Psalm 36:5


The reason for so sudden a transition in the theme of this psalm does not clearly appear. It is, indeed, possible that portions of two may be pieced together; but we have no proof of that. The remark of Calvin is very striking, "After having spoken of the great depravity of men, the prophet, afraid lest he should be infected by it, or be carried away by the example of the wicked, as by a flood, quits the subject, and recovers himself by reflecting on a different theme." Whether this be precisely the correct account of the matter or no, certain it is that too prolonged a gaze into the desperate wickedness of man would unnerve us and would generate a spirit of misanthropic distrust. For our own balance of mind, and peace and rest, we must turn our gaze away from the haunts of sin to the abode of perfect righteousness and halcyon calm. And, thank God, we can do it. And if we turn the glass of the Word upward instead of downward, we shall find more to inspire with rapture than we have seen to create dismay. But neither the one description nor the other can be accounted for by the ordinary laws of the human mind. The psychology of the natural man will not serve us here. Only a "man whose eyes are open" could have written either the first or the second part of this psalm. And we here see the working, not of psychology, but of pneumatology - of the pneumatology of the spiritual man when receiving and transmitting a revelation from God and of him. What the Apostle Peter says of prophecy generally may be applied to this psalm: it "came not of old time by the will of man." David spake as he was "moved by the Holy Ghost." Having, then, spied into the abyss of depravity by the glass of the Word, let us peer into the boundless heights of glory by looking through the same glass when turned upward. Let us study -

I. THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD IN THEIR SUBLIME AND PEERLESS GLORY. (Ver. 5, et seq.) We have put before us the sphere in which the Divine Being dwells - "in the heavens;" "unto the clouds." The heavens, in the highest sense, are regarded as the dwelling-place of God; and, to the same intent, the word translated "clouds." Since God is everywhere present, we must not confine his presence (in our thinking thereof) to one spot rather than another (Psalm 139:7-12). Yet we are permitted to think of "heaven" as being a region where he specially manifests his glory - " Our Father, which art in heaven;" "The Son of man' "came down from heaven" (cf. Ezekiel 1:26-28; Isaiah 6:1-4; John 17:5). High, high above this troublous scene of unrest and sin there is a throne of glory, there is a seat of power, there is a realm of unruffled, everlasting calm (Psalm 97:1). But here we have revealed to us him who is on the throne, and the glorious attributes which mark his infinite Being.

1. "Mercy," "goodness;" benignitas, misericordia. God has a heart. "He that formed the ear, doth he not hear? He that formed the eye, doth he not see? He that formed the heart, doeth he not feel?" Yea, verily. God is a Being of infinite tenderness, compassion, and love.

2. "Truth;" i.e. "faithfulness;" fidee, veritas. "Hath he said, and shall he not do it?" "Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"

"Firm as a rock his truth remains
To guard his promises" Not one thing hath failed or snail fail of all that the Lord hath spoken.

3. Righteousness." (Ver. 6.) "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains." Justitia. It is because the righteousness of God is so firm and unmovable that we can repose in him the most entire and absolute confidence. Even love, divorced from righteousness, would fail to win our hearts. The work of Christ commands our homage, love, and rest, because therein love and righteousness are seen in sublimest concord. Note: How intense the relief to turn our eyes away from this scene of sin and corruption to him "whose dominion extendeth over all" in righteousness, mercy, and truth!

II. THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD IN THEIR BEARING UPON US.

1. Perfect administration. (Ver. 6.) "Thy judgments are a great deep;" a profound abyss (cf. Psalm 77:19). They often present a depth of mystery which we have no plummet to sound. But they are judgments for all that; i.e. right-settings - they are never at fault. And never is there any flaw in the Divine administration on this globe (Psalm 97:2).

2. Loving-kindness. The same word as is rendered "mercy' (Authorized Version) in ver. 5. But the translators saw the meaning of "mercy" per se becoming "loving-kindness" towards us. Blot only has the sun light, but we feel the warmth of his rays. Even so the tender mercy of God discloses itself to us in innumerable acts of kindness and love.

3. Protection. (Ver. 7.) "The shadow of thy wings" (cf. Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:9-12; Ruth 2:12; Psalm 17:8; Psalm 91:4; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 61:4). Perhaps the most wonderful of God's attributes is that patience with men, whereby he restrains the power that could crush, and puts it forth so gently as to guard. Had we not been sheltered by an invisible guardianship, we had been crushed ere now a thousand times over. Note, also, that the figure of "wings," etc., indicates a marvellous tenderness of love.

4. Supply. (Ver. 8.) "The fatness of thine house " - the rich provisions of Divine love which are so largely enjoyed in the fellowship of worship in the courts of the Lord. "The river of thy pleasures;" literally, "of thine Eden." Is there here an allusion to the river which flowed peacefully through the garden of Eden when sin had not as yet tainted its bowers? Or is this phrase a declension that of the pure joy which is in the heart of God he gives those to partake who are in communion with him? If so, hire is a wonderful anticipation of the truth, "My peace I give unto you."

5. Life. (Ver. 9.) "The fountain of life." Here is a sublime expression of the doctrine which in modern phraseology is called "the origin of force" - a sublime expression thereof, however, on its moral and spiritual side. Such a phrase as this may well have been borne in mind by the Apostle John, when he says of the Son of God, "In him was life."

6. Light. (Ver. 9.) "In thy light shall we see light." In how many senses this is true, and how richly it is true in every sense, it would require many homilies to show. We can but hint. Without God we can see no light anywhere. We have no basis for thought, no account to give of existence. Without the light from God to illumine our souls, we cannot see the glory of his love in creation. Without the enlightening and regenerating power of his Spirit, we cannot see the kingdom of Cod. But with God above, around, within, in what a blaze of light and glory may we live! Note: What amazing bliss is ours, even now, when the fulness of God is made over to us in Christ through his Word and Spirit! Perfect judgment, loving-kindness, guardianship living food, life, light! What more can we have?

III. THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS AS LAID HOLD OF BY BELIEVING MEN. When our God reveals himself thus to us as our God, it is but fitting anti right that our hearts should respond to such revelation. A response we find here. It is fivefold.

1. Here is an exhilarating sense of being in the possession of a precious treasure. (Ver. 7.) "How excellent," etc. rather, "How precious is thy loving-kindness, O God!" Indeed, it is. Precious beyond thousands of gold and silver; yea," better than life" (Psalm 63:3; Psalm 43:4). God is our "exceeding Joy Often and often may we muse with ever-increasing delight on the exhaustless stores of love which are ours in the heart of the infinite and eternal God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:26, 27).

2. Here is a sense of safety and repose in fleeing for refuge to God. (Ver. 7.) Put their trust;" literally, "flee for refuge" (cf. Psalm 91:2). How intense the repose when we make God our Refuge! From the plots of men, from the strife of tongues, from perils of every kind, we can hide in God - blessed and safe in his almighty keeping.

3. Here is a sense of satisfaction in the abundance of a Divine supply. God's love is as meat and drink to us (cf. John 6.). When all the fulness of God is made over to us in Christ, we are indeed well supplied. We often want more of Christ; we never want more than Christ.

4. The trust and love of the heart express themselves in prayer.

(1) For others (ver. 10). We may bear all the saints on our heart as intercessors before God.

(2) For ourselves (ver. 11). That God would so prove himself to us to be all that he has promised to be, that we may never be moved from the right and safe path by any of the plots and snares of designing men.

5. Already, in the anticipation of faith, we sing praise for delivering grace. (Ver. 12.) "There are the workers of iniquity fallen." "There!" - emphatic. There they are! I look on far ahead, and know that I shall triumph in redeeming love, and that I shall yet see those that plotted my ruin brought to nought, as Israel saw their foes dead on the seashore (Exodus 14:30, 31; Psalm 46:6; Psalm 37:34-38; see Romans 64:7-10)..(For the application of all this in its highest and grandest form, see Romans 8:34-39.) Let us trust God, brothers, while danger is nigh, and we shalt shout in triumph when life's storms are over. - C.









Thy mercy, O Lord, Is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
This wonderful description of the manifold brightness of the Divine nature is introduced in this psalm with singular abruptness. It is set side by side with a vivid picture of an evildoer, a man who mutters in his own heart his godlessness, and with obstinate determination plans and plots in forgetfulness of God. We should go mad when we think of man's wickedness Unless we could look up and see, with one quick turn of the eye, the heaven opened and the throned love that sits up there gazing on the chaos, and working to soothe sorrow, and to purify evil.

I. WE HAVE GOD IN THE BOUNDLESSNESS OF HIS LOVING NATURE, His mercy, faithfulness and righteousness are set before us. Now, the mercy spoken of is the same as the "love" told of in the New Testament, or, more nearly still, the "grace." Mercy is love in its exercise to persons who might expect something else, being guilty. As a general coming to a body of mutineers with pardon and favour upon his lips, instead of with condemnation and death; so God comes to us forgiving and blessing. All His goodness is forbearance, and His love is mercy, because of the weakness, the lowliness, and the ill desert of us on whom the love falls. And this same "quality of mercy" stands here at the beginning and the end. All the attributes of God are within the circle of His mercy, like diamonds set in a golden ring. But next to mercy comes faithfulness. "Thy faithfulness," etc. This implies a verbal revelation, and definite words from Him pledging Him to a certain line of action. "He hath said, and shall He not do it." "He will not alter the thing that is gone out of His lips." It is only a God who has spoken to men who can be a faithful God. He will not palter with a double sense, keeping His word of promise to the ear, and breaking it to the hope. The next beam of the Divine brightness is Righteousness. "Thy righteousness is," etc. The idea is just this, to put it into other words, that God has a law for His being to which He conforms; and that whatsoever things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure down here, those things are fair, and lovely, and good, and pure up there. All these characteristics of the Divine nature are boundless. "Thy mercy is in the heavens," towering up above the stars and dwelling there like some Divine ether filling all space. The heavens are the home of light, the source of every blessing, arching over every head, rimming every horizon, holding all the stars, opening into abysses as we gaze, with us by night and by day, undimmed by the mist and smoke of earth, unchanged by the lapse of centuries; ever seen, never reached, bending over us always, always far above us. For even they, however they may dissolve and break, are yet subject to His unalterable law, and fulfil His gracious purpose. Then "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains." Like them, its roots are fast and stable; its summits touch the clouds of fleeting human circumstance: it is a shelter and a refuge, inaccessible in its steepest peaks, but affording many a cleft in its rocks where a man may hide and be safe. But, unlike them, it knew no beginning and shall know no end. Then, with wonderful poetical beauty and vividness of contrast, there follows upon the emblems of the great mountains of God's righteousness the emblem of the "mighty deep" of His judgments. Here towers Vesuvius; there at its feet lie the waters of the bay. The mountains and the sea are the two grandest things in nature, and in their combination sublime; the one the home of calm and silence, the other in perpetual motion. But the mountain's roots are deeper than the depths of the sea, and though the judgments are a mighty deep, the righteousness is deeper, and is the bed of the ocean. There is obscurity, doubtless, in these judgments, but it is that of the sea: not in itself, but in the dimness of the eye that looks upon it. The sea is clear, but our sight is limited. We cannot see to the bottom. A man on the cliff can look much deeper into the ocean than a man on the level beach. Let us remember that it is a hazardous thing to judge of a picture before it is finished; of a building before the scaffolding is pulled down, and it is a hazardous thing for us to say about any deed or any revealed truth that it is inconsistent with the Divine character. Wait a bit.

II. So much, then, for the great picture here of these boundless characteristics of the Divine nature. Now let us look for a moment at the picture of MAN SHELTERING BENEATH GOD'S WINGS. "How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings." God's loving-kindness, or mercy, is precious, for that is the true meaning of the word translated "excellent." We are rich when we have that for ours; we are poor without it. That man is wealthy who has God on his side; that man is a pauper who has not God for his.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

That from which the psalmist has borrowed his lessons in all probability lay before him as he mused. We imagine him at the time a fugitive from Saul. From the wickedness and craft of men, he turns to the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I. GOD'S MERCY. He declares that it is throned in the heavens. These suggest —

1. Its height. Climb the loftiest mountain, and yet they look down upon you. And so with the mercy of our God. It is the one all-enfolding, all-transcending fact in God's moral universe. It is high; we cannot attain unto it.

2. Its age and changelessness. The earth which the sky overshadows has seen many mutations. Beneath there is nothing but flux, restlessness, change. But the sky has looked down on it all, serene and unvarying, amidst all the overturning and mutations of the countless years. Time writes no wrinkles on its stedfast blue.

3. Akin to this is another thought — the heavens are all-embracing, ever-present, and ever-free. "The noblest scenes of earth," it has been said, "can be seen and known but by few. The sky is for all," Be your dwelling-place on the bleakest and dreariest swamp, without a tree or a hill to diversify its surface, you have still overhead a picture of loveliness and of mystery as often as you choose to look up. Thread the narrowest thoroughfare of a crowded town, and far above the filth and squalor, between the eaves of the tall and tottering tenements that enclose you, there are strips of clear blue sky, reminding you that, whatsoever be the restlessness, the sorrow, and the vice below, there is nothing above but beauty, purity, and peace. So again with the mercy of our God; it is exceeding broad. It is the attribute of all attributes that is ever engirdling the world. Mercy is the very sphere in which we live and move.

II. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS. Faithfulness has its close connection with mercy. Mercy is that which gives the promise, faithfulness is that which keeps it. Mercy determines the character of God's dealing with a helpless and sin-stricken world, faithfulness secures their continuance. Mercy defines the nature and the terms of the covenant of grace, faithfulness provides for its stedfastness, and carries it out to its final completion. Faithfulness is mercy bonded and pledged.

III. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. The element is one that cannot be spared from the picture. A God may be merciful, He may be faithful, too, but what avails it if both attributes do not rest upon justice? Yonder vault of God's house, curtained with clouds and fretted with innumerable fires, is raised on its pillars. The everlasting hills bear it up, and their columns support the overarching dome. So with God's righteousness. It lies at the base of His other attributes. It is as the mountains.

1. Stable. Nothing — storm or tempest — can move them.

2. Conspicuous. Long after the city's spires have disappeared, and wood and river, field and vineyard have been lost in the distant blue, the outline of the sentinel hills may remain, massive and majestic as ever — every summit and jag cut clear against the sky. So again with the Divine righteousness. There is much that will pass away, but this, never.

3. The mountains are the sources of many blessings. To them we owe the moisture that laves and that gladdens the thirsty earth. If the waters go "down by the valleys," they "go up by the mountains" first, and the rivers that fertilize our fields, turn our mills, and give drink to man and to beast, have their springs in green nooks and cool stony caverns on their distant slopes. Thus with the righteousness of God. So do "the mountains bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness."

IV. GOD'S JUDGMENTS. From the sky, the clouds and the mountains, the psalmist now turned to the floods. Those, perhaps, of "the great and wide sea." What are all God's attributes that we have considered without wisdom to direct the whole? "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom," etc. We can see but little, but that is enough. Let us thank God.

(W. A. Gray.)

The three grandest objects in the kingdom of nature are the heavens, the hills, and the sea: the heavens for their clearness, their height, and their all-embracing circuit; the hills for their strength, their security, and their shade; and the sea for its boundless immensity, its unfathomable profundity, and its inexplicable mystery.

I. GOD'S MERCY. This means His loving-kindness to a sinner, His gracious disposition to receive again into favour those who were aforetime the objects of His wrath. Now, this mercy, says the psalmist, is in the heavens, which indicates —

1. The conspicuous and prominent position which it occupies in the kingdom of grace.

2. Since God has set His mercy in the heavens, it must overtop the highest mountain of man's transgression.

3. If God's mercy be in the heavens, we shall never be able to get beyond it.(1) This is true in a very important sense of the entire family of man. For we live in a world of mercy.(2) What is true of the human family as a whole, is likewise true and pre-eminently true of the individual saint. God's mercy surrounds him like the blue vault of heaven.

II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. No doubt the psalmist refers to the particular character of rectitude which God maintains in all His dealings with His sinful creatures. At the same time, we cannot greatly err in attaching to the term its New Testament Signification of God's gracious provision for saving men through the obedience unto death of His Son.

1. The great mountains, "the mountains of God," as David calls them, suggest the idea of stability, or strength. Hence they are fit emblems of the righteous character of God, which nothing that may happen can ever prevent from ruling in all His dealings with His creatures; and of the righteous work of Christ through which grace reigns unto eternal life. It is everlasting as the high hills of God (Isaiah 51:6).

2. The great mountains speak of security or protection. Yet the security and protection of the hills are only emblems, beautiful and significant, but still faint, of that impregnable defence which is enjoyed by him who is arrayed in Christ's robe of righteousness, and who puts his trust in the righteous character of God.

3. The great mountains afford a shade to exhausted travellers as they pass along beneath a burning sky; and the like refreshment does a saint enjoy when in spirit he reposes in the finished righteousness of Christ.

III. GOD'S JUDGMENTS. These are His ways, acts, providential dispensations. Rightly called judgment is, as not being haphazard operations, but the solemn decisions of His infinite mind. Every step of the Divine procedure is deliberately weighed. God's judgments are like the sea in respect of —

1. Mystery.

2. Profundity.

3. Immensity.They relate indeed to the little speck of time in which we live, and the little spot of ground on which we stand, but they stretch away out as well beyond the confines of the tomb, away out into the unnumbered ages of that illimitable eternity into which we are fast going, as the sea spreads itself out beyond the gaze of men.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

I. THY MERCY, O LORD, IS IN THE HEAVENS.

1. Visible.

2. Lofty.

3. Encompassing the whole human family.

II. THY FAITHFULNESS REACHETH UNTO THE CLOUDS.

1. The clouds are changeful. The small one becoming large. The dark one becoming clear. One joining another till the entire face of the heavens is covered with them. All these mutations required and produced by the Lord. He proclaimed, through Jonah, the destruction of Nineveh in forty days. The citizens repented, and the threatening was not executed. This shows that He did change His proposed course of action. All God's threatenings and promises are conditional.

