their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun
as a whole, it may be brought home to us for everyday life in the continuous unfolding of the Scripture. At the same time, the two divisions of the psalm are so entirely distinct that they call for separate treatment, as they open up to the preacher entirely different branches of thought and instruction. There is no reason to question the Davidic authorship of the psalm, but it is so couched that from its contents there is nothing by which we can infer either its authorship or date; and it so speaks to man as man, that it is of equal value by whomsoever or whensoever it was penned. We have in its first six verses a rehearsal of the voices of God in the firmament above. And we gather from the forms of expression that the writer was accustomed to speak of natural phenomena in the language of his day. In his view the firmament of heaven spread out as a hemisphere above the earth, like a splendid and pellucid sapphire, in which the stars were supposed to be fixed, and over which the Hebrews believed there was a heavenly ocean. The Bible was not meant to teach science, but to teach God. Science has to do with the matter, order, and laws of the creation. In religion we have to do with the great Author of all. And while we find the writer far enough away from our present conceptions of what the heavens are, we find he is one to whom God had spoken as Jehovah, the great I AM - and who had been taught God's Law to man as well as God's utterances in nature. And as God's voices to us have become clearer than they were in the psalmist's time, by his revelation in Christ Jesus, so the glory of his works has become amazingly clearer through the discoveries man has made therein; and he will fall very far short of a suitable setting forth of the truths of this first half of the psalm, who does not utilize the recent discoveries of science as a pedestal on which to set, in clearer and fuller ways, Jehovah's glory! The expositor is bound to show how gloriously science helps religion, in furnishing him with new material for setting forth the greatness of God l An unfolding of the verses before us will lead us along several lines of thought, with which we propose to deal cumulatively.
I. THERE ARE NATURAL OBJECTS AND FACTS HERE SPECIFIED. The heavens. The firmament. The sun. The orderly succession of day and night. In regard to each of these, science helps religion. And grand as was the scene in olden time to the natural eye, and with all the imperfections of ancient knowledge, the grandeur is unspeakably vaster now, owing to discoveries which have since been and are still being made (The expositor of this psalm needs to read up to date in astronomical researches.)
II. AMONG THEM THERE IS INCESSANT ACTIVITY. "The heavens declare," etc. Their activity is not conscious on their part, but it is nevertheless real. Light is ever acting on the vegetable world, and helps to open the petals of the flower, to give blossom its colour, and fruit its sweetness. Thus there is a reciprocal relation established between the sunbeam and the plant. So also is there between the stars above us and the mind of man. And though they utter not a word (ver. 3, Hebrew), they are sounding forth a message to the soul of man. "Their line is gone out," etc. (ver. 4). The word "line" is one of much interest. It meant, first, any cord or string; then a string stretched out so as to emit a musical sound; then the sound emitted by the string; then a full musical chord.
"For ever singing, as they shine,
III. THESE ACTIVITIES ARE WONDROUSLY VARIED. The four verbs used here are all of them exceedingly expressive. The heavens are falling the glory of God, recounting it to us as in the pages of a book; the firmament is showing his handiwork, setting it before our eyes as in a picture; day unto day welleth forth speech, pouring it out as from a fountain; night unto night breatheth out knowledge, breathing it out gently so that the attentive listener may hear. "During the French Revolution, it was said to a peasant, ' I will have all your steeples pulled down, that you may no longer have any object by which you may be reminded of your old superstitions.' 'But,' replied the peasant, 'you cannot help leaving us the stars.'"
IV. WITH ALL THIS VARIETY OF EXPRESSION, THEY TELL OF A CREATING POWER. "The glory of God;" "The firmament showeth his handiwork." When this is said, there are two points involved - one implied, the other expressed. It is implied that man has the faculty of understanding these varied forms of expression. Surely a perceived object implies a perceiving subject, and a message addressed implies the existence of those by whom it can be understood. The question of the origin of things will, must, come up; quite irrespectively of method, there will be the question of cause. The old design argument is valid as ever, though it may need to be thrown into a different form. That which it requires mind to understand, must a fortiori require the equivalent of mind to bring into being. From nature's framework, power, wisdom, benevolent adaptation, order, etc., are manifest. Even the objection raised from the existence of wasted seeds, abortive organs, rudimentary and undeveloped possibilities, comes to nought when it is remembered that no atom of matter is wasted, but, if unused at one moment, is worked up again in other collocations. The advance of the most cultured thought at the present time is remarkable. The old atheism is now out of date; and so, intellectually, is even the old agnosticism. It is behind the times. The latest developments of Darwinism honour God. But while on the ground of knowledge and culture, intellect must admit the existence of "a Power above us," it is only the lowly, devout, and loyal spirit that will see God in all things, and enjoy all things in God.
V. GOD'S MESSAGE FROM THE HEAVENS IS RESPONDED TO IN HOLY SONG. Whoso forgets the title of the psalm will miss much of its beauty and glory. It is meant for the choirmaster. It is to be set to music, and uttered in song. Poetry, music, song, are the audible response of man to the inaudible voices of the day and of the night. Through the stars, God speaks to man without words; with his voice man speaks to God. Thus the universe is one grand antiphony. God's music delighting man; man's music adoring God. The heavens speak to us of God; we respond to the God of heaven. Note: Although we do not wish here to anticipate unduly the teaching of the second half of this psalm, yet we may be permitted to remark that, glorious as the music of the heavens is to those who have ears to hear, yet there is another message from the eternal throne, which alone tells us the thoughts God has towards us, and which, when understood and received, does touch our hearts and move our tongues to louder, sweeter, tenderer song than ever nature's glory could inspire. - C.
