Psalm 36:9


There are three great sayings here which deserve our deepest study. First, God's "righteousness," that perfection of his character which secures perfect justice in all his doings. It is like "the mountains," so high that it is always above us, so fixed and stable that it cannot be moved. Then God's "judgments" - his ways, his dealings with men - are called a "great deep," as being in many respects beyond our sounding or measuring, unfathomable and full of mystery (Psalm 77:19). Last, there is God's providential care. It is said, "How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God!" (vers. 6, 7). But while these sayings are very striking and beautiful, looked at by themselves, they become vastly more significant and consolatory when we regard them in their relationship. Suppose we take the second, and place it in the light of the first and then of the third. In the "great deep" there is much that is awful and perplexing. But if there be mystery, this should not surprise us. We are but children. How can the finite comprehend the Infinite! But this mystery has its uses: it teaches us humility; it inspires us with reverence; it prepares the way for faith and hope and love. But much depends on our standpoint. See how different things become when we look at "the great deep" from the sure ground of the everlasting hills. It is significant that the psalmist speaks of the "mountains" before the "great deep," of the "righteousness" of God before his "judgments." Here is a lesson for us. Let us first make sure as to God's righteousness. Then when our hearts are established in this truth, we can look abroad without fear of the great deep of God's judgments. Even if, like Paul, tossed up and down "in Adria," the assurance of God's righteousness will give us peace, and sustain our hopes; and when we reach the shore again, we can look back, as from Melita, with thankful love and praise to God's ways and wonders in the deep. Then, further, when we take up the third great saying here, the light increases, and the sense of God's gracious presence and care becomes stronger and stronger. How often is it so in God's Word and works! Side by side with some grand manifestation of his greatness and majesty, we have some tender touch that speaks of his fatherly love and care. Whensoever, then, we are oppressed and appalled by the sight of the "great deep," let us call to mind, on the one hand, God's "righteousness;" and, on the other, God's love - that we may be comforted. Before us is the "great deep," with many things that are terrible and distressing - the shipwreck of dear hopes, the burying out of sight of beloved ones, the mystery of trial and of death - but, standing on the sure ground of God's righteousness, we may possess our souls in patience; and, contemplating the manifold and increasing proofs of God's love and goodness in our daily life, we may take heart, and say, "He cannot will me aught but good; I trust him utterly." Let us learn to take the right order in considering God's works. We should begin with what is plain and certain. We should study the dark things in the light of what is clear, the mysteries by what is revealed. Further, mark the importance of making much of common mercies, that we may be the better prepared for uncommon emergencies. God is educating us. When we know him as caring for us in little things, we can trust him to care for us in greater things (Matthew 6:30-34). If we have learned to run with the footmen without being weary, we can better contend with horses. If we do our duty and serve God in the land of peace, then we shall be the fitter to face the swelling of Jordan (Jeremiah 12:5). Above all, let us remember that only in God can we find a sure Refuge from all trouble (ver. 7).

Though griefs unnumbered throng thee round,
Still in thy God confide;
Whose finger marks the seas their bound,
And curbs the headlong tide." ? W.F.









For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light.
We think of Easter as the festival of the defeat of death: it is no less the festival of the glory of life. It is one of the many proofs that God desires and loves our health and not our sickness, our happiness and not our misery. From many causes, chief of all, the sin of the age, we habitually take too unfavourable and too unthankful a view of our mortal life. The cynic, the worldling, the noted profligate, the unreal Christian, seem to assume as an axiom that life is an unmitigated evil, and that it is only to be got through because we must, and as best we can. And even good men complain of life. But God hears and bears with it all, even as the mother forgives the fretfulness of her child. Christians should never cherish dark views. If we have them, remember they are not Christian, and they are mainly due to our own faults. I do not wish to indulge a weak optimism. I know the outward lives of many are dull and humble, and mush be so, but what I would fain show you is that the externals of life are not life, and that aa far as all the glorious essentials of life are concerned, you may still be blessed above all that this world can give. I do not shut my eyes to the reality of evil, but I still say that the sentiment of the bitter, worldly poet, "Know that whatever thou hast been, 'tis something bitter not to be," is a false and un-Christian sentiment. Almost all of us make too much of the few great woes of life, and too little of the multitude of its innocent pleasures. See these mortal bodies — how adapted to our needs. Think of how much of good attends each period of life from infancy to old age. Pessimists commiserate the lot of old age. So does not Scripture. It says that a "hoary head is a crown of glory if found in the way of righteousness." "Would you be young again? So would not I." A beautiful and peaceful ago in its calm and wisdom may be as the sunset to the day. And here God overrules our trials for good so that trials really become mercies. Look, then, hopefully, thankfully at life. It is not life which ruins man: it is man which ruins life. And too many do this, so that their life has not been as God meant it to be, but as a mirage of the deceitful wilderness, a ruin lost in mud and sand. The man has been a martyr of Satan, and not of God. But Christ would fain glorify our life. The secret of life, the secret of felicity is with Him or nowhere. But it is with Him, and it is for them that fear Him. It transfigures the world of Nature, making it the very autograph of His love. And God has given to us art, literature, science, appealing not to the senses but to the soul. How great are the pleasures of the mind: and yet more those of the moral nature, and the spirit of man is capable of joys more transcendent still; unattainable, indeed, apart from Christ, but in Him, open to us all. Think of but two of them, Hope and Love. How love transfigures life. Do we not know it, all of us, and many by blessed experience? And what is Easter for if it be not to teach us life? It is thus, then, that Christ gives us light, and that in His light we see light.

(Dean Farrar.)

I. ILLUSTRATE THE DOCTRINE OF THE TEXT. AS waters in a fountain are continually rising up and flowing forth, so life in God is naturally springing up, and ceaselessly overflowing. Life natural, intellectual, spiritual. Life in its simplest and life in its sublimest forms. Thought carries us back to the infinite past when nought but God was. So it might have remained and the happiness of God none the less. But it pleased Him to manifest His glory by creation. First the heavens, then the earth, then the tribes of-animated nature, all that roam in the forest, or swim the sea. Then man was created, as completing the chain of natural life, and at the same time connecting this world with others, that may be the sphere of intellectual and spiritual existence. Thus has the Fount of living waters filled this lower world with streams of life — and ever since the memorable days of creation — from Him have those streams flowed on, supplying all that is necessary for the unbroken succession, and whatever the form of life, however glorious, however beneficent, to God man is indebted for them all. But the highest life is the spiritual, the life of God in the soul. Now, man had this at the first, but lost it by sin, yet receives it back again through Christ.

II. IMPROVE IT,

1. Let the Fountain of all life have the glory due to His name.

2. Let the powers of natural and intellectual life, which we have received, be dedicated to the Author of them. Let all we have be devoted to the Lord who gave them. But the subject comes home to us also with all the force of Gospel obligation. The Redeemer of our life says also, "Ye are not your own."

3. Especially let spiritual life be sought from God, the "fountain of life."

4. Let believers rejoice in hope of the time when spiritual life shall be perfected.

(I. Jacob.)

I. THE NATURAL LIFE. This is a noble gift, bestowed for noble purposes; our bodies are material, composed of matter, that is, of earthly substance; evidently made from the dust, as to the dust returning. Whence comes it, then, that one portion of matter should be gifted with life, and be endued with faculties which have a living power, whilst another portion lies dull and heavy and incapable, as it was originally created? The Church calls us to thank God for our creation: let us see that it be indeed a blessing.

II. FROM GOD IS OUR PROVIDENTIAL LIFE, the preservation of our existence; and when we consider the numberless casualties to which we are exposed, this preservation is one continued marvel, nothing less than the constant exercise of God's almightiness on our behalf, by day and by night.

III. OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE can be derived only from the Father of spirits, from "the God of the spirits of all flesh": our blessed Lord has placed this upon the clearest possible footing, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

IV. THERE IS ANOTHER LIFE which we profess to be seeking, another world to which we are on our journey; the very purpose and end of our present spiritual being. So says our blessed Lord, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

V. Then "IN HIS LIGHT SHALL WE SEE LIGHT." All the shadows of earthly imperfection will fly away before the sun of righteousness, which is the sun Of glory. And as He led Israel through the wilderness, by the pillar of a cloud and the pillar of fire, so will He, by the light of His Spirit and His Word, lead every humble obedient servant through the world's wilderness, and bring them safely to the heavenly shore.

(J. Slade, M.A.)

We feel what life is better than we can define it. It is much more than existence. Life means unwearying vigour, full enjoyment, constant growth, abundant fruitfulness.

1. Alas, some have no life — no spiritual life; the physical, the intellectual, the social are there, vigorous enough; but there is death towards God. "Lay hold of the life which is life indeed," writes Paul, and many a one has come to feel that even the best of life without God is not "life indeed." "A man's life consiteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Life cut off from God is but another name for death.

