Psalm 103:2
This psalm is all praise; there is no supplication in it. It has helped myriads to praise God, and the secret of such help is that the psalmist was himself filled with the spirit of praise, and it is the blessed contagion of that spirit that helps us today as in the days of old. And it is a pattern of all true praise. It is so in these ways.

I. IN ITS OBJECT.

1. It is praise of the Lord. All is addressed to him, and is for him.

2. And in his holiness. "Bless his holy Name." What a happy fact this reveals as to the psalmist and all who sincerely adopt his words! We can bless God for his beneficence and mercy and goodness, but only a holy soul can bless him for his holiness. Such soul delights not merely in the kind acts of God, but in the pure and perfect character of God.

II. ITS METHODS. It shows us how we should praise the Lord.

1. Personally. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" It is not a work to be handed over to any choir or any people whatsoever. It is to be our own personal work.

2. Spiritual. It is to be the soul's work. Poetic speech, eloquent phrase, beautiful music, skilled song, - all count for nothing if the soul be not in the work.

3. Whole hearted. "All that is within me." Intellect, memory, imagination, affection, will, all the energies of our spiritual nature, should be engaged.

4. With set purpose. See how he calls on himself, stirs himself up to this holy work, repeats his exhortation and protests against that one chief cause - forgetfulness - of our failure to render praise. "Forget not any of his benefits." This is how we should praise the Lord.

III. ITS REASON. He tells wherefore we should bless the Lord.

1. For forgiveness. This our first necessity; all else avails not without that (cf. Mark 2:5).

2. For the healing of the soul. It would be but a poor salvation if soul healing did not follow forgiveness, for without the latter we should soon be back to our sins again (2 Peter 2:22). Therefore we need this healing of the soul. And it is promised (see Ezekiel 36:25).

3. For penalty in this life averted. He "redeemeth thy life from destruction." God does not redeem our life from all the consequences of our sin (Psalm 99:8), but from the worst he does. The forgiven man may have to suffer much in consequence of his past sins, but it is as nothing compared with what he would have had to suffer had he not been forgiven. The comfort of God's Spirit, power to witness for Christ, victory over sin, hope bright hope of life eternal, - all these are his; his life is redeemed from destruction.

4. For, next, God crowneth with loving kindness. See all this illustrated in the story of the prodigal son - forgiven, healed, redeemed, crowned, the ring, the robe, the shoes, the feast, were for him; and what answers to them yet is the crowning told of here.

5. For satisfaction with good. This also awaits us: would we but trust God more, we should know it for ourselves. They who walk with God, abide in Christ, know what it is. Let us not rest until we know it for ourselves.

6. For youth of soul renewed. (See homily on this subject.) The outward man may, will, decay, but the inward man shall be renewed day by day.

IV. ITS RESULTS. What a history it would be if we could only trace out what this psalm has done for God's saints in all ages! What spiritual victories it has won! what strength it has imparted! what holy joy! Christian, sing this psalm more heartily, so that many poor lost ones, hearing its sweet evangel, may turn and with you bless the Lord. - S.C.







Forget not all His benefits.
I. SOME OF THOSE THINGS WE HAVE TO REMEMBER.

1. The pardon of sin.

2. The various providential mercies we have received during our lives.

3. The hope of a renewed life beyond the grave.

II. SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES ATTENDING THIS RECOLLECTION OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS.

1. It will convince us of the fact of God's providential care of us.

2. It will preserve us from undue despondency under the adverse providences of God.

3. It will help us to connect the thoughts of God with every detail of our common life.

III. A FEW DIRECTIONS FOR THE DISCHARGE OF THIS DUTY.

1. Take no step in life without a previous reference to the law of God.

2. Remember those seasons of life in which Divine providence appeared for you in a remarkable manner. All have such seasons: your first settlement in life — your going out into a situation — the choice of a trade or profession — the first definite step.

