CHRIST OUR FORERUNNER.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly
7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; My reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the Lord always before me:
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest
in hope: 1o For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;
Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy;
At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.—Psalm Xv1.
THE more closely we view our heavenly inheritance, the more humbling and sad appear our low and carnal views concerning it. We can understand how those who have no better hope cling with every fibre of their hearts to this world, but it is passing strange that Christians should cherish such high views of the world, and such low views of God and of heaven. Is it so, that while the Bridegroom tarrieth, even the wise virgins slumber and sleep; or are we content so far to live below our privileges as to keep always only just above the point of starvation? And here it is most important to bear in mind that the main part of our religion consisteth not in escape from eternal destruction. This, indeed, is our first necessity, and those who speak lightly of such experience have forgotten that ' the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' But it is only its beginning, not its sum and substance. A religion which is only the offspring or the embodiment of fear is not that of liberty, far less of joy. To be set free from the wrath to come is indeed a marvel of grace, which may well call forth our never-ceasing song of gratitude. Yet is it, so to speak, only the negative part of our religion. Our joy lies not merely in this, that we have escaped, but in what we have found; not merely in what has been taken from us, but in what has been given to us. This contrast is most fully brought out in Isa. lxi. 3. Not negative, but positive good calls forth our gratitude and love, and this in proportion as it is believingly realized. Here, perhaps, also is the secret of our strength. And in connexion with this matter it is very marked that the one aspect of our religion is chiefly subjective, the other chiefly objective; the one presents what we need for our safety, the other what He is and what He gives for His own glory. And truly, most wondrous condescension is it that God gives Himself to us—not only hereafter, but even now, in our spiritual provision and in our spiritual joy. All that He is in Christ, He is to us, and for us. 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.' 'Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.'
When the soul has realized this fulness of all possession in Christ, it breaks forth into singing. No language can be too strong and no expectation too great for those the lot of whose inheritance and the portion of whose cup is Jehovah Himself. Truly, we cannot but show forth His praises,—all the more when at the same time we realize our position and desert by nature. So far as our present state is concerned, ours is the experience of vers. 6, J; so far as our future hope is concerned, ours is the expectancy of vers. 9, 10. Therefore, whether present or future, we cherish the joyous conviction of ver. 11. 'The lines' (or measuring lines) 'are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage' (literally, also mine inheritance is resplendent above me). 'Thenceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.' And such clear views had even Old Testament saints of their possession here, and of their inheritance hereafter. Faith which reposes in the simplicity of perfect confidence upon the Lord —not leaning upon its strength, nor drawing its encouragements from its own actings—cherishes not doubt. Doubts are clouds which, passing between Christ and our souls, hide the view of Him. It is in measure as we look witkin, instead of looking without, that we give place to fear. It almost seems as if the nearer in our spiritual apprehension we come to Christ, the more the horizon becomes enlarged and the view unclouded (vers. 9, 10). We reach the sphere of certainty and of praise when we lay hold on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is also noteworthy how assurance and a feeling of the sovereignty of grace are conjoined. If imparted by the Spirit of God, that doctrine will not distress, but humble, and therefore lift us up. 'I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel.' This counsel cometh of the Lord, and eternal thanks are due unto Him who by His grace and Spirit has so enlightened our minds in the knowledge of His dear Son, and quickened our hearts to receive the truth in the love of it. That surely is a very deep and lively feeling of joy in the Lord which leads to thanksgiving not only by day, but also by night. 'My reins also instruct me in the night seasons.' Nor, though primarily applicable to the night in its literal sense, is it necessary to confine it to that. In seasons of prosperity and of adversity we equally joy in our present possession and in our future inheritance. Of that no power on earth or in hell can rob us. Nay, all events, however seemingly untoward, only tend increasingly to show us its reality and value, and to deepen our hold upon it. It were indeed difficult, so to speak, to keep pace with this joyous upward flight. 