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I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
A pious patriot
I. Rejoicing in the opportunity for assembling for public worship (verses 1, 2).
1. One of the grandest social duties of religious men--to invite their neighbours to religious worship.
2. The delight that may be expected from the right discharge of this duty.
II. Highly appreciating the various advantages of his country (Psalms 122:3-5). He rejoices in it because--
1. It was a scene of material beauty.
2. It was the scene of religious worship.
3. It was the scene of civil justice.
III. Earnestly desiring the prosperity of his fatherland (Psalms 122:6-9).
1. He invokes for it the highest good--peace and prosperity.
2. For the strongest reasons.
(1) Personal (verse 6).
(2) Social (verse 8).
(3) Religious (verse 9). (Homilist.)
The communion of saints
I. Before worship (verses 1, 2).
1. The joy of a common purpose. Men cannot help approaching one another in approaching one common object.
2. The joy of a common hope.
II. During worship (Psalms 122:3-5).
1. The exceeding beauty of unity.
2. The secret of this admirable unity.
(1) One object of worship.
(2) One priesthood.
(3) One ruler and king.
III. United worship itself (Psalms 122:6-9).
1. The invitation. “Jerusalem which now is” is not without faults, nor yet without foes. All the more need for her true children and friends to pray for her “peace.” It is part of their duty. It is part, also, of their wisdom. “They shall prosper that love thee.” When we meet to say “Our Father,” let us say also, “Thy kingdom come.”
2. The response to the invitation--to its request--to its reasonings.
(1) The request is right, and we will gladly accede to it. “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.” May all be right internally and externally too.
(2) The reasoning also is sound, and we are prepared to act on it. “For my brethren and companions’ sakes,” and because I feel that good to them is good to myself as well, “I will now say, Peace be within thee.” “Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God,” in which house and its common worship this feeling is so especially realized, “I will seek thy good.” (W. S. Lewis, M. A.)
The Christian’s pleasure at being invited to God’s house
Probably this psalm was composed for the use of the Israelites when journeying up to worship at Jerusalem on the great annual solemnities. We stand in one of the valleys of the Promised Land, whilst it yet flowed with milk and honey, and the children of Abraham had not been exiled for their sins. We see a company approaching: they are a band of one of the distant tribes, and they are hastening to be at Jerusalem on one of the grand anniversaries. As they advance, we catch the sound of their voices: they are beguiling with psalmody the tedious pilgrimage. We listen attentively, and at length we can distinguish the words, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” Louder and louder grows the melody: the thought of the glories of the city, in which Jehovah specially dwelt, cheers the weary travellers; and the surrounding mountains echo the beautiful invocation, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.”
1. Now, it is not required of us to undertake any wearisome journeys: we are not called to incite one or the other by holy melodies to the leaving of our homes, that we may seek the Lord at some distant shrine. But, nevertheless, we are still bound to the duty of public worship; the privilege is left us, though graciously freed from inconvenience; and it may be as necessary as ever, seeing that the removal of difficulties is not unlikely to produce indolence, that men should exhort one another with the words, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” We know, of course, that there is a sense in which the Almighty “dwelleth not in temples made with hands”; “heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him;” how much less the houses which His creatures build l But, nevertheless, just as He may be said to dwell especially in heaven, though, in virtue of His omnipresence, He is equally everywhere, because in heaven He manifests Himself with greater brightness than in any other scene; so may He be said to dwell specially in our churches, if He there give extraordinary tokens of that presence which must indeed be the same in all departments of creation. And when a true servant of God goes up to the sanctuary, it is in the humble but earnest hope of gaining greater knowledge of doctrines which concern his salvation, of gathering fresh stores of that manna which “cometh down from heaven,” and of drinking a fresh draught of “the water of life.” Neither is it only on account of the advantages derivable from the preaching of the Word that the sincere Christian is earnest in attending the sanctuary. There is a charm and a power to him in public worship, in the being associated with a multitude of his fellow-men in acts of prayer and praise, which would draw him to God’s house. It is an inspiriting and elevating thing when numbers loin, with one heart and voice, to ask Divine protection, and celebrate Divine love. There is more of the imagery of heaven in such an exhibition than in any other to be seen on this earth. But we must not omit, in our survey of reasons, why a Christian is glad, when invited to the house of the Lord, that in this house are administered the Sacraments, those mysterious and most profitable rites of our holy religion.
2. We have hitherto enlarged on the motives to joy which are furnished by the ordinances of religion: we will now examine whether there be not also motives in the finding that others associate themselves with us in those ordinances, yea, incite us to their most diligent use? And what more evident than that, if it be a joyful thing to the Christian to go up to God’s house, it must be yet more joyful to go up with a throng? Anxious himself to obtain spiritual strength, it will delight him to mark the like anxiety in others. For there is nothing selfish in genuine religion: on the contrary, it enlarges and throws open the heart, so that the safety of others is eared for in proportion that one’s own seems secured.
3. It is one of the predictions of Isaiah in reference to those days when the dispersed Jews are to be restored, and Jerusalem made “a praise in the earth,” that “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountains of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.” Who would not be glad to have it said unto him, “Let us go into the house of the Lord,” when the saying implied that God had at length fulfilled His mightiest promises, that His banished ones were gathered home, and that there had broken on this creation days for which kings and righteous men had longed, days when “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” till earth, in its remotest tribes, yield homage to the Christ? We may not live to hear the summons thus applied; but we may show our desire for the glorious triumphs which Christianity has yet to achieve, by the earnestness of our endeavours to promote its diffusion. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Gladness about worship
These words show us that the psalmist was thinking--
I. About worship. “The house of the Lord.” That, to the pious Hebrew, was the scene and symbol of worship. There are two aspects of worship, both of which are right. One is, that in the house of the Lord we get from God what, as sinners and sufferers and suppliants for others, we seek. The other is, that we give to God the adoration and praise He condescends to receive.
