God and a more spiritual knowledge of himself. He perceives that his heart, in its blind revolt, has been fighting a travesty of God and not the real God. Then, so soon as he sees God as He is, and himself as he is, his tone changes again. She accent of revolt is exchanged for that of adoring recognition, and the note of defiance sinks into a strain of penitential confession. "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
1. That all things are under the Divine control.
2. Piety and integrity do not exempt from trials.
3. All things eventually work together for good to them that love God.
I. THE SITUATION IN WHICH JOB WAS PLACED.
1. A great change had taken place in his worldly concerns. The day of adversity had come upon him.
2. But still Job's case was not yet hopeless nor comfortless. There was still the same kind Providence which could bless his future life. There were his children. News comes that they are all killed.
3. Where now shall we look for any comfort for Job? Well, he has his health. But now this is taken away.
4. There was one person from whom Job might expect comfort and sympathy — his wife. Yet the most trying temptation Job ever had came from his wife.
5. Still Job had many friends. But those who came to help him proved "miserable comforters." Every earthly prop had given way.
II. JOB'S DETERMINATION.
1. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
2. Job might confidently trust in the Lord, because he had not brought his sufferings upon himself by his own neglect or imprudence.
3. Job's trust or faith was of the right kind. Trust in God implies that the depending person has an experimental knowledge of His power, wisdom, and goodness. Trust in God includes prayer, patience, and a reconciliation to the Divine will. Remarks —
1. What a wonderful example of patience and resignation we have in Job.
2. What decision of character and manly firmness are exemplified in the conduct of this good man.
3. How well it was for Job that he trusted and patiently waited to see the salvation of God.
I. JOB'S MEANING. Trust in God is built on acquaintance with God. It is an intelligent act or habit of the soul. It is a fruit of religious knowledge. It is begotten of belief in the representations which are given of God, and of faith in the promises of God. It is a fruit of reconciliation with God. It involves, in the degree of its power and life, the quiet assurance that God will be all that He promises to be, and will do all that He engages to do; and that, in giving and withholding, He will do that which is perfectly kind and right. The development of trust in God depends entirely upon circumstances. In danger, it appears as courage and quietness from fear; in difficulties, as resolution and as power of will; in sorrow, as sub. mission; in labour, as continuance and perseverance; and in extremity, it shows itself as calmness.
II. IS JOB'S STRONG CONFIDENCE JUSTIFIABLE? We may not think all Job thought, or speak always as Job spoke; yet we may safely copy this patient man.
1. God does not afflict willingly.
2. God has not exhausted Himself by any former deliverance.
3. In all that affects His saints, God takes a living and loving interest.
4. Circumstances can never become mysterious, or complicated, or unmanageable to God. We must in our thoughts attach mysteriousness only to our impressions: we must not transfer it to God.
5. God has in time past slain His saints, and yet delivered them.
III. THE EXAMPLE JOB EXHIBITS. Job teaches us that it is well sometimes to imagine the heaviest possible affliction happening to us. This is distinct from the habitual imagination of evil, which we should avoid, and which we deprecate. Job teaches as that the perfect work of patience is the working of patience to the uttermost — that is, down to the lowest depths of depression, and up to the highest pitch of anguish. He teaches that the extreme of trial should call forth the perfection of trust. Our principles are most wanted in extremity. Job shows that the spirit of trust is the spirit of endurance. We may also learn that to arm ourselves against trial, we must increase our confidence. True trust respects all events, and all Divine dispensations. All — not a particular class, but the whole. All that happens to us is part of God's grand design and of God's great plan respecting us: Let me commend to you Job's style of speech. To say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." will involve an effort, but there is no active manifestation of true godliness without exertion. Even faith is a fight. It is one of the simplest things in spiritual life to trust, but often that which involves a desperate struggle. Ignorance of God's intentions may sometimes say to us, "distrust Him"; and unbelief may suggest, "distrust Him"; and fear may whisper, "distrust Him"; but, in spite of all your foes, say to yourself, "I will trust Him." The day will come when such confidence in God, as that which you are now required to exercise, will no longer be needed. In that day God will do nothing painful to you. He will not move in a mysterious way, even to you, and you will chiefly be possessed by a spirit of love; but until that day dawns, God asks you to trust Him.
I. FAITH IS DIRECT KNOWLEDGE. It is a kind of intuition.
1. It does not depend, like scientific knowledge, on the testimony of the senses.
2. It does not rest, like judicial decisions, on the truthfulness of witnesses, and the consistency of evidence.
3. It is not founded, like mathematical convictions, on logical demonstration.
4. Intellect combines these together to reveal the soul to itself.
5. Faith thus perceives the wants of the soul, and the fitness of revealed truth to satisfy them.
II. FAITH ACTS ON A PERSON. Its object is God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
1. A person is more complex than any proposition, and offers to the soul an immense number of points of contact. It is an undeveloped universe.
2. A person is a profounder reality than a doctrine. Character is more steadfast than a theory.
3. God is the universe, and can sympathise with every soul. God in Christ is a universe of mercy to the sinner.
III. IT CONCERNS THE WEIGHTIEST DESTINIES OF THE SOUL AND IS ATTESTED BY CONSCIENCE.
1. It does not tolerate indifference.
2. It arouses the faculties to their utmost.
3. It comes in contact with revealed holiness. The soul cannot rest in evil. It requires truth and justice.Without these it is a lever without a fulcrum.
1. Faith gives rest without indifference.
2. It provides happiness without delusion.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
(P. E. Paget, M. A.)
I. IT IS AMID SORROW AND TRIAL THAT TRUST CAN ALONE BE EXERCISED. No time here on earth is free from temptation and danger, and therefore no time here on earth can we cease to rely upon God. The very meaning of trust implies doubt within and danger without, the man who trusts, if we already knew everything, where would be faith? If we already possessed everything, where would be hope?
