Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.…
a light heart makes a bright face. Dr. Binnie remarks, "The forty-second and forty-third [psalms] (which go together), were almost certainly written by the Korahites who accompanied David in his flight beyond the Jordan during Absalom's rebellion." Nearly all modern critics consider that this and the preceding psalm formed originally but one. So the similarity of Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalms 43:5 would suggest. There is a variation between some of the expressions in the former and those in the latter; but there is nothing in this psalm which needs elaborate explanation. There is, however, an expression in both of them, which contains in itself a doctrine of amazing depth, one of which thousands of living believers are perpetual illustrations and proofs, though, as a doctrine, it receives far too little notice. The doctrine is connected with the religion of the face, and is this - that when Divine light shines in the soul of man, it will cause a radiance all its own to beam from the countenance; that God is indeed the salvation of a man's features. An Irishman was once asked what made him look so happy after his conversion. "Oh," he said, "Christ lightens our hearts, and then he brightens our face." As Dickson quaintly remarks hereon, "As when the Lord withdraweth both the outward tokens of his favour and his inward consolation for a time, the countenance of the godly cannot but be heavy, cast down, and look sad, like a man that is sick; so when God returneth to comfort and to own his own, either both inwardly and outwardly, or inwardly only, the man's face looketh cheerful: he is the health of my countenance. The Rev. Joseph Cook, of Boston, U.S., in a remarkable lecture on Solar Self-Culture, says, There is only one form of culture that gives supremacy, and that is the form which produces the solar look; and the solar look comes only from the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. It may be incontrovertibly proved, by the coolest induction from fixed natural law, that the highest culture must be that through which the solar look shines, and that this look is possible only when there exists in the soul glad self-surrender to the innermost holiest of Conscience. In that innermost holiest Christianity finds a personal Omnipotence." We are all familiar enough, indeed, with the generally admitted fact that the face is an index of character, but the truths underlying that fact demand from us closer attention than is sometimes given thereto.
I. IT IS AN ORDINANCE OF GOD, THAT IN A WAY EITHER OF MERCY OR OF JUDGMENT, THE FACE SHOULD BE THE INDEX OF THE SOUL. When Moses had been on the mount, communing with God, his face shone. When Hannah had laid her burden before God, her countenance was no more sad. When Stephen was before the council, in the midst of hostile, angry men, his face was as the face of an angel. The late devout Samuel Martin, of Westminster, had a face so radiant through fellowship with God, that when a friend had called on him with Dean Stanley, the dean remarked afterwards, "I am glad you took me to call there; I have seen the face of an angel." The truth that communion with God lights up the face is recognized by Dante, who, speaking of Beatrice, says -
"... with such gladness, that God's love
Seem'd from her visage shining."
(Carey's Dante, p. 497: H. G. Bohn.) To work out this thought on its darker side would be as terrible as on its brighter side it is enchanting. How are some faces that once bid fair to be beautiful, spoilt by the deeply graven lines of vice and crime! Our present theme puts before us, however, the brighter side, and it is one on which we may well love to linger. For note further -
II. THAT THE DEVOUT SOUL LOVES TO COMMUNE WITH GOD. The whole of Psalm 42. and 43, shows us this. And the experience of believers is perpetually verifying this, in prayer there is an upward look of the whole being. "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul;" "Our eyes wait upon the Lord our God;" "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills." And in this uplooking of the man there is an entirely different set of mental and spiritual powers and energies at work than when the habit of looking downward or around, or even the habit of not looking at all, is in exercise. The soul is in communion with the best and dearest of Friends, enjoying a luxury of fellowship with which a stranger cannot intermeddle.
III. WHEN THE SOUL THUS COMMUNES WITH GOD, GOD SENDS HIS GIFTS DOWN INTO THE SOUL. God reveals himself within, and makes us full of joy with his countenance; and in revealing himself he brings with him purity, peace, and power; and when such privilege is realized, the outer discomforts of life are forgotten in a joy unspeakable and full of glory. The temptations of the evil one cease to have power when God is near; the heaviest toil can be undertaken, and the weightiest cross be carried with cheerfulness and even with song; and since by the law of association we grow like those we love most, we, beholding the glory of the Lord, shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory!
IV. THE EFFECT OF ALL THIS WILL BE THE SALVATION OF THE FACE. Such is the remarkable expression in Psalm 43:5; it is translated, "the health of my countenance;" literally it is, "the salvation of my face." Even so Christ is - is now - the Saviour of the body, and in the emancipation of the spirit from sin he is redeeming the face from ignoble marks and traits. How often have we known a man's face marvellously changed at his conversion, not by evolution, but by regeneration. "He doesn't look like the same man!" is an exclamation often heard. A well-known minister was converted while preaching. Such a radiance instantly shone into his face, that an enthusiastic Methodist jumped up and exclaimed, "The parson's converted! The parson's converted!" A brave Scotch soldier, whose countenance rarely wore a smile, and from whose lips never a word was heard as to his personal religion, suddenly beheld the glory of the words, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out;" and as suddenly radiance gleamed from his face, the padlock fell off his lips, and he exclaimed, "rye Christ by the hand! I've Christ by the hand!" And in his second volume the Rev. J. G. Paten, writing of a convert from heathenism, says, "His once sullen countenance became literally bright with inner light" (p. 217). See also 'Leaves from my Note-book,' by Rev. Wm. Haslam (1890), p. 99. All the spiritual gifts which God bestows - joy, peace, purity, strength - will find corresponding expression in the lines and features of the countenance, giving demonstrative evidence of the present power of Divine grace even over the body, and yielding no dim prophetic forecast of the day when Christ shall alter the fashion of our bodies of humiliation, and transform them to the fixed type of his body of glory. Hence throughout the Book of Revelation, the purity of the blessed is indicated by their being robed in white, i.e. not the whiteness of snow, but the brightness of the star. If even here, with such partial sanctification, the bodily change is so great, what will it be when the purifying and glorifying processes are complete - when every soul will be full of love, and every' face will be a perfect index of the soul? How beautiful must faces be when perfect love is reflected therefrom!
V. THE SUBJECT IS NOT ONLY ONE OF GREAT DOCTRINAL INTEREST; IT IS ALSO FRAUGHT WITH DEEP PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE.
1. Let us cultivate the habit of observation, and make a religious study of the human face. The holiest men will never be mistaken for hardened atheists:
2. Let us each seek to realize the duty of letting the face speak for God. And it will, if we are constantly in talk with God. His peace, his purity, his power, imparted to the soul within, will certainly make their mark without.
3. Let the young take care of their faces. God made them to be beautiful, not with that beauty which is no deeper than the skin, but with the "beauty of holiness." Be true. Love and follow the right. Live to please God. In all your troubles speak to God. And your face wilt show the result; for God will be the "health of" your "countenance." Amen. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.