Their line is gone out through all the earth.
(T. T. Carter, M. A.)
1. From a natural light implanted in man's nature; or,
2. From a common inclination in his soul; or,
3. From some prevalent reason, obvious to all men; or,
4. From some common fountain of instruction or primitive tradition.And from any one of these ways being allowed our argument will gain weight and force. If we acknowledge either of the two first we do in effect yield the question: if nature forcibly drives men into this persuasion, how extravagant will it be to oppose her! And if we grant that plain reason, apparent to the generality of men, hath moved them to this consent, do we not, by dissenting from it, renounce common sense? But if we say that it arose in the last manner, from a common instruction or primitive tradition, we shall be thereby driven to inquire who that common master or author of the tradition was: of any such we have no name recorded; we find no time designated when it began to arise. Who, then, were the teachers, but the first parents of mankind? Thus does this consideration lead to another very advantageous to our purpose: first, as proving the generations of men had a beginning; secondly, as affording us their most weighty authority for the doctrine we assert. For —
1. Supposing mankind had a beginning on this earth, whence could it proceed but from such a Being as we describe?
2. Supposing this notion derived from the first men, who instilled it into them? Why should they conceive themselves to come from God if He that made them did not discover Himself to them? Thus do these two notions, that of general tradition concerning God, and that concerning man's origin on earth from one stock, mutually support each other. As to His eternity: if God made all things, He could not receive being from another; and what reason is there to suppose that He should? But as nothing can receive a being from itself, or from mere nothing spring up into being, therefore the Maker of the world must be eternal. Something of necessity must be eternal, otherwise nothing could have been at all; other things show themselves to have proceeded from the wisdom, power, and goodness of One: whence that One is eternal; and so all nations have consented that God is. That He is immortal and immutable doth also follow plainly: for He, not depending for His being, or anything thereto belonging, or any other thing, neither can He depend for His continuance or conservation; having power superior to all things, as having conferred on them whatever of power they have, nothing can oppose Him, or make any prevalent impression on Him, so as to destroy or alter anything in Him. Also, from His making, His upholding, His governing all things, is consequent, that He was ever and is everywhere: where His power is, there His hand is; for every action with effect requires a conjunction of the agent and patient; nothing can act on what is distant. That with His presence and power He doth penetrate all things, operating insensibly and imperceptibly, doth argue the spirituality of His being; and that He doth consist of such matter (so extended, so divisible) as those things do, which we by sense perceive. His overreaching wisdom implies Him incapable of being deceived; and His overbearing power signifies that He doth not need to deceive; and His transcendent goodness proves Him unwilling to deceive: the like we may say of doing wrong; whence are consequent His perfect veracity and justice. Lastly, the excellency of His nature, the eminency of His wisdom and power, the abundance of His goodness; as also, His having given being, then preserving it to all things, do infer His rightful title to supreme dominion; and accordingly, that all love, all obedience, all praise and veneration are due to Him; according to the devout acknowledgment of those blessed elders: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive the glory and honour and power (or authority), because Thou hast made all things; and for Thy will they are and were created."
(I. Barrow, D. D.)
In them hath He set a tabernacle for the stem.
I. THE SENSE OF DEEP THANKFULNESS FOR THE GIFTS OF NATURE. Those who lived in old time expressed, as we see, their gratitude and reverence for the gifts of nature by this magnificent temple. Let us express our gratitude and reverence in the offering of pure hearts and good lives to Him who has thus graciously guided us so nearly to the close of our pilgrimage.
II. And this brings me to the second truth which the contemplation of the natural world — of the sun in his strength — suggested to the Psalmist: THE ORDER, THE REGULARITY, THE LAW OF THEIR OPERATIONS. And this law immediately recalled his mind to the highest example of all law — the unchangeable moral law of God. He tells us how the law of God (the revealed law of goodness, the natural law of conscience) is not only what we are bound to follow as our duty, but is the surest source both of our wisdom and our happiness. See how he expatiates on this theme in the remainder of the Psalm.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Times.There is no doubt that this verse describes the nativity of our Lord. The sun, that we see in the eastern heavens, is made to us an image of our incarnate Lord and Saviour, issuing from the Virgin's womb to be the light and life of the Church. It is not a new or strange thing for Holy Scripture to give such a turn as this to the works of nature, the things which we see daily. Compare the figure in Malachi. "Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise, with healing in His wings." And the figure used by Zacharias, "The Day spring from on high hath visited us."
1. Everyone may understand that as the sun is beyond comparison the brightest object in these outward and visible heavens, so the great privilege of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom and Church of God's saints, is to have the Sun of Righteousness, God-made man, especially present, abiding and reigning in it. The same is true of every soul which is inwardly and spiritually conformed to God's holy Church. It is lull of Christ, of Jesus Christ Himself, silently and mysteriously coming in and dwelling there.
2. As Christ is a sun to his Church by His glorious abiding in it, so the manner in which He came to be so is likened to "a bridegroom coming out of his chamber," a figure for Christ's marrying the nature of God to the nature of man, by taking on Him our flesh. Our Saviour, God made man for us, born for us, crucified and risen again, fills the whole Church and the whole world. Christ is whole in His whole Church, and in every part and member of it, as the sun in the firmament shines impartially on the whole world beneath him, and in his circuit visits each part in turn with his warming and life-giving beams. But Christ's faithful people are more particularly made aware of His presence by the outward means of grace and the visible ordinances of His holy Catholic Church.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times. ")
(J. C. Hare.)
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