O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy en-dureth for ever
Homilist.I. MEN CONSCIOUSLY NEEDING THE MERCY OF HEAVEN. Morally, we are all distressed travellers, captives, invalids, mariners. The worst feature of this moral distress is that the subjects are not conscious of it.
II. MEN EFFECTUALLY DELIVERED BY THE MERCY OF HEAVEN.
1. Just in time. Each had reached the extremity. The lamp of hope was all but extinct, and black despair was settling on the soul, when mercy came to the rescue.
2. After the prayer, God listens to the cries of His distressed children.
III. MEN URGED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE MERCY OF HEAVEN.
1. The mercy of Heaven is generally unacknowledged.
2. The acknowledgment of this mercy is an urgent obligation.(1) Because a proper recognition of God's mercy is essential to the extinction of the evil in man.(2) Because a proper recognition of God's mercy is essential to the generating of good in man.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(M. D. Hoge, D.D.)
A.D. 197, Flaminius caused a trumpet to command silence and a crier to proclaim that the Roman Senate restored to the Grecians their lands, laws, and liberties. So astonished were the people that they asked the crier to repeat it. Then a shout arose that was heard from Corinth to the sea.
(H. O. Mackey.)
They wandered in the wilderness.
(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M.A.)
And He delivered them out of their distresses
He led them forth by the right way.I. THE END for which the people of God were led forth from Egypt was that "they might come to a city of habitation"; in other words, "to a city, or cities, which they might inhabit." Are you by faith in Christ Jesus the sons of God? He, who has given you the adoption of sons here, will not withhold the inherit. ante of sons hereafter.
II. THE WAY by which the believer is led to that city of habitation.
1. It is not the nearest. His heavenly Father knows t.hat it is expedient for him, as for Israel, to be led about and instructed.
2. It is not the pleasantest. Like a wilderness, it is a dry and thirsty land. The soil is barren — its waters are bitter and often fail. The road is "the narrow way," intricate to discover, difficult, to pursue, and having "but few that find it."
3. To all appearance, it is not the safest. An enemy's country. A snare at every step.
4. Yet it is the only sure road to those pleasures which are for evermore.
III. THE GUIDE.
1. He is experienced.
2. He is fitted to sympathize with those who are toiling along the difficult road, in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted.
3. He is a watchful, careful Guide.
4. He is also a supporting and upholding Guide; not. merely leading His people through every difficulty, but either removing every impediment, or enabling the pilgrim to overcome it.Conclusion:
1. See the necessity of a guide in the journey of life.
2. Is the wilderness the right way to the city of habitation? Then how easy should it make us under all the discouragements, weariness, temptations, dangers of the journey!
3. Remember that none reach that city but "the redeemed of the Lord." Is this your character?
(R. Davies, M.A.)
Preacher's Analyst.I. THE WAY OF THE REDEEMED.
4. A desert way.
II. THE RECTITUDE OF THE WAY. It is "the right way."
1. It is the Divine way.
2. To what it leads: "the city of habitation."Two lessons.
1. Take an enlarged view of the Divine conduct. Remember the end of it. all.
2. Ever seek the Divine guidance. God goes before; follow, trust Him.
I. THE COMPANY. Any considerable company of men is imposing. Nothing more quickly raises our interest than a large assemblage of human beings. The march of an army, the movement of a procession, the gathering of some great multitude for deliberation or for worship, even the rush of a common city crowd, will make the heart throb with unusual emotion. But here is a company more illustrious than any other upon earth, a company overwhelming in its vastness, and yet ever growing in numbers — calm in aspect, and yet irresistible in power — aiming at the noblest objects, manifesting the purest character, adorned with supernatural symbols of distinction, and pursuing her sublime and silent march from time into eternity under the direction of a guide invisible to all but her!
II. THE LEADER. The leader of this ransomed company is the Lord himself. The Bible abounds with intimations of the nearness of God, and particularly with assurances of His actual and perpetual presence with His people as their guide, and guard, and everlasting friend (Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20.)
III. THE WAY. Happily to some it is covered with the clouds of disappointment; to others it is bleak and cold with the gales of adversity; to others it is drenched with the rains of sorrow. It has places of heart-wringing separation from fellow-pilgrims, and even deep, dark gulfs of sin; but netwithstanding all its mystery, and all the wrongness put into it by ourselves and others, as God's way, it is always right — right in shade as well as in sunshine, — right in winter as well as in summer, — right to all alike who are in the way, — and right on to the end.
IV. THE END. The idea chiefly brought before us is that of heaven as a fixed and settled home, "a peaceable habitation," "a sure dwelling," "a quiet resting-place " for ever. The way is narrow, but it leads on to the "large and wealthy place." It is rugged; but it opens at last into "green pastures," and winds beside "still waters," over which no blight or blast can come. It is a way of ceaseless toil and watchfulness; but they will be repaid by the rest that cannot be broken, by the joy that cannot end. It is long — at least in our days of suffering and dreariness we think so; but seen in retrospect, and when it has been all trodden, it will look but like the journey of a day.
(A. Raleigh, D.D.)
I. THE MORAL SIDE OF LIFE IS HIGHER THAN THE MATERIAL. To please self is the aim of most men, yet most patent is the fact, that to deny self-indulgence to ourselves is beneficial. The very physical frame, its laws of health and vigour, declare that! It requires, however, little self-denial to give up what is simply pleasant to the taste or to the eye. These are mere outward things. The more thoughtful student of life will see that God places human life under a higher and more searching discipline. A man is placed where his pride must be denied, his mental prepossessions laid aside, his will subordinated, his inmost purpose chastened.
II. THE PILGRIM SIDE OF LIFE IS ALWAYS PROSPECTIVE. It is no mere maze. We never return. Ours may be a long way, a winding way, but it is forward. A Christian man will feel with modesty, and yet with certainty, that his path is progress, that he does know more of the love of Christ, that his affections are more set on heaven, that salvation is nearer than when he believed, that the pilgrimage is one of temptation conquered, grace bestowed, and glory nearer to the soul. Spiritual pilgrimage is not a deceit in the moral sense. God is not allowing us to experience all these emotions merely that the circle of our little life may complete itself in the grave. We are nearing home, we shall soon be with Christ, which is far better.
III. THE LEADERSHIP OF LIFE IS IN THE HANDS OF CHRIST. Tell me who is leader, and I can also tell you much. Men admire sacrifice of ease and wealth, absence of bribe and advantage; and in Greece they glorified Socrates and Aristides, and in Rome, Quintus Curtius and Regulus. Men crave leaders, and can appreciate courage and self-control; only too often, alas, men do not ponder on the sacredness of the cause, the end of the ambition, the spirit of the campaign or pilgrimage. What we have to teach and to live in this age is that the Christ-led way is the right way.
IV. THE PILGRIMAGE ENDS IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF HOME. The discontinuance of things here below is the saddest of all experiences. Vessels keep coming and going out of this little bay of life. Along the roads new pilgrims appear where others rested; they loose their sandals, refresh themselves at the wells, and rise betimes for their onward way. We are quiet spectators of such pictures, and note the effects of change and time on others. For us, too, there is change and discontinuance. What we want is permanence! It is the beauty of the Christian Revelation that it uses all the symbols of a home to give our hearts rest in the thought of departure; that is what we want, that has been dearest after all to judge and soldier, merchant and statesman, monarch and peasant — the home! Yes, no image of court or temple is so inspiring as this — my Father's house.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. THE RIGHT ROAD. Christianity is much more than sentiment; it is right living. The road that leads to the Cross of Christ.
