With awesome deeds of righteousness You answer us, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
I. Here is A CONFESSION DEFEAT. When we look within we find that, instead of all being right, all is wrong. This alarms us. We rouse ourselves to action. We resolve to live a new life of love and holiness. But the more we try the less we succeed. Our strength is weakness. Our purposes are broken off. Our best endeavours end in defeat. Instead of overcoming evil, we are overcome of evil. Instead of gaining purity and freedom, our case grows worse, and we groan in misery as the bond slaves of sin. Confused and confounded, our cry is, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?"
II. THANKSGIVING FOR VICTORY. Though we despair of ourselves, we must not despair of God. We know what God is, and what he has done for us, and therefore we turn to him with hope. Casting ourselves simply upon his mercy in Christ, we are able to grasp the gracious promise, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." God's love to us is a personal love. God's work in us is designed to make us pure from sin, and he will perfect it in the day of Christ. While we say, therefore, with grief and pain, "Iniquities prevail against me," let us with renewed hope proclaim, "As for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. - W.F.
the ends of
By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us, O God of our salvation.Isaiah 26:8-11; Psalm 45:4; Isaiah 64:1, 3, 4).
I. GOD HAS HERE AND NOW HIS TERRIBLE THINGS, BUT THEY ARE ALSO RIGHTEOUS THINGS (Psalm 97:8; Proverbs 16:4). If God has terrible things, as the exhibition of His righteousness and His power, so also men become sometimes terrible things, objects of terror, and I knew of nothing so terrible as a hard, and impenitent, and proud heart. But God is love! I feel that, but few arguments have convinced me of it; it is in my own consciousness, it is affirmed to me; but nature is so cruel I know not how to hang much consolation upon the compensations and kindnesses of natural theology, and Paley's celebrated assurance that "it is a happy world, after all!" But, alas, the world is one great calamity, and the contradictions to the assurance that God is love meet us in every age. It is thus I am often compelled to say, how perfect things are, how perplexing and cruel events are. What do you see? In one age a city ablaze beneath the calm and beautiful mountains and skies. I remember, years since, visiting, one bright mocking day, a village on the coast, near the scene of the horrible tragedy of Hartley; you come to it as you walk along that fine coast from Tynemouth; a quiet little village, called Cullercoats. I forget how many boats had been lost in the wild tempest, a night or two since; there was a sob of agony in every house. I did not think of Paley's selfish aphorism, "It's a happy world, after all!" just then, although the sea was bright, and birds were sailing pensively overhead: rather should I have said, "By terrible things dost Thou answer us, O God." Natural theology has little to say in reply to such scenes as these.
II. THE TERRIBLE THINGS OF GOD ARE NOT ONLY RIGHTEOUS THINGS, BUT NOT LESS THAN THESE, MAY BE AN ANSWER TO PRAYER. "I believe you are a child of God, and I believe you will never now be prosperous in your outer life again," said an old patriarch to a new convert; and the prophecy was fulfilled. The old man spoke from some instinctive perception of spiritual means and ends; and, undoubtedly, shadowy and dark as the prophecy seems, it was far more prescient and wise than that which supposes that all pain, and adversity, and affliction, and disappointment retire from the circle in which the child of God moves. This is not invariable, but we must believe the plan and the order of our life require it. "By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us." And thus, at last, we learn that all the ends of God, in us and with us, have relation to our final coronation in the palace of His love. The terrible things, all of them, "work out for us," as Paul said (2 Corinthians 4:17). And the explanation is that —
III. GOD, IN THE MIDST OF HIS TERRIBLE THINGS, IS NOT THE LESS THE GOD OF SALVATION. "Salvation belongeth to our God." The Bible grapples with this practical difficulty of our existence and experience — this dark and perplexed state of human affairs; and by innumerable images it labours to reach the heart, and to teach the heart that life and time are a seething furnace through which souls are passing, and over which God watches till the trial is complete.
(R. W. Emerson.)
the earth. —
I. RECOGNIZE THE BEING AND ACTIVITY OF GOD. This is a necessary call; for it is questionable how far in the average we have assimilated first principles, and in the rush of life we often slight the essentials that lie behind the activities of faith. We have yet to recognize how fully Christ's life, and teaching, and mission concentre in God, how natural was His own attitude of complete submission to God, how persistently He directed men through Himself to God, and the significance of these facts. Rather than weakening it, the revelation of Christ ought to intensify our sense of God; for He lived to give man the highest conception of God it was possible for him to receive, and to safeguard his thought from the many errors to which it had always been exposed. Christ conserves in its integrity the idea of a personal God and of a paternal God; of One who feels, and thinks, and wills; who is distinct from all the world as we are distinct from each other; and yet who is as essentially akin to us as we are to each other.
II. RECOGNIZE THAT THE WORLD IS GOD'S WORLD AND MAN GOD'S CARE. This also is a necessary call. There are dark facts in nature and in life that seem to belie the "loving wisdom" of the Creator, and that have made men doubt the gracious providence of the Father. They press themselves in upon us with a pertinacity that wearies us and often forms a severe trial to our faith. Even Wordsworth finds that the "aching joys" and "dizzy raptures" that came to him from his delight in woods and hills, and all beautiful sights, pass, are left behind as the hours of thoughtless youth; and in their place the sounds of nature sob with a human cry; he is chastened and subdued because he hears in them the still, "sad music of humanity." Thomas Hardy finds a verdict of pessimism in nature confirming his verdict of pessimism on life. R.H. Hutton in an essay on Cardinal Newman, writes: "Now, the more earnestly Newman embraced the doctrine that the universe is full of the types and instrumentality of spiritual things unseen, the more perplexing the external realities of human history and human conduct, barbarous or civilized, mediaeval or modern, seemed to him. His faith in the sacramental principle taught; him to look for a created universe from which the Creator should be reflected back at every point." But Newman kept his faith in God and its corollary, faith in redemption. The light within him was not turned into darkness, and he saw that his faith in God demanded faith in redemption also. The human race was implicated in a "great aboriginal calamity," and that calamity he saw could only be rectified by "some equally great supernatural interference." We believe this; it is our only way; it is the faith of the psalmist, and it is the faith that has been at the root of all human progress. The outgoings of morning and evening, the surety of seed-time and harvest, are our pledges of Divine faithfulness. God is not defeated, nor has He forsaken either His creation or His children. He is the God of our salvation; His tokens are in the uttermost parts; and in Him is the confidence of all the ends of the earth.
(J. J. Leedal.)
And of them that are afar off upon the seaI. WHAT GOD IS TO US WHO ARE HIS PEOPLE — "God of our salvation." Salvation is of the Lord in every point. Not a bit of it is of us. All of Him from first to last, and all the points between the first and the last. Have any of you got a salvation that you have manufactured of yourselves? Then lay it down and run away from it. It will be of no use to you. The only salvation that can redeem from hell is the salvation that comes from heaven.
II. WHAT GOD WILL DO FOR US. He will answer us. This shows that we must all pray. There is not a believing man in the world but what must pray, and we shall never get into such a state of grace that we have not need to pray.
III. WHAT THE LORD IS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. He is the confidence of all the ends of the earth. I am going to spiritualize that — Who are the ends of the earth?
1. Well, the people that live in the frozen regions, or, taking the other end, the people that live in the equatorial regions, beneath the burning sun. All that live at the extremes of heat or cold, we may liken them to the ends of the earth. They are furthest off from us. Well, and God is worthy to be the confidence of those who are furthest off from His Church, from Himself, from the Gospel, from hope, from anything that is good.
2. The people least known. We know those round us, but not those far away.
3. Those least thought of.
4. Those most tried.
5. Those hardest to reach.
IV. WHAT GOD IS TO SEAFARING MEN. What should He be to them? He is "the confidence of all them that are afar off upon the sea." I have often likened the life of a seafaring man to what the life of a Christian should be. Hundreds of years ago, when man went to sea at all, the boats always kept within sight of shore. Your Tyrian or your Greek might be quite the master of his vessel, but he could not bear to lose sight of the headland. And it is a wonderful thing, common as it is now, that a ship should lose sight of land for a month together, seeing nothing that belongs to land. It is just like the life of a Christian, a life of faith. We ought not to see anything, we ought not to want to see anything. We walk by faith, not by sight. We take our bearings by the heavenly bodies. We are guided by the Word of God, which is our chart, by the movement of the blessed Spirit within, which is our compass. We have bidden farewell to things below', we seek a heaven that we have not seen, we are sailing across a life of which we know nothing. Trusting in Him, we shall come to our desired haven without fear of shipwreck. Sailors live on the sea — an unstable element, full of danger. Now, you and I are often brought into difficulties. We have not any strength left at all. We look up to God and cry, "I am lost." Oh, then, let God be your confidence. I exhort all believers here to have more confidence in God. The sailor is often brought where, if God does not keep him, he will be swallowed up. You and I ought not only to be brought there sometimes, but keep there, feeling that God is all, and we rest in Him without any other help.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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