Psalm 103:15
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.







As for man, his days are as grass.
Homilist.
We have here presented man's existence in relation to —

I. THE MATERIAL AND THE MORAL.

1. His relation to the material. Like the flower —

(1)He springs out of the earth.

(2)He is sustained by the earth.

(3)He returns to the earth.

2. His relation to the moral. Inside this flame of organized dust there is a spirit that can reverence the Infinite, that can keep His covenant and attend to His precepts. Herein is the glory of man's nature. The power to do this is His distinction; the willingness to do this is his glory.

II. THE TEMPORARY AND THE ETERNAL.

1. The connection of all men with the earth is temporary (vers. 15, 16). The wind of mortality is ever breathing through the human world, and men like flowers wither every hour, aye, every minute.

2. The connection of good men with mercy is eternal (vers. 17, 18; Isaiah 54:10).

(Homilist.)

There is a pensiveness in this season, which surely all must feel, and which must dispose all, except the most thoughtless, to some degree of reflection. It would be strange if we could stand amidst the decay, which is now so rapidly advancing, without being led by it into some train of meditation, favourable to religious feeling; and without receiving impressions calculated to make us wiser and better.

I. THE FRAIL AND FLEETING NATURE OF MAN (vers. 15, 16; Psalm 90:5, 6; Isaiah 64:6; Isaiah 40:6, 7; Job 14:2; James 1:10). The place which we now occupy was once occupied by others, but it knows them no more; and soon it will know nothing of us. Our occupation will be gone — our daily doings will have ceased — our history will have come to its close. To fix our wishes on earth, would be to doom them to certain disappointment; it would be like putting our goods into a dwelling which we knew the next hour would be burned unto the ground — trusting our treasure to a vessel which we knew would go to pieces in the coming storm.

II. THE ENDURING NATURE OF THE MERCY OF GOD (vers. 17, 18; 1 John 2:17; John 6:27; Matthew 24:35). Why, then, need we be depressed at the thought, that our days on earth are but as grass, and our joys but as the fading flowers of the field, since we may revive again, and become partakers of an "enduring substance" in a better world.

III. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE TO WHOM THIS MERCY WILL BE SHOWN. Although it is free in its offers, it is not indiscriminate in its gifts: although it is given gratuitously, it is not given unconditionally: although it is offered to all, it is not granted to all.

(G. Bellett.)

If we consider ourselves as offenders in many things, which we all are, death is a just consequence of our transgressions; for it is fit and reasonable that disobedient creatures should be deprived of the powers which they pervert and abuse.

I. OUR PRESENT STATE OF MORTALITY IS UPON MANY ACCOUNTS CONVENIENT AND USEFUL.

1. It is convenient that we should die, because this world is a state of trial.

2. As the consideration of death hath a tendency to deter us from vice, it consequently prevents some disorders, and makes us live together in society better than we else should pass our days.

3. It is also convenient that we should die, because the future recompenses of obedience are of a spiritual nature.

4. Another reason why it is convenient that we should die, is, that our obedience at best being defective, death prepares us for the next state, and excites in the soul thoughts and inclinations which ought to accompany it at its entrance into the world of spirits, and into the presence of its Maker.

5. It is not only convenient, but desirable and profitable, that we should die, if death conducts us to life eternal.

6. If by obedience and perseverance we secure to ourselves an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, when that promised time shall come, and this corruptible shall have put on incorrutption, the remembrance of our former earthly state, and of all its inconveniences, may probably add to our happiness; and then it will be good for us that we once were mortal creatures.

II. THE METHODS WHICH WE MUST USE, TO ALLAY AND RESTRAIN THOSE IMMODERATE FEARS OF DEATH, WHICH ARE BLAMEABLE, AND WHICH ALSO RENDER LIFE ITSELF, WITH ALL ITS CONVENIENCES, DULL AND COMFORTLESS.

1. Frequent thoughts of our latter end will assist to produce this good effect.

2. Another way of reconciling ourselves to death is to consider it as unavoidable.

3. Another consideration tending to make us more willing to die, is, that it is common to all.

4. The troubles of life, rightly considered, may help to remove a great dislike of death.

(J. Jortin, D. D.)

As a flower of the field
(Flower Service): — Let us listen to the preaching of the flowers today. What do they say to us? One thing they all say is — "trust God." God takes care of the flowers, and sends them dew, and rain, and sunshine, and fresh air, and they tell us that the same God who cares for them cares also for us. And next, I think, all the flowers say to us, "thank God." See how the daisies in the meadow seem to look up thankfully to God. Some one says that God smiles on the earth, and that the earth smiles back again with its flowers. Next, the flowers say to us, "be contented." They are quite satisfied to grow, and smell sweet, and look pretty, in the place where God puts them. Now, just as God plants the flowers in a certain place, some up high on the hills, others down low in the valley; some in the Queen's greenhouse, others in the cottager's garden, so He puts you children in your right place. Another thing which all the flowers tell us is this, "remember that you must die." When the autumn and winter come we say the flowers are dead because we cannot see them. But the flowers are not really dead. They are sleeping in the earth till the spring comes again. God has put them to bed in the warm ground, and when the proper time comes they will waken up. Just what God does to the flowers He does to us. What else do the flowers say to us? I think they say, "keep in the sunshine, be happy." You always find that flowers are on the sunny side of things. So ought we to be. There is another thing which the flowers say to us — "Be sweet." There is nothing so delicious as to go into a flower garden after a warm shower, and to smell the sweet scents. Well, God has sent you into the garden of this world to be sweet like the flowers. Some children are regular stinging nettles in a home, or a school. They always make people uncomfortable. They sting with their tongues, and they sting with their looks and their tempers.

(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M.A.)

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