He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. He seats them among princes and bestows on them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's, and upon them He has set the world.
By him actions are weighed. It is customary to determine the worth of many things by weighing them. For this purpose a fixed standard is used, and a comparison is made with it by means of a balance and scales or other instrument. Nothing can be more natural than to speak of determining the moral worth of actions in the same manner, and Justice is commonly represented as a woman holding in her hand a pair of scales in which "actions are weighed." In this sense the above expression is employed; not, however, of men, whose judgment is often mistaken or unjust; but of "God, the Judge of all." His judgment is -
I. A PRESENT JUDGMENT. They are (now) weighed. According to the ancient Egyptians, there was erected at the entrance of the unseen world a balance or scales, over which the Judge of the dead presided, and by it the character of every man was tested as soon as he died. In one of the scales the figure or emblem of truth was placed, and in the other the heart of the deceased; and the result determined his destiny. This is not an unworthy conception of the judgment to come. But their religion pertained chiefly to what would be in the future, rather than to what exists in the present. And there are many at the present day who never think that they have anything to do with God or his judgment except when they come to die. They forget that the living and all-seeing God "pondereth their goings" (Proverbs 5:21), "judgeth according to every man's work" (1 Peter 1:17), and that to him they stand responsible (Hebrews 4:13 - "with whom is the account").
II. ACCORDING TO A PERFECT STANDARD. The estimate which men form of themselves and others is often false, because it is not formed by means of such a standard. As "weights and measures" need to be examined and to be rectified by an imperial standard, so the human judgment and conscience need to be examined and to be rectified by the righteousness of God as declared in the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel of Christ. What is our relation to this standard?
III. ACCORDING TO MOTIVES. The moral worth of actions does not depend upon their "outward appearance," but upon the heart. In the sight of God, who sees hearts as we see faces, the inward motives, principles, and intentions are in reality the actions which are weighed (Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:11, 12; Isaiah 26:7). Our ignorance of these necessarily makes our judgment imperfect, even in relation to ourselves. But "he is a God of knowledge," "searches the heart," and perceives the motives which underlie all actions, and which are often so different from what they are thought to be (Psalm 139:33).
IV. UNIVERSAL. "The Judge of all the earth." It pertains to all actions that have in them a moral element; to the actions of every individual soul (for each soul stands before him in its separate personality, bearing its own burden of responsibility and of sin, and is dealt with by him as though there were no other); and to every one of its actions, however apparently insignificant, though it cannot be really such because of its relation to God, and its bearing upon character and destiny.
V. EXERCISED WITH A VIEW TO REWARDING EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS. It is not useless and ineffective; but is attended with important consequences (Jeremiah 17:10). This life is not simply one of probation; it is also, in part, one of retribution. The approbation or disapprobation of God is always followed by corresponding effects in the mind and heart and conscience of men, and often by startling providential occurrences; as when it was said, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting" (Daniel 5:27, 30); "The world's history is the world's judgment;" and, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Application: -
1. "Let a man examine himself."
2. Seek forgiveness of the sins that are past.
3. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." - D.
Edward Smith, in his most interesting book, "Three Years in Central London," tells of a poor working man coming into the church exclaiming, "Before the Mission started I was a nobody here; but now I am a somebody." Yes, it is the mission of Christianity to make the lowliest man feel his personal dignity and his great importance as one of the workers of the world.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill; to set them among princes. I.
BY THESE "POOR" some understand those who are literally beggars. One cannot doubt but that Hannah's heart did bear on the remembrance of her own comparatively obscure condition; I cannot doubt for a moment, that she had in her mind the consciousness that this Samuel was to be a judge, and a prophet in Israel; I do not for one moment doubt, that she remembered Gideon taken from his threshing floor by the wine press to be a judge in Israel. It is not generally true that God "takes the poor out of the dust, end lifts the beggar from the dunghill." The instances are rare in which He "sets them among princes, and makes them inherit thrones of glory." And I think the next verse takes us something above the mere letter; "He shall keep the feet of His saints" Some understand by it the Church of God in its low and lost condition; as fallen children of a fallen father. No doubt there is great glory in that interpretation. A sinner is poor man; be is indeed one of the needy, in his poverty. A debtor? owing ten thousand talents. But there is an expression that will not allow me to think this to be the mind of God in this passage. He is spoken of, not only as poor, but as a "beggar." It is one thing for a man to be in "the dust," and on "the dunghill;" but it is another thing to know and feel it, and to cry to the Lord on account of it. A sense of beggary is wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost only. This is the life appointed of God for His saints on earth; it is their vocation. A very painful life it is. The more a man begs, the more he has; the more he has, the more he wants; the more he wants, the more he receives; and the more he receives, the more he begs. But one may say, it is also a happy life. Oh! the relief of a throne of grape! Great is the blessing connected with it.
II. But observe now WHAT IS SAID OF THE LORD CONCERNING HIS TREATMENT OF THESE "POOR," THESE "BEGGARS." Now before we consider what the Lord does, consider for a moment what the Lord is. He is described here as "high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens." I believe God is Love; yet when one looks into the infinite, the eternal God centering His love in one's self, one so mean, so worthless, so below all His consideration, who that looks into it does not see there are lengths and depths and breadths and heights, that seem at once above the mind? In the consideration of all that God does, I would never desire to forget what God is. All that God does springs from what God is. His doings are great; but His nature is greater. The Lord looked on His poor suffering Israel in their Egypt state, and heard their cry; their miseries went up before Him and He remembered them. There is infinite pity, too, in it; for "He raises up" this poor man; we find, He raises him up. The Lord always goes beyond your desires; He never falls short of them But I see, not only infinite pity, but marvellous grace in it. When He takes these beggars, where doth He seat them? Is it amongst delivered beggars? He sets them in the midst of "princes," and causes them "to inherit a throne of glory."
The rain runs off the mountains into the valleys and low-lying meadows. Elevated regions, therefore, do not profit by it so much as the lowlands. The natural fact suggests a spiritual truth. "God's sweet dews and showers of grace," says Leighton, "slide off the mountains of pride and fall on the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile." This accounts for the fact that you occasionally see persons of high intellect and much culture destitute of the peace and contentment possessed by those of meaner attainments; lacking, too, in richness of moral nature, and usefulness of life.
In the evening of the day that Sir Eardley Wilmot kissed the hand of his Sovereign, on being appointed Chief Justice, one of his sons, a youth, attended him to his bedside. "Now," said the father, "I will tell you, my son, a secret worth your knowing and remembering. The elevation I have met with in life, particularly this lash instance of it, has not been owing to any superior merit or abilities, but to my humility, to my not having set up myself above others, and to a uniform endeavour to pass through life void of offence towards God and man."
()So also it pleases God to give conspicuous proofs from time to time that qualities that in poor men are often associated with a hard-working, humble career are well-pleasing in His sight. For what qualities on the part of the poor are so valuable, in a social point of view, industry, self-denying diligence, systematic, unwearying devotion even to work which brings them scanty remuneration? By far the greater part of such men and women are called to work on, unnoticed and rewarded, and when their day is over to sink in an undistinguished grave. But from time to time some such persons rise to distinction. The class to which they belong is ennobled by their achievements. When God wished in the sixteenth century to achieve the great object of punishing the Church which had fallen into such miserable inefficiency and immorality, and wrenching half of Europe from its grasp, he found his principal agent in a poor miner's cottage in Saxony. When he desired to summon sleeping Church to the great work of evangelising India, She man he called to She front was Carey, a poor cobbler of Northampton. When it was his purpose to present His Church with an unrivalled picture of the Christian pilgrimage, its dangers and trials, its joys, its sorrows, and its triumphs, the artist appointed to the task was John Bunyan, the tinker of Elstow. When the object was to provide a man that would open the great continent of Africa to civilisation and Christianity, and who needed, in order to do this, to face dangers and trials before which all ordinary men had shrunk, he found his agent in a poor spinner boy, who was working twelve hours a day in a cotton mill on She banks of the Clyde. In all such matters, in humbling the rich and exalting the poor, God's object is not to punish the one because they are rich, or to exalt the other because they are poor. In the one case it is to punish vices bred from an improper use of wealth, and in the other to reward virtues that have sprung from the soil of poverty. "Poor and pious parents," wrote David Livingstone on the tombstone of his parents at Hamilton, when he wished to record the grounds of his thankfulness for the position in life which they held.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, He has set the world upon them.Verse 6 sets forth that God has absolute power over human life. He it is who makes pale with mortal disease the once ruddy cheek of health and beauty. He it is, again, who snatches a man from the jaws of death, when his recovery seems beyond all hope. The seventh verse and the first part of the eighth set forth God's absolute power over human circumstances. He it is who gives a fortune to one, and reduces another to beggary. He who brought Joseph out of the dungeon and made him ride in the second chariot which King Pharaoh had. All these are instances of God's power in Providence — in the management of human affairs. And now observe how Hannah passes on to speak of the power of God in Nature; "for," she adds, "the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them." The earth is spoken of as if it were a great temple or palace, held up by pillars like the house of Dagon — firm and settled, so long as those pillars remain unshaken, bus sure to fall into ruin the moment the pillars are thrown down. Now we may take Hannah's expression in the same way, as a figurative one, meaning not that the earth does literally stand upon pillars, but that the mighty God, who created it, upholds it every instant by an act of His will, and that, if that act of will were for a moment withdrawn, it would drop at once into that nothingness, out of which it was drawn by creation. Hannah, then, according to this view of her meaning, adds to the instances she has given of God's power in Providence this wondrous instance of His power in Nature. Science since Hannah's time has taught us the way in which God does this — namely, by She law of gravitation, which, as the earth pursues its course in space, pulls it in every moment towards the sun; but assuredly the operation is not lees wonderful, because we happen to have found out the principle on which it is conducted. And now observe the force of the FOR in the words — "for the pillars" (the sustaining, preserving power) "of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them." No wonder, she means to say, that God does such great things, brings about such strange vicissitudes in the life and fortunes of feeble men. For only, see what tremendous irresistible forces He is always exerting in Nature. Now this gives rise to one or two edifying thoughts. The God of Providence, Hannah asserts, is the God of Nature also; and His ways in Nature, she implies, seem us to be more amazing and stupendous than His ways in Providence. I say seem to us to be — not that in reality they are so. Why do God's works in Providence strike us with much less wonder than His works in Nature? I suppose because we are comparatively so familiar with His works of Providence; life and death, health and sickness, the rise in one man's fortunes and the fall in another's, are around us on all sides; and, being matter of every day's experience, make slight impressions. Another reason is that we ourselves have some part in bringing about results in Providence; a man can bring himself to the gates of the grave by carelessness of his health, or may recover by the skill of the physician — may make a fortune by assiduous industry, or may lose one by neglect of his accounts and wasteful expenditure; but no man can arrest the sun in his course, or shake the earth to its foundations. The lesson is that we should try more and more to regard the God of Nature and of Providence as one, and to throw those notions of magnificence and power, which we derive from Nature, into other spheres of God's action — into the sphere of God's Providence and also of His Grace. Do I see design on every side of me in Nature, wise contrivance for the well-being of the creatures? Let me be assured that in human affairs also this same wise design is contriving and arranging all things, with a moral aim, for the exaltation of the humble, the humiliation of the proud, and the highest good to them that love God.
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