3. Remember that it will be utterly inexcusable hereafter if we pass through life without the recognition of God.

(W. G. Barrett.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. SOME OF THE MERCIES WHICH WE ARE CALLED ON TO ACKNOWLEDGE.

1. The possession of life.

2. The continuance of bodily health and enjoyment.

3. Protection from numerous dangers, and the supply of constantly returning wants.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS ACKNOWLEDGMENT SHOULD BE MADE.

1. Grateful emotions should be felt in the heart.

2. The devout and grateful aspiration of the heart to God.

3. The offering of praise and thanksgiving in public, that others may be encouraged, and may unite with you in the delightful exercise.

4. Corresponding devotedness of life to God must accompany these feelings of the heart, and these public expressions of thanksgiving.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

Homiletic Review.
I. FOR THE SAKE OF THE MERCIES THEMSELVES. Are they not worth it? Is there a year, a day, an hour, which is not crowded with them?

II. FOR THE SAKE OF THE GIVER. If they came from a dear earthly friend, should we not prize them for friendship's sake? If they flowed from royal bounty, would we not be profuse in our praise and feel burdened with a sense of our obligation? But all our mercies are the gifts of God our Heavenly Father; they are the purchase of infinite love; they flow to us through Christ. We can render no returns for them save gratitude, praise and service.

III. FOR THE SAKE OF OUR EXAMPLE — OUR INFLUENCE ON OTHERS. The tone and tint of our religion go very far in impressing ethers. One happy, bright, ever rejoicing and praising Christian will impart cheer and life to a whole circle, while one gloomy, despondent, ever-mourning disciple will chill a prayer-meeting, and often a whole church.

IV. FOR THEIR OWN SAKE. It is their birthright. It is honouring to God their Saviour. It is in harmony with the spirit and purpose of the Cross. It is the spirit of the heavenly world. It is the first notes of the song everlasting that will resound through all the mansions of glory and give expression to the gratitude and harmony of the redeemed.

(Homiletic Review.)

I. THE EXHORTATION GIVEN. Show that you do not slight the benefits which God has bestowed upon you, but hold them up, and evidence your gratitude before God and the Church.

1. Publicly.

2. In private.

3. By your actions.

II. THE BENEFIT DECLARED. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities," Not a part of them; not the greatest sins which we may have committed, to the exclusion of the less.

III. THE COMMUNICATION MADE. "Who healeth all thy diseases." And truly our diseases are many. Look at the disease of the understanding. Although it may be brought by tuition to the comprehension of much that relates to our redemption, it is nevertheless totally incapable of comprehending Divine things, unless God heals it; for the understanding is so corrupted by sin, that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them." And how is this done? The operation of the Spirit of God consisteth in letting light into the understanding — the light of life — Jesus Christ our Lord. So there is the rectification of the will. Though our wills are naturally stubborn, and we are inclined to turn to that which is opposed to God, and to turn from God, yet let but the Holy Spirit enter into our understandings and our wills, and then we find rectitude. Thus He "healeth" our will. He further gives a direction to our affections. For the affections of the heart are all alienated. But God the Holy Spirit communicates an impulse to the soul, whereby the poisonous influences of this terrestrial atmosphere are so far counteracted that they shall not be fatal to our souls.

IV. A DELIVERANCE ACCOMPLISHED. "Who redeemeth thy life from destruction" — i.e. from the consequences of sin, from the love of sin, from the fear of death; and from eternal torment.

V. THE RECEPTION OF A PROMISED BLESSING. "Crowning" the soul here denotes the application of these wonderful mercies, which God has communicated to us in Christ. It signifies the enjoyment of them all. It further signifies power over sin and Satan.

VI. THE GRATIFICATION OF THE SPIRITUAL APPETITE. "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things."

VII. "THY YOUTH IS RENEWED LIKE THE EAGLE'S." This expression is used to signify, that saints, through the grace of God, even in old age become "fat and flourishing, steadfast and unmovable," "fruitful in every good word and work." They "run and are not weary, they walk and do not faint"; and they rejoice in the approach of their end.

