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hateth; upon the wicked He shall rain snares and an horrible tempest--this shall be the portion of their cup.” Who shall be on the winning side then? Who therefore ought to flee first now? Let them flee who have most to fear. How say ye, then, to my soul, Flee? The Lord is on my side, so that I need never fear what flesh can do unto me!
3. Once more—“How say ye unto my soul, Flee; for, if the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do ?”—as if terrible destructions which shatter the foundations of merely earthly comfort and prosperity could ever so bereave “the righteous," or reduce them to such straits of perplexity, that they should not know what to do! Shall I flee, when fleeing would be trying to escape from the providence of my blessed Lord ? Even though He be pleased to move, yea, to destroy the very “ foundations” of my temporal prosperity, and lay my earthly hopes in ruins, shall I flee from such dealings of His hand, as if there were nothing wise and holy in the purposes of His providence, as if such dispensations could not all be made to work together for my good! In the Lord put I my trust, and I tell you (verse 5) “the Lord trieth the righteous.” Whatever be the vengeful purposes of His providence in judgment on the wicked, the Lord trieth the righteous. As gold in the furnace, they are seven times purified; for (verse 7) “the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” His purposes towards the righteous are those only of a holy discipline. His will is their sanctification-He would perfect them in holiness, without which no man can see God. He therefore “ trieth the righteous ;” and while, so long as they are in the furnace (verse 7), “His countenance doth behold the upright,”—like the face of the refiner, as he sits intently watching till the clear reflection of his own image from the tried silver shall warn him to take it out of the fire,-He shall one day “behold” them, to shine upon them with His countenance, when they shall see His face and sing His praise in the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy! How say ye then, Flee, lest the foundations be destroyed ?-foundations which are in the dust! Let the earthly house of this my tabernacle be dissolved, I have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How can it ever be a question what the righteous shall do, when all the foundations of his abode on earth are shaken? I put my trust in the Lord, “who of old laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of His hands. They shall perish, but He shall endure. Yea, all of them shall wax old as doth a
garment; as a vesture shall He change them, and they shall be changed; but He is the same, and His years shall have no end !" How say ye, then, unto my soul—if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? Who am I, that I should be afraid of men that shall die, and of the son of men which shall be made as grass, and should forget the Lord my Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth, and should fear continually because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? In the Lord put I my trust. Should such a man as I flee—and who is there that, being as I am, would go anywhere to save his life, except to that Lord who is my refuge and my strength, and a very present help in trouble ?
We have thus considered both how the assault on David's faith was made, and how it was met. The life of faith we have seen to be a conflict. And how courageous, how hopeful, how triumphant a struggle does it seem !
It only remains to us to endeavour to apply the lessons suggested by the illustrative experience of steadfastness in conflict recorded in this psalm. That experience enforces at least two practical exhortations.
(1.) Dread and resist the faintest whisper of retreat, whatever be the troubles and dangers of your course. “Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong," is the apostolic form of the injunction which David had learnt long before the Apostle's time, and on which he had acted with resolute courage. And shall not his example confirm your steadfastness ?
As those who, by the anointing of the Lord, have received the Christian name, you have been, from the very opening of your Christian life, summoned as was that shepherd boy, the son of Jesse, to be the heirs and expectants of a kingdom. Like David, too, you soon felt the trials and dangers of your high calling. By early temptations you were assailed as by the lion and the bear which David slew. The giant form of some easily-besetting sin, like another Goliath for the power of its terrible destructiveness, had to be met in single combat. As you advance in your course, you seem, like David, to be led into deeper and darker trouble. The wicked bend their bow. The subtle tempter and his emissaries combine to assail you. His fiery darts, like poisoned arrows, privily shot at the upright in heart, often surprise you with a sudden and secret wounding of
the spirit. Or some cherished comfort is removed. made to feel like one whose pillow of rest in carnal ease has been suddenly taken from under his head — like one whose firmest footing has failed, as by a sudden landslip, to the utter destruction of “the foundations” of your earthly prosperity. In such circumstances of severe trial in their Christian course, “what can the righteous do ?" One thing at least you cannot do. Having put your hand to the plough, you cannot look back again. Called of God to a post of duty in His service, you feel it to be no less a post of honour; and you cannot quit it, even though it should prove a post of suffering. You will listen to not even the whisper that suggests a retreat. To every tempting offer of carnal ease on the mountains of vanity, your impatient reply will be, with David, “How say ye to my soul, Flee?” No danger will be to you so frightful as the danger of apostacy. You will face anything rather than the risk of that. Rather will you
suffer trials where God has called you to endure them, and where you can enjoy His blessed presence, and sympathy, and aids, than, by fleeing from trials, contrive for yourself a position of perhaps greater carnal ease for a short moment, but one which, since it is intentionally made a place of retreat from His service, God shall justly transform into a dreary place of banishinent from His own favour and presence. (Jonah i., ii.)
Or glance around the sphere of more public contendings for the faith and practice of a living Christianity, -scarcely ever was the constancy of its defenders more severely tried than now.
