Sunday, May 28th, 2023
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 116". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ psalms-116.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 116". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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A PSALM of thanksgiving on deliverance from an imminent peril, placed in the mouth of an individual, but possibly intended for liturgical use on some occasion of a national deliverance. Hengstenberg regards it as composed for use at a festival service shortly after the return from the Captivity. Others adhere to the old Hebrew tradition, which ascribed it to Hezekiah, and considered it to have been written on the occasion of his deliverance from death, as narrated in Isaiah 38:1-22. Many resemblances are traced between the phraseology of the psalm and expressions attributed to Hezekiah in Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22.
Psalms 116:1, Psalms 116:2
An introduction, in which the writer declares his love to God, and his resolution to call on him continually, on ac count of his having been delivered from an imminent peril.
I love the Lord, because he hath heard; literally, I love, because the Lord (Jehovah) hath heard. The object of this love is not expressed, but can only be Jehovah. Still, the grammatical construction is unusual, and has caused the suggestion of an emendation. For אהבתי Professor Cheyne would read האמנתי as at the beginning of Psalms 116:10. My voice and my supplications; literally, my voice, my supplications—the latter expression being exegetical of the former.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me (compare the expression of Hezekiah in Isaiah 37:17, "Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear"). Therefore will I call upon him as long as I live; literally, in my days—another expression attributed to Hezekiah in the history (Isaiah 39:8). Lifelong gratitude and praise are promised by Hezekiah to God in Isaiah 38:20.
The psalmist describes his trouble (Psalms 116:3), his prayer for deliverance (Psalms 116:4), and his actual deliverance (Psalms 116:5-9).
The sorrows of death compassed me; literally, the cords of death (comp. Psalms 18:4, where the same expression is used). Death is pictured as seizing his victim and binding him with cords. And the pains of hell gat hold upon me; or, "the straits of hell" (comp. Psalms 118:5; Lamentations 1:3). Death and hell (shell) are closely connected together in the prayer of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10, Isaiah 38:18). I found trouble and sorrow; or, "anguish and woe" (comp. Isaiah 38:12-17).
Then celled I upon the Name of the Lord. "Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord" (Isaiah 38:2). O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul (compare the words of Isaiah 38:3, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee").
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. God's answers to prayer show him to be both "gracious" and "righteous"—gracious, because it is of his mercy that he listens to men; righteous, because, having promised to hear prayer, he is bound to keep his promises. Yea, our God is merciful; or, "compassionate."
The Lord preserveth the simple; i.e. "the simple-minded"—those who are without guile or artifice (comp. Psalms 19:7). I was brought low. The same verb is used here as in Isaiah 38:14, where it is translated "fail" ("mine eyes fail"). It expresses extreme weakness, or exhaustion. And he helped me; or, "saved me" (comp. Isaiah 38:20).
Return unto thy rest, O my soul. "Return," i.e; "to thy state of tranquility, the condition in which thou wast before the imminent danger showed itself." For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. If Hezekiah is the writer, the "bountiful dealing" will be the addition of fifteen years to his life (Isaiah 38:5). If a poet just re turned from the Captivity, the return and the reoccupation of the Holy Land will be especially in his thoughts (comp. Psalms 85:1).
For thou hast delivered my soul from death. This verse is exegetical of the last clause of Psalms 116:4. The expressions are taken from Psalms 56:13, and suit a personal better than a national deliverance. Mine eyes from tears. Hezekiah, when told that his death was approaching, had "wept sore" (Isaiah 38:3). And my feet from falling; literally, and my foot from slipping When man is greatly tried, there is always danger lest his foot should slip. Whether the trial befall an individual or a nation, there is the same temptation to rebel and murmur.
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living; rather, lands of the living; i.e. my deliverance will enable me to walk at leisure, unhurried and free from care, in the broad regions of earth inhabited by the living.
Psalms 116:10, Psalms 116:11
Parenthetic and obscure. Both the connection and rendering are doubtful. Professor Cheyne translates, "I was confident that I should speak thus;" i.e. even while my affliction was going on, I felt confident that relief would come, and that I should one day speak as I have just spoken. I was, however, too sorely afflicted to give utterance to my feeling. Instead of so doing, I vented my unhappiness in abuse of my fellow-men. Thus understood, the words are an apologia.
I believed, therefore have I spoken. So the LXX; Ἐπίστευσα διὸ ἐλάλησα. But many other meanings are suggested. See the preceding paragraph. I was greatly afflicted (comp. Psalms 116:3).
I said in my haste, All men are liars. The connection of the thoughts is not apparent, unless God's faithfulness (Psalms 116:5-8) suggests man's unfaithfulness.
The psalm closes with a thanksgiving for the deliverance vouchsafed. What return can the psalmist make? First, he will accept the blessing joyfully; next, he will ever continue to call upon God (Psalms 116:13; comp. Psalms 116:4, Psalms 116:17); thirdly, he will pay his vows openly in the temple, in the presence of the whole congregation (Psalms 116:14, Psalms 116:18); fourthly, he will offer continually the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalms 116:17) for the benefits vouchsafed him. The enumeration of his pious intentions is itself a song of praise to the Almighty.
What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? Natural piety suggests a return for favors received. What shall this be? the psalmist asks, and then proceeds to give the answer.
I will take the cup of salvation. It has been usual to explain this of actual participation in the contents of a cup offered at a sacrificial meal, and then passed round to the worshippers. But there is no clear evidence of any such usage, except in connection with the Passover, which cannot here be in question. Hengstenberg there fore proposes to regard the phrase as a mere metaphor, like the "cup of trembling" (Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22), and understands the psalmist to mean that he will gladly and thankfully receive God's mercy vouchsafed to him, and thus show his gratitude for it. And call upon the Name of the Lord (comp. Psalms 116:4 and Psalms 116:17).
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people (comp. Psalms 116:18, Psalms 116:19, where the thought is repeated, and lengthened out). We are not told in Isaiah or 2 Kings that Hezekiah made any vows when he lay on his sick bed, but he may probably have done so. He certainly intended, as soon as his cure was complete, to "go up to the house of the Lord" (2 Kings 20:8; Isaiah 38:22).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (comp. Psalms 72:14). It is not a matter of indifference to God, when and under what circumstances each of his saints dies. Rather, it is a matter of deep concern to him. "In him are the issues of life and death" (Psalms 68:20), and he appoints to each man the day and attendant circumstances of his demise.