II. THE LEADER. We need these elements in a leader:
1. Strength. "Who is stronger than this mighty King of kings?" etc.
2. Wisdom. "He knoweth all things," etc.
3. Tenderness. Christ taketh in His arms the little helpless child.
III. THE END OF THIS ROAD.
1. There is no entrance to the Eternal City except by this right way.
2. The Bible is the only guide-book for the pilgrim in this way.
3. The Christian who is helped by his Leader should also freely help all weak and overloaded brethren in this way.
4. Always bear in mind the end of your journey — heaven.
(T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)
Homilist.God is the leader of humanity. The way He leads is always the right way. There are many wrong ways; there is only one right.
I. "The right way " IS ALWAYS GOD'S WAY.
1. His existence is the foundation of right.
2. His will is the law of right.
3. His Son is the revelation of His will to fallen man.
II. "The right way" IS ALWAYS A TRYING WAY. That is, always trying to fallen man. It involves great struggles, and often much anguish. It involves the abandonment of the old and the adoption of the new.
III. "The right way" IS EVER THE PROSPEROUS WAY. Right is always expedient. The path of duty is at once the path of safety and success.
IV. "The right way" IS ALWAYS SUPERNATURAL.
I. THE HAPPY PLACE TO WHICH EVERY TRUE BELIEVER IS TAKING HIS JOURNEY. How great a satisfaction does it afford, to the weary pilgrim that has borne the burden in the heat of the day, to hear of a rest to which he shall soon arrive? a city of habitation, where he shall for ever dwell? a crown of glory which he shall ever wear? And this is the lot not only of some, but of all God's children; they shall not always be tossed with tempests.
II. THE INTERMEDIATE SPACE THROUGH WHICH THE BELIEVER IS TO PASS, IN HIS WAY TO THIS CITY OF HABITATION.
1. This present world is a state of distance, and in this respect it may be fitly compared to a wilderness.
2. This present world through which we were passing may be justly styled a wilderness, as it is a solitary and barren way.
3. This present world through which we are passing is also properly compared to a wilderness, as it is likewise a dangerous way.
III. GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE BY THE RIGHT WAY TO THE CITY OF HABITATION. Let us only take a view of three particular seasons, wherein we are most apt to question the lovingkindness of our God, and we may by them determine the happy issue of all the rest.
1. Let us begin with the melancholy state and condition of those from whom God hides the light of His countenance. Were He never to hide His face, we should live upon the streams rather than the fountain; we should be too ready to say with the three disciples, "Lord, it is good for us to be here"; without pressing after any further manifestations in a better world.
2. Concerning the various outward afflictions with which the believer is exercised. They are all of them, let them arise from what quarter soever, useful to us, and necessary for us.
3. The temptations of Satan every one of them answer the same general end. The powers of darkness are suffered to dwell amongst us, for the same reason that some of the Canaanites were left among the people of Israel; that is, to try us, and show us how weak we are without Christ; and how strong we are when we depend upon that grace which is treasured up in Him.
IV. PRACTICAL REMARKS.
1. Has God prepared for His people a city of habitation? how great then is that grace, how free and sovereign is that love, to which this was originally owing.
2. Are we to pass through the wilderness to this city of habitation? How much need have we of a guide to show us the way, and how thankful should we be to Him who has undertaken to perform this kind office for us.
3. Is the way of the wilderness the right way to a city of habitation? How easy should this make us under all the temptations, trials, and afflictions with which we are now exercised.
4. Can none get admission into this city of habitation but the redeemed of the Lord? (ver. 2). Let this lead us to Christ Jesus, the only person who is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
I. THE LEADER. Every true man is proud of his leader. If we had asked those brave men who lately sailed to the far north whom they followed, they would have uttered, with flashing eye, the name of their captain; if we could have asked those who fought at Waterloo who was their general, they would have answered, with eager pride, "Wellington!" So we, if the world asks us of our leader, can answer Jesus, Name which is above every Name, Name of victory, Name of power, Name of love, Name of sweetness.
II. THE RIGHT WAY. There is but one way to heaven, that which God chooses for us, and where Jesus leads. That way may take us through various scenes and circumstances. Some amongst us are destined to be rich, others poor; for some the way of life lies in active scenes, for others in quiet retirement; some are frequently exposed to the fierce sun of trouble, others are more sheltered from the storms of life. Still, through whatever scenes our way of life may tend, we must strive to make it the right way. What, then, is this right way? It is the King's highway, the way of holiness.
I. A LONG WAY. For example, the answer to prayer is sometimes long delayed; but if the blessing tarry, wait for it, — it is worth waiting for, and will come at last.
II. A DESOLATE WAY. Your way to heaven lies through the wilderness — the wilderness of His world. There is no other way, and there could be no better way. There might be a smoother, easier, more flowery, less thorny path; but such a path might lead you to lose sight of your journey's end, and of your own character as pilgrims.
III. A DIFFICULT WAY. All our powers are improved by exercise; the very muscles of our bodies require labour to form and bring them to their full strength. So it is with our powers of mind; their education consists in meeting and overcoming difficulties. So it is in regard to the higher powers of the soul; they are matured and perfected by the labours and difficulties that meet us in the way to heaven In all our labours we have a direct object in view, which may often seem very ignoble and temporary. Much of our time and effort are engaged in securing the bread that perisheth, gold that perisheth, and other things that perish in the using. But in this very labour, God has another object in view — our preparation for the active duties of heaven, and the forming in us of qualities that may fit us to act our part there.
IV. A DANGEROUS WAY. Our pilgrimage, like theirs, is a warfare. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of darkness. Therefore we must not only be strong in the Lord, but take to ourselves the whole armour of God.
V. AN UNKNOWN WAY.
(C. G. Scott.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness.it.
I. SOME ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS.
1. The Divine goodness is self-evident in the creation of the world. How beautiful, how glorious, are all the works of His hand!
2. The high dominion to which man was appointed by the Divine fiat further proves the goodness of his beneficent Creator. He was not to be a vassal, not to be placed on terms of equality, but was to have "dominion over the fish of the sea," etc.
3. The Divine goodness is further evident in the provision of the Gospel. How comprehensive is the scheme of wisdom; bow glorious the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God!
II. GOD'S LEGITIMATE CLAIM. "Forget not all His benefits." The Divine goodness claims the praise of our tongues.
III. THE EARNEST DESIRE OF THE PSALMIST. He would not only give praise himself, but he would be the means of leading others to see and feel that it is an important duty.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.I. THE SOURCE OF TRUE SATISFACTION IS GOD.
1. The soul being made in His image has infinite yearnings which nothing finite can satisfy, and powers which can only find their due exercise in Divine worship and service.
2. The soul is fallen and therefore has need of restoration which nothing finite can accomplish.
II. THE RECIPIENTS OF TRUE SATISFACTION. Longing souls — men and women who realize their celestial origin. In time past, they may have turned to the world for satisfaction, they may have hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water, but now they seek to slake their thirst from the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13). They may in the past have been among the dissatisfied, saying, "Who will show us any good?" (Psalm 4:6). Now they know that blessedness consists in having the light of the Divine countenance shining upon them.
III. THE CONDITION OF TRUE SATISFACTION. Obedience. The obedience which springs from filial trust and submission to the will of God. To those who hearkened to the Divine commandments the promise is (Isaiah 48:18). They shall be God's people, and He shall be their God. God for them, and with them, and in. them shall be a source of perfect and eternal satisfaction.
(H. P. Wright, B. A.)
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN A LONGING OR HUNGRY SOUL.
1. That it wants something which it has not got. Pardon, peace, purity, God.
2. That it wants something which it cannot provide for itself.
3. That the want of this something unsettles and makes it discontented.
II. WHAT IS THE SATISFACTION WHICH GOD GIVES TO THE LONGING OR HUNGRY SOUL. The gifts of God to the soul, of pardon, health, and life, are its coronation; its honour and glory; its satisfaction. Beyond this it cannot go on earth. This is being filled and satisfied with goodness.
Psalm 143:6): — Man has a threefold nature — physical, mental, and spiritual. The soul is the nobler part of man, and needs a nobler satisfaction than the body.
I. THE SOUL'S THIRST.
1. The soul comes from God, and its happiness is inseparably connected with obedience to the Divine will.
2. It is immortal.
3. It was made for God, in whom alone can it find true satisfaction.
4. It needs God, His smile, favour, and companionship.
5. How do men try to gratify this desire of the soul?(1) Some force the body to do double work to make up for the lack of spiritual food. But the body resists excess. Man was made to be something nobler than a mere eating and drinking apparatus.(2) Some with money — business. But the man who thought fifty pounds would give him complete satisfaction was unsatisfied with five hundred. Man should be better than a money-making machine, a slave to business.(3) Some with worldly pleasure, drinking constantly at the wells of worldly bliss, which only increases their thirst. You may as well strive to catch the east wind as try to satisfy immortal hunger with sensual pleasures.
II. THE SOUL'S SATISFACTION.
1. The world can stimulate and excite, but cannot give rest.
2. How may the soul be satisfied?(1) In being at peace with God (Romans 5:11).(2) In mutual sympathy, reciprocal affection.(3) In regeneration, sanctification, moral likeness to God.(4) In doing God's will. "To do the will of Jesus: this is rest."(5) In constant communion with God. Through Christ we have access by the Spirit unto the Father.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.
I. WHO ARE THESE FAVOURED MEN?
1. Guilty men (ver. 11). Hear this, ye sinful ones, and take heart! God has wrought great wonders for a people whom it seemed impossible for Him to notice. If they came into prison through rebellion, you would expect Him to leave them there. Yet rebels are set free by an act of immeasurable grace. The Redeemer has received gifts for men, "yea, for the rebellious also."
2. Doomed men (ver. 10). It is your condemned condition .which needs free mercy; and, behold, the Lord meets your need in His boundless grace!
3. Bound men (ver. 10). You long to be delivered, but you are unable to cut the cords which hold you. Jesus Christ has come on purpose that He might proclaim the opening of the prisons to them that are bound.
4. Weary men (ver. 12). "Come unto Me," etc.
5. Downcast men (ver. 12). The Lord Jesus delights to lift up those that lie at His feet.
6. Helpless men. What a word that is — "None to help"! The proverb says, "God helps those that help themselves." There is a sort of truth in it; but I venture to cover it with a far greater truth: "God helps those that cannot help themselves." When there is none to help thee, then God will help thee.
7. They did at last take to praying (ver. 13). There is that about prayer which makes it a token for good, a pledge of blessings on the road, a door of hope in dark hours. Where is the man that cries? Where is the man that prays? That is the man of whom it shall be said, and of others like him, "The Lord brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death," etc.
II. HOW HAS THIS DELIVERANCE BEEN WROUGHT?
1. By the Lord Himself. There is no salvation worth the having which has not the hand of the Godhead in it. None but the Trinity can deliver a captive soul from the chains of sin, and death, and hell.
2. Next, the Lord did it alone "He hath broken the gates of brass." Nobody else was there to aid in liberating the prisoner. When our Lord Jesus trod the winepress, He was alone. When the Spirit of God came to work in us eternal life, He wrought alone.
3. By the Lord's own goodness. He gives the alms of His grace only to the undeserving.
4. Most completely — light, life, and liberty.
5. Everlastingly. O child of God, you were once shut up as with gates of brass, and bars of iron, and the devil thinks that one of these days he will get you behind those gates again! But he never will, for the Lord "hath broken the gates of brass." The means of our captivity are no longer available.
III. WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS?
1. If the Lord has set any of you free — record it. Say, "The Lord hath done great things for us."
2. When you have recorded it, then praise God with all your heart, every one of you, every day. When you have praised God yourselves, then entreat others to join with you. The oratorio of God's praise needs a full choir.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Fools, because of their transgression and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
I. THE MISERABLE PEOPLE.
1. They were fools. We call those fools who have a great want of knowledge of things which it is necessary to know. Where other men find their way, they are lost. Where other men know what to do upon very simple matters, they are quite bewildered and cannot tell how to act. He, too, is a fool who, when he does know, does not make right use of his knowledge. He is a greater fool than the former one. He understands that the only way to be saved is to believe in Christ; but he does not believe. He knows that men must repent of sin if they would find mercy; but he does not repent of sin. He knows that life is uncertain, and yet he is risking his soul upon the chances of his continuing to live. We call him a fool who hurts himself without any profit — without any justifying cause. We count the ox foolish that goes willingly to the shambles; but there are multitudes of men and women who take delight in sin; and, though every cup around them be poisoned, yet they drink of it as though it were nectar. Verily, sinners are fools! We are great fools when we think that we can find pleasure in sin, or profit in rebellion. We are great fools when we displease our God, — when our best Friend, on whom our eternal future depends, is despised, neglected, and even rejected and hated by us.
2. They were not only fools, but sinners. The text says that "fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted." They began with one transgression; they went on to multiplied iniquities. There was first in their heart a transgression against God; afterwards, there were found in their lives many iniquities, both towards God and towards man. Sin multiplies itself very rapidly. It grows from one to a countless multitude. What form has your sin taken? Think of it in your own heart. But, whatever form it has taken, God is able to forgive you. "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin."
3. These people had a third mischief about them: they were afflicted. Their affliction was the result of their folly and their transgression.
4. They had fallen into a soul-sickness (ver. 18).
5. They were almost dead.
II. THE MERCIFUL LORD.
1. He sent the affliction. Your sicknesses, your poverty, and your misery — oh, I bless God for them! The heavenly Father has sent this rumbling wagger to bring you home to Himself. Oh that you would but come to yourself! Oh that you would but come to Him!
2. They began to pray; and here we see the Lord again; for no one seeks after God till God has put the prayer into his heart, and breathed a new lifo into his spirit.
3. Then, as soon as ever he did pray, the Lord heard the prayer. "He sent His word, and healed them," etc. So all that God has to do, in order to save us, is to send us His Word. He has done that by sending His dear Son, who is the incarnate Word. He sends us the Word in the shape of the Holy Scriptures; He sends us the Word in the preaching of His servants; but what we want most of all is to have that Word sent home by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord does not operate upon the symptoms, but upon the person; He does not deliver us from this sin, and that sin, and the other sin; but He takes away the old heart, out of which the sin comes, and gives a new heart, out of which there come repentance, and faith, and a change of life.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The cause of this visitation, and of all the grievance he speaks of: "transgression and iniquity."
2. The kind of this visitation: "sickness."
3. The extremity, in two branches: "Their soul abhorreth, all manner of meat"; and secondly, "They draw near to the gates of death."
4. The carriage of the affected and sick parties: "They cry unto the Lord in their distress."
5. The remedy of the universal and great Physician: "He saves them out of their distress."
6. The manner of this remedy: "He sent his word and healed them"; His operative and commanding word, so as it works with His command.
7. The fee that this high Commander asks for; all the tribute or reward that He expects is praise and thanksgiving. "Oh that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness," etc.
I. THE QUALITY OF THE PERSONS HERE DESCRIBED. Why are wicked men fools? and God's children, so far as they yield to their lusts?
1. For lack of discerning in all the carriage and passages of their lives.
2. A fool is led with his humour and his lust, even as the beast.
3. He is a fool that will play with edged tools, that makes a sport of sin.
4. He is a fool that knows not or forgets his end.
5. He is a fool that hurts and wounds himself.
II. THE CAUSE. "Because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities." "Transgression" especially hath reference to rebellion against God and His ordinances in the first table. "Iniquity" hath reference to the breach of the second table, against men; and both these have their rise from folly. For want of wisdom causeth rebellion against God, and iniquity against men. All breaches of God's will come from spiritual folly. Why doth He begin with transgressions against the first table, and then iniquities, the breach of the second? Because all breaches of the second table issue from the breach of the first.