2. The clouds at times move slowly. Creep along so tardily, as if they were unwilling to move. Seem to stop altogether for hours. Like the promises and threatenings of the Lord. Prayers not answered for ten, twenty, and thirty years. Wait on the Lord patiently, lie shall bring it to pass.

3. The clouds sometimes move rapidly. Resemble war-horses rushing over the battle-field, or horses sweeping along the race-course. Koran, Dathan and Abiram, Achan, Ananias and Sapphira. Many sudden deaths. The sword of Divine justice is suspended over the sinner's head. It may not fall for a long time, it may fall in a moment. "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh."

(A. McAuslane, D. D.)

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.
I. THAT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JEHOVAH WAS FIXED AND UNCHANGEABLE. Nothing in the world so impresses the mind with the idea of unchangeableness as the great mountains. All things on, beneath and around them change, but they remain the same. And so it is with God's righteousness.

II. IT IS ONLY AS YOU COME NEAR THE GREAT MOUNTAINS THAT THEIR REAL GREATNESS APPEARS. So also is it with God's righteousness. The man who has climbed highest in the way of righteousness knows best how great is the distance he has yet to climb.

III. ONLY AS THE SUN LIFTS THE CLOUDS ARE THE HIGH SUMMITS CLEARLY REVEALED. And so in regard to God, clouds and darkness are round about Him; and it is only as the Sun of Righteousness arises, that we can look upon God. You cannot see the mountains without the sun — the moon is only reflected sunlight — and so all true vision of God is by means of Christ.

(W. O. Horder.)

I am not specially careful to inquire in detail as to what the psalmist refers to when he speaks of the righteousness of the Lord. He is righteous altogether. Now, just as every continent, and almost every country, has a chain of mountains running across it, or along its length, which is, as it were, the backbone of the country, giving it character, and fixing certain hounds, and providing the water-sheds, so the righteousness of God, the essential holiness of the King of kings, the inflexible justice of the great Lawgiver is as a mighty range of hills which runs the whole length of God's dealings with His people.

I. THEIR SUBLIMITY. Come up into the hill of the Lord, climb these mountains of God, contemplate the righteousness of the Most High, who can by no means clear the guilty and will not wink at sin. View the vast expanses of His righteousness, and the towering masses of His holiness, and wonder, with a great amazement, that they have not crushed you long ago. Instead of that catastrophe you are permitted to climb among these highlands, and to sun yourself upon their summits. But oh, with all our familiarity of approach to God, let us not forget how great and good God is.

II. THEIR PURITY. How clear the air on those sunlit summits! How bright the sky above the traveller's head! I would fain enter, as far as it is possible, into a comprehension of the absolute holiness of God. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

III. THEIR STABILITY. A process of disintegration is perhaps always going on; sun, and wind, and rain, and snow, all these things affect our mountains somewhat, but despite that fact they remain, their roots fixed in the heart of the earth, and their peaks piercing the passing clouds. So is it with the righteousness of God. You cannot bribe God; neither threatenings nor persuadings will turn Him from His course. He keeps His promises to the letter, every one of them, and the covenant which He has signed, and which Christ has sealed with His own most precious blood, can never be set aside.

IV. THEIR MYSTERY. One cannot climb even one of our own little hills without risk of becoming enveloped in the driving mist and in the falling cloud. Have you ever wondered that God is not found out by man and understood by finite comprehension? The wonder would be if He were. His righteousness is like the great mountains.

V. THEIR UTILITY. They are ornamental, it is true, but they are even more useful than they are ornamental. God's righteousness is not merely to be looked at from a distance, wondered at, and admired; it is to be rejoiced in, and trusted in. It serves a purpose that nothing else can serve.

1. Think, for instance, of the shelter that is provided by the great mountains.

2. Although we can hardly say that the mountains provide pasturage, yet the fact remains that some of the best of land is found among the hills.

3. There is light upon the mountains, too. "In Thy light we shall see light." I have heard of those who have ascended the mountain over-night, that they might see the sun rise on the morrow. Things that were dark and inscrutable before will become comparatively plain when the light that is to be viewed from the peaks of God's righteousness shines forth.

4. The mountains of every country have a very distinct influence upon the peoples of those countries, just as the plains have. You will find a different race down there, where all is level, from those who dwell among the hills. There are the hardy and stalwart men, the men of brawn and brain. If we could only acclimatize ourselves to dwell as it were among the high doctrines of God's Word, and the noble thoughts that are in the Bible concerning our blessed God, how it would alter us; our very complexion would be different, our manhood would be increased, our spiritual strength would be intensified.

(T. Spurgeon.)

God's works in nature seem to be intended by God to be to us pictures of His works in the moral and spiritual world.

I. As we wander through the world from land to land they strike upon our view by their PROMINENCE. From afar we see them, conspicuous above tower and battlement, temple and dome. Such in its prominence is the righteousness of God (Psalm 145:17). His dealings with His creatures illustrate the character of righteousness, the principle of rendering to every one his due.

II. God's righteousness is like the great mountains in its PERMANENCE. The "cloud-capped towers" are dismantled and destroyed, "the gorgeous palaces" of kings fade and perish, "the solemn temples" are deserted and crumble into dust, but the great mountains remain. The revolutions of governments, the shocks of nations in deadly strife, the scourge of pestilence and the slaughter of war disturb not their repose, and even Time, the great innovator, in his destroying course passes them by So God's righteousness is an everlasting righteousness. His righteous wrath "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). But, on the other hand, His righteous grace is revealed in our blessed Saviour, and all the pride and rebellion, the selfishness and hypocrisy, and sinful unbelief of the world shall not change His purposes of grace to them that trust in Jesus.

III. God's righteousness is like the great mountains in the PROTECTION it affords us. What cause men have to bless God for mountains! They form a barrier and defence against the hostile elements of nature and the cruel oppression of men. How refreshing are the mountainous parts of India compared with the hot and unhealthy plains! Behold the range of mountains that separate Morocco from the great Sahara, and see in them the only barrier against the encroachments of the desert. Morocco is not a wilderness because of her mountains. Or, again, turning to the political map of Europe, why is it that while Poland is divided and despoiled, Hungary in subjection, and Denmark crippled and reduced, Switzerland still flourishes in her ancient vigour? Surely it is because of her mountains. Within those wild fastnesses Freedom has trained up, age after age, a generation to call her blessed. Their mountains, rising in noble defence all around them, have bidden defiance to the invader and the oppressor, and the hardy race to-day rejoices in the freedom it so dearly loves. And "as the mountains are round about that land, so is the Lord round about His people" (Psalm 125:2). The prophecy spoken of old has been fulfilled (Isaiah 32:2). We need protection —

1. From the punishment of sin.

2. From the accusations of Satan.

3. From the ills of this mortal state.

(J. Silvester, M. A.)

I. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE UNCHANGEABLE. All round the Alps revolution has been the normal state for centuries. Thrones have tottered, governments have changed, monarchs have been deposed; but Mont Blanc has stood unmoved amid it all. Everywhere the great mountains "mock the eternities of history," and the permanence of human institutions. It is even so with God's righteousness; nay, infinitely more so. Infatuation has even attempted to alter it, infidelity has tried to impair its foundations, and subvert it; human philosophy has called it in question; arrogant caprice would carve it after its own designs; but such attempts are as futile as a man trying to move the Alps. God's righteousness, like Himself, is "without variableness or shadow of turning."

II. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE CONSPICUOUS. Travellers tell us the Himalayas may be seen two hundred and fifty miles off. And how conspicuous is God's righteousness. In the history of the world there is nothing more prominent; in all the great episodes of the past it is first to arrest our attention.

III. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE OBSCURABLE NOW, all is bright and sunny; anon, all is dark and gloomy. The intelligent traveller knows these obscurations are from beneath; indeed, he sees the vapour rising rapidly from the valley to thicken the canopy over his head. So the Divine righteousness is obscurable, but the obscurations are from beneath. The mists of distrust will hide it; the fogs of unbelief will shut it out; the vapour of doubt will shroud it; the dark, thick, murky atmosphere of scepticism, bordering on the very darkness of despair, will conceal it altogether: But, though you see it not, it is there. The traveller may put his hand through the mist, and feel the palpable rock.

IV. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE DANGEROUS TO EXPLORE WITHOUT A GUIDE. Some have foolishly attempted it, and valuable lives have been sacrificed in the attempt. And, alas, what a perilous position, and what a painful end have men come to, by essaying the exploration of God's righteousness without a guide! The Bible is the only unerring directory. Let us pray the Divine Spirit to guide us into all truth.

V. GREAT MOUNTAINS ARE PROTECTIVE. It is pleasing to see many towns and villages in Switzerland and Savoy nestling in happy, peaceful security in fruitful valleys at the foot of the great mountains. Not only are they protected in some instances from easterly winds, and northern blasts, but these advantages have enabled the inhabitants to win and maintain an honourable independence amid the great military and aggressive powers of Europe. I was shown in the early part of the valley of the Rhone, two lines of hills which almost met, and there I was informed a comparative handful of brave Swiss defeated an invading army. And the spot is considered a sort of Thermopylae in the annals of the country to this day! God's righteousness is protective and defensive. It graduates the present salvation and future security of His people. All His other attributes, pledged in their behalf, have their foundation in this.

VI. GREAT MOUNTAINS COMMAND THE MOST GLORIOUS VIEWS! Views your imagination cannot picture. The varied tints of the sunlight upon the pinnacles of snow. The distant ranges, so illusively near. The spreading valleys and calm blue lakes. The harmony of the landscape, light and shade blending marvellously together. So from the mount of God's righteousness most wonderful views are obtained. Aspects of the Divine character, which cannot possibly be seen from the flats of reason and science. From the height of this attribute the agreement of all the Divine attributes is beheld, and the glorious harmony between the dispensations of nature, providence, and grace, is discovered. From this elevation may be seen "Mercy and Truth meeting together, Righteousness and Peace kissing each other."

(T. J. Guest.)

The Bible full of similitudes. Sometimes intermingled, sometimes in clusters. No book in the world is so rich in illustrations, and from it uninspired poesy has enriched itself with its greatest beauties. God has by these similitudes married earth and heaven, time and eternity, the visible and the invisible.

I. That God's righteousness is like the great mountains BECAUSE IT IS DURABLE. Sometimes God compares, sometimes contrasts Himself with the mountains. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so," etc. "Mountains may depart, yet His kindness shall not depart," etc. They are after all only relatively durable. The mountain is not the same as it was a thousand years ago. But God's righteousness is unchangeable, from the necessity of His nature: because not exposed to accident or peril.

II. IN MYSTERIOUSNESS. There is a mystery about all mountains, but the greater the one is the greater the other. There is mystery about God's righteousness; about His person. Would it not be strange if we could see the full extent of God's righteousness? The eye of the soul, like that of the body, is restricted in its power of vision.

III. HAS HEIGHTS DANGEROUS TO CLIMB. And even when men do scale the heights of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, they could not live there. And men can no more live on the mountains of theology than on these others.

IV. ARE A BULWARK AND A DEFENCE. And because Christ's is a righteous atonement, therefore its defence is sure.

(Enoch Mellor, D. D.)

Christian Weekly.
The great mountains are planted in the earth for signs, and they are instinct with spiritual truth. They are the outward and visible manifestations of Jehovah's righteousness.

1. For like the great mountains, the righteousness of God produces a deep and awful feeling in the mind when first beheld in all its greatness and transcendent glory. Before the righteousness of God, the human spirit, filled with a deep and abiding sense of impurity and transgression, bows and worships. One hand alone — that of the Great Architect who planned and built the world — formed the soft ethereal substance into the solid earth, smoothed out the valleys, and lifted up the great mountains until they kissed the skies. And as no human hand could create, so no human power can destroy those great mountains. It is so with respect to the righteousness of God. It was God who planned it, wrought it out, and embodied it, and fully manifested it in the person and work of Christ. And no human power can remove or destroy the righteousness of God. The hand that planted can alone uproot. The power that establishes and supports can alone remove. Like the great mountains, that are girded with a strength which is invincible, and rooted with a firmness which is immovable, is the righteousness of God. "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains."

2. But the righteousness of God is like the great mountains in another respect, namely, that of spotless purity. There the snow lies white and pure upon the crown and bosom of the great mountains, pure and white as it fell from the hand of the holy God. It is only where the great mountains strike their massive roots into the earth, that moraines or detached masses of rock and loose earth or sand are to be seen casting their dark shadows, and leaving their stains upon the pure whiteness of the glacier and the virgin snow. And it is thus with the righteousness of God. It is only at that point where it comes into contact with the righteousness of man, which is a filthy righteousness, that you see elements of impurity appearing, and appearing there, because the human spirit at its best is so imperfect, that stains and shadows lie upon it, and the very purity of God seems marred by the human soul that reposes on its bosom. But beyond the region where human imperfection touches the perfection of God, there is a vast and lofty range of spotless purity and Divine righteousness, where no shadows fall, where no stain can be detected.

3. Again, the striking comparison of our text proclaims with great power and beauty, that in order to attain the true vision of God we need to be lifted up. By our sinfulness we have left the "heights," and have come into "low places," where we raise to a bad eminence our lower passions and propensities. But, in the hour of our trouble, we instinctively look up to the mountains, feeling, like true hillsmen, the attraction of the Fatherland, and knowing that there is help for us there. And that our observations may be true, we must not only take but keep the heights. Only when standing on the hill of God, when surveying all things from the great mountain of God's righteousness, do we arrive at the knowledge of the eternal truth.

4. God's righteousness is like the great mountains, inasmuch as it is the throne, the source of our help. The great mountains are said to prolong, and do prolong, the world's day, to do battle with its storms, to bring peace, to purify and lighten the corrupt and heavy atmosphere; they enlarge, defend, and bless the whole sphere of human life, and keep open the windows of heaven for the pouring down of its righteousness — its bountiful liberalities. The mountains are as the throne of help. The mountains defend and bless the valleys and the plains, as the heavens defend and bless the earth. The mountains stand for the calm and majestic home of goodness and truth and eternal might. The mountains are above the changes they control. The mountains gather and disperse the clouds; they attract and revivify the air; they condense the atmosphere, and distil its living waters, and send them forth to refresh and fertilize the plains. The mountains are as the earth's lungs to restore to the atmosphere its used-up virtues. They brace the air, and keep the mildew from the growing corn. By the powerful influence of the mountains the valleys are always green, and food is abundantly provided for man and beast! And the mountains represent the help of other heights — the righteousness of God. For our help cometh from the hill of the Lord.

(Christian Weekly.)

Thy judgments are a great deep.
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE DIVINE DEALINGS. That wondrous ocean that occupies two-thirds of all the space upon this globe — how little is known of it! How true this is of the ways of God! They, then, are fools who pretend to criticize and carp and complain at that which He does.

II. THEIR CEASELESS ACTIVITY. More than anything in all creation besides, the ocean, I think, is the type of tireless and perpetual activity. And it is well for us, if we can believe in the same thing as regards the rule and government — the beneficent providence of Almighty God. It is the pulse of creation, and is always beating, even when creation sleeps. It is the engineer whose hand is on the handle, and whose eye is on the steam gauge, however the passengers may read or sleep, or deport themselves in the ship or train. God is, God works, God wills, God governs, and that as the sea is never at rest, so God walketh always,

III. THEIR HEALTHFUL AND BENEFICENT POWER. The storms of ocean have sent many a mariner to an untimely grave; but we know that the wild commotion of storm and billow, when the salt waters are churned into a seething cauldron of yeasty foam, means the charging the winds with the liberated ozone, iodine, and other health-giving elements of life; these raging tempests mean the keeping fresh and pure and salutary the waters that roll to every coast, the billows that lave and lap on every shore. A quiet ocean, a stagnant sea, an inactive deep, would mean ultimate pestilence, and death to the wide world of man and beast. No, the storm and tempests have their mission of good, their errand of mercy for man, and in this the judgments of God are a great deep, for its storms and tempests, its pains and disappointments, its wild waves of trouble as well as its sparkling ripples of peace, are healthful, useful, salutary and beneficent, both to body and soul. "He doeth all things well."

IV. THEIR UNCHANGING CHANGE. The ocean's sudden, various, unaccountable, and seemingly lawless changes have, nevertheless, in and through them all, fixity and certainty. All are subject to ascertained laws than which nothing is more exact and sure. And so of all that happens to us here, nothing, however apparently so, is really of chance. "The Lord knoweth the way that I take, and when I am tried I," etc.

V. THEIR SUSTAINING POWER. The sea is very deep — very mysterious, and at times very stormy, but what a splendid water-way it is! How grand a well-captained vessel, floating proudly over its surface to seek some far-off shore, and gain the precious things of far-off land! England is the England she is, rich and great, and powerful and prosperous, because she has learned to trust the sea. Yes, the great deep is a grand thing to sail on; but not so grand as is the providence and gracious government of God. Trust to that; put out on that sea; spread wide the sails of prayer to catch the breezes of heaven; steer your course by God's own sun and star; and be you sure of this, whatever of head-winds you may meet, whatever of chopping seas you may contend with, whatever storm and gale may menace your safety or toss your craft about — that great deep will bear you up; that Divine ocean will bear you on; that unfathomable sea will ensure you a safe voyage. Faith never suffers shipwreck.

VI. THEIR PRECIOUS TREASURES. Precious things are hidden in mysterious recesses. Ocean contains innumerable buried treasures. Gold, silver, and precious stones are laid up there. But "how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee." Treasures both of grace and glory, for the life that now is and for that which is to come.

(J. Jackson Wray.)

In saying "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains," he asserts God's justice and equity to be fixed and immovable; too deeply based, and too lofty, ever to be overthrown or even shaken. In saying, "Thy judgments are a great deep," he is to be understood as declaring, that, notwithstanding the confessed justice and equity of God, there is much which is inscrutable in His dealings, much which is not to be fathomed by us in our present state of being. And when he proceeds to the simple, but touching exclamation, "O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast!" — we may regard him as taking refuge from what is perplexing and mysterious in what is plain and unquestionable; dispersing doubts which might arise from obscurities in providence, by reference to that general and gracious guardianship which proves God the protector of every living thing. Now it is not needful to insist on the truths of the text. They are sufficiently self-evident. We all know that there is much that is mysterious in God's dealings with men, and that consequently His judgments may fitly be called "a great deep." And we all know that it is God who preserveth both man and beast. But whilst the truth of the several propositions is readily confessed, and therefore does not need to be proved, there may be something in the order in which they are arranged by the psalmist, to suggest matter for important reflection. Besides the second of the two propositions may well obtain earnest consideration from us, for men are so often disconcerted and dissatisfied because of the fact it declares.

I. CONSIDER THE REASONS FOR EXPECTING THAT GOD'S JUDGMENTS WOULD BE "A GREAT DEEP." Even now amongst men the dealings of the wise are often founded on maxims not understood or appreciated by the great mass of their fellows; so that conduct appears unaccountable, which, nevertheless, proceeds from a very high sagacity. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that God, whose wisdom is as far above that of the wisest of the earth as the heaven is above this lower creation, should be inexplicable in His actings, often doing that which we utterly fail to understand. And there may be other reasons for the inscrutableness of which we now speak. Why may it not be supposed, that God often of set purpose veils Himself in clouds, working in a mode which transcends our understandings, in order to conciliate our reverence, and keep faith in exercise? If we were always able to discern the reasons of the Divine dealings, who does not see that our own wisdom would soon come to be considered as well nigh equal to that of God? And then, again, what place would there be for faith, if there were no depths in the Divine judgments; if every reason was so plain, every design so palpable, that no one could do otherwise than acquiesce in the fitness and goodness of all God's appointments? It is very easy, if you cast but a cursory glance over the dealings of the Divine Being, observe the jostling and confusion which seem almost universal, and mark the unexpected turn which things take, to endeavour to assign the reason of this appointment, or to assign the possible use of that; it is very hard to feel assured that all is ordered for the best, that there is not a spring in motion which God does not regulate, and not a force in action which He does not control. Yet when we come to search into what was to have been expected, we do not find that we could reasonably have looked for any other state of things. Ought we not to feel that it is the very darkness in which the Almighty doth dwell which obtains for Him the reverence of such creatures as ourselves, excites their faith, and perpetually reminds them of a judgment to come?

II. THE POSITION IN WHICH THESE WORDS ARE PLACED. They are inserted between two other propositions, from which they derive and on which they throw no inconsiderable light. Consider, then —

1. The connection between the first two clauses of the text. Now, there is no better way of preparing the mind to contemplate the unsearchableness of God than the settling it in its persuasion of the righteousness of God. For we cannot be thoroughly persuaded of the righteousness of God, and not be thoroughly persuaded that, even when His dealings are the darkest, they have only to be seen in the light of His wisdom, and they will commend themselves as the best that could have been devised. And this is the reason why good men are, practically, so little perplexed by the intricacies of the Divine providence. They are certain of God's righteousness. In this manner the psalmist may be said to fortify himself for considering the inscrutableness of the Divine dealings by assuring himself of the Divine righteousness. And so, possessed of that which must keep him from sinking, he throws himself into the vast profound, and exclaims, "Thy judgments are a great deep." Aye, it is in this way that we should all endeavour to equip ourselves for trial. We launch into the great deep of God's judgments with but dim apprehensions of God's righteousness; and no marvel, then, if we are presently as mariners without a compass, and cry out as though God had forgotten to be gracious. But if we are busied, whilst not yet driven upon that vast ocean, with certifying ourselves that God cannot swerve from His purpose, that God cannot cease to overrule evil, we could not fail, when we found ourselves in the dark waters, to have our eye on the star which is to teach us how to steer. The imagery employed in this psalm is very beautiful. The psalmist combines the mountains and the deep. The mountains are to be considered as rising out of the waters, and girding them round on every side. We know, from the parts of the mountains which are visible, that there are lower parts concealed from us by the waters, and just as confident that the lower parts make the basin from which the waters flow. And thus we should learn from seeing, when we look towards the heavens, that there is righteousness all around this lower obscurity which we are unable to penetrate, that the foundations which are beneath the waves are of the same materials as the summits which are above, and which often glow in the sunlight, though they may sometimes be hidden in the mist. This, we say, is the idea figuratively conveyed by the expression of the psalmist. Once give the character of "mountains" to the righteousness, regard that righteousness as immovable, and as girding round the whole economy of Providence, and it can hardly come to pass that you should be overwhelmed by the Divine dealings, however little you may be able to fathom them. And thus is the transition from the "righteousness" to the "judgments" of God in our text exactly indicative of the process which should take place in our minds. And now consider —

2. The connection between the two last propositions of the text. There seems to be something very abrupt in this second transition, to pass from the great deep of God's judgments to the preserving man and beast; from so great mysteries to the everyday mercies which are showered upon the world. But even a believer in God's righteousness may, as he looks out upon the great deep of Providence, desire some distinct, some visible evidence of that goodness of God which seems so opposed to all this darkness and confusion. And this is what the last clause of our text gives him. For from all creation witnesses are summoned to attest the goodness of God. Man and every beast of the field, every fowl of the air, yea, all that passes through the paths of the sea, are to furnish proof of the watchful care and love of God. Will you say that all the animation which is kept up in the universe, and all the sustenance which is so liberally provided for every tribe, must be referred to the workings of certain laws and properties irrespective of the immediate agency of an ever-present, ever-actuating Divinity? This is nothing better than idolatry of second causes, and denial of the First; this is substituting nature — an ideal — for Him who is the Creator and Preserver of all. How comes it to pass that morning after morning the sun wakens huge cities into life, and causes the silent forests to echo with the warbling of birds, and calls into activity thousands of creatures in every mountain and in every valley, and yet, that out of all the interminable hordes thus revivified at every dawn, there is not the solitary being for whom there is no provision in the granaries of nature? Can it be that God is unmindful of the world, that He is not studying in what He arranges and appoints, the good of His creatures, when He shows Himself attentive to the wants and comforts of the meanest living thing? It seems to us that there is thus a beautiful, though tacit, reasoning in the text, and that the second proposition is most admirably placed between the first and the last. It is as though David had said, "Come, let us muse on the righteousness of God. He would not be God if He were not righteous in all His ways; and therefore we may be sure that whatsoever He does is the best that could be done, whether or not we can perceive its excellence. This being settled, having determined that His "righteousness is like the great mountains," let us look upon His "judgments." Ah! what an abyss of dark waters is here! How unsearchable, how unfathomable, are these judgments! Yes, but being previously convinced of God's righteousness, we ought not to be staggered by what is dark in His dispensations. True; yet the mind does not seem satisfied by this reasoning. It may be more convincing to the intellect, but it does not address itself to the feelings. Well then, pass from what is dark in God's dealings to what is clear. "He is about your path, and about your bed." "The eyes of all wait upon Him; He openeth His hand, He satisfieth the desire of every living thing." Is this a God of whom to be suspicious? Is this a God to mistrust? No, surely. If you be able to say, "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains," did it not quite prepare you for the fact, "Thy judgments are a great deep," every remaining suspicion will be scattered when you can join in the confession, "O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast."

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS PEOPLE ARE OFTEN UNFATHOMABLE. But why does the Lord send us an affliction which we cannot understand?

1. Because He is the Lord. He is God, and therefore it becometh us ofttimes to sit in silence, and feel it must be right, though we equally know we cannot see how it is so.

2. God sendeth us trials of this sort for the exercise of our graces. Now is there room for faith. When thou canst trace Him thou canst not trust Him. Here is room, too, for humility. The feeling that everything is beyond our knowledge brings to us humility, and we sit down at the foot of Jehovah's throne. I think there is hardly a grace which is not much helped by the deeps of God's judgments. Certainly love has frequently been developed to a high degree in this way, for the soul at last comes to say, "No, I will not desire the reason; I do so love Him; let His will stand for a reason; that shall he enough for me; it is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good."

3. We have sins which we cannot fathom, and it is little marvel, therefore, if we have also chastisements which we cannot fathom.

II. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP: THEN THEY ARE SAFE SAILING. Ships never strike on rocks in the great deeps. When the sailor begins to come up the Thames, then it is that there is first one sandbank and then another, and he is in danger; but out in the deep water, where he finds no bottom, he is but little afraid. So in the judgments of God. When He is dealing out affliction to us, it is the safest possible sailing that a Christian can have. For then he need fear no fall; when he is low, he need fear no pride; when he is humbled under God's hand, then he is less likely to be carried away with every wind of temptation. God's judgments are a great deep, but they are safe sailing, and under the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit they are not only safe, but they are advantageous. I greatly question whether we ever do grow in grace much except when we are in the furnace.

III. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP, BUT THEY CONCEAL GREAT TREASURE. Down in those great depths who knows what there may be? Pearls lie deep there. And so with the deep judgments of God. What wisdom is concealed there, and what treasures of love and faithfulness, and what David calls "very tenderness," "for in very tenderness," saith he, "hast Thou afflicted me." We do not, perhaps, as yet, receive, or even perceive the present and immediate benefit of some of our afflictions. There may be no immediate benefit; the benefit may be for hence and to come. The chastening of our youth may be intended for the ripening of our age. I do not know that that blade required the rain on such a day, but God was looking not to February as such, but to February in its relation to July, when the harvest should be reaped. He considered the blade not merely as a blade, and in its present necessity, but as it would be in the full corn in the ear.

IV. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP: THEN THEY WORK MUCH GOOD. The great deep, though ignorance thinks it to be all waste, a salt and barren wilderness, is one of the greatest blessings to this round world. If, to-morrow, there should be "no more sea," it would be the greatest of all curses. It is from the sea that there arises the perpetual mist which, floating by and by in mid-air, at last descends in plenteous showers on hill and vale to fertilize the land. The sea is the great heart of the world — I might say the circulating blood of the world. There is no waste in the sea; it is all wanted. It must be there; there is not a drop of it too much. So with our afflictions which are Thy judgments, O God! They are necessary to our life, to our soul's health, to our spiritual vigour. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," said David.

V. IF GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE A GREAT DEEP, THEN THEY BECOME A HIGHWAY OF COMMUNION WITH HIMSELF. We thought at one time that the deep separated different peoples; that nations were kept asunder by the sea; but lo! the sea is to-day the great highway of the world. The rapid ships cross it with their white sails, or with their palpitating engines they soon flash across the waves. And so our afflictions — which we thought in our ignorance would separate us from our God — are the highway by which we may come nearer to God than we otherwise could. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business on the great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. You that keep close in shore and have but small trials, you are not likely to know much of His wonders in the deep.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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