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Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity.
Leading proofs of personal piety
I. A strong craving for a knowledge of the real state of the character. “Judge me, O Lord.” Implying--
1. A belief in the possibility of being self-deceived.
2. A desire to be made right, at whatever cost.
II. A practical recognition of God’s mercy. “For Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes.” The life of the godly is marked by--
1. The strongest gratitude.
2. The highest courage.
III. A profound consciousness of sincerity of conduct. “I have walked in Thy truth.” The godly man hates hypocrisy and loathes shame.
IV. A strong repugnance to all ungodly society, “I have not sat with vain persons,” etc.
1. He declares that he never had any fellowship with them (Psalms 26:4).
2. He expresses his hatred of them (Psalms 26:5).
3. He prays that he may not be gathered to their company (Psalms 26:9). Good men shun the society of the wicked, because
(1) it is wrong;
(2) because it is pernicious.
V. A delight in the public worship of God. “I will wash mine hands in innocency,” etc. True worship--
1. Requires personal preparation.
2. Consists in public acknowledgments.
3. Is inspired with the presence of God.
VI. A fixed determination to walk ever with the holy. “But as for me, I will walk,” etc. (Psalms 26:11-12). (Homilist.)
The character of an upright man sketched by himself
To do this requires much introspection. Yet there may he circumstances when such work becomes necessary.
I. The Psalmist had a good foundation on which his life was built.
1. Trust in Jehovah (Psalms 26:1).
2. God’s loving kindness (Psalms 26:5).
3. God’s truth; that is, His faithfulness (Psalms 26:3).
Note: all the supports of his integrity were outside himself. Happy the man that can stay his mind on Divine faithfulness and love! If these props cease to sustain, moral and spiritual worth pine from want of motive and hope.
II. The life built on this foundation is worthy of imitation. It was a life of--
1. Integrity (Psalms 26:11).
2. Straightforward progress (Psalms 26:1).
3. Avoiding evil associations (Psalms 26:4-5).
4. Cultivation of holy worship, song, and thanksgiving (Psalms 26:6-8; Psalms 26:12).
(1) Those who have God as the support of their life will show a life worthy of such support.
(2) Those who most value communion with God will most freely appreciate and cultivate the stimulus and comfort to be obtained from united worship. (C. Clemence, D. D.)
An appeal marked by specific entreaty
Four lines of supplication.
I. That God would vindicate him and not let him be mixed up with those he hates (Psalms 26:1; Psalms 26:9-10).
II. That God would search and prove him (Psalms 26:2).
III. That God would purify him (Psalms 26:3). Upright before men, he does not pretend to be perfect before God.
IV. That God would entirely deliver him from the surroundings of ungenial and unholy men (Psalms 26:9-10). (C. Clemence, D. D.)
David’s appeal and its issue
I. An appeal to God to be his judge.
II. The causes that induced him to it.
1. His faith and confidence in God.
2. His integrity.
(1) How he carried himself to men: abstaining from all association with wicked doers.
(2) How to God: showing marks of his piety.
III. The petition. That God would not suffer him to be polluted with the conversation of wicked men, nor involved in their punishment
IV. His gratitude. He will praise the Lord in the congregations. (Bp. Wm. Nicholson.)
It would be madness in any man, however blameless his life may have been, to call upon God to enter into judgment with him for his offences against Him. It is, however, often otherwise in regard to many of our fellow mere We can safely invite the omniscient Judge to decide between us and them. We can say in regard to, them, as David does, “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity.” Though Saul sought David’s life, and once with his own band hurled a javelin at him to slay him, David never for a moment swerved from the conduct of a dutiful subject, he still fought Saul’s battles for him, and though Saul was pursuing him as an outlaw, spared him when it was in his power to kill him. He never raised his hand against the king, nor allowed those under his control to do so. Integrity had marked his whole conduct, so that Saul himself was obliged to acknowledge with tears, “Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.” So should it be with the Christian always. He should never allow the injustice of others to mar his integrity. Principle, not passion, should be the pole star of his course. (D. Caldwell, M. A.)
Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
Our need of Divine scrutiny
I. It is possible that we may try ourselves by false principles. Self-examination is an all-important duty, but when we have searched most diligently we need that God should examine us. Now, we are prone to err in regard to our repentance, our faith, and our obedience--these which are the grand requisites for salvation.
II. We are prone to be partial to ourselves,--to make allowances where we should not.
III. And our motives in our conduct are so difficult to ascertain by any but God.
IV. And when we discover imperfections we cannot correct them, even by that Divine grace which He is willing to bestow.
V. The Divine judgment will determine the decisions of the last day. What we think, or our fellow men believe, will not avail then.
VI. What is needed to prepare for heaven. (S. Morell.)
(A talk with children):--As a rule, children are not very anxious for examinations. They do not see what possible good can come out of them. If most of them had their wishes, they never would have one at all. Yet in days to come these children will see that of all things that they did in their school days perhaps the most important were these very examinations. Now, David here asked God to examine him; he asked a very keen examiner to take the task in hand. He knew what that meant: he knew that no weakness, no ignorance, no sin would remain hidden; but that everything would be known, not only to God, but also largely to David himself. And that was one of the reasons why he wanted to he examined.
I. Now, observe that the word “examine” here is a very forcible word. It means “to examine by fire,” and, therefore, by that which shall burn up all the dross, and only leave behind that which can pass through fire. Again, the word “try” is further expressive. The Hebrew word means “melting by fire”; in other words, it means “examine by fire to the point of melting.” Thus the examination the Psalmist asked for was an examination by fire--an examination that should burn away everything that was impure.
II. The result of an examination to a large extent is to make one know oneself. If it were not for the examinations which children get, some of them would get, very conceited, and would think that they knew everything. When anyone begins a study he is convinced in a week or so that he knows all about it. If you see him again in a twelvemonth he begins to doubt it; but if you see him in two years be is quite convinced he knows very little. Now, examinations are very helpful in that way. The condition of learning is just to learn, first of all, that we know next to nothing, and thus to be dissatisfied with ourselves. Then, and then only, we shall make an effort.