II. About social worship. “Let us go.” The solitary worship in “the still hour ‘ and in “the quiet resting-place” is good. But prayer has special promise attached to it when “any two agree”; and praise has special glory when “young men and maidens, old men and children” blend their hallelujahs.
III. About invitation to social worship. There are times when, to the neglectful, or the depressed, or the sinful, this human invitation seems an echo of the Divine welcome. There is gladness
(1) because God may be worshipped.
(2) Because others are worshipping God.
(3) Because others are caring for us. (U. R. Thomas.)
Gladness in the prospect of Divine worship
The house of the Lord suggests such subjects of thought as these--they may not come to us in this order, but they are such as these:--
I. Thoughts of the Lord Himself. The house of the Lord. A gladdening thought this to David, and to every man who knows God as Jesus Christ teaches His disciples to know the Father. There may be very little gladness through simply saying “there is a God”; but surely joyfulness must spring up in the soul when a man can add “O God, thou art my God.”
II. Thoughts of the various glorious manifestations of God.
III. Thoughts of His mercies.
IV. Thoughts of the exercise and the act of worship. How pleasant to praise! What relief is there in the confession of sin! How soothing is prayer!
V. Thoughts of meeting God as He is not met elsewhere.
VI. Thoughts of receiving special blessings from God.
VII. Thoughts of the communion of saints.
VIII. Thoughts of enjoying a privilege in the performance of duty. (S. Martin, M. A.)
The good man’s joy in the engagements of the sanctuary
I. There he is warranted to expect the peculiar enjoyment of the Divine presence. To an affectionate friend nothing is so delightful as his friend’s society. To a fond child nothing is dearer than the embrace of his father. He delights when absent to return to him. Such is the emotion with which a sincerely pious mind welcomes the coming of the Sabbath, and the returning solemnities in the house of God. And this is a state of feeling that must continually increase in proportion to the increase of his spirituality and piety.
II. The gratification thus expressed on approaching to the house of god, springs also from the happiness of a near and intimate association with our brethren in all the exercises of united devotion.
III. The truly pious man will rejoice in approaching to the house of the Lord, because of those sacred and solemn employments so congenial with his best feelings there awaiting him. For there may he freely, and in concert witch his brethren, engage in those avocations, and delight himself with those pleasures, which are to be his business and his felicity for ever.
IV. We shall rejoice to enter again into the house of God, because of the progressive improvement in all our character there constantly experienced. And in order to the attainment of this advance in the Divine life, derived from all the engagements of the sanctuary, meditate much on their importance. Seek to approach in a state of sacred preparation. Think not of man, but of God. Remember that you stand immediately before Him. Call frequently to mind the account you must render hereafter, and ask with solemnity of spirit how you would be able even now to render it. Be not satisfied, unless you can discern, after each season of devotion, some benefit experienced; some grace attained or strengthened; the soul melted into deeper humility on account of sin, or else kindled into loftier exultation, and conscious of a purer love for all the joys of pardon, and the hope of glory. (R. S. McAll, LL. D.)
Happiness and worship
To know a real and undying happiness, the soul must be bent away from earth and bound back to God. This is religion. But how few know it to be so in this mammon-worshipping world. How few can catch at the sentiment of this text, and breathe it through the heart--“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Tell the world it will find happiness anywhere but in religion, and it will go anywhere, and will never give up the hope under its vain Search. But tell it that the springs of abiding gladness are here, in the house of the Lord, that they are within the reach of all, and you will immediately find its credulity changed into incredulity, and its activity into idleness. Now, why is this? The more I search into it, the more am I convinced that what is wrong are the false conceptions that have been steadily growing up in our midst as to what the Church is, and the mistaken relations we have been entertaining to it. To a great many people who have enough of religious sentiment left in them to forbid them wishing to see the Church entirely effaced, it is anything but gladness to be told to go into the house of the Lord. They have no inclination to be in the sanctuary, but a very strong desire to be anywhere else. All this is the fruit of a mistaken notion of what the Church is. They regard it very much as a schoolboy regards compulsory attendance at school, not as a privilege, but as a hardship; not as offering untold benefits, but only as so much restraint and drudgery that ought to be escaped from as much as possible. And so, when they do go, it is under a sense of constraint or decency, to bestow favour and not to expect good. But if these are glad to escape church attendance and to be let alone, there are also those who are really glad when the Sabbath invitation summons them to the church, but of whom it can, nevertheless, be said that they are not worshippers; they are simply sermon-hunters. But if people are glad to go to church sometimes because they hear clever sermons, just as if they are drawn to a hall to listen to some great political orator or candidate, so are there some who enter church neither to be instructed nor amused, but to bear themselves as critics and judges, and to take no other part in the service. This also grows out of a false conception of the Church. For it is not a place where man is at liberty to sit in judgment on his fellow, or where the instrument is greater than the hand that wields it; but the place where men ought to be humble and not presumptuous, and where they ought to serve and not judge. But if the influence of the Christian Church has been hindered and impaired because of the false notions with which we have so often entered it, we have also weakened it and prevented its power by the wrong relations we have borne to it. It has been to us too long no more than an earthly temple of stone and timber, with a human voice sounding in our ears, and human creatures like ourselves our only companions. It has been to us the resort of habit, and the place where by inherited faith we have been trained from childhood to repair to. But the stone and timber of the sanctuary are no more than the stone and timber of any other building, neither are those we meet with here other than those we meet with in the world, nor yet is the habit acquired nor the faith inherited which carries us to the sanctuary of any value. Our true and sole relation to the place is not in the visible, but in the invisible. When we repair to it we ought to see nothing, and feel nothing, and desire nothing but God. For it is “the house of the Lord.” We have to please God, and this is how we will please Him, by remembering, when we are in the house of the Lord, that He is there, to receive our praises, to hear our prayers, and to instruct us not after our own choosing, nor with the words of man’s wisdom, but in the simplicity of the truth. This is worship therefore when we sing, and when we pray, and when we listen for spiritual edification, and not because we have an itching ear. Then shall carping criticism be dead, and the small shall become really great; for the poorest sermon shall have much in it then, and the best sermon shall have more spiritual momentum, and all the Church’s service will be worship, and the Church shall awake and put on her strength, and God shall be glorified; and we shall find enduring happiness and salvation in the harmony of the new life. (R. Sinclair.)
Inducements to public worship
It should be a source of joy to us, even as it was to David, to be regular and punctual in our attendance upon the public means of grace--
I. With a view to God’s honour and glory. If, on the one hand, the devout and humble worshipper contributes, as he most undoubtedly does, to that great end, then, I ask you whether it does not follow, upon the other hand, that his unnecessary or inexcusable neglect to attend the services of the sanctuary positively dishonours God?
II. For our own spiritual refreshment and edification. We have our own individual cares and anxieties, and our own hard struggles in the race of life, and ofttimes we feel so worn and fagged with the hurry and bustle of the world that we are well nigh ready to sink beneath the pressure upon us, and we experience an intense yearning for rest, an earnest longing for something--perhaps some of us scarcely know what--but something that certainly we find not in the whirl of business or the excitement of pleasure. Ah! thank God, that peace which the world cannot give is to be found here, here in the house of prayer. Every time these doors are opened for public worship, God awaits His hungry, and thirsty, and fainting people, and whispers to each poor, needy, longing soul, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”
III. That we may become examples for good to those around us. Let me assure you that when you give up for a time the sweet converse of friends and the cheerful glow of the bright fireside, and turn out, it may be, into the blinding snow, or the pelting rain, or the dismal fog, that you may go into the house of the Lord, you do far more by these your silent, but practical, examples than we can hope to accomplish by any amount of persuasion. It was a noble answer that an old saint of God who had been for years very deaf once gave to her minister when he asked her why she was so constant in her attendance at church:--“Though I cannot hear, I come to God’s house because I love it, and I love the service, and I wish to be found in His ways, and He gives me many a sweet thought upon the text when it is pointed out to me. Another reason is because I am in the best company, in the most immediate presence of God, and among His saints, the honourable of the earth. I am not satisfied with serving God in private; it is my duty and privilege to honour Him regularly and constantly in public.” (J. F. Haynes, LL. D.)
Gladness of God’s house
1. That you have a house of the Lord to which you may go. David’s zeal for God’s house. The incident with Araunah. Removal of the ark to Jerusalem. His reasoning about a house for God. His large liberality toward building the Temple. That which costs us nothing we do not prize. When our money and labour and brain and heart go into God’s house, we are “glad when,” etc.
2. That any feel enough interest in me to say, “Let us go,” etc.
3. That I am able to go to God’s house. That my Sabbaths are my own. Sabbath and government and capital--the right of the working-man. That I have bodily health. That I have mental health. Able to-day, may not be to-morrow.
4. That I am disposed to go. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” Many excuses, but true of the mass of non-church-goers, that they have not the will. (J. G. Butler.)
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
The psalm was probably written by a pilgrim to Jerusalem at some time previous to the Babylonish Captivity. On the one hand, it is clear that “the house of the Lord,” the ancient Temple, was still standing; on the other, the reference to “the house of David” and the anxious prayer “for the peace of Jerusalem,” its walls, its palaces, seem to point to a later period than that of David. The pilgrim who composed the psalm would have belonged to one of the ten separated tribes; but he had remained after the general defection true to the divinely-ordered worship at Jerusalem, and his psalm may well have been composed on the occasion of his first visit.
1. Now, one thing that would have struck a pilgrim to Jerusalem who should approach the city, as was natural, from its north-eastern side, would be its beauty. Possibly this pilgrim had seen Damascus straggling out amid the beautiful oasis which surrounds it in the plain of the Abana, or he had seen Memphis, a long strip of buildings, thickly populated, extending for some twelve or fourteen miles along the western bank of the Nile. Compared with those Jerusalem had the compact beauty of a highland fortress, its buildings are seen from below standing out against the clear Syrian sky, and conveying an impression of grace and strength that would long linger in the memory. No doubt in the eyes of a pilgrim in these old Jewish times, as afterwards, the physical beauty of Jerusalem must have suggested and blended with a beauty of a higher order. The beauty of the world of spirit imparts to the world of sense a subtle lustre which of itself it could never possess. “Walk about Zion, and go round about her, and tell the towers thereof; mark well her bulwarks; set up her houses that ye may tell them that come after.” And why? “For this God is our God for ever and ever. He shall be our guide unto death.”
2. And secondly, Jerusalem was the centre of the religious and national life of Israel. Jerusalem was what it was in a good Israelite’s eyes less on its own account than because it contained the Temple. “Yea,” cries the pilgrim, as he looks out on the fair city beneath him--“yea, because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good.” And so, although the city of Solomon and its Temple passed away, and a new city and a new temple rose upon the ruins of the old, pilgrims still came up with the old psalm upon their lips and in their hearts: “Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
3. And a third characteristic of Jerusalem, which appealed to religious pilgrims like this psalmist-pilgrim, was, if I may so phrase what I mean, its unworldliness. This appears partly in its situation. Jerusalem was not on the sea, or on a navigable river. The little stream of the Kedron was dry for the greater part of the year in ancient days as now, and nothing but rude mountain-paths connected the city with Egypt on one side or with Syria on the other. It was thus cut off from those activities of commerce and intercourse with distant countries which are essential to the material well-being and development of a great capital.
4. As the centuries went on, Jerusalem, thus dear to the heart of Israel as being what it was in itself, became yet dearer to it by misfortune. Of all that is most beautiful in life, sorrow is the last consecration. Sorrow is the poetry, no less than the discipline of humanity. Certainly, if one thing is clear from Scripture and from experience, sorrows such as those of Jerusalem are the result of sin. And yet this could not kill out the sense of blessing which attached to the sacred spot in the eyes of successive generations of pilgrims. Thinking only of the sure mercies of David, thinking with the apostle of a later age, that the gifts and calling of God are indeed without repentance, again and again under Manasseh as under Hezekiah, under Jehoiakim as under Josiah, they uttered their song, “Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem.” The events which make Jerusalem what it is in Christian eyes do not belong to the Old Testament. That wonderful self-manifestation of the Eternal Being among men which began at Bethlehem and Nazareth reached its climax at Jerusalem. On the hills around this favoured city, along its streets, in the courts of its great sanctuary, there walked in visible form, One who had already lived from everlasting, and who had folded around His eternal person the body and the soul of the sons of men. Just outside its walls, He condescended to die in agony and in shame only that He might rise in triumph from His grave, and on a hill hard by He went visibly up to heaven to reign for ever in glory. He conferred on it in Christian eyes a patent of nobility which will only become invalid when His Gospel disappears from among men. But the Jerusalem of Christian thought is no longer only or mainly the city of David. It is, first of all, the visible and universal Church of Christ. The towers and walls and shrines of the ancient city, as faith gazes on them, melt away into the outline of a sublimer prospect--that of redeemed humanity through all the Christian centuries gathered and harmonized into the city of God. This was what St. Paul meant when, writing to the Galatians, he contrasted with Jerusalem “that now is which is in bondage”--that is, to the Romans--“with her children”; the Jerusalem “that is above,” or, as we should say, “the spiritual Jerusalem that is free, and is the mother of us all.” That vast society in whose ample bosom the souls of Christian men from generation to generation find shelter and welcome and warmth and nourishment is the reality of which the old Syrian city was the material type. This is the Jerusalem of the Christian creed--“I believe in one holy Catholic Apostolic Church;” this is the Jerusalem of, perhaps, the greatest work of the greatest teacher of the Christian Church since apostolic days--Augustine’s treatise on “The City of God.” There may be controversies among Christians as to the exact direction and extent of its wails, just as there are controversies among antiquarians as to the extent and direction of the walls of its material prototype, but as to its place in the thoughts and affections of all true Christian men there should be no room for controversy. No other association of men can have such claims on the heart of a Christian as the Church of God. What if sin and division have marred its beauty and its unity. The old Jerusalem did not cease to be Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s eyes because of the sins of the priests, of princes, of peoples which he so unsparingly denounced. The factions which rent the city that fell beneath the legions of Titus did not kill out` the love and the loyalty of its noblest sons. The true remedy for disappointment and sorrow on the score of shortcomings and differences within the sacred city is to be found in such prayers as those which we offer in our holiest service to the Divine Majesty, beseeching Him to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord. And this earthly Jerusalem suggests another city, a true haven of peace, with which the visible Church of Christ is already in communion, and into which all those true children of Zion who are joyful in their King will one day be received. (Canon Liddon.)
Whither the tribes go up.
The church the centre of union
The church is still the centre of union. To this sacred place the tribes of God are ever going up, in accordance with the Divine statute, “to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.” All local peculiarities, all national distinctions, vanish in the house of God. The Asiatic and the Esquimaux, the Red Indian and the Islander of the Southern Ocean, the African and the European, assemble here as one family; and, throwing aside all sectional feuds and rivalries, they worship on the same holy mountain. The great bond of union is Christ, and, joined to Him who is our living Head, we are members of one another. All one in Christ. There is one Father, one Redeemer, one Holy Ghost. There is one condemnation, and there is one redemption; one cross of atonement, one throne of grace, one home in heaven. Whenever believers meet, they can sing the same psalms, and repeat the same prayers. The New Jerusalem, the metropolis of the universe, where the Son of David is seated upon His mediatorial throne, is the eternal centre of worship and of union. To this true Holy of holies the tribes of Israel are always going up, “to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.” Pleasant it must have been to witness company after company of pilgrims arriving at the earthly Jerusalem, to worship Jehovah at His solemn feasts. But how much more delightful to behold their disembodied spirits, borne upwards on the wings of angels, passing through the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem, and placed in triumph before the jasper throne! They come from the east and the west, from the north and the south. Each day, each night, accessions are made to the number of the redeemed, and new voices added to their jubilant songs. And then, too, the assemblies never break up, and the festivals have no end. There is peace within the walls, and prosperity within the palaces: peace flowing on as a majestic river, unruffled with storms, and unchafed with any impediment: prosperity, ample as the desires of the glorified spirit, and immortal as its nature. (N. McMichael.)
For there are set thrones of judgment.
True worship and correct thinking
The words of our text are the very last we should expect to find in a psalm of praise and adoration. What had thrones of judgment, the place where disputes were settled, and deeds justified or condemned, to do with pilgrims who hungered for the living God? But a little reflection leads us to see that it was a true spiritual instinct that connects the sanctuary with the judgment-seat and worship with the criticism of life. Maybe there was a geographical proximity between the temple and the civil court, but we would fain believe that it was a much deeper connection, a spiritual association, that dictated the words of our text. For, as a matter of fact, we cannot prostrate ourselves before God without seeing all the facts of life in their true light and estimate all our thoughts and deeds at their true value, for “there are set thrones of judgment.”