II. THIS SURE CONFIDENCE IS NOT THE ATTRIBUTE OF ANY TRUST WHICH WE MAY PLACE IN ANY OBJECT. It is, indeed, the nature of trust to operate in times of difficulty; but yet the success with which it can do this depends ever upon the nature of that which is trusted — the foundation on which the house of trust is built. There are two arguments which single out God as the alone object of our trust. There meet in God all the attributes which deserve confidence. And they do not meet in any other; they are not to be found, even singly, in any other.
III. OUR TRIALS OUGHT TO MAKE OUR CONFIDENCE MORE DEEP AND CONSTANT. Has He not warned us beforehand of their existence? He has explained the very cause and reason why they are permitted — reasons to which the conscience and the experience of every believer will most deeply assent. Then let us pray for grace to hold fast our hope steadfast unto the end.
(Edward Garbett, M. A.)
I. "Though He slay me." Oh, glorious faith of older saints, and hope of the resurrection, and love stronger than death, and blessed bareness of the soul, which for God would part with all but God, knowing that in God it will find all! yea, which would give its very self, trusting Him who took itself from itself, that it should find again (as all the redeemed will find) itself a better self in God. Till we attain, by His mercy, to Himself, and death itself is past, there is often need, amid the many manifold forms of death, wherewith we are encompassed, for that holy steadfastness of the patriarch's trust. The first trials by which God would win us back to Himself are often not the severest. These outward griefs are often but the "beginning of sorrows." Deeper and more difficult far are those sorrows wherewith God afflicts the very soul herself. A bitter thing indeed it is to have to turn to God with a cold, decayed heart; "an evil thing and bitter" to have destroyed ourselves. Merciful and very good are all the scourges of the All. Good and All-Merciful. The deeper, the more merciful; the more inward, the more cleansing. The more they enter into the very soul, the more they open it for the healing presence of God. The less self lives, the more Christ liveth in it. Manifold are these clouds whereby God hides, for the time, the brightness of His presence, and He seemeth, as it were, to threaten again to bring a destroying flood over our earthliness. Yet one character they have in common, that the soul can hardly believe itself in a state of grace. Hard indeed is it for hope to live when faith seems dead, and love grown cold. Faint not, thou weary soul, but trust! If thou canst not hope, act as thou wouldst if thou didst hope. If thou canst see nothing before thee but hell, shut thine eyes and cast thyself blindly into the infinite abyss of God's mercy. And the everlasting arms will, though thou know it not, receive thee and upbear thee.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
"A believing heart has gone from me,"
is worse than to have a house burned, or a child die. Again, the childlike faith shown in the text is perfectly unsuspecting. See that beggar's babe clinging to the mother's rags that hardly cover it. Why should we, when in darkened paths, hesitate to trust our Heavenly Parent implicitly? He has pledged us all things, and doubt is an insult to Him. I stood on the heights of Abraham a few weeks ago, and recalled the victory of Wolfe, with thrilling emotion, but did not forget those steps, one by one, through dark, narrow, and precipitous paths, that led that gallant general to victory. You have your heights of Abraham to scale ere triumph crowns you. Each one has his trials. There is a skeleton in each closet, a crook in each lot. Character grows under these stages of discipline. Trust Him day by day. Live, as it were, from hand to mouth. Do present duty with present ability. Trust in God for victory, and be content with one step at a time.
(Theodore L. Cuyler, D. D.)
I. JOB'S WORDS ARE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. They afford insight into the state of Job's heart, and they tell us what he had been. Trials not only show character; they reveal history. When we see a man standing morally erect in circumstances the most dire that ever fell to the lot of mortal, we cannot doubt that we have insight into his history. Job had trusted in God, had lived near to Him in the past, and so he is strong, and rises above circumstances in the adverse present. Character is not formed by one effort of will, no, nor by ten, fifty, or five hundred.
II. THESE WORDS ARE EDUCATIONAL. They teach us that the child of God lives by faith. There are people who assume, perhaps they really experience a species of trust in God so long as all goes well with them. When the possessions of the self-complacent man are lost, we look in vain for evidences of contentment, thankfulness, philosophic bearing. The child of God does not regard his relationship to God as simply commercial. The professor only may calculate upon the advantage which, in a worldly sense, his religion is likely to bring. The child of God has no such thoughts. Christianity is commercial in the sense that to get we must give; yet it is not commercial, as we understand the word, for he who gives most of self to Christ, thinks least about what he receives in return. The child of God bases his trust upon the last contingency. Like a crane, a waggon, or a barge, some men can bear only a certain strain. The truth is that the pruning knife is never welcome, and we always think its edge would have been less keen had that been taken which is left, and that left which is taken. But Job could base his trust upon the very last contingency.
III. THESE WORDS ARE PROPHETICAL.
1. With respect to this life. What a man is at any time is an index to what he will be. Our daily procedure goes upon the supposition that our present character indicates our future. The present indicates the future if we continue in the same track.
2. With respect to a future life. There is a slaying which is not slaying. The child of God shall never die.
(J. S. Swan.)
i.e., God's character, which not even the most crushing stroke of Divine power could destroy. You will never understand the meaning of faith unless you remember that it is identical with trust. If we would understand how trust at last reaches an uncalculating perfection, consider how trust builds itself up in regard to an earthly benefactor or father. It begins with kind acts. Some one does something very generous and disinterested towards us. The child becomes aware of the ever-present care and self-denying goodness of the parent. One act, observe, does not usually furnish a rational ground of trust. Only when that act of kindness is followed by others does settled trust arise. Hence trust is, in fact, confidence in the character of another. The child, after long experience of the father's love, acquires such faith in the parent's character that it can trust even when he acts with seeming unkindness. There are cases in which even one action would command the homage of our hearts. It is by one transcendent act of love that Christ has fixed forever His claim. He has given Himself for us. However we reach it, this trust is for the man an all-powerful factor ever after. Once it is placed beyond question that God loves us, then we will not allow any subsequent chastening, any "frowning providence" to shake our faith in His unchanging love. Trust such as this is eminently rational. It rests on evidence. We have proved God worthy of our heart's confidence. The trust which is first built up of benefits received gradually becomes uncalculating. The highest reverence and devotion towards God is disinterested. Self, or what self may win or miss, fades out of view. The words are felt to be exaggerated in expressing the joyful and absolute self-forgetfulness of him who is dwelling in the presence of Infinite Perfection. A heart at one with God, knowing no will but His, perfect in its trust, carries within it peace and heavenly mindedness wherever it may abide in this wide universe; while a heart distrustful of God, swept by gusts of passion and self-will, lacking the one feeling which alone gives stability, can find heaven nowhere. Remember that faith may be genuine even when it is feeble. Small hope for you and me if it were not so. But to the faith which I have been describing all faith must approximate: so far as faith falls short of it, it is imperfect; and if we do not aim at the highest, we shall be only too likely to remain without faith in any degree.
(J. A. Jacob, M. A.)
For an hypocrite shall not come before Him.
1. The greatest and highest degree of hypocrisy is when men, with a formed design and deliberate intention, endeavour under a pretence of religion and an appearance of serving God, to carry on worldly and corrupt ends. Such were the Scribes and Pharisees, whom our Saviour denounced. The apostles describe the same kind of hypocrisy in the characters of the worst men who were in following ages to arise in the Church (2 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:11; Titus 3:10; 2 Peter 2:1). This then is the highest degree of hypocrisy, and the word is now generally used in this worst sense.
2. There are those who do not absolutely mean to cast off all religion, nor dare in their own hearts totally to despise it; but yet willingly content themselves with the formal part of it, and by zealously observing certain outward rites and ceremonies, think to atone for great defects of sobriety, righteousness, and truth. Of the same species of hypocrisy are they guilty in all ages who make the advancement of religion and the increase of the kingdom of Christ to consist chiefly in the external, temporal, or worldly prosperity of those who are called by His name.
3. A lower degree of hypocrisy is the behaviour of those who have indeed right notions of religion, but content themselves with vain resolutions of future repentance, and for the present live securely in the practice of sin. Against this hypocrisy, this deceitfulness of sin, our Saviour warns us (Matthew 24:42).
4. The lowest degree of hypocrisy is that of those who not only have right notions of religion and a due sense of the indispensable necessity of repentance and reformation hereafter, but even at present have some imperfect resolutions of immediate obedience, and even actual but yet ineffectual endeavours after it (Romans 7:19; comp. Matthew 13:5, 20). It is no better than a secret hypocrisy to account ourselves. righteous for not being guilty of other faults, while the false heart indulges itself in any one known habitual sin, and speaks peace to itself by attending, only to one part of its own character. The use of what has been said is that from hence every man may learn not to judge his neighbour, who to his own master standeth or falleth, but to examine seriously the state of his own heart. Which, whosoever does, carefully and impartially, and with the true spirit of a Christian, will find little reason to be censorious upon others.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
Then call Thou, and! will answer.
I. GOD CALLING AND MAN ANSWERING. It is God who always begins first in every good thing. Our religion tells us distinctly that it was not man who first called upon God, but God who first called upon man. God sought man to do him good, even when he had sinned and deserved to be punished. And that is what He has always done since. God has not been silent. He has spoken out, not by the dull, unchanging signals of nature that do the telegraph work of the world, but in human language, in human thoughts and words. God addresses you personally in the Holy Scriptures. Will you be silent to Him? Will no response, no echo come from your heart to His voice?
II. MAN CALLING AND GOD ANSWERING. David once said, "Be not silent unto me, O Lord." He had prayed, but he had got no answer. But God was all the time preparing to give him the answer that he needed. In the natural world you cannot have an echo everywhere. Sometimes in nature an echo is made more or less indistinct according to the state of the weather. An echo in nature repeats your very words exactly. Some echoes refuse to send back a whole sentence, and only repeat the last word of it. God's response is an answer to your whole prayer. He often does for you exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think. Is not it wonderful that by a breath you can call up such marvellous responses? "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble."
(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
How many are mine iniquities and sins?
I. BY WAY OF CONSOLATION. The better a man is the more anxious he is to know the worst of his case. Bad men do not want to know their badness. It should comfort you to know that the prayer of the text has been constantly offered by the most advanced of saints. You never prayed like this years ago when you were a careless sinner. It is indeed very probable you do already feel your guilt, and what you are asking for have in measure realised.
II. BY WAY OF INSTRUCTION. It sometimes happens that God answers this prayer by allowing a man to fall into more and more gross sin, or by opening the eyes of the soul, not so much by providence as by the mysterious agency of the Holy Spirit. I advise you to particularise your sins; to hear a personal ministry, seek a preacher who deals with you as a man alone by yourself; seek to study much the law of God.
III. BY WAY OF DISCRIMINATION. Take care to discriminate between the work of the Spirit and the work of the devil. It is the work of the Spirit to make a man feel that he is a sinner, but it never was His work to make a man feel that Christ would forget him. Satan always works by trying to counterfeit the work of the Spirit. Take care not to make a righteousness out of your feelings. Anything which keeps from Christ is sin.
IV. BY WAY OF EXHORTATION.
1. It is a very great sin not to feel your guilt, and not to mourn over it, but then it is one of the sins that Jesus Christ atoned for on the tree. It is only Jesus who can give you that heart which you seek. Christ can soften the heart, and a man can never soften it himself.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Donald Smith Brunton.)
Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?
I. THE PLEA IS SUCH AS ARISES FROM INWARD CONSCIOUSNESS. What plea is more powerful to ourselves than that which we draw from ourselves? In this case Job was quite certain about his own weakness. How could he doubt that? I trust many of us have been brought into such a humble frame of mind as to feel that, in a certain sense, this is true of us. What a great blessing it is to be made to know our weakness! But while it is a confession of weakness, the plea is also an acknowledgment of God's power to push that weakness to a direful conclusion.
II. THIS IS ALSO A VERY PITIFUL PLEA. Though there is weakness, yet there is also power, for weakness is, for the most part, a prevalent plea with those who are strong and good. The plea gathers force when the weakness is confessed. How a confession of weakness touches your heart when it comes from your child!
III. THIS PLEA IS RIGHTLY ADDRESSED. It is addressed to God. It can be used to each person of the Blessed Trinity in Unity. "Oh, the depths of Thy loving kindness! Is it possible that Thou canst east away a poor, broken-hearted trembler, a poor, fearing, doubting one, who would fain be saved, but who trembles lest he should be cast away?"
IV. THE PLEA IS BACKED UP BY MANY CASES OF SUCCESS. Give one illustration. The case of Hannah, the mother of Samuel; or the case of King Manasseh. Or our Lord's dealing with sinful women.
V. THE TEXT IS A FAINT PLEA WHICH INVITES FULL SUCCOUR. It meant this. "Instead of breaking it, Thou wilt spare it; Thou wilt gather it up; Thou wilt give it life again." Oh, you who are brought to the very lowest of weakness! use that weakness in pleading with God, and He will return unto you with such a fulness of blessing that you shall receive pardon and favour.
VI. WE MAY USE THIS PLEA — MANY OF US WHO HAVE LONG KNOWN THE SAVIOUR. Perhaps our faith has got to be very low. O Lord, wilt Thou destroy my little faith? It is weal: and trembling, but it is faith of Thine own giving. Oh, break not the poor leaf that is driven to and fro! It may be your hope is not very bright. You cannot see the golden gates, though they are very near. Well, but your hope shall not be destroyed because it is clouded. Perhaps you are conscious that you have not been so useful lately as you were. Bring your little graces to Christ, as the mothers brought their little children, and ask Him to put His hands upon them and to bless them. Bring your mustard seed to Christ, and ask Him to make it grow into a tree, and He will do it; but never think that He will destroy you, or that He will destroy the work of His hands in you.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. A LEAF IS THE FRAILEST AMONG FRAIL THINGS. A leaf is, in many ways, a type of man. Physically, mentally, humanly, morally. We have come into this world with constitutions tainted by sin, surrounded by temptations to evil.
II. A LEAF IS THE FITTEST EMBLEM OF MAN'S MORTALITY. Will the eternal God act harshly with the ephemeral man? What is it to "break a leaf"? To treat it as a thing of insignificance, to leave it to the sport of circumstances, to let it be hurried out of sight as a mean and mortal thing. How delicate is man, physically considered; how surrounded is he by the majestic forces of nature! Yet God has plainly said, "I care for this leaf more than for all the works of My hands." Mortal though man is, he enshrines within him an everlasting being.
III. A LEAF IS SUBJECT TO A VARIETY OF DANGERS. Blight may settle on it; the tornado might tear it from the parent stem; the rain and the dew may be withheld; the scorching sun may wither; the birds of the heaven may devour it. We look at man, and we say, How subject is he to manifold forms of danger!
1. The hand of trial might break us. The difference between what we can bear and what we cannot may be a very slight degree. God will not lay upon us more than we are able to bear.
2. The hand of temptation may break us. Our reserves are soon used up. There is a kind of omnipresence of temptation. Yet no temptation hath overtaken us, but such as we are able to bear. The resisting power has been given us.
3. The hand of transition might break us. The leaf has to endure the most sudden and severe changes of temperature; but these minister to its strength and life. Think of the changes of human life — from affluence to poverty, from companionship to solitude, from one estate to another. Then comes the great change. But all the changes of our life are ordered by God, and leave us sometimes saddened, but not broken or destroyed.
IV. A LEAF IS THE WONDERFUL WORK OF GOD. And a most wonderful work it is. And God made man. From the first His care has been for His lost child, His voice has been to the sons of men, and the great atonement has been a sacrifice for the world. We believe in God's care for every leaf in the great forest of humanity.
V. A LEAF IS OFTEN BROKEN BY MAN. God's tender mercies are over all His works. He will not break a leaf. Man will. There are those who come near the secrets of human lives, and could write interesting volumes, if they dared, on broken human leaves. Close with reflections —
1. Think of the strength of God.
2. Think of the possibilities of life.
3. Think of the position we occupy.
4. Think of the end that is coming.
(W. M. Statham.)
Homilist.I. A PICTURE OF LIFE. It is a "leaf driven to and fro." The words suggest four ideas.
1. Insignificance. "A leaf," not a tree.
2. Frailty. "A leaf." How fragile. The tree strikes its roots into the earth and often grows on for many years. But the leaf is only for a season. From spring to autumn is the period that measures its longest duration.
3. Restlessness. "Driven to and fro." How unsettled is human life! Man is never at rest.
4. Worthlessness. A leaf that has fallen from the stem and tossed by the winds is a worthless thing. On its stem it was a thing of beauty and a thing of service to the tree, but now its value is gone. Job felt that his life was worthless, as worthless as a withered leaf and "dry stubble."
II. A PROBLEM OF LIFE. "Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?" This question may be looked upon in two aspects.
1. As expressing error in sentiment. The idea in the mind of Job seems to have been that God was infinitely too great to notice such a creature as he, that it was unworthy of the Infinite to pay any attention whatever to a creature so insignificant and worthless. Two thoughts expose this error.
