I will exalt You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up and have not allowed my foes to rejoice over me.
A Psalm or Song at the dedication of the house of David." What house is referred to we have no means of knowing, nor is there any very manifest relation between the contents of the psalm and the dedication of any house whatsoever. We can scarcely read the psalm carefully without gathering therefrom that the writer had had a dangerous illness, from which he was not expecting to recover. But his life was mercifully spared; and we may venture to gather also (by comparing the title of the psalm with ver. 3) that his recovery, and the dedication referred to nearly coincided in point of time; and that he piously resolved to avail himself of such dedication service to return thanks for his recovery. This supposition is in itself reasonable, and, so far as we can find, it is not inconsistent with any of the expressions in the psalm itself. We find herein an interesting blending of the psalmist's inner thoughts and of his pleadings with God. We see from both, how the Old Testament saints were wont to think and pray concerning sickness and death; both in thought and prayer we find here a decided reflection of the incompleteness of revelation under the Mosaic economy, and therefore, as Christians, privileged with fuller light and larger truth, we shall be greatly to blame if we look at either affliction or death as gloomily as the psalmist did. At the same time, the varied stages of experience indicated here are so very frequently passed through, even now, that we may service-ably utilize this psalm for the purposes of studying the dealings of God with his saints in the olden time, and in the present time likewise. There are six stages of experience rehearsed at this dedication service.
I. FIRST STAGE: TRANQUILITY. (Ver. 6.) "In men tranquillitate" (Buxtorf and Calvin). There had been a time, prior to the experience of trouble here recorded, in which the writer had enjoyed comparative rest for a while. Some such interval of quiet is named in 2 Samuel 7:1 (see also 2 Samuel 13:14, 15). And while he was calm and prosperous, he began to reckon securely on the future. He said, "I shall never be moved." We have no reason to think this was a sinful self-security, as one expositor intimates; for in the text we are told that David attributed his ease to God's good grace and favour. But, not unnaturally, he took it for granted that such quiet would last. God had made his "mountain" of prosperity to stand so firmly that it did not then seem as if he would again be seriously disturbed. Note: There is not only a sinful self-security into which the saints may fall for a while, but there is also a thoughtless assumption which may fasten on us in times of ease, that things will remain calm and smooth. There is danger in this, however, if not sin. And it is more than likely that God will send us something to disturb our treacherous calm. Hence -
II. SECOND STAGE: TROUBLE. (Ver. 7, latter part.) The references in the psalm show us what this trouble was; we can scarcely question that it was some dangerous illness, in which his life was very seriously threatened (cf. vers. 2, 3, 8, 9). And he attributed this illness to, or at least he associated it with, the "hiding of God's face." There is no necessary connection between these two. If, indeed, spiritual pride and a careless walk have sullied our life, there will be a time of mental darkness and serious spiritual depression afterwards. And not only so; but there are some diseases in which equanimity is so perturbed that spiritual distress may attend on bodily weakness through unhingement of the nervous system; and, subjectively, the effect may be as if God's face were hidden. The connection of bodily suffering with mental gloom was not understood in David's time, nor indeed till very recently. In the lives of Brainerd and other saints of their day, it is clear that a morbid introspection led them to associate the depression caused by fluctuating bodily health with corresponding spiritual ill. But we ought now to understand better both the laws of health and the love of God. So far from bodily affliction being a sign of "the hiding of God's face," God himself is never nearer, and his love is never more tender, than in our times of suffering and distress. A dear friend who was seriously ill said to the writer one day, "Oh! I'm so weak, I cannot think, I cannot even pray!" We replied, "Your little Ada was very ill some time ago, was she not?" "Very." "Was she not too ill to speak to you?" "Yes." "Did you love her less because she could not speak to you?" "No! I think I loved her more, if there was any difference. Just so" was God's reply. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." We must never associate trouble and sickness per se with "the hiding of God's face." But David's trouble, and his views thereof, led to the -
III. THIRD STAGE: PRAYER. And the prayer was woeful indeed. He thought he was going down to the grave - to Sheol (Hebrew), to Hades (LXX.), i.e. to the dim and drear underworld of the departed. There are three views of the state immediately after death, which is intended by the terms above named, which carry with them no moral significance, unless such moral significance is conveyed by the connection in which they stand. "Sheol" denotes the realm of departed souls, looked at as the all-demanding world. "Hades" denotes the realm of departed souls, looked at as the unknown region. To the pagan world, Hades was all dark, and no light beyond. To the Hebrews it was a dim, shadowy realm, with light awaiting the righteous in the morning (cf. Psalm 17:15; Psalm 49:14). To the Christian it is neither dark nor dim, but something "very far better" it is being" with Christ" Hence it follows that such a moan as that in ver. 9 would be utterly out of place now; "dying" to a believer is not "going down to the pits" and ought not to be thought of as such. The tenth verse can never be inappropriate. But note:
1. Times of anxiety and trouble often bring out agonizing prayer.
2. We may pour forth all our agonies before God. We speak to One who will never misunderstand, and who will do for us "above all that we ask or think." Hence we are not surprised to see the psalmist at a -
IV. FOURTH STAGE: RECOVERY. (Ver. 11; also ver. 1, "Thou hast lifted me up;" ver. 2, "Thou hast healed me.") The psalmist was restored, and permitted again to sing of recovering mercy. Note: Whatever means may be used in sickness, it is only by the blessing of God thereon that they are efficacious. Therefore he should be praised for his goodness and loving-kindness therein.
V. FIFTH STAGE: THANKSGIVING AND PRAMS. (Ver. 5.) When the trouble is over, what seemed so prolonged a period before dwindles in the review to" a moment." There is a beautiful antithesis, moreover, in the fifth verse, which our Revisers have too cautiously put in the margin, "His anger is but for a moment; his favour is for a lifetime." Bishop Perowne says, "חַיִּים seems here to be used of duration of life, though it would be difficult to support the usage." But even if the word may not be used of the duration of life, surely it is used of life in reference to its continuousness, as in Psalm 21:5 and Psalms 63:5; and so is in complete antithesis to "a moment." We should render the text, "For a moment in his anger, life in his favour." (Even here, however, we must beware of always associating sickness with the anger of God.) How gloriously true it is, "He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever" (Psalm 103:9, 10; Isaiah 57:16-18)! We may not only praise God that our joys vastly outnumber our sorrows, but also that ofttimes our sorrows become the greatest mercies of all. Thus we are brought in thought to the -
VI. SIXTH STAGE: VOW. (Ver. 12, "O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.") Many illustrations are to be found in the Word of God, of vows following on the reception of special mercies from him (Genesis 28:20-22; 1 Samuel 1:11; Psalm 116; Psalm 132:2). Note: At each instance of signal mercy in life, there should be as signal a repetition of our consecration vows. - C.
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord.I. THE MEANING OF THIS SENTIMENT. The words carry a general confession of the influence of Divine Providence upon every event, and in particular with respect to salvation, or deliverance from impending danger. The words imply three things.
1. All confidence in man stands opposed to the sentiment. It is not opposed to the use of means, but to an excessive reliance on second causes of any kind. Success in any attempt is to be ultimately attributed to God.
2. The Psalmist had in view the omnipotence of Providence. God has not only the direction and government of means and second causes, but is Himself superior to all means. Salvation signifies a great and distinguished deliverance.
3. The sentiment has respect to the mercy and goodness of God, or His readiness to hear the cry of the oppressed and send deliverance to His people. Power and wisdom alone give an imperfect display of the Divine character.
II. DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN DEALING WITH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. In conclusion, some practical improvement of the subject.
1. It is our duty to give praise to God for the present happy and promising state of public affairs.
2. We should testify our gratitude to God by living in His fear, and by a conversation such as becometh the gospel.
3. And by usefulness in our several stations. Let us guard against using our liberty as a cloak for licentiousness, and thus poisoning the blessing after we have attained it.
(T. Witherspoon, D. D.)
I. THE WORK OF THE FATHER IN DEVISING IT.
1. Adam fell by his own sin, and so involved all posterity.
2. Thus all needed salvation; and.
3. God's flee grace devised it.
II. THE INCARNATION AND ATONEMENT OF CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, WHICH EXECUTED IT.
III. THE WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST IN APPLYING IT. For of ourselves we cannot repent and believe. And yet unless we do we are lost. It is the Holy Spirit that brings us into a state of grace.
(T. Myers, A. M.)
Thy blessing is upon Thy people
I. WHAT IS A BLESSING? Not merely when we have what we wish, but far more when we do not wish what we have not.
II. THE GREATEST BLESSING IS TO KNOW THAT WE HAVE THE LORD FOR OUR FATHER.
III. IT IS A GREAT BLESSING WHEN WE CAN LIVE TEMPERATELY. What a curse is drunkenness.
IV. IS NOT THE BIBLE A BLESSING? An infidel said one day, "There is only one thing that troubles me: I am afraid the Bible is true." But what a blessing that it is so. When Sir Walter Scott lay dying he requested a friend to help him into his library, so that he could look out from the window on the river Tweed. Then he asked for something to be read to him. His friend said, "What book shall I select?" Sir Walter replied, "Can you ask? There is but one — the Bible." Is this book a blessing to you?
V. THE LORD GIVES HIS PEOPLE THE BLESSING OF BEING ABLE TO TRUST HIM. In the darkness of night you may strike a match and try to light the candle, but you must first take off the extinguisher. And so you cannot feel happy while you keep on the extinguisher of doubt over your heart. How blessed it is to trust in God.
VI. WHAT A BLESSING TO KNOW THAT JESUS DIED FOR US.
II. HOW ARE WE TO KNOW THAT THE BLESSING IS ON US? Easily; there need be no difficulty about that. When you feel that you must do more work, God's blessing is upon you. Be sure of that confidence. When you want to be idle, God has withdrawn from you because you have withdrawn from Him. When are we to know that God's blessing is upon us? I will tell you: when you feel that you must help other people more liberally than you have ever done; not when you tie your purse strings, but when you open them is God's blessing on you. You have done nothing yet; I have done nothing yet. It is the crime of the Church that it has played with its responsibilities. We are always compounding with God, we are always filing our bill in the chancery court of heaven, and asking God to accept a penny in the pound. Do not close your eyes under such circumstances and say, This is the comfort of grace. When you feel that you must go four-and-twenty hours in the day in doing good, God's blessing is upon you. Of course, nature will say, Lie down, poor child, and rest awhile, because time spent in sleep is time spent in true labour; thou shalt in sleep recover thine energy, and do ten fold more because of a good night's rest. But when the first thought is work, and the middle thought is work, and the last thought is work, then say, Thy blessing is upon Thy people; this is no longer an inspiration but a fact accomplished.
III. WE CANNOT ARRANGE FOR THE DIVINE BLESSING. Do not accept the sophism that the Divine blessing can be used as an element in speculation or investment. The Divine blessing comes as the wheat comes: it comes after ripping up the earth, sowing it, preparing it, and after a long process, it may be, of waiting; so it comes not by itself but as the final mark in a series, as the blessing upon a process. When the golden wheat swings in the autumnal wind and throws back the autumnal sunlight, all the seasons of the year seem to culminate in that one motion. Winter is there, because winter gave the earth its hospitality of sleep; spring is there, and summer is there, and autumn is there: in that golden wheat the four seasons of the year hold harmonious festival. Some have not begun yet to do anything. When the lists are made out our names will not be upon them. The first shall be last and the last shall lie first.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)I. GOD'S SPECIAL RELATION IN THE WORLD. "Thy people." The king of a nation and the father of a family hold peculiar relations
II. FROM GOD'S SPECIAL RELATION SPRING SPECIAL BENEFITS. "Thy blessing." The ruler of a people, from his position and power, holds in his hands benefits which are for his nation alone. A loving father has a peculiar regard for the welfare of his own family. Israel enjoyed benefits that were not extended to other nations.
III. THE BENEFITS SPRINGING FROM THE SPECIAL RELATION MUST BE SOUGHT BY PRAYER. Spiritual blessings are obtained only by prayer. The Apostles had a definite promise given to them of the Holy Ghost, yet they were commanded to pray for His descent (Acts 1:4-14). So in the individual life (Luke 11:18).
I. THE NATURE OF THIS BLESSING WHICH IS UPON THE PEOPLE OF GOD. All the blessedness they have is by Christ Jesus the Lord; and to understand the blessing we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. As there was a fourfold curse pronounced upon the serpent, you will find the very reverse relative to the Lord Jesus Christ and His people.
1. The serpent was to "go upon his belly." While the enemy is condemned in all that he does, the Lord Jesus Christ is justified in all that He does. The Lord Jesus felt that all He thought, and all He did, and all He said was right. He felt that He had no sin of His own. He enjoys the consciousness that all He has done and does is right, and we in Him get rid of all our sins, guilt, and fears, and rest not in a consciousness of our fleshly, personal, legal right, but in a consciousness of the righteousness of Christ, the efficacy of His great salvation, the eternity of His glory. Draw a line of distinction between a moral reality and a spiritual reality. Moral reality is good, and a good principle to act upon among men; but if I go to eternal things I must go beyond this — I must come to the reality of atoning blood, I must come to the reality of saving grace.
2. The enemy was "to eat dust." This is to be understood figuratively. As for the enemy, and all that are with him, their attainments shall be all perishable — shall be but dust. Was the Lord Jesus to feed upon perishable things? No. His meat His attainments are imperishable, His honours incorruptible, His glories inimitable, His grandeur indescribable. While He lived in this world He lived upon immortal things. He is with us in these infinite provisions, in opposition to that destitution, that famine, that state of misery which we deserve. The "blessing" overcomes a great curse. While dust shall be the serpent's meat, our bread shall be royal dainties.
3. The serpent was to be cast out. There was to be enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed. They should come together, and one or the other must prevail. "The prince of this world is cast out."
4. The serpent's head should be bruised. Here is the confusion, the defeat, of all his plans. But can confusion ever reach the infinite mind of Jehovah-Jesus?
II. THE PROGRESSION OF THIS BLESSING. It has been progressive from age to age; and nothing has met with so much opposition. Look at some typical circumstances and watch the progression. Cases of Joseph, David, Mordecai, the Redeemer Himself. See the progress in two individual cases, that of Jeremiah and that of Paul. There is this difference between providence, and grace. Grace is progressive, but providence is retrogressive. The fruit we had last year is gone, but the grace we had when the world was created we have now. None of it passes away.
III. THE CONTINUATION OF THE BLESSING. This originates chiefly in the manner of it. There is no way in which anything contrary to it can enter into the vitals of this blessing, or into the union which the people have with Christ, to affect that union. If you look behind them there is mercy behind them from everlasting. If you look at what is before them, it is eternal life, eternal salvation, eternal glory. So that from the very manner of this blessing no curse can come in.
(James Wells.)I. THE PEOPLE. The children of Israel were, in a national sense, the people of God. But were they so individually? It is not the name of Christian that can stamp us the people of God. It is in a personal, and not merely in a national or ecclesiastical sense, that God's people are an elect people.
II. THIS PEOPLE ARE A PURCHASED PEOPLE. What shall be the price paid down for that spiritual people, the Church of the firstborn? We are redeemed, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ.
III. THE PEOPLE ARE A VOLUNTARY PEOPLE. They do not follow God reluctantly, as did the literal Israel. Everyone can say with David, I have "chosen" the way of truth.
IV. A HOLY PEOPLE (Deuteronomy 14:2). The sanctity of Israel was only external and relative; only a type of the purity of the invisible Church. The whole body of the people of whom we speak are holy in an internal and personal sense (John 1:13; 1 John 3:24).
V. A PEOPLE VALUED AND BELOVED. We value the objects of our choice because we have chosen them. God's blessing is on the people themselves, and on their allotments, enjoyments, and even their afflictions, and their labours and connections.
(T. Kennion, M. A.)
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. A recognition of God's righteousness. He might have thought upon God now as the "author" of his righteousness, and felt that all that was righteous in his own heart and life came from God; or as the vindicator of his righteousness who alone was able to defend his righteous cause; or as the administrator of righteousness, conducting His government upon righteous principles and bringing even upon him only the sufferings he justly deserved. There is something deep in the soul of man which leads him to appeal to the righteous God when he feels himself to be the victim of fraud or violence. Even Christ Himself did so.
2. A remembrance of God's goodness. "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress." The reference is to some deliverance which he had experienced. He remembered, perhaps, the goodness of God to him when, ill the field guarding his father's flocks, he was delivered out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear; or His goodness to him in delivering him from the giant of Philistia. The memory of God's past mercies to him gave courage to his heart and an argument in his prayer now. Because God has helped us we expect Him to help us again, and thus we plead. Not so with man. The more our fellow being has helped us the less reason we have to expect His aid. Man's capacity for help is limited. The capability of God is unbounded.
3. An invocation of God's favour. "...Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer." Mercy is what we want. Mercy to forgive, to renovate, to strengthen the soul, to labour and to wait.
II. REBUKING. David having addressed the righteous God in prayer, hurls his rebuke at his enemies. His rebuke is marked —
1. By boldness. "...O ye sons of men" — ye great men of the land — "...O how long will ye turn my glory into shame, how long will ye love vanity and seek after leasing. In this appeal the speaker's sense of honour, justice, truth seems to have run into a passion that fired and flooded his whole being.
2. By alarm. "...Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him," which means, "Know this, the Lord will take care of me whom He has elected King to serve Himself, and He will hear when I call upon Him." Your opposition is futile. Beware, you are rebelling not merely against me, but against Omnipotence itself. It is a terrible thing to oppress or injure God's elected ones.
3. By authority. "...Stand in awe, and sin not, commune with your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah." — Mind this. This command includes three things.(1) Cease from your rage. Let your insurrectionary passion be hushed. The soul under wrong passions is like a rudderless bark driven by the tempest; shipwreck is all but inevitable.(2) Retire to thoughtfulness. "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." It is in man's own soul that God meets with him, and communes with him as He did of old before the mercy seat.(3) Practise religion. "...Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord." What is righteous sacrifice? The consecration of our energies, our self, our all, to the service of justice, truth, and God. "...The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart Thou wilt not despise."
III. TEACHING. "There be many that say, who will show us any good? Lord lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us."
1. The universal craving of humanity There are many that say unto us," etc. Men are everywhere craving for happiness. From shops and sanctuaries, from the peasant's cot and the prince's castle, from the bush of savages and the bench of senators, from all lands and lips. the cry is heard,. "Who will show us any good?" We are children walking m the dark, who will show us the way; we are dying with thirst, who will moisten our fevered lips; we are starving with hunger, who will give us any bread? Man, the world over, feels that he has not what he wants.
2. The only satisfaction of humanity. What is it? Fame, wealth, sensual pleasure, superstitious observances? No, these have been tried a thousand times, and failed. Here it is: "Lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance," which means the conscious presence and favour of God.
IV. EXULTING. "...Thou hast put gladness in my heart more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased." Some render this from the time in which their corn and wine increased, supposing David to refer to the hour when abundant supplies began to come into him, an exile at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 17:28). This may be the correct version. The language in either version expresses the feelings of a soul happy in God.
1. God made him inwardly happy, even in his poverty. He had lost for a time his palace and his kingdom, and was dependent upon the supplies of friends. Yet he was happy, and who made him happy? "...Thou hast put gladness in my heart." God alone can make us happy anywhere and anywhen. "...Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc. (Habakkuk 3:17). What does Paul say? "...I glory in tribulation." Martyrs have sung in dungeons, and triumphed in flames.
2. God made him consciously secure. His enemies counted their millions. His death they desired. Yet what does he say? — "...I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep." God was his refuge and strength, etc. "...If God be for us, who can be against us?" Learn from this poem where happiness alone can be found. It is in God. An ancient Italian author, in one of his romantic legends, tells us of a tree, many branched, and covered apparently with delectable bunches of fruit; but whoso shook that tree in order to possess the fruit, found, too late, that not fruit, but stones of crushing weight came down upon his head. An emblem this of the tree of unholy pleasure. It is many-branched, it is attractive in aspect, its boughs bend with rich clusters of what seems to be delicious fruit, the millions of the world gather round it, and, with eager hands, shake it in order if possible to taste the luscious fruit. But what is the result of their efforts? Stones come tumbling down that paralyse the soul. "What fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed; for the end of those things is death."
(Homilist.)I. THE PSALMIST'S APPEAL. This book is full of such appeals. It is remarkable that there has come down to us a book full of the most confidingly, reverent, pleading utterances, addressed to the unseen and eternal God. There are not many petitions in this Psalm. "Hear me when I call" — only "hear me," that is enough. Is there no heart to respond to us? Yes, He is hearing, that is enough.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE APPEAL. Two considerations on which the appeal is founded.
1. The character of God. Not simply "my righteous God," but "God, the author of my righteousness, from Whom all that is true and right in me has come."
2. And the goodness already experienced. "Thou hast enlarged me." It was not untried mercy. No one looks to history for a message of despair — at any rate, no good man — for he always finds that the storm ends in calm, that the darkest hour precedes the dawn, that the struggles result in progress. Let us also appeal for mercy to the God of righteousness, and take the past as an argument. There has been care in the past; there has been goodness in the past: Gethsemane is in the past; Calvary is in the past. Plead the past.
Thou hast enlarged me.I. DAVID'S PRAYER FOR MERCY DESIRED.
1. The tide which David here puts upon God. "God of my righteousness." That is, the God who makes me to be righteous: the Author of it. Better here, the God that shows me to be righteous, that maintains my righteous cause. Look at this —(1) Directly in itself. God does own the righteousness of those who are His servants. This is grounded on His nature. His affection and His relation carries Him to it likewise. He is my God, and therefore the God of my righteousness. There is also His covenant and interest. In two ways God owns our righteousness. In clearing it and in avenging it.(2) Reflexively, as coming from David; who, having righteousness and equity on his side, does now with a great deal of boldness and confidence take himself to God for redress. Whence we see what is to be practised by everyone else.
2. The request itself. "Hear me when I call" has respect to David's complaint in case of injury. "Hear my prayer," that is, grant me that particular request which I desire of Thee. See his desire of being heard in his performance, "when I call." Attention must be given to the matter of prayer, that it be such as is according to God's will; the manner of prayer, that it be with zeal, fervency, and intention; the principle of prayer, that it be done in faith. There should also be the ordering of ourselves in other things suitable hereunto, as their hearing of God Himself. Hearing of others in their necessities: abstaining from all kinds of sin whatsoever.
3. The terms whereupon he deals with Him. On account of mercy, grace, and favour. We must have recourse to His mercy, and urge upon Him this consideration above all others. Let us make much of this attribute of mercy, and improve it to our own comfort and advantage.
II. DAVID'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF MERCY RECEIVED. God loves to manifest His power in deliverance. He brings into distress, and so from thence takes occasion to enlarge. There is a double enlargement, one of state and condition; the other of heart and affection. There is a double enlargement of spirit, the one is in order to duty, the other in order to comfort.
(Thomas Horton, D. D.)
I. THE CAUSE REVEALED. "When I was in distress." Distress had driven me to Him Who revealed me to myself. He diminished my estate and my health; but He enlarged me.
II. THE QUESTION SUGGESTED. Why? Because I am a man capable of enlargement. You cannot enlarge the merely finite like this. Every spiritual advance is only a step upward and onward in the immortal ascent, every enlargement is only a prophecy of yet wider range. Not one word can be said too much of the majesty of the soul. Standing on the verge of eternity after long years of life, the soul is yet young, and feels the immortal pulses. It is just beginning to know. Unless we grow in grace we may question if we are Christians at all, for life means growth, and the knowledge of God is the infinite study of eternity.
III. THE INFLUENCE CREATED. An enlarged man has a glorious might of personal influence; such a man elevates social intercourse as he moves among his fellows, and treats their interests in the light of their larger being. The enlarged man seeks to have part in the kingdom which brings life and peace to all his brethren in Christ.
IV. THE EXPECTATION ENJOYED. For what is all this enlargement given? Surely the Divine ministries have a worthy end and aim, or else we have a mystery in man which we have in no other sphere of use or adaptation. The soul implies Divine training and immortal rest. Heaven is the corollary of soul life. Faint not under the good hand of God, for He will exalt you in good time. The enlarged life will have a sphere, where it can enjoy and serve God, forever and for evermore. Thus, too, may we bear distress aright.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. THROUGH DISTRESS THERE COMES AN ENLARGEMENT OF PERSONAL CHARACTER.
1. Suffering strengthens character; brings to light the hidden qualities of a man, and teaches him courage, endurance, and self-reliance. I have read of a great botanist who was exiled from his native land, and had obtained employment as an undergardener in a nobleman's service, that while in this situation his master received the present of a valuable plant, the nature and habits of which were quite unknown to him. It was given to the care of the head gardener, and he, supposing it to be of tropical growth, put it into a hothouse, and treated it like other hothouse plants. Under this treatment the plant began to wither and die. One day the undergardener asked permission to examine it, and as soon as he had done so he said, "This is an Arctic plant, and you are killing it with this hothouse treatment." So he took it out to the open air, and heaped ice round it, to the great astonishment of the head gardener. The result justified his wisdom; for the plant was soon perfectly healthy and strong. This story is a parable of human character. It is ease, not difficulty, that is dangerous. Put a man under hothouse treatment, surround him with luxury, hedge him in from opposition; and you take the surest means of sapping him of life and power. Teach him to suffer; and you teach him to be strong.
2. But in a large character, sympathy must be present as well as strength. Without sympathy no character can possess that breadth which is so essential to its perfecting; and there is no such teacher of sympathy as suffering.
II. THINK OF THE LARGER AND SURER PLACE WHICH SUFFERING GIVES US IN THE WORLD OF MEN. There is something in the experience of suffering which enhances a man's social influence. In every walk of life the men of sorrows are the men of power. We may not be able fully to explain why this is so; but we know quite well that the very fact of suffering gives a man a claim upon us, and a hold over us, which nothing else can give. "Under our present conditions," says one, "there is something in the very expansiveness of joy which dissociates, while sorrow seems to weld us together, like hammer strokes on steel." Do we not find that the influence which Jesus exerts is an emanation from His Cross? He was made "perfect through sufferings" — not perfect in His own nature, for that was perfect already, but perfect in His power to touch and save and bless; and so His dominion was enlarged through His distress.
III. No doubt David was thinking most of all of a religious enlargement — AN ENLARGEMENT OF HIS HEART TOWARDS GOD, AND AN ENLARGEMENT OF GOD'S MERCY TOWARDS HIM.
1. Men are enlarged through their distress. Their horizon grows wider and deeper. The sunlight fades, the night falls; but in the darkness a greater and more glorious world appears; for the stars shine out from the immeasurable depths — those "street lamps of the City of God."
2. Our enlargement in distress does not lie only in our new thoughts about God, but in God's new mercies towards us. The Lord has special mercies for His children in distress, as a mother has kisses and fond soothing words for her little child who has hurt himself by a fall. Did you ever consider this, that there are stores of blessing held in reserve within the eternal treasuries, the fulness of which you can only know in the day of trial?
3. In one of two ways distress works — it makes a man either better or worse. We have seen it making people narrower and more selfish and more sullen. We have also seen it making them broader and more sympathetic, more considerate and more gracious. All depends upon their way of meeting it. Meet it in the Psalmist's faith, hope, and patience.
(J. G. Lambert, B. D.)
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