III. THE EXTREMITY.
1. "Fools for their transgressions are afflicted." We by our sins put a rod into God's hand — "a rod for the fool's back" (Proverbs 26:8); and when we will be fools, we must needs endure the scourge and rod in one kind or other. Those that will sin must look for a rod.
2. "Their soul abhors all manner of meat." This the great Physician of heaven and earth sets down as a symptom of a sick state, when one cannot relish and digest meat. Experience seals this truth, and proves it to be true.
3. "They draw near the gates of death." Death is a great commander, a great tyrant; and hath gates to sit in, as judges and magistrates used to "sit in the gates."(1) "They draw near to the gates of death"; that is, they were "near to death"; as he that draws near the gates of a city is near the city, because the gates enter into the city.(2) Gates are applied to death for authority. They were almost in death's jurisdiction. Death is a great tyrant. He rules over all the men in the world, over kings and potentates, and over mean men; and the greatest men fear death most.(3) The power of death. It is the executioner of God's justice.
IV. THEIR CARRIAGE IN THEIR EXTREMITY. "They cried to God in their trouble." This is the carriage of man in extreme ills, if he have any fear of God in him, to pray; and then prayers are cries. They are darted out of the heart, as it were, to heaven. Extremity of afflictions doth force prayers: "In their affliction they will seek Me early." When all second causes fail, then we go to God. Nature therefore is against atheism.
V. THE REMEDY.
1. "He saved them out of their distress." God is a physician, good at all manner of sicknesses. Other physicians can cure, but they must have means. Other physicians cannot cure all manner of diseases, nor in all places, but God can cure all. "He saved them out of their distress." Other physicians cannot be always present, but God is so to every one of His patients. He is a compassionate, tender, present Physician.
2. "He sent His word and healed them." What word? His secret command, His will.
VI. THE DUTY.
1. The persons who must praise God: "Oh that men would praise the Lord."
2. The duty they are to perform: "to praise God," to "sacrifice to God," to "declare His works" — one main duty expressed by three terms.
3. For what they should praise Him: "for His goodness." It is the spring of all, for all particular actions do come from His nature. Why is He gracious, and merciful, and longsuffering? Because He is good. This is the primitive attribute. And then another thing for which we must praise Him: "for His wondrous works for the children of men."
4. The manner how this should be done: "with rejoicing and singing," as the word signifies, "declare His works with rejoicing." "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7), much more a cheerful thanksgiver, for cheerfulness is the very nature of thanksgiving.
VII. HELPS AND MEANS TO PERFORM THIS DUTY THE BETTER.
1. Consider our own unworthiness.
2. Dwell not on second causes.
3. Consider the necessity and use of the favour we pray for.
4. Again, if we would praise God, let us every day keep a diary of His favours and blessings: what good He doth us privately, what positive blessings He bestows upon us, and what dangers He frees us from, and continues and renews His mercy every day; and publicly what benefit we have by the state we live in.
( Sibbes, Richard.)
He sent Him word, and healed them.
I. SOME OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD.
1. It was Divinely inspired.
2. It is necessary to discover unto us most important truths.
3. It is most profitable unto men, for the doctrines which it teaches, for the precious effects which it produces on the hearts of men, and for the reformation which it is calculated to accomplish in the world.
4. The written Word of God may be considered as a sacred trust committed to Christians, to be improved by themselves, and conveyed unto others.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE WORD OF GOD, WRITTEN AND PREACHED, HAS BEEN SENT TO MAN, and how it ought to be sent by us to the heathen, that they may be healed, and delivered from their destructions.
1. The Word of God, written and preached, was sent to man by God Himself.
2. The Lord sends His written and preached Word by the ministers of the Gospel.
3. The Lord sends His Word accompanied with the Divine Spirit, who renders it effectual to salvation.
4. The Word of God should be sent unto the heathen, accompanied with much fervent prayer for its success.
III. OBSTRUCTIONS WHICH THE WORD OF GOD IS CALCULATED TO REMOVE. The Word of God is excellently adapted to —
1. Remove out of the world, and from the hearts of men, darkness, ignorance, and superstition.
2. Heal division, and to promote the peace and happiness of civil and religious society.
3. Heal the soul of those injuries which, by sin, it sustains.
4. Produce hope in the soul.
Delivered them from their destructions
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.
Homiletic Magazine.I. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE SEA. Behind the laws there is the Lawgiver. Behind the force of the winds and waves there is the Force of all forces — the great God. To regard God as the Ruler of the sea is —
3. Assuring. We know His will is good. We bow reverently before the mystery, and wait for more light.
II. MAN'S IMPOTENCY WHEN THE SEA REBELS AGAINST HIM. But even when impotent, and defeated by the warring elements, man is greater than they; for he is conscious of his impotence and defeat, while they know not of their triumph.
III. MAN'S RESOURCE WHEN THE SEA REBELS AGAINST HIM. When all else fails, prayer to God is left. But is it only when you are at your wit's end that you cry unto God? What right have you to expect that He whom you seek only when you are in trouble wilt answer your selfish cry?
IV. GOD'S ANSWER TO MAN'S CRY. God does not always literally allay the storm, and save from it those who cry unto Him. He, however, calms the inward tempest, so that the waves of anxiety and terror are still.
V. MAN'S OBLIGATION FOR GOD'S INTERPOSITION.
1. God's gracious doings for man are wonderful.
2. Men are prone to overlook God's gracious doings for them.
3. Men are under the most sacred obligations to celebrate the gracious doings of God for them.
I. THE SHIP SAILS FORTH. Life is a voyage. We all go down to the sea in ships, to a life of mystery and danger, of glorious privilege and responsibility. Our hearts are full of happiness as of new wine. Rejoice, O young man, but remember, be mindful of the sublime things.
II. THE WIND RISES. Has it come to you already? Has there been a turn in your prosperity? Are things going wrong? Is it sickness, bereavement, financial stringency? Are the winds whistling through the cordage? Fear not! God holds the trident; the winds are in His fist. There are some anchors that will hold in the fiercest stress OF Euroclydon. One is the Wisdom of God. There is nothing that happens without His cognizance. No storm comes haphazard. God understands the end from the beginning; and He makes no mistakes. Another is God's Goodness. He doth not afflict willingly. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. But never too much.
III. THE SAILORS ARE AT THEIR WIT'S END. In the margin it is, "All their wisdom is swallowed up." Then there is hope! For when I am weak, then am I strong. My strength is made perfect in weakness.
IV. THEY ARE ON THEIR KNEES. Our Lord said that men ought always to pray and riot to faint. But alas, men do not always pray. They will not. But they pray when the storm breaks. And, strange to tell, God is willing to hear even the cry of desperation. He is of great lovingkindness and forbearance. For some men prayer is their vital breath, their native air. To others it is like the bell in the coal-mine, used only in time of danger.
V. THE STORM IS ASSUAGED. The rule, after all, is fair weather. The storm, rage it never so fiercely, will soon be spent. Our "light afflictions" are "but for a moment." Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. There is no night without a dawn.
VI. THE SHIP SAILS IN. In that day the sorest troubles of the earthly life will seem insignificant as we look back upon them. We shall understand then what the apostle meant when he called our afflictions "light," and spoke of them as "enduring but for a moment." It will be in our hearts to bless God for all the storms and the trials.
(D. J. Burrell, D.D.)
I. THE VOYAGE OF LIFE IS FRAUGHT WITH MANY DANGERS.
1. Our vessel is weak. Many have been shattered by striking on comparatively small rocks, and many have been wrecked by only just changing the tack from prosperity to adversity, or sometimes from scarcity to abundance. Others have been wrecked through too much joy, too weak to bear it; whilst the sorrows of this world have worked death to a vast multitude so weak that they are "crushed before the moth."
