I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.
Job 22:21). The psalmist had done so, and hence he is able now to challenge even the all-searching eye and the absolute knowledge of God, to attest his sincerity and the integrity of his heart. No hypocrite or pretender to piety could possibly do this, or ever can. Our text tells how God had known man from the beginning of his life - must know him, for he had created him. This leads to reflection on the mystery of man's being. Note -
I. THE TRUTH OF THE PSALMIST'S ASSERTION. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" Now, this is true:
1. As regards the body. This is what the psalmist had mainly in his thoughts. Now, our corporeal structure is wonderful, whether we regard it as a whole or in its separate parts. But it is "fearful" also; there is an awe and mystery about it, as his soul knew right well. That it should be subject to pain and disease; that it should be so often a clog to the spirit and a hindrance to our higher life rather than a help; and that it should be ever hastening deathwards, and be at last a prey to corruption. And yet God made it - not man.
2. As regards the soul. It is marvelous, whether, as with the body, we consider it in its entirety or in its several parts - intellect, imagination, affections, judgment, conscience, will. How wonderful it is! But how fearful also! That it should be born with a fatal bias and tendency towards evil; that thus it is in continual peril, and is often in bondage to sin; and it can perish, and, so far as we can see, it often does. And yet God formed the soul as he did the body. How true that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made"!
II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH WE ARE TO REGARD THIS TRUTH. With praise. "I will praise thee." So speaks the psalmist.
1. Many wonder how he or any one could possibly do this. Some even dare to censure and blame the Creator that he has made man so; and they audaciously assert that the coming judgment will not be so much God calling us to account for what we have done, as man calling God to account for what he has done. Far enough are such from the spirit of this psalm.
2. But we cannot but ask - What was the ground of the psalmist's praise? Now, it was not in spite of evil, defying and scorning it; nor ignoring it, for none were more sensible of it; nor by minimizing it in comparison with the superabundant good. And, in comparison with the good gifts of God, evil is as the small dust in the balance - not worthy of account, though to us here and now it looms so large. But not for such reasons is this praise. But because by means of this strange and fearful mingling of evil in our constitution we come to know, as otherwise we could not, the highest good. God has caused that sin should be as a foil to make more manifest his grace. The devil meant only our harm. God turned it round to good. Thus we come to know evil and hate it; we come to know God in Christ, and to love him as we never else should have loved him; the unfallen angels cannot love him as we may and will and do. And we come to know good - holiness, purity, truth, and to hunger for them, and to rejoice in them as else we had not done.
III. THE LESSON TO BE LEARNT. If God turns the greatest ill into good, be sure he will all lesser ones. But it is only by the knowledge of God that evil is thus transformed. Praise him evermore! - S.C.
1. The expression imports the dignity of man in comparison with other creatures in this lower world. Man is so made that the sight of him impresses a terror on the beasts of the earth. Many of these are superior to man in strength and activity; and, were it not for this dread of man which is impressed on them, our life would be a state of anxiety and terror. Now, if God has given us dominion over the beasts of the earth, we ought to exercise it with justice and humanity. And if man is made superior to the beasts, he should conduct himself in a manner becoming his natural superiority. Reason is the dignity of man. Then only we maintain our dignity when we act as reasonable beings. If passion and appetite triumph over reason, we lose our superiority to the beast, and become as the horse or mule, which has no understanding.
I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.: —
I. THE EXPRESSIVE DECLARATION — "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
1. The wonders and mysteries of the human frame are little thought of, or understood, by the children of men; yet surely we may say, "The finger of God is here." Our body is a congeries of wonders from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. The different parts are so finely, delicately, and exquisitely made that it seems as if the least thing must disjoint, disorder, or derange them. Our life is an affair of beauty, symmetry, utility, and of mystery. The configuration and the construction, the composition and the articulation, the perforations, the compressions, the expansions, the attrition, the compensation, the exhaustion, the restoration, the secretion, and the excretions of the body all prove it to be "fearfully made." The mouth, the eye, the ear, the head, the brain, and the lungs, with the heart contracting four thousand times in an hour, and sending out with unerring accuracy at every contraction one ounce of blood, are all proof of the fact. The varied apparatus for breathing, for nourishing the system, for moving the limbs, for the reception of aliment, and for the ejection el waste, all demonstrate the truth of the text. The varied secretions of the system, and the gastric juice, all of them being different in consistency, in colour, in taste, in smell, and in their uses in the animal economy; some of them thick, others transparent, some bitter and others sweet, all adapted either to cleanse, to lubricate, to defend, to digest, or to nourish, are so many confirmations of the statement that we are "fearfully made."
2. The language of the text also applies to the soul. Man is not only an animal, but also a spirit. That spirit is in the body, but not of it. So different from it, it yet influences it, and is influenced by it. It is lodged in it for "an appointed time," and then to leave it, to be again reunited indissolubly to it, and there to abide for ever. This is the most wonderful part of man; it is mind, spirit, soul; the breath of God "breathed into his nostrils, and man become a living soul." The first man, Adam, was made a living soul. Mentally, he is fearfully and wonderfully made. As a spirit he possesses the power to think, to learn, to know; he is capable of intermeddling with all wisdom, of receiving continuous supplies of wisdom and knowledge. What a power is this! It allies us to angels, to Deity! Do we value sufficiently our mental endowment? Are we careful to improve our power of reflection? Do we act as thinking beings — as creatures who must go wrong unless we exercise our minds in relation to the past, the present, and the future?
3. Socially; we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." We are linked one to another, all the world round, and from generation to generation. We are ever being brought under the influence of others, and in our turn influence those around us. We may forget it, may doubt it, or deny it, and neglect it, yet it is so; all through our existence, in childhood, youth, manhood, or old age. This influence is being ever exerted, wherever we are, whatever we do, wherever we go — at home, abroad, in quiet or in active life. Oh! how it becomes us to be guarded, lest our being shall be a curse to any immortal spirit instead of a blessing; lest we lead them astray, and cause them suffering here and hereafter; or lest it be thus with ourselves! Let us indeed "watch and pray, lest we lead or fall into temptation."
4. Morally, man is "fearfully and wonderfully made." These natures of ours are distinguished by a moral sense, as well as by a mental power and a social influence. We are gifted with a sense of right and wrong, of which we can never be divested to all eternity. We can understand the difference; can choose the evil and reject the good; or we are at liberty to choose the good and repudiate the evil. The choice is our own act; the praise, the blame our own. We may be driven to choose between conflicting duties; never obliged to choose between criminal acts, or to act criminally at all. We may be virtuous or vicious; range ourselves on the side of heaven or hell; walk with the wise, or choose to be the companions of fools. Do we regard aright this fearful responsibility? Do we live as if thus distinguished from the rest of the terrene creation?
II. A BECOMING RESOLUTION. "I will praise Thee." Let us not forget that we have much to praise God for. He is our Maker, He has blessed us with existence, and it will not be His fault if that blessing be turned into a curse. He it is that has so long held our souls in life. He has rightly framed us. He has endowed us with reason, He has favoured us with health, He has provided for our comfort, and supplied our ever-recurring necessities. We should praise Him for His marvellous wisdom, skill, power, and benevolence in thus building our "house of clay"; and endowing us with such mental powers, and for putting us into such social relations with each other, and in blessing us with such astounding spiritual possibilities for time and eternity; fully meeting and providing for the wants of our fallen spiritual natures as He has done also for the physical. We should praise Him for opening up to us through Jesus Christ His Son all the stores of Divine wisdom and knowledge, and giving us through Him free and constant access, "the fulness of the Godhead," "the unsearchable riches," the riches of His grace, the treasures of His love, and the immensity and eternity of His love.
I. THE PROGRESS OF MAN'S NATURAL AND INTELLECTUAL LIFE FROM ITS FIRST PRINCIPLES TO MATURITY.
II. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. Here, then, you will find, if you have hearts to perceive, overwhelming proofs of the power, the providence, the wisdom, and the goodness of God.
2. If God has made these wonderful provisions for the formation and growth, the perfection and happiness of man; if He has endowed him with talents for comprehending the excellence of the work and the glory of its Maker, with a principle of self-action, deliberation, and choice of measures, man is bound to employ his parts and properties of body and mind with a special regard to God's glory, as the main end and purpose of His own creation.
3. The formation, increase, and maturity of our bodily parts and intellectual faculties, the provisions that are made for their sustenance and development, and the wondrous processes by which they attain to their measure of perfection are strong presumptions of the truth of what the Scriptures teach us of the resurrection of the body: and may be considered as a pledge and assurance that this portion of God's counsels and prophecies will be fulfilled.
2. We are fearfully made, as our frame demonstrates the power, wisdom, and presence of God. Such a wonderful composition as man could not be the effect of chance. It must be the work of an infinite, independent, all-wise Creator. And God demands, "will ye not tremble at My presence? Ye have a revolting and a rebellious heart." But we need not go out of ourselves. Shall we not tremble at His presence, when we see Him around us, and feel Him within us? He is not far from every one of us. Shall not His excellency make us afraid? Let us fear, love, and obey Him. This is our whole duty.
3. We are fearfully made, as the Creator has impressed upon us evident marks of our immortality and accountableness. In the present state we find ourselves capable of progress and improvement: but we never rise to the perfection to which, in a longer space, we might attain. Must there not, then, be another state in which we may reach the perfection of which our nature is capable, but which is unattainable here?
4. In respect of our frailty. Such is the tenderness of our frame, that in this rough and dangerous world in which we live, we are always exposed to casualties and wounds, diseases and death. It may, therefore, with much propriety be said, "we are fearfully made." Let religion possess our hearts, and peace will attend our path, and hope will brighten our prospect. We may take pleasure in infirmities, for the power of Christ will rest upon us. For us to live will be Christ, and to die will be gain.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
(R. G. A. Bennets, B. A.)
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