Psalm 131:2
Instead of fretting after what is too great for him, he quiets his ambition, and his spirit lies calm and gentle, like a child in its mother's arms, that, after the first trouble of weaning is over, is soothed and lulled by the maternal caress. The image is strikingly simple and true, of natural desire stayed and of a subdued quietness of rest rather than delight. Perowne quotes the following as a mother's experience: "The weaned child has for the first time become conscious of grief. The piteous longing for the sweet nourishment of his life, the broken sob of disappointment, mark the trouble of his innocent heart: it is not so much the bodily suffering; he has felt that pain before, and cried while it lasted; but now his joy and comfort are taken away, and he knows not why. When his head is once more laid on his mother's bosom, then he trusts and loves and rests; but he has learned the first lesson of humility, he is cast down, and clings with fond helplessness to his one friend."

I. NATURAL AMBITIONS ARE NOT WRONG IN THEMSELVES. They do but express a man's individuality and energy. They are but the sign of the intelligence that can fix an aim and a purpose for a life. It describes a helpless, hopeless man to say, "He has no ambition." Such a man wants nothing, tries for nothing, and gets nothing. Religious people often condemn ambition as an essential evil. All we need say is that it may be, but it need not be.

II. NATURAL AMBITIONS BECOME WRONG WHEN THEY ARE SELF-CENTERED. A man is a being in relations. There is a measure of health in every scheme he has for the benefit of another. A man is a dependent being, and his first consideration has to be the approval of him on whom he depends. Ambition to secure purely selfish ends is sin against our relationship, and against our dependence. Ambition that is self-centered is only too likely to inspire unscrupulous means.

III. NATURAL AMBITIONS NEED RESTRAINT WHEN GOD'S WILL IS KNOWN. It is not that God's will is either antagonistic to, or out of harmony with, our natural ambitions; it is that they are either exaggerated, or have become masterful. If we could read life aright, we should always find that God's will for our life is in strictest harmony with our own real and well-qualified ambitions. And precisely what the revelation of God's will does for us is help us in getting our ambitions into proper limitation and control. God does not want the service of men out of whom all heart and energy have been taken. It is not any crushing out of our individuality that honors God: restraint within wise limits means the retention of all good and right ambitions. - R.T.







As a child that is weaned of its mother.
In the same hour in which the soul of man is by grace weaned from itself and-its own high thoughts, it begins to hope and rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, for a man to have the Lord alone for his confidence seems, to the unrenewed mind, the highest presumption; to put a present, an immediate trust in the Lord for all the future, in time and in eternity, is thought to be unhallowed boldness, and not humility or weanedness of heart. The whole dealings of God with man bring us back to the ever memorable words of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 11:25, 26).

I. THE FIRST WEANING OF THE SOUL THE GRAND EVENT OF A MAN'S HISTORY. When God begins to deal with you in saving grace. He weans you from self, in its various forms, according to our Lord's teaching (Matthew 16:24). This self-denial includes weaning from the world, from your own will, from your own strength.

II. THE JOY IN THE LORD THAT SPRINGS UP IN EVERY WEANED SOUL. The Lord your is now ransom, your righteousness, and the well of living joy within you.

III. THE DAILY WEANING OF THE SOUL THROUGH LIFE. The soul has to be weaned from all that must be forsaken, from that which may be either granted or denied, and from its own wisdom and way in the kingdom of heaven on earth.

IV. THE EARNEST DESIRES AND THE FRUITFUL WORK OF EVERY WEANED SOUL.

1. The weaning of the soul from self and from its own earthly affections neither stupefies the mind nor quenches the fire of all nobler desires.

2. The gracious weaning of the soul prepares and fits us for fruitful work. In grace, the helplessness of the child is combined with the strength and energy of the man. Except we receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, we cannot enter therein; yet it is the same kingdom of heaven that suffereth violence, and which the violent take by force.

(A. Moody Stuart, D. D.)

An aged minister once made the confession to another concerning this passage — "I wish it were true of me; but I think I should have to make an alteration of one syllable, and then it would exactly describe me at times: 'My soul is even as a weaning rather than a weaned child,' for," said he, "with the infirmities of old age, I fear I get fretful and peevish and anxious, and, when the day is over, I do not feel that I have been in the calm, trustful frame I could desire." And we have often to make the same confession. We wish we were "as a weaned child," but then we are not. To the child weaning is one of its first troubles, and no doubt it is a terrible trouble to the poor little heart. But it gets over it somehow. It is a very happy condition of heart which is here indicated, and I desire to promote it in you. So —

