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God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods.
The supremacy of God
I. As rebuking unjust rulers. “How long will ye judge unjustly?” Here is a common crime. Human rulers, alas! through all times and the world over, have been prone to judge unjustly and to “accept the persons of the wicked.” In proportion to the moral corruption of a man is at once his indisposition and incapability to deal out justice to others.
II. As enjoying pity for the afflicted. “Defend the poor and fatherless.” See that they have justice done them, deal tenderly with them. “Deliver the poor and needy.” It argues bad for that ruler the poor and suffering of whose people are found in the heartless grip of wicked men.
III. As characterizing the course of wicked rulers. “They know not, neither will they understand,” etc. These magistrates pursue their course of moral ignorance, they are blind to the eternal principles of right, to the transcendent claims of justice; only alive to their own ambition, aggrandizement, pleasures, and gratifications. What is the consequence?
1. Society is endangered. “All the foundations of the earth are out of course.” All institutions are tottering.
2. Its rulers are doomed. “I have said, Ye are gods,” etc. “But ye shall die like men.” This language may mean--
(1) I have regarded you as divinities; in consequence of your office, as far superior to all ordinary men.
(2) I looked upon your appointment as Divine. “All of you are children of the Most High.” Magistracy is a Divine appointment, into that magistracy you have been permitted to enter; notwithstanding this, in consequence of your unrighteous conduct, ye “shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.”
IV. As the grand object of the world’s hope. “Arise, O God,” etc. There is no hope for a corrupt world but in God. (Homilist.)
The utility of magistracy
Take government out of the world, and then take the sun out of the firmament, and leave it no more a κόσμος, a beautiful structure, but a χάος, a confused heap; without this men would be like Ishmael, wild men; every man’s hand would be against his brother (Genesis 26:12). It is reported of Maximilian the emperor, that as oft as he passed by the gallows he would pug off his hat and salute it, with a calve sancta justitia! All hail, holy justice. Of all people, Christians have most cause to bless God for it; for they are exposed more to the malice of wicked men by reason of their profession and principles, which are so opposite to the ways of the world, so that they are as lambs amongst lions, as sheep amongst wolves, as a lily amongst thorns, which would soon be devoured, did not the great Shepherd of the flock raise up shepherds under Him to defend it. These are the ministers of God for our good--
1. For our natural good, for our lives.
2. Civil good, for our estate.
3. Moral, for defence of us in goodness.
4. Spiritual, to protect the Gospel; and this good is reduced by the apostle to three heads (1 Timothy 2:2), peace, piety, and honesty.
They are a means under God to preserve the lives of us and ours; our goods, sabbaths, ordinances, and all that is near and dear to us; so that when government fails--
1. Order fails;
2. Religion fails;
3. Justice fails;
4. Strength fails;
5. Wealth fails;
6. Honour fails;
7. Peace fails.
As where there is no ministry, the people perish; so where there is no magistracy, the people come to ruin (Proverbs 2:14). These are shields to defend us, fathers to tender us, yea, nursing fathers to carry us in their bosoms, pillars that under God uphold the world, that it fall not into confusion, and the very life of the State (Lamentations 4:20). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Magistrates should esteem their office a Divine institution
Civil authority is a Divine institution. The man who holds municipal or political office is a “minister of God.” One man may, therefore, have just as real a Divine vocation to become a town-councillor or a member of parliament, as another to become a missionary to the heathen, In either case it is at a man’s peril that he is disobedient to the heavenly vision. The Divine right of kings was a base corruption of a most noble truth; so was the fanatical dream about the reign of the saints. We shall never approach the Christian ideal of civil society until all who hold municipal, judicial, and political offices recognize the social and political order of the nation as a Divine institution, and discharge their official duties as ministers of God. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?