III. Failure in examination has very often led to determination on the part of a boy or girl never to fail again; thus failure has been one of the greatest blessings they have had in life. David felt sure that if God examined him he would know very much more of his own poor miserable self than he did before, and some path of sin which had escaped his notice would be revealed to him. Indeed, he was anxious that the Lord should not conceal from him anything that was evil in him. To be conscious of one’s error is the first step necessary to avoid repeating it.
IV. Again, there was another feeling on the part of David, namely, that thorough as God was as an examiner, and thorough as the exposure would be by such an examination, God was nevertheless very kind; for David says in the following verse, “For Thy loving kindnesses are before mine eyes.” Our best loved teachers have been those who, though they saw all our failings, all our mistakes, very clearly, yet did not hold us up to ridicule, but sympathised with our difficulties and put the best construction on all our actions. So it is with our Lord. He knows our hearts, and reads every thought before we express it in words. Hidden desires are all known to Him. But then, He is so kind, so loving, so forgiving, we can leave ourselves in His hands. (D. Davies.)
Self-examination is to many disciples a kind of first point in practical religion. It is heard and read on all sides. But there are only two Scripture passages which can be at all cited for it, one of which (2 Corinthians 13:5) certainly has no such meaning; and the other (1 Corinthians 11:28) carries no sufficient authority for the practice. Scripture sends us to God: “Examine me, O Lord”; “Search me, O God”; “The Lord trieth the heart.”
I. God certainly can examine us, and we cannot in any but the most superficial and incomplete sense examine ourselves. For--
1. Our memory is too short and scant to recall or restore the conception of one in a hundred million of the acts that make up our lives.
2. Even if we could recall them, everyone, we could never go over the survey of such vast materials, so as to form any judgment of them or of ourselves.
3. And since the understanding of our present state is impossible without understanding all the causes in our action that have fashioned the character and shaped its figure, our faculty is even shorter here than before. Omniscience only is equal to the task.
II. In what is frequently understood by self-examination there is something mistaken or deceitful which needs to be carefully resisted.
1. It is a kind of artificial state, in which the soul is drawn off from its objects and works, and its calls of love and sacrifice, to engage itself in acts of self-inspection.
2. He may even be so engrossed in self-examination as to become morbidly selfish in it; for nothing is more selfish than to be always boring into one’s self.
III. How much is implied in a hearty willingness or desire to have God examine us and prove us. A mind seeking after truth, ready to receive it; more, a soul already found to be in God’s friendship, sealed with the witness of His acceptance.
IV. There is a way of coming at the verdict of God whatever it may be. God designs always to give us the benefit of His own knowledge of our state. He never intended us for, and never puts us to, the task of testing ourselves. He expects to do this for us. We are complete only in Him. He is, and is ever to be, our Light, and we only know ourselves in Him. God is manifested in the consciousness of them that love Him and are right towards Him. They will know God by an immediate knowledge or revelation. They will have His Spirit witnessing with theirs. God has planned our life so as to bring us into a perception of the many defects and errors lurking in us, and to set us in the same judgment of them that He has Himself, proving us at every turn, trying even the reins and heart, that our most secret things may be revealed. If there should be any legitimate place for self-examination it is in the field where we go to discover our faults and the sins that require to be forsaken or put away. (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)
Morbid self-inspection kills love
Many years ago I knew an excellent much esteemed Christian mother, who had become morbidly introverted, and could not find her love to God. Seeing at once that she was stifling it by her own self-inspecting engrossment, which would not allow her to so much as think of God’s loveliness, I said to her, “But you love your son, you have no doubt of that.” “Of course I love him, why should I not?” To show her, then, how she was killing her love to God, I said, “But take one week now for the trial, and make thorough examination of your love to your son, and it will be strange if, at the end of the week, you do not tell me that you have serious doubt of it.” I returned at the time, to be dreadfully shocked by my too cruel experiment. “No,” she said, “I do not love him;” I abhor him. She was fallen off the edge, and her self-examination was become her insanity! (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)
God trying the reins and the heart
It is wonderful to see with what skill God has adjusted all our experiences, in this mortal life, so as to make us sensible of our errors and defects. As the invisible ink is brought out in a distinct colour by holding what is written to the fire, so God brings out all our faults and our sins by the scorches of experience through which we are ever passing in the fiery trials of life. If we are proud, He has a way to make us see it, and to break down our pride. If we cherish any subtle grudge or animosity, He will somehow call it out and make us see it. If we are selfish, or covetous, or jealous, or frivolous, or captious, or self-indulgent, or sensual, or self-confident, or fanatical, or self-righteous, or partial, or obstinate, or prejudiced, or uncharitable, or censorious,--whatever fault we have in us, whether it be in the mind, or the head, or the body, or I might almost say the bones, no matter how subtle, or how ingeniously covered it may be, He has us in the furnace of trial and correction, where He is turning us round and round, lifting us in prosperity, crushing us in adversity, subduing us with affliction, tempting out our faults and then chastising them humbling us, correcting us, softening, tempering, soothing, fortifying, refining, healing, and so managing us, as to detect all our drossy and bad qualities, and separate them from us. He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, and allows nothing to escape either His discovery or our correction. No self-examination we could make would discover, at all, what He is continually bringing to the light, and exposing to our detection. (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)
I have not sat with vain persons.