(1) (2) 2. As capable of receiving a glorious answer. "Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?" Wilt Thou torment me forever? Writ Thou quench my existence? Take this as the question of suffering humanity, and here is the answer, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." "I have come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly." (Homilist.)
(2) 2. As capable of receiving a glorious answer. "Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?" Wilt Thou torment me forever? Writ Thou quench my existence? Take this as the question of suffering humanity, and here is the answer, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." "I have come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly." (Homilist.)
2. As capable of receiving a glorious answer. "Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?" Wilt Thou torment me forever? Writ Thou quench my existence? Take this as the question of suffering humanity, and here is the answer, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." "I have come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly."
Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
(J. Chevalier, B. D.)
I. WHY ARE THE SINS OF YOUTH HIGHLY PROVOKING TO GOD? Young people are apt to think themselves excusable for their sins and follies, and to be unconcerned about them. They imagine that the tricks and frolics of youth are very little, if at all displeasing to God, and that He will easily excuse and pardon them. But these thoughts of their hearts are some of their greatest and most dangerous follies. These lay them open to temptation, and harden and embolden them in the ways of sin. Such sins are transgressions, and they proceed from a corrupt and depraved nature, from evil dispositions of heart against the holy and blessed God, and from a disrelish of Him. Some peculiar circumstances aggravate youthful sins.
1. They are committed against God's remarkable care and kindness towards you, while you are least able to help yourselves. What a kind benefactor has this God been! It must be very provoking in you to sin against such a kind and gracious, such a merciful and bounteous, such a great and good God as this.
2. They are an abuse of the most vigorous active part of your life. "The glory of young men is their strength." If your strength is prostituted to sin, what provocation that must be to the God who gave it. In youth your minds are most active, and capable of being employed with sprightliness and fervour.
3. They are a waste of that valuable time of life which should be especially employed to lay in a stock for after use and service. The time of youth is the learning and improving time.
4. They strengthen and increase sinful habits within you. They are a confirmation and increase of those depraved dispositions that naturally belong to you as fallen creatures. You hereby consent to them and approve of them.
5. They destroy and pervert the advantage of tender affections. Sins of youth have a malignant influence upon your affections, making them exceeding sensual and vain. How dull and cold your affections become with regard to spiritual things!
6. They have a mischievous influence upon other young people. The evil example and enticements you set before them, are strong temptations to them to throw up all religion, and to run into the same excess of riot with you.
7. You cannot pretend, as some older persons do, that the cares or hurries of the world are your temptations to sin, or to neglects of the service of God, and of your soul's concerns.
II. THESE PROVOKING SINS OF YOUTH lay a foundation for bitter sorrows afterwards.
1. In their own nature they tend to the bitterest sorrows. They separate between the holy God and you. They bring sufferings in character, circumstance, health, and lives.
2. They bring dreadful judgments of God in this life. His judgments concur with the natural tendencies of sin. Youthful sinners forfeit the promises of long life and prosperity, and expose themselves to the vengeance of God.
3. It is the fixed appointment of God that you shall either be brought to bitter repentance for your sins of youth in this world, or shall suffer severely for them in the next. If you live and die without sorrowing, after a godly sort, for the sins of youth, and without applying by faith to the blood of Christ for a pardon, you must unavoidably suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. Then be convinced of the need of pardoning and renewing grace.
(John Guyse, D. D.)
(C. O. Pratt, M. A.)
I. THE WARNING TO THOSE WHO ARE JUST AT THE OUTSET OF LIFE. We must make good the truth, and illustrate the fact, that men possess in afterlife the iniquities of their youth. The power of the warning must depend on the demonstration of the truth. How difficult, with reference to the things of the present state of being, it is to make up by after diligence for lost time in youth. If there have been a neglected boyhood, the consequences will propagate themselves to the extreme line of life. The ability changes with the period, and what we do not do at the right time, we want the strength to perform at any subsequent time. The same truth is exemplified with reference to bodily health. The man who has injured his constitution by the excesses of youth, cannot repair the mischief by after-abstinence and self-denial. The seeds of disease which have been sown while the passions were fresh and ungoverned, are not to be eradicated by the severest moral regimen which may be afterwards prescribed and followed. The possession of the iniquities of the youth which we wish most to exhibit is that which affects men when stirred with anxiety for the soul, and desirous to seek and obtain the pardon of sin. The indifference to religion which marks the commencement of a course will become in later life an inveterate and powerful habit. However genuine and effectual the repentance and faith of a late period of life, it is unavoidable that the remembrance of misspent years will embarrass those which you consecrate to God. Even with those who began early, it is a constant source of regret they began not earlier. By lengthening the period of irreligion, and therefore diminishing that of obedience to God, we almost place ourselves amongst the last of the competitors for the kingdom of heaven.
II. THE EXPLANATION WHICH THIS FACT AFFORDS OF PROCEEDINGS WHICH MIGHT OTHERWISE SEEM AT VARIANCE WITH GOD'S MORAL GOVERNMENT. Job spoke matter of fact, whether or no he judged rightly in the view he took of his own case. The principle is, that the sins which righteous men have committed during the season of alienation from God, are visited upon them in the season of repentance and faith; so that they are made to possess, in suffering and trouble, those iniquities which have been quite taken away, so far as their eternal penalties are concerned, There is a vast mistake in supposing that the righteous may sin with impunity. We seem warranted in believing that peculiar trouble falls on the righteous, because riley are righteous, and because, therefore, God's honour is intimately concerned in their being visited for transgression. If God is to be shown as dis. pleased with the iniquities of His own people, as well as of His enemies, it must be seen in this life. The consequences of sin in God's people must be experienced on this side the grave.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. IN MAN'S PHYSICAL CONSTITUTION. Several species of iniquity are followed at an earlier or later period by consequences seriously felt in our bodily organisation. Many of the prevalent maladies of mankind are not the direct administrations of heaven, but the rightful consequences of actions which are violations at once of physical and moral laws; and if men will be guilty of these violations, God must work a miracle to prevent those results. Afflictive providences may be simply the sorrows which individuals unjust and cruel to themselves draw down upon their own heads. Illustrate by drunkenness, and by the sin of impurity. Than this crime there is none which more directly and surely entails physical suffering and death. Would you wish to avoid those maladies which, while they undermine and ruin the constitution, are the result of men's own follies and crimes? Then avoid the practice of sin now. Devote your bodies and spirits to the service of Christ and the duties of eternity.
