Psalm 44:1


From this psalm we may learn three great lessons -

I. WE ARE TAUGHT TO SEE GOD'S HAND IN HISTORY. There is no such thing as chance. "The chapter of accidents," as some one has well said, "is the Bible of the fool." There are differences in the nations and the ages; but God is in all. We acknowledge how God was with the Jews; but we are not so ready to admit that he had to do just as really and truly with other peoples. The difference, in the case of the Jews is that as to them the veil has been lifted, that light has been thrown upon their history. The story of their nation was written as by the hand of God himself, and was committed as a sacred heritage to be transmitted pure and entire from generation to generation (Deuteronomy 6:7-20; el. Moses, Exodus 18:8; David, Psalm 58:8; Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:19). But, as St. Paul has taught us, "All these things happened to them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). God governs the nations on the same principles as he governed the Jews. "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:6).

II. HOW GOD IS CARRYING OUT HIS OWN GREAT END THROUGH ALL THE AGES OF HISTORY. The wise man said, "One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). But if the earth abideth it is because God abideth. He has his plans as to men, and throughout the ages he is working them out. There is the manifestation of himself. More and more the knowledge of God has increased. The Jews knew more than the patriarchs. The Christians know more than the Jews. Besides, God is, in a sense, educating the world. We stand related to the past and the future. We have learned much from the past. God employs one age to benefit another. How great are our obligations, through books and otherwise, to the great men of the past - to Gentiles and Jews! We are the heirs of all the ages. And if we have benefited by those who came before us, so we are bound to benefit those who come after us. Privilege is the measure of responsibility. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48). We see but a little, and, as oar knowledge is limited, our judgment must be imperfect. Yet we see and know enough to be satisfied that God is working in and by all events, and that he works ever towards a perfect end.

"Happy the man who sees a God employ'd
In all the good and ill that checker life,
Resolving all events, with their effects
And manifold results, into the will
And arbitration wise of the Supreme!"
(Cowper.)

III. THAT GOD HAS CARED FOR HIS PEOPLE THROUGH ALL THE AGES OF HISTORY. This is the burden of this psalm. This is the great truth that gives life to the faith professed (vers. 1-8); that awakens the complaint of desertion in time of grievous trial (vers. 9-16); that sustains the hope of help and ultimate deliverance (vers. 17-26). As in the past, so still, there will be changes - not only mercies, but judgments. There will be trials of our faith; there will be the sharp discipline of chastisement; there will be, in some form or other, the "persecution" which tests our loyalty, and strengthens and purifies our love. But, come what will, God changes not; and God is our God. Our trust in men may fail, our hopes of earthly leaders may be disappointed and put to shame; but God is faithful who has promised, and he will never forsake those who trust in him. After Culloden, a soldier of Prince Chades's army was found lying dead on the field, with his Gaelic psalm-book open in his hand, and a bloody finger-mark at the ninth verse of this psalm, "But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame, and doest not forth with our armies." But Christ, the great Captain of our salvation, will not suffer the least of his soldiers thus to die, with blighted hopes and broken heart. - W.F.









Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.
This psalm was penned by David, which shows the passions of his soul; for God's children know the estate of their own souls for the strengthening of their trust and bettering their obedience. Now, this is the difference between psalms and other places of Scripture. Other scriptures speak mostly from God to us; but in the Psalms this holy man doth speak mostly to God and his own soul; so that this psalm is an expostulation of David with his own soul in a troubled estate; when being banished from the house of God, he expostulates the matter with his soul: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?" The words tell of —

I. DAVID'S PERPLEXED ESTATE. "Why art thou cast down," etc.

1. How did he come to be thus perplexed? He was in great trouble and affliction. A soul that is lively in grace cannot endure to live under small means of salvation.

2. The second thing that troubled this holy man was the blasphemous words of wicked men. Therefore if we would try our state to be good, see how we take to heart everything that is done against religion. Can a child be patient when he sees his father abused? God's children are sensible of such things. But observe —

1. A child of God must not be too much discouraged and cast down in afflictions. There must be measure both in sorrow and in joy. Not as Nabal (1 Samuel 25:36, 37). And we may know when this measure is exceeded if our mourning and sorrow do not bring us to God, but drives us from God. Grief, sorrow and humility are good; but discouragement is evil (Exodus 6:9; 1 Peter 3:7). Christians must not exceed in anything; when they do they are overcome of their passions. And to be cast down and disquieted is sin, because it doth turn to the reproach of religion and God Himself; and because their so sinking under afflictions never yield any good fruit, and it hinders us both from and in holy duties; for either we do not perform them at all, or otherwise they are done but weakly; for as the troubled eye cannot see well, so the troubled soul cannot do good, nor receive good. Observe —

II. His EXPOSTULATION WITH HIMSELF. "Why art thou cast down?" etc. The word in the original shows that it is the nature of sorrow to bring the soul downwards. Sorrow and sin agree both in this, for as they come from below, so they bring the soul down to the earth.

