Psalm 4:4
Be angry, yet do not sin; on your bed, search your heart and be still. Selah
Sermons
Alone with GodGeorge Macdonald, LL. D.Psalm 4:4
Awe and TrustJ. H. Jowett, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Awe of GodJ. Slade, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Know ThyselfW. W. Wythe.Psalm 4:4
MeditationDaniel Moore, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Of the Deep of DeathCharles KingsleyPsalm 4:4
On Communing with the HeartJames Ross, D. D.Psalm 4:4
On Religious RetirementHugh Blair, D. D.Psalm 4:4
On Self-CommunionG. Lavington.Psalm 4:4
On Self-ExaminationJ. Drysdale, D. D.Psalm 4:4
Plain Directions to Those Who Would be Saved Frown SinPsalm 4:4
ReverenceD. L. Francis, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Self-CommuningA. MacEwen, D. D.Psalm 4:4
Self-CommunionA. Roberts, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Self-ExaminationR. W. Dibdin, M. A.Psalm 4:4
Self-ExaminationContributors to, Tracts for the TimesPsalm 4:4
Self-FellowshipD. Thomas, D. D.Psalm 4:4
Solitary ReflectionAndrew Fuller.Psalm 4:4
The Duties of ReligionCharles Hickman, D. D.Psalm 4:4
The Duty of ReverenceJ. Logan, F. R. S. E.Psalm 4:4
The Excitements of the Age as They Affect ReligionW. M. Statham.Psalm 4:4
The Nature and Consequences of SinT. J. Judkin, A. MPsalm 4:4
A Cry for DeliveranceC. Short Psalm 4:1-5
A Gentle RemonstranceA. Maclaren, D. D.Psalm 4:1-8
An Appeal for Mercy to the God of RighteousnessJames Owen.Psalm 4:1-8
An Evening Song in Perilous Times, Showing Us the Secret of HappinessC. Clemance Psalm 4:1-8
Enlargement in DistressJ. G. Lambert, B. D.Psalm 4:1-8
Prayer and Answer to PrayerThomas Horton, D. D.Psalm 4:1-8
Quieting Thoughts for a Time of TroubleW. Forsyth Psalm 4:1-8
Spiritual EnlargementW. M. Statham.Psalm 4:1-8
The Great Trials of LifeHomilistPsalm 4:1-8


It is not difficult to be cheerful when we have everything we desire. But when life seems to be a series of catastrophes, disappointments, and vexations, buoyancy of spirit is not so easily attained. If our lives were in peril every moment through rebellion at home and plots and snares around, few of us would be found capable, under such circumstances, of writing morning and evening hymns. Yet such were the circumstances under which David wrote this psalm and the one which precedes it. Both of them belong, in all probability, to the time of Ahithophel's conspiracy, of Absalom's rebellion, when the king was a fugitive, camping out with a few of his followers. Such reverses, moreover, were none the easier to bear, when he had the reflection that because of his own sin the sword was in his house, and was piercing his own soul Yet even thus, as he had "a heart at leisure from itself to write his song of morning praise, so does he also pen his evening prayer. We picture him thus: Any moment a fatal stroke may fall on him. His adversaries prowl around. They have rich stores of provisions and of gold, while he himself has to depend for the means of subsistence on supplies brought to his camp from without. Unscrupulous rebels were in power, while David and his host were like a band of men who are dependent on begging or on plunder. But it was precisely this combination of ills that brought out some of the finest traits in his character. Even then he can take up his pen and write, "Thou hast put gladness," etc.; "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." Here, then, we have one of God's people, who has seen calmer days, writing in his tent and telling of a secret of peace and joy which nothing can disturb. It is a secret worth knowing. Let us ascertain what it is.

I. HERE IS AN INQUIRY PUT. "Who will show us good?" By which is meant, not so much What is good in itself? as - What will make us happy, and bring us a sense of satisfaction? Over and above our intellectual, we have emotional faculties. The emotions are to the spiritual part of us what the sensations are to the bodily part. Among the various fallacies of some wise men of this world, one of the wildest is that emotion has no place in the search after, and. in the ascertainment of, truth. It would be quite safe to reverse that, and to say that unless the emotions have their rightful play, few truths can be rightly sought or found. An equilibrium of absolute indifference concerning truth or error would be a guilty carelessness. Our craving after happiness is God's lesson to us through the emotions, that we are dependent for satisfaction on something outside us; and when such satisfaction is actually reached, it is so far the sign that the higher life is being healthfully sustained. Our nature is too complex to be satisfied with supply in any one department. Our intellectual nature craves the true. Our moral nature craves the right. Our sympathetic nature calls for love. Our conscious weakness and dependence call for strength from another. Our powers of action demand a sphere of service which shall neither corrupt nor exhaust. Our spiritual nature cries out for God, life, and immortality. Who can show us "good" that will meet all these wants? Such is the inquiry.

