Sermon 2318. God's Pupil, God's Preacher-an Autobiography
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JULY 23, 1893.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JULY 28, 1889.
"O God, You ha ve taught me from my youth: and until this time ha ve I declared Your wondrous works." Psalm 71:17.
You notice how much David is at home with God. He talks about Him. He does better, he talks to Him. He hears God speakingto him and he keeps up a dialog with God. Where did this holy familiarity come from? It sprang from long acquaintance! Davidas a boy had known God. He knew Him when he was old and gray-headed and, you know, old friends use language to one anotherwhich would not be tolerated in occasional acquaintances. There are certain things which they who have long known the Lordand who abide in Him, may say to God and of God, which might not be said by others. It might even verge on blasphemy if otherswere to say the same things. When you read books like Rutherford's Letters, or Madame Guyon's Sonnets, or George Herbert'sPoems, you must not think that everybody may speak so. These were the Johns and the Marys, the favorites of Heaven-they haddwelt so long with the King that He permitted to them, no, He fostered in them, things that would be impertinences in strangersand might not even be seemly to beginners in the things of God. Oh, may you and I live long enough and well enough to be onvery intimate terms with God! May we walk with Him till, one of these days, we walk away with Him, and they say of us, "Hewas not, for God took him"!
David here tells us, no, he tells God, rather than us, that he had been God's pupil all his life-"O God, You have taught mefrom my youth"-and then he says that he had been God's pupil-teacher-"and until this time have I declared Your wondrous works."When we have listened to David on these two points, the preacher will venture, with some hesitancy, but still under a sortof compulsion, to use the words, himself, and say, "O God, You have taught me from my youth: and until this time have I declaredYour wondrous works." The preacher using the Psalmist's language in the hope that many here will make bold to come into thesame lot and take a share in the same heritage, that many here, especially many young people may say in later days, "O God,You have taught me from my youth: and until now have I declared Your wondrous works."
I. First, then, let us think of DAVID AS A PUPIL. God was his Teacher. "O God, You have taught me from my
This shows that David had a teachable spirit and if you had asked him where it came from, he would have said that God gavehim a teachable spirit. God is not only the Teacher of our spirit, but he gives us a teachable spirit. Have we all receivedthat precious gift? The "genius of the age" is against a teachable spirit. You would suppose, now, to hear some men preachthat Christ said, "Go you into all the world and make critics of every creature, and they shall be saved thereby." But thatis not the Gospel! I do not so much blame the age for its errors, as for the fundamental error of not being willing to betaught. Men have cast off authority and wherein authority in religious things is not of God, it is well cast off, but I fearthat in casting off the evil, many have gone far towards casting off even Divine Authority. No, you are not to think whatyou like. You are not to believe as you please. No man may control you, but God has never given liberty to your thought orto your understanding to be free from His government! What He reveals, you are to accept-to take it as Infallibly true, tobow the knee of your intellect before it, to believe that, "He teaches to profit" and to expect the fulfillment of the promise-"Allyour children shall be taught of the Lord."
A teachable spirit, although it is despised by many, is a happy spirit. It is a growing spirit. It is a restful spirit. Itis a heavenly spirit and whoever has it must ascribe the possession of it to the Spirit of God who leads us into all Truthsof
God and makes us willing to be led therein. Oh, that we may have such a spirit, that we shall count it an honor to say, "OGod, You have taught me"! Some would count that as a dishonor. They would say, "O God, even You cannot teach us! There ismore in our honest doubt than in all the faith You can give us," which, being interpreted, is a lie! No, dear Brothers andSisters, let us seek and covet earnestly a teachable spirit, that, like David, we may be taught of God.
In David's acknowledgment, we learn that God took him very early into His school. "You have taught me from my youth." Whata mercy it is to begin to know God before we begin to know anything else! The first words of the Bible are very significant-"Inthe beginning, God." The first words of this Book should be the first words of every life-book- "In the beginning, God." Happyshall you be if your first intelligible thoughts shall be of your Maker, your Benefactor, your Friend. Happy shall you be,for, as you shall grow in understanding, you shall also grow in acquaintance with your God! And every ripening faculty shallbe sanctified as it opens, so that your first morning shall have no dew but the dew of holiness and of Divine Life restingupon it!
Where was David taught in his youth? I suppose in the pastures of Palestine. When he was keeping his father's flock, he satdown-he thought, he meditated, he prayed. Beneath the stars that looked down on him like so many eyes of Divine Love, he satat night and spoke with God, and God talked with him. And among the sheep he learned to sing, "The Lord is my Shepherd; Ishall not want," There he learned of God so well that when a lion and a bear came against his flock, and took away a lamb,he fell upon the monstrous beasts and, in the strength of God, tore them asunder-and he remembered to ascribe the glory ofhis deeds to God and to praise His holy name! He spent his school-days well. He passed the highest standards and he carriedthe certificates in the skin of the lion and the paw of the bear. Oh, blessed is the young man, who is taught of God as tobe equal to the duties of his station and able to find God is his strength in carrying them out!
David's words also mean that God kept him in His school as a youth. Generally, boys go to Sunday school till they begin tofeel themselves young men. You half insulted one just now when you called him a lad! He is "a young man" and his companionis not a girl, she is "a young woman." She could not go with girls, now that she is a young woman. And these young peoplethink they are too big for the Sunday school! And very often this is the point where the Church of God loses touch with them.It was not so with David. He could say, "O God, You have taught me from my youth." He kept on being taught as he grew up tobe a young man. He still walked with God and so well did he use his early lessons that, going to the army to meet his brothers,he saw the giant Goliath defying the armies of the living God and he came forward and said to Saul, "Your servant slew boththe lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them." And he puts in practice, as a young man,the lessons of his boyish days. Glorifying God, he slings his stone and lays the giant low. How well did God teach him, byhis many struggles, educating his faith and increasing his Divine Graces! When he was at the court of Saul, he continued,as a young man, to still learn by the songs of those who said, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,"and by the sneers of envious courtiers, yes, and even by the javelin of the jealous king, he kept on learning and being taughtof God, so that he behaved himself in a simple way in the sight of Israel, being instructed of the Most High.
When he became a man, even when he became a king, he still continued to be taught of God. With a crown on his head, he wasstill a scholar and disciple of the great God. Swaying a scepter, he was still nothing but a child before a father when hethought of God. It is beautiful to notice, in David's life, how often he says, "Bring here the ephod." He would know the willof God! He would listen to Nathan the Prophet-he would enquire of the Lord's servants that he might learn more of God! David,as a man, was taught of God in his trials, in his crosses, in his comforts, by his friends and by his enemies. He was alwaysbeing taught of God. Sometimes, alas, he forgot his lesson, or he blotted his book-but he never left the school. He was chastened,but he was never cast out-he still continued as God's pupil. We find him, as a gray-headed man, still penning his Psalms andbeing taught of God-perhaps in his last days learning most, learning most sorrowfully, staining his book with tears, discoveringmore of himself and more of the mercy of God, more of the power of temptation and more of the power of the Sacrifice thatputs away sin-more of the wanderings of his heart and more of that free Spirit who upholds us and makes us walk in the waysof God. He was always being educated. A Christian has never finished his education till he stands before the golden Throneof God.
There are many aged men who can say with David, "O God, You have taught me from my youth." They find themselves learners,yet, for they are "unstable, weak, and apt to slide." O young people, you who are just beginning life, I do
pray that you will begin learning soon enough to be able to say afterwards, "O God, You have taught me from my youth." Thereare some here who can never say that. Whatever becomes of them, however much God may bless them, they can never say it, forthey have reached the middle of life, and they have not gone to school to the great Teacher. Well, if you cannot say all thatyou could wish to say, may the Lord take you into His school, now, though you are a ten o'clock scholar, and yet teach you,so that you shall learn enough music to sing among the angels to the praise of the Glory of His Grace, wherein He has madeyou to be accepted in the Beloved!
Surely, dear Friends, we are so foolish that we need to be taught, and we cannot have a better Teacher than the OmniscientGod! Let us, therefore, pray, tonight, that if we are at God's school, we may stay there. And that if we are not there, wemay go there at once. May all our names be put down in the roll of scholars of the College of Christ, the University of Grace,this very night, and God shall have the praise!
II. But now I want you, for a minute or two, to notice DAVID AS A PUPIL-TEACHER. While he was a pupil, he was also teaching.He says, "Until this time have I declared Your wondrous works."
Observe, then, that David taught people what he saw. He saw God's works all around him. Ah, me, that is a great sight! Godis at work everywhere and there are none so blind as those who will not see His works. But the mass of men do not see God.You see the working of machinery. You see the working of the laws of Nature. You see the working of the laws of supply anddemand. But many of you cannot see the working of God! May the Lord open your eyes, poor blind bats, for if there is anythingthat stares in the face of the man who is willing to see it, it is God, and God at work in Providence, in Nature, in Graceand in all sorts of ways! I read of one, the other day, of whom somebody said that when he stayed at his house, he noticedthat he talked as if he saw God always before him-and truly, that is how every Christian should talk, for we should see Godalways before us! David said, "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."We do not see God as we should and we shall never teach aright for God until we have a kind of instinctive feeling of thePresence of God-till we are conscious that God is in us, round about us and at work for us!
God's work that David saw was very much work in himself, work for himself and work in other men's hearts. Being taken intothe School of God, he was made to observe things-he had object lessons put before him and he learned to read God's work. Andas he saw it, he wondered. "Until this time," he said, "have I declared Your wondrous works." He who is a stranger to wonderis a stranger to God, for God is wonderful every way, everywhere and always! It is all wonders when you get near to God andsee what God does. And, you know, no man teaches a thing so well as when he is struck with it himself! When it astonisheshim, he will then tell it to others with gusto and with emphasis. So David made a fine pupil-teacher, because, seeing God'swork, he wondered at it and spoke of it as a wondrous thing.
We find that David took opportunity to declare God's wondrous work, sometimes, with his pen, writing his Psalms. Sometimeswith his voice, singing those Psalms. Sometimes talking to a few, sometimes speaking to many. Now, dear Friends, what I wantyou all to do is, if you have seen God's work and have been struck with it, you should declare it- tell it to others! I knowthat some of you, at any rate, love God and fear Him, but you never speak about Him. Ah, me, have you a dumb devil, or areyou possessed with a dumb spirit? The Lord cast it out of you! There is no way of learning so good as that of teaching! Ayoung man who was going to Cambridge, said, I think it was to Archbishop Whateley, that he was going to get a "coach," thatis, a tutor, to coach him through his studies. "Do not do that," said the other, "Take a pupil-you will learn better thatway." And I believe that it is so. To teach is a wonderful way of learning! I know that by experience. To read hard all dayand then, in the evening, to go and preach what you have read, will stamp it indelibly upon your memory and lead you to abetter knowledge of it than any other method that a philosopher could suggest! Therefore, first learn of God and then teachto somebody else what you have learned. You will keep it that way. You will never lose it. If you keep on only learning andlearning, and learning, and learning-your hoarding it up will breed mildew and I know not what besides. But if you learn itand then teach it, that will keep it sweet and you will never forget it. This is David's pupil-teachership-he is being taughtof God-and he is teaching others.
And David had this happiness, that he could say, "You have taught me from my youth: and until now have I declared Your wondrousworks." That is, he kept on teaching and he kept on teaching the same thing. What must the ministries of some of our ministersbe like? The first five years are spent in teaching Evangelical Doctrine. The next five years are spent in pulling that allto pieces. The next five years are spent in teaching some new philosophy-no, not five years-
they are not so long as that over any one thing. I mean, the first five months are spent in teaching some new philosophy,then a month in pulling that to pieces, another month in making a new theory and another month in pulling that to pieces!
Oh, what kind of a life must it be? "I never saw," said Poor Richard, "an oft-removed tree, nor yet an oft-removed family,that thrived." Surely an oft-removed Doctrine, when a man is perpetually shifting the soil around it, can never thrive, ordo much good. Here the great-hearted veteran says, "You have taught me from my youth: and until now have I declared Your wondrousworks." All this he ascribed to God-he gave God the glory of his learning and of his teaching, also. May you and I do thesame! So far about David.
III. Now for a few words about myself for the honor and Glory of God. I could not help saying something, tonight,
about what Hugh Miller calls, "MY SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS." "O God, You have taught me from my
youth: and until now have I declared Your wondrous works."
I went down, last week, to Maidstone in Kent. It is as near as possible to the day, 40 years ago, when I left the school calleda, "College," there. I thought that I must go down and look at the spot and specially at a tree which stands by the MedwayRiver. Under that tree I spent many hours and many days, and even many weeks reading all day long. "In school-time?" you ask.Yes, my master thought that I should do better under that tree than in the classroom. And he was a wise man. He gave me mybooks and left me to myself. And as I stood, last week, under that tree, with the smoothly flowing river at my feet, I couldthank God for His mercy to me for all these 40 years and I could say, "O God, You have taught me from my youth: and untilnow have I declared Your wondrous works." There may be some young people here, tonight, just come back from school. Some youngpeople who are just finishing their school days. I would to God that they would spend some time in holy, quiet thought abouttheir future-about whom they will serve, who shall be their Teacher, for whom they will become teachers-and how the life whichhas now become more public than before shall be spent.
As I stood there, last week, I could not help praising God that, not long after I left that school, He led me to faith inChrist and to rest in Him. He allowed me to find eternal life and I could not but thank God that I went to that school for12 months. It was a Church of England school. I had never seen anything of Church of Englandism till that time, but therewas a turning in my life, through being there, to which I owe my being here! The Church of England Catechism has in it, assome of you may remember, this question, "What is required of persons to be baptized?" And the answer I was taught to giveand did give, was, "Repentance, whereby they forsake sin. And faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of Godmade to them in that sacrament." I looked that answer up in the Bible and I found it to be strictly correct as far as repentanceand faith are concerned and, of course, when I afterwards became a Christian, I also became a Baptist-and here I am-and itis due to the Church of England Catechism that I am a Baptist! Having been brought up among Congregationalists, I had neverlooked at the matter in my life. I had thought myself to have been baptized as an infant and so, when I was confronted withthe question, "What is required of persons to be baptized?" and I found that repentance and faith were required, I said tomyself, "Then I have not been baptized! That infant sprinkling of mine was a mistake! And please, God, if ever I have repentanceand faith, I will be properly baptized."
I did not know that there was one other person in the world who held the same opinion, for so little do Baptists make anyshow, or so little did they do so, then, that I did not know of their existence! So I feel grateful to the Church school andgrateful to the Church Catechism, for what I learned at Maidstone. I do not know that I have any vivid gratitude for any otherquestion in the Catechism, but I am very thankful for that particular one, for it led me where it was never intended to leadme by those who wrote it. It led me, however, as I believe, to follow the Scriptural teaching that repentance and faith arerequired before there can be any true Baptism.
Well now, what shall be your schools and schoolmasters? Dear young people, I long that each of you may be able to say, "OLord, You have taught me from my youth." You must, first of all, be taught by the Holy Spirit. He is willing and able to comeinto your mind and to influence it in a very extraordinary but very effectual way. He can teach your reason, reason! And causeyour understanding to understand aright. He can take away from you the bent of prejudice. He can remove from you the depravinginfluence of sin and He can give you to understand those things which are essential to your peace and eternal salvation. Seekthe Spirit of God, then, to begin with.
Then your next school will be the Inspired Word of God. Believe in this Bible from the first word of Genesis to the last lineof Revelation. It will never mislead you! It has never misled anybody. It will tell you the truth as to your conduct, as toyour condition before God, as to what you are to believe and what you are to do. If you search well the Scriptures, if theLaw of God instructs you and if the Gospel of God teaches you, then God will be teaching you, for this is the school-bookof the family of love and they who will accept it, and believe it, shall be taught of the Spirit of God who indited it!
Have not all of us, who are in the School of Christ, learned much, in the next place, from the means of Grace? "Forsake notthe assembling of yourselves together." I have to bear my willing witness to the benefit received in the congregation of God'speople. "What?" you ask, "Why, you do not hear any sermons!" No, I hear very few except my own and they are not the best.But preaching them is probably of more service to me than hearing them is to you, for there is a care of the Word of God thatis necessary and the searching of it in the preparation of the sermon, and the waiting upon God for help in the service-allthese have been, to me, a means of Grace. Paul so regarded it when he said, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints,is this Grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." He found that it was a meansof Grace to him to be permitted to preach. Certainly, you young people must take care that you do not neglect the public servicesof God's House. They will teach you from your youth.
Another method of teaching is that of observation of others. If we would be taught of God, we must keep our eyes open to seehow He deals with others. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright." Watch the hypocrite. Keep your eye on the prosperoussinner. If you do, you will soon find God teaching you wondrous things.
You will also be taught by conversing with the people of God. Young Christian, get much with old Christians-I do not meanwith all of them-some of them will not help you much. But I mean those who live near to God and are real and genuine saints.Speak with them. Tell them your difficulties and ask them how they have got through the same trials. Compare the footstepsof the flock with your own footsteps. Many an old child of God will be a precious mine of instruction to you. The first lessonsI ever had in theology were from an old cook in the school where I was an usher. She was a good old soul and used to readThe Gospel Standard. She liked something very sweet, indeed-good strong Calvinistic Doctrine-but she lived strongly as wellas fed strongly. Many a time we have gone over the Covenant of Grace together and talked of the personal election of the saints,their union to Christ, their final perseverance and what vital godliness meant. And I do believe that I learned more fromher than I would have learned from any six doctors of divinity of the sort we have nowadays! There are some Christian peoplewho taste, and see, and enjoy religion in their own souls-and who get at a deeper knowledge of it than books can ever givethem though they should search all their days! Get with such people of God, the experienced people, the tried people, andyou will be able to say, "O God, You have taught me from my youth."
Another schoolmaster is self-examination. A very sour, crabbed schoolmaster is this one! Very few like him, especially ifyou take a lesson every night before you go to sleep and look through the actions of the day. It is not a very pleasant exercise-thereare so many faults to find, so many mistakes made, so many good things omitted. But, if you cannot have self-examination everyday, at any rate have it sometimes. You will learn better by your mistakes than if you had never made a blunder. Sometimeseven a grave fault may save you from 10 grave faults, if it is well observed and avoided in the future-and God teaches youthereby. You learn nothing by self-examination unless the Lord is your Master, but, if He is with you, then your acquaintancewith yourself will help you to an acquaintance with Him! There are two prayers always worth praying, "Lord, show me myselfand, "Lord, show me Yourself." May both be heard and you will be well taught of God!
But there is a schoolhouse to which I have gone and to which I expect to go again. I cannot commend it to you for its pleasantsituation, or for the beauty of its architecture. It is called the schoolhouse of sore affliction. Whoever does not go tothat school, every minister whom God blesses to the salvation of souls will have to go there! It is an absolute necessityof a true shepherd of God's tried people that he should be tried. There may be exceptions, but I do not think that there areand, dear Friends, you, each one of you, if you are to be taught of God, will have to be afflicted. There are some Truthsof God that are never learned. I suppose they may be learned, but they never are, except in the dark. Today, in the middleof the day, we could not see the stars. But if we had gone down a well, we might have seen them. And often the dark hole ofaffliction reveals stars of promise and glittering Truths of God which otherwise we never could have seen! I will appeal tomy experienced Brothers and Sisters here. Have you not learned more in trial than anywhere else? Do you
not owe more to the hammer, the file, the anvil and the forge than to all the comforts that you ever received? Here it isthat God really fashions us. Till He gets us into the fire and the hammer begins to ring upon us, there seems to be no shapingus after the method of Divine working.
And, dear Friends, once more I come to a place on which I stood in the middle of the sermon. God has taught me, and He hastaught many of us, by setting us to work to bless others. If any Christians cannot learn quickly, let them get to work forChrist and they will soon learn! "Oh," says one, "I am so full of doubts and fears." Get to work for the Lord! "Oh," saysanother, "I never have much joy and peace." Get to work for the Lord! Another cries, "I am afraid that I am not saved! I amoften afraid that I am not and yet I do believe in Jesus Christ." Tell somebody else about Jesus Christ! Do not think so muchabout yourself. That dog-hole of selfishness can never afford you any comfort. While the first and last concern of a man issimply his own feelings, or his own enjoyment, he cannot get any good feelings, or any enjoyment, either. Remember what thefarmer does down in the country on a cold winter's day. There stand the boys, with chill blisters on their hands and theywant to get near the fire. They cry out, "Oh, Father, it is so cold!" He says, "You go and do a bit of plowing, Johnny. Yougo and do a little hedging and ditching, William." And they come in with rosy cheeks and they say, "The weather is beautiful!It is quite bracing and we are all in a glow." And yet it may be that the thermometer has gone down while they have been out,but they have been warmed by their work!
I wish I could turn some Christian people out of their pews and get them, at this time of night, out into the lodging-houses,or in some corner, preaching, or going to some sick persons in the hospital to read and pray with them. You may depend uponit, being taught of God is best done, all other things being equal, when, with a teachable mind towards God, we have a teachingmind towards others! When you will to bless your fellow man, you shall get a blessing. "The Lord turned the captivity of Jobwhen he prayed"-for himself? No, I have purposely made a mistake there. It is not so, just look it up -"The Lord turned thecaptivity of Job when he prayed for his"-well, it says, "friends," but, you know, they were a curious kind of friends! Jobcalled them, "miserable comforters," and so they had been. But when he took to praying for them, then the Lord turned hiscaptivity.
Begin to pray for your disagreeable neighbors. Begin to pray for your unconverted friends and the Lord will turn your owncaptivity while you are doing that! By blessing others, you shall be blessed yourself. God grant that it may be so, for Jesus'sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON. PSALM77.
This Psalm is headed, "To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun." He was one of the great singers. There is opportunity given inthe Psalms for each of the singers to take his turn. It does not do for any of us to be idle in reference to the praise ofGod. It is called, "A Psalm of Asaph." His Psalms have usually a dark tinge about them. He was a meditative man, "a man ofsorrows and acquainted with grief," but also a man of strong faith and of an exulting spirit. You need to do business in greatwaters to understand Asaph-he is one who does not wade, but he gets into "waters to swim in." Thus he begins-
Verse 1. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me. The use of the voice in prayeris not essential, but usually, when men grow earnest, they use the voice as well as the mind. It was because of the intensityof his prayer that the Psalmist felt compelled to cry-not to use stilted, stately language-but the natural cry of pain. "Icried unto God with my voice." You will find it very helpful in private prayer to use the voice-many of us do. Some have notthe opportunity of doing so, but if you can be unheard of men and can use your voice, you will find it helpful. Twice saysthe Psalmist, "I cried unto God with my voice."
2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord. This is the best place to go in the day of your trouble.
2. My sore ran in the night. A better rendering would be, "My hand was stretched out in the night." The Psalmist continuedto pray.
2. And ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. Rightly so, if the comfort came from man, if the comfort were doubtfuland ineffectual. Wrongly so, when right comfort was presented to him, comfort from God. I am afraid that in the time of ourtrouble, we often increase it by being unwilling to be comforted.
3. I remembered God, and was troubled. What? Trouble, even, from remembering God? Then this is trouble, indeed! And yet thishas been the experience of the saints of God many a time. "I remembered God"-His holiness, His justice, my offenses againstHim-and was troubled."
3. I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Turned over, overwhelmed. Without comfort, or hope of comfort.
3. Selah. Tighten the harp strings-they have gone flat through such hard striking. These deep notes have put the strings outof order. The man in his grief cannot sing well and he had need to say, "Selah." Sursum corda. Lift up the heart! Prepareyourself, again, for song.
4. You hold my eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Yet he was speaking! But it did not seem to him like speaking.It was rather an inarticulate wail than the language of a man.
5. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. A little holy history is good reading for a heavy heart.You will often stumble on a record of God's Providential dealings, or a paragraph concerning His wonderful love, that willcheer your heart. Yet it did not cheer the heart of the Psalmist just then.
6. I call to remembrance my song in the night. "How I used to sing like the nightingale, with the thorn at my breast. I callthat to remembrance." But we cannot always sing old songs. Old experiences may have but little warmth in their ashes, thoughoften in their ashes live their routine fires.
6. I commune with my own heart. A very proper thing to do, but not much comfort generally comes of it. It is like stirringwater that is already muddy-the more you stir it, the more muddy it becomes.
6. And my spirit made diligent search. When a man can deal with himself like this, his trouble will not last long! God saveme from a dumb sorrow, sorrow that cannot think and cannot judge, and cannot weigh itself! Now listen to the Psalmist's questions.Does doubt question your faith? Then let faith question your doubts. Here is a Catechism for a desponding heart. I commendit to you who are in trouble. Put your soul through its paces-ask these questions.
7. Will the Lord cast off forever? Has He ever done so? He may seem to cast off for a little while, but, "Will the Lord castoff forever?"
7. And will He be favorable no more? It is a long lane that has no turning. The Lord may take down the rod, but will He alwaysuse it? Will He always chide?
8. Is His mercy clean gone forever? If His favor is gone, yet is His mercy gone? Does not the Psalm say, "His mercy enduresforever"? If I cannot claim favor as a saint, may I not hope for mercy as a sinner? "Is His mercy clean gone forever?"
8. Does His promise fail forevermore? Oh, what a question that is! God's promise may tarry, but it never fails, and if itseems to fail for the time being, will it fail forevermore?
9. Has God forgotten to be gracious? What hot shots these are for unbelief! I guarantee you that however deep your unbeliefmay be, tonight, if, by earnest prayer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you ply it with these questions, it will have toyield.
9. Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. Can it be so? Was it ever so to any of God's people? Now comes, "Selah,"again. Tighten the harp strings once more. We shall have sweeter music from this time on!
10. And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. "But I will remember,"is added by the translator. Surely it was to the Psalmist an infirmity to be thus in trouble. He called it Benoni, son ofsorrow, but it was not infirmity to God. He called it Benjamin, son of the right hand. There is a sort of parallel betweenAsaph and the woman who named her child Benoni. Certainly it is a great infirmity-it is a sin-to doubt God, and to be castdown and troubled.
11. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember Your wonders of old. Think of what God has done for Hispeople. How He has delivered them, how He has lifted them from the dunghill and set them among the princes, even among theprinces of His people! Think of His wonders of Grace and be no more discouraged.
12. I will meditate also of all Your work, and talk of Your doings. Those who talk ought to meditate, otherwise they grindwind. Those who meditate will talk, otherwise the miller grinds only for himself.
13. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary. Or, "in holiness." God's way is always a holy way, a righteous way.
13. Who is so great a God as our God? When we think of the greatness of God, if we simply dwell upon His power, we make amistake. The greatness of God lies mainly in His moral attributes, in His completeness, His wholeness, His holiness.
14, 15. You are the God that does wonders: You have declared Your strength among the people. You have with Your arm redeemedYour people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. "Selah," again. In looking back, the Psalmist has remembered the historyof the whole nation. He thinks of what God did for His ancient people. Indeed, he is on the verge of a great song! Well mayhe tune the strings again. He has in thought gone back to the Red Sea. He is standing like Miriam, by the waters that devouredthe foes of Israel, and he must sing as she did! In a high poetic strain he writes-
16. The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. At the very sight of Godthe sea began to flee, to lay bare its depths. "The floods stood upright as an heap," in their fear and dread of the Presenceof God, "and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea."
17. The clouds poured out water. The floods above answered the floods below and came to the help of the Lord, "to the helpof the Lord against the mighty."
17, 18. The skies sent out a sound: Your arrows also went abroad. The voice of Your thunder was in the Heavens: the lightninglightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. There was a great storm. Thunder and lightning gathered about the sea.When God spoke, the waters rolled back and swallowed up all the warriors of Egypt. Heaven and earth joined in battle againstGod's foes-not only did the sea flee, but there appears to have also been an earthquake.
19. Your way is in the sea, and Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps are not known. Not foreknown. Who couldhave foretold that God would lead His people through the sea? His footsteps are not now to be found. God's ways we cannotguess and even when we have seen them, we cannot understand them. Child of God, does the sea roll before you tonight? Areyou in extreme distress? Are you crying as the Psalmist did? With your voice do you cry unto God? Then expect deliverancefrom Him!
20. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron did not lead them-God led His people,"like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron." Here the Psalm breaks off with great abruptness. Had it been a human composition,it would have been rounded off with great discretion, but God knows best where to stop. I sometimes wish Brothers and Sisterswould do the same in their prayers-they need not keep on till they have worn us out- they may break off short if they like.So may we in our sermons! Perhaps they would be better remembered if the second half was never spoken.