2. The sea is rough. Where are those that set out from the same port — nursed on the same hearth with us? Many have been crushed by the storms, but very few, comparatively, are still afloat.
3. Our course lies among rocks. Many have been stranded, but, obtaining timely help, have been prevented from becoming a wreck. It is but seldom we find any one who has not undergone some repairs at the hands of a physician. Some have been in dock a long time, and, being wonderfully restored, have been launched again into the deep. But others are seen being dashed to pieces by some disease or other; and it is a sad sight to see any one striking upon those rocks, and every blow carrying away part of the vessel, as it were, until at last the sides of the ship are laid bare.
4. The weather is foggy and dark. We know not on leaving our homes what will befall us before we return. And our safety so long is not to be attributed to our own care and foresight, but "having obtained help of God we continue unto this day."
II. DIVINE GRACE HAS MADE EVERY PROVISION NECESSARY TO ENABLE US TO MAKE THE VOYAGE OF LIFE IN SAFETY.
1. An abundant supply of stores. They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
2. Ballast in the ship to keep her from capsizing. Many have made shipwreck for the want of it. "In time of temptation they fall away." But if the fear of God be in the heart they will withstand every squall, as Joseph did in Egypt.
3. A chart to sail by. The Word of God is the rule which tells us where every danger lurks, and also how to avoid it.
4. A compass to steer by. Although the believer's vessel is tossed by the waves quite as much as any other vessel, her prow now in this direction, now in that, yet there is a principle of rectitude which governs him; he knows what point to sail for and what direction to take in the midst of all weathers.
5. A quadrant to take observations. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen."
6. A light fixed wherever there is moral danger.
7. Means of constant communication with the shore.
(D. Roberts, D.D.)
I. HIS VOYAGE.
1. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, looks daily for guidance to his great Teacher in the heavens. The lights and landmarks along the coasts of Christian attainment; his frames and feelings, comparing himself with others, etc., which are the main guides of the religions coaster, are all discarded, and the Sun of Righteousness becomes his great Teacher and Guide.
2. He is a close student of his chart — the Bible. How it inspires courage and strengthens hope!
II. HIS COMPASS.
1. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is his indispensable and most constantly trusted guide, to be obeyed in darkness and storm, as well as in sunshine and calm.
2. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is easily deranged, and if not frequently tested may lead him astray. The question is not, therefore, have you been faithful in following your conscience, but have you been faithful in testing your conscience by the Sun of Righteousness?
3. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is more or less influenced by early associations. We can never permanently settle ourselves from the effects of the moral direction in which our prow was set, or the spiritual atmosphere that surrounded the laying and shaping of our keel. Because of these great channels and laws of influence no two Christians look out upon the sphere of duty from exactly the same standpoint; and we need nothing so much as charity to enable us to patiently meet and rightly construe the opinions and conduct of others, who, though perhaps equally conscientious, may not be able to see eye to eye with us in many things pertaining to Christian character and conduct.
4. The Christian's conscience, like the mariner's compass, is frequently deranged by something taken on board. Especially is that Christian in danger who is greatly prospered in temporal matters, and wields a sort of sovereignty over all manner of wares. It indicates great strength and purity of character when such persons remain humble, conscientious, and loyal to God.
5. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, sails by his compass, though he cannot explain the mystery that surrounds it. There are mysteries about the compass which the ordinary sailor never attempts to explain or understand. He becomes possessed of its benefits, not by solving its mysteries, but by following its guidance. So the Christian's safety is secured not by understanding everything, but by obedience to Divine teaching. Hence, although surrounded by mystery, he sails by faith.
6. The Christian who, like the mariner, tests and sails by his compass, is daily nearing his desired haven. "Land ahead." "Its fruits are waving o'er the hills of fadeless green."
(T. Kelly, D. D.)
Homilist.I. ITS WEATHER IS FOULER TO SOME THAN TO OTHERS. This difference is partly necessary and partly moral. A man's condition in life depends greatly both upon his temperament and upon the external circumstances under which he has been brought up. Some have temperaments that are impulsive and tempestuous; others gentle and pacific. Some are surrounded by circumstances suited to soothe and to please, others by those tending ever to agitate and distress. This difference in the temperaments and circumstances of men, whilst it reveals the sovereignty of that God who arranges human affairs after the counsel of His own will, should at the same time dispose us to act with tender consideration in all our intercourse with our fellow-men. But there is a morality in this difference that should not be overlooked. Men have power to rule in a great measure their own temperaments, and control their own circumstances. The man to whom God has given the most fiery passions He has given corresponding intellect for control.
II. IT EXPOSES TO TERRIBLE DISASTERS. How many souls are shipwrecked every day! They go down into the abysses of passion, worldliness, impiety.
III. THERE NEED BE NO SHIPWRECKS. In all cases man is responsible for them.
1. He has an infallible chart — a chart which reveals life true to eternal fact. There is not a danger it does nob expose. It draws the very line over which you should sail if you would sail safely and meet a prosperous end. It tells you how to avoid all the perils lying beneath the wave, how to escape the fierce hurricanes, how to sail through peaceful seas and into sunny climes.
2. He might have a safe anchorage (Hebrews 6:19).
3. He might have an all-sufficient captain — Christ.
Homilist.The sight of the ocean in a storm serves —
I. To impress us with THE MAJESTY OF GOD. Perhaps there is no spectacle in nature so overwhelmingly grand as that of the ocean when lashed into fury with the tempest. How great is God!
II. To awe us with OUR UTTER HELPLESSNESS. How powerless we feel in the presence of such wild majesty! Such a sight may well take the egotism out of man, and bury it in the abysses of forgetfulness for ever. "What is man?" etc.
III. To inspire us with SYMPATHY FOR MARINERS. How many brave men, who fight our battles, who enrich our markets, who diffuse our civilization and religion, will go down in that storm!
(J. G. Rogers, D.D.)
At their wit's
Then they cry unto the Lord. —
"At their wit's end": — Nothing is more certain, or calls for more grateful acknowledgment, than the ready and merciful interpositions of God in our seasons of exceptional weakness and need. Nothing, perhaps, of a romantic kind attached to the circumstances in which we were placed; it was in the routine of trade rather than amid the excitements of travel; in the safe places of life, and not among gloomy cells or staggering ships, when, face to face with a yet very authentic extremity, we "cried unto the Lord, and He delivered us out of our distresses:" It is human to "cry aloud" to God when we feel ourselves in the hands of forces we cannot control, when resource of power or of knowledge is exhausted. But when men practically only "cry unto the Lord" in moments such as these; when they only claim the friendship and help of God when all else has failed; when these words set forth an habitual state, "At their wit's end, then —!" well, I will put the matter mildly, and say, this is serious. This is to reduce the Divine friendship to the low level of a mere selfish convenience, and, on the whole, to be rather more dishonourable before God than we would like to be before our fellow-man. The great mistake lies in supposing — and, indeed, sometimes in actually teaching — that our need of God is greatest in the critical moment of our lives. We are supposed to be fairly equal to the ordinary strain, or that the ordinary strain is in some way provided for. It is in the great trials we think, as their merciless grasp fastens round us, that we stand in direst need of Divine assistance. Thus we say to men, "How will you do when sickness overtakes you? If your child should die, or you yourself be called upon to step down into the valley, how will you do without God then?" Badly enough, I should say. But can there be any question that it is not at such times we are tempted to forget God? In a passionate crisis the problem solves itself. It is in the common uneventful days, in the regular routine of daily life, amid faces, and scenes, and duties familiar to us as the light of the morning, it is here that the real difficulty lies. There is no question about crying to God "out of the depths." It is not in the "depths," it is in the long level flats that most men's danger lies.
