Psalm 103:14
There is a truth revealed in God's Word which seems to have a painful side. God is to us as we are to him. "Thou renderest to every man according to his work;" "With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." It is a truth which needs careful qualifications. We have one such in this text. God's ways with us are taken upon due consideration of our bodily frailty. There may be a right or a wrong excuse drawn from the weakness of human nature. We certainly are under limited conditions, and these must be duly considered.

I. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF OUR BODIES. Observe that "frame" is more than "body." This vehicle of the human spirit is wholly the plan of God.

1. Its actual parts, powers, relations, are known to him. "Fearfully and wonderfully made." Illustrate hand, eye, brain.

2. The special tone and habit of each individual are known to him. We may think of him studying each one as a parent does the disposition of each child.

3. The conditions due to hereditary taint and to civilization. Some have a great fight with bodily and mental taint or bias. And there are special influences of disease, and mischievous results often follow it.

4. The general frailty, the passing away, the gradual decaying of the vital powers, God knows and estimates.

II. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR BODIES AND OUR MINDS. Minds are spiritual things, but they work through a material frame. The brain is the central machine, to which are attached the separate machines of the senses. The force of the machine is the blood. The spiritual operations of the mind are helped or hindered by the condition of the body. Illustrate a speck in the brain, or weakness in the heart. Sometimes we cannot think - we must just be still. Sometimes we feel depressed, and a sombre tone is put on our thinking. We fret over such things, until we remember that our God knows all. He expects no more work from us than he knows we can do; and he never counts the times of repairing and refreshing our bodily machine to be idle or wasted times.

III. GOD'S WAYS WITH US ARE TAKEN WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR BODIES AND OUR RELIGION. What he asks from each of us is just this - the noblest religious life we can reach under our existing body conditions. We fret to be free from the body, as St. Paul apparently did: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But precisely the test under which each one of us is placed is this - Can you live a godly life in that body of yours, and under those precise body conditions of yours? Only when you can will God find it fitting to entrust you with the immortal and incorruptible body. Oar religious life is a thing of varying moods. Sometimes our "title is clear;" sometimes "our feet are firm;" sometimes our "head is lifted up;" sometimes we "walk in darkness, and have no light;" sometimes we say, "All these things are against me;" "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." The very variety unduly troubles us, and we fear lest God should regard us as unstable. But he "knows our frame." Christian joy is very closely linked with bodily health, and Christian gloom with bodily disease. Some diseases spoil the vision. And the body is the great spoiler of the soul's vision. The glorious attainment of the religious life is to get above bodyhinderings; to become master of our bodies in Christ; to "know how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honour." Feeling this to be the great aim in life leads to the excesses and extravagances of hermits and devotees. Remember, then, two things:

1. God sees souls.

2. God duly reckons for the body.

It may be that we shall be surprised to find what soul progress we have really made, when the body-clog drops off. This tender and considerate representation of God is full of comfort to us. But then God has not left this sentence to lie in his Word as a general statement. He has taken our frame on himself, so that he might gain experimental knowledge of it. Jesus is the Brother-Man of sorrows. We may think of God's ways with us as based on the experience of Jesus. And if God's omniscience is a reason for trust, how much more is Christ's human experience! - R.T.







For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.
I. THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN FRAME.

1. The body.(1) Its wants and necessities.(2) Its weakness.(3) Its pains and sicknesses.(4) Its mortality.

2. The soul, as in union with the body.(1) The disadvantage arising from hence to that faculty of the soul which we call the understanding; the foundation of all the excellency and glory of man, but liable to be sadly confined, clouded and even distracted by the alterations that happen in the temperature of the body.(2) Being united to a fleshly body, the soul is beset and agitated by a variety of passions, that are not natural to it, and yet could not more vex and influence it if they were.(3) The consequence of all the rest is, that the embodied soul has a great many difficulties to struggle with and surmount, in the steady exercise of virtue and piety, in the regular exercises of devotion, and in maintaining its integrity and faithfulness to the end of this mortal life.

II. GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN FRAME.

1. Immediate and direct.

2. Perfect. He sees us through and through, without and within. This perfect knowledge of God extends not to some actions only, but to all; not only to our external actions, but even those which pass no further than the mind itself; its thoughts, and purposes, and affections; its least tendencies to good or evil; and the degree of good or evil in each.

III. GOD'S COMPASSIONATE REGARD TO THE NATURE AND WEAKNESS OF OUR FRAME IN ALL HIS DEALINGS WITH THOSE THAT FEAR HIM.

1. He does not expect that they should new-model and alter their frame. This is absolutely out of their power, and therefore no part of their duty.

2. God, who knoweth our frame, requires no other measures of virtue, obedience, and devotion, than are proportioned to the nature He hath given us, and the state and circumstances of being in which we are placed.

3. He knoweth our frame, and therefore does not willingly afflict and grieve us, not for His pleasure but for our profit, and that we may be made partakers of His holiness. And when He sees it necessary to correct us, it is in measure, and for no longer time than is expedient.

4. Out of a merciful regard to our frame, and remembrance that we are but dust, our gracious God grants us all that assistance and support and consolation of which we stand in need.

5. Remembering that we are dust (as liable to be swept out of the world as dust is to be scattered and blown away by the wind), He watches over us with a most tender care, and preserves us in life, as long as His own glory and our interest requires it.

IV. THE GROUND OR REASON OF THAT MERCY WHICH GOD EXERCISES TOWARDS THEM THAT FEAR HIM. He has the relation of a father to us, and the affection of a father for us; the affection or love without any of the imperfections attending it in earthly parents. APPLICATION.

1. Since the words of the text are designed not only for the consolation of those that fear God, they that do not fear Him have nothing to do with the comfort they administer, as long as they continue in their sins.

2. This should make us more favourable in our censures of the characters and actions of others, than we too commonly are.

3. Let such as truly fear God often revolve the subject of this discourse in their thoughts: it would be of great use to them, by affording them ground of caution on the one hand, and of comfort and encouragement on the other.(1) Let me consider that I am dust, and from hence learn not to boast of anything I call mine, or to presume upon it: for, alas! what is anything merely human as such? human life, or reason, or virtue, or any other accomplishment? how weak the foundation! how uncertain the tenure!(2) The comfort which the same consideration yields to persons of integrity is very great, and very apparent. Does not my heart condemn me, as wanting sincerity? I may, then, have confidence towards God, that He will not condemn me for the want of perfection: all my desire is before Him, and my groaning is not hid from Him. As He knoweth my most secret sins, so my sorrow for them, and my conflicts with them. As He knoweth all my weaknesses, so He knoweth how to pity them, and is both willing and able to help them. He will proportion my burdens to my strength, or my strength to my burdens.

(H. Grove.)

1. God is absolutely faithful in all His dealings with us. He treats us as just such creatures as we really are. He remembers that we are dust. But He remembers, too, what is in this dust: our insignificance in connection with our immortality, our powers and capacities of spirit. He therefore does not despise, but pities us. "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." And this knowledge of our frailty is given as the occasion of His compassion, "For He knoweth our frame," etc. It is thus contrast in us which stirs the Divine heart. I never had my sympathy more excited than once when I found a man, of superb education and talent, doing the most menial tasks, in order to get food and raiment. Had he been a boor, of spirit in keeping with his condition, he would have hardly awakened a passing thought. And if man's soul were as limited as his bodily condition, as the materialist says, only "animated dust," God would have evinced no such concern, for there would have been no occasion for it. It is the reflection of God's own image in human nature, spirituality, that might glow at His throne, confined in clay, an incorruptible chrysalized in corruption, that brings the Divine to bow in solicitude over us.

2. But the Divine compassion is not of the nature of comfort in our perishing condition, to sustain us until all is over. He does not let us perish. Note the contrast in a succeeding verse, "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him." How many once familiar faces I miss! Others are getting ready to fold up the tent of the flesh and disappear over the horizon of time. I shall soon miss others, or you will miss me; but not much. Lord Macaulay, speaking of the death of Wilberforce, says, "I was truly fond of him. And how is that? How very little the world misses anybody! If I were to die to-morrow, not one of the fine people with whom I dine every week will take the less on Saturday at the table to which I was invited to meet them .... And I am quite even with them .... There are not ten people in the world whose deaths would spoil my dinner; but there are one or two whose deaths would break my heart." Macaulay was not hard-hearted, only plain-spoken, to say that, for it is true of all of us. God alone follows us with His solicitous care when we leave the world. If we have accepted His companionship, and walked with Him on earth, He will conduct us for ever in the land of His rest.

3. The expression, "God remembereth that we are dust," suggests that the plan of salvation which He has devised for us may be easily understood. If we were fallen angels, with powerful intellects, accustomed to solve eternal mysteries, glowing, like stars in this, our nether firmament, and with vast moral energies, and ages in which to perform, I can imagine that God would have given us a very different and immensely fuller scheme of doctrine and duties than He has given. But remembering that so brief is life that we can know but little, He has flashed the saving truth before our souls, so that he may run that reads. Behold the consideration of God in telling us, so simply and vet so clearly, all we need to know; and telling it in such a way that it falls into the heart as easily as light through a window into your dwelling, if you will only make your heart walls transparent with sincerity.

4. God, "remembering that we are dust," has given a religion which may be readily accepted. We have no time to transform our natures by any process of development in virtue, by the evolution of any slight germ of spirituality we may have within us, for have we the strength any more than the leaves now dropping from the trees in the winter winds have strength of growth to grow into a forest? Some of you have tried it; ten, twenty, thirty years have been spent in the honest attempt to make over your lives, refine your dispositions, spiritualize your natures. But you will confess that you have made hardly perceptible progress; perhaps have only felt more strangely the downward current in your attempt to buffet it.

5. Behold the loving consideration of God, in making, not the complete renovation of heart and life the condition of salvation, but simple faith and repentance, and the acceptance of the peace of the Spirit, which transforms the nature. I cannot revive myself, lying as a poor, drooping, dying plant; but I can give myself up to the showers of heaven which quicken me. I can accept of immortality with the gasp of my mortality.

(J. M. Ludlow, D.D.)

The pity of the Lord is here said to spring out of His knowledge and His memory; but if He were not pitifully inclined towards the frail children of the dust, no amount of knowledge and memory could in themselves originate in Him the sweet qualities of tenderness and mercy. A hard man may fully know and well remember the sorrows and afflictions of his neighbours, and yet feel no pity, and exercise no benevolence. Even the fact that such an one is a father is no absolute security here; for there are fathers without natural affection, who harden their hearts against their children, and close their doors against their own flesh and blood. As to the limitation that is here, "them that fear Him," there need be no thought for a moment of narrowness or exclusiveness; for if the Lord pitied only those who fear Him, what would have become of us when we feared Him not? "He knoweth our frame," for He hath made it. He, and He alone, understands the mystery of life, and the invisible link that binds together the body and the spirit, the silver cord which, being loosened, ends the feast of life so far as this present world is concerned. He "knoweth our frame," too, for He has taken part with us in our very flesh in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part in the same." "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." He knows the weakness of our flesh, for He Himself was weak; when shrinking from the Cup He said, " If it be possible, let it pass," while yet, in the impossibility of love's failure, it passed not. "Could ye not watch with Me one hour?" not one brief hour? "Verily, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We are but dust. He knows it, and by the experience of His humanity remembers it. He knows, too, the strength of our temptation, matched, and, alas! sometimes overmatched, against this weakness, and He will not burden us above our strength; or if even for wise ends this should be, and we should faint and fall, we shall be sure still of His pity, for He "knoweth our frame."

(J. W. Lance.)

The historian tells us that the great Duke of Wellington, who was known as the Iron Duke, before one of his earliest campaigns had a soldier with his full marching equipment accurately weighed. Knowing what one soldier of average strength had to carry, he could judge how far his army might be called to march without breaking down. Our Heavenly Father does not deal in averages. With infinite wisdom and love He cares individually for us.

(L. A. Banks, D.D.)

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