Separate, yet near
The eyes which have God’s loving kindness ever before them are endowed with penetrative clearness of vision into the true hollowness of most of the objects pursued by men, and with a terrible sagacity which detects hypocrisy and shame. Association with such men is necessary, and leaven must be in contact with dough in order to do its transforming work; but it is impossible for a man whose heart is truly in touch with God not to feel ill at ease when brought into contact with those who have no share in his deepest convictions and emotions No doubt separateness from evil-doers is but part of a godly man’s duty, and has often been exaggerated into selfish withdrawal front a world which needs good men’s presence all the more the worse it is; but it is a part of his duty: “Come out from among them and be separate” is not yet an abrogated command No man will ever mingle with “men of vanity” so as to draw them from the shadows of earth to the substance in God, unless his loving association with them rests on profound revulsion from their principles of action. None comes so near to sinful men as the sinless Christ; and if He had not been ever “separate from sinners” He would never have been near enough to redeem them. We may safely imitate His free companionship, which earned Hint the glorious name of their Friend, if we imitate His remoteness from their evil. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I have hated the congregation of evil-doers.--
With wicked men, but not of them
Although, when driven into exile, everyone that was in distress, in debt, etc., gathered themselves unto David, and he became a captain over them,--he never led them against his king and country, but only against their enemies; and in time changed the most reckless and turbulent of men into the best of soldiers and citizens. There is no place where the sincere Christian cannot make his influence felt for good: in the army, in the navy, in trade, at the bar, on the bench, in the halls of legislation, and everywhere; not by sacrificing, but by maintaining and exhibiting his principles in his spirit and conduct. (D. Caldwell, M. A.)
I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord.
Purity of heart and life
I. What this resolution implies.
1. All apprehension of the holiness of God.
2. The condition--holiness--in which alone he could have communion with God.
3. Great desire for it.
4. Willing to give up all that stood in his way, all sin, especially.
II. What is implied in keeping such resolution.
1. Renunciation of present sin.
2. Repentance for what is past.
3. Restitution and confession.
4. Regard to the rights of others in all respects--plain honest dealing and kindness.
Oh, the endless tricks of selfishness, and the endless subterfuges with which men excuse themselves; and yet so much piety in the midst of it all. Sometimes it is that persons would not on any account stay away from church on the Sabbath, but they would cheat you in their business on the Monday if they had an opportunity of doing so. Suppose you say, well, I am seeking to get money that I may give it to the missionary cause! Let me tell you that a man might as well fit out a pirate ship for the same purpose! You take advantage, lie and cheat, to get money for God! Well, when you have got the money so for God; just go into your closet, lay the money down, and say, “Lord, Thou knowest how I got this money today: there was a man came into my shop and wanted a certain article, and I had not what he wanted, but I had one not so good, but I managed to get him to take it, and I charged hint a little more than it was worth, because! wanted to give something to the missionary cause!” Now, would that be washing the hands in innocency? Would an infinitely holy God accept such an offering? Judge ye!
III. We now pass to show that both the resolution and the keeping of it are indispensable conditions of acceptance with God. When we talk of persons being justified by faith we always mean that faith implies repentance, making restitution, obedience, and holiness of heart. The faith that takes hold on Christ implies all this. We are justified by faith; but it is the faith of obedience to God, the faith which leads to sanctification, the faith which works by love and purifies the heart, the faith that overcomes the world. Ah, the faith that overcomes the world, that’s the faith to mark an honest man! No man has faith that justifies him who has not faith that makes him honest. If you are not honest you have not faith; in God’s sense of the term you have not the faith of the Gospel. Now, suppose that every person in this house were at this moment willing to do as the Psalmist did, and were to come right out and say, “I will wash my hands in innocency”--what is there to hinder? (C. G. Finney.)
Preparation for Divine worship
“Innocency” does not here imply moral perfection. David was innocent of the charges advanced against him by his enemies, the aiders and abettors of Absalom’s rebellion; but he was not morally pure as was the God he worshipped. He desired, therefore, that God would try his reins and his heart, so that he might know and confess his sin. Washing the hands, as emblematic of purity and innocence, was enjoined on the priests, to typify that inward holiness which alone rendered service acceptable to God; and also on the elders of the city nearest to which the body of a homicide was found. Viewed in the light of these two ceremonials, David’s words may here be regarded as a protestation of innocency in reference to the more outward sense by which religion is dishonoured, and a declaration of sincerity in worship. It was then he would draw near to the altar in company with the worshippers who gathered round it. As the pious Israelite looked towards the altar, so the Christian turned his thoughts to the Redeemer whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. It was David’s chief joy to visit the habitation of God’s house, the place where His honour dwelt. With a like devout joy should we enter His sanctuary, and especially when we approach His holy table, and preparation for this worship should engage the Christian’s prayerful attention.
I. Its necessity may be argued from Scripture. Jacob was commanded to go from Shechem to Bethel to fulfil his vow; and for this he and his household prepared by purifying themselves and putting away the strange gods from among them. When before Sinai, Moses was instructed to sanctify the people and prepare them for God’s presence on the mount. There is, too, that solemn preparation for the Passover after Hezekiah had reformed the temple services, when its observance had to be delayed because some had come up to the feast without the prescribed purification of previous religious services.
II. It may be argued also from the nature of the thing. God is the infinitely high and holy One, and if before His throne the angels veil their faces, how reverently should we enter His gates and fall at His footstool! We must approach unto His presence with humility, penitence, and prayer. His presence there is assured; for He cannot lie. Love should be present in all our worship, and especially at that memorial of the atoning sacrifice of our Redeemer to whom we owe so much. (P. Mearns.)
The devout worshipper
With all his disadvantages and drawbacks, David was the “man after God’s own heart.” If he sinned, and that exceedingly before the Lord, we know how thoroughly he repented. One feature in his character is very noticeable--his love for the house of God.
I. David’s preparation for the house of the Lord. Though an exile in the land of the Philistines, banished from the service and worship of the sanctuary, surrounded by those who would watch every action and note each shortcoming, he yet resolved to give them no opportunity of triumphing over him. A lesson for Christian worshippers.
1. Such preparation is becoming. What amazing condescension to be allowed to speak with God, and to come before Him with thanksgiving!
2. It is necessary. Worship cannot be acceptable to God unless our hands are washed in innocency. How impressive the instructions given to Aaron and his sons (Exodus 30:17-21); Paul directs Timothy to see that the Church lifts up holy hands in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8).
3. It has most happy results--“the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our salvation.”
II. David’s engagements in the house of the Lord.
1. David knew it was the place where God’s honour dwelt. Though only the tabernacle, it was nevertheless the place the Lord had chosen to place His name there--and there too was the glory. We have a better dispensation.
2. David was filled with gratitude at the recollection of past mercies (Psalms 26:6-7).
Shall not we? Learn--
1. How necessary that we manifest a becoming reverence in the house of God.
2. Our services can only be reasonable and acceptable when we realise the purposes for which we assemble.
3. The dispositions of mind pleasing to God are the same under the new as under the old economy.
4. Let the text lead us to a holy self-examination. Have I washed? etc. (W. G. Barrett.)
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
I. The duty of attending it. The command of Christ to “do this in remembrance of Me” is indisputable; His design in that command most gracious; the benefits accruing to ourselves in obeying it are great and certain. The duty of communicating, therefore, is unquestionable; the sin of neglecting so to do is great. It is as dangerous to our spiritual condition to treat the sacrament as nothing, as to give to it a mysterious efficacy which the Scriptures do not warrant. To faith Christ is present, not bodily but spiritually, in the power of His death; and in this sense His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed, to the comfort, support, and nourishment of those who feed on Him in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving. Christians in the present day suffer much in their own souls, and the work of conversion in others may be greatly hindered by the neglect of a due and worthy participation of the Lord’s Supper, inasmuch as its observance is closely connected with spirituality of mind, and a prayerful desire for the spiritual welfare of our fellow men.
II. The state of mind in which we are to draw near to the Lord’s table. David “desired to wash his hands in innocency,” and so compass the altar of God. What did these words mean to him? Not that he would root up all corruption from his heart, and make himself entirely free from sin; for then he must needs wait until the day of his death before performing his vows. His meaning is to be found in his description of the blessed state of the true believer, in Psalms 32:1-2. St. Paul quotes this passage in Romans 4:1-25. to prove the doctrine of our pardon and justification through Christ, by which he leaves it beyond doubt that David understood that doctrine, and described the happiness of the true believer who by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ as typified in the Jewish sacrifices had obtained such forgiveness. In this state of mind he desired to approach the altar of God; and in this state of mind the Christian too must approach his Father’s table. (R. Oakman, B. A.)
Compassing the altar
The Psalmist will go round and round the altar, looking at it, looking at the blood on its base, and the blood on each of the four horns, towards north, south, east, and west, and beholding the smoke of the fire, and thinking of the sacrificial victim that has died there,--all in the way of joyful thanks for salvation provided for men! It is a survey of redemption work taken by the Redeemer; such a survey as every member of His body often takes after having felt the power of free forgiveness, and while aiming at “innocency.” For the “compassing” of the altar takes place after pardon; it is made in order to view it leisurely. (Andrew Bonar.)
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works.
Declaring boldly God’s mercy and goodness
I have no notion of a timid, disingenuous profession of Christ. Some preachers and professors are like a rat playing at hide and seek behind a wainscot, who puts his head through a hole to see if the coast is clear, and ventures out if nobody is in the way; but slinks back again when danger appears. We cannot be honest to Christ except we are bold for Him. He is either worth all we can lose for Him, or He is worth nothing. (H. G. Salter.)
Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house.
The importance of public worship
The form of godliness may often remain when the power is wanting; but the power cannot well subsist where the form is altogether absent. Consider the importance of public worship--
I. As it respects God. If there be a Supreme Being, a Creator of the race, worship should be rendered to Him, both private and public. The natural sentiments of mankind universally attest this. And now that revelation has been given, the light of the Gospel has come, we are inexcusable if we do not obey the desire. God does not need it, but is willing to accept it.
II. As it concerns the world. Independently of its effect on the moral principles of the race, it tends to peace and order, it humanises and civilises, it strengthens the bonds of the social relation and brings out the best that is in man.
III. As it concerns ourselves. We are parts of a great whole, each with duties to the rest. Public worship aids in these. It gives warmth to piety and adds solemnity to moral virtue. As members of the universal Church, we adore the God and Father of us all, through the Redeemer of the race, by the sanctifying Spirit in whom we all have access. (Hugh Blair, D. D.)
Love for the sanctuary
I. The object of the Psalmist’s affection. It is “the habitation of Thy house and,” etc. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and when anything is thoroughly loved it is very hard to put into one or two words all that you want to say; language seems to fail. Hence, again and again does the Psalmist tell of his affection for the house of God.
II. His profession of this affection. Some people make no profession; that they make none is their main profession. Let them take care lest, if now they regard not the Lord, He at the last them: a poor thing this. But how different was the Psalmist’s oft-repeated avowal.
III. Some of the reasons for this profession. They have to do with present enjoyment and hope of the future. (J. Aldis.)
The institutions of God’s house
I suppose that nothing short of an entire suspension of the privileges which we recount of our Sabbath would make us understand what the house of God is worth to us, and enable us to enter fully into the mind of the man who, driven forth an exile from Zion, uttered the longing of his heart in these burning words: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so,” etc. (Psalms 42:1-2). There are those who cannot remember the time when they did not love the habitation of God’s house; others have found, perhaps late in life, what blessings are for them there. But let us note some of the reasons in which this love of the house of the Lord is founded.
I. There I first learned to know myself and Thee. There has been rest since you knew the worst of yourself, and knew that God knew it, and pitied and loved yon still.
II. There I have learnt most richly the meaning of Thy discipline and found strength to endure. Some of you have gone thither crushed by burdens, pressed by temptations, beggared by losses, bewildered by difficulties; ready to cry, I can strive no longer, I am worn out, I give up the battle at last in despair. And then blessed words have seemed to stream down on you from the height, with a soothing sweetness, with an invigorating force such as no words which you have ever heard elsewhere have conveyed.
III. For there I was guided into Thy most blessed service.
IV. There I found meat and fruitful fellowship, and so did those I love best. We little estimate what the house of the Lord has been worth to our souls. As little do we measure its worth to our homes: what peace, unity, charity it has engendered; what wandering, schism, and bitterness it has spared. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
The house of God
I. Reasons for loving the house and worship of God.
1. Because we love Him whose house it is.
2. Because of the exercises there performed: prayer, reading, and exposition of the Word, praise.
3. Because of the company we meet there: God’s children, angels, God Himself.
4. Because of blessing received there: pardon, guidance, comfort, joy.
II. How this affection should be shown.
1. By regular attendance.
2. By entering heartily into the services.
3. By using our influence to bring others.
4. By contributing to maintain the house and worship of God. (Robert Newton.)
The most vital thing, as far as the welfare of our country is concerned, is not what we call its constitution, nor its fiscal policy, nor its elementary education, nor its intellectual or industrial achievements; but, paradoxical as it may sound, its attendance at the sanctuary on the Lord’s day.