I. HOW SLOW MEN ARE TO PRAY IN PROSPERITY. It may be written down as an axiom, that "prosperity prevents prayer." Thank God it is an equally true axiom that "adversity prompts prayer."
1. We are apt to become careless of Divine things when prosperity smiles upon us.
2. There is also a danger of becoming absorbed in the business that is thus blessing you. The more we have, the more, as a rule, we want.
3. Prosperity, too, is prone to make us lose our sense of dependence upon God. The ballast of adversity is not to be despised.
II. HOW READY MEN ARE TO PRAY IN ADVERSITY. "Then" is a very commonplace adverb of time, but it is wonderfully expressive. Not till they were obliged to in any of these cases, not till pressed by utmost need did they cry. Not till they got to the end of the creature did they appeal to the Creator.
1. This truth, sad as it is, is noticeable in the case of temporal troubles. Those who have been thoughtless till the trouble came upon them, and prayerless too, begin to think and to pray as soon as the grief afflicts them. Thank God for the griefs that make us pray, for the troubles that drive us to the mercy-seat. Thank God that He sometimes takes the Aeolian harp and puts it where the rough winds blow, for it would remain mute did not the breezes sweep through its strings.
2. Sometimes it is in spiritual matters that this experience comes to us. Do not despair; cry loudly to God, plead the merit and death of Christ, and He will save you out of your troubles.
III. HOW WILLINGLY THE LORD HEARS THE PRAYER. True, it was belated; true, it was a small compliment to God to pray only when one was driven to it, but it does not seem to me as if God minded even that, so gracious and generous is He. He seems to say, "You are late in coming, but it is better late than never. I will heal you, I will deliver you." He does not reproach, He does not refuse, He does not even delay. They have been long in asking, but He is quick in saving.
en voyage, and change of scenery and associations on the Continent. Five days later, we were nearing the north coast of Germany. A wild wind and a "choppy sea kept us later than usual on deck. Driven by sheer weariness, I retired to my berth at two o'clock in the morning; but not for long. At five I was ruthlessly roused by my friend, "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God." "What's the matter?" I inquired. "We have run aground, and can't move." Hurrying up to the captain's bridge, we found him the picture of anxiety. We were (in the wrong sense) "steadfast, unmovable" — of this there was little doubt. For three hours had the captain been trying to "go ahead," then "astern," but not an inch could he move the good ship; and with one thousand two hundred tons of cargo aboard, we were evidently getting more and more deeply embedded in the sandbank. We wanted sixteen feet of draught to float us, and had but nine. As well might we try to float a "heavy-laden" sinner into the kingdom of grace on the shallow doctrines so common to-day, as to steer our ship over this sandbank. At length the captain bade "Jack" run up the signal for help. Friend C —caught at the idea, and seizing me by the arm, said, "I think we will get to our cabin, and fake the hint." There we retired, and "sent up the signal for help." Presently, addressing the steward, C — asked, "Did you feel the vessel move?" "Not likely," he replied, "after sticking here three hours." Turning to the mate, C — put the same question, with a similar result, "Not likely! What do you land-lubbers know about it?" Just then the vessel fairly lurched. "Did she move, mate?" "Yes," said he, with an astonished air; "but I can't understand it." By this time a tug from the coast was bearing down upon us, but reversed her course as our captain lowered his signal. When we again mounted his bridge, he was almost beside himself with joy to think we had slidden bodily off the bank, and were once more steaming into the Channel. "I am thankful we're off; but I can't understand it a little; it completely puzzles me." Said friend C —, "Shall we explain it, captain? We are firm believers in the efficacy of prayer; and seeing your trouble, we just now took your unintentional hint, and sent up a signal for help. Do you never resort to prayer in the midst of trouble, captain? God has said, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.'"
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Then are they glad because they are quiet.I. WHY ON THIS DAY OF REST OUGHT WE TO BE GLAD?
1. Because the week is the scene of perpetual activity.
2. Because the week is the season for impairing rather than increasing our spiritual vigour.
3. Because the week is the time in which we ale exposed to the most spiritual danger.
II. WHAT THE QUIET OF THE SABBATH SIGNIFIES AND SYMBOLIZES.
1. It does not mean mental inaction. It does not signify having nothing to think about, and nothing to do on this day of rest; but having other things to think about, and other things to do, than those which occupy and all but absorb us during the week. And not only other, but better things, things connected with the life that lies beyond the grave.
2. The quietness of the Sabbath is intended to prepare us for the toil and tumult of the week. Let a Christian man enter the house of God with this idea, and he will never find the Sabbath tedious, or its hours of public worship a weariness; he has laboured to enjoy this rest, and now he rests to be fitted for ensuing labour.
3. The quiet of the Sabbath is a happy quiet, because it is an emblem of the heavenly Sabbath. Learn —(1) The fitness of Divine ordinances to our human constitution. We must have rest and quiet: nature demands; God graciously supplies them; and he that believes enters into rest.(2) Let us remember the danger we are exposed to of forgetting the claims of the Sabbath amidst the perpetually recurring anxieties of the week.(3) Let us rejoice if in our intelligent appreciation of this day we can truly say, "This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it"; and let memory ever say, "Then were we glad because we were quiet."
(W. G. Barrett.)
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
He bringeth them unto their desired havenI. THY PORT. "Their desired haven." Comforting view of heaven this! 'Tis a haven; not an "undiscovered country," not a desolate coast chafed by storms, and strewn with wrecks and lifeless bodies. Entrance ample, water deep, anchorage secure, may be taken in all weathers; no blinding haze, no dreary night, no want, no sin. 'Tis a desired haven (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
II. THE PILOT. "He bringeth them;" not He driveth, as if behind; nor draweth, as from far-off spot, as the pole draws the needle of the compass by a cold and mighty attraction; but He bringeth, as the reaper bringeth his sheaves. Jesus bringeth! Not ahead to draw, not astern to drive, but on board to bring! Oh! is He not a Pilot? He sounded the channel, took the bearings, mastered the details, made the chart, and now goes in company with the believer to perform the voyage. You ask who erected the beacon, placed the lightship, anchored the buoy? Christ, all Christ. He unites the pilot and commander in one: never leaves nor forsakes. Oh, come to Him; "He bringeth," He only; He bringeth unto. None founder under His command.
III. THE PROVIDENCE. "So." "His way is perfect." 'Tis not so short as you would like it, nor so easy, nor so pleasant, but it is " so." Sometimes He brings to wit's end, makes men to stagger, and the great billows, which they think will bury them, only lift them higher up into safety and peace.
(H. T. Miller.)
I. IT IS SUGGESTIVE OF REST. It is a "haven." Fellow-voyagers, are you looking for rest? Beyond all this toil of the ocean, are you expecting the repose of the haven?
II. IT IS SUGGESTIVE OF SAFETY. As the sailor cannot be endangered until the very harbour is destroyed; so, as long as Jehovah is, the Christian soul is safe. And this is true not only of his future, but also of his present state. Yes, God Himself is their protection.
III. IT IS SUGGESTIVE OF HAPPINESS. Do not blame us if we sometimes turn a longing gaze towards the "fulness of joy" which is in His "presence," and to the "pleasures for evermore" which are "at His right hand."
IV. IT IS SUGGESTIVE OF POSSESSION. He knows that when once the "desired haven" has been reached, all life's dangers will be for ever over; all life's mysteries will be for ever solved; all life's labours will be for ever crowned, and he will "enter into the joy" of his Lord. "And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
(W. H. Burton.)
1. The port, or harbour — "Their desired haven." The spirits of the righteous, who have vanished out of their sight, are not flung upon the coast of some dreary country, desolate and unknown, whose shores are chafed with angry storms and strewn with wrecks. They reach "their desired haven" "when all the ship's company meet who sailed with their Saviour beneath."
