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The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before hill eyes.
A sharp contrast of sin and holiness
I. the character of the wicked (Verses 1-4). Depravity is the sinner’s oracle. Its impulses come to him like those responses from superhuman sources which command the reverence and obedience of mankind. He yields to the seductive influence, and presses forward in the delusion that he will Hover be found out. And so, the fear of punishment being dispelled, he becomes thoroughly bad in heart, speech, and behaviour.
II. the divine excellence (Psalms 36:5-9). The psalmist begins with Jehovah’s loving-kindness and His faithfulness, His fulfilment of promises, even to the undeserving. These fill the earth and reach up to heaven. They transcend all human thought and desire (Ephesians 3:18). Jehovah’s righteousness. His rectitude in general is compared to the mountains of God, mountains which, being produced by Almighty power, are a natural emblem of immensity. Judgments, on the other hand--that is, particular acts of righteousness--are likened to the great deep in its vastness and mystery. “How unsearchable are His judgments!” (Romans 11:33). The next clause shows one of the most touching characteristics of Hebrew poetry in the instantaneous transition from the consideration of God’s unapproachable excellence to that of His providential care, which extends to every living thing, rational or irrational (Psalms 104:1-35; Psalms 145:13-16). The thought of these things makes the singer burst forth in devout rapture: “How precious is Thy loving-kindness!” It is valuable beyond all treasures, since it affords such a sure and ample protection for all who take refuge beneath Jehovah’s outstretched wings (Ruth 2:12). God is represented as a gracious Host who provides for all who come to His house and His table (Psalms 23:5; Psalms 34:9). They are sated with the richest food, and drink of the stream of God’s pleasures or “Edens” (Genesis 2:10). To believers, if they enjoy God’s presence and favour, a crust of bread and a glass of water are incomparably better than a royal banquet without such enjoyment. For with Him is the fountain of all life, animal and spiritual. What matters it that all the streams are cut off when one stands near the fountain-head, and has direct access to it? But just as God is the fountain of life, so is He also the fountain of light (Daniel 2:22), and apart from Him all is darkness. The believing soul lives in an element of light which at once quickens and satisfies the spiritual faculty, by which heaven and heavenly things are apprehended.
III. The concluding prayer (Psalms 36:10-12). To his glowing description of the blessedness resident in God and flowing forth to the objects of His favour, the psalmist appends a prayer that it may be extended or prolonged to the class to which he claims to belong. This class is described, first, as those who know God, “and, as a necessary consequence, love Him, since genuine knowledge of the true God is inseparable from right affections toward Him;” secondly, as the upright, not merely in appearance or outward demeanour, but in heart. Great as God’s loving-kindness is, it is not indiscriminate, nor lavished upon those who neither appreciate nor desire it. The last verse is a mighty triumph of faith. It is as if David said, “There! they have fallen already.” The wicked may be swollen with insolence, and the world applaud them, but he descries their destruction from afar as if from a watch-tower, and pronounces it as confidently as if it were an accomplished fact. The defeat is final and irretrievable. “What is the carpenter’s son doing now?” was the scoffing question of a heathen in the days of Julian, when the apostate emperor was off upon an expedition which seemed likely to end in triumph. “He is making a coffin for the emperor,” was the calm reply. Faith that is anchored upon the perfections of the Most High cannot waver, cannot be disappointed. (T. W. Chambers, D. D.)
A diagnosis of sin
The earlier verses of the psalm are concerned with an analysis of the method and destructiveness of sin. The first four verses describe the successful ravages which sin makes in human life. They give us a diagnosis of evil, from its earliest appearance in the germ to its complete and final triumph. Now how does sin begin? I must take some little liberty with the wording of the psalm before me. I suppose it is one of the most difficult of all the psalms to translate. You will find, if you will look at the marginal rendering in the R.V., that for almost every clause the translators have given us an alternative reading which greatly differs from the reading placed in the text. I choose the marginal reading of the first clause, which, I think, gives us the germ, the first appearances, the beginnings of sin in human life. “Transgression uttereth its oracle,” speaks within himself in tones of imperious authority, lays down certain assurances, interpolates certain suggestions, and clothes them with imperial authority. The devil begins his ministry by oracular suggestions, by mysterious whispers, subtle enticements to sin. That is the germinal work of the devil; a mystic, secret oracle seeking to entice the life into ways of sin. The secret enticement is followed by equally subtle stratagem. “He” (that is, the oracle) “flattereth him in his eyes that his iniquity shall not be found out and be hated.” Two things the oracle says, and he says them with imperial authority. First, that sin shall not be found out, and secondly, that therefore there is no fear of reprobation. It is only a repetition of a word with which we are very familiar in the earlier portion of the old Book. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die? . . . Ye shall not surely die!” Now pass to the third step in the great degeneracy. The man has been listening to the secret oracle. He has been flattered by its suggestiveness. He is now persuaded by the enticement, and the moral degradation begins apace. “The words”--the first things to be smitten--“The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit.” The first thing that happens as soon as a man listens to the devil is that the bloom goes off the truthfulness of his life. He now enters the realm of equivocation and deceit, his seduction begins to show its fruit at the lips. “He hath left off to be wise”; then he loseth sense; he does not now exercise common sense; he shuts one eye! His intelligence is narrowed, contracted and curtailed. But still further: “He hath left off to do good.” The loss of brotherhood! He may continue to give money; but he has ceased to give self. The claims of philanthropic service no longer appeal to his spirit, they pass by unheeded and ignored. Arid now see what further happens in the stages of moral decay. “He deviseth iniquity”; his imagination becomes defiled. “He setteth himself in a way that is not good. His will becomes enslaved. “He adhorreth not evil.” He has now reached the plain of moral benumbment; his moral palate has been defiled; the distinction between sweet and bitter is no longer apparent, sweet and bitter taste alike. He has no abhorrence of evil, and he has no sweet pleasure in the good. He has lost his power of moral discernment; he is morally indifferent, and almost morally dead. Such is the diagnosis of sin, beginning in the whispered oracle and proceeding to absolute enslavement, passing through the intermediate stages of deception and delight. That is the moral condition of thousands. It is all round about us, and when we are confronted with its widespread devastation, what can we do? The earlier verses of this psalm, which give what I have called “a diagnosis” of sin, were never more confirmed than they are in the literature of our own Lime. The literature of our time abounds in analysis of sin. If you turn to “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” or “Jude the Obscure,” you will find that Thomas Hardy is just carefully elaborating the first four verses of this psalm. But, then, my trouble is this: that when his mournful psalm comes to an end I close his book in limp and rayless bewilderment. That is where so much of our modern literature leaves me. It gives me a fine diagnosis, but no remedial power. But here is the psalmist contemplating a similar spectacle--the ravages of sin, and he himself is temporarily bewildered; he himself is bowed low in helpless and hopeless mood. What does he do? I am very glad that our Revised Version helps by the very manner in which the psalm is printed. After verse four there is a great space, as though the psalm must be almost cut in two, as though the psalmist had gone away from the contemplation of that spectacle, as indeed he has. And where has he gone? He has gone that he might quietly inquire whether the evil things he has seen are the biggest things he can find. When the psalm opens again after the pause, the psalmist is joyfully proclaiming the bigger things he has found. What are they?” Thy loving-kindness, O Lord, is in the heavens.” Mark the vastness of the figures in which he seeks to enshrine the vastness of his thought. “Thy loving-kindness, O Lord, is in the heavens,” bending like a mother’s arms, the shining, cloudless sky! Most uncertain of all uncertainties, and yet “Thy faithfulness reacheth even unto the clouds!’ Those apparent children of caprice, coming and going no one knows how, are in God’s loving control, and obey the behests of His most sovereign will. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.” How majestic the figure! The mountains, the symbols of the Eternal, abiding through the generations; looking down upon the habitations of men, undisturbed, unchanged, unmoved. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains! Not that everything becomes clear when a man talks like that; the mystery remains! “Thy judgments,” Thy ways of doing things, “Thy judgments are a great deep,” as immense and unfathomable as the incalculable sea. But then one may endure the mystery of the deep when one is sure about the mountain. When you know that His faithfulness even ruleth the clouds, you can trust the fickle sea, Where had he been to discover these wonderful things? He is not recounting a bald catalogue of Divine attributes; he is announcing a testimony born of a deep and real experience. Where has he been? He has been the guest of God. “Under the shadow of Thy wings.” The security of it! The absolute perfectness of the shelter! The warmth of it! The untroubled peace of it! He has been in God’s house, sheltering there as a chick under its mother’s wings. And then he tells us what he received in the house, what he had when he was a guest, when he was hiding under the wings: “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house.” “Fatness is the top, it is the cream of all spiritual delicacies.” It is the first, the prime thing! “They shall be abundantly satisfied” with the delicacies of Thy table! “Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.” It is not only what there is upon the table; it is the conversation and the fellowship at the board. Thy speech, Thy fellowship, Thy whispers, Thy promises, they just flow out into their souls like a river, and their joy shall be full. “With Thee is the fountain of life!” He was beginning to feel alive again; he was beginning to feel vitalized and renewed. “I am getting inspired again.” And then he added: “In Thy light,” my living God, “in Thy light shall we see light” to do our work away yonder in the fields of sin I The very two things he wanted: life and light I Inspiration and counsel! Encouragement and hope! As the psalmist turned from the Presence Chamber to confront again the spectacle of depravity, he offered a prayer, and this was his prayer: “O continue Thy loving-kindness unto them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart!” And then, as though he was afraid that when he got back to the waste again, and to the sin again, he himself might be overcome, caught up in the terrible drift and carried along, he added this prayer: “Let not the foot of pride come against me.” Do not let me get into the general tendency of things, and by the general tendency be carried away! He offered a prayer that these cardinal things, the greatest things, might abide with him, and that when he went away into the world’s waste field he might be able to stand. And so this man came out of the secret chamber a knight of God! He goes back, like all men ought to go hack to their work when they have been in the presence chamber of God. We ought to turn to our work singing, always singing, and the songs ought to be, not songs of strife and warfare, but songs of victory. (J. H. Jowett, M.A.)
The character of the wicked and the prayer of the good
I. The character of the wicked.
1. Practical atheism.
3. Perverse speech.
4. Mischievous devices.
II. The glory of God. Here the Eternal is adored--
1. For what He is in Himself.
(1) His mercy is not a mere sentiment or passion, subject to change, but a principle settled as truth itself.
(2) His rectitude is as settled as the everlasting hills, and the dispensations of His providence are as a trackless, boundless ocean.
2. For what He is to His creatures.
(1) The Preserver of all.
(2) Their loving Guardian.
(3) Their Soul-satisfier. Man’s happiness is participation in God’s own happiness.
III. The prayer of the good.
1. The subject of the prayer.
(1) The continuance of Divine favour.
(2) Protection from evil.
2. The answer (Psalms 36:12). (Homilist)
The remedy for the world’s wickedness
Consider the estimate here made of man’s character and its cause. The language of the text is not that of David only, but of Christ, concerning the world around us. Man’s transgression possessed a language which spoke to his heart, and what it said was this, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Christ knew what the fear of God was, for “He was heard in that he feared”; not, indeed, with the selfish, slavish fear of punishment, which is incompatible with love, and impotent to secure obedience; but that holy, filial fear which is inseparable from love, and which is a comprehensive term for all that constitutes real religion in man. We know the power of this in man’s character, its practical power in giving man victory over the world, and therefore when he saw the transgressions of men he knew that the cause was--“There is no fear of God.” Then he goes to the root of the disease; he puts forward none of the plausible excuses which men make for themselves on the ground of temperament, circumstances, and the like: but he goes to the root, for he knows also the real and only remedy. All others are vain: whether they be secular attempts to improve man’s condition or to enlarge his knowledge, or to improve the institutions of civil government. Men believe in these things, and despise that vital religion which can alone help. What man calls wisdom, and wealth, and science, can do but little good, for they all terminate with creatures; they do not rise up to God. There is nothing in them to alter the real character of man. The reason is, that man, practically considered, is under the dominion, not of his intellect, but of his affections. There is no truth, connected with our composition, that requires and demands from wise men a more accurate and painstaking examination than this; because there is a theory of right in men’s minds, and they deceive themselves into self-complacency by the admiration of the theory, at the moment that practically they are transgressing it. However strengthened the intellect by natural learning, it is still too weak for the conflict. The attracting object, soliciting the affections, gains the man; and he exhibits another specimen of the acknowledgment of the celebrated heathen, who “Knew the best, and yet the worst pursued.” What is to be done for him? “His transgression saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” There is fear of man; there is a desire to obtain the good opinion of man; but all these are too weak for the conflict. He is still a transgressor, because he is devoid of “the fear of God.” The next verses of the psalm give a remarkable description of his transgression, and show that it is mainly characterized by self-deception. “He flattereth himself in his own eyes until his iniquity be found to be hateful.” It is not perceived to be hateful now, because he does as the world does. There are transgressions in which no man can flatter himself that he is right, but there are others for which he does not condemn himself, because society does not. It is concerning these, particularly, that he goes on flattering himself. And where is the remedy? The language of the psalmist, immediately after this, points out the remedy. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep; O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.” Observe the transition. From this contemplation of man’s wickedness, he does not pass to a better class of men, because he was not contemplating that peculiar character of wickedness, in which man differs from man, but he was contemplating the root of man’s malady, in which “there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In immediate contrast, therefore, he refers to the character of God. Here is the only remedy--the character of God as manifested in Jesus Christ. “Mercy, . . . faithfulness,” “righteousness,” “judgment, . . . loving-kindness”--how are these glorious perfections harmonized, but in the Cross of Christ? Here, then, we find the urgency for preaching the Gospel among men. Here we find our stronghold of demand for every effort to promulgate the Gospel amongst our fellow-creatures. They who know the human character best, who have watched most minutely the turning point of man’s feelings and his consequent conduct, know full well that it is the manifestation of God’s love that wins the alienated heart and changes the alienated conduct. (Hugh M’Neils, M. A.)