1. What is meant by casting down, and why doth he find fault with himself for it? Because it breeds disquieting. Hence it is said in Psalm 37:1, "Fret not thyself," etc. Here is no true humiliation but abundance of corruption. But note —

III. THE REMEDY TO WHICH THE PSALMIST TURNS: he first reflects upon and expostulates with his soul, and then bids it. "trust in God." And so we learn that. God's children in their greatest troubles recover themselves, that the prerogative of a Christian in these disquietings, and in all estates, is, he hath God and himself to speak unto, whereby he can remove solitariness. Put him into a dungeon, yet he may speak unto God there, and speak unto himself. Let all the tyrants in the world do their worst to a Christian; if God be with him he is cheerful still.

( Sibbes, Richard)

These words occur thrice, at short, intervals, in this and the preceding psalm. They appear there twice, and here once. Quite obviously the division into two psalms has been a mistake, for the whole constitutes one composition. The first part of each of the little sections, into which the one original psalm is divided by the repetition of this refrain, is a weary monotone of complaint.

I. THE DREARY MONOTONY OF COMPLAINT. We all know the temptation of being overmastered by some calamity or some sad thought. We keep chewing some bitter morsel and rolling it under our tongues so as to suck all the bitterness out of it that we can. You sometimes see upon the stage of a theatre a funeral procession represented, and the supernumeraries pass across the stage and go round at the back and come in again at the other end, and so keep up an appearance of numbers far beyond the reality. That is like what you and I do with our sorrows. A bee has an eye, with I do not. know how many facets, which multiply the one thing it looks at into an enormous number; and some of us have eyes made on that fashion, or rather we manufacture for our eyes spectacles on that plan, by which we look at our griefs or our depressing circumstances, and see them multiplied and nothing but them. "That way madness lies."

II. WISE SELF-QUESTIONING. There are a great many of our griefs, and moods, and sorrows that will not stand that question. Like ghosts, if you speak to them, they vanish. It is enough, in not a few of the lighter and more gnat-like troubles that beset us, for us to say to ourselves, "What are we putting ourselves into such a fuss about? Why art thou cast down?" We cannot control our thoughts nor our moods directly, but we can do a great deal to regulate, modify and diminish those of them that need diminishing, and increase those of them that need to be increased, by looking at the reasons for them. And if a man will do that more habitually and conscientiously than most of us are accustomed to do it, in regard both to passing thoughts and overpowering moods that threaten to become unwholesomely permanent, he will regain a firmer control of himself — and that. is the best wealth that a man can have. Very many men who makes failures, morally, religiously, or even socially and commercially, do so because they have no command over themselves, and because they have not asked this question of each sly temptation that. comes wheedling up to the gate of the soul with whispering breath and secret suggestions — "What do you want here? What reason have you for wishing to come in? Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" — question yourselves about your moods, and especially about your sad moods, and you will have gone a long way to make yourselves bigger and happier people than you have ever been before.

III. AN EFFORT TWICE FOILED AND AT LAST SUCCESSFUL. In the cathedral of St. Mark's, Venice, there is a mosaic that represents Christ in Gethsemane. You remember that, like the psalmist, He prayed three times there, and twice came back, not having received His desire, and the third time He did receive it. The devout artist has presented Him thus: the first time prone on the ground, and the sky all black; the second time raised a little, and a strip of blue in one corner; and the third time kneeling erect, and a beam from heaven, brighter than the radiance of the Paschal moon, striking right down upon Him, and the strengthening angel standing beside Him. That was the experience of the Lord, and it may be the experience of the servant. Do not give up the effort, at self-control and victory over circumstances that tempt to despondency or to sadness. Even if you fail this time, still the failure has left some increased capacity for the next attempt, and God helping, the next time will be successful.

IV. THE CONQUERING HOPE. The psalmist's question to his soul is not answered. It needed no answer. To put it was the first struggle to strip off the poisoned sackcloth in which he had wrapped himself. But his next word, his command to his soul to hope in God, completes the process of putting off the robe of mourning and girding himself with gladness. He makes one great leap, as it were, across the black flood that has been ringing him round, and bids his soul: "Hope thou in God." The one medicine for a disquieted, cast-down soul is hope in God. People say a great deal about the buoyant energy of hope bearing a man up over his troubles. Yes! so it does in some measure, but there is only one case in which there is a real bearing up over the troubles, and that is where the hope is in God. But the hope that is in God must be a hope that is based upon a present possession of Him. It is only if a man has a present experience of the blessings of strong and all-sufficient help that come to him now, when he can say, "My God, the health of my countenance," t, hat he has the right, or that he has the inclination or the power to paint the future with brightness. And we shall not attain either to that experience of God as ours, or to the hope that, springing from it, will triumph over all disquieting circumstances without a dead lift of effort. There is a great lack amongst all Christian people of realizing that it is as much their duty to cultivate the hope of the Christian as it is their duty to cultivate any other characteristic of the Christian life.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. WHY THE SOUL IS BOWED DOWN AND DISQUIETED.

1. The soul may be bowed down for lack of the old help and strength got from the means of grace. As our hearts are framed we need help from habit, from outward expression, from worship, from voice and ear, from sympathy and exhortation, from words and sacraments.

2. The soul may he cast down from thoughts and doubts springing at once out of the man's own mind, growing at once out of the evil of his very spiritual nature.

3. The soul may be bowed down by the burden of wilful sin, neglected duty, or worldly indulgence. No amount of religious fervour, or doctrinal knowledge will keep the heart glad in which is the consciousness of wrong.

4. But all this sore trouble is deepened, if it happens to come upon us in times of worldly woe, when we can least afford to miss God's peace, when we are in greatest need of comfort. "Why, was it not just this we had counted on, that when all earthly fountains would be dried up, then the river of God would still flow on?

II. WHY THE SOUL NEED NOT BE BOWED DOWN.

1. God would have us to learn and know that He Himself is an all-sufficient comforter, apart from any outward helps or earthly sympathy. Thus we enter further into the secret of God's covenant.

2. All progress in religion seems to be from dark to dark. The plant at first strikes its roots in the dark; and it would appear as if the spirit needed fresh times of sorrow before it will be moved to larger growth.

3. We must learn the insufficiency of present attainments before we will seek more. How vague and dim are the hopes and expectations of many! In worldly prosperity such meagre experience does well enough; but, oh! it is not well for the soul to rest there. "Come unto Me," He cries, now loudly, now whisperingly; and it is to move and bend us He has to send darkness and trouble. How natural it is we should be disquieted; and is it not the case that so soon as we see this good wise reason for our dejection, immediately we are delivered? And though it was good for us to be dejected, yet we say, why should we be so? "Why art thou cast down," why dost thou still continue to be cast down, O my soul?

(R. MacEllar.)

There is a kind of dialogue between the psalmist and his soul. He, as it were, cuts himself into two halves, and reasons and remonstrates with himself, and coerces himself, and encourages himself; and finally settles down in a peace which unites in one the two discordant elements.

I. THE PSALMIST'S QUESTION TO HIS SOUL, "Why art thou cast down? why art thou disquieted?" There are two things here, apparently, opposite to each other, and yet both of them present in the fluctuating and stormy emotions of the poet. On the one hand is deep dejection. The word employed describes the attitude of a man lying prone and prostrate, grovelling on the ground. "Why art thou cast down?" And yet, side by side with that torpid dejection, there is a noisy restlessness. "`why dost thou mourn and mutter" — as the words might be rendered — "within me?" And these two moods are, if not co-existent, at least so quickly alternating within his consciousness that he has to reason with himself about both. He has fits of deep depression, followed by, and sometimes even accompanied with, fits of restless complaining and murmuring. And he puts to himself the question, "What is it all about?" Now, if we translate this question into a general expression it just comes to this — A man is worth very little unless there is a tribunal in him to which he brings up his feelings and makes them justify their existence, and tell him what they mean by their noise and their complaining. "He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down and without walls." The affections, the emotions, the feelings of sorrow or of gladness, of dissatisfaction with my lot, or of enjoyment and complacency in it, are excited by the mere presence of a set of external circumstances; but the fact that they are excited is no warrant for their existence. And the first thing to be done in regard to them is to see to it that the nobler man, the man within, the real self should cross-question that other self, and say, "Tell me, have you reason for your being? If not, take yourselves away." "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?"

II. THE PSALMIST'S CHARGE TO HIS SOUL. "Hope thou in God." Ah! it is no use to say to a soul, "What is all your agitation about?" unless you can go on to say, "Be quiet in God." Sweep away the things seen and temporal, and put the thing, or rather the Person, Unseen and Eternal, in the front of them. And then comes quiet; and then there comes aspiration. Then energy comes hack to the languid and relaxed limbs, and the man that was lying on his face in the dust starts to his feet, ready for strenuous effort and for noble service. The soul that is to be quickened from its torpor, and to be quieted from its restlessness, must be led to God, and, grasping Him, then it is able to coerce these other feelings, which, apart from Him, have, and ought to have, the field to themselves. Nor must we forget another thought, that this charge of the psalmist to his soul teaches us. The deep-seated and central faith in God which marks a religious man ought to permeate all his nature to the very outskirts and circumference of his being. Even amidst the perturbations of the sensitive nature of the poet-psalmist, his inmost self was resting upon God.

III. THE PSALMIST'S CONFIDENT ASSURANCE, which is his reason for exhorting his lower self to quiet faith and hope.":For I shall yet praise Him," etc. The "I" here is the whole united and harmonized self, in which the emotions, affections, passions and lower desires obey the reins and whip of the higher nature. When God governs the spirit, the spirit governs the "soul," and the man who has yielded himself to God, first of all in the surrender, possesses himself, and can truly say "I." Only when the heart is "united to fear God's name" is there true concord within. Oh to live more continually under the influence of that glorious light of the assured future, when our lips shall be loosed to give forth His praise, and when we shall have learned that every sorrow, disappointment, loss, painful effort, all that here seemed kindred with darkness, was really but a modification of light, and was a thing to be thankful for. If only we chose to walk in the light of the future, then the poor present would be small and powerless to harm us. "I shall yet praise Him" is the language that befits us all. And there is not only the assurance of a future that shall explain all, and make it all material for praise, when all the discords of the great conflicting piece of music are resolved into harmony, but there is here also the deep sense of present blessing. "I shall yet praise Him who is the health" (or salvation) "of my countenance and my God." "Who is," not who will be; "who is" in the moment of difficulty and sorrow; "who is," even whilst as the other part of the psalm tells us, the enemy are saying "Where is thy God? who is," even whilst the sense and flesh and the lower self have lost sight of Him. "And my God." Ah! there we touch the bottom and get our feet upon the rock. He that can say "He is my God" has a right to be sure that he will yet praise Him.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. MOODS AND EMOTIONS SHOULD BE EXAMINED AND GOVERNED BY A HIGHER SELF. There are plenty of people who, making profession of being Christians, do not habitually put the break on their moods and tempers, and who seem to think that it is a sufficient vindication of gloom and sadness to say that things are going badly with them in the outer world, and who act as if they supposed that no joy can be too exuberant and no elation too lofty if, on the other hand, things are going rightly. It is a miserable travesty of the Christian faith to suppose that its prime purpose is anything else than to put into our hands the power of ruling ourselves because we let Christ rule us. If the wheelhouse, and the stearing gear, and the rudder of the ship proclaim their purpose of guidance and direction, as eloquently and unmistakably does She make of our inward selves tell us that emotions and moods and tempers are meant to be governed, often to be crushed, always to be moderated by sovereign will and reason. In the psalmist's language, "my soul" has to give account of its tremors and flutterings to "Me," the ruling Self, who should be Lord of temperament and control the fluctuations of feeling.

II. THERE ARE TWO WAYS OF LOOKING AT CAUSES OF DEJECTION AND DISQUIET. There is a court of appeal in each man which tests and tries his reasons for his moods; and these, which look very sufficient to the flesh, turn out to be very insufficient when investigated and tested by the higher spirit or self. We should "appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober." If men would only bring the causes or occasions of the tempers and feelings which they allow to direct them, to the bar of common sense, to say nothing of religious faith, half the furious boilings in their hearts would stop their ebullition. It would be like pouring cold water into a kettle on the fire. It would end its bubbling. Everything has two handles. The aspect of any event depends largely on the beholder's point of view. "There's nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

III. No REASONS FOR BEING CAST DOWN ARE SO STRONG AS THOSE FOR ELATION AND CALM HOPE. Try to realize what God is to yourselves — "My God" and "the health of my countenance." That will stimulate sluggish feeling; that will calm disturbed emotion. He that can say, "My God!" and in that possession can repose, will not be easily moved by the trivialities and transitorinesses of this life, to excessive disquiet, whether of the exuberant or of the woeful sort. There is a wonderful calming power in realizing our possession of God as our portion — not stagnating, but quieting.

IV. THE EFFORT TO LAY HOLD ON THE TRUTH WHICH CALMS IS TO BE REPEATED IN SPITE OF FAILURES. NO effort at tranquillizing our hearts is wholly lost; and no attempt to lay hold upon God is wholly in vain. Men build a dam to keep out the sea, and the winter storms make a breach in it, but it is not washed sway altogether. And next season they will not need to begin to build from quite so low down, but there will be a bit of the former left to put the new structure upon. And so by degrees it will rise above the tide, and at last will keep it out. Did you ever see a child upon a swing, or a gymnast upon a trapeze? Each oscillation goes a little higher; each starts from the same lowest point, but the elevation on either side increases with each renewed effort, until at last the destined height is reached and the daring athlete leaps on to a solid platform. So we may, if I might so say, by degrees, by reiterated efforts, swing our. selves up to that stedfast floor on which we may stand high above all that breeds agitation and gloom.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Homilist.
I. THE STATE ALLUDED TO. Dejection and despair. Many things conduce to it.