II. IN MAN'S PECUNIARY INTERESTS AND SOCIAL POSITION. Property and a respectable standing in society are blessings. We may pervert them, and thus use them for evil. We may apply them to their lawful uses, and thus make them the instruments of great and permanent good. Nothing more seriously affects a man's worldly interests and his social standing than the course and conduct of his youth. Illustrate by Hogarth's picture, "The Idle and Industrious Apprentice." Through all time and everywhere these two propositions will hold true.
1. If property and respectability are not possessed at the outset of life, a course of vice in youth will prevent a man ever obtaining them.
2. If possessed at the outset, the same course will certainly deprive him of their possession. Like all rules, these admit of exceptions. By a course of vice, we mean certain species of vice, such as idleness, gambling, lying, pride, dishonesty, immorality. If you yield to vicious habits, your iniquities, like the wind, will carry you away. Providence will frown on your path. God will not interrupt His general administrations to work miracles for your advancement. His blessing will not attend you; and therefore your ways will not prosper.
III. IN MAN'S MENTAL AND MORAL HISTORY. The mental powers we possess are among the chief blessings we hold from God. Hence the mind should be the object of careful and incessant culture. Alas! multitudes neglect the culture of the mind for the pursuit of sensual objects, and destroy its capabilities, either wholly or in part, by vice. Mental disorganisation is often the direct result of early crime. Early rioting distorts the imagination and beclouds the intellect. But the most distressing and fearful part of the inheritance remains. Is no possession entailed on man's moral nature? Habits are made by youthful sins. The conduct of youth becomes the character of the man. Mere inattention to religion in youth grows and strengthens into a character fraught with imminent danger. You may not be openly immoral. But if you disregard the claims of the Gospel, you will grow up to maturity practical unbelievers. Growing in piety as you advance in years, you will increase in favour both with God and man. Your path will be one of usefulness, peace, and glory.
Helps for the Pulpit.I. THE SINS OF YOUTH. Disregard of parental authority, forgetfulness of God, refusal of instruction, evil company, sensuality, intemperance, vain amusements, etc.
II. THE SINS OF YOUTH ARE HIGHLY PROVOKING TO GOD.
1. They are committed against His tender care and love towards them when they are least able to help themselves.
2. They are an abuse of the most vigorous part of life. Then the body is most active, healthy, and strong; then the mind is clear, and gradually strengthening, and very susceptible; then the talents can be better consecrated to the service of God. But all those rich advantages are prostituted to the service of sin and Satan.
3. It is an awful waste of precious time — that time which should be employed in gaining knowledge, purity, joy, and Christian experience.
4. They are contaminating in their influence. "One sinner destroyeth much good."
5. The sins of youth, if persisted in, will tend to confirm the person in the commission of crime. The tenderness of human passions gradually decreases; warnings, etc., lose their influence; afflictions, judgments, death itself, at length affect not.
III. THE SINS OF YOUTH LAY THE FOUNDATION FOR BITTER REMORSE, AND SOMETIMES FOR SEVERE PUNISHMENT. They often subject the sinner to judicial punishment in this life. The sins of youth affect —
1. The body. It is often wasted by disease which sin has produced.
2. The mind. This frequently suffers more than the body. "The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmities, but a wounded spirit who can bear?"(1) A painful retrospect. Scenes of wickedness; language of profanity; actions of impurity; a wicked life, and its influence upon others.(2) Painful and harassing conviction; of infinite love abused, rejected; done despite to the Spirit of grace — trodden under foot the Son of God.(3) Great loss; of holy pleasures; solid joy; loss of salvation to the present time. Eternal life neglected for mere phantoms.(4) Embarrassment, in order to gain happiness when the principal seed time, and the richest facilities for obtaining spiritual life are gone. How seldom is an aged man brought to repentance!
3. The future. Frequently the prospect is dark and dreadful; a "fearful looking for of judgment," etc. Application —
1. Let the young be convinced that they need saving and renewing grace.
2. Let those who now bear the iniquities of their youth apply to the Almighty Saviour.
(Helps for the Pulpit.)
I. THE INIQUITIES OF YOUTH — WHAT THEY ARE. The world judges by a poor standard, and views things through a perverted medium.
1. Iniquity in youth is of the very same character as iniquity in after life. Is there not frequent mistake on this point? How common are falsehoods in early life. Some think lightly of profane language in the young. There are several sins very common among the young — swearing, lying, stealing, fornication, etc. This is the fact, the moral law of God is fixed and unchangeable.
2. The unconverted life in youth is a course of "iniquity." This some may think uncharitable; but our question is, How does God view things? How would He have us to view them? Is the case uncommon, of a man decent, decorous, virtuous, but one thing lacking, the heart given to God? There is iniquity, then, in that. For what is iniquity? That which is contrary to what is just and equal in God's judgment.
3. In everyone who has been young there has been iniquity. There is iniquity in original sin, and in all sin in youth.
II. THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD MAY "MAKE A MAN POSSESS THE INIQUITIES OF HIS YOUTH."
1. In the way of retribution. The indulged love of pleasure and self-gratification in youth deadens the feelings, blunts the affections, and leaves the man a thoroughly selfish, hard-hearted creature. And if the youth be merely moral, without godliness, it often grows into the most confirmed self-righteousness in middle life.
2. In the way of conviction. His method of conviction varies in its process.
3. In the way of conversion.
4. In the way of consolation.
5. In the way of caution. "Go and sin no more" is the language of Christ to every pardoned penitent.
6. In the way of godly education of the young.Some seem to think the consciousness of faults in their own youth should make them silent as to the faults of the young now, and if silent, then inactive in endeavours to correct them. This would be to help perpetuate our own and others' faults.
(John Hambleton, M. A.)
I. THAT YOUTH IS A SEASON OFTEN MARKED BY FOLLY AND INIQUITY. A consideration of the nature of the case would lead us to conclude that this is what might be expected. If a person were sent to walk in a place where there were many and dangerous pitfalls, many steep and lofty precipices, many and fierce wild beasts, there would be danger at any time of his being injured or destroyed, but that danger would be immeasurably increased if he were sent to walk in such a place while there was little or no light. In such circumstances it is almost certain that he would sustain injury, — it is highly probable that he would lose his life. Now, analogous to the position of the individual supposed is that of a young person in the world. There are many and dangerous pitfalls, and not a few of these which are in reality the most deadly are carefully concealed. The wealth and the honour and the pleasure of the present life have roads leading from them to great moral precipices, by which has been occasioned the ruin of many souls, and the poverty and disappointment and disease that exist in the world are fraught with danger. The young are like persons who walk in the dark — they have little knowledge or experience of these things; they naturally imagine that "all is gold that glitters." Having been treated with kindness and truthfulness by those with whom they have had to do in infancy, they are induced to put confidence in those with whom they are brought into contact in after life. The animal and emotional part of their nature is powerful, while the intellectual and moral part of it is weak. Passion is strong while there is comparatively little moral restraint, and the soul is like a ship with its sails spread out to a fresh breeze, while from a deficiency of ballast there is danger every hour of its foundering amidst the waters. Not only might we come to such a conclusion from a consideration of the nature of the case, but the same truth is suggested by the warnings and exhortations of Scripture. Has it not been said, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," "by what means shall a young man cleanse his way," "exhort young men to be sober-minded"?
II. IT IS A VERY COMMON THING FOR MEN TO WISH AND ATTEMPT TO GET RID OF THE FOLLY AND INIQUITY OF THEIR YOUTH. This is done in many ways.
1. How many are there, for example, who attempt to get rid of their sins by excusing them! Have you not heard persons speaking of the folly and sin that have been seen in the conduct of others in their younger years, concluding their remarks by saying, "But these were only the follies and sins of youth. We do not wish or expect to see old heads on young shoulders; we do not wish or expect to see in the young the staid and prudent demeanour of those who are more advanced in life; men must sow their wild oats at some period or other of their lives, and surely it is better far to do it in their early days than afterwards"? Now just as men are disposed to speak and think of the sins of others will they be disposed to think and speak of their own; or if there be a difference, it will be on the side of charity towards themselves.
2. How often do we attempt to palliate our sin and folly when we cannot altogether excuse them! There, for example, is the sensualist. When he thinks and speaks of his past conduct does he not seek consciously or unconsciously to diminish its enormity? Listen to him and observe the fine names which he is accustomed to use, and the convenient coloured roundabout phraseology in which he wraps up and paints his wickedness. He has been a drunkard, that is, he has not been once, but many times in a state in which the powers of mind and body were incapable, through the influence of intoxicating drink, of doing that for which God designed them, he could not think, and talk, and walk like a man; yet he speaks only of "living somewhat freely, of being a little elevated at times, of having occasionally taken a glass too much," and when men speak of him as a drunkard he regards it as a gross insult.
3. Again, how often do we attempt to get rid of our sins by making some kind of atonement for them. They are willing to mortify themselves, and they engage in a course of obedience and worship with an earnest desire to make up by zeal and punctuality now for their lack of service in other days; ignorant of the free spirit of the Gospel of Jesus, they serve God in a spirit of bondage, their consciences meanwhile echoing the terrible declarations of the Scriptures, "By the deeds of the law no flesh living can be justified." "Cursed is everyone who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them."
III. IT IS A VERY COMMON THING FOR GOD TO SHOW MEN THE FRUITLESSNESS OF ALL SUCH ATTEMPTS AS THOSE OF WHICH WE HAVE BEEN SPEAKING AND TO MAKE THEM POSSESS THE INIQUITIES OF THEIR YOUTH. There are some philosophers who hold that no thought or feeling which has ever passed through the mind of man is lost, but that it lives, although it may be in some dark recess of memory, and may at any time be brought forth in vividness and power; and there are many facts within the circle of the experience of all of us which suggest the great probability at least of this notion. The thoughts and feelings of man's soul are not like the rays of light — those of today having no connection with or dependence on those of yesterday; but they are like the branches of a tree resting on and nourished by the roots. The roots of a man's life are in the past, and he cannot, even if he would, break away from it. The gentle soul of an aged Christian, filled with the full assurance of hope, will sometimes shudder at the recollection of sinful passion long ago pardoned and subdued, even as the dark blue glassy surface of a tropical sea will sometimes heave from the influence of some remote ocean storm.