I. Our highest being is dependent on our conception of the character of God. If there is no power outside a man greater than himself whose law he recognises and to whom he responds, then, saving the law of the state and the convention of society, he is subject to no law, he is the free creature of his passions. But if man needs an authority outside self to control his selfish passions, he needs an ideal standard above that of common attainment if he is to reach to higher moral excellence. With a lofty ideal, a standard above ourselves, we are always being dissatisfied with ourselves and forced to make efforts to improve. Men may rise towards their God; they cannot rise above Him. One thing more, man needs also within himself an impulse to work, for virtue is often very hard unless you have some motive which shall lead to higher desires. If we turn from theory to history and to personal experience, is it not a fact that morality has risen or gone down just in proportion as faith in God has been strong or feeble? Even so calm and unprejudiced an observer as Darwin said that with the more civilised races the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing deity has had a potent influence on the advancement of morality.
II. This faith in God is to a great extent dependent upon public worship. In this busy distracting age, were there no stated times for public worship, men would run great risk of forgetting God and becoming avowed atheists. If, then, the life of faith largely depends on Divine worship, and upon the life of faith depends the highest well-being of society, then everyone who by his example encourages the neglect of public worship, whatever be his motive, is contributing to the degradation of his country, while in many cases he is securing his own. And while attending service ourselves, we should do our utmost also to induce others to be present; to be rid of all which keeps men away from the house of God; and to acquire everything that may properly attract them there. (Canon Page Roberts.)
The value of public worship
I. Worship is an institution for our instruction. Not only is intellectual enlightenment gained, but a deep insight also into many weighty truths, a juster discernment of right and wrong, an intimate acquaintance with the state of our own heart, the need of salvation and growth in grace.
II. It re-confirms our good resolutions. They need to be again and again renewed. In the congregation we enter into the communion of saints, and are mentally incited to keep our vows. We join a brotherhood possessing the same frailties and having the same needs. The inequalities of life, so apparent in the world, vanish here, where all are drawn with the same bonds of love, and inclined to encourage and assist each other on the way of life.
III. It renews and strengthens our religious feeling. We often approach a service with the world still about us, with trouble and sorrow surging round. In the sanctuary, prayer and praise and the Word have calmed our minds, raised us to a higher plane, given us a truer sense of the proportion of things, juster views of God and His dealings. (Homilist.)
David’s affection for the house of God
I. David had an affection for the sanctuary.
1. An ardent affection.
2. A constant affection.
3. A practical affection.
II. Reasons for this affection. Because of--
1. The Proprietor’s residence there.
2. The company it furnishes.
3. The blessings it affords,
4. The habits it induces. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
The sanctity of Christian art: a church-restoration sermon
The Greek version of this passage may be translated, “Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house, the place of the tabernacling of Thy glory.” It was the beauty of God’s house that excited the ardour of the Psalmist. It was not beneath the dignity of inspiration to care for the decent and splendid provision for the worship of the Supreme; and in Bezaleel and Aholiab, art received her first consecration to the worship of God.
I. The duty of reverent care for the externals of worship.
1. It may be urged that it is not right to affirm that an ordinance suited to an early age of civilisation must continue, notwithstanding the advance of human knowledge. But, at the same time, it should not be forgotten, that that part of the ceremonial law connected with the fabric of the temple had in it an element of stability.
2. It may be alleged that what was necessary to draw the minds of the Jews from the tawdry splendours of the Canaanitish worship is unnecessary in these days of Christian enlightenment. But what was attractive in the old beliefs was Probably a remnant of the old tradition of reverence to God which had never wholly died out amongst the heathen.
3. It may be asserted that the spiritual nature of the Gospel is entirely alien from a system that appeals to the senses and enlists the imagination. But it can be answered, that the profoundest theological reasons may be adduced for a worship and adoration appealing to every power of humanity: as witness the early Christian services, the Epistles, the Catacombs; and when the taste and bearing of Greece combined with the practical skill of Italy to erect and adorn shrines for worship, all the arts found their legitimate sphere in the service of the Christian religion.
II. The final cause why God has implanted in us a sense of the beautiful. In Him alone is perfection, beatitude, joy. All that is beautiful and lovely here below comes from Him. Even in our fallen human nature there remains sufficient virtue and grace to make us acknowledge and revere the true. We love the beautiful. And where can we find a place for it so appropriate as the courts of the Lord’s house? It may confidently be asserted, that in the history of the world the highest manifestations of the beautiful have been evolved in the sublime adoration of God. (A. P. Forbes, D. C. L.)
Our worship of God
The words are those of an old Jewish poet, spoken centuries before the rise of Christianity. They express a pious feeling which is a dominant irate of the Psalter. The affection of those inspired singers for the sanctuary of the Lord seems irrepressible; out it must, whatever the theme--whether a prayer, or a lamentation, or a thanksgiving, or a sorrowful confession of sin, or a song of victory. The temple of Jerusalem was the Keblah towards which God’s ancient people turned the face in prayer, wherever they might be. They speak of “abiding in God’s tabernacle,” of “dwelling in His house forever,” of “dwelling in His courts,” and being “satisfied with the beauty of His house, even of His holy temple.” They never weary of describing the glory of Mount Zion, and the happiness, the exultation of Divine worship.
1. Avoid narrowness in your religious views. Open your heart and mind to the whole Bible, not only to a part of it. No portion of Scripture is superfluous, but everything is necessary in its place--as a link in a chain, a stage in the growth, a step on the ladder that reaches from earth to heaven.
