Psalm 119:54
Thy statutes have been my songs. "When the Eastern traveler takes shelter from the scorching heat of noon, or halts for the night in some inn or caravansary, which is for the time the house of his pilgrimage, he takes the sackbut or the lyre, and soothes his rest with a song - a song, it may be, of war, romance, or love. But the poet of Israel finds his theme in the statutes of Jehovah. "These have been my pastime, with these I have refreshed my resting hours by the way, and cheered myself onward through the wearisome journey and across the scorching deserts of life. Not songs of old tradition, not ballads of war, or wine, or love, have supported me; but I have sung of God's commandments, and these have been the solace of my weary hours, the comfort of my rest." What is striking in this expression of the psalmist is that he makes his obligations appear as if they were, what he sincerely esteems them to be, his privilege. Here is surely an unusual thing; the man is glad to be placed under restraint, only it must be clearly seen that it is Divine restraint. "Let me fall into the hands of God, and not into the hands of man."

I. A GOOD MAN'S SONGS BEAR THEIR OWN PECULIAR STAMP. Song is the relief of life; but it is one of the most genuine expressions of life. It may be said that a man can be judged by the songs that he loves to sing or to hear sung.

1. The good man always wants to sing. Joy is one of the necessary constituents of goodness.

2. The good man wants the singing to match himself. And since his joy is in God, his singing must be about God.

3. The good man's supreme concern is loyalty and duty, and therefore his songs are about the statutes by which duty is controlled.

II. A GOOD MAN'S SONGS ARE THE EVIDENCE OF HIS GOODNESS. They surprise his fellow-men, who wonder how he can find rest and pleasure in what seems to them so dull. He could not but for that vital change through which he has passed, which we recognize in calling him "a good man."

"I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share."

1. The delight in vulgar and comic songs evidences the low, uncultured man.

2. The delight in high-class music evidences the educated taste.

3. The delight in songs whose interest lies in their religious tone and suggestion rather than in their music, evidences the renewed man. The delight in songs that encourage and inspire obedience evidences a noble sense of the Divine obligations and responsibilities that rest on human life. - R.T.







Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
When the Eastern traveller takes shelter from the scorching heat of noon, or halts for the night in some inn or caravansary, which is for the time the house of his pilgrimage, he takes the sackbut, or the lyre, and soothes his rest with a song — a song, it may be, of war, romance, or love. But the poet of Israel finds his theme in the statutes of Jehovah. Multitudes of men feel Divine law, Divine obligation, responsibility in any form, authority under any conditions, to be a real annoyance to life. They want their own will and way. The psalmist's doctrine is that obligation to God is our privilege. Every man, even the most licentious and reckless, is a pilgrim. But the pilgrimage of the text is made by no sense of restriction. Here is perfect harmony between obligation to God and all the sources of pleasure and happiness God has provided, so that there is no real collision between the statutes over us and the conditions around us. It is a false impression that the very enforcements of penalty and terror added to God's law, to compel an acceptance of it, or obedience to it, are a kind of concession that it is not a privilege, but a restriction or severity rather, which cannot otherwise be carried. But terrors are only restrictions to the lawless and disobedient, never to the good. A right-minded people will value their laws, and cherish them as the safeguard even of their liberty. Just so the righteous man will have God's statutes for his songs in all the course of his pilgrimage. How would it be with us if we existed under no terms of obligation? The true alternative between obligation and no obligation supposes, on the negative side, that we are not even to have the sense of obligation, or of moral distinctions; for the sense of obligation is the same thing as being obliged, or put in responsibility. In such a case, our external condition must obviously be as different as possible from what it is now.

1. There could, of course, be no such thing as criminal law for the defence of property, reputation, and life; because the moral distinctions in which criminal law is grounded are all wanting. The defences of civil society must all be wanting where there is no recognized obligation to God. Having no moral and religious ideas, we cannot legislate.