I. Let us think WHAT THE PSALMIST MEANT BY IT. Look at the context and you will see that he meant —

1. That pride had been subdued in him. "Lord," he says, "my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty." We are all proud by nature. The Lord Mayor is not a bit prouder in his gold chain than the beggar in his rags. Great I grows without any watering, for the soil of nature is muddy, and the rush of pride takes to it mightily. You need never be troubled about a man's keeping up his opinion of himself; he will be pretty sure to do that. David could say, "My heart is not haughty." His brother Eliab said that he was proud when he went down to carry his father's present to his soldier brothers, but it was not so. Whatever faults he had, he certainly had not that of vanity. Now, it is a great blessing when the Spirit of God keeps us from being proud. After all, we are nobodies, and we have come of a line of nobodies. The proudest peer of the realm may trace his pedigree as far as ever he likes, but he ought to remember that, if his blood is blue, it must be very unhealthy to have such blood in one's veins. The common ruddy blood of the peasant is, after all, far healthier.

2. And next he tells us that he was not ambitious. "Neither do I exercise myself in great matters." He was a shepherd; he did not want to go and fight Goliath, and when he did he could say, "Is there not a cause?" Else he had kept in the background still. We shall never be as a weaned child if we have got high notions of what we ought to be, and large desires for self. Baruch thought he was somebody, tie had been writing the Word of the Lord, had he not? But the prophet said to him, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." We often seek after great approbation. And sometimes we are ambitious to do great things in the Church. The great destroyer of good works is the ambition to do great works. He is the best draughtsman, not who draws the largest but the most perfect circle.

3. He was not. intrusive. "Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." Many men vex themselves because they will do what David did not. They want to understand everything. Some want to shape the Scriptures to their creed, and they get a very nice square creed too, and trim the Bible most dexterously; it is wonderful how they do it; but I would rather have a crooked creed and a straight Bible, than I would try to twist the Bible round to what I believe. The same evil comes up when we want to know all the reasons of the Divine providence. Why this happened and why that. When we begin asking, Why? Why? Why? — what an endless task we have before us! Now, from the simile itself we gather that the condition of heart David spoke of was like one who was able to give up his natural food. What nature loves the soul gives up. And that he had conquered his desires. Paul had, for he had learnt in whatever state he was therewith to be content. And doubtless, also, therewithout. And that as the child depends upon its mother entirely, so he depended upon the Lord.

II. THE EXCELLENCE OF THIS CONDITION. Desires will no longer worry you. You give your thoughts to something better than the things of earth. Note the psalm which follows this, for there David declares he will build for the Lord of Hosts. When you are free from fretting, worrying, and self-seeking, you are free to work for the Lord.

III. IS THIS STATE ATTAINABLE? Certainly. David said, "My soul is even as," etc. Not that he hoped it would be. What is the way to get it? The psalm tells us. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." "Easier said than done," says somebody. Yes, except by faith; but to faith it is easy enough. You unconverted, may the Lord make you first a child, and then "as a weaned child."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. FROM WHAT DOES GRACE WEAN THE SOUL?

1. From the dry breasts of the world (James 1:27; 1 John 2:16).

(1)From the profits of the world (Hebrews 11:26).

(2)From the pleasures of the world.

(3)From all worldly comforts whatsoever, making it take up its rest in God (Luke 14:6).

2. From the foulsome breasts of sin, so that it loathes that which it loved before.

II. HOW IS THE SOUL WEANED FROM THESE THINGS?

1. Grace lays gall and wormwood upon these breasts, and so embitters them to the soul that it is made willing to give over sucking them (Hosea 2:6, 7). Now, there are two things that serve to embitter these breasts.

(1)Continual disappointments from them. Though the man is always seeking satisfaction from them, he can never get it. Like the prodigal (Luke 15:16).

(2)Severe wounds arise from them. The man leans with great delight on the broken reed; and, ere he is aware, it pierceth through his hand. He sucks eagerly at the breast, and, instead of milk, wrings out blood.

2. The Lord fills the soul with better things (John 4:14).

III. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF A WEANED DISPOSITION OF SOUL?

1. The weaned soul is a resigned soul.

(1)To the will of God's commandments.

(2)To the will of His providence.

2. The weaned soul is cheerful, and not fretful in its resignation. What God does is not only well done, but best done; so says the weaned soul.

3. The weaned soul stands on other grounds, when created comforts are with him, and even when created streams are running full: he draws his support in both cases from God as the fountain.

4. The weaned soul will stand without them when these are gone, for they were not the props on which his house rested. Such a soul can adopt the prayer of Habakkuk 3:17, 18.

5. The weaned soul uses creative comforts passingly. They follow the directions of Paul (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

6. The weaned soul casts itself upon the Lord, without carnal anxiety, as the weaned child depends on the mother's care (Philippians 4:6).