1. We observe then, first, that God often recalls our past sins to us by means of the dispensations of providence. When a man feels himself prematurely old, and knows, as he often does, that decay is the fruit of what he himself sowed in other years, how can he fail to read his sin in his punishment? But it is not only when there is a close connection between the sin and suffering that sin is brought to remembrance. There is sometimes in the very nature of the event that which is fitted to suggest scenes and circumstances of our past life. Look, for example, to the case of Jacob. He was deceived by his uncle Laban, and brought by a trick to marry Leah instead of Rachel. The conduct of Laban was a severe affliction to Jacob at the time, and it proved the source of discomfort and domestic strife afterwards; is it not in the highest degree probable that when the patriarch was so deceived and made to smart in this way, he thought of the fact that he himself had been guilty of conduct very like that of his uncle when he went in to his old blind father and said, "I am thy elder son, thy son Esau"? The case of Jacob's sons in the land of Egypt is a very striking illustration of this. "We are verily guilty concerning our brother in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us."
2. Again we observe, that God often recalls past sins to us by the preaching of the Gospel. The woman of Samaria said of Jesus, who had preached the Gospel to her, "He told me all things that ever I did."
3. Now why does God thus make a man possess the sins of his youth? Is it not that we may feel our need of the mercy which God has provided for us in the Gospel of His Son?
(J. B. Johnston, D. D.)
Homilist.The popular thought is, let age be grave, and youth be gay. I question its rightness for two reasons.
1. Because where there is not godliness there is the strongest reason for the greatest gravity and gloom of spirit.
2. Where this godliness is, there is even stronger reason for joy in age than in youth. Call attention to the solemnity of youthful life.
I. YOUTH HAS ITS SINS.
1. Want of knowledge. Youth is a period of ignorance and inexperience.
2. The force of passions. In the first stages of life we are almost entirely the creatures of sense: physical appetite, not moral ideas, rule us; we are influenced by feeling, not faith; the mind is the vassal of matter.
3. Susceptibility to influence. This is a characteristic of youth; the sentiments, language, conduct of others are powerful influences in the formation of its own. Character is formed, in fact, on the principle of imitation.
II. THE SINS OF YOUTH DESCEND TO AGE. Job regarded himself as heir to them; they were his heritage, he could not shake them off. Youthful sins are bound by the indissoluble chain of causation to the man's futurity. There are three principles that secure this connection.
1. The law of retribution.
2. The law of habit.
3. The law of memory.
III. THEIR EXISTENCE IN AGE IS A BITTER THING.
1. They are bitter things to the body in old age. Every sin has an evil effect on the physical health.
2. They are bitter things to the soul in old age. To the intellect, the heart, and the conscience.
IV. THEY ARE A "BITTER THING" IN AGE, EVEN WHERE THE SUFFERER IS A GODLY MAN. Old errors cannot be corrected; old principles cannot be uprooted; old habits cannot be broken in a day. The conclusion of the whole is this, — the importance of beginning religion in youth. The chances are that unless it is commenced in youth, it will never be commenced at all. There are but few conversions in middle life. As we begin we are likely to end.
I. EXPLAIN THE LANGUAGE OF THE TEXT.
1. "Thou writest bitter things against me." This refers either to the record which God keeps of our offences, or to the punishments which He has decreed against us. Men cannot bear to be reminded of their sins. God keeps a record. There is an avowed and express purpose for which our sins are written down. With every sin God writes a curse.
2. "Thou makest me to possess the inequities of my youth." The conscience of the sinner himself is also made the depository of his manifold offences. It is an unspeakable mercy, if, by any means, God makes us to possess or remember the iniquities of our youth. But the manner in which He does this is often most painful and distressing. He sends affliction upon men in such ways that they are often compelled to see the very sin which they have committed in the temporal chastisement which they suffer. Some sins are brought to our recollection —
1. By bodily diseases.
2. By the ruin of our worldly circumstances.
3. By our feeling the influence of bad habits.
4. By trouble of conscience and a restless mind.
II. APPLY THE SUBJECT TO VARIOUS CHARACTERS.
1. Awaken those who are secure and asleep in a careless and irreligious life.
2. Affectionately warn young people against the temptations to which they are exposed.
3. Speak words of comfort to the humble-minded.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.
1. Wherever we move we carry with us our personal and individual responsibility. In every change of place and contact with man on the travel we act as beings who must give an account to God. Then call to mind the obligations that rest on you.
2. We are all so constituted as to exert a relative influence on each other. There is no member of the human family who does not sustain some relation, either original or acquired, either public or private, either permanent or temporary; nor is there any relation which does not invest the person sustaining it with some degree of interest. Do we think as we ought of this?
(J. C. Phipps Eyre, M. A.)
And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth-eaten.
I. A LITTLE BY WAY OF CONSOLATION. We desire to comfort you who wish to feel more and more your sins. The best of men have prayed this prayer of the text before you. Remember that you never prayed like this years ago when you were a careless sinner. Then you did not want to know your guilt. Moreover, it is very probable that you do already feel your guilt, and what you are asking for you already have in measure realised.
II. A FEW WORDS OF INSTRUCTION. See how God will answer such prayers. Sometimes by allowing a man to fall into more and more gross sin. Or by opening the eyes of the soul; not so much by providence, as by the mysterious agency of the Holy Spirit. How can we get to know our sins and the need of the Saviour?
1. Hear a personal ministry.
2. Study much the law of God.
3. Go to Calvary.
III. A FEW SENTENCES BY WAY OF DISCRIMINATION. Discriminate between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of the devil. It is the work of the Spirit to make thee feel thyself a sinner, but it never was His work to make thee feel that Christ could forget thee. Satan always, works by trying to counterfeit the work of the Spirit. Then take care thou dost not try to make a righteousness out of thy feelings.
IV. A LAST POINT BY WAY OF EXHORTATION. It is a very great sin not to feel your guilt, and not to mourn over it, but then it is one of the sins that Jesus Christ atoned on the tree. Come to Jesus, because it is He only who can give you that heart for which you seek; and because He can soften thy heart, and thou canst never soften it thyself.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).