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity he found to he hateful.--
The deceitfulness of sin
The deceits by which the sinner thus imposes on himself may be very different and various, according to the circumstances and the dispositions of the persons by whom they are admitted, and it is not very easy to discover every one of them. There are, however, some capital and leading ones, pointed out in Scripture, or suggested by history and experience.
I. A studied infidelity, and an affected endeavour to despise the evidence on which the belief of the great and fundamental doctrines of religion stands; such as the existence and perfections of Almighty God, His moral government of this world, and a future judgment.
1. It is the height of folly, either to reject these doctrines of religion, or to treat them with contempt, until we can say we have examined the evidence on which they have been received, with the utmost exactness and candour in our power.
2. Without determining the degree of evidence, which is offered in support of the doctrines of religion, we may venture, nevertheless, to affirm, with strong assurance, that it is at least equal to the evidence upon which men constantly proceed, without the smallest hesitation, in all their other interests.
II. A fond imagination of their own innocence, even in the course of an irregular and sinful life. They artfully persuade themselves that there cannot be such malignity or guilt in what they do as that it should expose them to the displeasure of their Maker, or draw after it any great or lasting punishment: they presume, therefore, God will overlook the irregularities and errors of their lives, or find out some merciful expedient whereby they may escape with safety and success.
1. Notwithstanding the ignorance and corruption of our present state, so much of our original rectitude remains, that without any laboured cultivation, the consciences of men do still perceive a very odious deformity in some instances of wickedness; and lead, not only to a strong indignation against the criminal, but to a strong persuasion that Providence will some time or other interpose, and exert its justice, in his punishment.
2. The marks which God has already given, in the administration of His providence, of His displeasure with the sins of men. What extreme distress have some brought upon themselves by their intemperance; some by their dishonesty, and others by their immoderate ambition. It adds greatly to the weight of this consideration, that these expressions of Divine displeasure are made against such iniquities as are usually disguised in the thoughts of men, under the appearance of innocence, or weakness; as being only a compliance with the appetites implanted in our nature, and with the custom of the world, in which a man has no deliberate impiety and malice in his heart, no intention either to affront his Maker, or to hurt his fellow-men.
III. A groundless and presumptuous dependence on the mercy of almighty God.
1. Although the mercy of Almighty God be infinite, as all His other perfections are, yet it can extend only to those persons who are the proper objects of compassion, and to those cases to which it would be worthy of Him to extend mercy.
2. Let it be observed, that abstracting from the displeasure of Almighty God, and supposing that there was to be no positive exertion of His justice in the case, yet the future punishment of sinners will very probably proceed from the nature and influence of wickedness itself (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 1:31; Isaiah 3:10).
IV. The sinner’s hoping, at the end of a guilty life, to be saved, by the merit of the Son of God, and the virtue of that great atonement which he made for the sins of men. If the sinner is not able to convince himself that the mercy of his Maker is sufficient, by itself, to ensure his future safety, he trusts, at least, to the all-sufficient sacrifice and merit of his well-beloved Son. But, according to Scripture, they only can be saved by the sacrifice and intercession of the Son of God, who are persuaded by Him to repent of their iniquities, to believe and obey the Gospel (Acts 5:31; Acts 3:19; Hebrews 5:9; Romans 2:6). Were the matter otherwise, were sinners, continuing in their wickedness, permitted to expect salvation through the merits of our Saviour, Jesus would become the minister of sin, an establisher rather than a destroyer of the works of Satan; than which, a more blasphemous reproach could not be thrown upon His character.
V. A precipitant contempt of religion, on account of the weak and wrong representations which have been made of it by some of its mistaken friends. This instance of deceit unhappily prevails, even among those who pretend to superior discernment. But the weakness of it may appear upon a very small attention. Does a wise man conduct himself in this manner in any corer action of his life? Does he despise the truth and usefulness of real science, because of the impertinence and pedantry of mere pretenders to it? Does he despise the useful schemes of commerce, accompanied with the solidest effects, because of the chimerical and idle schemes of mere projectors.
VI. Their hoping and resolving to repent, and turn to God, at some future and more convenient opportunity; at the farthest, in the last period of their lives, or at the approach of death. It is not proposed, at present, to show the extreme absurdity and folly of this conduct, by arguments drawn from the shortness and uncertainty of human life; the hardening influence of a sinful course, which gradually destroys the sensibility of the human conscience. I would only desire ,your attention to the prodigious presumption of the sinner who defers his repentance and return to God to the last period of his life, hoping then to obtain forgiveness from God by his penitence and prayers. What the Creator can do, or what He may have done, independent of the established laws of providence, no man reckons it of importance to inquire; and any person would be deemed a madman or a fool, who directed the measures of his conduct by a regard to such unusual departures from these laws, as the history of the world may possibly furnish some few examples of. That man seems equally foolish and absurd who seeks admission to eternal life otherwise than according to the measures of His mercy, declared and established by the Gospel. (W. Craig, D.D.)
On the deceitfulness of the heart, with regard to the commission of sin
I. Preliminary observations.
1. That all the proofs of the deceitfulness of the heart, which we mean to offer with regard to sin, may not be found in every person, especially in those who are under its power.
2. Many of those things, which are evidences of the deceitfulness of the heart, may be used as temptations by Satan. The wind of Satan’s temptation commonly blows along with the tide of corruption within, whether by deceit, or by violence. Were not this the case, Satan would be divided against himself, and opposing the interests of his own kingdom.
II. How the deceitfulness of the heart appears.
1. In raising doubts in the mind, with respect to what One is inclined to, whether it really be sin.
2. In trying to persuade him that it is a little sin. If the understanding will not be betrayed into a belief that the matter proposed is no sin at all, the heart will strenuously plead that it scarcely deserves the name.
3. By representing the mortification of sin as affording far less pleasure than the gratification of it. Nay, it will presume to urge, not only the difficulty, but the unreasonableness, the cruelty of attempting totally to subdue sin.
4. Sin is exhibited as far more pleasant than it is really found in the commission. The enjoyments of sin are like the apples of Sodom, which, how fair soever they appear to the eye, when grasped by the hand are said to fall to ashes (Proverbs 22:8; Romans 6:21).
5. It represents a renewed opportunity of sin, as promising far greater satisfaction than was ever found before.
6. It pleads that one may indulge sin a little, without altogether yielding to the sin particularly in view.
7. It throws a veil of forgetfulness over the whole soul, with respect to all the painful consequences of sin, formerly felt. That loathsomeness of sin, hatred of self on account of it, or fear of Wrath, which the person experienced after a former indulgence, are entirely vanished; and he now appears to himself as one who feared where no fear was.
8. It entices the imagination into its service. This is not only Satan’s workhouse in the soul; but it may be viewed as a purveyor, which the heart engages in making provision for its lusts.
9. It engages the senses on its side. These are volunteers to the corrupt heart, which it arms in its service, and by which it accomplishes its wicked purposes, when enticing to outward acts of sin. For the voice of the senses will always overpower that of the understanding; if they be not brought into subjection, or presently restrained by grace.
10. In representing sin as properly one’s own, as something belonging to one’s self.
11. By insinuating that committing such a sin once more cannot greatly increase our guilt.
12. By urging the vanity of attempting to resist the temptation. It will plead for yielding to the present assault, from former instances of insufficiency In opposing one of the came nature.
13. It may sometimes endeavour to persuade a man that the present commission of sin will be an antidote for the future, because he will see more of its hatefulness.
14. The heart sometimes urges the commission of sin, as immediately clearing the way to the performance of some necessary duty (Romans 3:8; Genesis 20:11; Genesis 27:19; 1 Samuel 13:11; 1 Samuel 15:22).
15. By persuading a person to lay the commission of sin to the charge of the flesh, and solacing him with the idea that, although he fall into it, he does not really love it.
16. It dissuades him from prayer. Perhaps it reminds him that he has often tried this exercise before, in like circumstances, when he found an inclination to sin, or was assaulted by a temptation; and that it was attended with no success. Or, it may reason that if God hath determined to permit his fall at this time, prayer will not prevent it.
17. It strives to banish a sense of the presence and omniscience of God.
18. The deceitfulness of the heart about sin eminently appears in its self-hardening influence. Sin is the instrument which it uses in this work (Hebrews 13:8). The strength of every lust is commensurate with the power of deceit.
19. The heart will even urge God’s readiness to pardon as an excitement to the commission of sin. This is indeed a dreadful abuse of pardoning mercy.
20. By endeavouring to drive one to despair, after the commission of sin, as being beyond the reach of mercy.
III. Means for obtaining victory over the deceits of the heart with respect to sin.
1. In a dependence on the Spirit, resist the first motions of sin within you.
2. Beware of entertaining doubts with regard to what Scripture and conscience declare to be sin. To doubt is to begin to fall, for it implies unbelief of God’s testimony.
3. Carefully avoid light notions of any sin. To think lightly of sin is to think lightly of God.
4. Guard against the solicitations of your hearts. If these promise you honour, profit, or pleasure in the service of sin, believe them not.
5. Beware of tampering or dallying with sin. Temptation is, to the corrupt heart, sharper than a two-edged sword, and if the point once enter, you may be pierced through with many sorrows.
6. Try to get all your senses armed against sin, or rather barred against it; for this is the best mode of defence. Like Job, make a covenant with your eyes. Endeavour to stop your ears against it. Strive for the mastery over your taste. Put a knife to thy throat, lest thou be given to appetite.
7. Seek a constant sense of the Majesty and Omniscience of God.
8. Pray without ceasing against the deceitfulness of the heart.
9. Improve the strength of Christ, and the grace of His Spirit, for the mortification of sin. (John Jamieson, D. D.)
He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good.
The state and condition of an habitual sinner
I. The character of an habitual sinner. He is one who “deviseth mischief upon his bed,” his hours of leisure are employed upon it.
1. The time of retirement is the fittest and most likely season for religious influences to take place, and to have a due effect (Psalms 119:55). If ever our reason re-asserts its authority, it should be when there is nothing from without to interrupt its pretensions, or to oppose its claim. If ever religion can raise up our souls to God, it should be when our souls are free from all external impediments.
2. When this time of solitude and leisure is misapplied to contrivances for vice, it must needs improve those ill dispositions which it finds in the mind, and overspread it more and more with the contagion of sin.
II. To give some accounts, and to show some cause of his thus proceeding; of the abuse he puts upon his hours of leisure. “He setteth himself in a way that is not good.”
1. The abuse of a trust reposed in us all by a gracious Providence. We have a work to do, and a time assigned us for it. The work is improving our souls, and disposing all our faculties to a ripeness and capacity for eternal bliss. But how great will be the guilt which is contracted when the time allotted us to do the work of Him who sent us into this world for His glory, is employed to His dishonour, and in disobedience to His laws! To somewhat to forget, but more to betray a trust.
2. He who makes no advances forwards will certainly go backwards; he who has not laid in a fit provision for a good use of his time will certainly put it to a bad one. The ground we might gain in virtue will be gained to vice.
III. A further aggravation, and indeed a further reason of his sin. “He abhorreth not evil.” His affections are all wrong turned; and, being so, it is no great wonder that they should run riot upon wickedness.
1. That he abhorreth not evil is an aggravation of his sin, for it implies that his reason is subdued to it, and grace extinguished. It is a common progress to defend upon principle what had its rise from frailty; to proceed from infirmity to wilful guilt; and, from sinning against conviction, to sin away all conviction.
2. If a man loves and likes it, he will, at one time or other, be gained upon to embrace it. For a state of neutrality between vice and virtue is impracticable, and impossible to human nature. He who “abhorreth not evil “will soon abhor that which is good. (N. Marshall, D. D.)
Thy mercy, O Lord, Is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Sky, earth and sea; a parable of God
This wonderful description of the manifold brightness of the Divine nature is introduced in this psalm with singular abruptness. It is set side by side with a vivid picture of an evildoer, a man who mutters in his own heart his godlessness, and with obstinate determination plans and plots in forgetfulness of God. We should go mad when we think of man’s wickedness Unless we could look up and see, with one quick turn of the eye, the heaven opened and the throned love that sits up there gazing on the chaos, and working to soothe sorrow, and to purify evil.
I. We have God in the boundlessness of his loving nature, His mercy, faithfulness and righteousness are set before us. Now, the mercy spoken of is the same as the “love” told of in the New Testament, or, more nearly still, the “grace.” Mercy is love in its exercise to persons who might expect something else, being guilty. As a general coming to a body of mutineers with pardon and favour upon his lips, instead of with condemnation and death; so God comes to us forgiving and blessing. All His goodness is forbearance, and His love is mercy, because of the weakness, the lowliness, and the ill desert of us on whom the love falls. And this same “quality of mercy” stands here at the beginning and the end. All the attributes of God are within the circle of His mercy, like diamonds set in a golden ring. But next to mercy comes faithfulness. “Thy faithfulness,” etc. This implies a verbal revelation, and definite words from Him pledging Him to a certain line of action. “He hath said, and shall He not do it.” “He will not alter the thing that is gone out of His lips.” It is only a God who has spoken to men who can be a faithful God. He will not palter with a double sense, keeping His word of promise to the ear, and breaking it to the hope. The next beam of the Divine brightness is Righteousness. “Thy righteousness is,” etc. The idea is just this, to put it into other words, that God has a law for His being to which He conforms; and that whatsoever things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure down here, those things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure up there. All these characteristics of the Divine nature are boundless. “Thy mercy is in the heavens,” towering up above the stars and dwelling there like some Divine ether filling all space. The heavens are the home of light, the source of every blessing, arching over every head, rimming every horizon, holding all the stars, opening into abysses as we gaze, with us by night and by day, undimmed by the mist and smoke of earth, unchanged by the lapse of centuries; ever seen, never reached, bending over us always, always far above us. For even they, however they may dissolve and break, are yet subject to His unalterable law, and fulfil His gracious purpose. Then “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.” Like them, its roots are fast and stable; its summits touch the clouds of fleeting human circumstance: it is a shelter and a refuge, inaccessible in its steepest peaks, but affording many a cleft in its rocks where a man may hide and be safe. But, unlike them, it knew no beginning and shall know no end. Then, with wonderful poetical beauty and vividness of contrast, there follows upon the emblems of the great mountains of God’s righteousness the emblem of the “mighty deep” of His judgments. Here towers Vesuvius; there at its feet lie the waters of the bay. The mountains and the sea are the two grandest things in nature, and in their combination sublime; the one the home of calm and silence, the other in perpetual motion. But the mountain’s roots are deeper than the depths of the sea, and though the judgments are a mighty deep, the righteousness is deeper, and is the bed of the ocean. There is obscurity, doubtless, in these judgments, but it is that of the sea: not in itself, but in the dimness of the eye that looks upon it. The sea is clear, but our sight is limited. We cannot see to the bottom. A man on the cliff can look much deeper into the ocean than a man on the level beach. Let us remember that it is a hazardous thing to judge of a picture before it is finished; of a building before the scaffolding is pulled down, and it is a hazardous thing for us to say about any deed or any revealed truth that it is inconsistent with the Divine character. Wait a bit.
II. So much, then, for the great picture here of these boundless characteristics of the Divine nature. Now let us look for a moment at the picture of man sheltering beneath God’s wings. “How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.” God’s loving-kindness, or mercy, is precious, for that is the true meaning of the word translated “excellent.” We are rich when we have that for ours; we are poor without it. That man is wealthy who has God on his side; that man is a pauper who has not God for his. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Voices of a summer landscape
That from which the psalmist has borrowed his lessons in all probability lay before him as he mused. We imagine him at the time a fugitive from Saul. From the wickedness and craft of men, he turns to the goodness and faithfulness of God.
I. God’s mercy. He declares that it is throned in the heavens. These suggest--
1. Its height. Climb the loftiest mountain, and yet they look down upon you. And so with the mercy of our God. It is the one all-enfolding, all-transcending fact in God’s moral universe. It is high; we cannot attain unto it.
2. Its age and changelessness. The earth which the sky overshadows has seen many mutations. Beneath there is nothing but flux, restlessness, change. But the sky has looked down on it all, serene and unvarying, amidst all the overturning and mutations of the countless years. Time writes no wrinkles on its stedfast blue.
3. Akin to this is another thought--the heavens are all-embracing, ever-present, and ever-free. “The noblest scenes of earth,” it has been said, “can be seen and known but by few. The sky is for all,” Be your dwelling-place on the bleakest and dreariest swamp, without a tree or a hill to diversify its surface, you have still overhead a picture of loveliness and of mystery as often as you choose to look up. Thread the narrowest thoroughfare of a crowded town, and far above the filth and squalor, between the eaves of the tall and tottering tenements that enclose you, there are strips of clear blue sky, reminding you that, whatsoever be the restlessness, the sorrow, and the vice below, there is nothing above but beauty, purity, and peace. So again with the mercy of our God; it is exceeding broad. It is the attribute of all attributes that is ever engirdling the world. Mercy is the very sphere in which we live and move.
II. God’s faithfulness. Faithfulness has its close connection with mercy. Mercy is that which gives the promise, faithfulness is that which keeps it. Mercy determines the character of God’s dealing with a helpless and sin-stricken world, faithfulness secures their continuance. Mercy defines the nature and the terms of the covenant of grace, faithfulness provides for its stedfastness, and carries it out to its final completion. Faithfulness is mercy bonded and pledged.
III. God’s righteousness. The element is one that cannot be spared from the picture. A God may be merciful, He may be faithful, too, but what avails it if both attributes do not rest upon justice? Yonder vault of God’s house, curtained with clouds and fretted with innumerable fires, is raised on its pillars. The everlasting hills bear it up, and their columns support the overarching dome. So with God’s righteousness. It lies at the base of His other attributes. It is as the mountains.
1. Stable. Nothing--storm or tempest--can move them.
2. Conspicuous. Long after the city’s spires have disappeared, and wood and river, field and vineyard have been lost in the distant blue, the outline of the sentinel hills may remain, massive and majestic as ever--every summit and jag cut clear against the sky. So again with the Divine righteousness. There is much that will pass away, but this, never.
3. The mountains are the sources of many blessings. To them we owe the moisture that laves and that gladdens the thirsty earth. If the waters go “down by the valleys,” they “go up by the mountains” first, and the rivers that fertilize our fields, turn our mills, and give drink to man and to beast, have their springs in green nooks and cool stony caverns on their distant slopes. Thus with the righteousness of God. So do “the mountains bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness.”
IV. God’s judgments. From the sky, the clouds and the mountains, the psalmist now turned to the floods. Those, perhaps, of “the great and wide sea.” What are all God’s attributes that we have considered without wisdom to direct the whole? “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom,” etc. We can see but little, but that is enough. Let us thank God. (W. A. Gray.)
Earthly emblems of heavenly things
The three grandest objects in the kingdom of nature are the heavens, the hills, and the sea: the heavens for their clearness, their height, and their all-embracing circuit; the hills for their strength, their security, and their shade; and the sea for its boundless immensity, its unfathomable profundity, and its inexplicable mystery.
I. God’s mercy. This means His loving-kindness to a sinner, His gracious disposition to receive again into favour those who were aforetime the objects of His wrath. Now, this mercy, says the psalmist, is in the heavens, which indicates--
1. The conspicuous and prominent position which it occupies in the kingdom of grace.
2. Since God has set His mercy in the heavens, it must overtop the highest mountain of man’s transgression.
3. If God’s mercy be in the heavens, we shall never be able to get beyond it.
(1) This is true in a very important sense of the entire family of man. For we live in a world of mercy.
(2) What is true of the human family as a whole, is likewise true and pre-eminently true of the individual saint. God’s mercy surrounds him like the blue vault of heaven.
II. God’s righteousness. No doubt the psalmist refers to the particular character of rectitude which God maintains in all His dealings with His sinful creatures. At the same time, we cannot greatly err in attaching to the term its New Testament Signification of God’s gracious provision for saving men through the obedience unto death of His Son.
1. The great mountains, “the mountains of God,” as David calls them, suggest the idea of stability, or strength. Hence they are fit emblems of the righteous character of God, which nothing that may happen can ever prevent from ruling in all His dealings with His creatures; and of the righteous work of Christ through which grace reigns unto eternal life. It is everlasting as the high hills of God (Isaiah 51:6).
2. The great mountains speak of security or protection. Yet the security and protection of the hills are only emblems, beautiful and significant, but still faint, of that impregnable defence which is enjoyed by him who is arrayed in Christ’s robe of righteousness, and who puts his trust in the righteous character of God.
3. The great mountains afford a shade to exhausted travellers as they pass along beneath a burning sky; and the like refreshment does a saint enjoy when in spirit he reposes in the finished righteousness of Christ.
III. God’s judgments. These are His ways, acts, providential dispensations. Rightly called judgment is, as not being haphazard operations, but the solemn decisions of His infinite mind. Every step of the Divine procedure is deliberately weighed. God’s judgments are like the sea in respect of--
They relate indeed to the little speck of time in which we live, and the little spot of ground on which we stand, but they stretch away out as well beyond the confines of the tomb, away out into the unnumbered ages of that illimitable eternity into which we are fast going, as the sea spreads itself out beyond the gaze of men. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. Thy mercy, o Lord, is in the heavens.
3. Encompassing the whole human family.
II. Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
1. The clouds are changeful. The small one becoming large. The dark one becoming clear. One joining another till the entire face of the heavens is covered with them. All these mutations required and produced by the Lord. He proclaimed, through Jonah, the destruction of Nineveh in forty days. The citizens repented, and the threatening was not executed. This shows that He did change His proposed course of action. All God’s threatenings and promises are conditional.
2. The clouds at times move slowly. Creep along so tardily, as if they were unwilling to move. Seem to stop altogether for hours. Like the promises and threatenings of the Lord. Prayers not answered for ten, twenty, and thirty years. Wait on the Lord patiently, lie shall bring it to pass.
3. The clouds sometimes move rapidly. Resemble war-horses rushing over the battle-field, or horses sweeping along the race-course. Koran, Dathan and Abiram, Achan, Ananias and Sapphira. Many sudden deaths. The sword of Divine justice is suspended over the sinner’s head. It may not fall for a long time, it may fall in a moment. “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.” (A. McAuslane, D. D.)
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.--
I. That the righteousness of Jehovah was fixed and unchangeable. Nothing in the world so impresses the mind with the idea of unchangeableness as the great mountains. All things on, beneath and around them change, but they remain the same. And so it is with God’s righteousness.
II. It is only as you come near the great mountains that their real greatness appears. So also is it with God’s righteousness. The man who has climbed highest in the way of righteousness knows best how great is the distance he has yet to climb.
III. Only as the sun lifts the clouds are the high summits clearly revealed. And so in regard to God, clouds and darkness are round about Him; and it is only as the Sun of Righteousness arises, that we can look upon God. You cannot see the mountains without the sun--the moon is only reflected sunlight--and so all true vision of God is by means of Christ. (W. O. Horder.)
The mountains of God
I am not specially careful to inquire in detail as to what the psalmist refers to when he speaks of the righteousness of the Lord. He is righteous altogether. Now, just as every continent, and almost every country, has a chain of mountains running across it, or along its length, which is, as it were, the backbone of the country, giving it character, and fixing certain hounds, and providing the water-sheds, so the righteousness of God, the essential holiness of the King of kings, the inflexible justice of the great Lawgiver is as a mighty range of hills which runs the whole length of God’s dealings with His people.
I. Their sublimity. Come up into the hill of the Lord, climb these mountains of God, contemplate the righteousness of the Most High, who can by no means clear the guilty and will not wink at sin. View the vast expanses of His righteousness, and the towering masses of His holiness, and wonder, with a great amazement, that they have not crushed you long ago. Instead of that catastrophe you are permitted to climb among these highlands, and to sun yourself upon their summits. But oh, with all our familiarity of approach to God, let us not forget how great and good God is.
II. Their purity. How clear the air on those sunlit summits! How bright the sky above the traveller’s head! I would fain enter, as far as it is possible, into a comprehension of the absolute holiness of God. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
III. Their stability. A process of disintegration is perhaps always going on; sun, and wind, and rain, and snow, all these things affect our mountains somewhat, but despite that fact they remain, their roots fixed in the heart of the earth, and their peaks piercing the passing clouds. So is it with the righteousness of God. You cannot bribe God; neither threatenings nor persuadings will turn Him from His course. He keeps His promises to the letter, every one of them, and the covenant which He has signed, and which Christ has sealed with His own most precious blood, can never be set aside.
IV. Their mystery. One cannot climb even one of our own little hills without risk of becoming enveloped in the driving mist and in the falling cloud. Have you ever wondered that God is not found out by man and understood by finite comprehension? The wonder would be if He were. His righteousness is like the great mountains.
V. Their utility. They are ornamental, it is true, but they are even more useful than they are ornamental. God’s righteousness is not merely to be looked at from a distance, wondered at, and admired; it is to be rejoiced in, and trusted in. It serves a purpose that nothing else can serve.
1. Think, for instance, of the shelter that is provided by the great mountains.
2. Although we can hardly say that the mountains provide pasturage, yet the fact remains that some of the best of land is found among the hills.
3. There is light upon the mountains, too. “In Thy light we shall see light.” I have heard of those who have ascended the mountain over-night, that they might see the sun rise on the morrow. Things that were dark and inscrutable before will become comparatively plain when the light that is to be viewed from the peaks of God’s righteousness shines forth.
4. The mountains of every country have a very distinct influence upon the peoples of those countries, just as the plains have. You will find a different race down there, where all is level, from those who dwell among the hills. There are the hardy and stalwart men, the men of brawn and brain. If we could only acclimatize ourselves to dwell as it were among the high doctrines of God’s Word, and the noble thoughts that are in the Bible concerning our blessed God, how it would alter us; our very complexion would be different, our manhood would be increased, our spiritual strength would be intensified. (T. Spurgeon.)
God’s righteousness like the mountains
God’s works in nature seem to be intended by God to be to us pictures of His works in the moral and spiritual world.
I. As we wander through the world from land to land they strike upon our view by their prominence. From afar we see them, conspicuous above tower and battlement, temple and dome. Such in its prominence is the righteousness of God (Psalms 145:17). His dealings with His creatures illustrate the character of righteousness, the principle of rendering to every one his due.
II. God’s righteousness is like the great mountains in its permanence. The “cloud-capped towers” are dismantled and destroyed, “the gorgeous palaces” of kings fade and perish, “the solemn temples” are deserted and crumble into dust, but the great mountains remain. The revolutions of governments, the shocks of nations in deadly strife, the scourge of pestilence and the slaughter of war disturb not their repose, and even Time, the great innovator, in his destroying course passes them by So God’s righteousness is an everlasting righteousness. His righteous wrath “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18). But, on the other hand, His righteous grace is revealed in our blessed Saviour, and all the pride and rebellion, the selfishness and hypocrisy, and sinful unbelief of the world shall not change His purposes of grace to them that trust in Jesus.
III. God’s righteousness is like the great mountains in the protection it affords us. What cause men have to bless God for mountains! They form a barrier and defence against the hostile elements of nature and the cruel oppression of men. How refreshing are the mountainous parts of India compared with the hot and unhealthy plains! Behold the range of mountains that separate Morocco from the great Sahara, and see in them the only barrier against the encroachments of the desert. Morocco is not a wilderness because of her mountains. Or, again, turning to the political map of Europe, why is it that while Poland is divided and despoiled, Hungary in subjection, and Denmark crippled and reduced, Switzerland still flourishes in her ancient vigour? Surely it is because of her mountains. Within those wild fastnesses Freedom has trained up, age after age, a generation to call her blessed. Their mountains, rising in noble defence all around them, have bidden defiance to the invader and the oppressor, and the hardy race to-day rejoices in the freedom it so dearly loves. And “as the mountains are round about that land, so is the Lord round about His people” (Psalms 125:2). The prophecy spoken of old has been fulfilled (Isaiah 32:2). We need protection--
1. From the punishment of sin.
2. From the accusations of Satan.
3. From the ills of this mortal state. (J. Silvester, M. A.)
God’s righteousness like the mountains
I. Great mountains are unchangeable. All round the Alps revolution has been the normal state for centuries. Thrones have tottered, governments have changed, monarchs have been deposed; but Mont Blanc has stood unmoved amid it all. Everywhere the great mountains “mock the eternities of history,” and the permanence of human institutions. It is even so with God’s righteousness; nay, infinitely more so. Infatuation has even attempted to alter it, infidelity has tried to impair its foundations, and subvert it; human philosophy has called it in question; arrogant caprice would carve it after its own designs; but such attempts are as futile as a man trying to move the Alps. God’s righteousness, like Himself, is “without variableness or shadow of turning.”
II. Great mountains are conspicuous. Travellers tell us the Himalayas may be seen two hundred and fifty miles off. And how conspicuous is God’s righteousness. In the history of the world there is nothing more prominent; in all the great episodes of the past it is first to arrest our attention.
III. Great mountains are obscurable now, all is bright and sunny; anon, all is dark and gloomy. The intelligent traveller knows these obscurations are from beneath; indeed, he sees the vapour rising rapidly from the valley to thicken the canopy over his head. So the Divine righteousness is obscurable, but the obscurations are from beneath. The mists of distrust will hide it; the fogs of unbelief will shut it out; the vapour of doubt will shroud it; the dark, thick, murky atmosphere of scepticism, bordering on the very darkness of despair, will conceal it altogether: But, though you see it not, it is there. The traveller may put his hand through the mist, and feel the palpable rock.
IV. Great mountains are dangerous to explore without a guide. Some have foolishly attempted it, and valuable lives have been sacrificed in the attempt. And, alas, what a perilous position, and what a painful end have men come to, by essaying the exploration of God’s righteousness without a guide! The Bible is the only unerring directory. Let us pray the Divine Spirit to guide us into all truth.
V. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE PROTECTIVE. It is pleasing to see many towns and villages in Switzerland and Savoy nestling in happy, peaceful security in fruitful valleys at the foot of the great mountains. Not only are they protected in some instances from easterly winds, and northern blasts, but these advantages have enabled the inhabitants to win and maintain an honourable independence amid the great military and aggressive powers of Europe. I was shown in the early part of the valley of the Rhone, two lines of hills which almost met, and there I was informed a comparative handful of brave Swiss defeated an invading army. And the spot is considered a sort of Thermopylae in the annals of the country to this day! God’s righteousness is protective and defensive. It graduates the present salvation and future security of His people. All His other attributes, pledged in their behalf, have their foundation in this.
VI. Great mountains command the most glorious views! Views your imagination cannot picture. The varied tints of the sunlight upon the pinnacles of snow. The distant ranges, so illusively near. The spreading valleys and calm blue lakes. The harmony of the landscape, light and shade blending marvellously together. So from the mount of God’s righteousness most wonderful views are obtained. Aspects of the Divine character, which cannot possibly be seen from the flats of reason and science. From the height of this attribute the agreement of all the Divine attributes is beheld, and the glorious harmony between the dispensations of nature, providence, and grace, is discovered. From this elevation may be seen “Mercy and Truth meeting together, Righteousness and Peace kissing each other.” (T. J. Guest.)
Righteousness and great mountains
The Bible full of similitudes. Sometimes intermingled, sometimes in clusters. No book in the world is so rich in illustrations, and from it uninspired poesy has enriched itself with its greatest beauties. God has by these similitudes married earth and heaven, time and eternity, the visible and the invisible.
I. That God’s righteousness is like the great mountains because it is durable. Sometimes God compares, sometimes contrasts Himself with the mountains. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so,” etc. “Mountains may depart, yet His kindness shall not depart,” etc. They are after all only relatively durable. The mountain is not the same as it was a thousand years ago. But God’s righteousness is unchangeable, from the necessity of His nature: because not exposed to accident or peril.
II. In mysteriousness. There is a mystery about all mountains, but the greater the one is the greater the other. There is mystery about God’s righteousness; about His person. Would it not be strange if we could see the full extent of God’s righteousness? The eye of the soul, like that of the body, is restricted in its power of vision.
III. Has heights dangerous to climb. And even when men do scale the heights of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, they could not live there. And men can no more live on the mountains of theology than on these others.
IV. Are a bulwark and a defence. And because Christ’s is a righteous atonement, therefore its defence is sure. (Enoch Mellor, D. D.)
God’s righteousness like the great mountains
The great mountains are planted in the earth for signs, and they are instinct with spiritual truth. They are the outward and visible manifestations of Jehovah’s righteousness.
1. For like the great mountains, the righteousness of God produces a deep and awful feeling in the mind when first beheld in all its greatness and transcendent glory. Before the righteousness of God, the human spirit, filled with a deep and abiding sense of impurity and transgression, bows and worships. One hand alone--that of the Great Architect who planned and built the world--formed the soft ethereal substance into the solid earth, smoothed out the valleys, and lifted up the great mountains until they kissed the skies. And as no human hand could create, so no human power can destroy those great mountains. It is so with respect to the righteousness of God. It was God who planned it, wrought it out, and embodied it, and fully manifested it in the person and work of Christ. And no human power can remove or destroy the righteousness of God. The hand that planted can alone uproot. The power that establishes and supports can alone remove. Like the great mountains, that are girded with a strength which is invincible, and rooted with a firmness which is immovable, is the righteousness of God. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.”
2. But the righteousness of God is like the great mountains in another respect, namely, that of spotless purity. There the snow lies white and pure upon the crown and bosom of the great mountains, pure and white as it fell from the hand of the holy God. It is only where the great mountains strike their massive roots into the earth, that moraines or detached masses of rock and loose earth or sand are to be seen casting their dark shadows, and leaving their stains upon the pure whiteness of the glacier and the virgin snow. And it is thus with the righteousness of God. It is only at that point where it comes into contact with the righteousness of man, which is a filthy righteousness, that you see elements of impurity appearing, and appearing there, because the human spirit at its best is so imperfect, that stains and shadows lie upon it, and the very purity of God seems marred by the human soul that reposes on its bosom. But beyond the region where human imperfection touches the perfection of God, there is a vast and lofty range of spotless purity and Divine righteousness, where no shadows fall, where no stain can be detected.
3. Again, the striking comparison of our text proclaims with great power and beauty, that in order to attain the true vision of God we need to be lifted up. By our sinfulness we have left the “heights,” and have come into “low places,” where we raise to a bad eminence our lower passions and propensities. But, in the hour of our trouble, we instinctively look up to the mountains, feeling, like true hillsmen, the attraction of the Fatherland, and knowing that there is help for us there. And that our observations may be true, we must not only take but keep the heights. Only when standing on the hill of God, when surveying all things from the great mountain of God’s righteousness, do we arrive at the knowledge of the eternal truth.
4. God’s righteousness is like the great mountains, inasmuch as it is the throne, the source of our help. The great mountains are said to prolong, and do prolong, the world’s day, to do battle with its storms, to bring peace, to purify and lighten the corrupt and heavy atmosphere; they enlarge, defend, and bless the whole sphere of human life, and keep open the windows of heaven for the pouring down of its righteousness--its bountiful liberalities. The mountains are as the throne of help. The mountains defend and bless the valleys and the plains, as the heavens defend and bless the earth. The mountains stand for the calm and majestic home of goodness and truth and eternal might. The mountains are above the changes they control. The mountains gather and disperse the clouds; they attract and revivify the air; they condense the atmosphere, and distil its living waters, and send them forth to refresh and fertilize the plains. The mountains are as the earth’s lungs to restore to the atmosphere its used-up virtues. They brace the air, and keep the mildew from the growing corn. By the powerful influence of the mountains the valleys are always green, and food is abundantly provided for man and beast! And the mountains represent the help of other heights--the righteousness of God. For our help cometh from the hill of the Lord. (Christian Weekly.)
Thy judgments are a great deep.--
A great deep
I. The mystery of the divine dealings. That wondrous ocean that occupies two-thirds of all the space upon this globe--how little is known of it! How true this is of the ways of God! They, then, are fools who pretend to criticize and carp and complain at that which He does.
II. Their ceaseless activity. More than anything in all creation besides, the ocean, I think, is the type of tireless and perpetual activity. And it is well for us, if we can believe in the same thing as regards the rule and government--the beneficent providence of Almighty God. It is the pulse of creation, and is always beating, even when creation sleeps. It is the engineer whose hand is on the handle, and whose eye is on the steam gauge, however the passengers may read or sleep, or deport themselves in the ship or train. God is, God works, God wills, God governs, and that as the sea is never at rest, so God walketh always,
III. Their healthful and beneficent power. The storms of ocean have sent many a mariner to an untimely grave; but we know that the wild commotion of storm and billow, when the salt waters are churned into a seething cauldron of yeasty foam, means the charging the winds with the liberated ozone, iodine, and other health-giving elements of life; these raging tempests mean the keeping fresh and pure and salutary the waters that roll to every coast, the billows that lave and lap on every shore. A quiet ocean, a stagnant sea, an inactive deep, would mean ultimate pestilence, and death to the wide world of man and beast. No, the storm and tempests have their mission of good, their errand of mercy for man, and in this the judgments of God are a great deep, for its storms and tempests, its pains and disappointments, its wild waves of trouble as well as its sparkling ripples of peace, are healthful, useful, salutary and beneficent, both to body and soul. “He doeth all things well.”
IV. Their unchanging change. The ocean’s sudden, various, unaccountable, and seemingly lawless changes have, nevertheless, in and through them all, fixity and certainty. All are subject to ascertained laws than which nothing is more exact and sure. And so of all that happens to us here, nothing, however apparently so, is really of chance. “The Lord knoweth the way that I take, and when I am tried I,” etc.
V. Their sustaining power. The sea is very deep--very mysterious, and at times very stormy, but what a splendid water-way it is! How grand a well-captained vessel, floating proudly over its surface to seek some far-off shore, and gain the precious things of far-off land! England is the England she is, rich and great, and powerful and prosperous, because she has learned to trust the sea. Yes, the great deep is a grand thing to sail on; but not so grand as is the providence and gracious government of God. Trust to that; put out on that sea; spread wide the sails of prayer to catch the breezes of heaven; steer your course by God’s own sun and star; and be you sure of this, whatever of head-winds you may meet, whatever of chopping seas you may contend with, whatever storm and gale may menace your safety or toss your craft about--that great deep will bear you up; that Divine ocean will bear you on; that unfathomable sea will ensure you a safe voyage. Faith never suffers shipwreck.
VI. Their precious treasures. Precious things are hidden in mysterious recesses. Ocean contains innumerable buried treasures. Gold, silver, and precious stones are laid up there. But “how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.” Treasures both of grace and glory, for the life that now is and for that which is to come. (J. Jackson Wray.)
Preparation for dark providences
In saying “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains,” he asserts God’s justice and equity to be fixed and immovable; too deeply based, and too lofty, ever to be overthrown or even shaken. In saying, “Thy judgments are a great deep,” he is to be understood as declaring, that, notwithstanding the confessed justice and equity of God, there is much which is inscrutable in His dealings, much which is not to be fathomed by us in our present state of being. And when he proceeds to the simple, but touching exclamation, “O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast!”--we may regard him as taking refuge from what is perplexing and mysterious in what is plain and unquestionable; dispersing doubts which might arise from obscurities in providence, by reference to that general and gracious guardianship which proves God the protector of every living thing. Now it is not needful to insist on the truths of the text. They are sufficiently self-evident. We all know that there is much that is mysterious in God’s dealings with men, and that consequently His judgments may fitly be called “a great deep.” And we all know that it is God who preserveth both man and beast. But whilst the truth of the several propositions is readily confessed, and therefore does not need to be proved, there may be something in the order in which they are arranged by the psalmist, to suggest matter for important reflection. Besides the second of the two propositions may well obtain earnest consideration from us, for men are so often disconcerted and dissatisfied because of the fact it declares.
I. Consider the reasons for expecting that God’s judgments would be “a great deep.” Even now amongst men the dealings of the wise are often founded on maxims not understood or appreciated by the great mass of their fellows; so that conduct appears unaccountable, which, nevertheless, proceeds from a very high sagacity. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that God, whose wisdom is as far above that of the wisest of the earth as the heaven is above this lower creation, should be inexplicable in His actings, often doing that which we utterly fail to understand. And there may be other reasons for the inscrutableness of which we now speak. Why may it not be supposed, that God often of set purpose veils Himself in clouds, working in a mode which transcends our understandings, in order to conciliate our reverence, and keep faith in exercise? If we were always able to discern the reasons of the Divine dealings, who does not see that our own wisdom would soon come to be considered as well nigh equal to that of God? And then, again, what place would there be for faith, if there were no depths in the Divine judgments; if every reason was so plain, every design so palpable, that no one could do otherwise than acquiesce in the fitness and goodness of all God’s appointments? It is very easy, if you cast but a cursory glance over the dealings of the Divine Being, observe the jostling and confusion which seem almost universal, and mark the unexpected turn which things take, to endeavour to assign the reason of this appointment, or to assign the possible use of that; it is very hard to feel assured that all is ordered for the best, that there is not a spring in motion which God does not regulate, and not a force in action which He does not control. Yet when we come to search into what was to have been expected, we do not find that we could reasonably have looked for any other state of things. Ought we not to feel that it is the very darkness in which the Almighty doth dwell which obtains for Him the reverence of such creatures as ourselves, excites their faith, and perpetually reminds them of a judgment to come?
II. The position in which these words are placed. They are inserted between two other propositions, from which they derive and on which they throw no inconsiderable light. Consider, then--
1. The connection between the first two clauses of the text. Now, there is no better way of preparing the mind to contemplate the unsearchableness of God than the settling it in its persuasion of the righteousness of God. For we cannot be thoroughly persuaded of the righteousness of God, and not be thoroughly persuaded that, even when His dealings are the darkest, they have only to be seen in the light of His wisdom, and they will commend themselves as the best that could have been devised. And this is the reason why good men are, practically, so little perplexed by the intricacies of the Divine providence. They are certain of God’s righteousness. In this manner the psalmist may be said to fortify himself for considering the inscrutableness of the Divine dealings by assuring himself of the Divine righteousness. And so, possessed of that which must keep him from sinking, he throws himself into the vast profound, and exclaims, “Thy judgments are a great deep.” Aye, it is in this way that we should all endeavour to equip ourselves for trial. We launch into the great deep of God’s judgments with but dim apprehensions of God’s righteousness; and no marvel, then, if we are presently as mariners without a compass, and cry out as though God had forgotten to be gracious. But if we are busied, whilst not yet driven upon that vast ocean, with certifying ourselves that God cannot swerve from His purpose, that God cannot cease to overrule evil, we could not fail, when we found ourselves in the dark waters, to have our eye on the star which is to teach us how to steer. The imagery employed in this psalm is very beautiful. The psalmist combines the mountains and the deep. The mountains are to be considered as rising out of the waters, and girding them round on every side. We know, from the parts of the mountains which are visible, that there are lower parts concealed from us by the waters, and just as confident that the lower parts make the basin from which the waters flow. And thus we should learn from seeing, when we look towards the heavens, that there is righteousness all around this lower obscurity which we are unable to penetrate, that the foundations which are beneath the waves are of the same materials as the summits which are above, and which often glow in the sunlight, though they may sometimes be hidden in the mist. This, we say, is the idea figuratively conveyed by the expression of the psalmist. Once give the character of “mountains” to the righteousness, regard that righteousness as immovable, and as girding round the whole economy of Providence, and it can hardly come to pass that you should be overwhelmed by the Divine dealings, however little you may be able to fathom them. And thus is the transition from the “righteousness” to the “judgments” of God in our text exactly indicative of the process which should take place in our minds. And now consider--
2. The connection between the two last propositions of the text. There seems to be something very abrupt in this second transition, to pass from the great deep of God’s judgments to the preserving man and beast; from so great mysteries to the everyday mercies which are showered upon the world. But even a believer in God’s righteousness may, as he looks out upon the great deep of Providence, desire some distinct, some visible evidence of that goodness of God which seems so opposed to all this darkness and confusion. And this is what the last clause of our text gives him. For from all creation witnesses are summoned to attest the goodness of God. Man and every beast of the field, every fowl of the air, yea, all that passes through the paths of the sea, are to furnish proof of the watchful care and love of God. Will you say that all the animation which is kept up in the universe, and all the sustenance which is so liberally provided for every tribe, must be referred to the workings of certain laws and properties irrespective of the immediate agency of an ever-present, ever-actuating Divinity? This is nothing better than idolatry of second causes, and denial of the First; this is substituting nature--an ideal--for Him who is the Creator and Preserver of all. How comes it to pass that morning after morning the sun wakens huge cities into life, and causes the silent forests to echo with the warbling of birds, and calls into activity thousands of creatures in every mountain and in every valley, and yet, that out of all the interminable hordes thus revivified at every dawn, there is not the solitary being for whom there is no provision in the granaries of nature? Can it be that God is unmindful of the world, that He is not studying in what He arranges and appoints, the good of His creatures, when He shows Himself attentive to the wants and comforts of the meanest living thing? It seems to us that there is thus a beautiful, though tacit, reasoning in the text, and that the second proposition is most admirably placed between the first and the last. It is as though David had said, “Come, let us muse on the righteousness of God. He would not be God if He were not righteous in all His ways; and therefore we may be sure that whatsoever He does is the best that could be done, whether or not we can perceive its excellence. This being settled, having determined that His “righteousness is like the great mountains,” let us look upon His “judgments.” Ah! what an abyss of dark waters is here! How unsearchable, how unfathomable, are these judgments! Yes, but being previously convinced of God’s righteousness, we ought not to be staggered by what is dark in His dispensations. True; yet the mind does not seem satisfied by this reasoning. It may be more convincing to the intellect, but it does not address itself to the feelings. Well then, pass from what is dark in God’s dealings to what is clear. “He is about your path, and about your bed.” “The eyes of all wait upon Him; He openeth His hand, He satisfieth the desire of every living thing.” Is this a God of whom to be suspicious? Is this a God to mistrust? No, surely. If you be able to say, “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains,” did it not quite prepare you for the fact, “Thy judgments are a great deep,” every remaining suspicion will be scattered when you can join in the confession, “O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. The dealings of God with his people are often unfathomable. But why does the Lord send us an affliction which we cannot understand?
1. Because He is the Lord. He is God, and therefore it becometh us ofttimes to sit in silence, and feel it must be right, though we equally know we cannot see how it is so.
2. God sendeth us trials of this sort for the exercise of our graces. Now is there room for faith. When thou canst trace Him thou canst not trust Him. Here is room, too, for humility. The feeling that everything is beyond our knowledge brings to us humility, and we sit down at the foot of Jehovah’s throne. I think there is hardly a grace which is not much helped by the deeps of God’s judgments. Certainly love has frequently been developed to a high degree in this way, for the soul at last comes to say, “No, I will not desire the reason; I do so love Him; let His will stand for a reason; that shall he enough for me; it is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good.”
3. We have sins which we cannot fathom, and it is little marvel, therefore, if we have also chastisements which we cannot fathom.
II. God’s judgments are a great deep: then they are safe sailing. Ships never strike on rocks in the great deeps. When the sailor begins to come up the Thames, then it is that there is first one sandbank and then another, and he is in danger; but out in the deep water, where he finds no bottom, he is but little afraid. So in the judgments of God. When He is dealing out affliction to us, it is the safest possible sailing that a Christian can have. For then he need fear no fall; when he is low, he need fear no pride; when he is humbled under God’s hand, then he is less likely to be carried away with every wind of temptation. God’s judgments are a great deep, but they are safe sailing, and under the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit they are not only safe, but they are advantageous. I greatly question whether we ever do grow in grace much except when we are in the furnace.
III. God’s judgments are a great deep, but they conceal great treasure. Down in those great depths who knows what there may be? Pearls lie deep there. And so with the deep judgments of God. What wisdom is concealed there, and what treasures of love and faithfulness, and what David calls “very tenderness,” “for in very tenderness,” saith he, “hast Thou afflicted me.” We do not, perhaps, as yet, receive, or even perceive the present and immediate benefit of some of our afflictions. There may be no immediate benefit; the benefit may be for hence and to come. The chastening of our youth may be intended for the ripening of our age. I do not know that that blade required the rain on such a day, but God was looking not to February as such, but to February in its relation to July, when the harvest should be reaped. He considered the blade not merely as a blade, and in its present necessity, but as it would be in the full corn in the ear.
IV. God’s judgments are a great deep: then they work much good. The great deep, though ignorance thinks it to be all waste, a salt and barren wilderness, is one of the greatest blessings to this round world. If, to-morrow, there should be “no more sea,” it would be the greatest of all curses. It is from the sea that there arises the perpetual mist which, floating by and by in mid-air, at last descends in plenteous showers on hill and vale to fertilize the land. The sea is the great heart of the world--I might say the circulating blood of the world. There is no waste in the sea; it is all wanted. It must be there; there is not a drop of it too much. So with our afflictions which are Thy judgments, O God! They are necessary to our life, to our soul’s health, to our spiritual vigour. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted,” said David.
V. If God’s judgments are a great deep, then they become a highway of communion with himself. We thought at one time that the deep separated different peoples; that nations were kept asunder by the sea; but lo! the sea is to-day the great highway of the world. The rapid ships cross it with their white sails, or with their palpitating engines they soon flash across the waves. And so our afflictions--which we thought in our ignorance would separate us from our God--are the highway by which we may come nearer to God than we otherwise could. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business on the great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. You that keep close in shore and have but small trials, you are not likely to know much of His wonders in the deep. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
The providence of God in the preservation of His living creatures
As He made all living creatures, they are the objects of His continual care. As He made the world with astonishing magnificence; he presides over and governs it for the purposes for which it was made: His hand supports the fabric His power hath raised. As the production of the meanest living creatures is the work of Divine power and wisdom, so their preservation in life is the effect of His providence: and it results from the perfection of the Divine nature and providence, that notwithstanding the immense grandeur and multiplicity of His works, and the superior dignity and importance of some creatures in comparison of others, no part, though ever so minute, is overlooked. Vulgar minds are most apt to be affected with a sense of Divine providence, when they see something extraordinary and wonderful, and, as they imagine, beyond, or contrary to, the usual course of nature. But this is the effect of their weakness and ignorance. The constant operations and uniform course of nature are to be considered as the great proof and effect of a Divine providence, much more than any seeming deviations. Every one who reflects will be sensible of his own insufficiency to uphold his own being, or supply his own wants. We feel our dependence upon something above us, and are as it wore conscious of a superior power which sustains and preserves us. From the whole we may observe--
1. God’s right of dominion over His creatures; which is founded not only on His creative power, but on His governing wisdom and preserving providence.
2. Entertain admiring and grateful thoughts of the Divine care and goodness in our preservation.
3. Imitate, according to our capacity, the Divine providence and goodness, by extending our care and contributing our part to the support and welfare of our fellow-creatures.
4. Rely upon the Divine protection for the future. Timid and anxious cares about our own preservation are inconsistent with true piety or a just confidence in the Divine care and goodness. (S. Bourn.)
How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God.
The excellence of God’s loving-kindness
I. The subject of the text. “Thy loving-kindness, O God.”
(1) In creation.
(2) In providence.
(3) In grace.
2. Felt or experienced--
(1) In conversion.
(2) In reconciliation and adoption.
(3) In Christian fellowship and communion with God.
(4) In ordinances and promises.
(5) In heaven.
II. Its excellence. This appears--
1. In being manifested to the most unworthy.
2. In the multitude of blessings of which it is the source.
3. It gives security in all dangers, and produces confidence.
4. It is infinitely satisfying.
5. It is constant.
6. It is pregnant with prospective blessedness and ineffable glory.
1. Does your experience lead you to admire this loving-kindness?
2. If not, it is a proof of slothfulness, and barrenness, and calls for repentance.
3. However much of this loving-kindness you enjoy now, it is but a foretaste. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
The guests of the Lord
“How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O Lord!” Here is a burst of doxology born out of a great contemplation. This man sings but as the linnet sings; he sings because he must; his song is the spontaneous outbreaking of a jubilant soul. So many of our doxologies are forced and artificial; they are not natural and inevitable. This man’s song is the sure and certain issue of prepared and definite conditions. He has been surveying the wondrous power of God. And where has the meditation taken place? In the open air. He is a great lover of nature, and as he fixes his wondering eye upon its glories, Nature becomes to him a literature, and he discerns the character of God. It is a long and leisurely meditation. Moment by moment he seems to peer into ever-deepening depths in the immeasurable sky. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens!” Thy mercy is just like what I am gazing at! Depth beyond depth, and a comprehension that encircles everybody! And then he turns to the gathering clouds, brewing away in the south-west, and coming with their ladened treasures to moisten the slopes of Carmel, and to drench the dried plains with their fertilizing wealth. And again his heart reads the spiritual evangel brought by this material messenger. “Thy faithfulness reacheth out of the clouds!” The looming storm, the gathering darkness, are not chaotic forces raging at will without command; they are all in the charge of the Almighty God! “The clouds drop fatness!” Then his eyes wander away to the uplifted mountains, to Hermon and to distant Lebanon, or across to the hills of Moab. These are the emphases in the landscape, the abiding realities amid all its shifting moods. The river comes and goes; there is time of drought and time of plenty! Generations arise and pass away, but in each succeeding day the harvester looks up from the feverish plains and sees the cool and towering heights of the unchanging Lebanon. “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains!” Whatever happens, that endures! And so his contemplative eye wanders about in this great field of spiritual symbolism, till the heart glows and burns in the accumulated glory. “How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God!” Surely we might imitate the psalmist in this fruitful method of devotion. Now this loving-kindness, so precious and so excellent, represents itself to the psalmist as a home for the soul, a home in which all the children of men can be the guests of God. The loving-kindness of our Lord is just the guest-house of the soul! For what does the psalmist assure us we may find in this gracious home? First., it offers us shelter. “Therefore the children of men take refuge under the shadow of Thy wings.” I think there is something very pathetic in the conjunction. After the towering mountains, and the far-stretched heavens, and the battalions of storm-clouds, and the mysterious sea, he mentions “the children of men.” He appears to be half-terrified and half-confident in the association. Man seems so pitiably small by the side of the colossal phenomena of the material world. And yet, although the psalmist trembles for a moment in the sense of his own insignificance, he soon recovers the confidence of his soul. “Therefore the children of men fake refuge under the shadow of Thy wings.” That is the privilege of the sons of God. We can hide in the immediate presence of the Creator of all things, We can turn into the loving-kindness of God as little chicks cuddle under their mother’s wings. There is room for everybody, always and everywhere. The peril or the crisis never finds us far away from home. But in the guest-house we not only find shelter and security, we find gracious and perfect sustenance. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house.” The Lord always gives His guest the best. The word “fatness” literally means the top of a thing. The top of milk is the cream, and it is always the cream of things with which our Lord entertains His children. “Thou feedest them with the finest of the wheat.” He provides fat visions for the mind, delivering us from poor and thin conceptions of God, of man, of life and duty. He provides fat promises for the heart, saving us from thin and poor affections, from emotions in which there is no strength and no sacrificial ministry. And He provides fat energies for the will, nourishing us into powers of resoluteness which make us invulnerable in the pilgrim way. And with this fatness we are to be “abundantly satisfied.” There are so many unsatisfied people in our streets, possessed of comforts, but no comfort, having found ease but not having gained peace. But the food of the Lord is to abundantly satisfy, and the heart is to be at rest. “He satisfieth thy mouth with good things.” But more than shelter and sustenance are to be given to us. Our great Host entertains His guests with rare delights. “Thou shelf make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.” This may mean the pleasures that God provides us, Or it may mean God’s own pleasures, or it may probably mean both. The things that give pleasure to the Lord are to give joy to us, In what does our Lord find His delight? “He delighteth in mercy!” And I am to drink of this river, and to relish the taste of it, and to find it a gracious delight. “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth!” And of this river I am to drink, and my heart is to be glad at the prodigal’s return. When I see another rejoicing I am to rejoice, and in my delight I shall share the joy of the Lord. And all these pleasures are to come my way like a river. They are not to be like a pool, exposed to the immediate drought, dried up in the critical day. And the psalmist, before closing his doxology, gives us the great secret of this all-sufficient hospitality. “With Thee is the fountain of life.” All good is to be found in God. “All our springs are in Him,” the springs of impulse, and desire, and will, and of all vitality. (J. H. Jowett, M.A.)
The excellence of God’s loving-kindness
I. Take the words directly and absolutely, as they lie in themselves.
1. God’s loving-kindness is most excellent, that is, His favour and good-will (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:3; Psalms 106:4).
(1) In regard of the subject of it, by considering whose it is.
(2) In regard of the fulness of it. He that hath but God’s favour, what can he be said to want? There’s nothing here in the world, but when a man has as much of it as his heart can wish, yet he will still want somewhat with it, and that sometimes which he can least be without; but he that hath an interest in God’s loving-kindness, he hath all good things made over to him, so far forth as he hath use and need of them.
(3) In regard of the efficacy of it, it is such as is of sweet influence wheresoever it is; it makes comforts to be so much the more comfortable, and it makes crosses to be so much the more tolerable and beneficial.
(4) For its freeness and impartiality.
(5) For its continuance and duration. Whom He loves, He loves to the end (Isaiah 54:8).
2. The psalmist blesses God for His activity of goodness to His church, for that loving-kindness which does put itself forth in His proceedings and dispensations to them. Now this also as well as the former is very excellent, and that in these regards.
(1) In regard of the substance of it, and the materials whereof it consists, which are various. God has shown His loving-kindness to His church in divers expressions. In giving them His Son for their redemption, and reconciliation to Himself; how excellent is His loving-kindness here (Romans 8:32). In the ordinances and means of grace. In His Spirit, and the workings thereof, whereby His ordinances and ministry are made effectual to those who enjoy them. In His care of it, and providence towards it.
(2) In regard of the extent of it, enlarging and diffusing itself.
(3) In regard of the peculiarity and appropriation of it.
II. Consider the words reflexively, as coming from the psalmist.
1. Here is a sound judgment.
2. A special favour. David does not only speak here out of judgment, and the strength of his understanding; but out of sense and the certainty of his experience, who had found and felt the workings of this special favour, and accordingly speaks triumphantly about it. The frequent thoughts upon this point are such as may be very beneficial to us; and may have a very great influence upon our lives.
(1) To quicken us to duty, and to make us so much the more diligent in our business.
(2) To restrain us from sin, and to make us so much the more shy of our miscarriages.
(3) To satisfy us in our afflictions, and to make us more contented with our condition.
3. Here is a thankful acknowledgment.
4. Here is a joyful publication (Psalms 92:2) calls for showing forth the loving-kindness of the Lord (Psalms 63:8). (T. Herren, D. D.)
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.--
The character and privileges of God’s people
I. Their character. They highly esteem the loving-kindness of God.
II. Their privileges.
1. “They shall be abundantly satisfied,” etc.
2. They drink of the river of His pleasures. All joy is theirs. (D. Rees.)
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house, and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.
What men find beneath the wings of God
I. Satisfaction. Allusion is made, no doubt, to the festal meal of priests and worshippers in the temple, on occasion of the peace-offering. And there is also the simpler metaphor of God as the host at His table, at which we are guests. In either case the plain teaching of the text is, that by the might of a calm trust in God the whole mass of a man’s desires are filled and satisfied. Heart, mind, will, appetites, tastes, inclinations, weaknesses, bodily wants--the whole crowd of these are crying for their meat. Now, where shall be found supply for all these? The one answer is, God; God alone is the food of the heart. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life, he that cometh unto Me shall never hunger.”
II. Joy. “Thou makest them drink,” etc. Perhaps “the rivers” point back to the rivers of the Garden of Eden, for “Eden” is the singular of the word here rendered “pleasures.” Paradise is restored for them who trust in the Lord. The whole conception of religion in the Bible is gladsome. There is no puritanical gloom about it. True, a Christian man has sources of sadness which other men have not. Life will seem to be graver and sadder than the lives “that ring with idiot laughter solely,” and have no music because they have no melancholy in them. That cannot be helped. But what does it matter though two or three surface streams be stopped up, if the pure river of the water of life is turned into your hearts? We hear a great deal about other Christian duties. We do not hear so much as we ought about the Christian duty of gladness. It takes a very robust faith to say, “Though the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit he in the vine, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” What a blessing it is for us to have, as we may have, a source of joy, frozen by no winter, dried up by no summer. We have but to lap a hasty mouthful of earthly joys as we run, but we cannot drink too full draughts of this pure river of water which makes glad the city of God.
III. Life. “With Thee is the fountain of life.” The words are true in regard of the lowest meaning of “life”--physical existence,--and they give a wonderful idea of the connection between God and all living creatures. Wherever there is life there is God. But it is of higher than the physical life that our text tells--the life of the spirit in communion with God. There is such a thing as death in life: living men may be “dead in trespasses and sins.”
IV. Light. “In Thy light shall we see light.” God is “the Father of lights.” The sun and all the stars are only lights kindled by Him. It is the very crown of revelation that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. All joyous things come with it. It brings warmth and fruit, fulness and life. Purity, and gladness, and knowledge have been symbolized by it in all tongues. This great word here seems to point chiefly to light as knowledge. This saying is true, as the former clause was, in relation to all the light which men have. The inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding. Now the sum of the whole matter is, that all this four-fold blessing of satisfaction, joy, life, light, is given to you, if you will take Christ. And if you will not have Him, you will starve, and your lips will be cracked with thirst; and you will live a life which is death, and you will sink at last into outer darkness. Is that the fate which you are going to choose? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The fatness of God’s house
I. The child of God is provided with what is necessary.
1. The food is strengthening; he is fed with the grace of God. What Satan gives enfeebles; what God gives strengthens.
2. It is rich--rich as befits the house of a monarch, the table of a king. It is the love of God. Life without love is death. “Greater love hath no man than this, that,” etc. And this is the assurance of God’s love to us.
3. And it is plentiful. A dole would be more than our right, but God gives us all. Open then your hearts to receive His mercy. So shall we be content and at rest.
II. With what is pleasant. “The rivers of God’s pleasures.” There shall be the sense of safety: elevation of thought and high communion with God and with the saints: foretastes of heaven. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
True human happiness divine
I. Divinity supplies the source of our happiness. It is “the river of thy pleasure.” God is happy, the ever blessed God. His happiness is a “river”--pure, boundless, overflowing. What is this river? It involves--
1. An approving conscience.
2. A consciousness of security.
3. A loving nature.
4. A beneficent activity.
God Himself could not be happy without them. Man is happy as he participates in the happiness of God.
II. Divinity leads to its source. “Thou shalt make them drink,” etc. The human soul has gone so far away from this river that none but God can bring it back. This He has done, is doing, and will continue to do, through Christ. “He, every one that thirsteth, come,” etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The fatness of God’s house
A hydrant has no water in its composition. It is made of wood, iron and brass. But when it is finished, and the proper authorities have put it in its place, it is then that water may come from it. A burning-glass has no fire in it. It has only the silex and alkali, with its metal band and handle. But when it is properly made and holden, it will kindle a fire, because it brings the heat-rays of the great sun to a focus. But you would not expect to find any one so foolish as to keep away from the hydrant and die from thirst, because it has no water in its composition. You would expect people to go to the hydrant whenever they needed water, and to prize it because it is one of the constituted outlets for the water’s of the lake. And you would expect them to use the burning-glass, and prize it, as the means of getting fire from the sun, to comfort them and supply their wants. Now, this house of God has nothing of grace, or righteousness, or glory in these beams, and boards, and nails. There are none of the waters of healing in these pews, and aisles, and this pulpit. None of the fires of heaven in their paint, and wall, and ceiling. But God has ordained this house to be the place out of which the waters of His salvation shall flow; to be the point in which the melting beams of His love shall gather as time rolls by.
I. Admire the fatness of God’s house. This includes all the blessings God bestows through His house.
1. Life (Psalms 36:9). It is the life bought for us by the death of Christ, and brought to us by the ministrations of the Holy Spirit; the life which will go unscathed through the death that guards the close of this world, and pass on untouched by the blasting fires of the second death; the life which will grow on and glow on amid the beauties and glories of the New Jerusalem as long as God Himself shall last.
2. Love (Psalms 36:7). The love of God Himself--infinite, undeserved.
3. Protection (Psalms 36:7). Against world, flesh, devil.
4. Refreshing (Psalms 36:8). This refreshing will remove discomfort, weariness, pain, weakness, sorrow and distress from the hearts of all who wait on God. It will make the soul joyful, singing through life, singing in death, and singing through the joys of eternity.
5. Cleansing (Psalms 36:8).
6. Light (Psalms 36:9.) This is the light that “shineth in darkness,” of which John came to bear witness. It is the true light. It shines on the darkness of our ignorance, and rolls away the deep shadows of error and prejudice, lighting up the pathway of truth so plainly “that he may run that readeth.”
7. Warmth (verse 9). Light brings warmth.
II. Be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God’s house.
1. Life is the necessity of your soul. Not the life of the body, for that you have; nor the immortality of the soul, for that you cannot lose. But you need something within you that will live when the light of this life has gone out. This life God can give you in His sanctuary. Put your soul in connection with Jesus Christ the God-man now, by a penitent and believing application for His favour, and you will feel the start, and thrill, and glow of this new life stirring in your soul.
2. Love is desired by your soul. The tendrils of your affection go out to find something to which they may cling, and on which they may climb. But you have learned that many of the objects of your trust prove unworthy; more of them insufficient, and all that are earthly, liable to wither and die. When you are tired of the disappointments, deceitfulness and failures of earthly love, you can come to the house of God, and here find the offers of Divine tenderness and infinite affection ready to encircle you in their blessed embrace.
3. Protection is needed by your soul. And here in this house of God you may experience the blessedness of possessing it. How weak you are to resist evil, your own experience has thoroughly taught you. You need protection against the swelling waves of this world’s troubles, the mighty billows of the judgment day.
4. Refreshing is sought by your soul. Here you may have blessed foretastes of the glorious companionship and blissful employments of heaven.
5. Your soul needs cleansing, and you can obtain it here. The filthy covering of your soul will be replaced by the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness.
6. Your soul needs light. And coming to this house of God it will shine on you. It is a certain remedy for all darkness and blindness. It shines on the future, showing you how to avoid the pit of despair, and how to reach the glories of the celestial world.
7. Your soul needs warmth. And you can get it in this house of God. This warmth is the kindling of the spirit; the glow that comes from the pulsations of life, from the embrace of love, from the consciousness of protection, from the cup of refreshing, from the waters of cleansing, and from the beamings of light. (H. D. Williamson)
The river of Thy pleasures
How much we can learn from a man’s pleasures! I think it would be almost true to say that a man’s pleasures constitute his measures. We may surely sample a man’s character by analyzing the ministry in which he takes his delight. And how greatly our enjoyments vary. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” That which gratifies one man is resented by another. One man seeks and finds enjoyment in the channels of the senses, in the outer halls and passages of the life, and never retires to the interior living-rooms of the soul. Another man feasts upon the spiritual essences of all things, and finds that the way of life is provided with rare delights. My text lifts our minds to the superlative plain of pleasure, even the pleasures of our God. And we are told that there are men and women who have been brought to the same refined appreciation, and who are able to enter into the joy of the Lord. Their kinship is so intimate that their delights are one. What God loves they love. “He delighteth in mercy.” Here is one of the pleasures of our God. He does not turn to mercy reluctantly, as it were with a resentful palate; He turns to it eagerly, as a hungry man would turn to welcome food. Mercy is pleasant unto the Lord, and He rejoices in its exercise. How different are many of the palates of God’s children! We cannot drink of that river with deep and delightful satisfaction. Our diseased palate craves sensations of quite another kind. To many of us “revenge is sweet,” and so foul an enjoyment testifies to the depravity of our souls. But we can have our natures changed, and in the renewal of our being our palates will be transformed. We shall delight in mercy. It is needless to analyze the ingredients of a merciful disposition. It is perhaps sufficient to say that the behaviour of a merciful man has always two characteristics. First of all, he is ever seeking for favourable explanations of apparently unfavourable deeds. He does not jump at the first obtrusive explanation of things, and sit upon a throne of summary judgment. He is “slow to anger, and of great mercy.” He exhausts all possible alternatives before accepting the worst. And, secondly, even when all alternatives have been tried, and the worst is still obtrusive, the merciful disposition is ready to forgive that which cannot be favourably explained. The merciful man finds his delight in mercy, and in being merciful he leans to his own inclinations. “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost.” Here is another of the Lord’s pleasures. Do I share it with Him? Do I drink of this river, and find delight and satisfaction in the draught? Ah! but there is a preparatory condition before such joy can be oars. No man can really take part in a victory unless he has borne some share in the fight. We can never really sing the song of the harvest-home until we have borne something of the labours of the field, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him.” He not only finds delight in the homecoming of the prodigal; the delight is continued in the intimate fellowship of the subsequent life. The Lord loves to be near such people, loves to see them, and hear them, and to accompany them in their goings. Do we drink of the river of this pleasure? Do we find any delight in such people? I am further told, in the words that immediately precede my text, that the satisfactions of these pleasures are not to be partial and transient, but complete and abiding. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house.” We cannot say that of many of our enjoyments. We drink of the pleasures of the world, and they neither leave a sweet taste nor a contented rest. It is “as when a hungry man sleepeth, and behold! he eateth; he waketh, and findeth himself hungry.” God has set the eternal longing in our spirits, and nothing that is merely temporal can appease the craving. But the pleasures of God bring abundant satisfaction. “Satisfy” is a great biblical word. The Bible uses it very plentifully, because everywhere it proclaims its abiding secret. How can we acquire the Divine appreciation, in order that we may thus drink of the Lord’s pleasures, and find our delight in them? Shall we say that the taste is acquired? Let us better say that the taste is communicated. “Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.” He will so re-make our lives that the palate shall be renewed. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light.
Life and light
We think of Easter as the festival of the defeat of death: it is no less the festival of the glory of life. It is one of the many proofs that God desires and loves our health and not our sickness, our happiness and not our misery. From many causes, chief of all, the sin of the age, we habitually take too unfavourable and too unthankful a view of our mortal life. The cynic, the worldling, the noted profligate, the unreal Christian, seem to assume as an axiom that life is an unmitigated evil, and that it is only to be got through because we must, and as best we can. And even good men complain of life. But God hears and bears with it all, even as the mother forgives the fretfulness of her child. Christians should never cherish dark views. If we have them, remember they are not Christian, and they are mainly due to our own faults. I do not wish to indulge a weak optimism. I know the outward lives of many are dull and humble, and mush be so, but what I would fain show you is that the externals of life are not life, and that aa far as all the glorious essentials of life are concerned, you may still be blessed above all that this world can give. I do not shut my eyes to the reality of evil, but I still say that the sentiment of the bitter, worldly poet, “Know that whatever thou hast been, ‘tis something bitter not to be,” is a false and un-Christian sentiment. Almost all of us make too much of the few great woes of life, and too little of the multitude of its innocent pleasures. See these mortal bodies--how adapted to our needs. Think of how much of good attends each period of life from infancy to old age. Pessimists commiserate the lot of old age. So does not Scripture. It says that a “hoary head is a crown of glory if found in the way of righteousness.” “Would you be young again? So would not I.” A beautiful and peaceful ago in its calm and wisdom may be as the sunset to the day. And here God overrules our trials for good so that trials really become mercies. Look, then, hopefully, thankfully at life. It is not life which ruins man: it is man which ruins life. And too many do this, so that their life has not been as God meant it to be, but as a mirage of the deceitful wilderness, a ruin lost in mud and sand. The man has been a martyr of Satan, and not of God. But Christ would fain glorify our life. The secret of life, the secret of felicity is with Him or nowhere. But it is with Him, and it is for them that fear Him. It transfigures the world of Nature, making it the very autograph of His love. And God has given to us art, literature, science, appealing not to the senses but to the soul. How great are the pleasures of the mind: and yet more those of the moral nature, and the spirit of man is capable of joys more transcendent still; unattainable, indeed, apart from Christ, but in Him, open to us all. Think of but two of them, Hope and Love. How love transfigures life. Do we not know it, all of us, and many by blessed experience? And what is Easter for if it be not to teach us life? It is thus, then, that Christ gives us light, and that in His light we see light. (Dean Farrar.)
The fountain of life
I. Illustrate the doctrine of the text. As waters in a fountain are continually rising up and flowing forth, so life in God is naturally springing up, and ceaselessly overflowing. Life natural, intellectual, spiritual. Life in its simplest and life in its sublimest forms. Thought carries us back to the infinite past when nought but God was. So it might have remained and the happiness of God none the less. But it pleased Him to manifest His glory by creation. First the heavens, then the earth, then the tribes of-animated nature, all that roam in the forest, or swim the sea. Then man was created, as completing the chain of natural life, and at the same time connecting this world with others, that may be the sphere of intellectual and spiritual existence. Thus has the Fount of living waters filled this lower world with streams of life--and ever since the memorable days of creation--from Him have those streams flowed on, supplying all that is necessary for the unbroken succession, and whatever the form of life, however glorious, however beneficent, to God man is indebted for them all. But the highest life is the spiritual, the life of God in the soul. Now, man had this at the first, but lost it by sin, yet receives it back again through Christ.
II. Improve it,
1. Let the Fountain of all life have the glory due to His name.
2. Let the powers of natural and intellectual life, which we have received, be dedicated to the Author of them. Let all we have be devoted to the Lord who gave them. But the subject comes home to us also with all the force of Gospel obligation. The Redeemer of our life says also, “Ye are not your own.”
3. Especially let spiritual life be sought from God, the “fountain of life.”
4. Let believers rejoice in hope of the time when spiritual life shall be perfected. (I. Jacob.)
The fountain of life
I. The natural life. This is a noble gift, bestowed for noble purposes; our bodies are material, composed of matter, that is, of earthly substance; evidently made from the dust, as to the dust returning. Whence comes it, then, that one portion of matter should be gifted with life, and be endued with faculties which have a living power, whilst another portion lies dull and heavy and incapable, as it was originally created? The Church calls us to thank God for our creation: let us see that it be indeed a blessing.
II. From God is our providential life, the preservation of our existence; and when we consider the numberless casualties to which we are exposed, this preservation is one continued marvel, nothing less than the constant exercise of God’s almightiness on our behalf, by day and by night.
III. Our spiritual life can be derived only from the Father of spirits, from “the God of the spirits of all flesh”: our blessed Lord has placed this upon the clearest possible footing, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
IV. There is another life which we profess to be seeking, another world to which we are on our journey; the very purpose and end of our present spiritual being. So says our blessed Lord, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
V. Then “In his light shall we see light.” All the shadows of earthly imperfection will fly away before the sun of righteousness, which is the sun Of glory. And as He led Israel through the wilderness, by the pillar of a cloud and the pillar of fire, so will He, by the light of His Spirit and His Word, lead every humble obedient servant through the world’s wilderness, and bring them safely to the heavenly shore. (J. Slade, M.A.)
The fountain of life
We feel what life is better than we can define it. It is much more than existence. Life means unwearying vigour, full enjoyment, constant growth, abundant fruitfulness.
1. Alas, some have no life--no spiritual life; the physical, the intellectual, the social are there, vigorous enough; but there is death towards God. “Lay hold of the life which is life indeed,” writes Paul, and many a one has come to feel that even the best of life without God is not “life indeed.” “A man’s life consiteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Life cut off from God is but another name for death.
2. Some have deteriorated life. They have gone back. They are not what they were in their feelings towards Christ and His service. It is as when after months of severe physical strain we have no heart for anything; are tired of everything, and most of all of ourselves, and need to get away to some bracing mountain side to drink in new strength. As sudden torrents from the newly melted snows course down the half-empty channels of the plain, and sweep away the foul things gathered there, and waken into fragrance and vigour the drooping verdure on their banks, so the inrush to the soul of more life from the everlasting hills would sweep away our bad moods, and the fruits of holiness would once more deck our character.
3. And some have insufficient life. They thirst for more. Desire for more life is characteristic of the higher piety rather than of the lower. The more we have the more we want. The further we get in Divine things the more we have of dissatisfaction with present attainment, and of longing for higher. We read promises of a heritage we have not possessed. Would that all this--this larger, better, richer life were mine! And, intensifying that desire, we see that we are confronted by temptation, or work, or perhaps by sorrows, which need more life on our part than we have. The old life is not enough for these; we shall fall in the conflict, or fail in the task, or be crushed by the burden without more life. But more life!--we should override our difficulties then, and smite down our adversaries, our character and speech would be charged with a resistless inspiration, and we ourselves from walking, or even climbing, should mount up as on wings to those high places which are bathed in the full sunlight of God’s face. (Charles New.)
Being and well-being
Life and light are the greatest blessings of which we have any conception. All feel life to be valuable. What would life be without light? A world without light would be cold, dark and monotonous. God is the source of both.
I. He is the source of being. “Fountain of life.” The word fountain suggests--
II. He is the source of well-being. He is the light--the blessedness of being. His revealed character is the light of the soul. Two things are necessary to make light a blessing--
1. A healthy visual faculty. If the eye of the soul is not sound, light may be a pain, a curse.
2. Beautiful objects of vision. If the eye is made to look upon the monstrous, and the horrific, light will be a bane. (Homilist.)
In Thy light shall we see light.--
God alone can reveal a God
Light has this property, that it is at once the vehicle and that which is borne by the vehicle: it is the revelation and its channel, and this twofold property of light remains the same whether we regard it as an actual emanation of particles, or only an undulation or vibration of some invisible ether itself at rest. And so with the revelation of God. No doubt He has revealed Himself by means of prophets, etc. (Hebrews 1:1-14.). But all such revelation was partial and incomplete; what the prophet saw or heard was only a glimpse of the real truth. Hence Christ was needed as the Revealer of God. And in like manner the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of Christ. (J. B. Heard, M. A.)
Light in God’s light
I. In the light of divine scripture we see light on human nature and on human life. Scripture contains God’s solution of man’s pro-roundest mysteries. The light which earth could not supply has been revealed from above. The Scriptures are not only a revelation of God to man, they are a revelation of man to himself. In the light of Divine truth our mysteries are solved, or souls are quieted, we emerge out of the darkness to follow Him who is the Light of the world. We feel that we are not left to our own fancies, to the mere phantoms of our own imagination; but that over all, guiding all, and allowing us to note His ways, is the Divine care and guidance of the living God.
II. In the light of divine atonement we see the light of human salvation. Here is heaven’s cure of earth’s deep sorrows, God’s solution of earth’s blackest mystery.
III. In the light of divine promises we see light on human adversity and care. They assure us that every care is under Divine control, that every trial has its purpose, and that no burden too great shall ever rest upon our hearts.
IV. In the light of divine revelation we see light on human destiny. To unassisted man there is no darkness so dense as that which rests on the future. We cannot anticipate the conclusion of a single hour. But on this darkness there is light. If a man die we know he will live again; if a man die in Christ he shall live for ever with Christ. (W. H. King.)
In thy light of God
The picture in the mind of him who wrote this psalm is very clear. Men are looking for light. With that insatiable passion which belongs to their humanity, they are running hither and thither seeking to know. And he who writes is in true sympathy with their search. To him too light seems the most precious thing on earth. Knowledge appears to him the treasure which is most worth possessing. But it seems to him that there is something which needs to be suggested to these searchers after light. They appear to him to be questioning this thing and that thing, as if the secret of its being, its power to be understood and comprehended, the light with which it ought to shins, were something which it carried in itself. He sees things differently. To him everything is comprehensible and capable of being understood only as it exists within the great enfolding presence of God. The first thing for any man to do who wanted knowledge was to put himself under God, to make himself God’s man; because both he who wanted to know and that which he wanted to know had God for their true element, and were their best and did their best only as they lived in Him.
I. Four facts concerning human knowledge which confirm the doctrine of the psalm.
1. The constant sense of the essential unity of knowledge. Men study many things. Each man finds for a time contentment in his special science in the mastery of his peculiar facts; but as each man goes deeper into the knowledge of the chosen subject of his study, he becomes aware of how impossible it is for him to know that subject well, unless he knows far more than that. All truth makes one great whole; and no student of truth rightly masters his own special study unless he at least constantly remembers that it is only one part of the vast unity of knowledge, one strain in the universal music, one ray in the complete and perfect light.
2. A second fact with regard to human knowledge is its need of inspiration and elevation from some pure and spiritual purpose. It is a fact which is assured by all the testimony of man’s experience of study, that, not upon the lower grounds of economy and the usefulness of knowledge to man’s physical and social wants, but by some sense of a preciousness inherent in itself, of a fitness between it and the nature of man, of a glory in seeking it and a delight in finding it for its own pure sake, that only so have all the great revelations of truth come to mankind.
3. Another characteristic of the best search after wisdom is the way in which it awakens the sense of obedience. In other words, all of man’s loftiest search for knowledge has always seemed to be aware, not merely of two parties to the great transaction, but also of a third--not merely of a knowledge to be sought and of a man to win it, but also of a knowledge-giver, who was to stand between the treasure and the needy human life, and give to the obedient humanity the boon it sought.
4. Closely allied to this fact is the other one which yet remains to be mentioned with regard to the search of man after knowledge, which is the constant tendency which it has always shown to connect itself with moral character. All the old initiations to the mysteries of knowledge bore knowledge to this instinct. The man to whom the deepest known secrets of things were to be opened to-morrow must be purified to-night by lustrations that should signify his inner baptism.
II. Is there no one conception in which these four convictions all unite, and in whose embrace they become not scattered discoveries or results of various experience, but parts of one complete idea which needs and which harmonizes them all? If it be true that in the thought of God most simply and broadly apprehended--in the thought, that is, of a great, strong, loving Father, who knows all truth, and loves all men, and feeds men with truth as a father feeds his children with bread, making them with each new food fit for a richer food which He has still to give them--these four conceptions find their meeting-place; if as the young light-seeker goes with these four convictions working together in his soul they almost necessarily seek one another and unite into what is at first the dream, and by and by becomes the faith of a personal presence, lofty, divine, loving and wise; if this is true, have we not reached as the result of all this long analysis something like that which David puts with such majestic simplicity in his glowing verse. The combination of these consciousnesses makes, almost of necessity, the consciousness of God. As they are necessary to the search for light, so is the God in whom they meet the true inspirer and helper of the eternal search. Look at the life of Jesus Christ. He knew the streets of Jerusalem and the lanes of Galilee and the history of His mysterious Hebrew people, and the hearts of the lilies and the souls of men; but He knew them all differently from the way in which the Hebrew scribes and scholars knew them. To Him they were all full of light. There is no other description of His knowledge that can tell its special and peculiar character like that. It was all full of light. It was full also of God. He knew everything as God’s child in God’s house. It was God’s light in which He saw the deeper light in everything. Picture Jesus of Nazareth set down in Rome with all the flashing splendour of imperial power all around him! or in Athens, with the wisdom of the philosophers on every side. Would the young Jew have cast his faith away? Too real for him the visions that had come to him in Nazareth! Too real for him the glory of His Father, which had filled His Father’s house! He would have laid fresh hold upon that truth and love which he had never so needed until now. He would have stood undazzled in the Roman glory, unpuzzled in the Grecian wisdom, because He would have known that in His heart He carried the light by which they should give light to Him. The knowledge of God lies behind everything, behind all knowledge, all skill, all life. That is the sum of the whole matter. The knowledge of God! And then there comes the great truth, which all religions have dimly felt, but which Christianity has made the very watchword of its life, the truth that it is only by the soul that God is really known; only by the experiences of the soul, only by penitence for sin, only by patient struggle after holiness, only by trust, by hope, by love does God make Himself known to man. So may He give us all the grace to know Him more and more. (Bp. Phillips Brook,.)
O continue Thy loving-kindness unto them that know Thee.
1. The true mark of a godly man standeth in the conjunction of faith in God with sincere study of obedience to him, for “he is the man that knoweth God, and is upright in heart.”
2. Albeit, what the believer hath found in God by experience, he may expect it shall be continued to him, both for his entertainment by God, and defence and deliverance in his righteous cause from his enemies; yet must he follow his confidence with prayer, “O continue Thy lovingkindness.”
3. As we have no right to any benefit, but in so far as we are of the number of upright-hearted believers, so should we seek every benefit we would have, as being of this number, and as seeking that others may be sharers with us, as David doth before.
4. It is the Lord only who can divert proud persecutors, that they hurt not His children, and it is the Lord only who can keep His children in the course of faith and obedience, when the wicked employ their power against them.
5. The ruin of the enemies of the godly is as certain as if it were already past; yea, faith may look upon it through the prospect of the Word of God, as if it were to be seen and pointed out to others to behold with their eyes. There are the workers of iniquity fallen.
6. The fall of the wicked is not like the fall of the godly, for though the godly fall sundry times, yet they recover their feet again; but a fall is prepared for the wicked, after which they shall not recover themselves, “They are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.” (D. Dickson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 36". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26