1. True worship leads to just valuation and correct thinking. In the hurry of life God becomes a shadow, and in the controversies of thought He becomes a symbol; but when we bow our heads with adoration and awe, we place ourselves in an attitude to see the King in His beauty; and all the time we are engaged in worship, God is quietly reasserting His supremacy over our lives. In industry and commerce we are daily tempted to consider our fellow-men as means towards an end, bound to us by the cold relationship of a cash nexus or a business transaction. As we move in the social life around us we are tempted to group our fellows according to caste and class, to clique and circle, but when we escape to the sanctuary and turn to the great sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness, we see our fellow-man as he is, a fellow-sinner for whom Jesus died, a brother saint, heir of God and joint-heir of Jesus Christ. The sanctuary corrects the estimates of the world, and the thrones of judgment modify the rules and maxims of men. Outside the sanctuary property assumes vast dimensions, inside it dwindles into an incident of life. Outside sin is an inevitable trifle, inside it is the one tragedy of the world, crucifying Christ and wounding God. Outside, eternity is a guess and a chance, a dream and a shadow, but inside it is the great reality, the place of adjustment, reunion, and satisfaction. As men in a mist see every object disfigured and exaggerated, so in the atmosphere of worldliness we see everything out of its true shape and perspective, but in the sanctuary there are thrones of judgment. In worship we unconsciously escape from the dominion of maxims and thoughts that are merely worldly and material.
2. The reasons for this beneficent effect are not far to seek.
(1) Worship brings a man to the right standpoint. Vision is so often a matter of position. To learn how to see is to learn where to stand. The attitude of worship is a vantage ground which commands spiritual prospects and unseen landscapes, the land that is very far off, the world in its need, and the King in His beauty.
(2) Worship removes the disturbing element. Inaccurate judgments are due to passion and prejudice, to interest and greed, and all these are forms and modifications of selfishness. It is self that spoils the vision and upsets the balances. But worship is the surrender of the self, the renunciation of the great obstacle and the solemn repetition of our Saviour’s words--“Not My will but Thine be done.” Self is displaced and God is enthroned, and as the result the worshipper thinks as his Lord thinks, and his judgment is just and his valuation accurate.
(3) Worship quickens all the faculties of a man’s life. We often see amiss because we do not see with the whole soul. Our judgments are wrong because they are partially made. It takes a man in the full totality of his gifts to see God and to understand God’s world. But there are many influences which rob us of this full-orbed activity. First of all there is sin. The man that has sinned away his purity has not only spoiled his character, he has mutilated his soul and robbed himself of the power of seeing God; and it is the same with the man who has become material, cynical, pessimistic, or self-sufficient. Then there is specialism. The age is more and more an age of specialization. Men are simply compelled to throw their whole energy into certain lines and to neglect certain parts of their nature altogether. You all remember the lament of Charles Darwin that he had lost the taste which once he had for music and poetry, and had become a mere machine for observing facts and grinding laws out of them. It is an undisputed fact that many men are in a parallel condition to-day, and to be in this state is to look at God and the world with half an eye and half a soul. The corrective for all this is worship, for reverence is the highest activity of the soul. Like the fly-wheel in a factory, it calls into movement all the multitudinous wheels of man’s complex personality. Worship steadies the reason, chastens the emotions, vivifies the imagination, braces the will, spurs the spirit of inquiry, and gives unto man the full and free possession of all his faculties vitalized and alert.
(4) Worship gives to the soul that hospitality which saves it from being deluded by dogmatism and self-sufficiency. There is more light to break forth from God’s world and God’s Word, and our hardest task is to keep our eyes open and our hearts hospitable towards the dawn. But this is the attitude of worship, for, as the shell on the shore is open to the waves of the sea, as the bud on the tree is open to the rays of the light, so is the soul of the worshipper open to the mysterious influences that perennially stream from the unseen and the unknown. (T. Phillips, B. A.)
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
The good of the Church
I. Wherein the good of the Church consists.
1. Peace. Not that which results from mere inertness or indifference, but that which co-exists with the highest degree of spiritual life and energy; a peace which springs from unanimity, all being of one mind and one judgment as to the great and paramount questions of Christian doctrine and duty, and displaying one toward another, with respect to minor points, the spirit of humility and kindly forbearance.
2. Prosperity. Not that which is implied in high worldly distinctions; but the gracious presence of Cod with His people, and the abundant continuous effusion of His Holy Spirit upon them.
II. The means by which the good of the Church is to be promoted.
1. “Love” to the Church is indispensably requisite in order to fit us for rendering to her any effective and acceptable service. Under the influence of this principle, we shall be always ready to engage in any service which may promote the glory of God and the prosperity of His cause; we shall not be discouraged or driven aside by the difficulties that may obstruct our course; we shall patiently endure the infirmities and faults of other men; we shall, in one word, be “steadfast, unmovable,” etc. (1 Corinthians 15:58).
2. Prayer is one direct means of securing the good of the Church (Isaiah 62:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
3. There must also be corresponding exertion (verse 9). Every person, however humble his station, possesses some degree of ability to promote the good of the Church: let his gifts and influence, of whatever kind they are, be prayerfully and assiduously devoted to this object.
III. The considerations which should urge us onward in this course of duty to the Church.
1. A regard for our own benefit. “They shall prosper that love thee.” We may with absolute certainty take this promise in its spiritual import. The prosperity of the soul is, after all, our truest and highest prosperity.