O Lord, truly I am thy servant; rather, even so, O Lord, for I am thy servant. Entitled, therefore, to thy care and consideration. I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid (comp. Psalms 86:16). "Thine handmaid"—the Church; or, if the writer is Hezekiah, "thy handmaid, Abiyah, the daughter of Zechariah," who "had under standing in the vision of God" (2 Chronicles 26:5; 2 Chronicles 29:1). Thou hast loosed my bonds. The "cords of death" (verse 3) are probably intended.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Scarcely an actual sacrifice. Rather, simple thanksgiving, which, from a sincere heart, is the best sacrifice (see Psalms 50:14 and Hosea 14:2). And will call upon the Name of the Lord (comp. Psalms 116:4 and Psalms 116:13).
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Compare the comment on Psalms 116:14, whereof this is a repetition.
In the courts of the Lord's house. Thanksgiving was always most appropriately offered in the temple courts, where close at hand dwelt the mysterious presence of God, and where God had appointed that his worshippers should appear before him. In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. This expression and the preceding suit well with Hezekiah's authorship of the psalm, as Dr. Kay well argues. Praise ye the Lord. The writer calls on all those present (see Psalms 116:18) to join him in singing praise to God (comp. Psalms 104:1-35; Psalms 105:1-45; Psalms 106:1-48; Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 117:1-2.).
Danger and deliverance.
It is probable that the danger to which the psalmist was exposed was due to a very serious illness, threatening to end in death. It is certain that this is the most common danger we have to confront now. We look, therefore, at—
I. A RECURRING EVIL IN OUR MORTAL LIFE—SICKNESS. With so complicated a structure as the human frame, and so intricate a system as that which has to be kept in working order, if we are to be in perfect health, it is no marvel that there should be frequent disorder within. And though improved sanitary conditions and the advance of physiological and medical science are favorable to health and long life, yet the increasing artificiality and luxuriousness of our age are counteracting forces; so that it may be fairly questioned whether serious sickness, in more varied forms than ever, is not as often a recurring feature of life as it was in the psalmist's day.
II. ITS COMMON ATTENDANTS. These are:
1. Pain; to which no reference is made in the text, though it may be included in "trouble and sorrow" (Psalms 116:3).
2. Dependence; being so reduced that the feet would fall (Psalms 116:8) without help from a friendly hand; the strong man, accustomed to sustain others, is brought down in a few days, or even hours, to depend on the ministry of the servant or the child.
3. Displacement. The must serious "trouble" (Psalms 116:3) which worries and perplexes the busy man is found in being laid aside from his activities; it is nothing less than "sorrow" to him to feel that his work is undone, and that he does not know how provision is to be made for his home. Many and bitter are the tears (Psalms 116:8) of anxiety and distress.
4. The apparent approach of death. (Psalms 116:3.) How bitter to the soul is the vision of death, when it comes in the midst of life, is well exemplified in the grief of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1-22.); so also Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27). It is not the bodily sufferings endured at death which men fear; it is the departure from kindred and friends, the laying down of work and leaving a happy sphere of usefulness, the going away from so much that is fair and good, leaving the light and joy and hope that our soul has loved below. Even to him who is looking for so much that is better beyond, this deep feeling of regret is not unnatural or unbecoming.
5. Despondency. (Psalms 116:10, Psalms 116:11.) As with the psalmist, so is it often with us: when the strength is feeble, the spirits are low; we are distrustful; we begin to doubt those in whom we did confide; we come, hastily and without ground, to unfavorable conclusions; we think we are forgotten, ill-treated, abandoned.
III. ITS ALWAYS PRESENT AND MOST PRECIOUS REFUGE. "Then called I upon the Name of the Lord," etc. (Psalms 116:4). Him whom we are apt to overlook in the light, we remember when the shadows fall. To him who, though unperceived, is ever at our right hand we gladly turn, when human helpers and our own resources fail us. God is "our very present Help in trouble." We are sure of his pity, and we may ask for the exercise of his power. We know that he who is interested in the flowers of the field and the birds of the air (Matthew 6:1-34.) will not suffer one of his own children to die until his hour has fully come; that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalms 116:15). Who shall estimate the measure of comfort and relief which afflicted humanity has found in submission to the will and prayer for the succor of the heavenly Friend!
IV. ITS MERCIFUL REMOVAL. (Psalms 116:5-8.) Recovery from illness, though a very ordinary and familiar thing, is a reason for reverent wonder. How is it that the organ which is impaired, after getting worse and worse and becoming less and less effective recovers its efficiency, and begins to do its proper work again? This we do not under stand. We can only say that the Divine Lord of our life has implanted recuperative powers within us which bring about recovery, and make us well and strong. We supply the ascertained conditions, but the unseen Hand does the work. God is the Healer of our sicknesses. It is not only piety, but truth, to say, "I was brought low, and he helped me" (Psalms 116:6).
V. THE GLADNESS AND GRATITUDE OF CONVALESCENCE, (Psalms 116:1, Psalms 116:2, Psalms 116:5, Psalms 116:7-9, Psalms 116:13, Psalms 116:14, Psalms 116:16-19.) There is a tone of great gladness of heart—perhaps we may detect some exuberance of spirit—in this outpouring. Is not the affliction amply repaid by the joy of returning strength and the sense of newness of life and power. Let such gladness always rake the form of gratitude and praise; let it "lift up its eyes to heaven and say, Father, I thank thee." There should be:
1. Gratitude; the distinct reference of the good received to God himself, "Thou hast dealt bountifully with me" (Psalms 116:7, Psalms 116:8).
2. Praise—offered in the sanctuary as well as in the home (Psalms 116:17-19).
3. Love. The hearing and answering of our prayer may well deepen our attachment to our loving and faithful Lord (Psalms 116:1).
4. Reconsecration. (Psalms 116:2, Psalms 116:16.) The best spiritual result of this experience of sickness and recovery is the solemn renewal of the vow by which we first yielded ourselves to the Person and the service of our Savior.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
I love the Lord, because.
I. WE MIGHT FILL UP THE TEXT IN MANY WAYS. As St. John does, "because God first loved us." Or because of what he is in himself. Or because of what he has done for us, is doing, and will do for us or for others dear to us. And there are other ways still.
II. HOW IT IS FILLED UP. "Because he hath heard my voice," etc. God's heating of our prayer is the reason given for loving him.
1. Now, can we say this? Not if we never pray. Not if we do not look out for the answers in the right way—believing—and in the place where they are to be looked for.
2. But many, like the psalmist, can say this.
III. AND HOW REASONABLE IS THIS FILLING UP! It is fitting that we should "love the Lord, because," etc. If we think of the sad characteristics of our prayers. How unworthy! How slow we are to pray I What a number of desires we have! What unbelief mingles with them! How trivial! How impatient! How misused! What his answering of our prayers has cost!
1. If he hears our prayer, he shall hear our praise, and we will hear his word.
2. And we will tell others of this.—S.C.
Psalms 116:3, Psalms 116:4
The experience of a deeply distressed soul.
The psalm is the utterance of the glad gratitude of some devout Israelite on his deliverance from mortal sickness. But it is capable of many applications. In the temple service it was used as a psalm of thanksgiving for God's deliverance of Israel from their exile. Many have seen in it the setting forth of the sufferings of our Lord, and have applied the psalm generally to him. Others, again, take it, as do we, as describing, in vivid, impressive way, the experience of a soul that has known deep distress, but has been delivered therefrom by God's exceeding grace. Therefore note—
I. THE DISTRESS. It is told of:
1. As the sorrows of death and the pains of hell, or the grave. Some render it "the snares," others, "the cords," of death. But the meaning is much the same, however the word be rendered. It must he remembered that the psalm was written in the dim light of the Old Testament as to the believer's condition after death. And, compared with our own, that light was very dim. To the faithful servant of God now, who "dies in the Lord," there are no sorrows of death. Christ hath abolished death; and still less are there any pairs of hell. But the writer of this psalm did believe in them, as did all the saints of his day. And they meant for him, not burning flames or purgatorial fires, but exclusion from the presence of God (see Psalms 115:17, and parallels; Psalms 31:22, etc.). These were the sorrows they dreaded. In death they would no more see—so they feared—God's power and glory as they had seen them in the sanctuary (Psalms 63:2). The grave was to them the pit, the land of darkness and the shadow of death. These were the sorrows of death and the pains of hell, and they caused the deepest spiritual distress.
2. And there are the like of these still. When the soul feels itself shut out from God; when it has no hope; when nothing but the Divine condemnation seems possible to it; when it knows and feels itself to be utterly and hopelessly wrong; when it gazes wistfully upon the blessed promises of God, but is in abiding despair as to ever realizing them—is certain it never shall; and that for it there is nothing but the fearful looking for of God's indignation and of his fiery wrath. Souls not a few have passed, and are passing, through experience like that.
3. It is caused in various ways. Sometimes through deep conviction of sin when first the soul is awakened. And it is well for the after-life of the soul that there should be deep conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit, for then there is likely to be a permanent work done, and not a mere ephemeral and superficial one, such as is all too common. And oftentimes this experience is the result of back sliding from God (see Peter after his denial; Judas after his betrayal of the Lord). "Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of thine eye," let every Christian pray. At other times it is through a perverse habit of mistrust and doubt. The melancholy mass of miserable Christians are nearly all begotten of this wretched and God-dishonoring habit. And sometimes it is the result of disease in mind or body, or both. Then it is a pure affliction, and has to be accepted as such. But this is not often the case.
II. THE DELIVERANCE.
1. See how thorough it was. (Psalms 116:8.) "My soul from death." Sin is death, and until we are not free from that, whatever else we may be, we are not saved. "Mine eyes from tears." There has come peace and joy in God instead of anguish of soul. "My feet from falling." I not only begin the better life, but go and keep on in it. God's salvation means this for us.
2. How it was won. Through prayer (Psalms 116:4). How direct, definite, and to the point, this prayer was! So is all real prayer.
3. And how evident. (See Psalms 116:9, Psalms 116:13.) When we are saved, people will know it. Walking is a very visible act, as is the walking before the Lord. There is no invisible religion.
III. THE DIVINE TEACHING FOR US ALL IN ALL THIS.
1. If till now you have never been convicted of sin, be thankful for your soul-distress, remembering its gracious intent.
2. If you are in Christi pray that you may never come into the soul-agony that the backslider knows.
3. If from any cause such distress be on you, despair not, but turn to God in prayer, earnest and definite, and persevere in faith till the deliverance comes.
4. If you have been delivered, go and declare to others what God has done for your soul.
5. And let your life show your love to God.—S.C.
These well-known words show—
I. THAT REST IS ONE OF THE RIGHTFUL POSSESSIONS OF THE SOUL. It was designed for the soul. God would not have created a soul to be the perpetual victim of fret, worry, and distress, as we see many souls now are. It must have belonged to the soul. Hence it is called "thy rest." In the primal paradise, in which our first parents were placed, they enjoyed this rest. Theirs was the repose of the intellect, of the affections, of the will; all were at rest in God.
II. BUT THE SOUL HAS GOT AWAY FROM THIS REST. What need to labor any proof of this?
1. You can read the fact in men's very looks—the careworn countenance, the anxious mien, the sad, disappointed air.
2. In their words, whether spoken or written; weariness is written on them all.
3. In the frantic but futile efforts they make to find a substitute for what they have lost.
III. THAT IT CAN, IF IT WILL, RETURN UNTO ITS REST. Yes, in forsaking sin, surrender to Christ, and trust in him, rest is still attainable.—S.C.
God, the Rest of the soul.
Text is addressed to those who have already known God as their Rest. Before we can return, we must have turned to God. But arguments for the one are the same as for the other. Hence let believers take the text as it stands; let others read it as if it were "turn" instead of return. It teaches—
I. THERE IS A REST FOR THE SOUL—GOD. He is so by virtue of his atonement, his Spirit, his Word. And this for the individual soul.
II. BUT WE FOOLISHLY LEAVE THAT REST. By neglect of communion. By unbelief. By disobedience.
III. NEVERTHELESS, WE ARE BIDDEN RETURN. We do so as we first of all turned to him—in penitence and prayer and trust.
IV. WE HAVE A MIGHTY ARGUMENT FOR THIS. "He hath dealt bountifully with thee." Thus he meets us.
V. WE MUST EACH DO THIS FOR OURSELVES. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul!"
VI. HE IS CERTAIN TO RECEIVE US.—S.C.
The inquiry of the grateful heart.
Many are the blessed spirits that worship God—penitence, faith, reverence, hope, and others. But none are more acceptable than the spirit of gratitude. It is that spirit which speaks here in our text. The following verses contain the answer which the same spirit gives. The inquiry before us implies remembrance of—
I. THE BENEFITS WHICH THE LORD HATH CONFERRED UPON US.
1. It is difficult because of their number, character, variety; and because of Satan's never-ceasing endeavor to hinder us herein.
2. But is full of advantage. More glory comes to God. Our own soul is blessed. We become able to help others.
3. It is a habit which we should cultivate.
II. THE RESPONSE WHICH THESE BENEFITS DEMAND. That of a grateful heart, first and chief of all. God is ever seeking to make up this response; and the devil is ever seeking to prevent it.
III. THE LORD WHO PROMPTS THE INQUIRY WILL ENABLE US TO GIVE THE RESPONSE.—S.C.
Psalms 116:13, Psalms 116:14
The answer of the grateful heart.
That answer is threefold.
I. HE WILL ACCEPT GOD'S SALVATION. This the meaning of the words, "I will take the cup of salvation." God has designed salvation for each one of us; he puts it before us as the master of a feast was wont to hand the cup to each guest. And the grateful heart here says, "I will take thy salvation, O Lord, the pardon which is in Christ, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life." No worship or service is pleasing to God until this is done.
II. HE WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD. Thus, by fervent prayer, will he keep in communion with God, and look to him day by day for all needed grace.
III. HE WILL OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGE GOD. "I will pay my vows," etc. What has gone before has been transacted between God and the soul; this should be before all men. If there be these three things, all holy obedience will follow; there will be the consecrated life.—S.C.
The Divine estimate of the saint's death.
The text is one of the precious words of the Bible—one of the instances in which the Bible sheds bright light over the darker facts of life. Sorrow, temptation, disappointment, sin, and, as here, death, are all irradiated by the light the Bible sheds upon them. Our text calls death "precious." This a strange epithet for death—one we should never have given to it. But it is true, nevertheless, as here used. Therefore note—
I. THE MEANING OF THE WORD "PRECIOUS." It is used frequently in a like sense, and means:
1. God will not suffer death to come to his saints save as he permits; and never shall his saints cease from off the earth. The fact of the old age to which they commonly attain seems to confirm what the text affirms. But:
2. The word "precious" denotes also the mind of God in contemplating the death of his saints. He delights in all their life—in its beginning, its progress, and now its end. This is the last step of the saint, and our text tells with what loving regard the Lord looks down upon it.
II. THE REASON OF THIS DIVINE ESTIMATE.
1. Because of his love and sympathy. His saints are dear to him.
2. At the time of their death there is more than ever a response of trust and desire made to the heart of God. In the full vigor of life we are apt to forget, or to think but seldom and slightly, of God; we do not feel our dependence upon him as we should. But when heart and flesh fail—when all our strength is gone, then there is that utter casting of the soul upon God in which God delights.
3. The wondrous witness to others on behalf of God which the death of many a saint has borne. See how Paul never forgot the dying speech of Stephen. The blood of the martyrs has been ever the seed of the Church. And in calmer deaths than these witness for God has also been borne, and with power unknown before.
4. The precious blood of Christ is glorified. For at such times that is all their trust, During life we discuss all manner of questions, doctrines, and beliefs; but when we come to die, it is, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want!"
5. It is the moment of their safe ingathering. Till then, they have been, as the sheep in the wilderness, liable to wander, exposed to peril, watched for hungrily by the wolves of hell, often all but lost. But death is God's angel gathering them safe within the eternal sheepfold. Such are some of the grounds wherefore "precious in the sight," etc.
III. BUT NOTE THE CONCLUSIONS THIS WARRANTS CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
1. Death cannot end all. How could such death be "precious?"
2. Nor can it introduce us into a state of mere unconsciousness. Death for God's saints is not a sleep, but the entrance on fullness of life with Christ.
3. Still less into any purgatory. Scripture has nothing to say of such condition for God's saints. But:
4. It is a departing and being with Christ, which is far better. Surely we may "comfort one another with these words."
IV. THE ONE LIMITATION OF THIS STATEMENT.
1. It is not as to time. We may die at any moment.
2. Nor as to place. It may be anywhere.
3. Nor as to manner. It may be in deep peace or dreadful pain.
4. But it is as to character. Of the saints of God alone is it said that their deaths are "precious in," etc. Therefore, by surrender to Christ, be one of God's saints.—S.C.
The Lord's service commended.
It is so
I. BY SCRIPTURE. (See text.) The one trouble of the psalmist seems to be lest he should not be owned by the Lord as his servant. Hence:
1. He asserts with emphasis, "Truly I am thy servant." Here is not a mere make-believe, as so many professed servants of the Lord are.
2. And he reasserts it. "I am thy servant," not was, or will be, but I am, here and now, this day, thine.
3. And he cites a fact which unanswerably proves his assertion. I am "the son of thine handmaid." Slaves born in the house, home-born of another slave, were regarded as the property of their master, even more than those gained by purchase or taken captive in war. The meaning, therefore, is, "I am thy very own." Thus completely and altogether does the psalmist dedicate himself to God.
4. And he brings forward the mighty motive which had led him thus to do. "Thou hast loosed my bonds." He was speaking, probably, of the bonds of death, from the very gates of which he had been delivered (Psalms 116:8). In his over whelming gratitude for this deliverance, he yields himself entirely to God. What a contrast does the psalmist present to the ordinary run of men! They care nothing for God's service. If they begin it, they soon forsake it; or if perchance they seem to continue in it, with what sloth and slackness is it pursued! But the psalmist feels that no service he can render is too great; his one desire is to be confessed as the servant of the Lord.
II. AND RIGHT REASON ENDORSES THIS COMMENDATION.
1. We cannot escape service of some sort; some lord will have rule over us. Where is one whose rule is righteous and reasonable as is that of the Lord?
2. Has he not all claim? He is our Creator, Preserver, our Redeemer, and daily Benefactor, our heavenly Father.
3. The noblest of mankind have been the first to confess this.
III. So ALSO DOES EXPERIENCE. Who ever repented of having served the Lord too well, or thought he had done so sufficiently? The best of his servants are eager to have all those they love, and all whom they can influence, in his service. It brings here and now such rich recompense of reward, and promises eternal reward by-and-by. Our happiest hours are those spent in serving him. "He has loosed my bends, and I must and will serve him."—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The various bases on which love rests.
A tradition associates this psalm with the serious sickness of Hezekiah. It may not be a trustworthy tradition. The Aramaisms of the language suggest that it belongs to the time of the restored exiles. It is a psalm of one who passed through a similar sickness to that of Hezekiah; and we are justified in illustrating the psalm from the experiences of the good king. The writer was evidently a man who had been brought through a sickness which had imperiled his life. He feels and sings as one who has just stepped up from the "border-laud." He is in the first flush of restored life, deeply feeling what God has done for him, and realizing a new personal affection for God, which is bringing to him a thrill of holy joy. Compare Hezekiah's psalm on his recovery. One thing especially seems to be present to thought, and it is made the basis of new love. That restored life was a direct answer to prayer. It therefore indicated God's personal interest in him. God loved him; and love surely begets love.
I. GOD HEARING IS A BASIS OF LOVE. "He hath heard my voice and my supplications." Then God is a living Being; in his image we are made; and he is responsive to his children. Contrast the feeling of the heathen, who prays to the stone figure of his god. He can only vaguely fear or vaguely hope, for there is no response from the stone face; and if he gets what he asks he cannot associate it with the action of the god—it is but a happy accident. We can only love living persons. We use the term "love" in a very secondary sense when we apply it to things. God hearing is God living; and the living God can be the Object of human love.
II. GOD LOVING TO HEAR IS A FURTHER BASIS OF LOVE. "He hath inclined his ear unto me." Inclining the ear is a sign of disposition, even of personal feeling and regard. When we do not care for those who make requests of us, how short and sharp we are with them! When we have personal regard for them, how patiently we listen. How we bend down to attend to them! How we incline our car! The psalmist read personal interest and affection in that inclining of the Divine ear; and it was precisely fitting that he should respond to love with love.
III. GOD'S ACTING ON WHAT HE HEARS BECOMES A FURTHER BASIS OF LOVE. He may incline his ear, and so show his interest in us, but go no further. Then he would but be like so many of our earthly friends, who sympathize with us, but can or will do nothing for us. For God to hear is for God to heed, and for God to heed is for God to bless and help. And new love to him is kindled as we experience his deliverances and salvations. From every man God asks worship. From his healed, restored, redeemed ones he asks the worship of love.—R.T.
Depression attending sickness.
There is a most subtle connection between the body and the mind. This was recognized by the psalmist, when he found such comfort in saying of God, "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." It is embodied in the familiar idea of the healthy man—Mens sana in corpore sano. The mind can only work through the body as its agent, and is as dependent on its condition as the workman on the state of his tools. The influence of body on mind is fully recognized in certain forms of sickness. When the nerves or certain vital organs are affected by disease, fits of depression are characteristic features, and extremely distressing features. When life is imperiled, there is often a bodily prostration which acts upon the mind, and produces something approaching despair. It is often hard to get sick folk to see the "bright light in the cloud." We are in danger, however, of making two mistakes in connection with this subject. We may make too much of the influence of the body on the mind, and so unworthily excuse bad mind-conditions. We may make too little of the influence of the body on the mind, and so unduly distress ourselves about our mental conditions. Both extremes should be avoided.
I. THE DIVERSE INFLUENCE OF SICKNESSES. Different diseases have different effects. And the influence of any disease depends on the bodily organization, mental disposition, and even religious sentiments of the man in whom it works. It has different effects according to the season of the year, and the state of the atmosphere; and it varies even according as the patient is well or badly nursed. All these things man cannot estimate, but we may be sure God does.
II. THE SPECIAL EFFECT OF SOME DISEASES. They directly affect the brain. They make a man become a sort of double self, as did the devil-possessions of our Lord's time. There is the man of Christian trust and hope, and at the same time a man saying all sorts of bitter and unreasonable things against himself, and so a distress to him self and to all who have to deal with him.
III. THE MENTAL CONFLICT OCCASIONED BY SICKNESSES. When this dual life is created, there must be conflict between the man of trust and the man of despair. The soul's love to God struggles hard to hold its own. It persists in hoping on. And its persistency is seen at every moment when the tight grip of the disease is loosened. It is the constant conflict of the flesh and the spirit.
IV. THE CONDITIONS OF SOUL-VICTORY UNDER SICKNESSES. To use a business expression, we must discount the influence of the body. We must keep from thinking about our spiritual state till we are free to judge it fairly. We must cling to what God is, and is to us.—R.T.
Simple as opposed to guileful.
"The Lord preserveth the simple." This is not the "simple" of the Book of Proverbs—the young, inexperienced, susceptible souls, who are only too easily led astray. "Simple" hero rather means gentle, sincere, genuine, inoffensive, guileless, not ordering conduct by the subtlety of this world's wisdom; this very simplicity, which lays them most readily open to attack, is in itself an appeal for God's protection. Compare our Lord's commendation of the passive graces in his Beatitudes, especially this, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
I. THE SIMPLE MAN LETS GOD WORK. "The Lord preserveth the simple." He has no confidence to make his own plans; he waits to know and fit in with God's plans for him. This may seem weakness; and it sometimes is weakness. But it need not be. It should only be the simplicity of the child-spirit, which depends on the father, and has the fullest confidence in the fatherly wisdom and ways. He has no confidence in his own working out of the plan. So he leans on Divine help continually, ever saying, "What I know not, that teach thou me;" "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe," This, too, may seem to be weakness, but it is not; it is only man meeting fully the conditions of his being, for man is as a climbing plant, only strong and able to attain his best when he leans upon the strong. It is the problem of life, and the simple man most easily solves it—How can humanity reach its best? The simple man says, "By being always open to God's working in us."
II. THE GUILEFUL MAN DOES HIS OWN WORK. He is quite satisfied with his own plans. They are such as will bring the best possible to himself. He has an eye to the "main chance" always, and means to secure it straightforwardly if he can, otherwise if he cannot. And he is quite satisfied with his resources. There is nothing that he cannot do, or thinks he cannot do. Life is to him the sphere in which things have to yield to his wishes. The guileful man has no particular need of God, and, indeed, he sometimes finds him in his way, and so is aroused to an active antagonism. "God is not in all his thoughts." There is no place in him for humility—self-confidence fills all the space. There is no call to prayer, for he wants no help. He is sufficient unto himself, or thinks he is. The guileful man will not have it that he is a dependent creature.
III. THE GUILEFUL MAN REACHES PRESENT RESULTS; THE SIMPLE MAN REACHES ABIDING RESULTS. This is precisely the difference which having God makes. With out him there is nothing that abideth. With him everything worth having abideth forever.—R.T.
Rest won and re-won.
I. A problem to solve is given to every dependent moral creature, and to the human race. It is this; WHERE, IN WHAT, OR IN WHOM, WILL YOU FIND YOUR REST? A husband finds rest in home. A thinker finds rest in truth. A worker finds rest in the products of his toil. Israel found rest in Canaan. The saint hopes to find rest in heaven. Where does the soul find its present rest? As the psalmist uses the expression, "Return," we infer that he had solved the problem and found his rest. He must have found it in God, and in personal relations with God. The soul's rest comes in the voluntary uniting of the soul with God; it comes when the soul goes out of itself to trust God fully; or, more precisely, rest comes by winning the character that can trust. And that character is gained only by discipline, which roots out the self-reliance. This rest is no mere idling quiescence. It is not destroyed individuality. It is such rest as the "Man Christ Jesus" knew all the while he was going to and fro on the earth's highways. Many, looking over the conflicts of their early life, can remember how they won rest. They can recall their soul-struggle. They can remember how it ended in a glad surrender, which brought them peace.
II. THE SOUL'S REST, WHEN WON, NEEDS PROVING. It must be tried. It may have to be tried "so as by fire." In Birmingham there is a "proving-house." The gun-barrels are skillfully made, but there is no security in their use until they have been tested and proved. The bridge may be completed, but traffic cannot be permitted until it has been proved. Young people go from country homes with good characters, but the full strong manhood does not come until those characters have been submitted to stern city-tests. Our earthly life, more especially, perhaps, the early years of our manhood, are the proving-house of the soul-rest that we have gained.
1. Our soul-testings often come in the way of enlarged faculties and increasing knowledge. Perhaps there never was a time when our discipline in this way was more severe. The man must grow out of his childish notions. Every year is bringing us richer stores of knowledge. Much of it is antagonistic to our previous knowledge; more of it is felt to be incompatible with it. We are half tempted to associate ignorance with faith, and knowledge with doubt, and then to wish that we need not know. But the trouble passes when we can see that this is a part of the soul's proving-house, one feature of the discipline through which alone can come virtue and strength. "Let knowledge grow from more to more:" what matter, if only "more of reverence in us dwell"?
2. Our soul-testing often comes in the self-activity demanded in order to win world-success. Many a godly man has, for a time, lost his soul in the all-absorbing business, and civic, and political strain. There is no pressure put on men equal to that of heaped-up daily responsibilities. Under it their souls are flattened right down, silenced, stifled, crushed.
3. Our soul-testing often comes in the discipline of disappointment and failure. This we find represented in the psalms of Asaph. Such experiences made him feel uncertain about God—whether he really was on the side of the good. But these provings need but have a passing and temporary influence. Bunyan shows his pilgrim sleeping in the arbor, and letting his roll drop out of his bosom, losing it thus for a while. Only when lost soul-rest becomes a permanent state does it become fatal.
III. THE SOUL'S REST, THOUGH TEMPORARILY LOST, MAY BE REGAINED. God is always watching for the first opportunity to give it back; and the soul that has once had it is keen enough to seize the first occasion to get it hack. Here is the peculiarity of the psalmist—he had lost his soul-rest, but he was troubled by the loss.
1. All through the dark time in the proving-house he wanted to keep trust if he could. That made all the difference. There are two attitudes which we may take. We may want to doubt, if we can. We may want to trust, if we can. And though the false notion prevails that doubting—wanting to doubt—is the more intelligent, it is surely more reasonable that dependent creatures should want to trust.
2. All through the dark time in the proving-house the psalmist kept that love to God on which his trust was based. The trust was no mere intellectual conclusion, which could be upset by enlarging knowledge. He had gained his soul-rest by self-abandonment. He gained it by entering fully into the sonship which is based on affection. There is no fear of love-relations with God. Love may have its faded times. Other interests may seem to come in, and for a time push love aside. It will never consent to be pushed aside very long; it will soon say, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul!"—R.T.
Psalms 116:7, Psalms 116:8
God works in our human lives.
It seems as if God had not done some thing for the psalmist which he wanted him to do; and this troubled the psalmist, and filled him with doubts. He found consolation in thinking how much God had done for him. If he could not see God in a particular circumstance, he could see God in his life. The varied movements in a factory are quite bewildering to us, but the master knows, and guides them all to ends of his fashioning.
I. GOD'S DELIVERANCE FROM BODILY PERILS. "Soul from death." The "soul" here is the animal life. Spiritual need is not, here, in the psalmist's mind. We all have had perils of death—from drowning, accident, or disease. Illust.: Hezekiah. Man walking in the dark, stopped at very edge of quarry. Do we keep the memory of God's restorations of imperiled life? In this God has "dealt bountifully with us." And we are bound to God by the claims
(1) of life given; and
(2) of life restored.
II. GOD'S DELIVERANCE FROM HUMAN SORROWS. "Eyes from tears." The thought here is of the trouble that causes grief-tears. We can look back over trials that were distresses, anxieties. Illustrate by the pathetic picture of David going up Olivet weeping, when fleeing before his willful son Absalom. Cannot bear to see a man disheartened unto tears. It is always a sad sight. It has been such to God. For us he has "wiped the tears away." Illustrate by the fact that, in our family discipline, we let the child cry; but it is very hard to us to see it cry; and all the while we mean to wipe the tears away. See the bountifulness of God in dealing with us thus.
III. GOD'S DELIVERANCE FROM MORAL TEMPTATIONS. "Feet from stumbling." Who can look over life and fail to see times when the "feet were almost gone, the steps had well-nigh slipped"? We are liable to fall. "Prone to wander." Exposed to temptation. We may learn a lesson from the spread of infectious diseases. Every thing depends on the measure of inward susceptibility. Then, should it not be our unceasing wonder that we have not fallen? Why have we not? There can be but one answer: "The Lord hath dealt bountifully with us." There is, then, a threefold memory-bend binding us to God, and ever setting us upon asking, "What shall we render unto the Lord for all his mercy to us?" There is one fitting answer: "I will pay thee my vows." We can just be God's servants, in all holy love and obedience.—R.T.
Hasty thought and hasty speech.
"I said in my haste, All men are a lie" (Revised Version). The idea is not simply that all men tell lies. It is that men constantly disappoint our expectations; and no security can come by reliance upon men. This kind of feeling comes to the good man still at times, especially when friends fail, and human reliances prove as broken reeds. It is so easy for a despondent soul to argue that since one trusted friend has failed, all must be untrustworthy. But the argument is a hasty one, and is quite unfounded, since one instance can never suffice to establish a rule. This also has to be taken into account—men are constantly ready to undertake and promise more than they can possibly perform. Then their failure ought not to surprise us; it is a natural and necessary failure. The fault, indeed, is in part ours, seeing that we put an unreasonable trust in them. Before we complain of men's disappointing us, we should question and criticize our trust in them. Dr. Barry explains the term, "in my haste," thus: "in that sweeping and precipitate generalization of bitter experience, despairing of humanity, which is a sign of our own human frailty." We are all liable to hasty thinking; but it is a special temptation to those who, like the Apostle Peter, are of an impulsive disposition. They form ideas on first impressions; and before there is any opportunity of weighing them and criticizing them, they speak them out, and act them out. Only the discipline of life cultivates wise self-restraint and careful reserve.
I. HASTY THOUGHT IS BEST KEPT AS THOUGHT. It is not always clearly recognized that suggestions made to the mind are not sin. They may be made by circumstances, or made by our fellow-men, or made by the spirit of evil. So far as they only awaken thought in us, no sin has been committed; our will has not been concerned in the matter. There is no more than response to suggestion according to the ordinary working of mental laws. So far there is something which we cannot help. If left alone, it will soon pass away. Only that is kept in memory on which the attention is fixed. Passing thought passes into oblivion. And this is the best fate for such a hasty thought as this of the psalmist.
II. HASTY THOUGHT DOES MISCHIEF WHEN IT GETS INTO SPEECH. So our Lord taught that the things which come out of a man defile him. It takes an act of will to give expression to a thought. That act of will makes the thought our own. If it is a bad thought, it must do a bad work by getting expression; for that expression starts bad thoughts in others. The psalmist's hasty word sowed the seed of mistrust, which spoils the relations of human society.—R.T.
The only return God looks for.
"I will take the cup of salvation." Visiting Muller's Orphan House at Ashley Down, Bristol, some years ago, we were shown into a room where, ranged on a gallery, were some seventy or eighty infant orphans of from three to five years of age, fatherless, if not motherless too. They sang to us a little hymn, and the pathetic refrain of it, as sung by those infant voices, we hear still in our souls—
"What shall we render, O heavenly Friend, to thee,
For care so tender, for love so free?"
It is the feeling of all pious souls, the ever-growing feeling of the deepening experience, that no fitting return can be made to God, and that the only possible return we can make is to let him do all his work of grace in us—to take his "cup of salvation." We know how, sometimes, in the ordinary associations of life, the gifts of our friends altogether overwhelm us. We cannot keep pace with them in returning their gifts. At last we give up attempting to do so, and just let them spend their love on us as they will. This may help us to understand the psalmist's feeling concerning God. Possibly there is a reference to the "cup of blessing" in the observance of the Pass over, which may have been introduced after the Exile; but it is better to regard it simply as a poetical figure, and as meaning, "I will accept thankfully and with devout acknowledgment the blessings which God gives me as my portion." The Christian can flu the term "salvation" with higher and holier meanings.
I. THE HOPELESSNESS OF FINDING ANY WAY OF RETURNING GOD'S GOODNESS. Because he wants nothing of us. When we would return a gift, how anxiously we try to find out what our friend wants I But it is hopeless to think of finding out any thing that God wants. Illust. by the reproachful plea through the psalmist (Psalms 1:1-6.), "Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof." And because we could find nothing that he wanted, if he did want. Things are not in our possession or control. How can we give when we have nothing? And all the things we seem to have are his.
II. THE HOPEFULNESS OF RESPONDING TO GOD'S WAY FOR OUR RECOGNIZING HIS GOODNESS. What he asks of us is to let him bless us—to be willing recipients of his benedictions, to take his cup of salvation; he wants not things, but thanks; not gifts but love; not offerings, but praise. "Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving." That we can do.—R.T.
Vow-making and vow-paying.
An important duty of Christian life is keeping ever fresh and vivid the memory of God's saving mercies to us. Constantly throughout their history the Israelites were reminded of their deliverance from thee house of bondage, and of the vows and pledges involved in that deliverance. The effect of every quickened memory should be a new examination of our vows, that we may discover what of them we are failing to pay or to keep. God does expect a return from us for all his mercies towards us. That return is put in three forms.
I. "I WILL TAKE THE CUP OF SALVATION." It honors God for us cheerfully to accept the blessings which he sends. It may be proper to refuse gifts offered by our fellow-men. It is never a true and worthy humility that hesitates to act upon God's promises or to accept what God offers. And yet that we find beginners in the Christian life, and even experienced Christians, often do, especially when what God provides is not just "according to their mind." Note also how the very freeness of God's gifts makes them unacceptable to human pride. We like to have things on our conditions, and at our price.
II. "I WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD." That is, in the spirit and act of thankfulness. Thankfulness should be regarded
(1) as an important Christian obligation;
(2) as an enjoined Christian duty; and
(3) as a most real help to the brightness, the joyfulness, and the steadiness of the Christian life.
The utterance of thankfulness is a public testimony of our recognized and happy dependence on God. "I have set the Lord always before me."
III. "I WILL PAY MY VOWS UNTO THE LORD." Give some account of Jewish vow-making in times of special thankfulness; as when recovering from a serious sickness.
1. Sincere and right-intentioned, vow-making is acceptable and pleasing to God.
2. The earnest endeavor at vow-paying is much more acceptable. Our resolves match the ancient vows; and our lives have witnessed many resolves made and few resolves carried out. Illust.; resolves in times of conversion, of success, of sickness, of trouble, of rescue from peril. Try to think what unpaid vows or resolves of yours God has on his record. Vow, but be sure to "pay your vows unto the Lord."—R.T.
Consolations for the bereaved.
Health and sickness, joy and sorrow, life and death, are strangely intermingled in the stories of human lives. They are the threads, the warp and the weft, of which the web of life is woven. Until sin is gone, it is better for us to keep the sorrows and the sicknesses and even the dyings; for these are God's agents for stamping upon sin its true character, and he makes them to be but the anguish of our deliverance from sin's power and dominion. In our times of bereavement we ought to know—
I. THAT THE DEATH OF OUR BELOVED ONES IS A PRECIOUS THING TO GOD. These "deaths" are certainly very precious things to us, whether they come as a sudden call or follow upon many days of weary watching. There is peculiar sacredness in a time of death for a family. The family bend never seems so closely knit as then. Each member makes so much of each other member in those hours of common sorrow. Our text says that the dying of our friends is so precious to God. We may think of God as our Father; as one of our family, the very Head of our family, and therefore the one on whom the heaviest part of the burden falls. No one feels so deeply as the father and the mother; and in calling himself the great Father, he unveils a heart of infinite sympathy, that "bears our griefs, and carries our sorrows." How God feels toward us finds its illustration in the manifested God—Christ Jesus. The sympathies of Nain, the tears of Bethany, show us our God. The death of the saint is so precious to God:
1. Because the trust of the dying is so severely tested. What the mysterious conflicts of the time of death are none of us can know, perhaps none of us can imagine. In perilous disease we may have been to the "border-land;" but, then, the border-land is a very wide space, and we have not really felt what it is for the soul fully to face the eternal, The struggle must be a great and sore one, for even the best of men, when they come to die, have a time during which their faith seems to fail, and their hope to die out. It is a most "precious" thing to God for a human soul to be in struggle.
2. Because the living who are left are so overwhelmed with sorrow. Of the heavenly sphere it is said, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." That means that the sympathy felt by God in their tear-bringing sorrows will by-and-by be able to express itself without limit or hindrance. Our tears are precious things to our heavenly Father, though, for the holiest ends, he may bid them flow on while we tarry here below.
3. Because through death God brings his children home to himself. To him death is precious; he thinks about it, is anxious about it, rejoices in the anticipation of that which follows it, looks on it much as the parent looks on the perilous journey which brings his absent child home. If we could always think of our beloved as gone home to our Father and theirs, their death would become precious to us. We think of them as dead, gone from earthly love and fellowship. Better think of them as having found the true love and the eternal fellowship.
II. THAT THE DEATH OF OUR FRIENDS FITS IN WITH GOD'S PERFECT AND LOVING PLAN FOR US. When we look over our past lives we often can see the wisdom and goodness manifested in isolated scenes and incidents; but we fail to see the wonderful ways in which the various experiences fit in together. It is not always an easy thing to discern what the common things have to do with the special things, or how the special things have become necessary in order to teach more effectively the lessons learned from the common things. We fail to discern the plan. God's plan in our life is not at present offered to our comprehension. It is offered to our faith. Our life is a worked pattern of various colors; the pattern is large, and it scarcely comes out until it is nearly complete. Our life is a complicated mosaic, and each day new shapes and new colors are added. God makes the pattern complete, but keeps it for a heaven-view.
III. THAT THE MYSTERY HANGING ABOUT THE DEATH OF OUR BELOVED WILL ONE DAY BE DISPELLED. Familiar as we are with death, its ways always seem strange to us. We think it has stricken the wrong person; it has come at the wrong time; or it has done its work in the wrong way. Sometimes Death comes too suddenly. In a moment our friend went in, and all left to us was the outer robe flung off as he passed through. Sometimes Death tarries wearyingly. Sometimes Death gathers about him circumstances which add peculiar painfulness to the death-scenes. We incline to say, "It is all wrong." And yet it is God who arranges it. The wise God. The faithful Creator. The loving Father. It is precious to him. "Thou shalt know hereafter." Let us wait. We all have some mysteries to keep until the time for unfolding mysteries shall come. By-and-by "we shall know as we are known."—R.T.
"Sacrifice of thanksgiving." Acceptable to God, the great Spirit, not as thanksgiving, which may be as much a formality as a sacrifice, but as the sign of the thankful, loving heart, which gives itself to God in the thanks giving. The story of Cain and Abel, in the earliest age, stamps this truth. They did not merely bring their offerings as expressions of their thankfulness for temporal prosperity. The story clearly indicates that they looked for the Divine acceptance of themselves, in some sense, for the sake of their gift. Abel's humble, earnest, grateful, trusting heart can receive God's favor; from Cain's formalities God's favor must be withheld. Religion is not acts, but it can express itself in acts. Religion is heart-feeling. It is the devotion of a man's self to God. Formal sacrifices are but the representation of the spiritual sacrifices for which God calls; and their value depends on the spiritual sacrifice being offered through them. "They that worship the Father must worship him in spirit and in truth." "Not sacrifices, not temples, not services, not prayers, not good deeds, not steadfast morality, not generous giving, can of them selves ever gain Divine favor. The Spirit-God asks for spirit-worship. Because man is a spirit, it is beneath his dignity to offer, and it is beneath the dignity of God to accept, other than spirit-worship."
I. SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES AS THANKSGIVINGS. The formality of thanksgiving was strikingly illustrated in the great national services held when the Prince of Wales was restored to health. It was an appropriate national act; and to many devout souls it was also a spiritual sacrifice. The worship of the Church is a sacred duty to be formally done; but it only rises to its highest when the souls of the worshippers are fully in the praise. The spiritual element in formal worship is an unceasing care to all devout souls. God asks to hear men's souls sing when their voices raise the psalm.
II. SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES AS ADORATIONS. Calling upon the "Name." There is a feature in the early Jewish ritual which it is difficult to retain in the Christian. The Jew had sublime, reverent, oppressive views of the majesty and holiness of God. So there was an element of adoration in the worship, and an element of adoration in the psalms. The truth of the Divine Fatherhood is misapprehended if it is allowed to lighten the soul's august impressions of the Divine glory.
III. SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES AS PRAYERS. Our Lord spoke against "vain repetitions." Prayer is soul-dependence and soul-desire. It may be spoken out, but it may not. God reads hearts.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
God the Deliverer.
I. CELEBRATES A GREAT DELIVERANCE. (Psalms 116:3-8.)
1. From threatened death. (Psalms 116:3.)
2. From the pains of the unseen world or of death. (Psalms 116:3.)
3. His whole nature is troubled and sorrowful. (Psalms 116:3.)
II. THE MEANS OR INSTRUMENTS OF HIS DELIVERANCE.
1. Prayer. (Psalms 116:1-4.)
2. The goodness and mercy of God. (Psalms 116:5, Psalms 116:6.)
III. THE EFFECTS OF THIS DELIVERANCE.
1. An increase of love. (Psalms 116:1.)
2. An increase of obedience to the Divine will. (Psalms 116:9.)
3. A more untroubled rest in God—the rest of faith. (Psalms 116:7.)—S.