2. Never imagine that while beauty and stateliness are desirable in secular buildings, they are superfluous in the house of God. Never dream that spirituality of worship is furthered by poverty of accessories, by absence or meagreness of ornament, by an utter lack of comeliness in the consecrated place. All outward and visible beauty is a symbol and prophecy of the Unseen and Eternal Beauty, and therefore naturally fitted to lift our hearts to that great Object of all worship. The Church may rightly be made glorious with lavish expense of art, and time, and means: if only because the masses of God’s poor stand in pressing need of some such contrast with their ordinary haunts, to waken in their souls the sense of something higher, purer, nobler than the sights and sounds to which hard necessity has restricted them.
3. Every church is “holy ground,” for it is a meeting place of God and man; and what is holy should be beautiful. Beauty is the natural stimulus of love. The truth that God meets us here in a special way does not contradict the truth of His Presence everywhere. The prophets and teachers of Israel knew quite well that the Spiritual is the only Real, and that spiritual worship means a worship which is heartfelt, not hollow, reasonable not magical and meaningless,--a worship in which the entire consciousness, the whole nature, concentrates itself upon God. Sursum corda--Lift up your hearts! and your churches may be perfect shrines of beauty, and your services musical as the song of angels; your worship will not therefore be less but more spiritual. (C. J. Ball, M. A.)
Love to the house of God
I. The object of the Christian’s love.
1. This habitation, or house, is designed by the Great Proprietor of it for public worship.
2. It implies the manifestation of the Divine Presence.
II. The Christian’s love to the house of God.
1. The love of affection.
2. The love of preference.
3. Because of advantages realised by attending it.
(1) Children of God are born there.
(2) There the believer was convinced of sin.
(3) There the presence of God is manifested.
(4) It is the banqueting house.
(5) It is the place of instruction.
(6) Its exercises sweeten for glory.
4. Because they worship with good men.
5. It is a practical love.
(1) Regular attendance.
(2) Engagement in its services, according to ability.
(3) Invitation to others to attend.
(4) Pecuniary support.
1. How great the importance and advantages of Divine worship. Christ and His apostles honoured it (Luke 4:16; Acts 2:46).
2. How great the guilt and danger of neglecting the house of God (Psalms 73:27; Zechariah 14:17; Zechariah 14:19; Hebrews 10:25).
3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create! (Helps for the Pulpit.)
Gather not my soul with sinners.
The great care and concern now that our souls be not gathered with sinners in the other world, considered and improved
It is taken for granted that at death souls are gathered together after their own sort, and that horror is felt at being gathered with sinners. In discoursing on this doctrine we shall note--
I. Some things implied in it.
1. Here souls are mingled together. The result of this is that it keeps both parties uneasy; they are a mutual check one upon another, and providence varies in its dispensations accordingly.
2. In the other world there will be separation; and that--
3. The time for this is at death. But--
4. The saints have a horror of being gathered with sinners, and so, too, have the wicked. Balaam (Numbers 21:10).
II. Who are sinners. All unjustified and unsanctified persons; such as they who neither know nor care about religion: the profane, the mere moralists (Matthew 5:20), and formalists (2 Timothy 3:5). For all these miss the mark men should aim at, and all are guilty of death before the Lord (1 Kings 1:21; Romans 3:19), and they can do nothing but sin (Psalms 14:3), since the principles that govern them are wrong (Titus 1:15).
III. The meaning of the soul being gathered with sinners in the other world. The soul is separated from the body at death and goes to its appointed place, which is separate from that of saints.
IV. The concern felt in reference to this. It implies an earnest belief in the foregoing truths, and a dread of what they declare, together with an acknowledgment that God might justly condemn them; wherefore they betake themselves to His mercy (Job 9:15).
V. The reasonableness of such concern.
1. Because to be gathered with sinners is to be separated from God.
2. In a most doleful place (Isaiah 24:22).
3. With the most frightful society (Matthew 25:41).
4. Suffering the heaviest punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
5. To be left in their sin there; which will itself be their punishment. Their passions will rage, but they cannot be satisfied.
6. And this forever.
VI. Lessons from this doctrine.
1. However favourable the condition of the sinner in this world, it is a miserable one after all.
2. That the great business of our life is to learn to die, and to prepare for the next world.
3. We are in great danger of perishing, and therefore should be all the more earnest.
4. Therefore let the careless, slothful, delaying, malignant sinners take heed. But--
5. Such as are showing this concern may be comforted, for they are in the way of duty, and are taking their work in time; it is the Spirit who works in them this concern, and they have to do with a good and gracious God (Ezekiel 23:11). Then--
6. Your concern is quite different from that of the ungodly, who also shrink from hell, as Balaam did. For your concern is, not to be separated from Christ, and not to be left in sin; and you are now forsaking sin with true purpose of heart. Wherefore--
7. Be thus concerned all of you, come to Christ, forsake all sin, unite with the godly, observe ordinances, avoid the way of sinners now. For how important this matter is; nothing is to be put before it, and now is the accepted and the only time, and the gathering in the other world will be eternal and unutterable. Wherefore, upon the whole, let me obtain of you--
(1) That you will take scale serious thoughts of the other world in both parts of it.