Magistrates rebuked for unjust judgment
1. The sin reproved in general, and that is unjust judgment,--a sin most peculiar to judges. To be covetous, envious, passionate, and proud, is evil; but to judge unjustly, to justify the wicked, and condemn the just is not only abominable, but an abomination in the abstract (Proverbs 17:15). This is iniquity and perverseness with a witness.
2. The duration of their sin, implied in “how long?” It implies that they had for a long time persevered in this practice, and therefore he doth not simply say, ye do unjustly, but how long will ye do unjustly? The interrogation is a vehement negation, ye ought in no wise to continue so long in your injustice as you have done.
3. The generality of the sinners implied in “ye”; how long will ye, i.e. all of ye, judge unjustly? There might be some few, some gleanings, as the prophet speaks (Micah 7:1-2), of just judges, but the generality was very corrupt.
4. An exegesis, an illustration, or, if you will, an aggravation of what went before. “Ye judge unjustly.” What is that? Why, ye accept the persons of the wicked, ye admire their persons, ye favour their faces, ye plead their causes; but the cause of the poor and the righteous man cannot be heard. In the original it is, Ye accept the face of the wicked. Now, to accept the face of a man is a Hebrew phrase, and signifies a showing favour and respect to a man (Genesis 19:22).
1. Even great men, when they go astray, must be sharply reproved. But for this great wisdom and prudence is required.
2. Continuance in evil is a great evil. How long, saith God, will ye judge unjustly? To do an unjust act is ill, but to persevere for many years in acting unrighteousness is the height of evil. As perseverance in goodness is the crown of goodness (Job 2:3), so perseverance in sin is sin in grain; it is of a deep dye; it is hardly, if ever, set out again.
3. It is no wonder to see judges judge unjustly. They did so here, and God complains of such elsewhere (Isaiah 1:23; Jeremiah 5:1; Micah 3:9).
4. Few great men are good men. They are subject to great temptations, and so to great corruptions.
5. Perverting of judgment is a great sin (Ezekiel 22:6-7; Isaiah 5:6-7; Jeremiah 5:28-29; Amos 2:6; Amos 5:6-7; Amos 5:11; Malachi 3:5).
6. Magistrates must judge impartially. They must not respect persons but causes. They must look more on the face of the cause than the face of the man. This respecting of persons is not good, saith Solomon, that is, it is very bad (Proverbs 24:23). It is a sin oft forbidden (Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Job 13:8; Job 13:10; 2 Chronicles 19:6-7; Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 28:21; James 2:9; Jude 1:16), Men must not judge according to any outward appearance or quality of the person that appears before them, but according to the equity of the cause (John 7:24). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Catiline, being prosecuted for some great offence, corrupted the judges. When they had given their verdict, though he was acquitted only by a majority of two, he said he had put himself to a needless expense in bribing one of those judges, for it would have been sufficient to have had a majority of one. (Plutarch’s Cicero.)
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
The magistrate’s duty
This counsel of God, saith Luther, is worthy to be written in letters of gold on the walls of all judicatories. It may fitly be termed God’s charge to magistrates. As if the Lord had said, This is your main business, and therefore let it be your great care, to defend the poor, succour the afflicted, and support the fatherless, and to help him who hath no helper. As the proper work of the physician is to cure the sick, and of a minister to comfort the weak, so of a magistrate to defend the poor, and vindicate the oppressed from the violence of the oppressor.
1. Magistrates must be a defence to the poor and fatherless, to the afflicted and the needy. They are that great tree which must shelter such as are under them from storms (Daniel 4:20-22).
2. As magistrates must administer justice unto all, so especially to the afflicted and distressed. These are most liable for injury; and therefore, if justice incline to any side with favour, it should be towards the poor. This is the very end why rulers are set up, viz., to execute judgment, and do justice amongst the people (Isaiah 56:1; Hosea 12:6; Amos 5:24; Zechariah 7:9). Do justice--
(3) Impartially and universally;
(4) Resolutely and courageously;
(5) Righteously and exactly;
3. Good duties need much pressing. Such is the dulness and indisposition of our natures to the best things, that without much pressing they take little or no impression upon us; hence it is that the Lord here calls on judges again and again to defend the poor and fatherless, and to deliver the needy out of trouble.