2. What we call "society," as far as there is any element of dignity or blessing in it, depends on these moral obligations. Without these it would be intercourse without friendship, truth, charity or mercy. Where there is no law, there is no sin or guilt; as little is there any virtue. There is nothing to praise or confide in. Enter now the spiritual nature itself, and see how much is there depending on this great privilege of obligation to God. This claim of God's authority, this bond of duty laid upon us, is virtually the throne of God erected in the soul. It is sovereign, of course, unaccommodating, therefore, and may be felt as a sore annoyance. When violated, it will scorch the bosom ever with pangs of remorse, that are the most fiery and implacable of all mental sufferings. But of this there is no need; all such pains are avoidable by due obedience. And their obligation to God becomes the spring instead of the most dignified, fullest, healthiest joys anywhere attainable. Consider the truly paternal relation between our obligations to God, and what we call liberty. Instead of restraining our liberty, they only show us, in fact, how to use our liberty, and how to enjoy it, if I may so speak, in great and heroic actions. How insipid and foolish a thing were life, if there were nothing laid upon us to do l It is well that we are put upon doing what is not always agreeable to the flesh. When God lays upon us the duties of self-command, and self-sacrifice, when He calls us to act and suffer heroically, how could He more effectually dignify or ennoble our liberty? Obligation to God also imparts zest to life, by giving to our actions a higher import, and, when they are right, a more consciously elevated spirit. In this article of obligation to God you are set also in immediate relation to God Himself; and in a relation so high, everything in you and about you changes its import. God is in the world, training the creatures for Himself. It is also a great fact, as regards a due impression of obligation to God, and of what is conferred in it, that it raises and tones the spiritual emotions of obedient souls into a key of sublimity which is the completeness of their joy. Before God, all the deep and powerful emotions that lie in the vicinity of fear are waked into life; every chord of feeling is pitched to its highest key or capacity, and the soul quivers eternally in the sacred awe of God and His commandments; thrilled as by the sound of many waters, or the roll of some anthem that stirs the framework of the world. On this subject, too, experimental proofs may be cited. Conclusion: — It is only religion, the great bond of love and duty to God, that makes our existence valuable, or even tolerable. Without this to live were only to graze. How appalling a proof is it of some dire disorder and depravation of mankind that, when obligation to God is the spring of all that is dearest, noblest in thought, and most exalted in experience, we are yet compelled to urge it on them by so many entreaties, and even to force it on their fears by God's threatened penalties!

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

I. A PILGRIM.

1. We belong to another country. We are aliens, foreigners, strangers in this world.

2. We are hurrying through this world as through a foreign land.

3. A pilgrim's main business is to get on and pass through the land as quickly as he may.

4. As pilgrims, it is true in our case that our relatives are not, the most of them, in this country. We have a few brethren and sisters with us who are going on pilgrimage, and we are very thankful for them; for good company cheers the way. Yet the majority of those dear to us are already over yonder. If I may not say the majority by counting heads, yet certainly in weight the great majority will be found to be in the far country. Where is our Father? And where is our Elder Brother? And where is the Bridegroom of our soul?

5. A pilgrim reckons that land to be his country in which he expects to remain the longest. Through the country which he traverses he makes his way with all speed; but when he gets home he abides at his leisure, for it is the end of his toil and travail. What a little part of life shall we spend on earth!

II. A SINGING PILGRIM: "Thy statutes have been my songs," etc. Pilgrims to heaven are a merry sort of people after all. They have their trims, some trials more than those which ether men know; but then they have their joys, and among these joys are sweet delights such as worldlings can never taste. The singing pilgrim is a man who has a world of joy within him, and is journeying to another world, where for him all will be joy to a still higher degree. He sings high praises unto God, and blesses His name beyond measure, for he has reason to do so, reason which never slackens or lessens. Oh that we were always as we are sometimes, then would our breath be praise.

III. THE SONG BOOK. "Thy statutes." The Bible is a wonderful book. It serves a thousand purposes in the household of God. I recollect, a book my father used to have, entitled "Family Medicine," which was consulted when any of us fell sick with juvenile diseases. The Bible is our book of family medicine. In some houses, the book they most consult is a "Household Guide." The Bible is the best guide for all families. This Book may be consulted in every case, and its oracle will never mislead. You can use it at funerals. There are no such words as those which Paul has written concerning the resurrection of the dead. You can use it for marriages — where else find such holy advice to a wedded pair? You can use it for birthdays. You can use it, for a lamp at night. You can use it for a screen by day. It is a universal Book; it is the Book of books, and has furnished material for mountains of books; it is made of what I call bibline, or the essence of books. We use this Book for a song-book as pilgrims, because it tells us the way to heaven. We often sing as we come to a fresh spot on the route, and bless God that we find the road to be just, as we have read in the way-book, just as our Divine Master said it should be. Well may we sing a song of gratitude for an infallible Word.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE LIGHT IN WHICH DAVID REGARDED THE WORLD was that, of a foreign country, through which he was travelling to his native land.

1. The world is a place which the Christian has ceased to love.

2. The world is a place which cannot make the Christian happy.

3. The world is a place in which the Christian must calculate on trials and difficulties.

4. The world is a place which the Christian expects soon to leave.

II. THE CHEERFULNESS WHICH THE CHRISTIAN ENJOYS IN THE HOUSE OF HIS PILGRIMAGE.

1. His song is a heartfelt song.

2. His song is a rational song.

3. His song is a Divine song.

III. THE SOURCE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S JOY.

1. The Bible rejoices the Christian by telling him that though a pilgrim in a foreign land, he shall have all his wants supplied.

