Psalm 40:17

I am - what? The question is important. In order to judge rightly, we must have a right standard. We are not to measure ourselves by ourselves, or by the rules of society, but by the perfect Law of God (2 Corinthians 10:12; Romans 3:20). "I am poor and needy. What then? If comparing ourselves with all that is true and noble and good, with all that is highest and holiest, we are penetrated with a sense of Our own sins and unworthiness, what are we to do 9 Cast down, lying prone in the dust, there speaks within us the still small voice" of consolation," Yet the Lord thinketh upon me. Here is -

I. HOPE FOR THE WRETCHED. We may be poor," wanting in all that is good. We may be not only "poor," but "needy," with cravings and desires which earth cannot satisfy. Like the miserable outcast, we may be ready to say, "No man cared for my soul" (Psalm 142:4). Yet there is hope. God thinketh upon us. And we have the outcome of his thoughts. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). It is when we realize our state that we are open to help. It is when we turn to God that we find that he has already turned to us, and that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of mercy and of love (Isaiah 55:6-9).

II. COMFORT AMIDST THE DESOLATIONS OF LIFE. Many are "poor and needy" because bereft of what they held dear. In time of trouble what should we do? Some say," Trial is common." Others tell us," You have had your turn of joy: why complain now that you are visited with sorrow?" Others exhort us to patience; they say," Time is the great healer." Others again exhort us to submission, to bow to the inevitable. To such and such-like we can but answer, as Job did, "Miserable comforters are ye all" (Job 16:2). But when we remember God, then we are truly comforted. Sympathy is sweet, but more is necessary for us. The Lord not only" thinketh upon us," but he has provided for us "strong consolation" (Hebrews 6:18). The Bible contains the thoughts of God, and it is rich in instruction and comfort. Christ Jesus has come to make known to us the thoughts of God, speaking to us as a Brother, in dear words of human speech, and remembering what he has said, we are comforted (Isaiah 41:14-17; John 14:1; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

III. INSPIRATION FOR THE LABOUR OF LIFE. It is a great thing to know what our true work is; but we may know this and shrink with a sense of our unfitness. So it was with Moses, but God thought of him (Exodus 4:10-14). So it has been in a humbler way with many. We feel, when face to face with duty, that we are ill equipped and weak. We are ready to halt. But if we keep our minds open, if we watch for opportunities, if we are ready to do the work that lies nearest to us, what our "hand findeth to do," God will not fail to help us. Whatever is good in us is of God, and showeth that God thinketh upon us. Our best thoughts are his thoughts. All the greatest things done by men have been, first of all, God's thoughts, put into their minds to quicken, to inspire, to move them on to noble ends. So it was with Carey, and Wilberforce, and Raikes, and hosts of others. It is helpful to a servant to know that his master thinks of him; to a soldier that his captain thinks of him; to a young man, far from home, that his mother thinks of him; and so, and in a far higher way, it is inspiring and comforting to every true worker in the cause of truth, to know that Christ thinketh of him, and that whatever he does is done under the great Taskmaster's eye, and will not fail of due recognition and reward. - W.F.

I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.
I. A HUMBLE CONDITION. "I am poor and needy." Now, a man may be thus —

1. Spiritually — sin has brought them thus low.

2. Experimentally-for they feel it.

3. Comparatively — that is, with the treasures of grace he denies and wants, and which are for him in Christ.

4. Temporally — by reason of earthly affliction and loss. When this comes, remember your Elder Brother, Christ, who had "not where to lay His head."

II. EXAMINE THE GLORIOUS ASSURANCE. — "Yet the Lord thinketh upon me." This is —

1. The language of confidence, and that it is well ground is proved by the relations which God holds towards us. He calls Himself deliverer, friend, husband, Father: by His promises and by His works. See how much he has done to justify your hope. Had he a mind to kill you he would not have shown you such mercies as are yours. And how many things there are worthy of particular review in your own history. Think of them.

2. It is the language of wonder. For think of the conduct of men; the greatness of God; our unworthiness.

3. And of consolation, "Yet the Lord," etc. This is enough, and will more than counterbalance all my distresses. This is how it is the believer stands while others sink. Can we say this of ourselves? Is this your portion? How anxious are men to gain the notice of their fellow-creatures, especially if they are a little raised above themselves in condition! "Many will entreat the favour of the prince, and every one is a friend to him that giveth gifts." But in this case you are never sure you shall succeed; and you have gained nothing if you do. Whereas here the success is sure, and the success is everything. Pray, therefore, with Nehemiah, "Think upon me, O my God, for good. Seek the Lord, and ye shall live." O believer! If God thinks upon you, ought you not to think upon Him? David did. If He minds your affairs, be not you forgetful of His. Ever ask, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Ever cry, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."

(W. Jay.)


1. Some are poor and needy through ignorance. We cannot understand —



(3)God. His providences are an unceasing mystery.

2. Some are poor and needy through guilt. Human sinfulness is like a cheque on the bank; it may go far and remain in circulation long; but it will come eventually and be presented for immediate payment. Duke Albert of Polanda, so runs the old story, bore on his armour the emblem of entire trust: just the hull of a ship, having only the main-mast and its top-piece, without any tackling or canvas whatever. But there was this motto underneath: Deus dabit vela: "God will furnish the sails." Thus he claimed that heavenly forces would be supplied with Divine instrumentality when need should arrive.


1. God thinks about us. Simpler minds than ours are often more truly devotional: the Savoyards have the beautiful name for one of their finest mountain flowers, "pain du bon Dieu," the bread of the good God; for they say that by its white and delicate blossoms it reminds them of the manna, feeding Israel in the wilderness.

2. God thinks a great deal about us. His thoughts are so many, that they "cannot be reckoned up in order" (Psalm 139:17, 18).

3. God thinks about us always very kindly. Promises are just God's thoughts stored up for men.


1. Some say that God is too far away to think of us here. Once, when a sailor had come in, saved from shipwreck, he said to those, who asked him about his days and nights out on the waters of the lonely ocean, that his greatest alarm was that God could not be made to hear up so high in the sky, beyond even the stars. Now, it is of no use to reason about this. We must just let the Lord tell us the truth in the matter; He knows, and He says that "the Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him," etc.

2. Some say that God is too great to think of us here on His footstool. It might do, perhaps, in the case of a kingdom going to pieces, or a ship driving on the rocks, or a dynasty breaking; but not in our vexations and daily disquiets. This is no way to argue. God is great; indeed, He is so great that He can look placidly down upon each one of us, as we keep coming to Him, ever kindly bidding us a morning or evening welcome; no more forgetful, no more impatient, no more worried than we are when our own boys approach us with their difficulties.

3. Some say that God is too holy to think of us here. When we think of Him as residing in the shadowless purity of heaven itself, we are hardly willing to believe He cherishes any thought for rebels like men. But then we certainly know that He hates sin; that is one point gained, at all events; for if we are sinners, God cannot possibly be indifferent to us. He cannot bear to have one speck of moral defilement anywhere within the borders of His realm. So He is gently and tenderly on the side of every man who wishes to be pure.

4. Some say that God is too happy to think of us here. He does not need us. Why should He bestir Himself or disturb Himself in any way in our behalf? Such a question shows how poorly we reason. It is true that God is happy; but something makes Him happy. His enjoyment has an intelligent basis; it has a society of companions to share it, and contribute to it. And because He desires it to continue and to increase, He is always beneficent and active, making Himself happy, everywhere sowing sunlight that He may harvest gladness from each field of the wide universe.

IV. A PRAYER FOR A FAITH OF APPROPRIATION IN OURSELVES. If God really wishes to help us, and we wish to be helped, why should there be any delay on either side?

1. Why should God tarry in taking away our daily harassments? He has told us that we are to have "no thought for the morrow," because He has all the "thoughts" that belong to it in our behalf. We have only to ask Him, and then trust Him.

2. Why should God tarry in banishing our unnecessary apprehensions? What has rendered the world more unhappy than anything else has always been some great worry anticipated, which never happened after all.

3. Why should God tarry in relieving our doubts? It is said that Shakespeare once thought himself no poet, and Paphael's heart grew silent and discouraged, so that he was overheard to say he should never be a successful painter. He who has an all-powerful helper needs only to look to Him to keep His promises.

4. Why should God tarry in removing our disciplines? One day, when the young lad Goethe came from church, where he had listened to a sermon in which an attempt was made to justify the Divine goodness, his father asked him what he thought of the explanation. "Why," said this extraordinary youth, "the matter may be much simpler than the clergyman thinks; God knows very well that an immortal soul can never receive any injury from a mortal accident." Why not trust Him with our whole souls, then?

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The two parts of the text form an antithesis of the most divergent contrast. The order in which they stand invests them with considerable attractiveness; at least the interest with which we may now take them up is not a little enhanced on this account.


1. It is a very becoming confession. From a moral or spiritual point of view, we are, indeed, as poor as poverty itself.

2. This confession should therefore be unaffectedly veracious and sincere. Can it be either desirable or reasonable that we should do anything by way of making ourselves out to be poor and needy, except as we really are so?

3. It is only as the effect of a gracious operation of the Spirit that the confession of the text is ever candidly or cordially made. Hence it is easy to understand how this humble confession should be accompanied, as here it is, by so confident a persuasion. If the Spirit is at work within you, showing you what you really are, discovering your exigencies to the discernment of your individual consciousness, He at the same time discovers the means of supplying these exigencies, and the absolute infinitude of resource to provide the whole of that supply.


1. That it is a warrantable persuasion may be easily enough proved. For, if the Lord makes any poor and needy, He is certainly thinking of them, the dispensation itself shows that He is doing so. Besides, is it nothing to the shepherd of a flock that one of his sheep has wandered, though it be even the least and the weakest of a hundred in a fold, will he not leave the ninety and nine, and search after it alone?

2. It must also be very readily admitted that this persuasion is one which is fraught with unspeakable comfort and consolation. "Yet the Lord thinketh upon me." It takes us back to the Divine constitution of the covenant of the rainbow (Genesis 9:16). Oh, the sweetness, the perfect deliciousness, to taste of faith in this, "And I will look upon it." "Yet the Lord thinketh upon me."

3. Hence, in every way this is also a most satisfying persuasion. To say, "Yet the Lord thinketh upon me," may not appear to be saying much. In a sense it may be saying very little. The utterance occurs in another psalm — "I hate vain thoughts," that is, thoughts which do not go beyond themselves, which dissipate themselves in waste, never embodying themselves in living form, in substantial action — thoughts which are inoperative, unprofitable. But the Lord's thoughts are never "vain," unproductive, empty; they are invariably sovereign, invincible, almighty.

(E. A Thomson.)

Human life, in its frailty, exposure, brevity, could not be more aptly described than it is here — "poor and needy." And yet, if man occupies a place in the Divine Mind, if God, who made him, thinks of and cares for him, he is great, and he may be rich and strong.

I. MAN'S FEELING OF POVERTY AND NEED. Had we been less rich, we had not been so poor; less richly endowed, we had been more at ease. It is because man has reason, conscience and affections that he feels thus. The brute may groan; the man weeps.


1. There is much in the events of life which makes it hard for a man to believe in this assurance. We read of explosions, cyclones, hurricanes, and our faith staggers. One man makes a mistake in his calculations, and hundreds of brave, unoffending men sink like a stone in the depths of the sea. Where is the evidence, we are tempted to ask, of the Divine regard for individuals? But when we express the conviction that God thinks of us, we are not therefore bound to vindicate His ways, or fathom the designs of His inscrutable providence. The declaration of the text is a flashing avowal of faith in the midst of much that is mysterious.

2. I think it is harder to grasp this great truth because of the massing together of great multitudes of people in our modern towns and cities. Every person in that enormous crowd has his own little world of interests, duties, affections, associations. Is it possible, can it be, that He from His throne "beholds all these dwellers upon earth"? Truly the Lord has much to see to, and there are many beds in the wards of the world. And yet to reason so is to attach the ignorance and the limitations of the finite mind to a mind which is infinite.

3. The deeper insight which man has to-day into the vastness of the universe makes it harder for us to realize the great truth of the text. In view of the wonders of astronomy what a pigmy is man! And yet, if myriads of ages have been required in which to make this earth a suitable residence for man, it may be that God has some regard for him. True, he is a reed, but, as Pascal said, he is a thinking reed, and the God who made him to think may think of him,

4. Besides, the wonderfulness of the infinitely little is even greater than that of the infinitely great. God, who elaborates the planet, polishes the atom. If "He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them by their names," why may not He think of man?

5. But does God think of man? We will go at once to the highest, the all-conclusive evidence. It is in Jesus Christ that we are sure of God. He is the embodied thought of God — the Word made flesh. He cared for individuals. Look at the teaching of Jesus Christ. "Ye are of more value than many sparrows." "The very hairs of your head are all numbered." "The Father Himself loveth you." Look at the Cross of Jesus Christ. If a man does that, if he yields to the love that has its eternal sign there, the last vestige of doubt will vanish, and he will cry, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me."

(J. Lewis.)


1. Our general condition — "poor."

2. A pressing want — "needy." The one thing needful with David was the smile of Heaven. Christ in the heart is our pressing need. Distressingly poor is that life which has no God in it.

II. A MARVELLOUS FACT. "The Lord thinketh upon me."

1. Grasp the greatness of the fact. To make man, to support man, to save man, and to commune with man are the collateral thoughts.

2. Grasp the directness of the fact. In moments of loneliness remember that though some are dead that were wont to have you in remembrance, and others have forgotten you, God is thinking of you now, and we know what He thinks, for we have the mind of Christ.

III. A BLESSED ASSURANCE — "Thou art my help and my deliverer."

1. God is our "help" for work.

2. God is our "deliverer" from trouble.

IV. AN EARNEST LONGING — "Make no tarrying, O my God." This is almost the language of impatience, at least it is the language of a burning desire.

(T. Davies, D. D.)


1. If Christ had not suffered, who had been saved? If He had not been pierced through with many sorrows, not one of the sons of Adam had possessed any true comfort or sound solace.

2. And His members must be like the bush in the fire, for several reasons.(1) Are they not the Lord's garden-plots? Will He not plant and sow them with the sweetest seeds and most fragrant flowers? Shall He not then dig them up and break every little clod to pieces?(2) The faithful are likened to trees, and must not they be pruned and lopped?(3) God's children are compared to good corn, not cockle; we must expect then to be shaken with the windy and blustering storms of the wicked. The rooks of our times will be pecking out the ripest grain; and every ravening fowl fly over us and defile us; go through us and bruise us; or fall upon us and rob us; yea, our God Himself will cut us down, thresh us and grind us; for it's corn that must be put on the mill, not chaff: wheat that must be winnowed, when cockle is to be abandoned, burned.(4) How often are the godly compared to a temple I and may not every particular person resemble a stone in divers things? We must be cut out of the rock of our natural estate; and it's no easy matter to be endured, afterwards squared and hewn, that we may be fitted to lie close and comely in the building; and this will be felt a painful polishing; yet this must be done, or we are undone. Rough stones are cast into the foundation, but they that be appointed for the pinnacles and principal places must have the more picks, the greater polishing, else they should not be of (or at the best but deface) this holy temple, this stately building.