4. Magistrates must administer justice orderly. They must not go preposterously to work, and condemn a man before he is heard.
(1) They must fully, freely, patiently, with a sedate, quiet, composed spirit, free from passion, prejudice, and precipitancy, hear both parties speak for themselves, for the law doth not use to condemn men till their cause be heard (John 7:51; Acts 25:15-16).
(2) When, upon hearing, he hath found out the depth and truth of the cause, then he must justify and absolve the innocent, and rescue him out of the jaws of the wicked, by executing justice on him according to his demerits. (T. Hall, B. D.)
All the foundations of the earth are out of course,
The radical wrongness of the world
The foundation of mauve individual character is “out of course.” The true foundation of man’s character implies the supremacy of the Divine over the human, the spiritual over the carnal. Instead of this, the character of mankind is generally organized on the principle that puts the carnal over the spiritual, the human over the Divine.
II. The foundation of man’s social character is “out of course.” The true principle on which society should be formed is, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Instead of this, alas! falsehood, fraud, cupidity, intensified selfishness, form the world’s platform of social action.
III. The foundation of man’s political character is “out of course.” Righteousness is the only true and safe foundation of kingdoms. No human government can be safe or useful that aims not chiefly to develop the rights of men and to deal out justice to all. How often is it that the many are sacrificed to the few, the principles of rectitude for a miserable expediency.
IV. The foundation of man’s religious character is “out of course.” Supreme sympathy with the supremely good is the foundation of all true religion. Instead of which, as a rule, the religions of the world,--even the religion of England,--are based on dogmas, or ceremonies, or on mawkish sentiment. (Homilist.)
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.
I. Their official greatness.
1. They are here called gods. “Ye are gods.” In what sense are they gods?
(1) Not in the sense of mental superiority. There are some men, it is true, so far superior in mind to the average of their kind, that they move about like divinities. But human rulers are seldom found of that lofty type.
(2) Not in the sense of moral superiority. The highest greatness is moral. In every age men have appeared amongst their fellows as moral divinities, they have reflected the rays of Divine purity and beneficence. But human rulers have seldom been of this class.
(3) Not in the sense of their own estimation. It is very true that many worldly rulers have esteemed themselves as gods, and, like Herod of old, demanded the worship of their fellow-men. But in none of these senses does the psalmist say they are “gods.” His sense is an official sense. “The powers that be are ordained of God.”
2. They are here called, “children of the Most High.” The kingly office is a Divine creation. He is the “minister of God,” says Paul.
II. Their mortal doom. “Ye shall die like men.”
(1) The most illustrious must meet with a common event. They “die like men.” He who is chief in the most elevated ranks of life must die as the obscurest in life’s lowest grades. “He bringeth the princes to nothing, he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” Death mingles sceptres with spades.
(2) The most illustrious will meet with this common end in a way peculiar to themselves. “Fall like one of the princes.” There are feelings which a prince must have in dying, utterly unknown to the dying man in humbler life--feelings, methinks, that add agony and horror to the hour. Other things being equal, death would be easier in a hovel than in a palace. (Homilist.)
The magistrates’ Scripture
I may call this text the magistrates’ Scripture; considering the state of kings and governors, how much good they might do, and how little they perform, God becomes a remembrancer unto them. And first, shows what a high calling princes and rulers have, and then, lest they should be proud of it, and make their magistracy a chair of ease, he turns upon them again, as though he had another message unto them, and tells them, that though they be above others, yet they shall die like others; and though they judge here, yet they shall be judged hereafter. A good memorandum for all in authority, so to deal in this kingdom, that they lose not the kingdom to come.
1. “I have said, Ye are gods,” etc.
(1) This name informs us what kind of rulers and magistrates we should choose; those which excel all other men, like gods among men. For a king should he a man after God’s own heart, like David.