1. There are not only the difficulties of the Christian course — its dangers, trials, sorrows, disappointments, etc., but —

2. There are the frailties and the circumstances of material life.(1) Some are cast down owing to constitutional physical temperament. This tendency might and ought to be checked and overcome by cherishing an opposite state of mind.(2) Others are cast down by the reflections on human existence, the failure of the right, and triumph of wrong — the utter abandonment of the world, the almost imperceptible progress of the Gospel in the world.(3) Others, again, are dispirited by failure of health and the crushing hand of affliction, by domestic trials, ill-assorted marriages, and invincible sorrow.

II. THE INVESTIGATION SUGGESTED. It is very advisable and useful to act as the psalmist did, and institute the inquiry as to the reason of our despondence. Most of the troubles of life and religion come in an unreasoning manner, inasmuch as they appeal to our feelings, not to our logic — our hearts and not our heads. But when we bring a little logic into our feelings and sentiments, it acts as a whole, some regulation and useful restraint. We should generally find that in the dealings of Providence there is no cause whatever for the soul to be east down. Not one moment of trial but what is necessary for the soul's discipline, and shall minister to the soul's best condition.

III. THE ANTIDOTE SUPPLIED — "Hope thou in God." Yes, it is the want of faith that is at the root of all fearful despair, and faith, trust and hope are the remedy, the cure of the soul's disease and spirit's gloom. Just think what it is to hope in God! There is everything to make us do so! He has all the resources of the universe at His control. But the keynote of hope is love. If we realize that He loves us, we shall know that He will use all these resources for our good. Perfect love casteth out fear.

(Homilist.)

Mr. Greatheart, old Honest and the four young men went up to Doubting Castle to look for Giant Despair. When they came at the castle gate, they knocked for entrance with an unusual noise. At that the old giant comes to the gate; and Diffidence his wife follows Then these six men made up to him, and beset him behind and before; also, when Diffidence the giantess came up to help him, old Mr. Honest cut her down at one blow. Then they fought for their lives, and Giant Despair was brought down to the ground, but was very loath to die. He struggled hard, and had, as they say, as many lives as a cat; but Great-heart was his death, for he left him not till he had severed his head from his shoulders.

( J. Bunyan.)

We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what work Thou didst.
Homilist.
There is such a thing as national piety. I mean the aggregation of genuine godly thought, sympathy and aspiration, whether found in the breast of paupers or princes. Here we have it represented —

I. As ACKNOWLEDGING GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL KINDNESS TO THE NATION IN THE PAST (Vers. 1-8).

1. The certain assurance of it. We have heard it as an historical fact — heard it from our own fathers, who would not deceive us, and who told it to us in love. God's merciful interpositions on behalf of the Hebrew people are recorded, not only in the annals of the chosen people, but in the progress of the human race, not only in documents and monuments, but through an institution as divine as nature, as old as the race, viz. parental teaching.

2. The striking manifestations of it. "How Thou didst drive out the heathen," etc. It is not our armies and navies that have saved us and made us what we are, but God.

3. The practical influence of it.

(1)Loyalty towards God.

(2)Confidence in God.

II. AS DEPLORING GOD'S PRESENT APPARENT DISPLEASURE TOWARD THE NATION (vers. 9-16). He saw his country —

1. Defeated. "But Thou hast cast off," etc. We struggle, but succeed not; there is no victory for us; we are foiled in all our efforts.

2. Victimized. "They which hate us," etc. We are made use of by our enemies.

3. Enslaved. "Thou sellest Thy people for nought," etc.

4. Confounded. "My confusion is continually before me," etc. I am ashamed and bewildered. We have lost our dignity and self-command.

5. Scorned. "Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours," etc.

III. As AVOWING FIDELITY TO GOD NOTWITHSTANDING THE CALAMITIES OF THE COUNTRY.

I. A consciousness of fidelity to Heaven. "All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten Thee," etc.

2. Persecution on account of their fidelity. "For Thy sake are we killed," etc.

(1)Genuine piety may co-exist with great suffering. Abraham, David, Job, Paul.

(2)Genuine piety may be stimulated by great suffering.

(3)Genuine piety enables one to bear great suffering.

IV. As INVOKING GOD'S INTERPOSITION IN ORDER TO RESTORE PAST PRIVILEGES.

1. A humanification of Deity. "Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?" No creature can have a complete conception of the Absolute.

2. Utter prostration of being. "Our soul is bowed down to the dust," etc. What stronger expression could there be of depression and degradation than this? In a moral sense all men are thus debased and crushed by sin.

3. Entire dependence on sovereign mercy. "Arise for our help," etc. We cannot redeem ourselves, nor can we plead our own merits or excellences as a reason for Thy interposition.

(Homilist.)

Homilist.
I. DWELLING ON THE HISTORY OF THE PAST THROWS LIGHT ON THE DOINGS OF THE PRESENT.

1. We learn the principle of development. Men are taught that all our present privileges in knowledge, science, civilization and religion came from very small sources. We know that God performed wonders of old, but we also know that those wonders have been continuously progressive.

2. We learn the principle of equalization. If God has done great things for us, He did great things for those of old. They may not have had the full revelation of religion, but they had to exercise faith in the same way as we do.

3. We learn the lesson of common depravity. The people of old did not notice God's works at the time they were wrought. And so we all allow mercies to come to us unheeded and unpraised, and not till they are taken away do we appreciate their worth.

II. DWELLING ON THE HISTORY OF THE PAST THROWS LIGHT UPON THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. He is a God who changes not and who never deserts His people.

III. DWELLING ON THE HISTORY OF THE PAST THROWS LIGHT UPON OUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FUTURE. What God has been He will always be.

(Homilist.)

The spirit evinced in these words is very different from that which is regarded by some as the special excellency of modern times. It is supposed to be the height of wisdom now to laugh at what our father said, and to show what utter fools they were in comparison with their supremely wise and enlightened sons. Instead of our fathers "being the men, and wisdom dying with them," we are the men, and wisdom was non-existent until we appeared. Now, I venture to say that our fathers never did or said anything more silly than the modern extravagance I have now described. We blame the Jews for thinking that God's love stopped with them, and then we coolly declare that God's wisdom began with us. Of the two, the Jew had the greater excuse for his onesidedness. Our text clearly introduces us to the time of Joshua, when Israel invaded the land of the Canaanites avowedly by a Divine commission, and destroyed its inhabitants in the name of the Lord.

I. Now THEY REALLY HAD A DIVINE COMMISSION TO DO THIS, OR THEY HAD NOT. The very plausible objection is based upon a comparison of tribal histories in primitive times. There is no need to deny the presence of important analogies between the history of Israel and that of other tribes, for the special mission of Israel did not make it cease to be human in its history. But its subsequent history is sufficient to show that it occupied a position of pre-eminence from the beginning as the "chosen of God." However rudely it may have conceived its mission, to deny its special mission at the commencement of that history is to make its subsequent development unintelligible, and to declare that its life was false at its very foundation. Next, it is objected that Israel could not have received such a mandate from God, seeing that it was immoral to engage in such aggressive wars. But such an objection as this is pure assumption, and fails to take account of different moral conditions and necessities. It is further urged that the cruelties sometimes practised by Israel upon the conquered are morally indefensible. This may be perfectly true, but it is not relevant as an objection. The abuse of a commission does not prove the denial of its reality.

II. The continuity of their mission is seen further in THE POWER IN WHICH THEY TRUSTED. Israel very significantly distinguished at the very first between the might of its army and the might of its God. This was very important, for it contained the germ of all further development. This distinction between God and physical force makes God definitely ethical. It was this God that gave Israel a mission. No doubt there were many crudenesses in it. It was but as the grey dawn, and was separated by many a stage from the perfect day. But whatever the form of the mission, it was such as was necessary for the time, and was distinctly ethical in spirit. The God they served and in whom they trusted is the eternal God, that liveth and abideth for ever.

III. In perfect harmony with these characteristics was THEIR BELIEF IN THEIR DIVINE ELECTION. "Because Thou hadst a favour unto them." It is important to note that this election, though insisted upon with great emphasis, was ethically conceived. Everything in the religious thought of Israel was necessarily related to its essential conception of God as an ethical Being. Hence the true faith of Israel affords no prototype of later conceptions of arbitrary and non-ethical election and rejection. The true prototype of these is found in corruptions and perversions of Israel's true faith. We must point out further that Israel's election, as truly conceived, simply imposed upon Israel a special task and mission, and issued no decree of exclusion upon the rest of the world. Putting it generally and tersely we may say that God's elections do not involve exclusions. The man of God's choice, who is called to make known in his life the thought and life of God is so far exclusive that he makes war against sin in such a form as is suitable to the age in which he lives, but the final object of his mission is to lead others to share his life and spirit, and to enter into his heritage. This the prophets clearly perceived to be the true purpose of Israel's election (Isaiah 60:3).

(John Thomas, M. A.)

This verse, slightly altered in form though not in sense, occupies a prominent place in the Church Litany. It is not a prayer at all: it does not form one of that long series of supplications of which the Litany consists. The origin of the Litany is very interesting. It is a most perfect and beautiful sample of a large class of devotions which in earlier ages abounded in the Church, and which seem to have taken their rise in those dark and anxious days which accompanied and followed upon the break-up of the Roman Empire. There, "battle, murder and sudden death"; "plague, pestilence and famine," and all the calamities attendant on what seemed to be the entire collapse of social order, were common things. Hence, when the misery of the people seemed likely to bring in its train the withdrawal of such small blessings as they had, and even, in some cases, the fierce ungodliness of despair; then it was that, in their agony, holy souls turned towards God and sought to enkindle the souls around them by the sharp, prominate ejaculations, such as men might spontaneously utter amid the ruins of a falling world. Our Litany was drafted at the time of the Reformation from earlier compositions of this kind, and it maintains its supplicatory character throughout with a simple and emphatic exception. Between the two solemn adjurations to God to "arise and help," there comes in the verse of the psalm, "O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers," etc. It is an appeal, if we may reverently say so, to the historic consistency of God. It is an act of acknowledgment and praise, and we find the reason for its occurrence in the Litany in the drift and history of the psalm from which it is taken. This psalm was written, probably, at a time and under circumstances not unlike those which some centuries later created the Litanies of the Christian Church. It probably belongs to those dark times which immediately preceded the great and final catastrophe of the Babylonish Captivity. We live over those times, as nowhere else in Holy Scripture, in the pages of Jeremiah. Everything was pointing to some coming disaster: there was failure abroad, there was misery at home. At such times the hearts of thoughtful and religious men turned back upon the past of Israel and upon all that God had done for Israel. Was He not the same God? Was not Israel the same people? Would He be, could He be, inconsistent with Himself? Surely it was enough to remind Him of His mercies in the past to be certain that the future would in some way not be unprovided for. "O God, we have heard with our ears," etc. Now, since human history is a record of the way and will of God, we may explain why it is that so large a portion of the Bible is made up of history. It has a distinctly religious use as showing how God works and what He is. There are two main reasons which practically make history so precious at all times, and especially in times of public or private anxiety, and the first is, that it takes us out of the present, takes us out of ourselves. We are taken out of the clouded and fluctuating present, and how can we better learn than from experience, if the judgment be undisturbed? It is also a record of the unalterable character of human nature, and it places us face to face with the infinite and eternal God. "I am Jehovah, and change not." Now, to apply this, there are three departments of human life in which this recurrence to the past is of great religious value.

I. THE FAMILY. Every family has its traditions as well as its hopes. We see it in the families of the wealthy and powerful, amid nobles and princes. To be the descendant from great and illustrious families is to inherit a past of which every educated man feels the magnificence and the power. And it is not less true of the humble and undistinguished lives which belong to most of us. When a boy is told that some generations ago one of his ancestors did something noble and generous; when he is told that, but for the misconduct of such and such a member of the family, he and his would be in a very different position now; and when he is bidden imitate that which was noble, and shun that which was bad in them who went before him, he is brought in this way under the play of very powerful motives, and which cannot but have much influence over him. They are part of the predestined discipline, depend upon it, to which God subjects him, and a very valuable part too.

II. THERE IS OUR COUNTRY. And here we have to remember that God shapes the destiny of every nation as surely as He did that of Judah and Israel. It should be part of every young Englishman's education to trace God's hand in the annals of his country until he can with sincerity and fervour exclaim, "O God, we have heard with our ears," etc. And then there is —

III. THE GREAT AND SACRED HOME OF SOULS — THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. And all this has to do with personal religion, for it is the religious use of history which enables us better to do our duty in home, in nation and in the Church, and it makes history itself full of interest and encouragement.

(Canon Liddon.)

No stories stick by us so long as those that we hear in our childhood, notwithstanding that so many of them are idle, vain and fabulous. But amongst the early Christians and the old believers in the far-off times, nursery tales were far different from what they are now. Abraham would, no doubt, talk to young children about the flood, and the Israelites who had been in bondage in Egypt would tell their children about that, and how the Lord delivered them. In primitive Christianity it was the custom of parents to tell their children the story of Jesus, and so it was among our Puritanic ancestors. The old Dutch tiles were the lesson-books in Bible history of many beside Doddridge. The writer of this psalm seems to have had told him by his father the story of the wondrous things God had done in the days of old. Let us now recall such things, and speak —

I. OF THE WONDERFUL STORIES WE HAVE HEARD OF THE LORD'S ANCIENT DOINGS. God has, at times, done very mighty acts at which men have been exceedingly amazed. See the history of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, in Canaan; of Sennacherib and many more. And in the New Testament, of Pentecost and of all the triumphs of the Gospel told of there. And since those days in the history of the Church, of , Luther, Calvin and others not a few. And nearer to our own times, of Wesley, Whitfield and the . Now, in all these works of old there were these features —

1. They were sudden. The old stagers in our churches think that things must grow gently, by degrees. But all God's works have been sudden. At Pentecost. At the Reformation. In Whitfield's day. And so in all revivals.

2. God's instruments have been insignificant. See little David when he slew Goliath; a woman slew Sisera. And also were Luther, Whitfield and the rest.

3. And all these works were attended with much prayer.

II. THE DISADVANTAGES UNDER WHICH THESE OLD STORIES FREQUENTLY LABOUR. People say, "Oh, times are different now." But has God changed? Cannot He do vow what He did of old?

III. THE PROPER INFERENCES THAT ARE TO BE DRAWN FROM THE OLD STORIES OF GOD'S MIGHTY DEEDS.

1. There should be gratitude and praise.

2. Prayer. For how many are still unsaved. Preaching will not alone save them. God has done much in answer to prayer.

3. Entire dependence upon God.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

A frivolous and shallow person once inquired of an old Carthusian monk how he had contrived to get through his life. He replied in the words of another psalm, "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times." That man had found one great secret of hope, and cheerfulness, and moral strength. It is unquestionably an immense gain to be able to get beyond our own little life and the little circle which is round it, and to allow our thoughts and sympathies to work in the wider and freer region of the world's past and present and future. Is it not profoundly melancholy in this world whose history is of such solemn, and indeed painful, interest, to listen to the thing called "conversation" by vast numbers? Education has done so little for vast numbers that if they do not converse about their neighbours, they cannot converse at all. They are simply without topics. It is pre-eminently the result of mental training that we have the power to get away from our own concerns and surroundings, to feel ourselves one with all mankind, to know that they and we are moving forward to the fulfilment of a glorious hope. Here, however, it is that the influence of religion enters in. Reading and writing and arithmetic, essential as they are, have no tendency to enlarge the mind or to widen the mental horizon. But put the Bible into the hands of a child, and at once that child becomes aware of the fact that its little world is but a corner of the great wide world, that its little existence is but a segment of the life of the race. And at once an idea is set before it under an immense variety of aspects which inevitably expands its mind, and by doing this achieves one of the greatest aims of education. The child learns that it is in a very large world, a member of the great human family; it is taught to look back to a past in which God has been wise and good, to look forward to a future in which that wisdom and goodness will be more perfectly justified and unfolded. This habit of considering "the days of old and the years of ancient times" will have two happy results; it will teach humility, and it will calm down anxiety. While we thank God for the light He has vouchsafed in these last days, while we will not lend an ear to the suggestion that knowledge, progress, science, civilization are bad things, we must also disallow the monstrous notion that there was no wisdom in the world until this century. "There were giants in the earth in those days." And as we thus learn modesty, so may we, by considering "the days of old and the veers of ancient times" be delivered from unreasoning panic and unbelieving timidity. The faith is attacked; And was it never attacked before? Surely the intellectual shock which men experienced at the Reformation was far more violent than any which is felt now. A hundred years ago there was a more widespread and pestilent scepticism than any we have to lament; yet religion grappled with it, did not simply stand on the defensive, but attacked, and attacked successfully. It seems to me that the robust trust of these old psalms cries shame upon us, who live in a brighter and happier day. For the individual as for the community the ultimate trust must be in the character of God, in His faithfulness most of all.

(J. A. Jacob, M. A.)

I. PROVIDENCE IS NOT OF YESTERDAY. Men love what is ancient. Now, this antiquity of Providence is not a myth. The Psalms are historical. They were written some thousands of years ago, and yet the writers speak of former times of old.

II. THE MAN IS VERY BOLD WHO DISPUTES THIS PROVIDENCE. He must be either a very great or a very little man; there can be nothing common about him. But he ought to be sworn before he gives evidence. We have a right to know who he is. We cannot have any chatter upon this great question.

III. PROVIDENCE IS A REVELATION: there is a Gospel of Providence. It is a Gospel to be assured that the foundation of your haven is strong; that all things are under the hand of God.

IV. AND THERE IS A PROVIDENCE OF FACTS. The men of old abused these, and from a long succession of such observations they drew their conclusions. History seems to make it more difficult to deny than to admit Providence.

V. WHATEVER OBJECTION ANY MAY HAVE AGAINST THE DOCTRINE, ITS EFFECT ON LIFE IS GOOD. We ask, what kind of man does this belief in Providence produce; what fruit does it bear? The creed which says God is, God rules, God will judge — what manner of man will this creed make? It will give courage. See Moses before Pharaoh. And what blessed peace it imparts. But surely this is a great presumption in favour of its truth. And thus should all theology be tested. What are its effects; how does the theology come out in the life?

VI. THE MIRACULOUS ELEMENT IS NO DIFFICULTY. For what miracle can exceed the miracle of your own spiritual development? The story of the Red Sea has been true of ourselves, such seas have been before us, and they have opened for us, and we have gone through them as on dry land. And the story of the manna; do we not know all about that? We must read the Bible as having to do with our own life.

VII. PROVIDENCE LEADS UP TO REDEMPTION. He who takes care of this present life must care for our eternal life. Does God care for oxen; then how much more for man? But if for man's temporal welfare, so that He has provided everything for it, can He have made no provision for the needs of the soul? Impossible I .Now, such is our faith to-day. We have come to it not by inheritance but by personal reception of it. We are one of a great band of witnesses that "the Lord reigneth," that all that occurs, whatever it be, is by His ordering and under His control.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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