HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.” Psalm 18:35
Take, for instance, that opening Scripture of Adam and of his sin and exile. Whatever else it means, it means unquestionably that God is angry with a disobedient man. And yet at the back of it what an unequalled tenderness, as of a father pitying his children and loving them with a love that never burns so bright as in the bitter hour of necessary punishment. Losing his innocence, in the love of God Adam found his calling and his crown. He fell to rise into a world of toil, and through his toil to realize his powers. So looking backwards through that bitter discipline, unparadised but not unshepherded, he too could surely say with David, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”
Or think again of the story of the Exodus, that true foundation of the Jewish race. It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel. And while that night, when the first-born were slain, was dark and terrible with the mighty power of God, what are those forty years of desert wandering but the witness of the gentleness of heaven? Leaving Egypt a company of slaves, they had to win the spirit of the free. Leaving it shiftless, they had to win reliance; leaving it cowardly, they had to learn to conquer; leaving it degraded, as slaves are always degraded, they were to reach to greatness by and by, and looking back on it all what could they say but this, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Never forget that in its age-long story the Bible. reveals the gentleness of God. Hinted at in every flower that blossoms, it is evidently declared in Holy Scripture. It is seen in Adam and in Abraham. It is seen in the wilderness journey of the Israelites. It is found in the choicest oracles of prophecy and in the sweetest music of the Psalms.
God’s Gentleness in Our Lives
I think, too, that as life advances, we can all confirm that that is true. We all discover, as the psalmist did, how mighty has been the gentleness of heaven. In the ordinary sense of the word, you and I may not be considered great. We have neither been born great, nor have we come to greatness, nor has greatness been thrust upon us. And yet it may be that for you and me life is a nobler thing than it was long ago, and truth is more queenly, and duty more dignified, than in the past. We may not have won any striking moral victories, yet our life has leaned to the victorious side. We have not conquered yet all that we hoped to conquer, yet our will is serving us better through the years. There are still impurities that lift up their heads and still passions that have to be brought to heel, yet it may be that you and I are now nearer the sunrise than ten years ago.
If, then, that is the case with you, I urge you to look back on the way that you have come and think of all that life has meant for you. Think of the temptations that would have overcome you had not God in His gentleness taken them away. Think of the courage you got when things were dark; of the doors that opened when every way seemed barred. Think of the unworthy things that you have done which God in His infinite gentleness has hidden–of the love that inspired you and the hope that came to you when not far distant was the sound of breakers. You, too, if you are a man at all, can lift up your eyes and cry out, God is just. It may be you can do more than that and lifting up your voice say, God is terrible. But if you have eyes to see and a heart to understand, there is something more that you can say, for you can whisper, “To me, in pardoning, shielding mercy, God has been infinitely and divinely gentle.” If every lily of the field lifting its head can say, “Thy gentleness hath made me great”; if every sparrow chirping on the eaves is only echoing that meadow music, then I do feel that you and I, who are of more value to God than many sparrows, owe more than we shall ever understand to the abounding gentleness of heaven.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW …