Tag Archives: Church

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.

WE NEED MINOR KEYS

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20).

      No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.

We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below.”

There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives, He will make a glorious harmony. Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!

“Would we know that the major chords were sweet if there was no minor key? Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes, Without shade on land or sea?

“Would we know the meaning of happiness, Would we feel that the day was bright if we’d never known what it was to grieve, Nor gazed on the dark of night?”

Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.

When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.

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.

THE REACH OF HIS FAITHFULLNESS

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Psalm 36:5

The faithfulness of God is one of the strong truths of the Old Testament. It is one distinction of the Jewish faith, in contrast with the ancient pagan faiths. Pagan gods were not generally faithful whether in Babylon or Greece. They were immoral, careless of their promises regardless of their pledged word. And the wonderful thing about the Jewish faith was that the God of the Jew was always faithful both to His covenant and to His children.

Such a magnificent and upholding thought sprang not only from personal experience, it was interwoven with the fact that the Jewish religion was historical. The Jew could look back over the tracts of time and discover there the faithfulness of God in a way the brief life might never show. As he recalled the story of the past, of Abraham traveling to the promised land, of the slaves in Egypt rescued from their slavery, of the desert pilgrimage of forty years, one thing that was stamped upon his heart, never to be erased by any finger, was that Jehovah was a faithful God.

That thought sustained the psalmist, and with him, all the saints of the old covenant. In the Old Testament, the word “faith” is rare, but the word “faithfulness” occurs a score of times. And here the psalmist, in his poetic way, and like Jesus, drawing his images from nature, says, “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.”

The Clouds of Scripture

One thinks, for instance, of the clouds of Scripture in such a passage as the Ascension story. When our Lord ascended to the Father, a cloud received Him from the disciples’ sight (Act 1:9). That was a lonesome and desolating hour when the cloud wrapped around Him and He was gone. They had loved Him so and leaned upon Him so that I take it they were well-nigh broken-hearted. Then the days went on, and they discovered that the engulfing cloud was not the end of everything. It, too, was touched by the faithfulness of heaven. He had promised to be with them always, and He was faithful to that promise still. He had said, “I will manifest Myself to you,” and that promised word was verified. The cloud had come and engulfed their Lord, and they thought the sweet companionship was over. But His faithfulness reached unto the clouds.

The Clouds of History

Again, one thinks of the clouds of history, for history has its dark and cloudy days. For instance, what a cloudy day that was when the Jews were carried off to Babylon. Exiled to a distant, heathen land, they thought that God had forgotten to be gracious. They said: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God.” It was not the hardship of exile that confounded them. It was that God seemed to have broken His covenant and had been found unfaithful to His promises. By the waters of Babylon, they sat and wept. They hung their harps upon the willow trees. How could they sing of the faithfulness of God when He had let them go into captivity?

And yet the day was coming when the instructed heart would rise to another view of that captivity and say: “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.” Memory became illuminative. Things lost grew doubly precious. Distance helped them to a clearer vision of what sin was and what God was. And then across that dark and cloudy day came the ringing of prophetic voices with the message of ransom and return (Isaiah 35:1-10). They were not forgotten. They were not rejected. Their way was not passed over by their God. Sunny days did not exhaust His faithfulness. It reached even to the clouds. And of how many a dark day of history (as when we revert in thought to the World Wars) can we set to our seal that this is true!

The Clouds Over Our Lives

Again, one thinks how this great truth applies to the clouds that hang over our human lives. What multitudes can say, in an adoring gratitude, “Thy faithfulness hath reached unto the clouds”? Just as in every life are days of sunshine when the sky is blue and all the birds are singing, when every wind blows from where the Lord is and when we feel it is good to be alive, so in every life are shadowed days when the sun withdraws its shining for a season and the clouds return after the rain. It may be a time of trouble in the family or of great anxiety in business, the time when health is showing signs of failing or when the chair is empty and the grave is full. It may be the time when all that a man has lived for seems washed away like a castle in the sand. It may be the day of unexpected poverty.

How unlooked for often are the clouds of life. They gather swiftly like some tropical thunderstorm. We confidently expect a cloudless day, and before evening the sky is darkened. And yet what multitudes of folk as they look backward, with much experience in life, can take our text and in quiet adoring gratitude claim it as the truth of their experience. You thought (don’t you remember thinking?) that God had quite forgotten to be gracious. Possibly you were tempted to deny Him or secretly to doubt His care for you. But now, looking back upon it all, you have another vision and another certainty, just as the experienced psalmist had. If there are any of those who read these lines for whom this is the dark and cloudy day, who are anxious and distressed, who say in the morning, “Would God that it was evening”–have faith. Do not despair. The hour is nearer than you think when you also will say with David, “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.”

KNOWN IN ADVERSITIES

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;” Psalm 31:7

One great comfort of assurance in this verse is that such knowledge is always very thorough. When someone has known us in adversities, then he has known us as we really are.

There is a sonnet by Blanco White, familiar to all the lovers of the beautiful, in which he develops the thought that but for the night, we should never know the stars. And so there is a very real sense in which we may say we never know a life till we have seen it in the darkness of adversity. When the sun is warm and all the leaves are green, you can scarcely see the cottage in the forest. But when the storm of winter sweeps the leaves away, then at last you see it as it is. It may be stronger than you ever thought, or it may be more battered and decayed, but always the winter shows it as it is.

Indeed, the revealing power of adversity strips the summer covering away. It shows us not in the setting of our circumstance, but as we are in naked reality. And therefore one who has known us in adversities, and been at our side in sorrow and calamity, knows us with an intimacy that probably nothing else can ever give. That is why the knowledge of a doctor is often more searching than that of any friend. That is why the knowledge of a wife often reaches to an unrivaled intimacy, for she has known her husband not only when all was well with him and when the sun was shining on his head, but when his heart was wary and his body sick and all his hopes seemed crumbled into dust.

Hidden Burdens

It was a great comfort to the psalmist also that the Lord had pierced through every disguise. That is why he uses the word soul: “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” To the Hebrew, more simply than to us, that word “soul” just meant the real self. There was nothing theological about it. It was a common word in common use. And what the psalmist deeply felt was this: the knowledge of God had pierced through all disguises and known him in the secret of his being.

There are few things more beautiful in life than the way in which men and women hide their sorrows. On the street and in the shops there is a quiet heroism as great as any on the battlefield. You may meet a person in frequent conversation, yet all the time and unknown to you, some sorrow may be lying at his heart. How often a mother, when she is worn and ill, struggles bravely to hide it from her family. How often a husband, deep in business difficulties, struggles to keep it hidden from those at home. How often a minister, called from a scene of death which may mean for him the end of a friendship, has to go to a marriage and be happy there as if there were not a sorrow in the world. Talk of the disguises of hypocrisy! They are nothing to the disguises of the brave–those cheerful looks, that quiet and patient work when the heart within is heavy as a stone. That Spartan youth who kept a smiling face while the fox was gnawing away at him has his fellows in every community.

But Thou hast known my soul in adversity. That was the joy and comfort of the psalmist. There was one eye that pierced through all concealment, and that was the eye of an all-pitying God. Others had known his outward behaviour for in trials there are many eyes upon us. Others had heard his words and seen his actions and wondered at the courage in his bearing. But only God had read the secret story and seen how utterly desolate he was and known how often, in spite of all appearances, he had been plunged into profound despair.

There is a point where human knowledge ceases and beyond which human sympathy is powerless. It pierces deep if it is genuine, but there are depths to which it cannot pierce. And it was just there, in the region of his soul, that the psalmist felt that there was One who knew him and would never leave him nor forsake him. He felt it in the sustainment he received. He felt it in the strength that was bestowed upon him. He felt it in the peace that rested on him, a peace such as the world could never give. And so when the sun shone on him again, as sooner or later it does on all of us, he took his pen and wrote in gratitude, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.”

The Condescension of God’s Love

There was one other comfort for the psalmist at which our text hints unobscured. He had been awakened by the knowledge that he speaks of to the infinite condescension of God’s love.

A well-known German religious writer who has brought comfort to multitudes of mourners tells us how once he had a visit from a friend who was in great distress. This friend had once been a very wealthy man, and now he had fallen upon evil days, and that very morning one of his old companions had passed him without recognition on the street. Then Gotthold, for such was the writer’s name, took him by the hand and, pointing upward, said, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.”

It is one of the sayings of the moralist that the world courts prosperity and shuns adversity. There are rats in every circle of society who all hasten to leave the sinking ship. But what the psalmist had awakened to was this: the eternal God, who was his refuge, had known him and acknowledged him and talked with him when his fortunes were at their very blackest. Nothing but love could explain the condescension. He had found in God a friend who was unfailing. “If I ascend into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell thou art there.” So was the world made ready for the Saviour who, when other helpers fail and comforts flee, never deserts us, never is ashamed of us, never leaves us to face the worst alone.