2. Some have deteriorated life. They have gone back. They are not what they were in their feelings towards Christ and His service. It is as when after months of severe physical strain we have no heart for anything; are tired of everything, and most of all of ourselves, and need to get away to some bracing mountain side to drink in new strength. As sudden torrents from the newly melted snows course down the half-empty channels of the plain, and sweep away the foul things gathered there, and waken into fragrance and vigour the drooping verdure on their banks, so the inrush to the soul of more life from the everlasting hills would sweep away our bad moods, and the fruits of holiness would once more deck our character.

3. And some have insufficient life. They thirst for more. Desire for more life is characteristic of the higher piety rather than of the lower. The more we have the more we want. The further we get in Divine things the more we have of dissatisfaction with present attainment, and of longing for higher. We read promises of a heritage we have not possessed. Would that all this — this larger, better, richer life were mine! And, intensifying that desire, we see that we are confronted by temptation, or work, or perhaps by sorrows, which need more life on our part than we have. The old life is not enough for these; we shall fall in the conflict, or fail in the task, or be crushed by the burden without more life. But more life! — we should override our difficulties then, and smite down our adversaries, our character and speech would be charged with a resistless inspiration, and we ourselves from walking, or even climbing, should mount up as on wings to those high places which are bathed in the full sunlight of God's face.

(Charles New.)

Homilist.
Life and light are the greatest blessings of which we have any conception. All feel life to be valuable. What would life be without light? A world without light would be cold, dark and monotonous. God is the source of both.

I. HE IS THE SOURCE OF BEING. "Fountain of life." The word fountain suggests —

1. Causation.

2. Plenitude.

3. Activity.

II. HE IS THE SOURCE OF WELL-BEING. He is the light — the blessedness of being. His revealed character is the light of the soul. Two things are necessary to make light a blessing —

1. A healthy visual faculty. If the eye of the soul is not sound, light may be a pain, a curse.

2. Beautiful objects of vision. If the eye is made to look upon the monstrous, and the horrific, light will be a bane.

(Homilist.)

In Thy light shall we see light.
Light has this property, that it is at once the vehicle and that which is borne by the vehicle: it is the revelation and its channel, and this twofold property of light remains the same whether we regard it as an actual emanation of particles, or only an undulation or vibration of some invisible ether itself at rest. And so with the revelation of God. No doubt He has revealed Himself by means of prophets, etc. (Hebrews 1.). But all such revelation was partial and incomplete; what the prophet saw or heard was only a glimpse of the real truth. Hence Christ was needed as the Revealer of God. And in like manner the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of Christ.

(J. B. Heard, M. A.)

I. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE SCRIPTURE WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN NATURE AND ON HUMAN LIFE. Scripture contains God's solution of man's pro-roundest mysteries. The light which earth could not supply has been revealed from above. The Scriptures are not only a revelation of God to man, they are a revelation of man to himself. In the light of Divine truth our mysteries are solved, or souls are quieted, we emerge out of the darkness to follow Him who is the Light of the world. We feel that we are not left to our own fancies, to the mere phantoms of our own imagination; but that over all, guiding all, and allowing us to note His ways, is the Divine care and guidance of the living God.

II. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE ATONEMENT WE SEE THE LIGHT OF HUMAN SALVATION. Here is heaven's cure of earth's deep sorrows, God's solution of earth's blackest mystery.

III. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE PROMISES WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN ADVERSITY AND CARE. They assure us that every care is under Divine control, that every trial has its purpose, and that no burden too great shall ever rest upon our hearts.

IV. IN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE REVELATION WE SEE LIGHT ON HUMAN DESTINY. To unassisted man there is no darkness so dense as that which rests on the future. We cannot anticipate the conclusion of a single hour. But on this darkness there is light. If a man die we know he will live again; if a man die in Christ he shall live for ever with Christ.

(W. H. King.)

The picture in the mind of him who wrote this psalm is very clear. Men are looking for light. With that insatiable passion which belongs to their humanity, they are running hither and thither seeking to know. And he who writes is in true sympathy with their search. To him too light seems the most precious thing on earth. Knowledge appears to him the treasure which is most worth possessing. But it seems to him that there is something which needs to be suggested to these searchers after light. They appear to him to be questioning this thing and that thing, as if the secret of its being, its power to be understood and comprehended, the light with which it ought to shins, were something which it carried in itself. He sees things differently. To him everything is comprehensible and capable of being understood only as it exists within the great enfolding presence of God. The first thing for any man to do who wanted knowledge was to put himself under God, to make himself God'sman; because both he who wanted to know and that which he wanted to know had God for their true element, and were their best and did their best only as they lived in Him.

I. FOUR FACTS CONCERNING HUMAN KNOWLEDGE WHICH CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE OF THE PSALM.

1. The constant sense of the essential unity of knowledge. Men study many things. Each man finds for a time contentment in his special science in the mastery of his peculiar facts; but as each man goes deeper into the knowledge of the chosen subject of his study, he becomes aware of how impossible it is for him to know that subject well, unless he knows far more than that. All truth makes one great whole; and no student of truth rightly masters his own special study unless he at least constantly remembers that it is only one part of the vast unity of knowledge, one strain in the universal music, one ray in the complete and perfect light.

2. A second fact with regard to human knowledge is its need of inspiration and elevation from some pure and spiritual purpose. It is a fact which is assured by all the testimony of man's experience of study, that, not upon the lower grounds of economy and the usefulness of knowledge to man's physical and social wants, but by some sense of a preciousness inherent in itself, of a fitness between it and the nature of man, of a glory in seeking it and a delight in finding it for its own pure sake, that only so have all the great revelations of truth come to mankind.

3. Another characteristic of the best search after wisdom is the way in which it awakens the sense of obedience. In other words, all of man's loftiest search for knowledge has always seemed to be aware, not merely of two parties to the great transaction, but also of a third — not merely of a knowledge to be sought and of a man to win it, but also of a knowledge-giver, who was to stand between the treasure and the needy human life, and give to the obedient humanity the boon it sought.

4. Closely allied to this fact is the other one which yet remains to be mentioned with regard to the search of man after knowledge, which is the constant tendency which it has always shown to connect itself with moral character. All the old initiations to the mysteries of knowledge bore knowledge to this instinct. The man to whom the deepest known secrets of things were to be opened to-morrow must be purified to-night by lustrations that should signify his inner baptism.

II. IS THERE NO ONE CONCEPTION IN WHICH THESE FOUR CONVICTIONS ALL UNITE, and in whose embrace they. become not scattered discoveries or results of various experience, but parts of one complete idea which needs and which harmonizes them all? If it be true that in the thought of God most simply and broadly apprehended — in the thought, that is, of a great, strong, loving Father, who knows all truth, and loves all men, and feeds men with truth as a father feeds his children with bread, making them with each new food fit for a richer food which He has still to give them — these four conceptions find their meeting-place; if as the young light-seeker goes with these four convictions working together in his soul they almost necessarily seek one another and unite into what is at first the dream, and by and by becomes the faith of a personal presence, lofty, divine, loving and wise; if this is true, have we not reached as the result of all this long analysis something like that which David puts with such majestic simplicity in his glowing verse. The combination of these consciousnesses makes, almost of necessity, the consciousness of God. As they are necessary to the search for light, so is the God in whom they meet the true inspirer and helper of the eternal search. Look at the life of Jesus Christ. He knew the streets of Jerusalem and the lanes of Galilee and the history of His mysterious Hebrew people, and the hearts of the lilies and the souls of men; but He knew them all differently from the way in which the Hebrew scribes and scholars knew them. To Him they were all full of light. There is no other description of His knowledge that can tell its special and peculiar character like that. It was all full of light. It was full also of God. He knew everything as God's child in God's house. It was God's light in which He saw the deeper light in everything. Picture Jesus of Nazareth set down in Rome with all the flashing splendour of imperial power all around him! or in Athens, with the wisdom of the philosophers on every side. Would the young Jew have cast his faith away? Too real for him the visions that had come to him in Nazareth! Too real for him the glory of His Father, which had filled His Father's house! He would have laid fresh hold upon that truth and love which he had never so needed until now. He would have stood undazzled in the Roman glory, unpuzzled in the Grecian wisdom, because He would have known that in His heart He carried the light by which they should give light to Him. The knowledge of God lies behind everything, behind all knowledge, all skill, all life. That is the sum of the whole matter. The knowledge of God! And then there comes the great truth, which all religions have dimly felt, but which Christianity has made the very watchword of its life, the truth that it is only by the soul that God is really known; only by the experiences of the soul, only by penitence for sin, only by patient struggle after holiness, only by trust, by hope, by love does God make Himself known to man. So may He give us all the grace to know Him more and more.

(Bp. Phillips Brook,.)

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