2. The Bible brings joy to him by reminding him of the end of his pilgrimage, even his home, and that a peaceful, glorious, and heavenly home.

3. The Scriptures not only tell the Christian of this heavenly home, they cheer his heart by pointing out to him the way which leads to it.

4. The same Scriptures, too, that tell the Christian of his home, and point out to him the way which leads to it, give him the assurance that he shall soon be there. They remind him of the love, the power, and the faithfulness of Christ.Conclusion: Learn from this subject —

1. One reason why so many professors of Christianity are habitually comfortless. They do not love the statutes of the Lord; or, if they love them, they do not seek their happiness in them.

2. Highly to value the Scriptures.

3. The extent to which we should endeavour to circulate the Scriptures.

4. The spirit, which becomes the Christian is a cheerful and rejoicing spirit.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. THE PILGRIM'S HOUSE.

1. It is lodgment, not home.

2. It is shelter, not safety.

3. It affords convenience, but nor happiness.

II. THE PILGRIM'S SONG. If God's statutes are our song, they supply a theme which can never fail us; for in all situations we have the opportunity of keeping His commandments. In all circumstances, high or low, pleasant or painful, we have to keep the statutes of the Lord. Poverty cannot silence this song; sorrow cannot dispense with it. For in poverty as in wealth, in sorrow as in joy, in keeping His commandments there is great delight.

(R. Halley, M. A.)

The human spirit is warmly and delicately alive to many external influences and impressions. Music and song are often called to aid the conceptions and feelings of the heart. And for this reason the believer applies to the Divine law all those invigorating and animating feelings which, in reference to other subjects, the men of this world fetch from minstrelsy and music.

I. SONG IS ENLISTED TO ANIMATE LOYALTY; and the Christian makes God's statutes his song in the house of his pilgrmage, because they animate his loyalty to his Sovereign who is in heaven.

II. SONG IS ENLISTED TO ANIMATE PATRIOTISM; and the Christian makes God's statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because they animate his patriotism to the land that is afar off.

III. SONG IS APPROPRIATED TO CHERISH THE LOVE OF HOME; and the Christian makes God's statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage because they foster his love of his eternal home in heaven.

IV. SONG IS RESORTED TO BY THE TRAVELLER, IN ORDER TO BEGUILE THE LENGTH AND WEARINESS OF THE WAY; and the Christian makes God's statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because they beguile the length and weariness of his pilgrimage journey through this life.

V. SONG IS RESORTED TO FOR ENCOURAGING AND EMBOLDENING THE MIND; and the Christian makes God's statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage, because they encourage and embolden him in the face of the dangers that lie in his way.

VI. SONG IS EMPLOYED TO CHERISH SOCIAL FEELING; and the Christian makes God's statutes his songs in the house of his pilgrimage, because they cherish and develop the social pleasures of religion.

VII. SONG IS EMPLOYED FOR THE SAKE OF RELAXATION AND AMUSEMENT; and the Christian makes God's statutes his song in the house of his pilgrimage, because his hours of relaxation and amusement cannot be more cheerfully and pleasantly spent than in awakening the music of Judah's harp.

(A. Nisbet.)

I. TRUE RELIGION IS AN UNSATISFIED ANTICIPATION.

1. It is an anticipation, for there comes out in the language clearly enough —

(1)The consciousness of an indwelling spiritual nature.

(2)A consciousness of the greatness of the spiritual nature.

2. It is unsatisfied anticipation. This is suggested by the word "pilgrimage," and is implied in the very sentence which tells the joy. This must be to a certain extent the result of the awakening of the religious life. It is quite true, on the one hand, that they who drink up of the water which Christ gives shall never thirst: and yet it is equally true, on the other, that "we who are in this tabernacle do groan," not because we are dissatisfied, "for that we would be unclothed," but because we are unsatisfied, "for that we should be clothed upon."

II. TRUE RELIGION IS A PRESENT JOYOUS APPROPRIATION.

1. The statutes of Jehovah are the definite and authoritative declaration of the supreme law of right. The good is also the beautiful. The light which flows from God's throne excites in us a holy glow (Romans 7:22).

2. It makes all the difference in the world in respect of the aspect of God's statutes towards you, on which side of the wicket gate you are. If on the outside, these statutes will lift themselves up as an overhanging mountain burning with tempestuous fires and thundering forth eternal anathemas. But if on the inside, and especially if near the Cross, these statutes will become a firm path, along which your feet will run.

3. God's statutes are the instrument of discipline. Take the yoke, and ye shall find rest.

4. God's statutes — that is, God's ordinances — minister unto us seasons of gracious visitation and exalted spiritual delight.

(H. R. Roberts, B. A.)

I. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN PILGRIM? He is a traveller, and as such does not expect to meet with ease and comfort, as if he were at home.

II. WHAT DOES A CHRISTIAN PILGRIM REQUIRE?

1. He requires decision.

2. He requires self-effort.

3. He requires self-control.

4. He requires perseverance,

5. He requires an assurance of success. God has given us this.

II. THE GRAND OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN PILGRIM. It is not to visit holy places, but to be holy.

(W. Birch.)

I. A GOOD MAN VIEWS HIS RESIDENCE IN THIS WORLD AS ONLY THE HOUSE OF HIS PILGRIMAGE.

II. THE SITUATION, HOWEVER DISADVANTAGEOUS, ADMITS OF CHEERFULNESS.

III. THE SOURCES OF HIS JOY ARE DERIVED FROM THE SCRIPTURE.

(W. Jay.)

Homilist.
I. Duty SET TO MUSIC.

1. This is not a common experience. Men do not generally exult in responsibility and in law.

2. Though uncommon, it is

(1)Desirable. Because duty cannot be got rid of, and because its connection with us must be either a source of misery or happiness. It is —

(2)Attainable. He who loves the Lawgiver supremely will turn His laws into music.

II. Duty set to music in UNFAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. Our earthly life is a house of pilgrimage — strange, unsettled, inconvenient, temporary.

2. Why, in this house of pilgrimage, we should keep up a spirit of cheerfulness.

(1)It is our best protection in a world of strangers.

(2)It is a permanent possession in a world of change.

(3)It is a spiritualizing power in a world of materialism.

(Homilist.)

Slavery, licence, liberty, law. These four words are often on man's lips. Licence is simply permission to do what one wants to do. But it requires no long experience to learn that licence results in slavery. A man sees some tempting bait of pleasure. It conceals a hook of pain. Yet he thinks it is genuine happiness. But having once caught it, and been caught by it, he is held. He may rush and dash every way in mad fury, hoping to free himself. He may even tear himself free, but he can only do it by tearing out a part of his life. It is more probable that, once caught by it, he will be held by it till what once seemed to him perfect liberty becomes to him assured slavery. A man is obliged to watch his mail as a sheriff watches his prisoner. Letters may be coming to him any morning which, if known to those that stand nearest to him, would throw him into prison or clothe his life with black shame. Licence results in sin, and sin results in slavery. Law and liberty are words quite as common to the human lips as licence and slavery. Law and liberty- law is designed to result in liberty. Perfect law does result in liberty, and liberty is simple obedience to perfect law. At first law seems to be slavery, at last law is known to be liberty. The child at the piano would hold her hand in any form convenient to herself. The faithful teacher carefully and forcibly directs the position of each joint. It is hard for the little fingers thus to keep themselves straight, and to strike from the centre of force. The teacher knows that only as there is this slavery at first can there be liberty at last. The soldier is ordered to restrain his appetite, to discipline his body, to keep every power in subjection; he and his commanding officer know that as he thus disciplines and trains himself, making himself subject to rule and order, can he be free and active in the most efficient movement when freedom and swiftness mean victory and salvation of his native land. Several of the experiences of life present occasions when the statutes of God become the songs of man, in which slavery, limitation and hardship become freedom, joy, delight. One such experience is, I think, that which we call conversion. Conversion means at once so little and so much. Conversion does not usually cause us to give up our work or place, hut conversion broadens, deepens and heightens this work. It pushes further off the grey way of circumstance, it lifts far above us the overhanging dark ceiling of fate. Conversion brings God into our life and seems to give life all that liberty which belongs to God, and therefore to His children. "Thy statutes have been my songs." A second experience is common to man in which the laws, the statutes of God, may become the songs of man. It is the experience of each of us in which we try to put down some one sin. The love for money, the love for drink, the love for power, the love of any indulgence, each is still strong; but your soul, your God, have become so much stronger that you shut these baying hounds of desire in the kennel of their own deserved fate. You now rejoice so infinitely more at the righteousness of the law that you now can lament the penalty of disobedience. The law has become your song. I say again that the growth of this song element in our appreciation of God's law marks the growth of character, A man comes to love God in obedience to the statute, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." It is obedience to a law; it is far better than disobedience. Yet one who loves in obedience to a command has not much real love. But the little love that is thus begotten begets knowledge, and this knowledge begets more love. At last a man comes to love God without thinking of the command any more than a boy loves his father and his mother because of the fifth commandment. The duty has become a right, the right a privilege, and the privilege a joy.

(C. F. Thwing, D. D.)

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