The “bow” of powerful antichristian confederacies is bent. “The arrow" is already, as it were, upon the string, in a deliberate aim at the very heart of our national religious life. All that art, and cunning, and sophistry can do, is tried to “privily” insinuate the deadly poison of practical infidelity into the public mind. You are assailed by the confederate foes of vital Christianity, under masked forms of opposition the most insidious. On the plea of freedom of thought, they would have you emancipate yourselves from the truth, because it comes from God by an external revelation ! On the plea of charity, they would persuade you to lengthen the cords of the Church for a “broad” and “comprehensive" communion, in the fellowship of which defections from the faith or failings of the flesh shall not be too severely condemned ;-wherein the world shall be allowed room enough to disport itself after its own peculiar fashions, till “Satan" may find it easy to have his "synagogue" alongside every assembly of true worshippers ! On the plea, forsooth, of reverence for things sacred, you are pleaded with not to desecrate holy things by connecting the teachings of God's Word too closely with the secularities of ordinary every-day life! And so, by sap and mine the most insidious, are we now craftily assailed for maiming and marring every earnest effort to promote among us the cause of vital Christianity! “What can the righteous do ?” comes to be the question. And the resolute courage of Faith in the true heart of every child of God is ready with the answer. It tolerates not the faintest whisper of retreating before the enemies of Christ and His cause. Insidious though the assaults may be, no profession of liberality, or charity, or reverence for what is sacred, can deceive you into any uncertainty as to their true character. « THE WICKED stand unmasked before you in the persons of these plausible pleaders for practical infidelity. Yours must therefore be the attitude of determined resistance. Planting the foot of faith firmly, in an act of full reliance upon God your Saviour, saying, “IN THE LORD PUT I MY TRUST,” you will stand in the evil day. Rebuking every hint of a surrender of the cause of a living Christianity, at the call of any confederation of her foes, open or concealed, the language of your indignant remonstrance with the treacherous suggestion of retreat will be, with David, “HOW SAY YE TO MY SOUL, FLEE?”
But, lastly, let David's experience, here recorded for you, enforce the further exhortation to
(2.) Live much aloft, in blessed communion with the Divine Object of a victorious faith.—Was it not from just such a life aloft, that David drew down all the inspiration which animated and encouraged him for the conflict here below? Listen to the language of this man of God, as he tells what, by faith, he saw in the world of unseen things. “The Lord,” says he “is in His holy temple; the Lord's throne is in the heavens.” It is as if he had said, Looking up, I see “the Lord in the heavens” revealed to me in such an aspect, and for the executing of such offices, as invite fellowship with Him there as “ in His holy temple,” the sanctuary of safety and of blessed communion with Himself. And shall not the fuller effulgence of the Gospel day in which you live, enable your faith to look up and see what shall fill David's language to you with an infinitely larger and sweeter measure of comforting significance than it ever had for him ?:
Should not you be ready to say, Looking up to the Lord in whom I put my trust, I see Him in the heavens, the great High Priest of a continual mediatorship, bringing sinners nigh to God by the blood of His own sacrifice, by the merits of His own perfect obedience giving to the prayers of His people the odours of a sweet-smelling savour? I see Him “in His holy temple,” as from a very sea of sanctifying grace, dispensing the holy issues of His great redemption work, pouring them forth for the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus iii. 5). In His discriminating verdict as to clean and unclean, I see Him the Priest who “is our Judge.” In His teaching by His word and Spirit, I see Him the Prophet who “is our Lawgiver.” In the reign of His grace, I see Him exalted a Prince whose “ throne is in the heavens.” “The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King, He will save us !” (Isa. xxxiii. 22). The
person and work of the Lord our Saviour, as the Priest, the Prophet, the King of His covenant people, is thus the one engrossing object which fills the eye and the heart of the believing child of God. Everything gladdening, everything sanctifying, and all that is victorious in the power of the life of faith, springs, as from its fountain, in the person and fulness of “the Lord" Himself alone. Seek you, then, to cherish an abiding fellowship with Jesus “in His holy temple,” as the Apostle and High Priest of your profession, the Priest whose “ throne is in the heavens.”
He is the Apostle of your profession. He is the Messenger sent from God to teach you, whom you profess to have received. See, then, that you cherish towards Him the deepest reverence for His authority speaking in His holy Word. Read it daily. Wait regularly on the preaching of it. Seriously apply its lessons, and honestly act up to them. Let it never be your heavy condemnation, that God has so long spared to you the privilege of an open Bible, and liberty to read it; so little better than a closed book has it been to you, you have so carelessly neglected, or so contemptuously despised its teaching. Times of an awful sifting are at hand. The enemy is come in like a flood. Terrible apostacy from the truth may be permitted among us.
And sure am I that I can point out the very class of persons among whom that falling away will happen. It will be among none so readily, so certainly, so fatally, as among you who have not been “established in the present truth” by having the Word dwelling in you richly by the engrafting grace of the Holy Ghost. In prayer for His teaching-reading your Bible as on your knees-seek diligently, I beseech you, to cherish an abiding fellowship with Jesus in His holy temple in the heavens as your Apostle. Amid the