2. The Pilot. "He bringeth them." Adequate knowledge of the voyage is an important qualification in a pilot, and also a quick discernment or apprehension of dangers, and skill to avoid them. Every feature of perfect qualification is found in Christ, as the Pilot of humanity across the sea of life.
3. How He bringeth them is implied in this little demonstrative "so." As professing Christians, it might be well for us to single out all the trials, sorrows, and calamities which are the result of our own folly, indolence, or presumption, and distinguish them from those over which we have no control and in the production of which we have shared no part. I believe that many of our trials in secular and spiritual matters are not God's creations, but our own.
(T. Kelly, D.D.)
Sunday Circle.An old pilot of the Hudson River Line lay dying. A minister came in and talked with him, and he was respectful but unmoved. The preacher felt he must say something that would appeal to him. Just then the Spirit of God seemed to say to him: "Present Jesus as the pilot's Pilot." And so he said: "Now, you have many times piloted your steamer away from the rocks; the current is running against you now, and the fog is on, and you need a pilot. Jesus is the pilot's Pilot; won't you take Him on board?" The man's attention had been caught and his heart won, and with tear-wet eyes he said, "I will," and with the Saviour's joy in his heart and a happy light in his eyes, Christ piloted him home. Will you take Jesus as your pilot to-day?
He turneth rivers into a wilderness.
Homilist.I. IT INVOLVES GREAT REVOLUTIONS.
1. In the secular department (vers. 33-38). Sodom's fertile soil was smitten with barrenness. Canaan, at one time one of the most fruitful spots under heaven, is now one of the most worthless. How does God do this generally?(1) He does it by man. To man He has given the power to change the character of the soil, to make orchards out of wildernesses, and gardens out of deserts, and thus cause the "wilderness to blossom as the rose."(2) He does it by man, with a due regard to man's character. By the moral, the wise, the industrious man, He makes the barren places fruitful; and by the corrupt, the indolent, the foolish man, He turns a fruitful land into barrenness.
2. In the social department.(1) In families. Providence has been compared to a wheel; as the wheel goes round, those who are up to-day will be down to-morrow, and the reverse.(2) In nations.
II. IT REPAYS THE STUDY OF THE WISEST MEN. There is no subject for human study of such transcendent interest and importance as that of God's management of man. kind. The study of this subject will serve three purposes.
1. To rejoice the good. "The righteous shall see it and rejoice." The righteous will see in the subject how wisely, how beneficently, how universally all things are managed, how "all things work together for good to them that love God," how even evil is overruled to answer benevolent ends.
2. To confound the wicked. "All iniquity shall stop her mouth." "It shall be," says an old author, "a full conviction of the folly of atheists, of those that deny the Divine providence, and forasmuch as practical atheism is at the bottom of all sin, it shall in effect stop the mouth of all iniquity. When sinners see how this punishment answers to their sin, and how justly God deals with them in taking away from them those gifts of His which they had abused, they shall not have one word to say for themselves. God will be justified, He will be clear."
3. To reveal God's infinite lovingkindness to all.(1) Human suffering, however great., is never equal in amount to that of human enjoyment. This is obvious from the circumstance that men, even in the greatest affliction and trial, earnestly desire the perpetuation of their life and struggle for it.(2) Human suffering is generally, if not always, ascribable to human conduct. Either their ancestors or themselves have broken those organic, moral, and social laws, the observance of which is the condition of happiness.(3) Human suffering may, and should, contribute to lasting enjoyment. Sufferings are disciplinary, they are only storms to purify the moral atmosphere of the world, medicated ingredients in the cup of life which, though bitter, are designed and suited to heal the diseases of the soul, and to make it happy and hale.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.I. THE WISDOM OF A DEVOUT ATTENTION TO THE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE.
1. They who are wise will observe those things — take notice of the hand of God in the various turns and methods of His providence.
2. A religious observation of providence is the way to improve in true wisdom. "Who is wise? Even he will observe those things," and by observing those things he will become still wiser.
3. It requires much wisdom and prudence to make right observations on the ways of Providence, and to put a proper construction upon them.(1) Let us fix in our minds a full and lively persuasion of the doctrine of providence: or be firmly assured of the reality and certainty of an overruling and governing power that reaches to all events.(2) We must attend to Divine providences with diligence; observe them with a steady and accurate eye, and deposit them faithfully in our memories to be reviewed and applied hereafter.(3) We must be cautious in our application of providences, and in our determinations concerning their immediate design.(4) Let us patiently wait the events of providence before we judge.(5) We should carefully compare one providence with another.(6) We should carefully compare the book of providence with the Book of Scripture.(7) If we would understand the providences of God let us obey the calls of them.(8) Frequently pray for direction in this matter, and for that wisdom which is profitable to direct.
II. THE GREAT BENEFIT AND ADVANTAGE OF SUCH A PRUDENT AND DEVOUT ATTENTION TO THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD; particularly as it will open to us new discoveries of the Divine goodness. "Even they shall understand," etc.
1. This may refer either to public and general, or to particular and private providences.(1) It may refer to public and general providences. And then the meaning is, that by such a wise, discreet and careful attention to the ways of Providence in general, we shall soon come to be convinced that the whole earth is full of the goodness of the Lord; that His tender mercies are over all His works, etc.(2) The words have a more immediate reference to private and particular providences.
2. It may be objected that there are a thousand things in the present state, both of the natural and moral world, which we can by no means reconcile with our ideas of infinite mercy and goodness. Now, to this I answer —(1) The psalmist does not say, nor can any man presume to think, that there are inexplicable mysteries in the ways of Providence; or that there are not many things in the course of the Divine dispensations which we are not able at present to reconcile either with the goodness or wisdom of God.(2) All that the text affirms is, that they who make the wisest and justest observations on providence, will make the plainest and largest discoveries of the lovingkindness of the Lord; and may discern traces of love in those events which to others appear tokens of anger.
(J. Mason, M.A.)
I. WHAT IT IS TO OBSERVE PROVIDENCES WISELY.
1. It presupposes —(1)That there is a providence. Is it unworthy of God to govern what He has created? As for the wisdom in the management of the world, they are fools who judge it folly before they see the end.(2) The faith of this providence. We must believe the doctrine of providence, if we would be wise observers thereof.(3) Providence has a language t.o the children of men.(4) A disposition to understand the language and design of providence.
2. It imports —(1) A watching for them till they come (Habakkuk 2:1; Isaiah 26:8; Psalm 130:1, 5, 6).(2) A taking heed to them, and marking them when they come (Isaiah 25:9; Luke 19:44).(3) A serious review of them, pondering and narrowly considering them. It is a mystery many times, looking at which our weak eyes will begin to dazzle. And that we may unravel the clue by a sanctified judgment (Psalm 77:6), it will be needful to call in the help of prayer, with much humility, faith, and self-denial (Job 10:2), and of the Scripture (Psalm 73:16).(4) Laying them up, and keeping them in record (Luke 1:66). We should keep them as one would do a treasure, for the time to come. Then are they experiences, which will be notable provision for after-times.(5) A practical observation of them (Micah 6:9).
II. THE THINGS ABOUT WHICH WE ARE WISELY TO MAKE OUR OBSERVATIONS.
1. Providences may be considered with respect to their objects, which are all the creatures and all their actions.(1) Look into the invisible world, and trace providence there.(2) Look to the visible world, and trace providence there (John 5:17).
2. We may consider providences with respect to their kinds (Psalm 40:5). The wisdom of God is manifold wisdom, and produces works accordingly (Psalm 104:24). And each of them is to be observed.(1) Providences are either cross, or smiling and favourable. Both ought to be observed, and may be so profitably.(2) There are great lines and small lines of providence..(3) There are common and uncommon providences.