2. Another incitement to seek the good of Jerusalem is supplied by philanthropy (verse 8). Whatever concerns the welfare and salvation of our fellow-men concerns us. Our brethren and companions in the kingdom and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, as members of His visible Church on earth, are obviously and directly interested in all that affects its peace and prosperity. By conserving the peace of the Church, and promoting its prosperity, we therefore contribute to the personal happiness and social elevation and improvement of mankind, in the most direct way, and upon the largest scale.
3. Above all, piety to God should stimulate us in this course (verse 9). All we are and have, and all the good we still hope to realize throughout the vast future of our being, comes from God. Our obligations to serve and glorify Him are infinite, indissoluble, eternal. And is the Church His house, wherein He condescends to dwell? Then with what unremitting solicitude and assiduity should we seek its good! (W. Herren.)
The prosperity of the Church
I. In what the prosperity of the true Church consists.
1. Doubtless, we must take, as a leading feature, though not to the disregard of others which are essential in themselves, that of a faithful and fully preached Gospel.
2. Purity of doctrines.
3. Strictness of discipline.
II. Who are the persons who are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and seek its prosperity? They are Christians.
III. The means by which this end is to be accomplished. Our first duty is that of earnest prayer for the prosperity of all people in the Church of Christ, and then sedulous and vigorous effort in order to promote it. (J. S. Elliott.)
Prayer for the peace of the Church
I. The object for which we are to pray.
1. That saving peace may be given to many persons.
2. For the peace of the congregation to which we belong.
3. For the peace of that branch of the Church with which we are connected.
4. For the peace of the whole Church of Christ.
II. The command to pray for the peace of the Church. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
1. The persons to whom it is addressed. It is given to all the children of God.
2. Those persons who have broken the peace of the Church and who are to be overcome by prayer. Even good people, by an inadvertent word or deed, or by a mere blameworthy course of action, have done much to injure the cause of Him whom yet they love so much.
3. Him to whom prayer is to be offered. It is to be made to God. He is the hearer of prayer. He only can deliver the Church from the unhappy effects of the inadvertencies of friends, or from the malignity of enemies.
III. The prosperity promised to those who pray for the peace of the Church. They will prosper--
1. By receiving an answer to their prayer.
2. In their souls.
3. According to the fulness of the meaning of the promise. It embraces our every interest, whether of body or of mind, or as connected with one’s family, or with the congregation or Church to which we belong, or with the Church at large. It is a God-like promise. (John McKay.)
Prayer for the prosperity of the Church encouraged
I. The peace of Jerusalem. This implies--
1. The piety of its members.
2. A spirit of inquiry, promoting conversion.
3. The prevalence of brotherly love; the spirit of union; the disposition to bear one another’s burdens, relieve one another’s wants.
4. Conscientious and diligent attendance on all the ordinances.
5. The due exercise of discipline.
II. The exhortation to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There should be stated seasons of prayer for the Divine blessing on the Church: its prosperity will thus be secured, because it is His own concern; it is the sphere in which His glory is displayed; while it provides the only means of saving men. We should pray that He may set His hand a second time to His work, as it concerns the success of His Church.
III. The promise, connected with the exhortation in the text, ensures their own prosperity to these who seek that of the Church. (R. Hall, M. A.)
A eulogy of the Church
1. God established it. The Temple of Solomon was builded by human hands and royal treasures. The king put his own money into it, but God was the real architect and builder. So the Church of Christ to-day is the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood. It is God’s instrumentality to bring the race back to God.
2. The history of what it has accomplished is another ground of loving, loyal attachment to the Church. It is more than an idea, it is an influence; more than a mere plan, even a power and blessing. It has brought light into human darkness, joy to human grief; it has brought help to the weary and fallen, inspiration H those who were disheartened.
3. It is the only regenerative power to which we may look for the future. Break down the Church of Christ, what else can bring salvation? Education, philosophy, science, and commerce, all the material wealth of the earth cannot take the place of the truth of God, of which His Church is a witness and herald. Take away the Church and you take sway the Gospel itself. In this materialistic age the Church exalts man’s spiritual needs. Amid conflicting speculations, when men are saying, “Lo, here! lo, there,” the Church of God points out the true way of life. The Church is the school of the soul. It defines real manhood. The Church aims at the “perfect man in Christ Jesus.” In Him we are “complete,” and by no other method of discipline and culture.
4. We should love the Church because it is our birthplace. When welcomed to heaven it will not be nationality or language that will characterize us. It is “in Zion” that this man and that man will say, “I was born.”
5. The Church is our mother. She has fed us and nourished and taught us. We cannot but love her. She cared for us in weakness and spiritual infancy. Surely we should be base indeed to neglect her.
6. The Church is our home. This world is beautiful, but it is but the mere environment of our spiritual life, an incident in our absolute and eternal destiny. The soul can only find a home, restful and satisfying, in this fellowship with Him and His chosen ones we call the Church of Christ. (C. M. Griffin, D. D.)
The duty of praying for the peace of the Church
I. What this peace is.
1. The removal of evils.
2. The enjoyment of positive blessings. Jerusalem’s prosperity is spiritual. It is produced by the light of God’s countenance, and by the communications of His grace. When under these, the children of Zion grow in knowledge, holiness, and comfort, and enjoy all their privileges undisturbed; then Jerusalem hath peace.
II. Reasons why we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
1. Because God commands us not to hold our peace, till we see her peace.
2. Because of her relation to the God of peace. She is the house of God; the city of the great King; the object of His special providence.
3. Because of her relation to the Prince of Peace. She is His spouse, His body; she is built on Him.
4. Because her peace is purchased at a dear rate, even the blood of the Mediator of peace.
5. Because she has many enemies without, ready on all occasions to disturb her peace.
6. Because she has disturbers of her peace within. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem
I. The nature of the good contemplated. The prosperity of a Church is seen in its--
(1) Of ministers.
(2) Of people.
2. Purity in discipline.
3. Unity and harmony.
4. Multiplication and extension.
II. The means of attainment proposed.
2. Love of Zion.
III. The motive. Many lose sight of their connection with Zion as a body; if so, you will never prosper in your own souls. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)
Prayer for the peace of Zion
The singer’s emotion at sight of the city breaks into exhortation to his fellow-pilgrims to pray for its peace. Verse 6 contains a play on the meaning of the name of the city, which, as we now know from the Tel-el-Amarna tablets, was called “The city of peace” before the Israelitish conquest. The prayer is that the omen of the name may be fulfilled. The returning exiles were compassed about, by foes, and the name seemed rather irony than prophecy. The Church too, has enemies to confront, and needs ever to offer this prayer. It is a true instinct which has led the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland to close the annual general assemblies with singing this part of our psalm, in the version which touches deep chords in many hearts:--
“Pray that Jerusalem may have
Peace and felicity.”
A similar play of words lies in the interchange of “peace” and “prosperity,” which, in the Hebrew, are closely alike in sound. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
They shall prosper that love thee.--
Love to the Church of God
I. The specified object of pious affection, on--the Church of God. Here we include the whole body of believers, united under Christ their common head, together with the ministers, officers, laws, regulations, immunities, and designs of the Messiah’s kingdom (Ephesians 4:11-16). This holy attachment is founded on the most reasonable basis.
1. Uniformity of character. Dante has somewhere said, “Conformity of character is the bond of friendship.” Whatever may he thought of this maxim in its general application to human nature, it certainly is strictly true when applied to the Christian, in reference to his affectionate attachment to the cause of truth.
2. The exhibition of the Divine perfections.
3. The invulnerable security of the Church.
4. Its increasing prosperity and final glory.
II. The distinguishing evidences of its existence.
1. Sorrow in the time of calamity bears testimony to the sincere affection of the friends of Zion.
2. Pious exultation in the day of prosperity.
3. Zealous effort to promote the interests of the Church. Those who are sincerely attached to herd labour to extend her boundaries, in the earth, by the diffusion of Gospel light--the administration of affectionate reproof--the repetition of earnest entreaty--the breathing of fervent intercession--and the communication of pecuniary assistance, supported by a due consistency of character. These are so many additional proofs of pious affection (Jeremiah 26:12; Jer 26:15; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Exodus 36:4-7; Nehemiah 4:15-23).
III. The declared advantage resulting from it:--“They shall prosper.”
(1) In their reputation. Their ardency of affection--their deep humility--their unwearied patience--their unbending integrity--and the general consistency of their character, procure for them the esteem of all who are like-minded, and very frequently even the approbation and confidence of unconverted men (Acts 26:28; Acts 27:43).
(2) In their spiritual enjoyments: their capacities are enlarged--their faith increased--their union with Christ strengthened--and their anticipations of heavenly felicity multiplied (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
(3) In their benevolent enterprises: their children and households instructed and regenerated--the harmony of the Church promoted--the progress of impiety and profaneness impeded--and their ungodly neighbours and friends converted from the error of their ways (Psalms 1:3).
(4) In their temporal pursuits: although the religion of Jesus Christ does not warrant the expectation of opulence and grandeur, yet it secures to its adherents a regular supply of necessary things (Psalms 37:25; Luke 12:31).
This subject teaches:--
1. That our professions of religion are of a very suspicious character, if unaccompanied with a corresponding zeal for the cause of God.
2. The folly of lukewarmness in matters of a religious nature (Revelation 3:16).
3. That genuine piety tends to promote the general welfare of its possessor (1 Timothy 4:8). (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
On the love of our country
I. The grounds on which love for our country rests.
1. As the seat of all our best enjoyments in private life.
2. As the seat of true religion.
3. As the seat of liberty and laws; a mild, wise and happy government.
II. The duties to which love of our country gives rise.
1. As private men and Christians, let us cultivate those virtues which are essential to the prosperity of our country. The foundation of all public happiness must be laid in the good conduct of individuals; in their industry, sobriety, justice, and regular attention to the duties of their several stations. Such virtues are the sinews and strength of the state; they are the supports of its prosperity at home, and of its reputation abroad.
2. Let us join to the virtues of private men those which belong to us in a political capacity as subjects and citizens. These must appear, in loyalty to our sovereign, in submission to the authority of rulers and magistrates, and in readiness to support the measures that are taken for public welfare and defence. (H. Blair, D. D.)
On the love of our country
I. The genius and nature of useful true, consistent patriotism.
1. It is a feeling natural to the human mind; the simple, the noble effect of qualities that are amiable and engaging.
2. It is also strongly approved of, beautifully enforced, and solemnly recommended by the language and example of unerring truth.
II. How this disposition ought always to be cherished and invariably expressed.
1. By yielding a due obedience to her existing varied laws.
2. By carefully suppressing, not abetting, or encouraging, in the smallest degree, anything that wears a hurtful, seditious, inflammatory aspect.
3. By uniformly performing such actions as may best advantage the state.
III. Some of those obligations, under which we are laid thus to think, and thus to act.
1. We are inhabitants of Britain, subjects of a free constitution, of wise and happy laws. Encircle the constitution with your love and obedience. Crown it with your prayers, and be glad that you are Britons.
2. Another obligation under which we are laid thus to think and thus to act, naturally springs from that countenance and protection which our present Church arrangement has new for so long so happily enjoyed. (A. Stirling, LL. D.)
On the love of our country
It is incumbent on us to love our country, and to pray for the peace thereof, on account of--
I. Our intimate connection with its inhabitants. If it be natural to the human mind to contract an attachment to those with whom we are united by the ties of affinity and the intercourse of society, then the love of our country is a natural and well-founded affection. It seems to be as natural as the affection of mothers and children, or that between brothers and sisters. It arises out of the very constitution of man, as formed by the hand of God, and is one of the first principles of human nature.
II. Our friends and relatives who belong to it. For many generations past, this has been the land of our ancestors from whom we are descended, and whom we naturally venerate. Here are the sepulchres of our fathers and mothers, the objects of our first and purest affection, whose memories are still dear to us. This is the residence of our friends and neighbours, of our connections and relatives, of all those with whom we are most closely united, and in whose welfare we are most deeply interested. Their happiness, as well as our own, is connected with the public welfare.
III. The civil freedom we enjoy. It is true there may be some defects in the constitution, which experience has discovered, and which time may remedy. And there may be some shameful abuses in the administration which provoke the indignation of the public, and call loudly for redress. Yet, in the midst of these grievances, our situation is preferable to that of almost all nations upon earth.
IV. Our religious liberty. The rights of conscience are respected, and every man is at liberty to draw his own faith from the Word of God, and to worship the Supreme Being in his own way. (A. Donnan.)
Peace be within thy walls.
The peace and prosperity of Jerusalem
The leading elements which constitute a prosperous Church are--
I. Purity of doctrine. It is fashionable to sneer at doctrine, to talk flippantly about “gnawing at the dry bones of doctrine,” to endorse the sentiment of the poet who would hand over doctrine to bigots to fight about and would be satisfied with “the right life.” There is a fallacy here. How can we tell what the right life is if we do not learn it from doctrine? As believers in the fact of a revelation, and that the Bible contains that revelation, we maintain that the man “whose life is in the right” is a man who knows what the doctrine of God’s Word is concerning right living.
II. Spirituality. True religion is a life as well as a belief, a life founded upon a belief, but always a life. That life is produced by the Holy Spirit, who takes the things which are Christ’s, and shows them unto us. True religion has to do with the spirit of man. It cleanses the fountain, and the streams which issue therefrom are pure. The man who has spirituality is a man of religious principle. He is the same whatever he does and wherever he goes. He is the same in politics as in ecclesiastics. He is a Christian in buying and in selling, a Christian at home and abroad, on land and on sea.
III. Brotherly love. The Church is a family, the Head of which is Christ. The same spirit that is found in the Head is also found in the members of the family. Now, just as the members of a family love one another because of their blood-tie--relationship--so the members of the household of faith should recognize and exemplify their oneness in Christ. A minister was once asked what he thought of the doctrine of the mutual recognition of the saints in heaven. He replied, “I am much more concerned about the duty of my people to recognize one another here upon earth.” The reply was caustic, but perhaps it was needed. Christians should love one another. They have the same Saviour and the same Spirit, and they travel the same journey. Alike they have encouragements and discouragements, conflicts and victories, duties and trials, and at last they shall be received into one everlasting home.
IV. Earnest work. By exercise muscle is developed and the whole system is maintained in a state of vigour. Persons engaged in mental or sedentary employments cannot with impunity disregard this law of health. Just so is it in the domain of the spiritual. Exercise is necessary for spiritual development and spiritual strength. Here is another view: God has made Christian work imperative. He is pleased to employ His people in saying to them, “Go, work in My vineyard.” As among them there is a great variety of talent, so in the vineyard there are many kinds of work. Every gift, no matter how humble, can find a field for exercise. (John Currie, D. D.)
Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.
I. The Christian’s patriotic vow.
1. He will honour the King.
2. He will obey the laws, not merely for wrath, but for conscience sake.
3. He will use his influence to promote obedience in others.
4. He will personally contribute with cheerfulness to the support of the government by which he is protected.
5. He will discountenance to the utmost all those arts of evasion by which the revenue is defrauded and diminished.
6. He will unite with those who sigh and cry for the abominations of the lands.
7. If Providence should call, he will fight as well as pray.
II. The motive to this vow.
1. It is our native land.
2. The excellence of its constitution.
3. We have a life-interest in our country.
4. We should aim to do justice to the memory of our ancestors, by transmitting, unimpaired, to our posterity, the invaluable treasure of civil and religious liberties which we ourselves enjoy.
5. The house of the Lord is the glory of the land. The ark of the covenant is with us. Our privileges as Christians are great and many. And this consideration will preponderate over all others in the minds of those who truly love our Saviour’s name. (W. Newman, D. D.)
The house of the Lord
I. God’s Church as His house.
1. It is reared by Himself.
(1) The wisdom of the Architect.
(2) The firmness of the foundation.
(3) The suitableness of the materials.
(4) The efficiency of the work. The power is all His own.
2. God’s house is essentially spiritual. There are spiritual capacities, spiritual desires, spiritual purposes, spiritual exercises.
3. The house of God is intended for His own use.
(1) His dwelling-house.
(2) His banqueting-house.
(3) A house of births.
(4) A house of sacrifice.
(5) A house of prayer.
(6) A house of praise.
II. Our individual membership therein. Real godliness is kept up and maintained by secret communion with God, spiritual intercourse with the Most High, under the movings of the Holy Ghost, in the name and for the merits of the Lord Jesus, by sweet, familiar, filial addresses to God the Father. Yea, you want more? The Father’s love-tokens in reply, the Saviour’s kind word in support, and the influence of the Spirit, as green olive trees in the house of the Lord.
III. Devotedness to the house of the Lord. Seek her extension, her peace, and her privileges. (J. Irons.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 122". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent