Psalm 8:1

This is a song of praise equally adapted for men of every nation, country, colour, and clime. Its author was David, who, as a shepherd-boy, had cast an observant eye on the works of God, both in the heavens above and the earth beneath; and the habit of doing this reverently and devoutly grew with his growth; so that, though we are entirely ignorant as to what period of his life it was in which he penned this psalm, it is manifestly an echo of the thoughts which, in his early shepherd-days, had filled his mind and inspired him to song. At that period in the world's history, only a Hebrew could have written such a psalm as this. Observant men in other nations might have written similar poetry, setting forth the glory of Nature's works; only a Hebrew saint could have so gloried in the great Worker whose majesty was "above the heavens," and of whom he could speak as "our Lord." Note: It is only as we know the Divine Worker that we can duly appreciate and fully enjoy the work. And as Science is, in her onward march, ever revealing more of the work, we have so much the more need to pray that the disclosures perpetually being made of the marvels of nature may be to us a book to reveal, and not a veil to conceal, the living and the true God. In dealing with this psalm we propose to let our exposition turn upon the expression, "Lord, what is man?" Let us note -

I. THE. INSIGNIFICANCE OF MAN WHEN COMPARED WITH THE STUPENDOUS UNIVERSE. The heavens, the earth, the moon, the stars: how much mere do these terms convey to us than they did to the psalmist! His inspiration, it is probable, did not extend to the realm of physical science; and his views of the wonders of the earth and of the heavens would be limited by the knowledge of his day. But since the telescope has shown us that our world is but as an atom, and the microscope that in every atom there is a world; since millions on millions of stars have come into the astronomer's field of vision; and, since the conceptions of the time during which the orbs have been revolving and the earth has been preparing for man's use have so immeasurably grown, - the larger the universe seems, the more does man dwindle to a speck. And when we look at the slender frame of man, his weakness, and the momentary duration of his life, compared with the vast masses, the ceaseless energy, the incalculable duration to which the universe bears witness, - it is no wonder if at the greatness in which we are lost we stand appalled, and are ready to say, "In the midst of all this sublimity, what am I? A shred of entity, a phantom, a breath, a passing form on this earthly stage. Here is this great machine, with a mighty Unknown behind it, rolling and grinding, grinding and rolling, raising up one and setting down another. Ever and anon a wave of liquid fire will heave up mountains and overturn cities and hurl them into an abyss, and the cries of myriads will rend the air; and never will nature spare one relenting sigh or drop one sympathizing tear. All is fixed. Law is everywhere. What I am, or do, or say, or think, can matter nothing to the Great Unknown. Prayer is but empty breath. Amid the vastness I am lost, and can be of no more consequence than a mote in the sunbeam, and were I and all this generation to be swept away in the twinkling of an eye, we should no more be missed than a grain of dust when blown into the crater of a volcano! What is man?" So men argue. Even good men are overwhelmed with such thoughts, and say, "Our way is hid from the Lord, and our judgment is passed over from our God." While the unbeliever declares that a being so insignificant can never be the subject of Divine care, still less of Divine love; that man is no more to the Supreme than are the insects of a summer's day. But this is only one side of a great question. Let us therefore note -


1. His actual dignity.

(1) In the structure and capacity of his nature. Mass however great, force however persistent, can never equal in quality the power of thinking, loving, worshipping, suffering, sinning. One soul outweighs in value myriads of worlds. Our estimate of things must be qualitative as well as quantitative. And a being who can measure the distance of a star is infinitely greater than the star whose distance he measures. Man is made in the image of God

(a) mentally, - he thinks as God thinks;

(b) morally;

(c) spiritually;

(d) regally, to have dominion.

Man is made to see God in all things. Babes and sucklings in this put to shame the rebellious atheist.

(2) God has revealed his "Name ' to man; and this gracious visitation from the Father of our race has raised man in the scale of being.

(3) When renewed by the Holy Ghost, he is elevated still higher in the scale, for "after God he is created in righteousness and true holiness."

(4) When the Son of God became "the second Man, even the Lord from heaven," then, indeed, was our nature "crowned with glory and honour." Nothing so exalted our race as the Son of God inserting himself into it by his incarnation, and so becoming the Son of man.

2. His prospective dignity. The psalm includes the vision of the seer as well as the song of the saint. Its repeated quotation (1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6-9) in the New Testament shows us that its words await a grander fulfilment than ever. The preacher may indefinitely expand and illustrate the following points:

(1) The dominion of man over nature is vastly greater even now than it was in David's time, and is destined to be more complete than it even now is. David includes the sheep and oxen, beasts of the field, etc. Now fire, water, light, air, lightning, etc., are made to serve man.

(2) The renewing process is going forward in the Christianized part of man. The image of God in man is to be perfected.

(3) All things are now put under man's feet, in being put under Christ's feet as the Lord of all. But, as Bishop Perowne suggestively remarks, St. Paul's "all things" are immeasurably more than David's "all things." Just so. This is a beautiful illustration of the progress of revelation. The later the date, the brighter the light. And words caught from men who were in the ancient time borne along by the Holy Ghost, are shown to have a very much broader and deeper meaning than their human penmen could possibly have conceived. "The New Testament is latent in the Old. The Old Testament is patent in the New" (Augustine). Note:

1. The true greatness of man can only be manifested as he is renewed by the Spirit of God; and comes to grow up into him in all things who is the Head, even Christ.

2. How incomplete would the plan have been of permitting man to have dominion over nature, without the corresponding purpose of God's love gaining dominion over man! Dominion is safe only where there is righteousness. - C.

Help us, O God of our salvation.
I. The highest DIVINE TITLE. "God of our salvation." God in creation appears transcendently great; but in salvation we see —

1. A higher kind of power: moral power; the power to manage, master, and mould free rebellious intelligences.

2. A higher love. The love of compassion, forbearance, forgiveness.

II. The highest HUMAN PRIVILEGE. To be saved involves the restoration oral.

1. A lost moral life.

2. Lost harmony.

3. Lost usefulness.



1. It is very fit for nations under heavy pressures and calamities to confess their sins to God publicly.

2. It is very proper for such an afflicted nation to pray earnestly to God for help and deliverance.


1. By the Name of God, in Scripture, is frequently to be understood God Himself in all His excellences, attributes and perfections; and the glory of His name is the rendering those perfections conspicuous and observable; so that to move God for His name's sake, or the glory of His name, is to move Him, that the effects of His Divine attributes may be made visible and illustrious in the sight of men, so that they may be had in just esteem and veneration.

2. What particular reasons the Jewish nation had to petition God, to glorify those His attributes on their behalf.(1) As they were a nation selected from the rest of the world, and made the peculiar people of God.(2) As the people of the Jews were politically united to God, their Sovereign in a national bond, or covenant, so He expressed Himself frequently to have a particular kindness for them, giving them many repeated promises of establishing their government and the succession of their kings in the royal line of David to perpetual generations.

3. Inquire what general encouragement there is for other nations to address to God upon the same motive. And the encouragement is sufficient, in that God has upon occasions declared by His holy prophets that He is not a little concerned for His own honour, He would have His name known and published in all the world, He would have that honour given to Him, which is due unto His name, to all His names; for He is styled in Scripture by many names, not only with respect to His essence, and existence, but also to His supereminent attributes and properties.

4. Inquire, as far as it is fit for us, upon what occasions, and at what seasons it may be proper for a nation to use this motive in their addresses to God.(1) When the existence and providence of God is called in question, denied by some, and exposed and profaned by others.(2) When they themselves or others, whom common humanity and Christian charity oblige to commiserate, lie under great oppressions; in this case men may confidently apply themselves to God, for the sake of His honour and for His holy name.


1. If Almighty God have such a respect to the honour of His name, as to accept the addresses that are made to Him upon that motive, it is a great encouragement to us to make use of it upon all occasions; especially upon occasion of using some extraordinary offices of devotion.

2. Let us be careful that we do not as publicly dishonour Him by our sins as we pretend publicly to honour Him by our devotions.

(Bp. Gardiner.)

Deliver us, and purge away our sins
There is an old book in Paris called the "Chancellerie Book." It is like our own "Doomsday Book," in which all the records are inscribed — all the records of William the Conqueror's division of the land of England. The Chancellerie Book does likewise for France. It has the record of the cities, towns, and villages, with the amount of taxes to be paid by each. As you turn over the old pages of that book, you come to "Domremy," and, behold! there are no taxes to be paid by Domremy. Across the page there is written in bold writing, "Free, for the maid's sake." No taxes for the sake of Joan of Arc, the heroine who flung the English out. Ah, me! when those books are opened when the Lord takes His place on the great white throne, and He comes to my life on earth, behold! across the otherwise condemning page there is written, with letters of His own atoning blood, "Sins forgiven for His name's sake."

A rough parable of Luther, grafted on an older legend, runs somewhat in this fashion: — A man's heart is like a foul stable. Wheelbarrows and shovels are of little use, except to remove some of the surface filth, and to litter all the passages in the process. What is to be done with it? "Turn the Elbe into it," says he. The flood will sweep away all the pollution. Not my own efforts, but the influx of that pardoning, cleansing grace which is in Christ will wash away the accumulation of years, and the ingrained evil which has stained every part of my being. We cannot cleanse ourselves.

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