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. ITS NATURE. It presupposes a power left in the soul of loving and desiring. It is not the destruction of its appetite, but the controlling and changing of it. A weaned child still hungers, but it hungers no more afar the food that once delighted it; it is quiet without it; it can feed on other things; so a soul weaned from the world still pants much as ever for food and happiness, but it no longer seeks them in worldly objects. There is nothing in the world that it feels necessary for its happiness. This thing in it it loves, and that thing it values, but it knows that it can do without them, and it is ready to do without them whenever God pleases. Could you give up all you have at God's call? and when you had done so, instead of saying, "There goes all my happiness," could you say with a calm, though perhaps with a bleeding, heart, "I can be happy still; my best treasure is yet left"? Then yours is a weaned soul.

II. ITS SOURCES. Our souls are as fast bound to the world as they were at first, or faster. We shall never leave it of our own accord. It is God's own right hand that must draw us from it. And how? The figure in the text will partly tell us.

1. By embittering the world to us.

2. By removing from us the thing we love.

3. By giving us better food. Worldly pleasures debase the soul; they dispose it to sink deeper and deeper in its search for happiness, and to take up with viler things; the soul is always the worse for them: spiritual pleasures exalt the soul; they give it a distaste for all that is low and vile, and teach it to aspire to the very highest objects.

III. ITS ADVANTAGES.

1. It will save us from much sin.

2. It will keep us quiet under our many troubles.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THIS REPRESENTATION OF SUBMISSION TO GOD.

1. That we labour to be satisfied with what God appoints.

2. That we can do without what God does not appoint.

3. That we have higher comforts than those which God sees fit to deny.

II. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH ARE ADAPTED TO CHERISH SUCH A SUBMISSION.

1. All the events of Providence are a discipline for promoting the welfare of good men.

2. Jesus Christ submitted to the will of God.

3. The demand of submission in its present form is only temporary. Submission is the character and blessedness of heaven; but there are no evils to be submitted to there.

III. THE ADVANTAGES WHICH RESULT FROM THIS SUBMISSION.

1. It creates a just and a religious independence of men.

2. The submission which has been represented inspires with hope in God.

3. This submission quickens our desires for heaven.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

This is one of the shortest of the Psalms, and one of the most beautiful. It is unique. The grace of Christian humility is here before its time. The bird sings before the sun has risen. The spirit of Jesus is here. We almost expect the psalm to conclude with the words, "Blessed are the meek." God's benediction of peace rests upon a lowly soul. The hand of God has gently rocked a weary spirit to rest. The Authorized Version does not give the full meaning of the text. We should read, "As a weaned child upon his mother, so lies my soul upon me." The subject, then, is the suppression of self-will. Let us think of the good which is possible through failure, of the beatitude of disappointment, the peace of defeat. We see men putting forth all their powers in some noble cause, but the good results are strangely withheld. They conceive holy designs, which, like that of David to build a temple, are frustrated. Jesus Christ will not have even His work preferred before Him. The final sacrifice which some men are called upon to make is not the sacrifice of a pleasure, or the relinquishment of some precious treasure; it is the sacrifice of a dear purpose by which they hoped to bring glory to their Lord. They are required to turn from the path of hallowed service, to renounce the holy enterprise. John Ruskin has told us how, when he came into clearer light, his hope of some better service was cut off by failure of health. "Just when I was coming out of school, very sorry for having been such a foolish boy, yet having taken a prize or two, and expect now to enter upon some more serious business than cricket, I am dismissed, by the Master I hoped to serve, with a 'That's all I want of you, sir.'" To give up what is dear to them is for some men comparatively easy, but to give up what they deemed dear to Christ, — to bind on the altar of sacrifice the one offspring of our heart, which gave such fair promise that in it men should be blessed, — that is hard. But it has to be done to the bitter end. No angelic voice stays the descending knife. Now, it is not difficult to see that, in many cases, these disappointments and failures are inevitable. Men are prone to exaggerate their powers, and to minify the hindrances which are before them. They have an attractive programme of bills which they propose to carry, but they underrate the forces of obstruction, and it is not in their power to enforce a closure. Now, there is no more searching test of character than disappointment. How charming the way in which John the Baptist accepted the narrowing sphere, and acquiesced in the circumstances which consigned him to comparative obscurity and silence. "He must increase, but I must decrease." That exquisite humility gives the transfiguring touch to a noble soul. It sheds a softened splendour upon the granite peaks of his character. It is possible for a man to be victorious even in defeat. Success may be good, but failure may be better. Disappointment brings a richer dower than achievement. No man need be ashamed of failure, or afraid of it, after the Cross of Christ. Now, this weaning of the soul, this spirit of chastened submission, this complete suppression of self-will, this hearty acquiescence in the will of God, do not come easily to a man. The soul does not gain these heights without struggle. This psalm, tranquil as it is, bears traces of sore conflict. There is in it the echo of a storm. "Surely I have behaved and quieted myself." The word "behaved" here bears a meaning which we do not now attach to it. It means to hold in, to restrain. The psalmist has known tears, protests, demands, complaints. Passion and pride have raged like swelling waves. But all this is over now. "Lord, my heart is not haughty," etc. He does not seek "a position above him involving duties and responsibilities too heavy." He accepts the limitations of his life, and adapts himself to them. He is at last "willing, having tried all other ways, to try just God's." Observe, this is not a state of torpor, which leads one to retire from service, and sit, with folded hands, in dull inaction. Nor is it a state of weakness, in which a man ceases from effort because it seems to fail. It is a submission that is full of hopefulness. It implies a persuasion that, though we seem to fail, God's cause never fails; a calm conviction that, though the good result is deferred, it will surely come. There are men who, when thwarted, hindered, disappointed, foiled, in the midst of their broken purposes and crushed hopes, cry, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." When that hour comes the soul enters into rest. "Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned." There are rich feasts for weaned souls. The joy of conquest is poor beside the ecstasy of renunciation. The complacency of attainment, the pride of achievement, the flush of success, grows pale before the peace of disappointment. If there is one way in which, more than in any other, God is glorified upon this earth, it is when a man takes the bitter cup of disappointment, and says, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Such men are victorious over defeat by accepting it. Surrender is the supreme grace of the Christian soul. When a man bows meekly down before the will of God, he has reached the highest good.