1. The Lord is not subject to forgetfulness. He knoweth who are His; and His eye is always over them.

2. Nor is He subject to change. Whom He loveth once He loveth ever.

3. Let us examine and see what is the cause of separating affection; and shall we not find it either in the agent or object? In the lover, God, we see no cause can be found: surely, nor in the thing beloved. It is plain that no trouble destroyeth the image of God or maketh his the more prone to sin; but rather it hath been a means to move them to leave it and amend. For in trouble they will pray more fervently; pity others more compassionately; make vows, and resolve to serve God the more strictly than ever in the days of prosperity. Why, then, should the Lord withdraw His affection from them? for love leaves hold but when the object grows worse and worse.

4. This reason may also confirm the doctrine. He should be more unnatural than mere natural men (who take the most pity of their own being in the greatest distress), if He should forsake His children in their affliction. Nature itself, in these straits, will not be wanting; and shall the Author of all graces be found failing?


1. The Lord is the only object of their love, and He in whom their soul principally delighteth: wherefore, enjoying Him, they have all they would.

2. Because they believe and know that all shall work together for good at their latter end.


1. He hath so promised and purposed; and shall not His counsel stand, and His word abide for ever?

2. And this He will do for love of His children. This, then, being thus, be of good comfort for the present, fear not any future dangers; but pluck up your hearts, and gird up the loins of your minds; go on through good report and evil report; be resolute soldiers of Jesus Christ; march on valiantly, and fear not their fear. For manger their malice, David shall serve his days; Paul finish his work, and John's life be prolonged until his task be ended. And every upright and honest heart shall have all tears wiped from his eyes, fetters from his feet, manacles from his fingers; run to and fro in the new Jerusalem that is above.

(John Barlow.)

"Oh!" you say, "I am such a little plant; I do not grow well; I do not put forth as much leafage, nor are there so many flowers on me as many round about me." It is quite right that you should think little of yourself; perhaps to drop your head is part of your beauty. Many flowers had not been half so lovely if they had not practised the art of hanging their heads. But "supposing Him to be the gardener," then He is as much a gardener to you as He is to the most lordly palm in the whole domain. In the Mentone garden grow the orange and the aloe, and others of the finer and more noticeable plants, but on the wall to my left grow common wall flowers and saxifrages and tiny herbs such as we find on our own rocky places. Now, the gardener has cared for all of them, little as well as great. In fact, there were hundreds of specimens of the most insignificant growths all duly labelled and described. The smallest saxifrage will say: "He is my gardener just as surely as he is the gardener of the Gloire de Dijon or the Marechal Niel."

When the shepherd comes in the early morning to his flock, does not his eye single out the sick, and does he need forgiveness if for a while he devotes all his skill and his care to those sheep which need it? He does not reason with himself that the largeness of the flock, and his anxious care that all should be fed renders it impossible for him to bind up that which is broken, and heal that which is diseased, but, on the contrary, his attention to all is proved by his special interest in the particular cases which most require his tenderness. Or take another parable; the watcher on the sea beach, with his telescope in his hand, paces to and fro, and keeps guard for his appointed time. He looks through the glass again and again, but a glance contents him so far as most of yonder gallant vessels are concerned, which are now in the offing; but by and by his glass remains steadily at his eye; his gaze is fixed, and in a few moments he gives a signal to his fellows, and they haul the boat to the sea and launch her. What has there been so peculiar about this craft that it has gained the watcher's attention and stirred him to action? He saw signals of distress, or by some other token he knew the ship's need, and therefore he bestirred himself, and engaged every willing hand to lead her help.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The central mass of this psalm describes the singer as suffering from two evils: sickness and treacherous friends. This situation naturally leads up to the prayer and confidence of the closing strophe (vers. 10-12). But its connection with the introductory verses (1-3) is less plain. A statement of the blessings ensured to the compassionate seems a singular introduction to the psalmist's pathetic exhibition of his sorrows. It is to be observed, however, that the two points of the psalmist's affliction are the two from which escape is assured to the compassionate, who shall not be "delivered to the desire of his enemies," and shall be supported and healed in sickness. Probably, therefore, the general promises of verses 1-3 are silently applied by the psalmist to himself; and he is comforting his own sorrow with the assurance which in his humility he casts into impersonal form. He has been merciful, and believes, though things look dark, that he will obtain mercy. There is probably also an intentional contrast with the cruel exacerbation of his sufferings by uncompassionate companions, which has rubbed salt into his wounds. He has a double consciousness in these opening verses, inasmuch as he partly thinks of himself as the compassionate man and partly as the "weak" one who is compassionated.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)


1. Its nature. To consider the poor, in a scriptural and true sense, is —

(1)To honour their nature as men.