3. We may consider providences with respect to the time of their falling out.(1) We should observe the past dispensations of providence (Psalm 77:5). Towards others. Towards ourselves. Observe how God gave thee such and such education, ordered thy log in such and such a place in His earth, and in such sort as He has done, how He brought thee into such and such company, saved thee from such and such dangers, etc.(2) We should observe the present dispensations of providence towards ourselves and others (Zechariah 6:1, 2). It is a stream that still runs by us, like those rivers that bring down the golden ore (Psalm 65:11). By day nor night it ceaseth not (Psalm 19:2).
III. WHAT WE ARE TO OBSERVE IN PROVIDENCES.
1. The timing of providences, the great weight of a dispensation sometimes lies ill this very circumstance, that then it came, and neither sooner nor later. And O the admirable wisdom that appears in thus jointing of them! (Genesis 24:45; Judges 7:13).
2. The beginnings and dawnings of providences (Psalm 130:6).
3. The progress of providence, endeavouring always to notice the several steps of it (Luke 2:19, 51), and to follow the thread. For God ordinarily brings great works to pass by degrees, that so men that are weak may have the greater advantage for observation (Hosea 6:3).
4. The turns of providence. The wheel of providence is a wheel within a wheel, and sometimes it runs upon the one side, and sometimes on the other. Observe the change of the sides. For providence to our view has many turnings and windings, and yet really it is going straight forward (Zechariah 14:7).
5. The end of providence (James 5:11; Job 42:10, 12).
6. The mixture of providence. There is never a mercy we get, but there is a cross in it; and never a cross, but there is a mercy in it. Observe the mixture of your mercies, to make you humble and heavenly; for the fairest rose that grows here has a prickle with it, and there is a tartness in our sweetest enjoyments. Observe the mixture of your crosses, to make you patient and thankful; for the bitterest pill God gives you to swallow has a vehicle of mercy (Lamentations 3:22).
7. The concurrence of providences.
8. The design and language of providences (Micah 6:9).
9. The harmony of providences.
(1) (2) (3) (4) IV. WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WISELY OBSERVE PROVIDENCES. 1. Because they are God's works (Psalm 135:6). 2. Because they are great works (Psalm 111:2). 3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalm 92:5). 4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4). 5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. (T. Boston, D.D.)
(2) (3) (4) IV. WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WISELY OBSERVE PROVIDENCES. 1. Because they are God's works (Psalm 135:6). 2. Because they are great works (Psalm 111:2). 3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalm 92:5). 4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4). 5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. (T. Boston, D.D.)
(3) (4) IV. WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WISELY OBSERVE PROVIDENCES. 1. Because they are God's works (Psalm 135:6). 2. Because they are great works (Psalm 111:2). 3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalm 92:5). 4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4). 5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. (T. Boston, D.D.)
(4) IV. WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WISELY OBSERVE PROVIDENCES. 1. Because they are God's works (Psalm 135:6). 2. Because they are great works (Psalm 111:2). 3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalm 92:5). 4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4). 5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. (T. Boston, D.D.)
IV. WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WISELY OBSERVE PROVIDENCES.
1. Because they are God's works (Psalm 135:6).
2. Because they are great works (Psalm 111:2).
3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalm 92:5).
4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4).
5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed.
(T. Boston, D.D.)
I. WHENEVER HE LOVES, HE AFFLICTS US. Either He finds us in trouble, or He ere long brings us into it — that is one of the rules He has laid down for the exercise of His lovingkindness. Are you, then, prepared to receive affliction from Him when, though conscious of a whole mass of evil dwelling in you, you can discover no indulged, no specific sins which have called down that affliction on you? Are you prepared for the storm, and the storm of God's raising, when honestly engaged in your worldly callings? Are you prepared for hunger, and thirst, and faintness of soul in God's own ways, while walking with God, following prayerfully and closely as you can the Lord's own guidance?
II. HE GENERALLY BRINGS HIS PEOPLE TO AN EXTREMITY OF DANGER OR OF TROUBLE, BEFORE HE SUCCOURS THEM. We are often made to see and to see with wonder that our extremity is, indeed, God's opportunity; that His helping work begins just when we are beginning to fear there is no help for us; that He does all that is needful for us when we are brought with a sorrowful and perhaps half despairing heart to say, nothing can be done. Deliverance we may depend on, but we must not depend on it till the extremity comes.
III. HE DRAWS FORTH FROM HIS PEOPLE EARNEST PRAYER FOR RELIEF BEFORE HE SENDS IT THEM. He has it in store for them, but He says, "I will be inquired of them for it before they shall have it." And this is one of His main designs in allowing our troubles to come to an extremity before He helps us — He wants to strip us of all creature-confidence; that we may be compelled to turn to Him for help, be constrained to come to Him with our difficulties and sorrows. Our prayers do Him no good, but they do us good — they bring us into closer union with Himself, the fountain of all good.
IV. WHEN THE LORD DELIVERS HIS PRAYING PEOPLE IN THEIR EXTREMITIES, HE GENERALLY DELIVERS THEM SIGNALLY AND MOST EFFECTUALLY.
1. Signally. He lays bare His arm as He delivers them; makes it visible; compels them to see, and to see with grateful wonder and a thrilling delight, that their deliverance is His work and His alone.
2. Effectually. He makes the help He gives them adequate to their extremity and more than adequate to it, surpassing their necessity. He often blesses and enriches them while He delivers them.
(C. Bradley, M.A.)
Essex Remembrancer.I. IN WHAT MANNER WE SHOULD OBSERVE THE-DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
1. There should be a prevailing recollection that there is a providence; so that we live not like heathens who know not God.
2. We ought to take particular notice of special events or remarkable occurrences.
3. We should gratefully acknowledge the Divine goodness; observe particular mercies.
4. Humbly submit to the Divine chastisements. These are often heavy and severe, though wisely ordered and mixed with mercy.
5. Observe, as far as may be, the design of God in the events of His providence, and particularly what benefit you may derive from them.
II. THE WISDOM AND ADVANTAGE OF A DUE OBSERVANCE OF THE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE.
1. If you observe these things you shall see God's lovingkindness prevailing in all His dealings with the children of men.
2. We may extend the application of the promise. For, according to the whole tenor of the Word of God, all the truly pious, such as they are who devoutly observe the ways of God, are really interested in His gracious regards. The Lord loveth the righteous. He receives them into His favour through the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ. He will save them with an everlasting salvation. They shall, therefore, understand what a glorious thing it is to have an interest in God as their portion.
I. IT IS EFFECTUAL. Gives complete relief. No mockery of favour, no semblance of love. Deals not in half-measures, but secures complete deliverance.
II. IT IS SEASONABLE. God interferes in the crisis, and waits till it come, ere He show His power and love.
III. IT IS UNDESERVED. We forget Him, but He does not forget us; and when our sins expose us to imminent peril — and that peril is a righteous and appropriate punishment, even then does He "make no tarrying," but He swiftly comes to save us.
IV. IT IS HABITUAL. God has special pleasure in such acts of beneficent intervention. He has often vouchsafed relief to others, and will He not to thee? "The Lord's hand is not shortened." "He daily loadeth us with benefits."
V. If we take pains and still "observe these things," we shall find "these things" all to be ACTS OF SIMULTANEOUS LOVINGKINDNESS. God is not so occupied with one case of misery as to overlook the others. All those deeds of lovingkindness may happen, and very often do happen, at one and the same time.
VI. IT IS MANIFESTED IN ANSWER TO PRAYER. The spirit, in the hour of its weakness, looks up to God, and He blesses and saves. O, then, ask and wait; wrestle and triumph.
VII. IT IS OFTEN STARTLING IN ITS NATURE AND RESULTS. The good it does is amazing, and the penalty it sends is confounding. These sudden and terrible reverses are meant to teach and humble — for they show the justice of God, exhibit the evil of sin, and induce man to forsake it.
(John Eadie, D.D.)
(J. Parker, D.D.).
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