II. THERE ARE THOSE WHO KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THE INQUIRY. (Ver. 7, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart," etc.) The psalmist shows us:

1. The source of his joy. God - God himself. How often do the psalmists luxuriate in telling what God was to them - Rock, Shield, Sun, High Tower, Fortress, Refuge, Strength, Salvation, their Exceeding Joy! Much more is this the case now we know God in Christ. In him we have revealed to us through the Spirit nobler heights, deeper depths, larger embraces, and mightier triumphs of divinely revealed love than Old Testament saints could possibly conceive.

2. One excellent feature of this joy is the sense of security it brings with it in the most perilous surroundings (see last verse). (Let the Hebrew student closely examine this verse. He will gain thereby precious glimpses of a meaning deeper than any bare translation can give.) The psalmist discloses and suggests further:

3. The quality and degree of the joy. " More than... when their corn and their wine increaseth."

(1) The gladness is of a far higher quality. A filial son's joy in the best of fathers is vastly superior to the delight a child has in his toys. So joy in God himself for what he is, is infinitely higher than delight in what he gives.

(2) It is a gladness of greater zest. No joy in worldly things that a carnal man ever reached can approximate to the believer's joy in God. It is a joy "unspeakable, and full of glory."

(3) It is a gladness remarkable for its persistency. The worldling's joy is for the bright days of life. Joy in God is for every day, and comes out most strikingly in the darkest ones - David, Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Peter, John, Stephen, Paul and Silas, etc. We never know all that God is to us until he takes away all our earthly props, and makes us lean with all our weight on him.

(4) The believer's joy in God surpasses the worldling's gladness in the effects of it. It not only satisfies, but sanctifies the mind.

(5) This joy never palls upon the taste. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

III. THE PSALMIST SHOWS US HOW THIS JOY IN GOD WAS ATTAINED. After his delights the worldling has many a weary chase. To ensure his, the psalmist sends up a prayer, "Lord, lift thou up," etc. This prayer had been taught him of old. It was a part of the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:22, ad fin.). Its meaning is, "Give us the sign and seal of thy favour, and it is enough." Truly in this all else is ensured. Forgiveness from God and peace with him prepare the way for the fulness of joy. Nothing is right with a sinful man till there is peace between him and God. If our view of the chronology of the Psalms be correct, Psalm 51. and 32, preceded this. If it be true that the believer attains the highest heights of joy, it is also true that he has first gone down into the deep vale of penitential sorrow. As in Christian toil, so in personal religion, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Let the sinner "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and then his hope, his joy, will begin. - C.







Stand in awe.
All sin is an offence against God, and nothing tends more powerfully to correct it than worthy thoughts of God, and of our relation to Him. They who have no habitual thought of God, who set Him not before them in their daily walk, find no principle and no power present with them to prevent the admission and indulgence of evil. If you would cease from shining, stand in awe. Let there be a fear and dread upon your mind, arising from a sense of the power, and holiness, and justice, and presence of the Almighty. There is nothing which can enable us to stand firm and upright in the presence of evil, but a due sense of the presence of Almighty God, and of the relation which we bear to Him under the gospel covenant. If the awful feeling, the sense which is due from every rational creature to the Creator, were formed, and cherished, and carried into the scenes of daily life it would become a powerful preservative from sin. To impress our hearts deeply consideration should be had of those declarations of holy writ which assure us that the necessity of a pious awe is by no means done away under the covenant of loving kindness and tender mercy.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

I. THE ADVANTAGES OF MAINTAINING SERIOUSNESS AND DEVOUTNESS OF MIND. The greatest of happiness consists in regulating, with propriety, the various offices of human life. Every department of life is beautiful in its season. There is a time to be cheerful, and a time to be serious: an hour for solitude, and an hour for society. A serious frame of mind is the guardian and the protector Of religion, and it also associates with other virtues which belong to the Christian character. This serious frame of mind cherishes those higher virtues of the soul which are called "the armour of God." In the solemn silence of the mind are formed those great resolutions which decide the fate of men. This temper is no less favourable to the milder virtues of humanity. A serious mind is the companion of a feeling heart.

II. THE SUITABLENESS OF THIS TEMPER OF MIND TO OUR PRESENT STATE.

1. It is suited to that dark and uncertain state of being in which we now live. Human life is not formed to answer those high expectations which, in the era of youth and imagination, we are apt to entertain.

2. The propriety of this temper will appear if we consider the scene that soon awaits us, and the awful change of being that we have to undergo.

3. This frame of mind is peculiarly proper for you now, as a preparation for holy communion.

(J. Logan, F. R. S. E.)

Words like awe, fear, trembling appear to be almost obsolete now. Our speech finds its emphasis in such words as happiness, joy, peace, comfort. The Psalmist throws us back to quite a different plane. This man had a vision of the great White Throne. He had been contemplating the terrors of the Lord. His levity is changed into trembling; his indifference is broken up in awe. Why is there so little awe in our religious lives today? Is it because we have lost the Face of God? We gather up all the gracious promises. We lift them out of their context. Promises gathered in their relationship to warnings will tend to our good. We see the same tendency in our choice of hymns. We do not like the hymns in which the whirlwind sweeps and drives. We prefer the hymns that are just filled with honey. Many of us have lost the severities of the New Testament. It is because these terrors are left out in our religious conceptions, and in our preaching, that the frivolity of men is gratified and coddled by illegitimate sweetness. We must re-proclaim the elements of severity which minister to a bracing holiness. Men do not feel the power of the gospel when in Christ they discern nothing to fear. Thomas Boston said that the net of the gospel needed to be weighted with the leads of the terrors of the law, or it would lightly float on the surface and no fish be caught. We must steadily keep in view the sterner patches of the New Testament teaching. We must contemplate the whiteness of the Eternal, and stand in awe, "and put your trust in the. Lord." How graciously the passage closes . The. awe and the trembling converge m fruitful trust! The discovery of the holy Sovereignty, the discovery of personal defilement, the discovery of a Redeemer, are consummated in the discovery of rest. When I have found my "righteousness" my part is now to trust. The awe, the purity of the holy Sovereignty will become mine. Trust keeps open the line of communication between the soul and God. Along that line convoys of blessedness are brought into the heart; manifold gifts of grace for the weak and defenceless spirit. When I trust I keep open the "highway of the Lord," and along that road there come to me from the Eternal my bread, my water, my instructions, my powers of defence. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." I can work out my own salvation with fear and trembling."

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The most prominent sin of this age is flippancy. Familiarity breeds contempt. In many instances knowledge only leads men to treat law as a light thing, and its operations with thoughtless neglect. How can this evil be overcome? The answer is not far to seek; it is by fostering in men the principle of awe that David here enjoins.

I. WE SHOULD STAND IN AWE BEFORE NATURE. The stupendous magnificence and mysterious changefulness of nature appeal to even the most apathetic and thoughtless. No part of nature and of human life is free from the dominion of law. Everything has its own peculiar laws.

II. WE SHOULD STAND IN AWE BEFORE CONSCIENCE. The knowledge of right and wrong is co-extensive with the existence of humanity. It is the essential basis of society, and of all mutual intercourse of men. Under the shadow of this great possession all men meet as brothers. We realise the influence of conscience first as our teacher.

III. WE SHOULD STAND IN AWE BEFORE EXPERIENCE. Instinct is the stronger force in the animal life, and reason the stronger in human life. Experience is peculiarly the guide and teacher of humanity, and he who cannot profit by its teaching fails to progress as a man should. Experience is one long series of revelations to a man. No one can stand before the revelations of experience without feeling awed. If we reach a definite realisation of the magnificence of human life, the majesty of man, and the God-like powers, high purposes, and glorious destiny that, as Christ shows, are ours, we will be so filled with awe that sin will become an abhorrent thing to us. If we stand in awe we cannot sin.

(D. L. Francis, M. A.)

And sin not.
In uttering the word "sin" how few are there amongst men, even though serious minded, who connect with it sentiments and feelings corresponding to its own true force and significance! Yet this is a word pregnant with all the terrible calamities which flesh is heir to.

I. THE NATURE OF SIN.

1. Sin is a gathering evil. Its first indulgence ends not in itself, but the gratification strengthens the desire. The first act of sin will often make a second necessary, by placing us in situations which we had not contemplated.

2. Sin is a deceiving power. It always wears a mask. It allures under the semblance of beauty, hiding its serpent length among the roses.

3. Sin is a gradual hardening of the heart. Every fresh act of sin is the shutting up of some pore of moral sensibility.

4. Sin is ineffaceable. The action that is done cannot be undone.

5. Sin is a contagious evil. It affects those about us.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. Generally the loss of health, life, reputation, friends, the loss of fortitude under trials, consolation in suffering, the loss of peace in a world of strife, the loss of hope in nature's most despairing hour, the loss of a calm assurance at the last. Ponder the recorded judgments of God, this will strengthen your fear of Sin. And remember against whom you sin. A God, a merciful God, a Father, a King: against your Redeemer, and the interests of your immortal souls.

(T. J. Judkin, A. M,)

I. FEEL REVERENT AWE. "Stand in awe." Tremble, and sin not. Awe is not a common emotion nowadays, Men are triflers rather than tremblers. True religion must have a savour of awe about it, for —

1. There is a God, and He is our judge.

2. There is a life to come. Behold that day of wrath when justice will sit upon the throne!

II. THOUGHTFUL SELF-EXAMINATION.

1. Think of the state of your heart. Are you right with God?

2. Commune with your heart in loneliness and quiet.

3. Think for yourself.

4. Keep on thinking, till you come to be still.

III. APPROACH UNTO GOD ARIGHT. "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness." Interpret thus, come to God in His own way, as Israel came bringing their sacrifices. They first made confession of sin. Bring the offering which God has divinely appointed and provided. Come to God by faith in Christ; plead His precious blood.

IV. EXERCISE FAITH. "Put your trust in the Lord." As willing to receive you. As He reveals Himself in Christ. For His Holy Spirit to renew you. For everything.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Religion is to be improved by exercise and application of mind. There is a certain art of virtue. In this art no man was ever so well accomplished as the Psalmist. Here he discovers to us the gradual progress which a good man makes in this art.

1. THE GREAT BUSINESS OF RELIGION IS TO TEACH US NOT TO SIN. To subdue our unruly lusts, and reduce our troublesome affections, and to bring every rebellious thought into subjection to the will of God; to restore virtue to its proper place, and reason to its due command; and to recover the natural freedom of our will from the tyranny of our passions, and the usurpation of vice. There is nothing of greater moment to us than to form our minds aright, to keep a strict hand upon our manners, and critically to confine ourselves to the paths of life. To correct our extravagance, and to keep us within the bounds of wisdom, is the proper work of religion. In our miserable lost estate, whilst we were tied and bound with the chain of our sins, God in His mercy instituted a holy religion to set us free, and restore us to that paradise of innocency from which we fell.

II. THE WAY NOT TO SIN IS TO "STAND IN AWE." There is nothing but an awful regard for God, and a just respect for His holy attributes, that can effectually put a restraint upon us, and overrule the violence of our passions. What other design had God in imposing religious worship on us, but that it might bring us to a religious awe, that having God more immediately in our thoughts, and all His holy attributes before our eyes, we might learn to purify ourselves even as He is pure, and to abhor those sins of ours that make us unworthy of His Presence. Fear is now become a necessary qualification in man, not only to preserve his virtue, but to accomplish his nature too.

III. THIS RELIGIOUS AWE IS TO BE WROUGHT IN US BY "COMMUNING WITH OUR OWN HEARTS." It is a great art and excellence in man to know how to think; to look into the nature of human actions; to weigh well the causes and compare the consequence of things. When God reckons with the world for sin, ignorance may be some excuse, but inconsiderateness is none at all. Whensoever we find ourselves tempted into sin, and see our virtue strongly beset from without, let us retire within our own souls, and see what assistance we can fetch from thence. But we may think we have no leisure for such inquiries. Nothing is so apt to fill as vanity, and no man is more busy than he that has least to do.

IV. IF WE WOULD HAVE THIS "COMMUNION WITH OUR OWN HEARTS" TO BE EFFECTUAL WE MUST "RETIRE INTO OUR CHAMBER AND BE STILL." There we may learn to compose our thoughts, and bring ourselves to a better temper; give our passions time to cool, and then our affections quickly will be changed. There is nothing like solitude and retirement to recollect our thoughts and make us come unto ourselves, after we have been reduced by conversation and enchanted by the multitude. It is a shameful thing to think how long some men can live and yet never know themselves. When we have prepared and qualified ourselves in private, then we may expect that our public devotion shall, be effectual.

(Charles Hickman, D. D.)

Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still.
David seems to have possessed in a remarkable degree both the qualifications for public and the virtues of private life. Vigorous in action, he loved repose. We need seasons of retirement to restore the balance of things and put the claims of heaven in their right order.

I. THE NATURE OF GODLY MEDITATION. We need not identify the exercise with religious contemplation, that higher form of intellectual homage which the mind, when elevated above the level of earthly things, pays to the wisdom of God. Meditation is contemplation turned within. Meditation is not to be confounded with reading. In meditation we are not learning truths, but applying them. Distinguish also from the ordinary act of prayer. It is the handmaid to prayer. It is not so much a religious act in itself as a preparation for all other religious acts. Meditation is not an act to be learned, but a habit to be formed. We attain expertness by diligent and persevering practice Much depends on power to govern our thoughts.

II. DAVID INTIMATES THE DESIRABLENESS OF SECURING AN OUTWARD SOLEMNITY AND SERIOUSNESS IN THIS EXERCISE. The entire seclusion from all human friendships, the hushing of all voices, both from within and from without, that we may be quite alone with God. There is a sort of holiness in silence. Meditation, to be profitable, must be conducted with a fixed and holy intentness of mind. A close self-scrutiny also is enjoined in the words, "Commune with your own hearts."

(Daniel Moore, M. A.)

Fond of conversation as we are, few of us converse with our own selves. Men are glad of anything — pleasures, cares, occupations, employments of whatever kinds, that will but step in between them and an uneasy conscience.

I. WHAT IS IT TO COMMUNE WITH OUR OWN HEARTS? It is "to examine our lives and conversations" by the rule of God's commandments," that we may perceive "wherein we have offended, either by will, word, or deed." From day to day, and more especially in his private and solitary moments, the serious man "searches and tries his ways," and makes himself to render in a serious account of his tempers, feelings, and affections.

II. USES AND BENEFITS OF THIS SELF-EXAMINATION. By this means a man arrives at a knowledge of his own character. By this means we attain to a better knowledge of the Saviour — of the preciousness of His salvation. Who can be aware of the value of Christ crucified whilst he conceives he has few sins to be forgiven? Equally does that man rejoice in the blessed offices of God the Holy Spirit, by whose holy inspiration the thoughts of a vile heart are cleansed. Another use of a man's talking with his heart is, that it puts him upon prayer. It is the parent, too, of self-distrust. Such a man may also derive from heart examination an assurance of sincerity, and that he is indeed a subject of the grace of God.

(A. Roberts, M. A.)

Self-communing will produce two most happy effects.

1. It will enable us to judge aright concerning our chief good, and the true character and conduct which we ought to maintain. As perfect goodness is the great original of which every good man's life is a copy, so we cannot judge of the resemblance of the copy without a just apprehension of the original. We must know all the features of a right mind that, upon comparison, we may discover if those of our own mind bear a likeness to them, or are in any part distorted or unlike, and to what degree this distortion or want of resemblance prevails. To know this we must "commune with our own hearts." God has furnished the heart of man with a teacher and judge of what is right and good for him, and "to commune with our own hearts" is to consult this inward instructor and judge. All revelations from heaven are intended to enlighten this internal judge and monitor.

2. It will most effectually direct and assist us in discovering our defects and vices, and in adjusting our dispositions and actions to the right judgment it has enabled us to form. We must not take it for granted that we are free from faults. But what they precisely are, we cannot know till we have carefully considered our actions, and compared them with the rule of righteousness prescribed by the Almighty, and approved by our own minds. The fear of making mortifying discoveries restrains men from communing with their own hearts, and keeps them unacquainted with their defects, whatever they may be. When we are employed in searching out our vices, there are some of such a nature that we cannot be deceived in them, if they really do belong to us. It is well to consider what are the parts of our character which we wish to conceal from all the world. Thus we shall discover our real faults. Every action of a suspicious nature, — every action which we are afraid to let the world know; ought to undergo the most accurate review. The other things to be brought under review, when communing with our own hearts, are our supposed virtues. Many men are chiefly concerned to gain the reputation of virtue. The favourable opinion of the world, reflected back upon their own minds, establishes in them the imagination that they are really virtuous. Thus their self-deceit becomes more fixed, and harder to be cured. But a mistake here must have a fatal influence on our integrity Without knowing ourselves, we cannot correct our errors, or become wise, or good, or happy.

(J. Drysdale, D. D.)

When David said to his enemies, "Commune with your own heart," he seemed to refer them to their better judgment, when their temper was unruffled and their passions not excited. Without supposing any of you under the influence of a hateful, persecuting spirit against true godliness, it may yet, suitably and profitably, be said to every one of you, "Commune with your own heart." The exhortation might be addressed to each distinct class of men.

I. THE UNCONVERTED. Why are you unwilling to be called unconverted sinners? What is the reason you are displeased? Be candid with yourself. Does not your displeasure arise from a secret consciousness that the charge is true, and a dislike to be reminded of it? Let me exhort you to "commune with your own heart." Take counsel now within, and consider with yourselves what is the use of performing a service which God does not accept, nay, that is really offensive to Him; for "the sacrifice of the wicked is abomination unto the Lord"?

II. THE CONVERTED. You that know the truth, and serve the Lord Jesus. Some considerations render such an exhortation peculiarly suitable at the present time.

1. The remarkable character of the religion of the present day. It is an age of energy and activity, of zeal and excitement.

2. Satan is ever on the watch to do us harm. Another reason why it is seasonable to exhort you to "commune with your own hearts." You have been invited to receive the sacrament. Self-examination is the constant habit of every Christian. But before we come to that holy feast, we have more than ordinary need to examine ourselves.

(R. W. Dibdin, M. A.)

Communing has been defined as talking together familiarly. Retirement is much more common than self-communion. You may go apart from the crowd, and yet never speak to your own heart.

1. The familiar maxim, "Know thyself," shows that self-knowledge has for ages been deemed desirable. In the ethical codes of the wiser moralists of the ancient world, the duty of self-analysis was prominent. But it is with the heart in its relation to things unseen and eternal that we are to commune. This communing must be marked by uncompromising fidelity. Honesty and impartiality should characterise our inquiries. In our self-communings, Scripture should be our guide. When we attempt to explore our vain and wicked hearts, we find that a manual is indispensable to success. That is to be found in the Bible alone.

2. The effect of self-communion. The Psalm is an appeal to God against the misapprehensions of the "sons of men" who love vanity. Their behaviour is founded on a miserable delusion. Some aspects of the stillness to which communion leads.

(1)It is the stillness of settled conviction.

(2)Of steady growth.

(3)Of assured peace.But some men carry these self-communings so far as to destroy the peace they ought to create. They are the victims of an ill-regulated self-analysis. How does this perversion of a devout habit arise? It comes of neglecting to take with us God's own Word, and His Son. Do not neglect this duty of self-communing because you think you have no time for it. "Commune — upon your bed" means, do it anywhere, at any time, in any place, only do it. The heart is a book which you can always read. Let us not be without some places and some seasons at which we commune with our own heart specially, some spot, some hour, in which we can say, "I am alone with God and with myself."

(A. MacEwen, D. D.)

Though entire retreat would lay us aside from the part for which Providence chiefly intended us, it is certain that, without occasional retreat, we must act that part very ill. There will neither be consistency in the conduct, nor dignity in the character, of one who sets apart no share of his time for meditation and reflection. As he who is unacquainted with retreat, cannot sustain any character with propriety, so neither can he enjoy the world with any advantage. If uninterrupted intercourse with the world the man wear out of pleasure, it no less oppresses the man of business and ambition. The strongest spirits must at length sink under it. Let him who wishes for an effectual cure to all the wounds which the world can inflict, retire from intercourse with men to intercourse with God. Religious retirement is also necessary, in order to prepare us for the life to come. He who lives always in public, cannot live to his own soul. Our conversation and intercourse with the world is, in several respects, an education for vice. Breathing habitually a contagious air, how certain is our ruin, unless we sometimes retreat from this pestilential region, and seek for proper correctives of the disorders which are contracted there? The acts of prayer and devotion, the exercises of faith and repentance, all the great and peculiar duties of the religion of Christ, necessarily suppose retirement from the world. Solitude is the hallowed ground which religion hath, in every age, chosen for her own. There her inspiration is felt, and her secret mysteries elevate the soul. The great and worthy, the pious and virtuous, have ever been addicted to serious retirement. It is the characteristic of little and frivolous minds to be wholly occupied with the vulgar objects of life. A more refined and enlarged mind leaves the world behind it, feels a call for higher pleasures, and seeks them in retreat. Consider some of those great objects which in retirement should employ our thoughts.

1. Commune with your own hearts concerning God. Impressions of Deity, besides their being the principle of what is strictly termed religion, are the great support of all moral sentiment and virtuous conduct among men. Impress deeply on your mind this important truth, that there is, undoubtedly, a Supreme Governor, who presides over the universe. To commune with ourselves, to any useful purpose, is not to speculate about what is mysterious in the Divine essence, but to contemplate what is displayed by His perfections; to bring home to the soul the internal, authoritative sense of God, as a Sovereign and a Father. Him you are never to confound with the works of His hands. The pious man walks among the various scenes of nature, as within the precincts of a great temple, in the habitual exercise of devotion.

2. Concerning the world. The world is the great deceiver, whose fallacious arts it highly imports us to detect. But, in the midst of its pleasures and pursuits, the detection is impossible. It is only in retreat that the charm can be broken. Will you commune with your heart concerning what the world now is, consider also what it will one day appear to be? Contemplate the world as subject to the Divine dominion.

3. Concerning yourselves, and your real character. Men are generally unwilling to see their own imperfections; and when they are willing to inquire into them, their self-love imposes on their judgment. It is said that there are three characters which every man sustains, and these differ from one another. One which he possesses in his own opinion; one which he carries in the estimation of the world; and a third which he bears in the judgment of God. It is only the last which ascertains what he really is. Whether the character which the world forms of you be above or below the truth, it imports you not much to know. But it is of eternal consequence that the character which you possess in your own eyes, be formed upon that which you bear in the sight of God.

(Hugh Blair, D. D.)

Contributors to, Tracts for the Times.
As long as people are going on in a gay, thoughtless, easy way, in good health and spirits, and their minds fully occupied, it is next to impossible that religion should gain any solid and lasting hold on their affections. People go from youth to old age with a shallow, external service, which passes for religion, but which really has nothing of it but the name. When careless, thoughtless persons are brought to a deep sense of the importance of Christian doctrine, they are often inwardly alarmed, but will not confess it even to themselves. They try to fly from it by avoiding serious reflections. But in running from these reflections, they are rejecting the healing medicine afforded by the heavenly Physician. They are advised not to trouble themselves with deep and high speculative questions; to set thought on two things — their own sinfulness and the Divine mercy. Concerning the divinely consolatory warning.

1. You cannot but observe how plain, simple, and unimpassioned, how far from all perplexing notions, and from all rapturous heights and flights of feeling, is the description here given of the repenting convert, the accepted child of God.

2. Notice in what a tone of solemn warning this passage is delivered. "Stand in awe, and sin not." In these words is clearly implied the greatness of our danger, and of our again drawing back to sin.

3. How soothing and consoling is the view here presented to us of our religious state and duties. We are not to harass ourselves with perplexing doubts about our final acceptance, to seek after any special inward convictions, as they are called, of feeling; these, whether right or wrong, are plainly not necessary; but it is necessary that we stand in awe, and sin not, and offer the sacrifices of righteousness; then, and not otherwise, we may with cheerful, though chastened hope, put our trust in the Lord.

(Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)

I. CONSIDER THE OBLIGATIONS WE ARE UNDER TO CONVERSE WITH OUR OWN HEART IN SECRET.

1. Because we are rational creatures capable of thought and reflection, and the only creatures upon earth capable of religion. Without self-examination, we cannot possibly know ourselves, or what manner of spirit we are of. If we do not know ourselves, we can have no fixed or determined character, but must remain the sport of our own passions, or of those of other men, unconscious of the great end of our existence, and incapable of acting up to it.

2. Retirement is indispensably necessary for the improvement of our minds in useful knowledge, and in that knowledge especially which relates to the life to come. It is absolutely necessary that we cultivate retirement, in order to acquire a taste and a relish for those sublime truths which will hereafter occupy our attention, and delight our minds forever.

II. CONSIDER ADVANTAGES ATTENDING THE FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF THIS DUTY.

1. In regard to our happiness in this world. Retirement furnishes an asylum; it draws a wall of separation between us and the scenes without, and hides from our eyes the fashion of a world that passeth away. It is in retirement that we view things as they really are.

2. The chief advantage of religious retirement consists in its loosening our attachment to the objects of sense, and in raising our desires to the things that are above, and thereby assimilating our souls to the delightful employment and happiness of the heavenly. . world.. This subject will. furnish us with a very easy and a very certain criterion by which we may ascertain the state of our hearts towards God.

(James Ross, D. D.)

Three thoughts are suggested.

I. MAN HAS A SPIRITUAL NATURE. It is here called a "heart." It stands for our whole spiritual being.

1. We have more proof that the soul is than that the body is.

2. We have an intuitive belief in the existence of the soul; and

3. The Bible most unmistakably reveals it.

II. MAN HAS A CAPACITY TO COMMUNE WITH HIS SPIRITUAL NATURE.

1. He can observe all its phenomena; and

2. Trace them to their causative principles.

III. HE IS BIDDEN EXERCISE THIS CAPACITY. Would he understand his own nature, let him do this. But yet more for moral purposes. For

1. We know not how evil we are.

2. We must know this ere we can seek that correction which is indispensable.

3. The correction must take place here and now.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. WHAT SHOULD WE COMMUNE ABOUT?

1. Our sins.

2. Our relation to God.

3. Our principles.

4. Our pleasures.

II. How?

1. With dependence upon God.

2. With reference to His Word.

III. ITS ADVANTAGES.

1. Assistance in the performance of religious duties.

2. Direction in the use of the means of grace.

3. Power over temptations.

(W. W. Wythe.)

I would introduce, must I say, a stranger? to your acquaintance; one whom it infinitely concerns you to know, and to be intimate with. Our text will tell you his name — "commune with your own heart."

I. WHAT IT IS TO COMMUNE WITH OUR OWN HEART. Communication supposes two persons, but here a man's own heart must supply the place of both. It is what we call soliloquy. It is the soul's inquiry into and of itself. And it may be either —

1. Direct: we can bid our soul ponder our ways.

2. By way of reflection. And this should be ordinary with us; the soul should talk over every occurrence with itself. But sometimes, when there is a more than common call for self-consultation, it should be extraordinary.

II. WHAT SHOULD WE THUS COMMUNE ABOUT?

1. About our state; our former state — what we were; and of our present state — what we are. Our first salutation to one another when we meet is, "How d'ye do?" — let this be every man's first address to himself, "Heart, how dost thou?" Especially if you are living in sin, or walking inconsistently with your Christian profession. And we should converse also about our future — what we are likely to be. Have we a good hope, or are we in danger of hell?

2. About sin.

3. Duty.

III. WHEN SHOULD WE COMMUNE WITH OUR OWN HEARTS? When should we not? We cannot do it too often. But more especially —

1. When we are most at leisure.

2. When the conscience is in any way awakened.

3. When we are under any particular trouble. "In the day of adversity consider." (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

4. When we engage in the solemn duties of religion.

5. The Lord's day.

6. When we in the immediate prospect of death.

IV. WHY SHOULD WE DO THIS? Because —

1. God commands it. A good man who had a wild and wicked son, whom neither tears nor entreaties nor threatenings could reclaim, left it as his dying charge to his son, and gave him an estate expressly upon this condition, that he should spend half an hour every day alone. The good man died; and the next day, the young prodigal, rather than lose his fortune, shuts himself up. But what an age did the first half hour seem I How impatiently did he count the slow-moving minutes; and as soon as ever they had gone, joyfully haste away to his gay companions. Sometimes he would spend the time in fretting at or ridiculing this odd command of his father. "What could he mean by it?" (at length he began to think); he was always kind, and could never design to vex me. And yet what good can I, get by sitting here moping and musing? I begin to grow melancholy already. However, he persevered, in obedience to the will; and at length it pleased God to give his mind such a thoughtful turn, that he came to long for the half hour as much as formerly he dreaded it. He was led on from step to step, until he became a serious and exemplary Christian. Now God hath as positively enjoined on us this duty (2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4). Then, thinks —

2. The thing itself is reasonable. What should we think of a man who was hardly ever at home, sauntering up and down all the day long, and letting his own affairs be neglected?

3. And it is useful also. It prevents waste of time. Helps to improve ends of time. Saves from many snares. Makes us thrive in grace.

4. And necessary.

V. HOW MUST WE THUS COMMUNE?

1. Seriously.

2. Particularly.

3. Resolutely.

4. Rightly — do not judge yourself by a false measure.Weigh your actions and thoughts in the balance of the sanctuary (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18). But some of you will not do this, and the reason is — you are afraid. And yet you must die. Is it not better, then, to obey, and hear what your heart will say

(G. Lavington.)

And be still.
We live in an age of excitement and unrest. How often brain and heart alike give way in the midday! It very naturally follows that these dancing waves of excitement break into the sacred quietudes of religion. Reverence is not superstition. As Creator, we know by faith that God made the worlds; and, as Redeemer, we know, by faith too, that the Christ works within us, as the Absolver from guilt, and the Saviour from sin. We thus revere God, and such reverence is the root of all religion. Our Saviour, in His human experience, knew much of solitude, and quiet, and worship. There is less of holy meditation and calm, thoughtful worship, than ill the old times before us. And, consequently, our religious life must lose that mellowness which comes from the quiet touch of the sunbeam, and the still air of the garden. The text suggests —

I. HOW LITTLE WE KNOW OF OURSELVES. We have been surfeited with counsels concerning the dangers of introspection. But there is still need to "watch and pray," to "look to ourselves," to "examine ourselves." This no one can do for us. We may become morbid analysts of moods and experiences. But how seldom do we even seek to become, in any true sense, acquainted with ourselves. There is no unexplored continent less known to us than the wonderful land within us. By "commune with your own hearts" is meant, make inquiry concerning its health and its energy, its growth and its godliness.

II. HOW MUCH WE NEED SOLITUDE. "Upon your bed." There, where you are removed from the garish light of day. Upon our bed we have seen visions of ourselves and God which have melted us to gratitude, and moved us to tears of penitence and joy. There are places in men's hearts "which only hear the foot of conscience at the dead of night."

III. HOW MUCH WE NEED STILLNESS. This brings us to the centre of our subject. We need quiet hours. We are too much in society. In still hours we learn what cowards we really are; how often we are afraid to be ourselves, and to speak and act out the truth that is in us. In still hours we learn how much Christ is to us. In still hours we learn how little anything outward can really affect us. We live more and more in what we are. In still hours we learn the value of true friends. We see that the Christlike in men is that which alone is truly to be loved and honoured. Still hours! How seldom they come to us! Should we not seek to have more? And should not our religious service itself be characterised by a greater devoutness and reverence?

(W. M. Statham.)

There is no religion, no praise, no worship, but of the individual. The text is what must be said to every single, solitary person. It addresses him ill the most solitary, silent time — when his day's work is done, and he is going to sleep. God spreads the curtain of darkness round about us, just that He may shut Himself in with His child. It is not bodily stillness alone. That is compelled. You cannot help going to sleep, God makes you. If it were not for this bodily sleep, we should all go mad. If there never be a silence in the soul, and a man goes on always with his own thoughts and schemes and endeavours, it brings about a moral and spiritual madness. It is not in the midst of the tumult of life that a man first of all is able to hear God. We have not got up to Jesus Christ yet; God was always with Him. So He is with us, but Jesus knew it and felt. But even He went out to the mountains at night, that there might be nothing between Him and God. I think God has sometimes great trouble in separating us far enough from Himself that He can look round and know us. It is the most natural thing that God and man should meet, and know and understand each other, that there should be the meeting together of the thought of the One with the thought of the other. If we do not do the will of God in the day, it is not likely that we will be still upon our beds that He may come and visit us. We need not be without Him during the day. Let us be jealous over ourselves. God will be readier to come to His child the next night if, during the day, he has been living childlike, walking in the steps of his Father, holding fast by Him. The one eternal, original, infinite blessing of the human soul is when in stillness the Father comes and says, "My child, I am here."

(George Macdonald, LL. D.)

I. EXPLAIN MEANING OF TEXT. It is to ponder the matter over with ourselves. The wicked love not to do this. Note the place — your bed; the time — at night, when all is still. It is well to examine our actions, but best, the heart. Ask of it such questions as these:

1. Does it choose and follow after these things which conscience tells me to be right?

2. Is my conscience instructed and informed by the Word of God?

3. Have any of, or all of, my pursuits ever yet afforded me satisfaction?

4. Will the course I an, in do to die with?

5. If I should die in an unconverted state, can I endure the wrath of an offended God?

II. ENFORCE ITS EXHORTATION. Because —

1. There are things you have doubted, but which, if you would commune with your own heart, you would find to be true.

2. Things which you have objected to, which you would see to be unobjectionable.

3. One reason why you know so little of your heart sins is that you commune with it so little.

4. There are things which you value much which you would see to be worthless.

(Andrew Fuller.)

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