Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth.
1. A prayer, and the reasons of it (vers. 1, 2). The petition is brief and jaculatory, for he breaks upon God with one word — Help, or Save. Of which he gives two reasons —
(1) (2) 2. A prophecy of the fall of the wicked, whose arrogance he describes (ver. 4). The prophecy shows what shall be the end of their dissembling. 3. God's answer to David's petition. Is it so that the wicked are thus numerous, thus tyrannous, so proud, so arrogant, then "I will arise"; "I will not delay"; "I will set him in safety." That which moveth Me is his pitiful condition, his sighs and groans. Of this let no man doubt. In God's words there is no fallacy. 4. A petitiory conclusion. "Keep them, O Lord." Without God keep them, they will be infected. Keep them from this generation. For there be a generation of vipers. And ever make them persevere; for without Thy aid they will fall. (William Nicholson, D. D.)
(2) 2. A prophecy of the fall of the wicked, whose arrogance he describes (ver. 4). The prophecy shows what shall be the end of their dissembling. 3. God's answer to David's petition. Is it so that the wicked are thus numerous, thus tyrannous, so proud, so arrogant, then "I will arise"; "I will not delay"; "I will set him in safety." That which moveth Me is his pitiful condition, his sighs and groans. Of this let no man doubt. In God's words there is no fallacy. 4. A petitiory conclusion. "Keep them, O Lord." Without God keep them, they will be infected. Keep them from this generation. For there be a generation of vipers. And ever make them persevere; for without Thy aid they will fall. (William Nicholson, D. D.)
2. A prophecy of the fall of the wicked, whose arrogance he describes (ver. 4). The prophecy shows what shall be the end of their dissembling.
3. God's answer to David's petition. Is it so that the wicked are thus numerous, thus tyrannous, so proud, so arrogant, then "I will arise"; "I will not delay"; "I will set him in safety." That which moveth Me is his pitiful condition, his sighs and groans. Of this let no man doubt. In God's words there is no fallacy.
4. A petitiory conclusion. "Keep them, O Lord." Without God keep them, they will be infected. Keep them from this generation. For there be a generation of vipers. And ever make them persevere; for without Thy aid they will fall.
(William Nicholson, D. D.)
I. THE GOLDEN AGE OF A COUNTRY MAY BE A DARK AGE IN THE ESTIMATE OF THE SAINT. The true glory of a country is moral, and where the moral element is wanting all other glories are dim. Philosophers, poets, commanders, artists, orators, statesmen, millionaires, do not make a "Golden Age," but the presence of many virtuous and godly men.
II. THE FAULTS WITH WHICH A SPLENDID CIVILISATION MAY BE CHARGEABLE.
1. Lack of faithfulness.
3. Pride. "Talking big."
5. Goodness is treated with contempt.
III. THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN PATRIOT.
1. To cry mightily to God against the prevailing wickedness.
2. To protest by word and act against this iniquity.
3. To rest, in days of triumphant wickedness, in the word and power of God.
4. To claim God's promise, and keep himself unspotted from the world.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. AS A FACT FOR DEVOUT LAMENTATION. He mourns because of three things —
1. The absence of the true. "The godly man ceaseth."
2. The presence of the false, vain man, — "they speak vanity." Obsequious men "flattering lips." Insincere — "a double heart." They spoke one thing and meant another. Proud — they spoke "proud things." Cruel — "the oppression of the poor." What a spectacle for a devout eye.
3. The exaltation of the vile. "The vilest men are exalted."
II. AS A REASON FOR DIVINE INTERPOSITION.
1. "Help, Lord." So he prayed.
2. Divinely promised. "Now will I arise, saith the Lord." This comes as an answer to the prayer. "Before they call I will answer."
3. Heartily expected. "Thou shalt keep them, O Lord.
III. AS SUGGESTING BY CONTRAST THE EXCELLENCY OF GOD'S WORD. "The words of the Lord are pure words." They are so for —
1. They are unmixed with falsehood; and
2. They have been thoroughly tested. "As silver tried in a furnace of earth," etc. How thoroughly it has been tried these six thousand years, by persecution, by hostile criticism, by the profoundest experience of the good in all ages.
(D. Thomas D. D.)
1. The decay of the sense of reverence. The beginning of degeneracy is to lose touch with God. We lose our touch with God when we cease to feel after Him. It is the effort to feel that preserves the sensitive touch.
2. The decay of the sense of honour. Faithfulness faileth, the dependableness of character is impaired. When reverence is benumbed, trustfulness is broken.
3. The decay of the sense of responsibility. "Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? ' The perversion of honour destroys the sense of responsibility. Men become self-centred, and therefore blinded.
4. The decay of the sense of humanity. "The spoiling of the poor, the sighing of the needy." Where irresponsibility reigns, cruelty abounds. The birth of cruelty synchronises with the death of reverence.
5. The decay of the sense of right. "Vileness is exalted." This is the last stage of the appalling degradation. Evil at length becomes man's good. He has lost his moral discernment. How can we be saved from this perilous decline? The wish to be saved is the beginning of salvation. Exercise thyself in feeling, and thou shalt become expert in touching. Everywhere and at all times be reaching out for God. Pray for Him everywhere. The good Lord is dependable; He is better than His word.
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
I. SPIRITUAL WORTH. The two words "godly" and "faithful" express this. They correspond with other Bible words, such as "devout" and "just." They cover the two branches of human holiness, piety and morality. In what does spiritual worth consist? Every man sustains two fundamental relations: the one connecting him with God, the other with society. The individual man lives in the social. In the spiritual constitution of man there are two controlling tendencies corresponding to these relationships. These tendencies are designated the religious and social affections. The religious element is the soul of man's soul; its perversion has been his degradation, and its right development is essential to his true elevation. The very constitution of the soul is theistic, the being of a God is implied in its structure, laws, and operations. The right state of these controlling tendencies constitutes spiritual worth. The right state of both is a state of love. Social morality springs out of piety. This worth enriches a man. It is valuable for its own sake. It is absolute worth. How is man to come into possession of it? This is the problem of life. All spiritual power we trace to the gospel. We would not depreciate other influences of spiritual culture.
II. SPIRITUAL WORTH DEPARTED. Various ways in which spiritual worth departs from a community. Change of locality. Change of character. Change of worlds. What principles will regulate the circumstances of death in the case of individuals?
1. That death would be always peaceful in proportion to a man's goodness.
2. That death would be postponed in proportion to a man's usefulness. Actual experience controverts both these anticipations. THE DEPARTURE OF SPIRITUAL WORTH LAMENTED
III. It is the language of lamentation, "Help, Lord."
1. Their departure is a great loss. Has death terminated their existence?
2. It is a loss to society.
3. The loss requires the interposition of God. The separation is material, not spiritual accidental, not essential. The mental bond is closer through the dissolution of the bodily.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. BECAUSE THERE ARE SO FEW OF THEM IN THE WORLD. Such men are the salt of the earth. God teaches us their worth by removing them from this world.
II. THEIR PRESENCE AND SERVICE HERE SEEM ESSENTIAL TO THE CAUSE OF GOD.
1. On account of their example.
2. Their influence and usefulness.
III. BECAUSE IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO FILL UP THEIR PLACES.
IV. THE GRACE AND PROVIDENCE OF GOD SUGGEST THE ONLY REMEDY — prayer. "Help, Lord," etc.
I. THE IMPORTANT, USEFUL, AND AMIABLE CHARACTERS HERE SPECIFIED. Godly and faithful. The word "godly" is sometimes translated "merciful."
1. Consider godliness as a principle that comes from God, not in a natural but supernatural way. Holiness is the work of the Spirit of God. No man is godly but he in whom God has wrought a saving change, whose heart is turned from sin to God, from self to Christ, from earth to heaven. Wherein does godliness consist? Godliness is God's likeness. Wherever that is, there is a supreme love to God. Every godly man loves God, not only because God is kind and bountiful to him, but because God is holy in Himself: He is a godly man who is a sincere and a constant worshipper of God. The love of a child to a parent is exemplified by his obedience. A child of God obeys his heavenly Father from love. Every godly man worships God in secret. Everyone who is godly professes a regard for the public worship of God, and makes conscience of attending it. A godly man is not free from frailties and infirmities. But his heart is habitually right in the sight of God, and his way of life prevailingly corresponds with his religious profession. Consider —
2. The other branch of the word godly, namely, merciful. (Isaiah 57:1) Merciful men are men of kindness such as show kindness. As they fear God, so they regard man. Happy for society when these two things are conjoined, a ready heart and a bountiful hand.
3. The faithful. The truly godly are faithful to God; and also faithful to men. Where godliness is, there will be honesty.
II. THE GREAT CAUSE WE HAVE TO DEPLORE THE LOSS OF SUCH PERSONS. When David wrote, it was a time of abounding iniquity among all degrees of people, and there were very few to be found who preserved these characters. The ceasing and the failing of them is to be considered also descriptive of their dissolution. When the judgments of God are abroad in the earth, and a dark cloud hangs over a sinful kingdom, is there not cause to bewail the departure of such as were men of prayer and of a public spirit?
III. THE DUTY OF CRYING TO GOD FOR HELP WHEN SUCH CHARACTERS FAIL. Vain is the help of man. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
1. Let us pray that the Lord would help us to attend to such a speaking providence, and improve it to our spiritual advantage.
2. That the Lord would so help in the present exigence and trial as to raise up others to supply the place of such useful men.
Paraeus died before Heidelberg was sacked; and Luther was taken off before Germany was overrun with war and bloodshed.
The faithful fail from among the children of men.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(David Caldwell, A. M.)
(H. Ward Beecher.)
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TWO CHARACTERS — GODLY AND FAITHFUL, "Godly" imports a benign, gentle, and good-natured man, but this has such a relation to religion, and is such a disposition to it, that among the Jews the word was in common use extended to a man that was exact to all the duties of religion, and strict in the performance of them. A godly man is not one that places his religion in many assumed practices, that do not tend to make him better. Nor he that understands his religion well Nor he that is very regular in all outward rules and matters of form. The truly godly man has an inward sense of a supreme power that is over him, and endeavours to resemble this being, and to govern all his actions in conformity to the will and laws of God. He believes that God, by His providence, watches over all things, and consequently resigns himself up to His will, and submits to everything that conies to him from that hand. A godly man is a faithful man. He that has a true sense of religion knows that God is true, and so he always speaks the truth. He is severe in matters of truth. He is raised to such a pitch of candour and sincerity that every man who has any concerns with him will soon see what he is to trust to, or to depend upon. A faithful man is he that hates both lies and liars. He is true in his actions as well as in his words.
II. DAVID'S COMPLAINT. "The godly ceased." On what grounds did he make this complaint?
III. THE DANGEROUS AND DESPERATE STATE OF A NATION, IN WHICH GODLY AND FAITHFUL MEN DO FAIL. Dangerous by reason of the natural effects that follow, and by reason of the judgments of God.
IV. THE ONLY REMEDY FOR ALL THIS. Which is an earnest prayer to God for help.
(Gilbert Burnet, D. D.)
I. THE FACT. But who are faithful?
1. They who are faithful to themselves will not deceive themselves as to their state before God.
2. To God. Maintaining His truth.
3. To the Church, the election of grace. Declaring to them positive truth, resting on the covenant, tracing all blessing to the Holy Spirit.
II. THE EXCLAMATION. "The faithful fail." It is —
1. The voice of mourning.
2. Of appeal to God to raise up others.
3. Of the soul that cares for Zion.
4. Craving further nourishment.
III. THE WARNING — that when the Lord has taken home a few more of His faithful, then a storm of persecution will burst forth upon His Church. The night is approaching. Make sure work of your own salvation.
I. WE NEED THEIR EXAMPLE. Example is both
(a) (b) II. WE NEED THEIR INFLUENCE. It is the good of this world who preserve it from total moral corruption. III. WE NEED THEIR COUNSELS. But God's dispensations are all right. He makes no mistakes. (W. H. Luckenbach, D. D.)
(b) II. WE NEED THEIR INFLUENCE. It is the good of this world who preserve it from total moral corruption. III. WE NEED THEIR COUNSELS. But God's dispensations are all right. He makes no mistakes. (W. H. Luckenbach, D. D.)
II. WE NEED THEIR INFLUENCE. It is the good of this world who preserve it from total moral corruption.
III. WE NEED THEIR COUNSELS. But God's dispensations are all right. He makes no mistakes.
(W. H. Luckenbach, D. D.)
The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.
(David Caldwell, A. M.)
The Book of Symbols.The philosopher Bion, being asked what animal he thought the most hurtful, replied, "That of wild creatures a tyrant, and of tame ones a flatterer." The flatterer is the most dangerous enemy we can have. Raleigh, himself a courtier, and therefore initiated into the whole art of flattery, who discovered in his own career and fate its dangerous and deceptive power, its deep artifice and deeper falsehood, says, "A flatterer is said to be a beast that biteth smiling. But it is hard to know them from friends — they are so obsequious and full of protestations; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend."
(The Book of Symbols.)
Our lips are our own
(James Stalker, D. D.)
Who is Lord over us?
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, with the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
I. GOD'S WORD DEALS WITH AND IS ADDRESSED TO CHARACTERS. Two such are named.
1. The poor — the poor in spirit, conscious that they have no good in themselves. God brings all His people to this state.
2. The oppression of the poor. Poverty gives room for oppression. The rich are not oppressed. And so it is spiritually. Hezekiah, near to death, cries out, "Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." The law on a man's conscience does this. "It strikes the dying dead." Thus the Lord deals with His people to bring them down. But their sighing is a sign of life. The dead in sin feel nothing. They may have alarming fears of hell, but no trouble of conscience; they, as Isaiah says, may "cry for sorrow of heart and howl for vexation of spirit," but "they do not cry unto God with their heart when they howl upon their beds."
II. FOR THE SIGHING OF THE NEEDY. A man may be poor without being needy, without having any desire for what he does not possess; he may be content with his poverty.
1. But the needy are they who are not content, who feel and utter their need. This is true of spiritual things. He is full of needs. He wants more and more of the grace of Jesus.
2. He sighs. He is sighing after God, sighing unto the Lord under the burden of his sins; he wants the light, life, liberty, peace of the Gospel of God.
III. THE ANSWER TO THESE CRIES.
1. "Now will I arise." As if the Lord had been looking on but sitting still; as a father may watch his child at play, but let him perceive the child in danger, then will he start up and rush to the rescue. It is this sitting still of the Lord that so puzzles and perplexes God's family; that He should seem to take no notice of them. But He will not be always so. A time is fixed when He will arise. 2. "I will set in safety,... puffeth at him." Then poor people are puffed at, not only poor and oppressed. Yes, for Satan in one that puffs at them. Sinners do also. And saints can do it to. Then much of pride and annoyance are to be found in God's children. But the Lord will set them in safety. Not, perhaps, deliver them, but set them in Himself, a safe spot indeed. And there is the puff of flattery, and of enmity. Through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom. But thither we shall be brought.
(J. C. Philpot.)
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.I. THE HOLY DESCRIPTION OF THE SACRED WRITINGS HERE GIVEN. It tells of —
1. Their high authority. The men who wrote these books say, "The Spirit of God spoke by me, and His Word was upon my tongue," "Thus saith the Lord," and so on. Thus they claim high authority. But you may ask, "How are we to know it?" Therefore note —
2. Their inherent sanctity. "The words of the Lord are pure words." And are they not so? Some say the book is immoral because it records immoral actions. But could the Scriptures have given a faithful account of human nature without such records? Those who study the Bible most are those who most of all live and practise all the public and social virtues. Modern infidels are not so candid as those of the former century. Rousseau could say, "I will confess that, the majority of the Scriptures strike me with admiration, as the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers, with all their pomp of diction: how mean, how contemptible are they compared with the Scriptures! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and sublime should be merely the work of man?"
3. Their intrinsic worth. In our text they are compared to the finest silver and gold. And in Psalm 119. And this eulogy is deserved, because they speak of God and man reasonably and in harmony with our experience. They satisfy man upon the most anxious questions.
II. THE SCRUTINY THEY HAVE ENDURED. "Tried in the furnace, purified seven times." The reference is to the searching process of the refiner, by which he detects the presence of any alloy and removes it. And the Word of God has passed under a scrutiny like that of fire: It is not accepted on mere hearsay and because of the teachings of priests.
1. It has been thoroughly investigated. Josephus gives his testimony to the sacred books of the Jews. Hence the Old Testament is evidently not a book of yesterday. And from the testimony of the Fathers we know that the books of the New Testament have existed from the time they profess. The ancient versions confirm this. The entire New Testament might be collated out of the quotations made by the Fathers.
2. Then there has been antiquarian and scientific research. And these do homage to the testimony of revelation.
3. Philosophical and moral discoveries likewise bear their testimony in the philosophies of China and India, and yet others, have been searched, and they have been found poor and unsatisfactory, like the glimmer of gas lights at noonday, compared with the Scriptures. That eminent Oriental scholar, Sir William Jones, says, "The Scriptures contain, independently of a Divine origin, more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains, both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass from all other books that were ever composed in any age or in any tongue." Now these are not the testimonies of priests, but of laymen, learned, travelled, and who have become acquainted with the literature of all nations. And should any be disposed to trifle with the Bible, let me quote to him two lines from a poem penned by one of the greatest geniuses that has ever adorned our empire, and whose intellectual light has been just lost to us —
"Better he had ne'er been born
Who reads to doubt, who reads to scorn."
I. BY THE PROLONGED AND SEVERE CONFLICT IT HAS HAD WITH ALL THE EVIL OF OUR WORLD. There are two great forces in the moral world, that of evil — the world, the flesh, and the devil, and that of good — in truth, in holiness, and in love. And God is the source of all this good. Now, if the words are of God they will be like Him; which is just what they are. And they will occupy His place, bitter against nothing but evil, enamoured of nothing but good. And they will do His work. So they do, have done everywhere and always, under all circumstances and amid all conditions.
II. BY ALL THE CONTRADICTIONS OF UNBELIEF. Concerning Him it is said, "He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself." Just so it has been with the Word of God, and is so now. They have heated the furnace to the intensest heat, and cast the Bible in, and the result is that it has lost nothing but the tinsel of man's folly or the bonds wherewith men's authority sought to bind it.
III. BY THE EVIL CONSEQUENCES OF THE CONDUCT OF FALSE PROFESSORS. We complain of the unfair dealing of unbelief. Naturally. But there are others who deserve our indignation far more, and these are those who profess to be, but are not, friends of the Gospel or of the words of God. Worldly men, who have determined to make it a political engine. Hence it has been encumbered with ceremonies and dogmas; kept back from the people; man's own interpretations fastened upon it, as if they were the words of God Himself.
IV. THE INFIRMITIES AND INCONSISTENCIES OF ITS REAL FRIENDS. Many of you here profess to be its real friends. Some of you hold prominent positions, and, like Peter and John, you bid men look on you and see what your religion can do. And men do look on you and judge the Word of God by you. And they see very soon where there are inconsistencies in you; whilst, on the other hand, there is nothing so awes the world as the spirituality, unselfishness, and devotedness of earnest holiness. But who of us can profess fitly to represent the Word of God? How imperfect are the best of men.
V. BY THE SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT OF ALL SANCTIFIED MEN. In one sense the Word of God tries a man, for according as he acts towards it so does he reveal his spiritual state. On the other hand, all holy souls test the living Word. "My sheep hear My voice," said the Saviour, "but a stranger will they not follow."
VI. BY THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF BOTH SAINTS AND SINNERS. VII. BY THOSE, MOST OF ALL, WHO HAVE MOST THOROUGHLY LIVED IN IT AND WORKED HARDEST FOR IT. If I want to know the sustaining qualities of any particular kind of food I observe those who live most on it, yet do the greatest amount of work, and with the greatest ease, and, nevertheless, show the most robust health. And so, would I know what the Word of God can do, I turn to those who are such as I have described. See Paul. Hear him say, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthened me." All of you who hear the Word, bind it to your hearts, and let it be your holy resolve, God helping you, to live as well as speak His Word.
(A. T. Pierson D. D.).