(2) This extolleth the calling of magistrates. There is a difference between kings and inferior magistrates; for the prince is like a great image of God, the magistrates are like little images of God, appointed to rule for God, to make laws for God, to reward for God, to punish for God, to speak for God, to fight for God, to reform for God, and therefore their battles are called “The Lord’s battles;” and their judgments, “The Lord’s judgments;” and their throne, “The Lord’s throne;” and the kings themselves, “His kings,” to show that they are all for God, like His hands. By some He teacheth mercy, by some justice, by some peace, by some counsel, as Christ distributed the loaves and the fishes by the hands of His disciples (Matthew 14:18). This God requires of all when He calls them gods, to rule as He would rule, judge as He would judge, correct as He would correct, reward as He would reward, because it is said, that they are instead of the Lord God; that is, to do as He would do, as a scholar writes by a copy.
(3) They are called gods, to teach them how they should govern, Howsoever other care for the glory of God, the performance of His will, the reformation of His Church, princes and rulers, which are gods themselves, are to do the business of God as their own business, God’s law is their law, God’s honour is their honour.
(4) They are called gods, to encourage them in their office, and to teach them that they need not dread the persons of men; but as God doth that which is just and good without the jealousy of men, so they, upon the bench, and in all causes of justice, should forget themselves to be men, which are led by the arms between favour and fear, and think themselves gods, which fear nothing.
2. It followeth, “but ye shall die as a man.” Here he distinguisheth between mortal gods and the immortal God. Ye have seen their glory; now behold their end. As if he would prevent some conceit that they would take of tim words which he east out before, he cools them quickly before they swell, and defers not to another time; but where he calls them gods, there he calls them worms’ meat, lest they should crow between the praise and the check, “I have said that ye are gods, but ye shall die like other men.” But for this, many would live a merry life, and feast, and sport, and let the world slide; but the remembrance of death is like a damp, which puts out all the lights of pleasure, and makes him frown and whine which thinks upon it, as if a mote were in his eye. (Henry Smith.)
The dignity of magistracy, and the duty of the magistrate
I. The dignity of magistracy.
1. In receiving honour from others.
2. In giving laws to others.
3. In executing the law, punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent.
II. The duty of magistrates. They ought to resemble God in their execution of justice amongst men.
1. In not favouring any for their nearness. Pompey, aspiring to the Roman empire, and perceiving that Cato was against him, sent his friend Minucius to Cato to demand his two nieces, one for himself, the other for his son. But when the messenger had delivered his errand, Cato gave him this answer: Go, tell Pompey, Cato is not to be won by women. As long as Pompey shall deal uprightly, I shall be his friend, and in a greater degree than any marriage can ever make me. Surely this moralist will condemn many Christian rulers, of whom it is said that the sun might as soon be hindered from running his race, as he from doing what was just and upright.
2. In not sparing or fearing any for their greatness. Papinianus is worthy of eternal memory, who chose rather to die than justify or excuse the fratricide of Bossianus the emperor. (G. Swinnock, M. A.)
Magistracy is of Divine authority
1. Their commission is from God (Proverbs 8:15; Romans 13:1).
2. Their command to govern is from God (Deuteronomy 17:1-20.).
3. Their protection is from God. As a king defendeth his inferior officers in the execution of their offices, so the King of kings defendeth magistrates in the discharge of their trusts. “God standeth in the congregation among the gods” (Psalms 82:1), not only to observe whether they offer injuries to others, but also to take care that they receive no injuries from others.
4. The subjection of their people to them is from God. If He that ruleth the boisterous waves of the sea, and shutteth them up with bars and doors (Psalms 65:7), did not put forth the same almighty power in quieting the spirits, and stilling the tumults of the people, it could never be done. Well might David say, “It is God that subdueth my people under me” (Psalms 144:1-2). (G. Swinnock, M. A.)
Exhortation to magistrates
If the God of heaven have appointed you to be gods on earth, then it may exhort you to walk as gods, and to work as gods amongst men.
1. Walk as gods among men; your calling is high, and therefore your carriage should be holy. The greater your privileges are, the more gracious your practices should be. Remember whose livery you wear, whose image you bear, whose person you represent, whose place you stand in, and walk worthy of that calling whereunto you are called (Ephesians 4:1). Whether, saith one, a gangrene begin at the head or the heel, it will kill; but a gangrene in the head will kill sooner than one in the heel. Even so will the sins or great ones overthrow a State sooner than the sins of small ones; therefore the advice of Sigismund the emperor, when a motion was made for reformation, was, Let us begin at the minorities, saith one. No: rather, saith he, let us begin at the majorities; for if the great ones be good, the meaner cannot easily be evil.
2. Work as gods.
(1) Execute justice impartially. It is a principle in moral policy, that an ill executor of the laws is worse in a State than a great breaker of them; and the Egyptian kings presented the oath to their judges, not to swerve from their consciences, though they received a command from themselves to the contrary. A magistrate should be a heart without affection, an eye without lust, a mind without passion, or otherwise his hand wilt do unrighteous actions. The Grecians placed Justice betwixt Leo and Libra, thereby signifying that there ought to be both magnanimity in executing and indifferency in determining.
(2) As you should work like gods amongst men in executing justice impartially, so likewise in showing mercy: God is the:Father of mercies (1 Corinthians 1:8); rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4); He hath multitudes of tender mercies (Psalms 51:1); He is abundant in mercy (1 Peter 1:3); His mercy is free (Romans 9:15); great (Psalms 57:10); matchless (Jeremiah 3:1); sure (Isaiah 55:1).
(3) Work as God’s in promoting piety to your power. Oh, consider, is it not reasonable as well as religious that you who rule by God should rule for God? that that power which you have received from Him should be improved mostly for Him? (G. Swinnock, M. A.)
Magistrates are mortal
Death is to every man a fall, from everything but God and godliness. Ye that are magistrates fall more stairs, yea, more storeys, than others. The higher your standing while ye live, the lower your falling when ye die. If magistrates are mortal, observe hence death’s prevalency and power above all the privileges and prerogatives of nature. It is a memorable speech of Sir Walter Raleigh, Though God, who loveth men, is not regarded, yet death, which hateth men, is quickly obeyed. O mighty death! O eloquent death! whom no man could advise or persuade, Thou canst prevail with. Take notice from hence, that nothing in this world can privilege a man against the arrest of death Are magistrates mortal? Let me then, in the fear of the Lord, beseech you that are magistrates, now presently to make preparation for the hour of your dissolutions. My counsel shall be, with a little alteration, in the words of the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah, “Now set your house in order, for you must die” (Isaiah 38:6). I must tell you, all the time ye have is little enough for a work of this weight. In reference to this great duty of preparing for your dying day, I shall commend six particulars to your most serious thoughts.
1. Discharge your trust faithfully. The way to have great confidence when ye die, is to keep a good conscience whilst ye live.
2. Live among men exemplarily. Ye are the nurses of the people (Isaiah 49:23), and our naturalists observe that what disease nurses have, the children will partake of. Now, how will it gall your consciences, when ye come to die, if ye have been ringleaders in iniquity, and not patterns of piety.
3. Walk humbly with God. I have read of Agathocles, king of Sicily, that being a potter’s son, he would be always served in earthen vessels, to mind him of his original. Some write of a bird so light and feathery, that it is forced to fly with a stone in its mouth, lest the wind should carry it away. The truth is, men that are high in place, are apt to be carried away with the wind of high-mindedness; they had need, therefore, to have earth in their minds, I mean their frailty, and it may prove, through the blessing of Heaven, a singular preservative.
4. Must ye die, and would ye prepare for it, then be active for God whilst ye live; the serious thought of death in your hearts will put life into your hands. This life is all your day of working, death is the night of resting.
5. Labour to find some inward work of grace wrought upon your hearts; be not contented with forms, but mind the power of godliness. A man may live by a form, but he cannot die by a form; when death cometh, when that damp ariseth, the candle of profession, separated from the power of religion, will first burn blue, and then go out; the bellows of death will blow the spark of sincerity into a flame, and the blaze of hypocrisy into nothing.
6. Make sure of an interest in Christ, in the death of the Lord Jesus. There is no shroud to this--namely, to be wrapt in the winding-sheet of Christ’s righteousness. (G. Swinnock, M. A.)
And fall like one of the princes.
On the death of a king
Death is the most awful of earthly things to all persons of all ranks; but there is something in the death of a king peculiarly solemn and instructive to all who are willing to consider matters with the fear of God before their eyes. It is a bad sign when people listen eagerly to the accounts of our King’s sickness, death, and funeral, merely as to something new, and there an end.
1. First, a man must be cold hearted indeed, not to feel in such an event the touch of an Almighty hand, awakening him to consider the utter vanity and worthlessness of this life, considered in itself.
2. But, secondly, although the sight of a king’s death is naturally apt to make us all have sad thoughts of our common mortality, yet the Scripture warns us that we think not rudely on it, as if it proved kings, while they lived, to be no more than other men. You perceive, that in this same place where kings are warned that they shall “die like men,” they are nevertheless called gods, and are said to be all of them “the children of the Most Highest.” Wherefore the death of one sovereign, and succession of another, may well cause us to have serious thoughts of the high and sacred office of our King; and to remember that he is “the minister of God”; a minister in somewhat of the same sense as bishops and priests are ministers. “Fear God, honour the King.”
3. Thirdly, we learn to have duo thoughts of the great anxiety of His Majesty’s office, and the especial dangers, spiritual and temporal, which must needs wait upon so high a trust in this bad and unquiet world. “Ye shall fall like one of the princes;” evidently meaning that princes, as such, were in more than common danger of falling; their life, as it were, hung by a thread, so many and so restless were their enemies, and so wearisome their heavy duties. In our time, and in our part of the world, the personal danger of a sovereign may be much diminished; though many who now live may remember a King of France murdered publicly by his own subjects; a sad proof that good and great kings are not yet exempt from violent deaths. Let us, then, remember to join most earnestly in the Church’s prayers for the sovereign; and lot us learn to be more and more contented with our own condition. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times,”)
The glory and the vanity of earthly greatness
I. The picture.
1. Earthly greatness at its highest elevation. The persons addressed were the judges, rulers, princes of Israel, and they are entitled gods, sons of the Most High, as being, in the office they held, in the authority which clothed them, and in the powers they wielded, representatives of God among their brethren. The title bespeaks for them nothing of Divinity, or infallibility, or even personal goodness. It simply claims for their position authority and power as of God.
2. Earthly greatness in its vanity and failure. Each setting sun flames out in warning colours, that life’s sunset is also at hand. Each autumn’s decay, shedding leaves, and flowers, and fruit into a wintry grave, is a type to our saddened eye of the parallel scene, when all our honours shall be gathered into dust. Each night that receives us into its soft slumber, pictures the dreamless sleep that comes after the fatigue of life’s battles and burdens.
II. The lessons.
1. The insignificance of all earthly distinctions. There is no sounder part of true wisdom than a just sense of the difference between the littleness of time and the magnitude of eternity. The deep, habitual sense of this difference is the necessary ballast of the ship that would safely navigate the perilous sea of life, swept by terrible tempests.
2. To cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils. What multitudes of the greatest have risen and fallen, and God’s work has gone on as before. What a blow to the Church when Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Luther died; yet the Church was blessed not only by their lives but by their deaths, as much by their deaths as by their lives. By the very force of affection with which the Church clung to them while living, was she constrained, when they died, to grasp with a mightier faith the living Redeemer.
3. To lead us to prepare for eternity--not only because we have no other time than the present should this be done, but because the only preparation is life-preparation. (J. Riddell.)
Mortality mocking earthly majesty
This is a short psalm, little quoted, and seldom used. Jesus quoted this psalm, and, in doing so, showed its meaning and reference. When the Jews pronounced Him a blasphemer, because He made Himself the Son of God, in condemnation of them, and in defence of Himself, He quoted this Scripture of their own, in which earthly rulers were called gods, and all of them children of the Most High, in the authorized, unobjectionable language of inspiration. The Saviour’s argument was this, that if the powers that be, as ordained of God, might be so named, much more might He call Himself the Son of God, who, the Father’s equal, came on His errand to put an end to sin, and to bring in an everlasting righteousness. In this way there is no doubt that these words call us to think of earthly kings and princes, judges and rulers of this world, and the great ones among men.
I. Our tendency to exaggerate earthly greatness. Even to this hour, some among ourselves, contemplating those who bask in the sunshine of worldly prosperity--those who tower far above other men in the dignity, grandeur and influence of earthly station, so exaggerate the position, that if not applying to them the words of our text, and saying, “ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High,” withal imagine that these are the special favourites of heaven, and that blessed of God, they are to be admired, if not envied of men! Let us beware of all such thoughts. Admitting the value of earthly greatness, and the worth of worldly glory in their own place--and to question either were to belie nature, and to contradict Scripture--there are better things than earthly greatness in its most attractive type; better things than worldly glory in its most fascinating form. It is only by faith in Jesu’s name that either king or subject, potentate or pauper, can choose the good part which shall never be taken from them.
II. The cure for the error of exaggerating earthly greatness in the fact of universal mortality. Suffer me to handle in your presence those things which are the recognized emblems of earthly greatness and of worldly glory,--the crown, the coronet, the throne and the like. Shall I speak of them as baubles, toys, trifles? No; nature does not so regard them, nor do I find such names for them in the Word of God. Still--“Be wise, ye kings; be taught, ye judges of the earth.” The throne I--it must be left for the tomb. So perish the things which are seen--for the things which are seen are temporal. But faith, hope, and charity, these three--the faith of Jesu’s name; the hope which maketh not ashamed; charity, which is the bond of perfectness--there abideth these three. And, through grace, be these the heritage of kings and princes; and when their crowns and coronets fade and fail, these shall be for them in heaven a better and enduring substance. These, through grace, be the heritage of the poor of this world; and they, chosen rich in faith, shall inherit a kingdom that fadeth not away, and that cannot be shaken or removed. (John Smart, D. D.)
How some princes have died
Caesar was cruelly assassinated in the zenith of his glory. Casimir, King of Poland, died in the act of raising a jewelled cup to his lips. The Emperor Celsus was put to death seven days after his election. Charles XII. descended from the position of a conqueror to that of a forlorn exile. On the 24th of February, 1848, Louis Philippe rose in the Tuileries the King of the French; before midday he was a fugitive. Napoleon is one day ‘ “the arbiter of the destinies of Europe,” and the next a forlorn exile on St. Helena.
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for Thou shalt inherit all nations.
The true hope of the world
This cry is--
I. One of the deepest cries of universal man. This cry, in some form or other, goes up to Heaven in every language udder the sky. “Arise, O God.” “There is no hope but in Thee, Thine arm is mighty,” etc.
II. Implies the want of confidence in all creature help. Men have tried to put the world right. Moralists, statesmen, philanthropists, saints, have all tried. Every age has been rife with remedial schemes, but all have proved ineffective. “Arise, O God,” etc.
III. Involves a confidence in the possibility of securing Divine interposition. What rational spirit would cry to Him if it believed that His assistance was unattainable. Men have an instinctive faith in the power of prayer. Thank God, we have abundant evidence of its efficiency, in the Bible, in the memoirs of the good, and in our own experience. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble,” etc. (Homilist.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 82". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany