Category Archives: HISTORY & WRITINGS

THE RIVER OF GOD

The River of God

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.” Psalm 46:4

The Bible opens the history of man by showing him surrounded by a garden. It is in the midst of a garden he awakes, touched into life by the creating hand. There he learns his kingship in creation; there he discovers One whom he can love; there he walks in fellowship with God. We read, too, that through the garden ran a river. It flowed from Eden through the midst of paradise. On leaving Eden it parted into four, and its streams went out to fertilize the world. This, then, is the environment of man in the idyllic morning of his days–a garden of perfect beauty and delight made glad by the flowing of a river.

But as the history of man proceeds, of man in his relationship to God, the need arises of some other figure to illustrate the scenery of redemption. As long as man is unfallen, so long is a garden his true environment. There is no sin seeking to assail him, no hostile power bent upon his destruction. He can walk secure amid his garden groves and live without apprehension of assault.

The City

But with the advent of sin, all is changed. There grows an antagonism between man and God. The Church of God separates from the world and lives engirded by a deadly enemy. And just as this antagonism deepens, so does the thought of the garden become dim, and its place is taken in poetry and prophecy by the sterner concept of the city. For modern man, the city is the home of commerce and its social life is the measure of its value. But in earlier times the value of the city lay mainly in the security it offered. And all who have seen a medieval city with its high walls and its defended ports will understand how in the day of trouble the city was the stronghold of the land. It was not to gardens that men fled for refuge when the trumpet rang its summons of alarm. They tilled their garden in the day of peace but fled to the city in the day of danger.

And so as the conflict of the spirit deepened and life assumed the aspect of a war, the garden ceased to represent the Church, and the battlement city took its place. That is why Scripture opens with a garden and closes its long story with a city. Slowly above the dust of spiritual battle there rose the outline of a city’s wall, until at last, all that the psalmist hoped for and all that the prophet had declared in faith, was seen in vision by the seer in Patmos.

Now this identification of Church and city was greatly furthered among the Jews by one thing. It was greatly furthered for the Jews by the increasing importance of Jerusalem. So long as the Israelites were villagers and lived a pastoral or rural life, just so long their concept of a noble city was drawn from what they knew of foreign capitals. But as Jerusalem began to grow in numbers and to attract the attention of the world, then the associations of the city took a kindlier and more familiar tone. No Jew could picture a city of his God so long as the greatest cities were all heathen. There must be a capital of his own land to suggest and to inspire the figure. And so it was, as Jerusalem advanced and became the home of government and worship, that both prophet and psalmist with increasing confidence described the Church as the city of Jehovah. It was not just of Jerusalem they thought, though under all they thought about lay Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the sacrament and seal of the invisible city of their quest. Hence John on the closing page of Revelation, when he describes the city of his vision, says, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem.”

Now between Jerusalem and other cities, there was one point of sharp and striking contrast. Jerusalem stood almost alone in this. It had no river flowing by its walls. It was very beautiful for the situation; and as a city compactly built together, it occupied a position of great strength, and its walls were a mighty safeguard round about it. Yet one thing it lacked to beautify its streets and to make it a safe shelter when besieged–and the one thing which it wanted was a river. Nineveh had the waters of the Tigris; through Babylon wound the streams of the Euphrates; the city of Thebes rose beside the Nile, and Rome was to win her glory by the Tiber.

Jerusalem alone possessed no river; no depth of water flowed beneath her walls; all she could boast of, beside her wells and springs, was an insignificant and intermittent stream. It is that which explains the psalmist’s exclamation. A river!–the streams of it make glad the city. He sees Jerusalem, yet it is not Jerusalem, for in his vision there flows a river there. Once there had been a river in the garden when the garden was man’s meeting-place with God, and now the garden has become the city, and behold there is a river in the city.

What then is this river which the psalmist sees in the city of Jehovah? There is no need for conjecture, for the psalmist himself tells us what it was: “God is in the midst of her,” and he adds that it is the presence of God that is the gladdening river. It is Jehovah present with His Church that constitutes its gladness and refreshing.

Living Waters

I need hardly remind you how often in the Scripture God is compared with living waters. We read in Jeremiah, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Zechariah speaks of the fountain that shall be opened in Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. “And in the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.'” That, then, is the river in the city. It is the gladdening presence of Jehovah. It is God not distant in the heaven of heavens, but moving in the midst of our activities. For in that there is the secret of all strength, the hope of patient endurance to the end, and the gladness which is born of satisfaction of all that is deepest in the soul.

Let us remember, too, what John says of this river, that it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. It is not without deep significance that John should have added these words–“of the Lamb.” There is a presence of God throughout the whole creation, for all things have their being in Him. That river flows from the throne of the Creator. But the river in the city flows from the throne of the Lamb; its well-spring is in Jesus and Him crucified; it is in Christ once slain and now enthroned that the city of God has joy and satisfaction. To His own city, God reveals Himself, as He does not and cannot do unto the world. He comes to His own in the love of Jesus Christ, for he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. And this is the river, not from the throne of God, but from the throne of God and of the Lamb, which flows and flows only through the city. This is that river which is full of water, and by the banks of which everything lives. This is the river which Ezekiel saw and which before long was deep enough to swim in. It is God, but it is God in Christ, the God of pardon and of full redemption. There is a river which makes glad the city, and it flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The River Speaks of Joy

But now, to carry out the thought a little, let us take some suggestions from the figure. And, first, the river in the city speaks of joy. Between the ancient and the modern city, there is one contrast we might easily miss. We view a city as the home of pleasure, as the place where most enjoyment may be had; it is in a measure to escape from dullness and boredom that multitudes leave the country for the town. But for the Jew, the city in itself was not regarded as a place of gladness; there was always something of a shadow on its streets. As a matter of fact, it is in country life that the Bible finds its images of gladness. The city was but a sad necessity in a country which might be swept by war. And the gloomier the city was, the better; for the higher and more impregnable its walls, the greater was the safety it afforded to men who sought its shelter in the strife. Not of a city such as we know, today would a Jew think when he read of the city of God. He would imagine one that was impregnable and could defy the siege of any foe. And so says the psalmist, “Lo, there is a river”–the city of God is girded with walls unshakeable–yet through it flows the gladness of the hills and the joy of waters on which the sunshine plays. Safe is the man who dwells within these walls, for they are built by One whose workmanship is sure. His life is more than one of gloomy safety cut off from the liberty of plain and hill. At his very feet, there flows a river, clear as crystal, making glad music, and he who stoops to drink of its clear stream is refreshed and made happy by its refreshment.

But aren’t there many who are tempted yet to think of religion as a life of gloom? They may feel that it is safe to be religious, but that that safety is very dearly purchased. The city of God is but a gloomy place, and someday they shall enter its defenses, but today let them have the gladness of the mountains and the music of the broad and happy world. To all who may be tempted to think so comes the word of the psalmist–“Lo, there is a river!” Not only is the Christian life the guarded life, it is the life that is lived beside the stream of joy. For to know that God is with us in Christ Jesus and that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that, after all, is the unfailing secret of the happy and contented heart. Everything lives where this river flows. The tree of life is growing on its banks. To live with God is to redeem one’s life from the worry and the rush that make it not worth living. The city of God is not a gloomy place, however, it may look to those without; there is a river in its streets that makes it glad.

The River in the City Suggests Peace

When you read the opening verses of this Psalm, you find yourself in a scene of wild confusion. The psalmist, in a few graphic words, pictures chaos in the world. The earth is reeling in the shock of an earthquake; the mountains sink into the depths of the ocean; the waters of the sea rise up in fury and sweep with terrific force across the land. Everywhere there is uproar and confusion, an earth that is shaken to its very base, and men in terror and panic fear as if the end of all things was at hand. Then suddenly the psalmist calls a halt, and another vision breaks upon his gaze. A river! and it is flowing in sweet peace through a city that stands unshaken and unshakable. And nothing could be more striking or more beautiful than that swift passage from the roaring sea to the gentle gliding of that quiet river as it murmurs among the city streets. It is the psalmist’s vision of the peace of all who have taken up their dwelling-place with God. This is a peace that the world can never give, for the world is in throes of the earthquake and of the storm. But it flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb; its source is a Saviour crucified yet crowned, and it is the heritage of every man who believes in an enthroned Christ.

The life of the Christian should be like a river flowing through the streets of a great city. In the midst of all disturbance and dismay it ought to be like a picture of sweet peace. For he who has God beside him night and day and who continually stays his mind on God, amid all the disturbing tumult of his lot, has a heart at peace with itself.

The River in the City Suggests Prosperity

Image result for river with many tributaries

We do not need to be told how a city’s welfare depends upon its river. It is the Hudson that makes glad the City of New York by bringing a livelihood to tens of thousands. There is hardly a dwelling on any street or terrace that is not influenced in some way by the river. Life may be hard enough for many citizens, but it would be harder and perhaps impossible if the sources of our river were to fail and its bed to become empty of its waters. On the Mississippi depends the prosperity of New Orleans, on the Hudson the prosperity of the City New York; is it not equally true that on the river depends the prosperity of the city of God? For let the presence of God in Jesus Christ be withdrawn from the soul or from the church, and nothing can save that soul from being cast away or keep that church from the decay of death. No organization will avail if Christ is not present in its congregation. No wealth of learning, no beauty of ritual, is of the slightest use if that is lacking. Unless God is in the midst of her and His grace like a flowing river, the city of God can never hope to see the work of the Lord prospering in her hand. Brethren, for the sake of our own souls, and not less for the church which we belong to, let us covet more earnestly what is in our power, a life of unbroken fellowship with God. That is the victory that overcomes the world. That is the open secret of prosperity. That is the river from the throne of the Lamb that makes glad the city of our quest.

A River With Many Streams

Image result for river with many tributaries

As I close let us note one other word. The psalmist does not merely speak about a river; he pictures the river branching into streams: “There is a river the streams whereof make glad.” Now the word translated “streams” is rather “brooks.” It is used everywhere of lesser rivulets, and it brings before us the thought of the great river with its waters carried along a hundred channels so that each garden-plot within the city has its own tiny, yet sufficient, stream. It is thus that the river makes glad the city of God, not merely by flowing in a mighty tide, but by coming into every separate plot in a channel peculiarly its own. And so the question for each of us is this, “Is God indeed mine–is He my own? Have I opened a way for Him into my garden–am I personally acquainted with His grace?”

It is not enough to live near the river and let it flow beside us in its beauty. God must be ours, and we must be His if we are to have the gladness of His presence.

SHOWING IT BEFORE HIM

Showing It Before Him

“I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.” Psalm 142:2

What the trouble of the psalmist was it is impossible for us to say. It was so bitter in its onset that his spirit was overwhelmed within him.

In one of his sermons, Patriarch Granville Williams touched on our ignorance of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He suggests that perhaps it is unspecified so that each of us may apply it to ourselves. And I think that the vagueness of the Bible is often of a deliberate intention in order that room may be left within its words for every variety of human need.

When Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled,” He was not contemplating exemption for His own followers. He knew there would be troubles in their lives; what He enjoined was an untroubled heart. And one great help to an untroubled heart amid the thronging troubles of our lives is to be found in this practice of the psalmist. A brave man does not show his troubles before all the world. He tries to hide them and keep a smiling face in order that he might not be a discouragement to others. But to show before the Lord our troubles in the quiet moment when the door is shut is one of the secrets of serenity.

The Comfort of Having a Friend to Listen

In one sense, one of the duties of friendship is just to lend an ear. It is an untold comfort when troubles are depressing us to have someone in whom we can confide. A brother is born for adversity, not just that he may lend a helping hand. A helping hand may be a blessed thing, but a helping heart is often better. To have somebody to whom we can open our hearts in the certainty of perfect understanding is one of the choicest gifts of human life. Visitors among the poor have experienced that. How often they bring comfort by just listening! Poor folk, toiling away bravely, discover an easing of their trouble when they can pour it all, if only for an hour, into a listening and appreciative ear. Now it was that easing which David found in God. He showed before Him his trouble. He did not brood on it in solitary bitterness; he quietly laid it before God. And though the trouble didn’t disappear any more than the thorn of the Apostle, he gained a sweet serenity of spirit which made him capable of bearing anything.

And, indeed, that is the real victory of faith and of all who quietly wait on God. It may not banish all the trouble, but it always brings the power to bear it beautifully. There is a deep-rooted feeling in the heart that if we are God’s, we ought to have an exemption. Troubles that afflict the faithless soul ought to be averted from the faithful. But the age-long experience of God’s children and all the sufferings of His beloved Son proclaim that this is not so. David was not protected from life’s troubles, nor was Paul or our blessed Saviour. David knew, in all its bitterness, what a thing of trouble our human life may be. His victory, and that of all the saints who have learned to show their trouble before God was an inward peace that the world can never give and the darkest mile can never take away. God does not save His children from that dark mile. He saves His children in that dark mile. Whenever they show their trouble before Him, He shows His loving kindness to them. He keeps them from an embittered heart; He puts beneath them the everlasting arm; He makes them more than conquerors in Christ.

God Cares

One feels, too, that David, like Abraham, had seen the day of Christ. His personal trouble was of concern to God. One hears it said so often that in the Old Testament the nation was the unit, and one remembers right through the Old Testament the insistence on the majesty of God. Yet here is a troubled and persecuted soul who dares to think that the God of all the earth has a heart responsive to his very own trouble. He never dreamed it was a thing too petty for the concern of the infinite Jehovah. With a quiet confidence, he showed it before Him who was the Maker of heaven and earth. And the wonderful thing is how this faith of David in the individual loving care of God was confirmed by great David’s greater Son. Not a sparrow can fall without our Father. The very hairs of our head are numbered. If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more our Father? There would be no surprise in that precious teaching for one who could write in childlike trust, “I showed before him my trouble.”

P

TO THE DISHEARTENED

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“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.” Psalm 43:5

It is one source of the eternal freshness of the Psalms that they tell the story of a struggling soul. They open a window on to that battlefield with which no other battle can be compared–the moral struggle of the individual with himself. And it is well that that story should be told in poetry, for there is nothing like poetry for describing battles. There is a rich suggestiveness in poetry, a rush of emotion, an enthusiasm that catches and conveys the excitement of the field. The dullest war correspondent grows poetical, his words become colored, vivid, picturesque, when he narrates the actions in the war. It was right, then, that for this warfare of the soul we should have the strong music of the Psalms.

Now as we read that story of the psalmist’s struggle, one of the first things to arrest us in the likeness of that battle to our own. Ages have fled, and everything is different since the shepherd-king poured out his heart in melody. And yet his failures and his hopes are so like ours, he might have been shepherding and reigning yesterday. We are so apt to think we fight alone. We are so prone to think there never was a life so weak, so ragged, so full of a dull gnawing, as ours. We are so ready to believe that we have suffered more than any heart that ever loved and lost. And then God opens up the heart of David, and we see its failures and we hear its cries, and the sense of loneliness at least is gone. He prayed as we have prayed. He fell as we have fallen. He rose and started again as we have done. He was disheartened, and so are we.

Disheartenment

Speaking of disheartenment, there is one temperament that is peculiarly exposed to that temptation. It is that of the eager and sensitive and earnest soul. If you are never in earnest about anything, you may escape disheartening altogether. To be disheartened is a kind of price we pay for having a glimpse at the heavens now and then.

“The mark of rank in nature is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer makes the sweetness of the strain.”

So the dull pain of being disheartened now and then is the other side of man’s capacity for enthusiasm. Give me a flood-tide and I shall expect an ebb. Give me an earnest, daring, generous, loyal heart, and I shall know where to discover melancholy.

And one word I should like to say here–never pass judgments in your disheartened hours. It is part of the conduct of an honest soul never to take the verdict of its melancholy. The hours come when everything seems wrong. And all that we do and all that we seem worthless. And by a strange and subtle trick of darkness, it is just then we begin to judge ourselves. Suspend all judgment when you are disheartened. Tear into fragments the verdict of your melancholy. Wait till the sunshine comes; wait till the light of the countenance of God comes, then judge–you cannot judge without the light. But in your darkness, stay yourself on God. Disheartenment is the wise man’s time for striking out. It is only the fool’s time for summing up.

No doubt there is a physical element in much disheartenment. There is a need of health; there is a lack of sunshine in the hills about it. When we are badly nourished and poorly clothed and live and sleep in a vitiated atmosphere, it is so very easy to lose heart. And all that inter-working of body and soul, with the reaction of a man’s environment upon his life, should make us very charitable to our neighbour. If you knew everything, you would find more heroism in a smiling face sometimes than in the most gallant deed out in South Africa. Make every allowance for a disheartened neighbour. Be charitable. Be helpful and be kind. But in the name of the Christlike character you strive for, make no allowance, brother or sister, for yourself. The allowance is merely the pet name for an excuse. It speaks of that tender handling of ourselves which is so utterly foreign to a vigorous manhood. I must make no excuse. I must be at it when I feel least like it. It is so much better to live nobly than live long.

Causes of Disheartenment

Now, what are the common causes of disheartenment? I think we can lay our hand on some, at any rate. And the first is the long and monotonous stretches of our life. “Variety’s the very spice of life, and gives it all its flavor,” sings the poet. And when there is no variety at all, no new horizon in the morning, but the same work and the same haunting worry, day in day out, we are all apt to grow disheartened. It is a dreary business walking in the country when the dusty road, without a turn or a bend, stretches ahead of you for miles. If there was only some dip and rise in the road, some unexpected scenery, some surprises, you would cover the distance and never think of it. It is the sameness that disheartens us. It is the dreary monotony of life’s journey until we lose all spring and spontaneity, all freshness of feeling, all power to react; and we live and work mechanically, deadly.

Another cause is a bitter disappointment. When we have made our plans, and suddenly they are shattered; when we have built our castles, and the gale comes and brings them down in ruin at our feet; when the ties are wrenched and the loving heart is emptied, and in the bitterness of death the grave is full–we are all ready to be disheartened then. For where our treasure is, there shall our hearts be also; and when our treasure vanishes, our heart is gone.

The poet Wordsworth, whose calm, the deep verse we should all keep reading in these hurrying days, tells us of the utter disheartening that fell on him after the French Revolution. He had hoped great things from that stormy time. He had hoped for the birth of brotherhood and freedom. He had thought that the race was going to shake its fetters off and proclaim the dignity of man at last. And when these dreams were blighted as they were, and instead of liberty and true equality there came the tumbril and the guillotine and blood, “I lost,” says Wordsworth,

“All feeling of conviction, and in fine
Sick, wearied out with contrarieties,
Yielded up moral questions in despair.”

It was his terrible disappointment that disheartened him. Perhaps it is that friend, that has disheartened you.

Another cause of the deepest disheartening is this: it is the apparent uselessness of all we do. It is the partial failure, it is the lack of progress, it is the fact that I strive and never seem to attain that lies at the root of spiritual despondency. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” says Andrea. And this very psalm from which we took our text, that thrills and wails with spiritual depression, begins with the cry of the soul after the Infinite “as the hart pants after the water-brooks.” It is the other side of my glory, that disheartening. It is the witness of my kinship with infinitude. I am never satisfied: there is always another hilltop. I am never at rest: there is a better somewhere. And so I am disheartened–fool!–because I am something better than a beast and have been made to crave, to strive, to learn, to hope–unsatisfied–till the day break and the shadows flee away.

Advice Against Disheartenment

Now I shall venture to give some advice against disheartenment (I have received help here from the sermons of William Branham), and the first is this: disheartenment can often be dispelled by action.

A friend who knew Patriarch Conrad Sutherland well has said of him that one of his priceless qualities was that he always made effort seem worthwhile. You came into his presence restless, wearied, with all the edge taken off a moral effort by the doubts and criticisms of this troubled age, and you left him feeling that in spite of a thousand doubts, the humblest effort heavenward was worthwhile.

O, how I wish that every young man and woman could feel the same thing! For what we want is not more light. What we want is more quiet fortitude. It is to believe that effort is worthwhile. It is to hold it, though the world denies it, that man shall not live by bread alone. And though it is very easy to preach that, and we read it and sing it like a common thing, there is the power of God in it against moral collapse, and it carries the makings of moral heroism on its bosom.

And this is my second counsel to the disheartened. Remember, friend, what others have to suffer. Look around you and see the burden of your neighbour and mark the patience and sweetness of the man, until, in that great brotherhood of trial, you ask God to forgive your gloom and bitterness.

In the theater of the ancient Greeks–and the theater was religious, it was not vulgar then–they played great tragedies and brought the sorrows and passions of the noble on the state. And the men and women of Athens went to see them, and by the portrayal of these mightier sorrows, their own so shrank into an insignificance that they went home with something of new hope in them and the determination to be braver now. There are such tragedies today, my friend, and you cannot only witness, you can help. “When you are quite despondent,” said Patriarch Dr. Granville Williams, “the best way is to go out and do something kind to somebody.”

And lastly, in your hours of disheartenment, just ask if there was ever a man on earth who had such cause to be disheartened as our Lord. What griefs, what exquisite sorrows, and what agonies!–what seeming a failure, what crushing disappointment! Yet on the very eve of Gethsemane and Calvary our wonderful Lord is talking about His joy. And when the heart fails and faints, and I lose all willpower, and my arm hangs helpless, and my soul seems dead, there is nothing like coming right to the feet of Jesus and crying with Peter, “Lord, save me or I perish.” It is then that I take heart again to sing–

“The night is mother of the day,
The winter of the spring,
And ever upon old decay
The greenest mosses cling.

Behind the cloud, the starlight lurks,
Through showers, the sunbeams fall,
For God who loveth all His works,
Hath left His hope with all.”

FAITH GROWS AMID THE STORMS

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).

Faith grows amid storms“–just four words, but oh, how full of import to the soul who has been in the storms!

Faith is that God-given faculty which, when exercised, brings the unseen into plain view, and by which the impossible things are made possible. It deals with supernaturals.

But it “grows amid storms”; that is, where there are disturbances in the spiritual atmosphere. Storms are caused by the conflicts of elements, and the storms of the spiritual world are conflicts with hostile elements.

In such an atmosphere faith finds its most productive soil; in such an element it comes more quickly to full fruition.

The staunchest tree is not found in the shelter of the forest, but out in the open where the winds from every quarter beat upon it, and bend and twist it until it becomes a giant in stature this is the tree which the mechanic wants his tools made of, and the wagon-maker seeks.

So in the spiritual world, when you see a giant, remember the road you must travel to come up to his side is not along the sunny lane where wildflowers ever bloom; but a steep, rocky, narrow pathway where the blasts of hell will almost blow you off your feet; where the sharp rocks cut the flesh, where the projecting thorns scratch the brow, and the venomous beasts hiss on every side.

It is a pathway of sorrow and joy, of suffering and healing balm, of tears and smiles, of trials and victories, of conflicts and triumphs, of hardships and perils and buffetings, of persecutions and misunderstandings, of troubles and distress; through all of which we are made more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

“Amid storms.” Right in the middle where it is fiercest. You may shrink back from the ordeal of a fierce storm of trial…but go in! God is there to meet you in the center of all your trials, and to whisper His secrets which will make you come forth with a shining face and an indomitable faith that all the demons of hell shall never afterward cause to waver.

HOPE THOU IN GOD

Hope Thou in God

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5

The psalmist here is not talking to an audience. He is talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God.” That is one of the habits of the saints, and it is always a highly profitable habit. It means that we look squarely in the face the things that are lurking in the shadows. And very generally when we do that, with the fears and despondencies that haunt us, things prove not so desperate as they seemed. We all know how in the dead of night the slightest noise is apt to startle us. Imagination riots in the darkness. But we smile when we switch on the light and find the footstep is only a creaking board and the knocking only the flapping of a blind.

So also with the soul, formless fears are always the worst fears. Nameless and undefined despondencies are often the most depressing of despondencies. And just to face them and drag them to the light and manfully charge them to declare themselves, is very often the springboard to new tranquility. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Come, my soul, answer me that question! Stand there and be interrogated! Give thy reasons! Why art thou cast down? Very generally when one does that, things prove so much less hopeless than they seemed that the soul describes the glimmerings of the morning.

Now many people, when they read these words, are apt to interpret them erroneously. They regard them as a call to trust, but that is scarcely the meaning of the words. When I trust a person, I do more than hope. When I hope, I do less than trust. To hope in God is, therefore, something different from a feeble and attenuated trust. It is to base every hope that burns within us on the profound recognition that God is. Base your hope, whatever your hope may be–and hopes are of a thousand different kinds–on the recognition that God reigns, and that God, the God of the whole Bible, a Father infinitely loving, has been revealed to us in the Lord Jesus. If that is false, if there is no such Being, our sweetest hopes are mockeries. We have nothing to build on but the sand. Our hopes may come to ruin at any moment. But if God is and we are sure of that, surer than we are of our hands or feet, then there is hope for us and for the world. Hope, my soul, because there is a God–that is what the psalmist really means. Hope, because He reigns. Hope, because He is on the throne. Hope, because He cares for you and loves you; because He cares for all the world and loves the world; because He so loved the world that He gave Jesus.

The Future

Now, let us apply that thought a little in relation to the future of our race. We have many gloomy prophets in the world today who think our race is hurrying to ruin. They study history and find no hope in history. They deny the reality of progress and have lost all hope of civilization. Education, men had hope in that. Civilization, they had hope in that. The increase of dialogue among the nations, men put their hope in that. And then the war came wrecking hopes just as it wrecked cathedrals, and all these rosy, radiant hopes were as houses built upon the sand. What a wise book the Bible is. How it rejects and refuses shallow hopes. It never says to us, “Hope thou in education.” It says, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base thy hope on the fact that He is reigning and moving on in His eternal purposes to an end that shall be fair as a perfect day.

Consider the years that lie ahead, hidden in the shadows of the future. For some, the prospect is very dark and frightening. Will your health hold out? So much depends on that for yourself and your wife and children. Will your powers hold out, or someday will they give? Will your loved ones all be spared to you? My dear friends, brothers and sisters, no hope that is worth anything rests upon contingencies like these. It rests upon the certainty of God. He reigns. He knows you and He loves you. In His eyes, you are infinitely precious. If you ascend up into heaven, He is there; if you make your bed in hell, He is there. Would it not tarnish the glory of His Name if for a single hour in all the future He were to leave you or forsake you? My soul, hope thou in God. Base your hope of the future upon God. Base it on nothing else and nothing less. Everything else and less is but contingency. Build on the sand, and though the sand is made of gold when the storm comes everything may perish. But who is a rock like unto our Rock?

The Hope of Immortality

Lastly, think of the hope of immortality and of the joy and rest and liberty of heaven when life shall flower to full perfection and we shall meet our loved ones again. That hope is in every human heart, and the question is what do you base it? Well, you may base it on the inward longing, or on the imperfection of our present being, or on the fact that there is so much on board that is not wanted for the voyage. But when the lights burn low and no argument can silence the questioning, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base your eternal hope on the life and love and promises of God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. No mother would let death rob her of her child if her power were equal to her love, and with Him, love and power are alike infinite.

THE THIRST OF GOD

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:2

When the psalmist wrote this he was a fugitive in hiding somewhere across Jordan. He had been driven out by rebellion from Jerusalem, which is the city of the living God. To you and me, rich in the truth of Christ, that would not make God seem far away. And doubtless, the psalmist also had been taught that Jehovah was the God of the whole earth. Yet with an intensity of feeling which we of the New Covenant are strangers to, he associated Jehovah with locality. He felt that to be distant from the Holy City was somehow to be distant from his Deity. And so, in a great sense of loneliness and in a thirsty land where no waters were, he cried out, “My soul thirsteth for the living God.”

But when a poet speaks out of a burning heart, he always speaks more wisely than he realizes. When the soul is true to its own prompting, it is true to generations yet unborn. In the exact sciences, you say a thing, and it keeps forever the measure of its origin. But when an inspired poet says a thing, it endlessly transcends its origin. For science utters only what it knows, but poetry utters what it feels, and in the genuine utterance of feeling there is always the element of immortality. No one worries about the atoms of Lucretius, but the music of Lucretius is not dead. No one feeds upon the Schoolmen now, but thousands are feeding upon Dante. And the psalmist may have been utterly astray in his measurements of the sun and stars, but taught of God, he never was astray in the more wonderful universe of the soul. That is why we can take his words and strip them of all reference to locality, or there is not one of us, whatever his circumstances, who is not an exile beyond Jordan and thirsting for the living God.

Spiritual Thirst Indicates the Certainty of God

Now it seems to me that such spiritual thirst involves the ultimate certainty of God. It is an assurance that is never antiquated, an argument that never fails. I thirst for water, and from a thousand hills, I hear the music of the Highland streams. I thirst for happiness, and in the universe, I find the sunshine and the love of children. I thirst for God–and to me it seems incredible that the universe should reverse its order now, providing liberally for every lesser craving but not for the sublimest of them all. I don’t think, if such had been the case, that Christ would have said, “Seek, and ye shall find.” For then we should have sought the lesser things and found them to our heart’s content, but when we sought the greatest things of all, would have been hounded empty from the door.

That is why the psalmist also said, “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” But there are men who have said that out of aching hearts and ruined homes. They have said it when love had proved itself a treachery. For sometimes the seeming cruelty of things and the swift blows that shatter and make desolate have blotted out even from devout hearts the vision of the Father for a little. God never calls these broken children fools. He knows our frame and remembers we are dust. He is slow to anger and of great compassion, and He will shine upon these shadowed lives again. But the fool hath said in his heart there is no God. He scorns the verdict of his deepest being. He believes his senses which are always tricking him. He doesn’t have the courage to believe his soul. A man may say in his mind “There is no God,” and God may forgive him and have mercy on him. But only a fool can say it in his heart.

This thirst for God is sometimes very feeble, though I question if it ever wholly dies. You may live with a man for months, perhaps for years, and never light on that craving of his heart. But far away in the ranches of the West there are rough men who were cradled in our Scottish glens, and you might live with them for months, perhaps years, and never learn that they remembered home. But some evening there will come a strain of music–some song or melody–and on that reckless company there falls a quietness and they cannot look into each other’s eyes just then: and then it doesn’t take a prophet to discover that the hunger for the homeland is not dead.

There are feelings that you can crush but cannot extirpate, and the thirst for the living God is one of these. You may blunt and deaden the faculty for God, but as long as the lamp burns, it is still there. It was that profound and unalterable faith which made our Lord so hopeful for the most hardened sinners of mankind.

Our Rest Is in God

And then remember also that men may thirst for God and never know it. That eminent scientist Romanes tells us that for twenty-five years he never prayed. He was crowned with honour in a way that falls to few–and all the time there was something lacking. It was not the craving of a disciplined mind that feels every hour how much still remains to do; it was the craving of a hungry soul that never knew it was yearning after God. Then, in the embrace of love, they met, and meeting, there was peace. So it often is when souls are restless. They are craving for they know not what. And all the time, although they little dream of it, that “know not what” is God. For as Augustine told us long ago, God has made us for Himself, and we are restless till we find our rest in Him.

THE NEW SONG

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

When anybody sings it is an outward token of an inward happiness. Despondent people very seldom sing. When a man sings as he walks the country road it means that he has a heart of peace. When he sings while he is dressing in the morning, it means that he gladly accepts another day.  It does not have to be the voice of the archangels. It is your heart that is praising the God in you. And wherever Christianity has come, with its liberating and uplifting power, it has carried with it this note of singing gladness. The Stoic boasts, when life is harsh and cruel, that his head is “bloody but unbowed.” Paul and Silas did far more than that; they sang praises in the jail at midnight. Their religion was an exhilarating business as all true religion ought to be. They had not only peace in believing; they had joy.

Now if you listen to anyone singing at his work you will catch the strain of an old familiar melody. Nobody dreams of practicing new songs when he is walking along a country road. Yet the psalmist, thinking of life’s highways and of daily work and undistinguished mornings, says that God has put a new song in his mouth. You see, a song may be very old, and yet to us, it may be very new. It may break on us with all the charm of a novelty though it has come ringing down the ages. It may be like the coming of the spring which is always new and wonderful to us through every vanished year has had its spring. Generally, the new songs which God gives have come echoing down the corridors of time. Men sang them long ago in days that carry the memories of history. But when they come to us, and touch our hearts in fresh, vivid personal experience, they are as new as the wonder of the springtime.

The Bible, the Song of Heaven

One sees that very clearly with the Bible which is the grand, sweet song of heaven for us. No mere critic can ever grasp the Bible any more than he can grasp the magnificence of Shakespeare. Now the Bible is a book for childhood. It has stories which enthrall the childish-heart. There is the story of David and Goliath in it and of Daniel in the den of lions. And then comes life with all its changing years, with its lights and shadows and sufferings and joys, and what a new song the Bible is to us! The strange thing is it is an old, old song. It is “the song our mothers sang.” It is the song that kindled the great heart of Knox and satisfied Sir Walter Scott on his deathbed. Yet when our heart is deepened and our eyes are opened by sin and suffering and loneliness and mercy, a new song is put into our mouth.

We see that this is how God deals with us when we think of the old sweet song of love. For all love is of God, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in Him. Every spring of love in earthly valleys flows from the heavenly fountain. Every spark of love in human breasts is a spark of the eternal fire. The love of home, of parentage and childhood, not less than “the way of a man with a maid,” are but the ocean of eternal love creeping into the crannies of the shore. Now the song of love has gone echoing through the world since the first lovers gathered in the gloaming. Joseph knew to its depths the love of fatherhood. Yet when love indwells any human heart, its song is as new as the melody of spring, though since the dawn of time spring has sung its carol. Whenever a heart loves, God puts a new song into the mouth. No love song is a repetition, though the same things have been said a thousand times. And just because God has set His love for us, His old love songs are all new to us when first in the secret of our souls we hear them. God does not need to write new love songs. The old, old love song is the best. The heart is crying, “Tell me the old, old story.” But the wonderful thing is that when we hear it, old though it is to us, it is so thrilling that a new song is put into our mouth.

God’s Redeeming Grace Is an Individual Love Song

I notice, lastly, that the newness of the song runs down to the mystery of individuality. The song is new just because we are new. We hear much today of mass production. It is because of mass production things are cheap. Had God made humanity by mass production, then human souls would have been cheap. But the very fact that we are individuals and that no two are alike in the whole world is a token that we were never made that way. No two faces are ever just the same; no two temptations ever quite alike; no two joys without their subtle difference; no two heart-breaks indistinguishable–it is this element of newness in the separate life of every man and woman that takes the old song and makes it new. The song was sung by David, but David and you were never standardized. It may be sung by multitudes in heaven, but your experience of mercy is your own. And so, when God in His redeeming love puts the old sweet song of grace upon your lips, the song is new–it is your very own–it seems as if no one else had ever sung it.