(T. B. Baker, M.A.)

By "memory" two things are designated, which are really very distinct; the one is the power of bringing past experience into consciousness; and the other is the power of retaining past experience in the mind out of consciousness. Suppose I meet a friend. He says to me as we meet, "What is the Latin for door?" I answer at once, "Janua." The question has brought this Latin word at the moment into my consciousness, and we say that I remembered it. But if I am a Latin scholar there are thousands of Latin words in my mind; not in the sense of being at present in my consciousness — because all the Latin I am conscious of at the moment is "janua" — but in the sense that I am capable of bringing them into consciousness when required. Perhaps it would be a good thing if in English these two powers were designated by two words instead of one. They are in other languages. This is the difference in German between "erinnerung" and "gedachtniss"; and in French between the word "souvenir" and "memoire." Perhaps in English the power of bringing past experience into present consciousness might be called "recollection," while the word "memory" might be reserved for the other power of keeping past experience in the mind out of consciousness. This latter power of keeping past experience in the mind out of consciousness is in some respects the most extraordinary feature in the whole realm of psychology. You might put it in this way, that at the back of our present consciousness — I mean the consciousness of the moment — there stretches within us a vast treasury or magazine in which past impressions are stored. In some people it is larger, in others smaller; in some minds it may be slight, in others well arranged. You can hardly help thinking of it, in some people, as comparable to one of the huge warehouses of this city, where the passages are like streets for length, and there are ever so many departments, but everything is in its own place. Things that are like one another are found near one another, and the master has complete hold over all his possessions. But where is this storehouse? Has it a local habitation? Is it in the head, or where is it? Perhaps there is nothing which is so antagonistic to a materialistic view of the human mind. You know materialism holds that thought is simply a movement of matter; but if so, in what form do these modifications of matter continue so as to be remembered? If they were additions to the matter of the brain, however slight, they would very soon expand far beyond the holding power of the skull. If they were marks, like tracks or other marks, they would soon be covered up, so as to be wholly irrecoverable. The spiritual view looks on mind, as a whole, as a mystery; and it refers, especially this aspect of memory, to the region of mystery, and that is obviously where it belongs; and though in the act of remembering, as perhaps in every mental act, the mind uses the brain as its organ, the brain is no more to be identified with the mind than the musical instrument is to be identified with the person who is playing. "Great," says St. in his confessions, "great is the force of memory, O my God; a large and boundless chamber! Who ever sounded the bottom thereof? And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass themselves by." The second power to which the name of memory is applied is the power of bringing past experience into present consciousness. Now, in comparison with the great magazine which I have described, this power of memory takes place on a very limited stage. It is as if in front of this silent magazine there were erected a platform, to which the images of the magazine could at any time be summoned. The summons occasionally is very slight. All that is necessary often is that a passing thought should appear on the platform, when immediately a thought like it comes from within. Perhaps a whole bevy of them may come. For instance, one will go home at the holiday time to his native place, and will take a walk in some scene of beauty which he used to frequent in his boyhood; and as you go along at every step the images of the past will throng out on you, the faces of your companions and their merry talk. "On this seat," you will say to yourself, "I used to sit with so-and-so by my side; at that turn of the road I once thought on such a subject; across the ravine some one's voice once called to me." Images will pour out of the past on you in a perfect tumult, and you will be astonished at the vividness and minuteness of the reproduction. At other times, however, the summons has to be louder and more urgent. Sometimes, when you call for the images of the past, they will not come. Perhaps the wrong ones come, and you have to order them back to their places again. However loud you call they will not come, and you may have to go into the magazine, and search about in odd corners, and tumble things over, and at last you say, "Ah, there it is; I remember." Or perhaps after all your searching you are baffled, and you say, "No, I am beaten; I cannot remember." If we remembered everything we should be embarrassed with our riches. As a rule, older impressions push out newer ones, though in old age this law is reversed, although in every mind there are some memories that never become dim:

"Time but the impression deeper makes,

As streams their channels deeper wear."But the rate at which memories become dim and sink out of sight is extremely different in different minds; and one of the excellences of what is called a good memory is to have a large domain of reminiscence permanently within one's grasp. Every man of great ability thus holds sway over a wide domain of acquisition and experience. Another excellence of memory is the power of committing things rapidly to heart., as we call it. This also varies exceedingly in different persons. In some it has been almost miraculous. It is said, for instance, that the scholar Scaliger committed the Iliad to heart in three weeks, and even more astonishing feats of memory have been accomplished by men who were not in the least distinguished in other directions. And a still more curious thing is that such persons have sometimes been able to retain the things they thus rapidly committed to memory. But, as a rule, what comes quickly goes quickly. An advocate, for instance, may get up quickly details of a complicated case, and perhaps along with that the outlines of a whole science, for a particular occasion, but as soon as the occasion is past, the whole thing goes out of his memory. Perhaps the most enviable excellence of memory is the copious and ready delivery of its contents as occasion requires. It is this that makes the happy historian, because, as he writes, he can recall parallel incidents from other histories. It is this that makes the good speaker, because, as he speaks, his memory calls principles and illustrations unto his mind from which he can select what is most suitable. It is this that makes the fortune of the conversationalist; whereas the speaker who has not this quality of memory makes all his best remarks to himself on the way home after the occasion is past. The conditions of a good memory are very simple and are worth remembering. The first is, that we must attend to things as they are entering the mind. The more we attend to them at the time they are entering the mind, the more easily will we remember. Then, secondly, we remember what we have repeatedly attended to. The oftener we think of things, the more likely are we to remember them. But most important of all is emotion — to mix things as they enter the mind with emotion. Now, this will easily guide us to the religious use of memory, and I cannot help regarding it as a fortunate circumstance that we are discussing this subject to-day, because there is no day so consecrated to memory as the last Sabbath of the year. "Forget not all His benefits." That is the first religious use of memory. I am sure none of us can look back over the past year, however carelessly, without observing how good God has been to us, to our families, to our Church; but we shall remember these benefits the better the more we attended to them at the time when they happened. Even, however, if we did not attend to them then, we can compel the memory to give them up. We can go into the magazine which I described, and search for what we have lost or forgotten. We can go back to the beginning of the year, and trace downwards till to-day the footsteps of our Almighty Guide. Then the other great religious use of memory, especially on a day like this, is to remember our sins. Some of them, like God's mercies, can he seen the moment we turn our eyes in that direction, because all of us during the year have committed some sins that burn in the memory. Others may need to be called up out of the place where they are loitering because at the time they were not much Observed, our consciences not being keen. It is only as we look back on a day like this, over an important stretch of life, that we see how little use we have made of golden opportunities; how little we have grown; how little we have done; how seldom we have prayed. It is no pleasing task thus to recall our sins of the past, but it may be a very salutary one. Better to recall them now than to recall them in a place of woe. Do you remember the first word spoken to one in that place? What did Abraham say to the rich man? It was, "Son, remember." Memory is the worm that dieth not.

(J. Stalker, D.D.)

I. THE PHILOSOPHY, WHICH UNDERLIES ALL TRUE PRAISE OF GOD, is exceedingly slender in its analysis; there is no ponderous weight or tedious intricacy in its development.

1. Grateful thanksgiving is the most reasonable of all human duties, for the earliest instincts of our redeemed nature turn us towards the immediate acknowledgment of our vast spiritual favours received. The common courtesies and interchanges of civilities in life require the outward expression of gratitude.

2. This decent duty is easily performed. Peace is very uncertain and hard to attain, for the devil is continually coining out accusations against each believer. Repentance in ourselves has sometimes to be sought carefully, and with as many tears; for the heart of man remains stony, and is frequently in exposure by reason of regnant corruption. Gratitude is so spontaneous and natural, that a generous and manly soul has often to cheek its profuse outflow by some external force of reserve. It is actually harder to repress it than to exercise it; one is compelled to be sullen, morose, or malicious, in keeping it back.

3. Praise is the oldest duty in performance on the records of the race. Before faith was required in the human heart, before there was the least reason for repentance, when our first parents dwelt in primal purity within the undefiled precincts of Paradise, even then they cherished the spirit of thankfulness, and sang their songs of simple adoration. Hence the privilege of "blessing" the Lord is older than justification, older than sanctification, older than prayer, older than sacrifice.

4. Grateful praise is the longest-lived of all human obligations. It is a duty and a privilege which will never end. As the supreme truths of celestial knowledge, and the supreme felicities of glorified enjoyment, which God means to give to the redeemed, are disclosed, our souls will assuredly swell with a fresh enthusiasm, our voices will grow tremulous in the expression of a new exultation. Thanksgiving is to enter into the serene perpetuity of eternal communion with each other and with God.

II. WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES WHICH ACCRUE FROM THE HABIT OF GRATEFUL PRAISE?

1. We need not go far to find vivid illustrations of the effects produced upon one's temper and heart by a songful spirit of grateful acknowledgment. We will admit that there is much to test human patience all around us; but the question is, What are we going to do about it? We can treat the world in one of two ways. We can carp at it, and grow morose in our feeling; or we can rise cheerfully above it, and diligently seek for those kind mitigations which Divine wisdom has made to accompany all our vexatious experiences. We can wear our lives out discontentedly, finding fault with everything that is an annoyance to us; or we can labour trustfully on, recognizing the good, and ingeniously endeavouring to counteract and balance the evil. What we think, settles what we shall become.

2. But now add to this, that a determinate cheerfulness of praise really seems to modify work. Gratitude transmutes our disciplines into evidences of love. It is related of one of the most distinguished clergymen in England, that he always read at the family: altar, on Saturday evening, this one hundred and third psalm. But his wife died. For a moment he waited; and then he said quietly, "I see no reason why we should not choose our usual song to-night." There is in the writings of old Thomas Fuller one curiously quaint paragraph, which I have often wanted to quote: "Lord, my voice by nature is harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to Thy ears which is unpleasant to my own? Yet, though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow, yea, rather croak with the raven, than be altogether silent. Hadst Thou given me a better voice, I would have praised Thee with a better voice; now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense — singing praises with my understanding. Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart, therein to make melody, and I will be contented with my old voice, until, in Thy due time, being admitted unto the choir of heaven, I have another, more harmonious, bestowed on me." He does the best work, in this moping, croaking age, whose cheerful face gives the benediction of a happy heart wherever a heavy step is treading along just behind him. Think of the martyr Ignatius exclaiming, "Oh, would that I could do what would make all the earth adore Thee, and psalm to Thee."

(C. S. Robinson, D.D.)

What recollections have we of the sunsets that delighted us last year? The energy of an impression fades from the memory and becomes more and more indistinct every day. We constantly affirm that the thunderstorm of last week was the most terrible one we ever saw in our lives, because we compare it, not with the thunderstorm of last year, but only with our faded and feeble recollection of it.

(John Ruskin.)

It is no less certain, however, that we are not so wide awake to the wrongfulness of insufficient gratitude. We are all prone to let ourselves off too easily in this respect. We let slip the memory of benefits conferred, or we fail to see our obligation for acts of unselfish service rendered to us by our best friends. We take things too much as a matter of course, not only in human relationships, but in the sphere of religion. Dante has a place in the Inferno for those who were sullen and gloomy in God's sweet air; failing to perceive or acknowledge the Divine benefits on earth, they were condemned to continue sullen in the under-world. We are not ungrateful, but our gratitude costs us little.

(R. J. Campbell.)

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