(2)To promote their rights as citizens.

(3)To alleviate their woes as sufferers.

(4)To appreciate their work as servants.Poor though they be, they are children of the same great Father, and endowed with the high attribute of moral intelligence. Poor though they be, they have their rights as citizens of the same state, and they have done more to help on the world than any other class of men. They work our mines, construct our fleets, build our cities, fight our battles, write some of our best books, and invent many of the most useful and ornamental arts.

2. The happiness of the right treatment.(1) "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Such a man is blessed in the service he renders. The exercise of benevolence is the source of our chiefest joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."(2) But the writer specifies certain advantages which are bestowed in addition to this (vers. 1-3).

II. THE WRONG TREATMENT OF THE AFFLICTED (vers. 4-13). Under this ill-treatment —

1. He had a consciousness of his own sins (ver. 4).

(1)Great afflictions often awakes a sense of sin.

(2)Under a consciousness of his own sins he appeals for mercy. "Lord, be merciful unto me."

2. He deeply felt the wicked conduct of his enemies (vers. 5-9).

(1)They desired his death.

(2)They plot his ruin.

3. He directs his heart to the great God (vers. 10-13).

(1)He prays.

(2)He confesses.

(3)He worships. It is well when all our trials and varied experiences end thus.


There is an evident want of congeniality between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the Christian. Now, so long as this wisdom has for its object some secular advantage, I yield it an unqualified reverence. If in private life a man be wise in the management of his farm, or his fortune, or his family; or if in public life he have wisdom to steer an empire through all its difficulties, and to carry it to aggrandizement and renown — the respect which I feel for such wisdom as this is most cordial and entire, and supported by the universal acknowledgment of all whom I call to attend to it. Let me now suppose that this wisdom has changed its object — that the man whom I am representing go exemplify this respectable attribute, instead of being wise for time, is wise for eternity — that he labours by the faith and sanctification of the Gospel for unperishable honours — what becomes of your respect for him now? Are there not some of you who are quite sensible that this respect is greatly impaired, since the wisdom of the man has taken so unaccountable a change in its object and in its direction? Men do not respect a wisdom which they-do not comprehend. They may love the innocence of a decidedly religious character, but they do not much, if at all, venerate its wisdom. The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. And all that has now been said of wisdom is applicable, with almost no variation, to another attribute of the human character, and which I would call "lovely." I mean — benevolence. But that which the world admires, and that which is truly Christian, are vastly different. The benevolence of the world — with its poetical sentiment — the Christian may not understand; that of the Christian, with its self-denial and enduring of "hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," the world does not understand. It is positively nauseated by the poetical amateur. And the contrast does not stop here. The benevolence of the Gospel is not only at antipodes with that of the visionary sons and daughters of poetry, but it even varies in some of its most distinguishing features from the experimental benevolence of real and familiar life. The fantastic benevolence of poetry is now indeed pretty well exploded; and in the more popular works of the age there is a benevolence of a far truer and more substantial kind substituted in its place — the benevolence which you meet with among men of business and observation — the benevolence which bustles and finds employment among the most public and ordinary scenes; and which seeks for objects, not where the flower blows loveliest, and the stream, with its gentle murmurs, falls sweetest on the ear; but finds them in its every-day walks, goes in quest of them through the heart of the great city, and is not afraid to meet them in its most putrid lanes and loathsome receptacles. Now, it must be acknowledged that this benevolence is of a far more respectable kind than poetic sensibility, which is of no use because it admits of no application. Yet I am not afraid to say, that, respectable as it is, it does not come up to the benevolence of the Christian; and is at variance, in some of its most capital ingredients, with the morality of the Gospel. For time, and the accommodations of time, form all its subject, and all its exercise, lit labours, and often with success, to provide for its object a warm and a well-sheltered tenement; but it looks not beyond the few little years when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, when the soul shall be driven from its perishable tenement, and the only benevolence it will need will be that of those who have directed it heavenwards. The one minds earthly things, the other has its conversation in heaven. That which is the chief motive in the heart of the worldly philanthropist are but mere accessories in the heart of the Christian. All will applaud the benevolence of a Howard, but only the Christian will feel enthusiasm for the apostleship of Paul, who in the sublimer sense accomplished the liberty of the captive and brought them that sat in darkness out of the prison house. And hence it is that notwithstanding missionary zeal has ever been the pioneer for civilization, yet because the missionary labours for the eternal salvation of the heathen, the cry of fanaticism is raised against them, and they are regarded by men of the world with prejudice and disgust. Therefore we are to note the way in which the Bible enjoins us to consider the poor. Our text does not say, Commiserate the poor, for if it said only this it would leave them to the precarious provision of mere impulsive sympathy. Feeling is but a faint and fluctuating security. Fancy may mislead it. The sober realities of life may disgust it. Disappointment may extinguish it. Ingratitude may embitter it. Deceit, with its counterfeit representations, may allure it to the wrong object. The Bible, then, instead of leaving the relief of the poor to the mere instinct of sympathy, makes it a subject for consideration — Blessed is he that considereth the poor — a grave and prosaic exercise I do allow, and which makes no figure in those high-wrought descriptions, where the exquisite tale of benevolence is made up of all the sensibilities of tenderness on the one hand, and of all the ecstasies of gratitude on the other. But the poor have souls and need to be saved, and all benevolence, however necessary and praiseworthy, that ignores this deepest need, is but partial and incomplete.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

It requires wisdom to understand the constitution of things, but the more a man understands the more he will approve. The inequalities of mankind, and the consequent state and condition of the poor, is one of those subjects which most of all perplex the mind. Such inequality is an undoubted fact, and has ever and everywhere been so. But when a good man beholds this, and sees his own affluence and the other's indigence, he will reason that the Divine intent was that he should supply his brother's need. The inequality of nature should be rectified by religion. Now, let the rich think that what they give to the poor is thrown away, or given to them who can make no return. For to the poor, under God, the rich owe all their wealth. They are the workers and producers of the wealth which the rich only consume. Is society composed only of the noble and opulent? Did you ever hear, or read, of one that was so composed? It could not subsist for a week. As the members of it would not work, they could not eat. Of what value were your estates in the country, if the poor did not cultivate them? Of what account the riches of the nobleman, or the gentleman, if they must want the comforts, the conveniences, and even the necessaries of life? "The king himself is served by the field;" and, without the labours of the husbandman, must starve in his palace, surrounded by his courtiers and guards. The world depends, for subsistence, on the plough, the sickle, and the flail! Mankind, in short, constitute one vast body, to the support of which every member contributes his share; and by all of them together, as by so many greater and lesser wheels in a machine, the business of the public is carried on, its necessities are served, and its very existence is upholden. From hence it appears that the inequality of mankind is not the effect of chance, but the ordinance of Heaven, by whose appointment, as manifested in the constitution of the universe, some must command, while others obey; some must labour, while others direct their labours; some must be rich, while others are poor. The Scripture inculcates the same important truth, and the inference to be deduced from it — "The poor shall never cease," etc. (Deuteronomy 15:11). Such is the method directed by Heaven of balancing the account between the different orders of men. What, then, will be the first consideration of a rich man when he sees a poor man? If he have a clear head, and a good heart, will he not reason in some such manner as this?" God has given the earth for the support of all. While I abound, why does this man want? Plainly, that we may bear one another's burdens; that my abundance may supply his need, may alleviate his distress, may help to sustain the affliction under which he groans: that I may take off his load of woe, and he take off the superfluity of my wealth; that so the stream, now broken and turbid, may again find its level, and flow pure and tranquil. If I do not act thus, may not the poor justly complain, and would not the fault be mine?" And if the rich man refuse to help the poor, it is but natural to ask whence came this inequality? It was not from the rich man's merit or the poet's demerit. It has been permitted that the poor may learn resignation, and the rich be taught charity, and the right employment of the good things vouchsafed to them. "It is more blessed to give than to receive;" let the rich remember this, and the end of their being made rich is answered. And let the rich man remember, too, that had it pleased God, he would have been poor, and it may please Him that he shall he so. He then will need that which now he is recommended to give. Such changes do occur. But whether in your case they do or not, if your riches do not leave you, yet in a little while you must leave them. Death waits to strip you of them all. They wilt only avail you then as you have employed them well now. In the Gospel we must seek full information as to this duty. Our blessed Lord became poor to make us rich, and has thus for ever obliged us to consider the poor. But how are we to obey these precepts? Let charity rule in the heart, and it will not need to be told how much it should give. But for rules take these: —

1. Let each lay aside a due proportion of his income for charities.

2. Practise economy with a view to charity; retrench expenditure on luxury and indulgence for this end.

3. Then, in giving, give work rather than money where the poor would work if they could. Where they would not, let them be made to work. Such is true kindness to them.

(G. Horns.)

, M. F. Sadler, M. A.
When God commends us, or encourages us to consider the poor and needy, He commands and encourages us to do that for our fellow-creatures which we, as poor and needy dependants on His bounty, ask Him to do for us. He was not satisfied with death and the cross only, but He took up with becoming poor also, and a stranger, and a beggar, and naked, and with being thrown into prison, and undergoing sickness, that so, at least, He might call thee off [from covetousness]. If thou wilt not requite Me (He says) as having suffered for thee, show mercy on Me for My poverty; and if thou art not minded to pity Me for My poverty, do for My disease be moved, and for My imprisonment be softened. And if even these things make thee not charitable, for the easiness of the request comply with Me; for it is no costly gift I ask, but bread and lodging, and words of comfort. But if even after this thou still continuest unsubdued, still, for the kingdom's sake, be improved for the rewards which I have promised. Hast thou, then, no regard even for these? Yet still, for very nature's sake, be softened at seeing Me naked; and remember that nakedness wherewith I was naked on the cross for thee; or if not this, yet that wherewith I am now naked through the poor .... I fasted for thee; again I am hungry for thee .... of thee, that owest Me the requital of benefits without number, I make not request as of one that oweth, but crown thee as one that favoureth Me, and a kingdom do I give thee for these small things .... I delivered thee from most galling bonds; but for me it is quite enough if thou wilt but visit me when in prison.

( Chrysostom.)They, then, who even in out poor, low way, are conformed, or beginning to be conformed, to God's mind in considering — that is, in searching out, compassionating, and relieving — distress have that in them which must be the source of blessedness, because they have that in them which is the source of happiness (I speak, of course, after the manner of men) to the Divine Mind; for God rejoices over His works. He rejoices in diffusing life and happiness; and when one province of His fair creation became marred and ruined by sin, and He extended mercy to it, then He delighted in that mercy. We then when, notwithstanding miserable deficiencies and shortcomings, we compassionate those in distress, and relieve their wants, even here enter somewhat into the very joy of God. And there is no Christian grace to the exercise of which God has in His Word so frequently or so emphatically promised a reward in the world to come.

(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

Judaism stood alone among ancient religions, Christianity stands alone among modern, in the inculcation of earnest, solemn, anxious consideration for the poor. And for the same reason. They both try to look on the world as the God who made it looks on it, and to share the burden of its want and its woe which is pressing on His heart. In nothing is the unity of Scripture more beautiful, more conspicuous, than in this great thought about the poor. Perhaps it is the grandest evidence of its inspiration. Christ deemed it the crowning glory of His kingdom (Matthew 11:5).

I. THE MOTIVE TO CONSIDERATION OF THE POOR. I do not mean the reasons — they are abundant, but the motive. For the reasons and the motive power are, alas! widely different. The reasons are abundant for upright, godly conduct. A man is tempted to selfish, sensual, knavish action. There are ten thousand reasons why he should forbear, not one why he should yield. Every drop of his blood, every beat of his heart, every fibre of his nerve, could it speak, would cry out against it. His whole being, body, soul, and spirit, is against it. The whole structure of the universe is against it. God's face, God's hand, are against it. But he does it and faces it all. So here the reason is one thing; the power which makes the reason effective, which touches, moves, compels the conduct, is from a yet deeper spring. The fundamental element in the motive to care for the poor, is the revelation that the poor are the care of God. However man came to it, he has come to a god-like nature. The strongest influence which you can bring to bear on him is the revelation of the mind of God. There is something in him which moves him to imitation. The child's nature and passion, the cry of his spirit, Father, Father, tends to take shape in acts sympathetic with God.


1. Set plainly before the mind's eye the terrible inequalities of gifts, possessions, culture, advantages, and all that makes the outward joy of life. We like to escape from it. The blessing is for the man who faces it; who in his comfortable home, with art, music, dress, amusement, luxurious appliances, carriages, and food, will set before his face the life of the millions to whom all this is as far off as the stars. Who will think of the laundress shut up in a hot, fetid room, standing over a tub or an ironing-board, four or five young children clinging round her, and one ill up-stairs; but who dares not stop, who must work on lest they starve. Or poor parents watching a fair child dear to them as yours to you, and pining daily for the nourishing food and sea air, but which they are utterly unable to give. The man who considers the poor will keep this in sight while he enjoys God's blessings.

2. He will not believe that God meant life to be anything like this. The heathen says that this is God's ordinance, and it is impious to interfere. But the Christian is quite sure God meant nothing like this.

3. He will say, It is a solemn part of my duty to mend it. God leaves it with us, not because He does not care, but because He cares so intensely. He will have us see to it. It is society's most pressing, most sacred, most blessed work, to consider the poor; to be always meditating, planning, and working at what aims at the extinction of the bitterness of poverty from the world. It is not mere giving. Some do most who give nothing, who have nothing to give. It is the mind and the heart to think and to care which first need to be cultivated; the feeling that it is base and selfish to enjoy our advantages, comforts, and luxuries, while we abstain from systematic thoughtful effort to bridge over the chasm which separates the classes, and to make less bitter the lot of the poor.

III. THE BLESSING IN WHICH IT FRUITS. "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord." Many may feel that this is a far-away matter — The Lord will repay. They see nothing tangible here; brave words, no more. To me it seems the reality of realities. I see something very intangible in the best of worldly securities; who is to secure them? While this is real, solid, enduring, as the order of the world.

1. The blessing lies hid in the order of the world. God has made man and the world so that this mind shall be blessed. All men honour, love, and cherish it. It draws forth the best elements of every nature, the sunny side of every heart.

2. The blessing lies deeper and closer, in a warm glow of living joy in his own heart. It is the soul's health, this care for need. There is the glow of health in the soul of the man who cherishes it, which is incomparable with any other sensation; it is the pure joy of life.

3. Deeper still, it lies in the heart and the hand of God. God loves that man, and counts him His friend. God watches that man, and assures his life. In moments of crisis and strain it is as if a Hand came out of the invisible to clasp and upbear him — the Hand which will one day lift him out of the shades of death to that world where he shall hear the welcome, "Come, thou blessed of my Father," etc.

(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

This the most prominent characteristic of our religion.

I. THE DUTY OF CONSIDERING THE POOR. It must be performed on Christian principles. Not as did the Pharisees, "to be seen of men." There are several kinds of poor. Inquire, therefore, what it is to consider the poor. It implies sympathy with them; that we should, if possible, visit them; that we should relieve them; that we should seek to do good to their souls.

II. THE PRIVILEGE OF CONSIDERING THE POOR. All duty is privilege, for all God requires us to do is for our advantage. God's blessing attends the considering of the poor. "The Lord will preserve him in the day of trouble." See this in the history of Job.

(Joseph Entwistle.)

Poverty is a large word, and requires a large definition. Sickness, weakness, fear, sense of helplessness, sense of desolation — all these may be brought under the definition of poverty. Some men are poor mentally, needing continual suggestion, direction, and recruital of mind. Want of money is the most superficial kind of poverty. It is by no means to be neglected either by the individual or by the state, because through want of money men often perish through lack of other things. When money is taken thus typically, then pennilessness becomes a manifold disorder and weakness. The word rendered "considereth" implies a kindliness of consideration. It is not only a statistical or economical view of social circumstances, it is also a direct and earnest exercise of the heart. The word may also be rendered "he that understands." We cannot understand the poor simply as an intellectual study. No man understands hunger who has not been hungry. There are dictionary interpretations of words which help us but a short way towards their true comprehension. Think of turning to the dictionary to find the meaning of poverty, hunger, sorrow, death! All the words may be neatly and clearly defined in terms, but to understand any one of them we must pass through the experience which it indicates. The blessings of the Bible are always poured upon good-doing.

(J. Parker.)

1. It is urged that free hospitals for the sick poor are not an unmixed good. The same may be said of every existing human institution. Were we to wait for perfection before we would give our support to any philanthropic scheme, philanthropy would die out entirely from the hearts of men from lack of worthy objects. While occasional and substantial help is a great blessing, and one which neither the receiver nor the giver can well spare without loss of pure emotion and without poverty of soul, too much help, or help too readily obtainable, is a great injury, inasmuch as it undermines manliness and self-reliance, destroys that vigour of independence which all toilers in every rank ought to cultivate, and often creates the poverty and misery it is intended to cure. The change cannot be wrought in a day or a year, or in hardly less than a score of years. It must be gradual. Many of the present generation are incurable, their inveterate pauperism cannot be shaken off. It is to the next generation that we must look for a better state of things. The sick and needy will still be at our doors, for many a year to come; men, women and children will still be helpless and perish if we withhold our pity and relief. While poverty lasts we must keep our manhood, our brotherly sympathy, our tender compassion, and by the agency of our splendid hospitals earn the cheap honour of helping to provide for the sick and needy.

2. The second objection is that the money raised is not distributed as equitably as it should be. Still, assuming this, I ask on what reasonable, just, or humane, grounds will you withhold your help from the fund because some of it is misappropriated? Is it reasonable to cripple the healing resources of ten persons who need your help, simply because one person has received help which he did not so much need? Is it just to punish the deserving hospitals for the undeserving?

3. The third objection is that persons avail themselves of hospital relief who have no right to the benefit. Of this deplorable fact there can be no doubt. The out-patients' room at the hospital is crowded by persons who can well afford to pay for medical and surgical attendance. Is this abuse of the hospitals a valid objection to our giving them all our support? I venture to say it is not. To destroy a precious and useful thing because some one puts it to a wrong use, or because it has fallen into illegitimate hands, is a manifest folly. If the liberal subscribers to the Hospital Fund were to hand in along with their subscriptions a vigorous protest against the indiscriminate reception of applicants for relief, the abuse would soon be abated, and in time altogether disappear. But not to give is to forfeit your right to be heard; not to support the hospitals is to put yourself out of court and disqualify you from giving evidence.

(C. Voysey.)

A respectable merchant of London having become embarrassed in his circumstances, and his misfortunes being one day the subject of conversation in the Royal Exchange, several persons expressed the great sympathy they felt for him; whereupon a Quaker who was present said, "I feel five hundred pounds for him, what do you feel?"

"Where is heaven?" asked a wealthy Christian of his minister. "I will tell you where it is," was the quick reply: "if you will go to the store, and buy £10 worth of provisions and necessaries, and take them to that poor widow on the hillside, who has three of her children sick. She is poor, and a member of the Church. Take a nurse and some one to cook the food. When you get there, read the twenty-third Psalm, and kneel by her side and pray. Then you will find out where heaven is."

An eminent surgeon was one day sent for by the Cardinal du Bois, Prime Minister of France, to perform a very serious operation upon him. The Cardinal, on seeing him enter the room, said to him, "You must not expect to treat me in the same rough manner that you treat the more miserable wretches at your hospital." "My lord," replied the surgeon, with great dignity, "every one of those miserable wretches, as your eminence is pleased to call them, is a Prime Minister in my eyes, for each is one of God's poor."

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