(2) That you will inquire what case you are in for it. And--
(3) That you will lay down measures timely, that year souls be not gathered with sinners there. May the Lord persuade and incline your hearts unto this course. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The saint’s horror at the sinner’s hell
We must all be gathered in due course. It may come tomorrow; it may be deferred another handful of years. Filled with a holy horror of the hell of sinners, let us make most sure our calling to the heaven of the blessed. Consider--
I. The gathering. There have been many such--Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; Jericho and the Canaanites; the destruction of Jerusalem. But forgetting all these inferior gatherings, let us look on to the last great one, which is proceeding every day to its completion As the huntsman, when he goes forth to the battle, encompasses the beasts of the forest with an ever-narrowing ring of hunters, that he may exterminate them all in one great slaughter, so the God of Justice has made a ring in His providence about the sinful, sons of men. None can escape. I will not attempt, to describe, what our Saviour, veiled in words like these: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”
II. The prayer itself. We are all agreed about it, every one of us. Sinners do not wish to be gathered with sinners. But the reasons of the one prayer are different in different persons. A selfish desire to escape misery is sufficient to account for it with sinful men. There is a class of sinners that some would like to be gathered with now. Can we say, when we look upon the bright side of the wicked, “Gather not,” etc.? If we cannot we really cannot pray the prayer at all. But the Christian prays this prayer because, as far as his acquaintance with sinners goes, he does not even now wish for their company. We cannot be with them and feel ourselves perfectly at home. And even now, when God comes to punish a nation, the Christian has to suffer with the rest. He may well, from the little taste he has had of their company, pray, “Gather not,” etc. I do not know any class of sinners whose company the Christian would desire. I should not like to live with the most precise of hypocrites, nor with the formalist; and as for the blasphemer, we would as soon be shut up in a tiger’s den. And there are other reasons. When sinners are gathered at the last their characters will be the same. And think of the place, the pit of hell. Their occupations, cursing God; their sufferings, the pain of body and soul they know. And they are forever banished from God and Christ.
III. But there is in our text a fear, as if a whisper said, “Perhaps, after all, you may be gathered with the wicked.” This fear may arise from remembrance of past sin. Before we were converted we lived as others. Present backwardness, unfruitfulness, and our conscious weakness, these all rouse this fear. Therefore note--
IV. The answer to this prayer. Have you the two things that David had, the outward integrity and the inward trust? If so, then you cannot be gathered with sinners. For the rule is, like to like. And our comrades here are to be our companions hereafter. And we have been too dearly bought with Christ’s blood, and are too much loved by God; and the new nature given you will not allow of it. Careless and thoughtless one, I entreat you to consider if it be not a dreadful thing to be a sinner. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The awful association
Many disputes there are concerning the origin of human souls. The Bible assigns the first origination to God, and closely connects all with the first man. “All souls are Mine; as the soul of the master, so the soul of the servant.” He is the great Lord of human souls.
I. The worth of the human soul. Evinced--
1. By its intellectual capacities: thought, reason, memory, conscience, affection.
2. By its moral capacities. It is naturally endowed with an ability to know, serve, love, and enjoy God.
3. By its immortality. It perishes not with the body. “The spirit of man goeth upward,”--to God.
4. By the efforts of fallen spirits to effect its destruction.
5. By the means which God has used for its salvation.
II. The souls of all will be gathered together, classed and fixed forever, in a state suitable to their character.
1. What is more reasonable than such an association of similar minds after their probation?
2. Its probability is to be inferred from the nature of God and the present state of trial.
3. Its certainty is proved by Divine testimony. “He will render to every man according to his works.”
III. The souls of sinners are gathered at death into a state of shame and suffering.
1. This is a matter of positive Divine assertion.
2. Realise the fact. An entire company of lost souls!--shut up with such forever. Think of a prison full of felons and blasphemers!
3. Consider the threatenings connected with the fact. The wrath of God. Sin will forever live in them and incur wrath. Spiritual death will triumph over their soul, and never cease.
IV. The prayer of the text. “Gather not my soul,” etc.
1. How can this be answered, seeing we are sinners? The language of the prayer proceeds from a consciousness of deserving to be gathered with sinners.
2. Yet the prayer supposes the possibility of being heard and answered. The scheme of salvation shows how it can be.
3. The sincerity of the prayer will be proved by returning to God practically and in heart. If we would not be gathered with sinners at last we must break off from them now. (Evangelist.)
The eternal separation
I. The good man is chiefly concerned about his soul. Many anxious as to health, earthly comforts, security of goods, and so on. The care of the godly is his soul.
1. The soul is the man.
2. The salvation of the soul is necessary for the glory of God and the true ends of our being. The soul is ill desperate peril; and none but Christ can save.
II. The good man knows that the destiny of the soul is settled at death. Death comes to all. And “after death the judgment”: inferred by reason, foreboded by conscience, revealed by Scripture.
II. The good man recoils in horror from being associated in destiny with the wicked. Why? Because he abhors
(1) their character;
(2) their society;
(3) their doom.
Do we shrink from the society of the false, the impure, the revengeful, the slaves of lust and selfishness, how much more should we recoil from eternal fellowship with these and such as these! (W. Forsyth, M. A.)
The gathering time of souls
As there is a gathering time for the fruits of the earth, so there is a gathering time for men. Death is the reaper. With his scythe he mows down the generations, and justice gathers whom he mows,--some to misery, some to bliss. Who would be gathered with the sinners in the great world of retribution? (D. Thomas, D. D.)
A desire to be separate from all sinners
Even those of you who are not renewed by Christ despise vice when she walks abroad naked. I fear me ye cannot say as much when she puts on her silver slippers, and wraps about her shoulders her scarlet mantle. Sin in rags is not popular. Vice in sores and squalor tempts no one. In the grosser shapes, men hate the very fiend whom they love when it is refined and delicate in its form. I want to know whether you can say, “Gather not my soul with sinners” when you see the ungodly in their high days and holy days? Do you not envy the fraudulent merchant counting his gold, his purse heavy with his gains, while he himself by his craft is beyond all challenge by the law? Do you not envy the giddy revellers, spending the night in the merry dance, laughing, making merry with wine, and smiling with thoughts of lust? Yonder voluptuary, entering the abode where virtue never finds a place, and indulging in pleasures unworthy to be named in this hallowed house, does he never excite your envy? I ask you, when you see the pleasures, the bright side, the honours, the emoluments, the gains, the merriments of sin, do ye then say, “Gather not my soul with sinners”? There is a class of sinners that some would wish to be gathered with, those easy souls who go on so swimmingly. They never have any trouble; conscience never pricks them; business never goes wrong with them; they have no bands in their life, no bonds in their death; they are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. They are like the green bay tree, which spreads on every side, until its boughs cover whole acres with their shade. These are the men who prosper in the world, they increase in riches. Can we say, when we look at these, when we gaze upon the bright side of the wicked, “Gather not my soul with sinners”? Remember, if we cannot do so without reservation we really cannot pray the prayer at all; we ought to alter it, and put it, “Gather not my soul with openly reprobate sinners”; and then, mark you, as there is only one place for all sorts of sinners, moral or immoral, apparently holy or profane, your prayer cannot be heard, for if you are gathered with sinners at all--with the best of sinners--you must be gathered with the worst of sinners too. I know, children of God, ye can offer the prayer as it stands, and say, “In all their glory and their pomp, in all their wealth, their peace, and their comfort, my soul abhors them, and I earnestly beseech thee, O Lord, by the blood of Jesus, ‘Gather not my soul with sinners.’” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The company and destiny of sinners undesirable
As for blasphemers, we could not endure them a moment. Would you not as soon be shut up in a tiger’s den as with a cursing, swearing, thievish profligate? Who can endure the company of either a Voltaire or a Manning? Find out the miserly, the mean, the sneaking, the grasping--who likes to be with them? The angry, the petulant, who never try to check the unholy passion, one is always glad to be away from such folks; you are afraid lest you should be held responsible for their mad actions, and therefore, if you must be with them, you are always ill at ease. With no sort of sinners can the child of God be hail-fellow. Lambs and wolves, doves and hawks, devils and angels are not fit companions; and so through what little trial the righteous have had, they have learned that there is no sort of sinners that they would like to be shut up with forever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The final separation of mankind
In Jersey City, over from New York, there is one of the largest distributing centres of passenger traffic in the world. All the passengers for the various ramifying routes are gathered together in the waiting hall, with the doors closed. Suddenly these doors are flung open, and in a high, shrill key the railway attendant calls out the route of the train that is about to start, and goes over the names of the big towns on that route, in a tale long enough to make him need breath when he has finished it. “Philadelphia,” etc., etc., and you see passengers start from their seats among the throng and hurry to the exit the railway man indicates. They are bound for Philadelphia, and the rest. The doors close, and the throng inside the hall settle down again.” After some time the doors are flung open again, and the same sing-song of the route and the list of stops. Chicago and St. Louis,” and you see another company of passengers make their way out to the waiting train. They are those going to Chicago and St. Louis. Again the doors close, and again they are flung to the wall, and this time the list of names the fellow calls out ends with “Montreal,” and, when I heard that, I started up and made for the door; I was going to Montreal. In a few hours they that were one company inside the waiting hall of the station of Jersey City are separated by hundreds of miles, and never all to meet again. That is like this world. We are gathered together in one waiting hall in the station of time, and those sky doors have yet to be flung open, and the voice of God, the last trump, is to burst on every mortal ear, and companies and groups have to separate and gather according to their destination for eternity. Here passengers for heaven: there passengers for hell. You cannot tell in the waiting hall what passengers are bound the glad one way or what passengers are bound the sad other way. The outward appearance is all we can see. He that looketh upon and knoweth the heart is the Lord. Some presumptuous folk would try to erect a dividing barricade in the waiting hall, and divide it into two sections, whose partitions would be covered in regulation form with ecclesiastical jagged broken glass, mostly coloured, I know. But it will not do: it will not do. Leave the division to the Divider Himself. Judge not, but wait till the shout of the archangel of the coming King is heard through the suddenly flung open doors--in a moment, in that moment, in that twinkling of an eye, at that last trump. There are only two groups, and two departures, and two destinations from this waiting hall of time. How fitting the prayer, “Gather not my soul with sinners.” (John Robertson.)
Their right hand is full of bribes.
Virtue hated by the wicked
Saul not only sought David’s life with his own hand, but bribed others to seek it, and betray him into his power (1 Samuel 22:6-19). In this way the Jews treated the Son of David. Failing to accomplish His death themselves, they at last bribed one of His own disciples to betray Him into their hands. It is strange that goodness should have always met with such treatment at the hands of the world. Many have thought, in their ignorance of the human heart, that virtue only needs to be presented in her own beautiful colours to be at once loved by all. So an eminent Scotch divine thought when, after depicting in terms of glowing eloquence the moral beauty and amiability of virtue, he exclaimed, “O virtue, if thou wert embodied, all men would love thee!” His colleague later, addressing the same congregation, said, “My reverend friend observed that if virtue were embodied all men would love her. Virtue has been embodied. But how was she treated? Did all men love her? No; she was despised and rejected of men, who, after defaming, insulting, and scourging her, led her to Calvary, where they crucified her between two thieves.” (D. Caldwell, M. A.)
My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the Lord.
An even place
I. The even place on which the believer’s foot will stand.
II. The benefits in possession, in experience, and in prospect which he will derive from this standing.
III. The occasion, and the manner in which it will become him to express his gratitude. (Thomas Dale.)
Worship in the beauty of holiness
By the foot, the instrument of motion, we understand the whole turn and conduct of life. Thus the ways of a man denote his doings and his dealings, the affections which govern him, and the actions proceeding from them. When these are right, or even, we may appeal to God as Judge, worship Him in the beauty of holiness, bless Him in the congregations.
I. Holiness of life is a proper qualification for all who would worship God with acceptance. Holiness likens us to God. He desires the holy to worship Him, respects their service, and bestows His blessing.
II. Holiness of life is an essential as well as a proper qualification for all resorts to God in religious offices. Worship is not enjoined on us for the sake of God, but for our own benefit. Its main intent is to lodge with us a sense of our depending upon Him for all we have and all we hope for, to the end that it may secure our obedience to His commands and provide effectually for our final happiness. We cannot, therefore, approach Him in worship without a heart and life corresponding. (N. Marshall, D. D.)
Blessing God in the congregation
If a saint’s single voice in prayer is so sweet to God’s ear, much more His saints’ prayer and praise in consort together. A father is glad to see any one of his children, and makes him welcome when he visits him, but much more when they come together; the greatest feast is when they all meet at his house. The public praises of the Church are the emblem of heaven itself. There is a wonderful prevalence in the joint prayers of His people. When Peter was in prison the Church meets and prays him out of his enemies’ hands. A prince will grant a petition subscribed by the hands of a whole city, which, may be, he would not grant at the request of a private subject. (H. Gurnall.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 26". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany