I will praise Thee, O Lord.
In the Septuagint, this Psalm refers to the death of the Divine Son, and recites His victory over death, the grave, and all our foes.
I. THERE IS A PREDOMINANT NOTE OF PRAISE. (Vers. 1-5, 11, 12, 14.) Let us not praise with a divided, but a whole heart. It is incited by recounting all God's works. Let memory heap fuel on the altar of praise.
II. THERE IS AN ASSERTION OF TRUST. (Vers. 7-12, 18.) The oppressed, the humble, the needy, and the poor have strong encouragement. Calamity drives them to God, and so they come to know Him, and then the more they trust Him. Doubt is born of ignorance. Leave God to vindicate you; He will not forget.
III. THERE IS A PETITION FOR FURTHER HELP. (Vers. 13, 19, 20.) What a contrast between the gates of death (ver. 13), and the gates of the Holy City (ver. 14)! See Haman as illustrating ver. 15. He who lifts the righteous, hurls down the wicked. It is a sin to forget God (ver. 17).
"I will praise Thee." That is the note that is too commonly silent in our religious life. We rarely gather together for the supremely exhilarating business of praise. In the Psalm is a man who sets himself to the business of praise, as though he were about to engage in a great matter. He sets about it with undivided attention — "with my whole heart." The word "heart" is a spacious word. It includes all the interior things, all the central things; when a man comes to praise, will, intellect, and imagination must all be active. He must bring to the ministry of praise the worship of his feelings. Come will, and make my praise forceful. Come intellect, and make it enlightened. Come feeling, and make it affectionate. In the words, "I will sow forth," is suggested that he will score it as with a mark, he will not allow it to slip by unrecorded. He will keep a journal of mercies. He will not only register the "marvellous works," he will publish them. The word is suggestive not only of a notebook, but of a proclamation. "I will rejoice," the word is suggestive of the exulting bubbling of the spring. The two words, "glad," "rejoice," together give us the image of the leaping waters with the sunshine on them. And such is always the joy of the Lord. It is fresh as the spring, and warm and cheering as the sunlight.
We should praise God more, and thank Him more often for His ceaseless goodness. How can we forget His countless benefits? Dean Alford said, "It seems to me that five minutes of real thanksgiving for the love of our dear Saviour is worth a year of hard reasoning on the hidden parts of our redemption." Of the last days of the Venerable , his disciple wrote, "He was much troubled with shortness of breath, yet without pain, before the day of our Lord's resurrection, that is, for about a fortnight, and thus he afterwards passed his life cheerful and rejoicing, giving thanks to Almighty God every day and night, nay, every hour, till the day of our Lord's ascension. He also passed all the night awake in joy and thanksgiving, unless a short sleep prevented it, in which case he no sooner awoke than he presently repeated his wonted exercises, and ceased not to give thanks to God with uplifted hands. I declare with truth that I have never seen with my eyes, or heard with my ears, any man so earnest in giving thanks to the living God."
Thou hast maintained my right. Thou satest in the throne judging right.
The first part of the fourth verse seems to be merely personal, but the second clause of the verse is universal. In the first clause we may put so much emphasis upon the personal pronoun as to make this a merely individual instance, as if God had specialised one man as against many men, without inquiring into the merits of the ease. The second clause reads, "Thou sittest in the throne judging right." That is the universal tone. Not — God sitting in the throne selecting favourites, distributing prizes and rewards according to some arbitrary law, but God sitting in the throne judging right, whoever was upon one side or the other in the controversy. The whole encounter is delivered from the narrow limitation of personal misunderstanding and individual conduct, and is made one of rectitude, and God is indicated as taking part with the right. This is comfort; this, in fact, is the only true and lasting solace. If there were anything narrow, in the merely personal sense, in the government and providence of God, we should be thrown into unrest and faithlessness, or the most humiliating fear; but make the providence of God turn upon right, and then every man who does right, or who wishes to be right and to do right, may lift up his eyes to heaven and say: My help cometh front the everlasting hills; I will bear all difficulties bravely, with a really manful and sweet patience, because in the end right will be vindicated and crowned. Right is not with any set of persons, right is not a possession guaranteed to any one kind of office in the Church: it is a universal term; it rises like a universal altar, within whose shadow poor men and needy men, as well as rich and mighty men, may be gathered in the security of prayer, and in the gladness of assured hope.
The Lord shall endure forever.
David here draws a contrast between changing man and the unchanging God; between evermore vanishing thrones and the throne of God, high and lifted up — His throne of judgment — a throne erected to try and determine the cause, not of David only, nor of his people only, but all men — to judge the world in righteousness. He teaches that right and wrong everywhere are objects of the Divine regard, and will be through all time, and will be when time shall be no more; that the Divine judgment, like the Divine Omnipresence, embraces every creature in the vastness of its range. In this way David ascends in his reasoning from the particular to the general, and from the general to the universal, making the Lord's dealing with him, and His people Israel, the basis of the conclusion, that so He will deal with all men. He thus encourages all men everywhere to pursue the right, assuring them that, in pursuing it, the God of all righteousness is with them, and will in due time decide it in their favour.
And He shall judge the world in righteousness.
Corwin, the great orator and humorist, was once talking with several gentlemen. The conversation, which had been witty and epigrammatic, became grave and serious. One of the company made a remark about the unknown future. Corwin took it up, and said, "When I reflect that I am to be judged by a righteous and omnipotent God, I nearly go mad." So it is that the conscience within bears unequivocal testimony to our responsibility, not to a Something, of which we can form no conception, but to a Personal Being, who is the "righteous and omnipotent God," whose "offspring" we are as a Father, and whose subjects we are as Sovereign Lord Supreme.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed. I.
THE LORD ALSO WILL BE A REFUGE FOR THE OPPRESSED.
1. What is a refuge? Shelter — in the cities of refuge; strongholds (2 Samuel 22:23); a harbour of refuge, as on a rocky, dangerous coast. Thus the leading idea is shelter. Now the Lord Jehovah as Father, Son, and Spirit is such refuge.
2. But who are the oppressed? Not only those who are oppressed in natural things, as many are; but in things spiritual. The heavy burden of sin. By Satan. Daily conflict with sin. Now the Lord is a refuge for such.
II. A REFUGE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE. The Scriptures always put together the malady and the remedy. As to these times of trouble, they are sometimes —
1. Seasons of temporal trouble;
2. Of spiritual trouble. These make us know that the Lord is our refuge, for we can find none elsewhere. There is no definition of what troubles, so that in all trouble we may claim this promise.
III. AND THEY THAT KNOW THY NAME WILL PUT THEIR TRUST IN THEE. The name means the revealed perfections of God. His eternal faithfulness. His loving kindness and tender mercy. His infinite wisdom. But who are they that know His name? They to whom the name of God has been revealed to their consciences. It is an experimental knowledge, and here is the grand line betwixt life and death.
IV. FOR THOU, LORD, HAST NOT FORSAKEN THEM THAT SEEK THEE. This takes in the poor, the halt, the lame, the little ones of God's family. In order to seeking God —
1. We must have a desire to find something; and then,
2. Know that God, from whom we seek what we would find.
It is reported of the Egyptians that, living in the fens, and being vexed with gnats, they used to sleep in high towers, whereby, these creatures not being able to soar so high, they were delivered from the biting of them. So would it be with us when bitten with cares and fear, did we but run to God for refuge, and rest confident of His help.
The Hospice of St. Bernard, and the wild scenery surrounding it. The place is so cold that fish will not live in the lake, and we have seen the snow lying knee deep at mid-summer. The Hospice is a refuge from the storm in which many travellers have rested securely, who otherwise might have been lost in the snow. This noble institution receives all passers freely, whoever they may be, without money and without price; and in this respect it is like the salvation of our Lord Jesus, for Jesus gives freely of His grace to those who have nothing to offer in return.
They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.
Know Thy name! What does that imply, but to know all that is included in the revelation of the nature and attributes of Almighty God? Every reader of Scripture is well aware of the infinite importance which it attaches to the word Name in speaking of God. It signifies not merely a designation, however expressive and full of meaning, but a manifestation of the Eternal Deity. The trust of His rational creatures in Him is commensurate with their knowledge of all that is involved in the name. The early patriarchs knew Him by the name Elohim, a marvellous name, containing implicitly the mystery hereafter to be revealed of a plurality of persons in the unity of the Divine nature. They knew Him so far, and adored Him with deep awe and absolute trust in His power, righteousness, and goodwill. That name raised them out of earthly and debasing associations, delivered them from the fetichism of idolatry, and brought them into near contact with the spiritual world; they trusted in Hint according to the measure of their knowledge, and were saved by their faith. A further disclosure of the Divine goodness and love was made by the revelation of the name Jehovah, when the Lord made all His goodness pass before Moses, and proclaimed, "Jehovah, Jehovah Elohim, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." With that revelation was associated an entire system of typical institutions, preparing the way for a still more perfect discovery, at once quickening the conscience, making it sensible of the extent of human sinfulness, and indicating the conditions and principles of a future atonement. The forms of the living Word, of the living Spirit gradually disclosed themselves to the prophetic vision, never fully revealed, yet ever approaching nearer to a personal manifestation. But the Name itself in its highest sense was first suggested, then declared, by the voices which heralded the incarnation, and by the utterances of the incarnate Word. The full meaning of the words of angelic adoration, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts!" flashed upon the spirit of man when the Saviour commanded the initiatory rite, the pledge and condition of a new life, to be administered "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." To the exposition of that meaning the purest and highest intellects of Christendom have devoted themselves from the beginning; and if the forms in which their exposition has been accepted by the Church are true and scriptural, can it be questioned that they involve issues of infinite importance to our souls? Can it be a matter of indifference to us whether any one of the leading propositions in such a confession is true or not? can it be a matter on which we can err in wilfulness or negligence without peril? We are responsible indeed only for so much truth as we have the means of knowing. Every man is judged "according to that he hath, not according to that he hath not"; but for so much as we have received we are, and must be, responsible. The warmth and earnestness of our devotions, of our endeavours to do God's work, will be proportionate to the sincerity and good faith with which we receive into our hearts that truth which the Eternal Father has communicated to us through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Our salvation from evil here, and from the penalties of evil hereafter, can only be secured by the access which God the Holy Spirit opens through the Son to the Father — an access of which the conditions vary according to circumstances known only to our Judge, but of which the certain assurance is inseparably bound up with knowledge of the Name by which the Church adores the Triune Jehovah, three Persons, one God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Few words are more frequently used in the Bible than the word faith, and the thing which it is intended to describe is of prime importance. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews devotes an entire chapter to showing its majesty and weight. In the Epistle to the Romans the word faith plays a leading part, but the word is not defined. Still, the word is not always used in the same sense. Sometimes it is applied to what a man believes, the body of doctrine which constitutes the Divine deposit of the Church. Sometimes the word is used to describe the firmness of a man's personal convictions, or the consistency of his conduct, as when it is said that whatever is not of faith is sin. In the great majority of instances, however, faith describes a personal relation of unqualified confidence between man and God. This is the simple root from which the other forms of faith grow. Faith is trust, a trust without suspicion or fear, trust passing into glad and habitual surrender, so that He in whom we trust becomes our teacher, guide, and master. Such trust, if intelligently exercised, promotes fixedness of conviction and steadiness of moral purpose — it issues in deliberate fidelity and loyalty. And when this trust is challenged by the reason, either the reason in me, or the reason in others, the answer forms a bed of truth which takes the name of "faith," because it represents the rational basis of trust or conviction. Faith as a system of doctrine simply states what I believe, or why I trust. Faith as fixedness of personal conviction simply describes trust as perfect and habitual. Primarily, therefore, faith is neither a body of doctrine nor a mental and moral quality, but a purely personal relation between myself and another, the relation of trust on the part of man in God. Saving faith is just this, confidence in God issuing in consecration. For it is plain that I can neither trust nor distrust an imaginary being, a being of whose existence I have no evidence. To trust in God is to affirm that He is. Still, that alone does not provoke confidence and surrender. We do not trust all whom we know. Knowledge of another may prevent confidence, as well as provoke it. His character may be such that we are repelled from him, instead of being attracted to him. They in whom we trust must be trustworthy. It depends altogether, therefore, upon what God really is, whether the knowledge of Him is fitted to provoke our trust. It is plain, therefore, that the statement of the Psalmist must not be made to mean that all men will put their trust in God when they come to have a right knowledge of Him. Ignorance is not the sole cause of unbelief and sin. The real thought is this, that wherever men come to put their trust in God, it will be because they have come to know what God really is. Knowledge may not issue in trust, but without knowledge trust cannot be. There is nothing magical about it. Faith, or trust, is not a supernatural gift of God, bestowed or withheld at His pleasure; it is His gift only so far as His enlightened Spirit is His gift, only so far as a true knowledge of what God is is the gift of God. Three conceptions of God we can trace in the history of the world; but of these three there is only one, the Christian conception, which provokes to sweet and sunny trust. We may think of God as the embodiment of almighty power, personally indifferent whether He creates or destroys, with countenance as cold, as impassive, as that of the Egyptian Sphinx, eternally rigid in His will, eternally frigid in His emotions, without either smiles or tears, without hate and without love. Or we may think of Him as the embodiment of almighty energy, rooted in and confluent with eternal reason and absolute justice, never Himself guilty of folly or of wrong, keeping Himself beyond the reach of deserved reproach, but enforcing His law with pitiless severity, claiming His pound of flesh, whether the surgery kills or cures, exacting the debt to the last farthing, deaf to all entreaty, granting no reprieve, proffering no help. Or, we may think of Him as in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, as righteousness and love incarnate. The first repels; the second chills; the third alone attracts and warms. The first is a monster of cruelty; the second is an iceberg; the third alone is a life-giving sun. The first deifies power; the second deifies reason; the third deifies love, love carrying the cross in its heart, and which is indifferent to none. The gods of paganism simply represented superior power and cunning. They were greater than men, but they were no better than men. Faith in the gods there was none, and there could not be. And it is not otherwise with that more refined conception of God which identifies Him with force, the energy by which all things are constituted, without personal consciousness and without moral qualities, without either love or hate, without either vice or virtue, hearing no prayer, rewarding no obedience, punishing no disobedience. Such a god is only a god in name. He does not care for me; He does not know what care is, and how then can I care for Him; how can I bring myself to trust in Him? Nor is the case much better with that truer and deeper conception of God which identifies Him with the absolute reason and the moral order of the universe. It was impossible for thoughtful men to rest in a conception of God which robbed Him of thought and character. The law of cause and effect assorted itself. The ground of the universe must be possessed of all that appears in the universe. But there is thought, at least in me, and there is conscience, at least in me. And if these be in me, they must be in the First and Universal Cause of all things, whether that cause be regarded as distinct from the universe or not. And so, even the ancients came to look upon the universe as embodied reason and justice. Things were not loose and disjointed; they were compact and ordered. regarded the Idea as formative and eternal energy. dilates at length, and with warmth of eloquence, upon the universal presence of design. Science has itself dug the grave of vulgar materialism. A rational origin and a moral end of the universe are everywhere recognised. The very word "evolution" is a confession of universal reason and of orderly movement, Neither the old nor the new philosophical theism can produce faith. It is like an iceberg, majestic and imposing, but chilling the air. It may produce, it has produced, moral awe and resignation to one's lot; but it has not produced, and it cannot produce, trust — with the quiet heart and the radiant face and the laughing, singing lips. It may produce Ecclesiastes, but it cannot write Psalm 23
. For in all this reign of reason it discovers no indulgence for ignorance; in. all this reign of justice it hears no gospel of mercy for the sinner. There is no pity for the weak and the wicked. The name of God is not unconscious and unfeeling energy, from which we shrink; nor is it crystallised and crystallising reason and justice, before which we are self-condemned and dumb; but it is Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save the lost. The omnipotence of God does not make Him attractive to me. The omniscience of God sounds the death knell of my hope. The justice of God thrusts me into the dungeon of despair. In such an atmosphere there cannot be the first breath of faith. But when you make it clear to me that this omnipotent, omniscient, holy God is also infinite in His tenderness, that He loves me and wants me, that He is my Father, and that in Christ His Fatherhood has become Incarnate, so that when I see Him I see the Father, my faith is kindled and my trust knows no misgiving. "Perfect love casteth out fear." But perfect love in you and in me is the response to perfect love in God for you and for me. So faith will be perfect, trust in God will be fearless and sunny only as we know God's name, and hide ourselves beneath its sheltering wings. Here is the secret of peace; all is well, because God loves me.
The secret of all holy living is trust in God. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is the great Bible proof of this. But how to obtain this faith? that is the question. For nothing is harder to a human soul. Diverse answers might be given.
1. Ask it of God, for faith is His gift. But our text tells another way.
2. Know God better. "They that know Thy name will," etc. In earthly affairs we do not confide where we do not know. And so if God be unknown by us we shall not trust Him. Abraham was called the friend of God — he knew God so well, and so he got another name — the "Father of the faithful," because he so trusted in God. Now this knowledge must not be merely theoretical, but that of the heart. Then such "will" trust in Him; they cannot help it.
The Psalm expresses the confidence of Israel in Jehovah. Some say that these Psalms are only patriotic odes, and that we have no right to draw inferences from them in regard to spiritual religion. Now, no doubt, many have read into these Psalms ideas and feelings that are not and could not be there, for they are Christian in their origin. But still we are justified in using them so as to maintain our own faith. For the religion of the Old Testament (compare the old Roman law) had a wonderful expansiveness. No doubt the trust told of here meant Israel's confidence that when they went into battle Jehovah would be with them. Now consider —
I. THE CONDITION OF THIS TRUST. Knowledge of Jehovah's name, true heartfelt and experimental knowledge.
II. THE TRUST ITSELF — a confidence not for infallible success, but that life could not be in vain.
III. THE REASON FOR THIS TRUST. "Thou hast not forsaken," etc. Experience proves this true.
Names in Scripture are descriptive of character in those to whom they are given.
I. THE NAME OF GOD therefore tells of His character. The declaration of God's name (Exodus 34). Now this name of God is different from our conceptions. Some rob Him altogether of the awful features of His character, and others of His goodness. All the attributes of Jehovah have met in Christ. Love, justice — see Gethsemane and the Cross as showing God's hatred of sin.
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS NAME. It means the knowledge of approval, of heart assent to what he finds in God. If we wanted to get a child to trust his parent, we would speak not so much of the child's duty as of the parent's character. Hence, to awaken trust in God, we are to show the excellence and beauty of the character of God.
At many a martyr's stake, at many a dying bed, in many a scene of trial, these words have been proved true. His people have felt God near to them at these times, and this is file God in whom we must all trust. And this trust is through knowledge.
1. It is not a commonplace possession of every man. Far from it. What is it? It is not mere hearsay nor any theoretical knowledge of God.
2. But it is the knowledge of love. Love gains knowledge as nothing else can. The world does not love, and so does not know God.
3. And it is in harmony with the convictions of the understanding.
4. It is the knowledge of experience, resulting from holding communion with God. Love leads to such communion, and that to experience. We learn by experience the delicate excellencies of a character, which we could never have seen by a momentary glance; we understand its harmonious proportions which a cursory look would never have shown us. The man that loves to hear the ocean breaking on the shore, will detect harmonies in what is monotonous to everyone beside. Now this knowledge of experience or of communion is what God's people have of Him. But you must make real effort to know His name. The mere repetition of Lord, Lord, will do but little. But to utter His name in the fulness of knowledge is to uncurtain heaven, and see its glories once. But if we will not know God as we should, then we are sure to misjudge Him. A guilty conscience makes everyone suppose that God is nothing but severe. And then you cannot trust. Look again; would you "see Him as He is"? See Him in His love, in His sacrifice for you, and then you will learn to trust Him. And this is most important, for there is DO shelter but in Him, and unless we trust Him we cannot enter that shelter. And that means death. Oh, then, may God give us to know His name.
The name of God is the revelation of the Divine perfections, through His works and Word. He is —
I. A JUST GOD AND A SAVIOUR. Much was said in words and by promises under the old dispensation bearing witness to this name. The sacrifices did the same. But Christ was the great witness of this name. The servants of Benhadad believed in the name the kings of Israel had for mercy, and therefore submitted themselves. And the Publican believed in God as merciful, and therefore appealed to Him. Thus the Lord proclaimed His name to Moses. And at last that mercy of God appeared in Christ. All His works while on earth confirmed it. And He was made perfect through suffering, made perfect in mercy thereby.
II. AS ALMIGHTY. That name is impressed upon creation, but is seen most in Christ in delivering His Church. And in His resurrection and His dominion over the empire of death, and His upholding of His kingdom in the world, and giving success to the preaching of the Gospel.
III. AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is seen in His atonement, whereby God's righteousness is declared, so that He can be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
IV. AS WISDOM. This seen in creation, but yet more in redemption. For in it the law and its transgressor are exalted together. Once the law might have said, "To spare him will be my disgrace"; but the wisdom of God appointed that to spare him would be its highest honour. The person of Christ is the chief wonder of this wisdom. This is the treasury of the Divine name. In Him all fulness dwells.
V. AND THIS NAME WILL BE TRUSTED BY ALL WHO KNOW IT. Many have heard of it who do not know it. The way to know it is to read it in Christ.
By those who know God's name, are meant those who know God Himself and His nature. Trusting in God, does very naturally take in all the expectations we have of what He hath promised, and knowing His name is a raising our minds to a just sense of His nature, by the contemplation of His works of creation and providence. Apply to three points —
I. THE IMMORTALITY OF MAN. Men stumble at this, that our weak race, which is hasting to a change that hath all the appearance of ending, should not really die, but live on, and have their share in all the revolutions which the world is to undergo, as long as God Himself shall have His being. Consider what we have in the knowledge of God, and His works, which may further us in the belief of it. There must be an eternity of time and duration. Through it God must surely preserve His being, and He surely will preserve a world. He will always have creatures before Him. Is it most likely that God should choose to continue creatures before Him, by giving eternity to the souls of men: or by letting these die, and end as they do in appearance, and by raising up other new ones in their places? If the souls of men are really abolished, and end at death, I do not know; but we may say that they are the only substances in the whole compass of beings that are so. If the eternal duration be granted, there is —
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE GLORY AND REWARD. Descriptions of heaven are but borrowed expressions from such things as we understand, but the happiness itself is something that is greater than we can yet conceive. The fabric of the world, wonderful as it is, is really a thousand times greater, and more wonderful in itself than it is in our thoughts. For we only behold creation through a perspective.
III. THE PUNISHMENTS OF THE OTHER WORLD. To their fears of these, unbelieving men oppose the great goodness of God. But consider God's providences and judgments upon us now. Evidently, we ought not to argue that God's goodness will not suffer Him to punish, for it does.
Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.
Let us note —
I. A FIERY DART OF SATAN CONSTANTLY SHOT AT THE PEOPLE OF GOD. It is the suggestion that God has forsaken us. Of all the arrows of hell it is the most sharp, the most poisonous, the most deadly. It is sent against us —
1. When we have fallen into sin. Then comes the suggestion, this fiery dart, "Ah, wretch that you are, God will never forgive that sin; you have been so ungrateful, such a hypocrite, such a liar."
2. In time of great trouble. The deep waters are around and almost overflow you; just then, when in the very deepest part of the stream, Satan sends this suggestion into your very soul — thy God hath forsaken thee.
3. In prospect of some great toil and enterprise. When the trumpet is sounded for some dreadful battle, when there is a deep soil to be ploughed, there comes this dark thought. And this arrow is most grievous, and most dangerous; and it bears the full impress of its Satanic maker.
II. THE DIVINE BUCKLER WHICH GOD HAS PROVIDED AGAINST THIS FIERY DART. It is the fact that God hath not, no never, forsaken them that fear Him. How dreadful to think that the child of God might fall and perish. What witnesses these are to the truth of the text. From Abraham down to Paul. And your own experience, if you will be honest with yourself, will prove it yet again. And look at the teachings of nature as to the fidelity of God. We believe in the truth and love of earthly friends. Shall we not believe in God?
III. LET US WEAR THIS BUCKLER, and so use our precious privilege to seek God in the day of trouble. You, afflicted ones, you oppressed with the sense of sin.
Consider my trouble.
The second part of the Psalm begins with ver. 13. The prayer in that verse is the only trace of trouble in the Psalm. The rest is triumph and exaltation. This, at first discordant, note has sorely exercised commentators; and the violent solution that the whole of the Cheth stanza (vers. 13, 14) should be regarded as "the cry of the meek," quoted by the Psalmist, and therefore be put in inverted commas (though adopted by Delitzsch and Cheyne), is artificial and cold. There is little difficulty in the connection. The victory has been completed over certain enemies, but there remain others; and the time for praise unmingled with petition has not yet come for the Psalmist, as it never comes for any of us in this life. Quatre Bras is won, but Waterloo has to be fought tomorrow. The prayer takes account of the dangers still threatening, but it only glances at these, and then once more turns to look with hope on the accomplished deliverance. The thought of how God had lifted the suppliant up from the very gates of death heartens him to pray for all further mercy needed. Death is the lord of a gloomy prison house, the gates of which open inwards only, and permit no egress. On its very threshold the Psalmist stood. But God had, lifted him thence,, and the remembrance wings his prayer. The "gates of the daughter of Zion" are in sharp, happy contrast with the frowning portals of death. A city's gates are the place of cheery life, stir, gossip, business. Anything proclaimed there flies far. There the Psalmist resolves that he will tell his story of rescue, which he believes was granted that it might be told. God's end is the spread of His name, not for any good to Him, but because to know it is life to us.
With long life will I satisfy him.
Through the mistake of its friends religion has been chiefly associated with sickbeds and grave. yards. It is high time this thing were changed, and that religion, instead of being represented as a hearse to carry out the dead, should be represented as a chariot in which the living are to triumph. Religion, so far from subtracting from one's vitality, is a glorious addition. It is sanative, curative, hygienic. It is good for every part of man. Religion has only just touched our world. Give it full power for a few centuries, and who can tell what will be the strength of man, and the beauty of woman, and the longevity of all! Practical religion is ever the friend of longevity.
I. IT MAKES THE CARE OF OUR HEALTH A POSITIVE CHRISTIAN DUTY. Whether we shall keep early or late hours, take food digestible or indigestible, etc., is often referred to the realm of whimsicality; but the Christian man lifts this whole problem of health into the accountable and the Divine. The body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and to deface its altars, or mar its walls, or crumble its pillars, is a God-defying sacrilege.
II. IT IS A PROTEST AGAINST DISSIPATIONS WHICH INJURE AND DESTROY THE HEALTH. Bad men and women live very short lives. Their sins kill them. There are many aged ones who would have been dead twenty-five years ago but for the defences and equipoise of religion.
III. IT TAKES THE WORRY OUT OF OUR TEMPORALITIES. It is not work but worry that kills men. When a man becomes a Christian he makes over to God not only his affections but his family, his business, his reputation, his body, his mind, his soul — everything. He gives God the management of his affairs. If the nervous and feverish people of the world would try this almighty sedative, they would live twenty-five years longer under its soothing power. It is not chloral or morphine that they want; it is more of the Gospel of Christ.
IV. IT REMOVES ALL CORRODING CARE ABOUT A FUTURE EXISTENCE. Everyone wants to know what is to become of him. There are people who fret themselves to death for fear of dying. The Gospel offers you perfect peace now and hereafter. What do you want in the future? This is the robust, healthy religion that will tend to make you live long in this world, and in the world to come give you eternal life.
The wicked shall be turned into hell.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I.
THE CHARACTERS SPECIFIED.
1. All those who wilfully violate the plain and positive precepts of God. Drinkers. Profane persons. Those who dishonour God's holy-day. The dishonest.
2. All the persecutors of the people of God.
3. All hypocrites and impostors in religion.
4. All must be denominated wicked who are unregenerate. Wickedness is not a superficial defect, but a profound radical principle, deeply rooted in the heart of man. The "nations that forget God" refers to heathen nations whose gods were idols. The wicked are described as they who "forget God" — in His character as Benefactor and as Sovereign. He forgets the all-prevailing presence of God, and he forgets the Word of God.
II. THE AFFIRMATION MADE CONCERNING HIM. "Turned into hell." Note, the place into which they shall he turned; "the manner how it will be done; and the certainty of the affirmation. "Hell" describes —
1. A place of punishment;
2. The nature of the punishment;
3. The exquisite sense of punishment the wicked will feel;
4. The companions of their punishment;
5. The perpetuity of it. "The wicked shall be turned into hell." This shall be done unexpectedly, suddenly, irresistibly. The certainty of the affirmation in the text may be inferred —
1. From the general consent of mankind;
2. From the justice of the moral governor of the universe;
3. From the moral unfitness of the wicked for any other situation;
4. And from the testimony of Holy Scripture.
THE PLACE, OR STATE, HERE MENTIONED. "Sheol" is often put for "the grave." Not to be so understood in the text, because hell is here peculiar to the wicked, and the grave is common to good and bad. It signifies the place or state of the lost. It has two branches. The punishment of loss, and the punishment of sense. An eternal privation of the blessed and glorious presence of God, and all the joy, comfort, and happiness that is attending thereupon. The punishment of loss is further aggravated from a threefold consideration.
1. The possibility of preventing it, if there had been care taken about it.
2. The occasion of this loss, and the way of falling into it.
3. The beholding of others to enjoy that happiness which themselves are deprived of. The punishment of sense; which consists in the unspeakable torments inflicted upon soul and body forever and ever. Set forth by "unquenchable fire," because fire being one of those things which is most grievous to corporal sense, is therefore fittest to express this condition to us.
II. THE PERSONS ADJUDGED.
1. The comprehensive representation in the word "wicked." A word of great latitude and extent, including all open and notorious sinners. All close and reserved hypocrites. All carnal and unregenerate persons whatsoever.
2. The emphatic representation. "All the nations that forget God." The subjects of the punishment are "all the nations," all that prove to be wicked. There is ground for this in God's power and omnipotency. The importunity of sin and guilt makes for this likewise. The guilt fastened upon these subjects. That is, forgetting of God. Apply to the essence of God; the nature of God; the Word of God; the providence of God. Consider then, the doom and sentence passed upon all such persons as described; and use the passage as a caution and admonition. Look at our general state and condition in grace. Look to our particular life and conversation.
ITS GERM. Forgetfulness of God. This is common. "Nations." Contrary to man's true nature, obligations, and circumstances.
II. ITS DEVELOPMENT. It leads to all kind of wickedness. Both Scripture and experience prove this. To forget God is to sin without restraint, without remorse, and without bounds.
III. ITS CONSUMMATION. It is "Hell." This is inevitable and certain. There the wicked are abandoned by God, without excuse, without resource, without hope, forever. Consider this ye that forget God.
Heaven and hell are opposite states of being or conditions of humanity. Heaven is a present possession, not a mere future blessedness; a temper of mind and heart rather than a special locality. Hell is the opposite of heaven. Does heaven mean the service and consciousness of the love of God? Then hell will prove the selfishness and degradation of separation from God. If we say that heaven is inward happiness and peace, we must also say that hell is dissatisfaction and unrest. Character is the standard which determines whether a man is in heaven or in hell. Theories (concerning hell) once held by almost the entire Church of Christ are honeycombed with doubt and disbelief, and, to a large extent, the very idea of a future punishment of the wicked is regarded as but little more than a delusion of superstitious fancy. What has brought about such a revolution of sentiment? Probably the frightful and unworthy distortions of the doctrine, as proclaimed by the various creeds and churches. In Scripture we find no sure ground for any belief in a material hell, but a distinct and unmistakable enunciation of the fact of a natural hell of cause and effect. That wilful wrong-doing will inevitably be followed by its just punishment is the teaching of every Bible reference to the fact. Evil deserves, and calls for, punishment. And death does not change character. After death we shall be as we were before death, or the future can have no possible meaning for us. The irresistible laws of the moral world steadily bring the punishment. I make no absolute statement concerning the great problem of retribution; I formulate no theory; but it seems to me there is a truer and nobler satisfaction to Divine justice than the tortures of the damned. I believe evil will be followed by fearful penalty, for every principle of right and law of God demands that it should. Further I may not go; for justice there can be none, where mercy is not. What God is I know. He is wise, and sees the best. I can, I will trust Him.
Yes, so awful that it seems almost presumption to preach on them. But woe is unto us if we do not warn the sinner. The words show that God doth
regard (Psalm 94:17
I. THE CHARACTERS DESCRIBED.
1. The wicked. This means not all mankind, though all are wicked, but gross transgressors.
2. The nations that forget God. Practical atheists. How many do this?
II. THE FUTURE PORTION DECREED THEM. They "shall be turned into hell." There will be —
1. Tormenting pains.
2. A sleepless conscience.
3. Mutual reproaches.
4. Unrestrained and full-grown passions.
5. The certainty of eternal despair. Then come this very hour to Jesus.
LET US MEET SOME FALSE OPINIONS CONCERNING HELL AND ESTABLISH ITS REAL EXISTENCE. The Bible maintains it. But consider —
1. The ancient belief is found both in sacred and profane writers. We read of it in the Old Testament. Moses tells of the anger of God burning "unto the lowest hell." Homer speaks of Ajax sending men to hell. And other passages show that the ancients believed in hell.
2. Some deny the existence of any hell beyond the bounds of time, and assert that through God's love all mankind shall be saved. But this contradicts Scripture, and confounds the distinctions between right and wrong.
3. Others say that hell is here in our present sufferings and that there is no other, but that beyond the grave mankind will be glorified. But then, why should Christ die? What pardon do we need if we suffer all the penalty of our sin here? And our sufferings would be the cause of our salvation.
4. Some assert that conscience is hell. But conscience was not designed to be either man's full reward or penalty, but only his guide. It is a witness, a judge, and to some extent an executioner.
5. Others, that the grave is the only hell the Bible speaks of, and that there is no future punishment. But only in 1 Corinthians 15:55 can "hades" be consistently translated "grave." In all other places it means hell.
II. THE DURATION OF HELL ETERNAL. Some say that after a while the torments of the damned will be terminated, and the damned will then be saved. But this is to make hell the Saviour, and not Christ. And the word "everlasting" is the true rendering of Aionios. And how can a man be regenerated in hell; but unless he be born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of God? And for the protection of the righteous the wicked shall be shut off from them.
III. IN WHAT THE PUNISHMENT OF HELL CONSISTS.
1. The loss of all worldly good.
2. The society the lost will find there. Vile men and devils.
3. The lake of Fire. If this be figurative, then how awful must be the punishment which requires such a figure.
4. The loss of the glories of heaven.
5. And chief of all, of God Himself.
"Does it not seem cruel to put a loved form in the grave damn and cold? A wife for instance, who has been shielded from every breath one week, the next she is left here in the rain and exposure." So we queried, and the answer taught us a lesson. "It is necessary to do so, for the good of the family and the community; it does seem cruel, and death, as it is the consequence of sin is always cruel, yet the putting away of the dead is kindness. Hell is God's cemetery for dead and corrupt men; it is for souls what graveyards are for bodies. It may seem cruel of God to put souls away, but being dead it is necessary, indeed it is kindness to the living members of His family."
"All wickedness came originally with the wicked one from hell; thither it will be again remitted, and they who hold on its side must accompany it on its return to that place of torment, there to be shut up forever. The true state, both of nations and the individuals of which they are composed, is to be estimated from one single circumstance, namely, whether in their doings they remember or forget God. Remembrance of Him is the well-spring of virtue; forgetfulness of Him, the fountain of vice.
And all the nations that forget God.
The time was when all the nations of the earth knew, and acknowledged, the only living and true God. This time, however, was of short duration. Soon after their separation from each other, they lost their religious traditions, grew vain in their imaginations, and degenerated into all kinds of idolatry. As the king of God's peculiar people, David viewed all the heathen nations as his personal enemies; and as a prophet of the true Church, he viewed all the heathen nations as enemies to the true God and the true religion. Hence it is, that he so often blends his enemies with the enemies of God, and speaks of both as exposed to both temporal and eternal ruin. The text is a description of all the heathen world, who are destitute of Divine revelation. To make it appear that the heathen will be finally lost, observe —
1. That God, many years ago, gave them up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart. Paul, speaking of the heathen, says, "God gave them up to a reprobate mind."
2. When God formed the seed of Abraham into a distinct national and visible Church, He shut the door against the heathen nations. The present heathen nations are as ignorant and wicked as the ancient heathen nations were.
3. When God sent Christ into the world to bring life and immortality to light, He directed Him to preach to the Jews, and not to the Gentiles.
4. When God sent the apostles to preach to heathens, He sent them to turn them from heathenism to Christianity.
5. God has told us that He intends to convert all the heathen nations, and that He intends to do it by the instrumentality of the Gospel. Improvement.(1) If God will not save the heathen who are destitute of the Gospel, then we have no reason to think He will save the Jews, while they disbelieve the Gospel.(2) If God will not save the heathen, then we have no reason to believe He will save atheists, deists, and those who deny the fundamental principles of Christianity.(3) He will not save any, under the Gospel, on the ground of their external obedience, morality, or virtue. It appears, from what has been said, that the heathen are in a deplorable and perishing condition.
? — That we forget is our commonest excuse for any omission, in great matters or in small. The excuse is put forward, not only as sufficient ground for pardon of our omission, but as one saving the credit of our intentions. In the text and elsewhere the people of God are warned that they will be held closely and severely responsible for forgetting God. There is no part of our mind's powers which we reckon to be less under our control than our memories. It does not follow because we have not the command, that therefore we might not, and ought not, to have it. What are our memories? The recalling of things that have made an impression on us. The impression may be made at once by some striking circumstance, or it may be the result of frequent and diligent attention to some particular object. The ministering of our memory to our thoughts will depend, therefore, upon what the character of our interests has been in the different stages of our life, for according to this will be the character of our impressions. It must be one of the trials of these who have lived sinful lives, and after turned to God, that their memories will recall to their involuntary thoughts the scenes and works of other days, and contaminate with them their after endeavours after holier reflections. The memory must and will be occupied. What is the great conclusion? That if our memories depend on our impressions, and we have not remembered the Lord our God, then we have not been impressed by deep thought of Him. The utter confusion of such a sentence comes upon us if we consider it more piecemeal. It means this, that upon each opportunity of becoming deeply impressed by the thoughts of God, we have remained unimpressed, and, therefore, forgetful of His greatness. Time would fail us, if we were to attempt to show how the sinful nature of man resists the varied impressions he might receive through the innumerable manifestations of the attributes of our Almighty Father. Memory is a minister of good to the good, of evil to the evil, for it is our former selves waiting upon us.
Familiarity with the words of the Bible makes them lose their force to us. The Lord's Prayer, the Liturgy generally. But this is no argument against a form of prayer. If we are to give up a form because of this danger, then we may give up reading the Bible for the same reason. But formalism is our fault, not that of the form we use. And this familiarity tells upon the truth taught in text.
I. MEN'S FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. And yet we ought to fear, for if in David's day, when men were under the law, our text was true, how much more now in our state of greater privilege. See how we ward off the blow threatened by the idea that we are not of the number of those who forget God. This is true in a sense, for no one can quite forget God. Conscience will not let him. Not the infidel even, still less the profligate. The text, therefore, tells of something short of total forgetfulness. Who, then, are they who forget God?
1. Those who do not habitually remember Him. Such persons may be respectable before men.
2. Those who are afraid to do right because of the ridicule of the world.
3. Those who think that He will not punish sin.
II. THIS DANGER OF FORGETFULNESS presses on us all. And it is worse in us than in David, for we have the Holy Spirit given us in our baptism. If we call on Him He will help us to resist temptation. Pleading forgetfulness only adds to our fault if we fall. Therefore let us seek to remember God.
Many ministers of Christ have been accused of taking pleasure in preaching upon this terrible subject of "the wrath to come." It were strange, indeed, if it were so. To preach Christ is our delight, the joy of our heart; but while it is bard to preach the terrors of the law, it were harder still to bear the doom which must rest upon the silent minister, the unfaithful watchman who did not warn the sinner, and whose blood must therefore be required at the watchman's hands. None ever spoke as did Jesus on this terrible theme; no preacher ever used figures of such glaring horror as did He. Upon such a subject we cannot afford to trifle. Must the eternal and holy Son of God offer up His life for us, and is the world to come a thing about which men can idly sport or dream? But this forgetting of God.
I. LET ME CHARGE THIS SIN UPON YOU. Gross sinners will receive their doom. God will not treat them with leniency; He will not wink at their follies, "the wicked shall be turned into hell." But observe their companions — "those who forget God." Now I charge this sin upon many. Sinner, thou forgettest —
1. God's infinite majesty;
2. His mercies;
3. His laws;
4. His presence;
5. His justice.
II. THE REASON OF THIS FORGETFULNESS.
1. It is because the thought of Him makes the sinner afraid. The guilty man always dreads the eye of the judge.
2. It is irksome to thee. Thy heart revolts. Thou sayest, "Why should I think of God?"
3. Such thinking and going on in sin are incompatible, and thou preferrest thy sins. Sin loved, God is abhorred.
III. YOUR EXCUSES FOR IT. You say —
1. A man is excusable if he has not had enough in early youth to impress God upon his memory. You, who have been trained by godly parents, cannot say that.
2. To think of God always is very hard. Have you ever made the attempt? How, then, do you know it is hard work? Your forgetting never caused you to weep. If it were not wilful and wicked forgetting you would repent of it. Everything around you reminds you of God, and what warnings many of you have had.
IV. I WOULD PERSUADE YOU TO REPENTANCE. I would plead — relying on the Holy Ghost.
1. By the terrors of the law. In hell the thought of God shall be as a dagger in your soul. "Son, remember," that was the word of Abraham to Dives in hell, and an awful word it was. But
2. By the mercies of God. He saith, "As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto Me and live." There is hope for thee in Christ Jesus.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.
The value of a text depends very much upon the man to whom it comes. The song of the troubadour was very charming to Richard, because he knew the responsive verses. The trail is full of meaning to the Indian, for his quick eye knows how to follow it. So will those who are spiritually poor and needy eagerly lay hold on this promise. It is literally true that the needy are remembered of God. In bitter times He will so order governments that they shall look with peculiar interest upon the poor. In text we have —
I. TWO BITTER EXPERIENCES ENDED.
1. The needy shall not always be forgotten by former friends and admirers; in arrangements made and plans projected; in judgments formed and in praises distributed; in help estimated and reliance expressed. Such are usually left out of our calculation, forgotten as a dead man out of mind. But this will not be always so.
2. "The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever." You have been disappointed, in your natural expectation from justice, gratitude, relationship, age, sympathy, charity, etc.; in your confidence in man; in your judgments of yourself; in your expectations of providence.
II. TWO SAD FEARS REMOVED.
1. Not forever shall you be forgotten. You shall not meet with final forgetfulness. Nor in the day of severe trouble. In the night of grief and alarm for sin. In the hour of death.
2. Nor shall your expectation perish. Your weakness shall not frustrate the power of God, nor your sin dry up the grace of God. Your constitutional infirmities shall not cause your overthrow.
III. TWO SWEET PROMISES GIVEN.
1. You shall not be overlooked by the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost.
2. You shall not be disappointed. Peace shall visit your heart, sin vanquished, and an abundant entrance into glory. Then, hope in God.
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