Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
II. SUPPORT UNDER LIFE'S TRIALS. There will be changes. The "green pastures" may give place to the dark valley. There may be loss of health, of property, of friends; there may be unknown trials. "Thou art with me."
III. FULFILMENT OF LIFE'S GREAT HOPES. It is a great thing to be one of Christ's flock, ever under the Shepherd's tender care. But more is promised. There will be the going in and out, and finding pasture - all through; but the end is not here, but above. The best is to come. The perfection of manhood; the "rest that remaineth;" the "fulness of joy;" the glorious fellowships that know no break, and that bring no pain, are in our Father's house.
"For ever with the Lord!
I. TO DAVID THE EVENTS OF LIFE WERE DISPLAYS OF GOD'S GOODNESS AND MERCY. To some, in view of David's life, this seems an exaggeration. Such an opinion must, however, be founded upon either erroneous or defective views of the nature of God's special providence, or on ignorance and misapprehension of the objects to which that providence is directed. God's special providence implies that he exercises a controlling influence over all our actions, they being to a certain extent determined as being the necessary effects of man's constitution and circumstances combined, and which God has formed, appointed, and arranged. He has always some definite object in view. If that object be to promote man's happiness, then it will follow that all the events of his life will tend, directly or indirectly, to that end. It is necessary to settle what happiness consists in, or at least what is the test of its existence and degree. In the constitution of things the decree of God has established an immutable connection between happiness and holiness, and that consequently the degree of holiness furnishes a certain test of the degree of happiness. Man's nature is in itself most unholy, entirely alienated from God, and devoted to sense and sin. How are they to be roused from lethargy and really impressed with Divine truths? Calamities and misfortunes are the means God uses. These are well fitted to make the truths of the existence and moral government of God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, really effective truths. No doubt affliction often fails to produce permanent good results, but this fact only aggravates the man's condemnation. Even moral evils and sins may be made instrumental in the promotion of the same great objects. We do not palliate or excuse moral offences on the ground of the good account to which they may be turned, for this would be to act on the principle of "the end sanctifying the means." For if a man whose ordinary conduct is respectable has, through the force of hidden corruption, been led into any open and unquestionable violation of morality, it may, by the blessing of God, be made the means of producing a useful and salutary result, by rousing into action natural conscience, by inspiring suspicion and alarm, and by leading to serious conviction. Even to unconverted persons moral transgressions may be of great use in leading them to God.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me.
1. Firm faith. "Shall follow me." "Goodness and mercy." These are just the two things into which God's beneficence, generally considered, naturally divides itself. Goodness to creatures; mercy to sinful creatures. An angel is the object of one; man of both. The good man says, "I have needed both; I have had both all my days, and surely they shall follow me all my days."
2. There is also the idea of settled purpose. "Shall follow me." By daily habits of devotion, by the culture of a child-like faith, by holy familiarity with Divine things, I will seem to myself to be constantly engaged in God's service.
3. Then comes the assurance of expectation and hope. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord." We take the faith and feeling of the man to expand and enlarge, till they embrace the great and ultimate future of the life that is to be, and he says, "I feel that I have been led onwards to that. These capacities and affections of mine, the stirring of a spiritual life within me, were never made to find their perfection here. I carry within myself, in my own religious consciousness, a prophecy, an earnest of something greater than the life that now is."
4. Observe the beautifulness and the blessedness of a Christian old age. Age is a thing that may be very beautiful. It is when "the hoary head is a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness" — when there are no marks upon the countenance of extinct volcanoes, dark shadows from wrought-out passions, impressions of darkness and crime, but when the life has been spent for God. It is, if I am not mistaken, Scougal — the author of that little book The Life of God in the Soul of Man — takes a review of life, looks back upon its prominent events, its afflictions and its trials, and upon his inward experience, and ends all by saying, "I am this day such and such an age, and I bless God that ever I was born." Voltaire does just the same thing as to the review, but with a totally different result. In one of his books you may find a review of his life. The querulous old man puts together all that he had gone through, finds it dark and disappointing, and concludes by saying, "I am this day so and so, and I wish that I had never been born." There is the difference! "I thank God," says the one, "that ever I was born," because he can take the 23rd Psalm, and in the 23rd Psalm he can read the history of his inward life. And the other man, though he had great ability and great genius, and had a long and wonderful life, which, however, nobody would say, or pretend to say, that he spent it in walking with God, he says, "I wish that I had never been born." Poor man! — they smothered him with flowers and killed him with fame — and it came to this! And the last thought is, that the best way to be able to end life with an utterance like this is to begin it well.
II. IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, OR BY WHAT PERSONS, THIS STATEMENT MAY BE PROPERLY MADE. No one can expect goodness and mercy to follow him save in virtue of God's promises. It is a fearful doctrine, but clearly stated in Scripture with regard to many individuals of the human race, that, so far from "goodness and mercy following them all the days of their life," everything that He gives them seems only the more to estrange them from God and goodness. This is just a statement of a fact; and if such persons believe that the dispensations of God's providence with reference to them are intended to cause "goodness and mercy to follow them all the days of their life," or that they will in fact do so, they are labouring under a fatal delusion. Before, then, any person is entitled to assert, with reference to his own afflictions, that God does everything for the best, and to apply this as a ground of comfort and consolation to himself, he must not only love God, but know and be convinced that God loves him. It is really astonishing to see how very seldom, in a professing Christian country, this question is seriously entertained, and on what slight and trivial grounds men are contented to take it for granted that all is safe with them. No one loves God but a true Christian, because nothing will produce love to God but the belief of the Gospel; and of course, it is the belief of the Gospel that makes a man a Christian.
(W. Cunningham, D. D.)
I. GOODNESS. "Good" and "God" in Anglo-Saxon are the same word. Goodness or Goriness, an element of God's nature. "There is none good but One," said Jesus, "that is God." It is simply impossible for Him ever to decree or wish to do anything evil. Ill will or bad purpose on His part is inconceivable.
II. MERCY. This also is characteristic of the Divine relation to man. In giving this emphatic testimony to the nobleness of mercy David does but voice the dearest assurances of the human heart concerning the omnipotence of love. God is good, and therefore He must be merciful. He could not else be good. He has bound Himself by His own promise to be merciful and forgiving. Hence it is said, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to," etc. No wonder, then, that David felt so secure when thinking of the future.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)I. THE BLESSINGS HERE ANTICIPATED. "Goodness and mercy."
1. Goodness. The goodness of God is a most delightful and animating theme; it touches every chord of the Christian's heart. "How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for the children of men."
2. Mercy. Pardoning mercy. "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity," etc. Protecting mercy. The good man has his difficulties and dangers. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance," etc. Sustaining mercy. Amid holy enterprises, spiritual conflicts, arduous duties, severe afflictions, trying bereavements, God has sustained His saints. Supplying mercy. "My God shall supply all your need out of His riches in glory by Jesus Christ." But we are prone to look on the dark side of His providence, and to ask, with the murmuring Israelites, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?"
II. THE MANNER OF ITS CONVEYANCE. "Shall follow me." As the mother's eye and hand follow her little one as he makes his first wobbling attempt to toddle alone; as the needle follows the lodestone; as the water out of the rock followed the Israelites through the desert; as the pillar of glory went with them by night and by day: so goodness and mercy shall follow the faithful, in the closet, in the family, in the church, in the world. It shall follow incessantly, supply fully, solace richly, sustain powerfully, pass with him through the Jordan, and enter with him the bright portals of glory. Here we have —
1. The continuance of it. All the days of my life — that is, all my life long — even to the last.
2. The certainty of it. "Surely," etc. "Hath He promised, and shall He not bring it to pass?" As sure as you need it, you shall have it; as sure as you require it, you shall realise it: It shall come seasonably at the best time, in the wisest manner, and from the most unexpected quarter. Its certainty is founded upon the Divine existence; its communication upon Divine veracity; its possession is the fruit of immutable, unwavering, undying love. Surely, etc.
III. THE CONSUMMATION OF IT. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. CONCLUSION —
1. Learn to be grateful. Beware of sinking into the vortex of selfishness, and burying your mercies in the grave of forgetfulness.
2. Learn to be trustful.
3. Learn to be active. If you have the pledge that "goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life," should not those days be spent for the glory of Him — whose you are, and whom you serve? Work while it is day.
(John Woodcock.)John Bunyan says, He sprinkles upon it the water of grace, and the dust is laid. Is not this just what we all need? But there is something more than this. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me" not only to blot out our sins, but to gather up the fragments of our goodness. We want a God in our rear who will pick up the fragments — bits of good resolution, stray thoughts, stray prayers, beginnings of heroism, little kindnesses, all the broken bits of goodness, all the mites, the forgotten jewels — to gather all the fragments so that nothing be lost. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me," and shall miss nothing; the God who follows us is "like unto a woman, who lost one piece of silver, and who lit a candle and swept the house and sought diligently till she found it." It was this great conception of a good and merciful God in the rear which converted a gloomy retrospect into a glorious hone Our Father is behind us, goodness and mercy follow us; let us leave our yesterdays trustfully to Him. But now in the second part of my text the Psalmist turns himself round from retrospect to prospect. He turns from a contemplation of the past to a contemplation of the future. What is his idea of futurity? "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Well, you say, there is nothing peculiarly glorious or definite about the conception. Stay a little. Before you can estimate the quality of anyone's heaven you must know their condition on earth. Our hopes about tomorrow are very largely shaped and coloured by our condition today. Look at the Psalmist's position. When this Psalm was composed he was a wanderer, exiled from the peace and blessedness of his own home. All our conceptions of the future are formed in a similar way. No two of us have precisely the same conception. The special bliss we anticipate is shaped out of our special burden now. Go down to our coast and speak to some old fisherman's wife,whose husband and sons have all been lost in the deep, and ask her what in her loneliness is her conception of heaven, and would you wonder if to her one of the preeminent glories of the place is this, "There shall be no more sea"? Go to some invalid who is held by some chronic disease, ask her what is her conception of heaven, and would you wonder if to her one of the great glories of the place is this, "There shall be no more pain"? And all the anticipations are true. Every man's present need discovers one of the glories of the future. It takes all our different needs to discover the glory and sufficiency of the things prepared for us. We all need this tug of the future, the tug of the days that are to be. We can only get out of the deep ruts of today by the powerful tug of tomorrow. Life grows heavy and stagnant when tomorrow ceases to pull, when the "forever" has lost its power. Present burdens grow light in the strength of the "forever." Present homelessness can be almost cheerfully endured when in its coldness the Psalmist can sing, "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
(S. A. Tipple.)
1. His intention and affection.
2. His assistance and preservation.
3. His concurrence and augmentation.
4. Evidence and manifestation.
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)I. At once these words "GOODNESS AND MERCY" ATTRACT OUR ATTENTION. It was "goodness and mercy" that led us first out of the fold, with an aim and object in life. There was "goodness and mercy" in that shelter from the noontide heat. But low it is "goodness and mercy" all the days of my life. We owe a good deal to the grace that comes after; the grace that only gives us the wish to do what is right, not only the grace that starts us and helps us in what is right, but also the grace which helps us to finish. Here is that striking characteristic of the love of God Almighty which comes, out in all His dealings with us, namely, its completeness. "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Creative love, which placed man in the world, did not exhaust the goodness of God towards us: Redemptive love met him when he fell. And as if Redemptive love itself were not sufficient, Sanctifying love came in to fill up where Redemptive love seemed to lack. So it is with each single soul. God completes His work. And, indeed, we all need this following grace, this persistent love of God. Think how much misty and trouble come to us from past sins, attacking the heels of life. How many would faint and fail if God's grace did not follow them! "The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward" (Isaiah 58:8). "Lord, we pray Thee that Thy grace may always prevent and follow us."
II. "AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER." It is your hops and desire, and, please God, it will be your privilege, to dwell much in the house of the Lord. You will have frequently to go there, to plead the great Sacrifice. Day by day you will have to go into the Holy Place to offer the incense. It will be yours to kindle the lamp of a never-ceasing devotion, to place the Eucharistic Shewbread before the Lord. Make your life all temple, all part of the τεμένος, the sacred enclosure. Enlarge it towards the east, where we look for our Saviour's coming. Let it be a life of patient witness for God. Enlarge it towards the west, where the sun of our life is gently dipping towards the grave, in a life of preparedness. Enlarge it towards the north, on the frontier of Satan. Enlarge it towards the sunny south; take in many a piece of ground which is now covered by worldly occupations, business, or pleasure. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This should be our aim, to attain to the realisation of the life hid with Christ in God; and to this God is separating us off, that our sojourn with Him may be eternal.
III. "THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER." The days are coming when God Himself will measure the temple, His house, to see who are His, and who shall dwell in His tabernacle. It is the permanence of heaven that is one of its greatest joys in prospect. It is an abiding place, a mansion. There is no restoring there, no troubling there; no dark misty shade of death to chill the sunlight of the road.
(W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.we return for life's innermost peace and friendliness, reposefulness, and renewal. Just so it is when we make the Church into a home — a "dwelling place," to use the Psalmist's words. Thither we go for the inspiration, fellowship, and renewal of that deeper life in us; thither we go as children gathering about the feet of the Great Father, to feel His presence and to feel it altogether, and thence we go forth to do our busiest and highest part in the world. That is the use of the Church. Not to be always in it. That was the old monkish idea. They desired to make it a permanent sacred enclosure, where God's saints might live out of the common world and so keep pure amid never-ceasing worship, or as nearly so as might be. But Christ teaches us a nobler idea, the idea of home and of active life in the world, and doing its work and busy in its interests; and religion, with a constant spirit setting up this other home of prayer and worship where we feel together peace, rest, refreshment, a common fellowship to the infinite life, and brotherhood to each other. So we renew life at the best part of it. Is it not true that the busier one's life and the more even its resting times are crowded with great interests, attractions, and engagements, the more is it necessary, in order to give the deeper, inner life a chance, to make a definite time and place for its development among life's regular engagements and duties? That is what you do by setting yourselves to have a church home. Some people do not know what pleasure there is even in the mere joining with others in the church. It may not be much they may be able to do or to give, but their sympathy, their encouragement openly declared, towards those who are struggling to keep some little church home going, is in itself a help. Anyone who thus joins in that fellowship of religious life gives a certain added strength and cheer to the whole body. Everyone who thus says to some little group of worshippers, "I am not much, but such as I am I am with you," helps them more than can be figured in any statistics. Himself! — That is the help I plead for, the help to oneself and the help to one's fellow creatures. Life needs this closer cohesion in its great thoughts and aims, this quiet home coming, as it were, of the single worshipper, this sense of having an anchorage in the midst of the wide, rushing stream of life.
I. THE SCENE REFERRED TO. "The house of the Lord."
1. Because it is the scene of His familiar glory.
2. Because it is the temple of His worship.
3. As it is the palace of His kingdom.
4. As it is the abode of His family.
II. THE ASSURANCE EXPRESSED BY THE PSALMIST. "I will dwell in it."
1. This language implies the assurance, on his part, of the existence of a state of future blessedness. Reason says there must be such a state; conscience says there is such a state. Hence men often lull their conscience; but there it is — they cannot destroy it, and ever and anon conscience speaks like thunder. Like some chemical characters, in certain temperatures they are illegible; but raise the temperature and they appear in all their reality. But apart from these considerations, let us come to the revelation of the Bible. Jesus taught immortality: no one taught it as He did; no one preached it as He preached it. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."
2. The extent of the Psalmist's assurance. He says, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." He only sojourned in it here. Man is never satisfied here. There is quite enough here for the satisfaction of the animal; and the mere animal lives here in contentment, and takes its fill of happiness for its little inch of time. But not so man: man is a rational being. If he were a mere intellectual being, and nothing more, then he might dwell here. But man is not a mere intellectual being; he is a moral being, a spiritual being, and therefore he cannot dwell here. "But in the house of the Lord," says David, "I will dwell forever." "I shall have enough there."
3. The Psalmist's strong confidence of dwelling there "forever." This confidence rests in the promise of God, the finished work of the Redeemer and the sealing of the Holy Ghost. Let this prospect reconcile us in the midst of all affliction, if we be Christians, and let us prepare for that dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
(Joseph E. Beaumont, M. D.)I. THE CHURCH BELOW. This leads us to speak of the Sabbath, when the church is most resorted to. The solemn setting apart of places for divine worship is not of human device, but possesses all the sanctions which can be derived from the known will of our Creator. And thus when we assemble ourselves in the church we bring ourselves into the position in which God hath declared that by those who seek acquaintance with Himself He shall be found, and we are looking in the channels through which it is especially promised.
II. THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN. But St. John says there is no temple in heaven. But what does that show but that men will be so changed there that churches such as we have known here will not be needed? You could not draw a richer picture of a regenerated earth than by just supposing such an extension of its Sabbaths as alone would render safe the removal of its churches.
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
(R. W. Dale.).
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