(J. Lewis.)

This psalm is called "a Psalm of David," and there seems no sufficient reason for doubting that it comes from his pen. Probably it belongs to one or other of the few peaceful seasons of his troubled reign, in which he was at leisure to practise that self-discipline which makes men strong, and those habits of meditation which make men wise. We have here a rare and a beautiful state of mind; and there are two expressions in this second verse which will help us to understand it. "I have behaved and quieted myself;" literally, "I have stilled and hushed my soul." The idea seems to be that of checking and restraining himself. The man has reproved his wayward impulses; he has arrested unreasonable ambitions and unseemly desires; he has taken himself in hand, and has dealt firmly and faithfully with that turbulent compound. His mind, for a time long or short, and from causes which he does not explain, has been like a troubled sea; and he has ruled the raging of its waters, and hushed the violence of the storm. The second expression is more striking still. For some reason or other the psalmist has not only been in a stormy mood, but in an uneasy, fretful, unsatisfied mood as well. He has been like a child passing through its first troubles. There is no vehemence in what he is here alluding to. His soul is not in arms. It is irritation, disappointment, unsatisfied desire, with perhaps a general sense of not being able to make the thing out. But it is all over now. From many a source of earthly joy and satisfaction he has had to wean himself away. And he has done it. The painful business is over; and in the sweet content of a tranquil, satisfied, and assured mind, his "soul is even as a weaned child." Humility — a just estimate of oneself, a just conception of what one is, what one has a right to demand from life, what one really has a right to be angry and disappointed over; a clear perception of our relations to a Divine Being, to this great and wondrous universe in which we find ourselves, and to man, our brother and fellow-traveller: this is the sweet secret of peace, now and always. Have you ever known pride happy? You could as soon find a cone standing unsupported on its apex. Pride, in every form of it, is a monster with many mouths; and some of them are always crying, in all the bitterness of unsatisfied desire, "Give, give!" Notice here how thoroughly in this matter David is at one with a Greater than David (Matthew 11:27, 28). Not until we have brought down those high and haughty minds of ours; not until we have learned, I do not say the sad, but the sober look; not until lofty imaginations are in the dust at our feet, imaginations which in every direction are their own scourge, — can we know anything of the weaned condition of David's mind, or enter "into the rest which remaineth for the people of God." I hardly know which to admire the more in David — his profound wisdom, or his profound piety. Certainly it is as sure a mark of wisdom to know the limits of inquiry in any direction, and reverently to bow to them, as it is within such limits to reverently prosecute such inquiry. And the piety of it all is quite as great as the practical wisdom. It is so eminently characteristic of a true and trustful child to be able and willing to say, "I cannot understand these things; but my Father knows all about them." Is that childish talk? Then let me be a child. I have read somewhere, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Do you tell me that it is not knowledge? I say, it is better than knowledge; for it comes of the love that shall endure, when knowledge shall have "vanished away."

(J. Thew.)

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