'I have set Jehovah always before me.' This is true spiritual purpose, and true spiritual strength. The face turned towards Him, the eye fixed upon Him, now and at all times—-such is the habit, and such the irrepressible longing of the soul. Like Israel of old, we move and we rest with the ark. Yet this also is not our own. 'Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.' To free grace we owe continuance in grace. Like Peter, we are ready to sink, were it not for the arm of His power, and were not that Hand stretched forth at the right moment. And on this Power we can always lay hold. Such is the covenant of grace that it makes provision for all necessities, and that every provision is of Him and in Him. They who fear have not well learned the blessedness of believing. But let us add to our faith diligence. 'Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation.' 'Therefore, mine heart has been glad, and mine honour' (or soul—the soul being our honour) ' shall jubilee, also my flesh' (or body) 'shall dwell unto safety' (or security, derived from a verb which originally means to be wide, extended, or comprehensive). With gratitude we mark, that the prospect of joy and safety extends to all the component elements of our being— spirit or heart, soul or honour, and flesh or body. In fact, it is the realization of the apostolic prayer (I Thess. v. 23): 'I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' And this hope is held on the same ground as that of David: 'Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it' Thus while our heart has rejoiced, our soul, which in that day will really be our 'honour,' shall jubilee. And our body also shall dwell in safety and to safety—both in the sense of security and final dominion over the earth. But it were a mistake to suppose that this promise refers only to our dead bodies. The expression, 'my flesh shall dwell in safety,' is general, and applies to our bodies, whether living or dead. It includes our ' rest in hope;' but also our service in hope. Again, this promise with reference to our bodies terminates not with the grave, but extends beyond it to the blessed resurrection. Our body (both now and hereafter) shall be preserved blameless, as well as our spirit and soul, unto the coming of the Lord. The reasoning by which he arrives at this conclusion is pre
eminently one of faith. 'For Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol' (or Hades). I am inclined to suppose that the expression here translated soul includes, if not the whole life of man (body, soul, and spirit), at least his spiritual part. Indeed, it might be rendered by the word 'life.' The Lord will not leave or surrender us to the power of the grave. So far as our Head was concerned it is noteworthy that Peter (Acts ii. 27), renders this promise : 'Thou wilt not leave my soul into Hades' (in the original). Because He was not surrendered or left into Hades, are we not left to Hades. One step more and the climax is reached: 'Thou wilt not give Thine Holy One to see corruption' (for so we would render the term in preference to 'the grave' (although the two ideas coincide). What was true of Christ in a unique sense is true of all His people. Precious dust shall be gathered; sown in dishonour, it is raised in honour. We now see how David has left all fear far behind him, and is more than conqueror through Him that conquered. In view of this final victory—' the last enemy' 'overcome'—we have perfect liberty, security, and joy. Neither life nor death can separate from God those for whom Christ died. Grace binds them to Him who is the living and the life-giving God. 'Thou wilt show me' (literally, cause me to know, to experience, or even to feel) 'the path of life'—in the widest sense, both of His teaching and of His guidance in it. Higher, yet higher does the enrapt vision rise, beyond the pearly gates, where faith gives place to sight, and prayer to praise. 'In Thy presence is fulness of joy;' literally, 'satisfying' (satiation) 'of joys is with Thy face' (in the fellowship of it). One view of Him whom we love and worship, even here fills and satiates the soul with joy. What when no cloud nor veil shall intervene, and no sin nor unbelief disturb! And yet, though satisfied and filled, there will be constantly fresh bestowal out of that infinite fulness which is in Him. 'Pleasures' (delights) 'in Thy right hand for ever,'—the word for eternity here used being derived from one which signifies to bind, to conquer, and hence to continue. Thus, with the vision of glory, in the full blaze of its light, and in the full enjoyment of its blessings, closes this truly apocalyptic Psalm of Christ and His Church.
1. Let me think of the character and disposition of God's people. Truly, it is all of grace, and because it is of grace let us seek to stand by prayer. We have made the Lord our refuge, and He will preserve us. How fully is this prayer destined to be answered, when not only our heart shall rejoice and our honour jubilee, but our very flesh shall dwell in safety. Christ has redeemed the whole man; the Holy Ghost maketh the whole man His temple; and the Father preserveth the whole man. And in this sense also must we exhibit corresponding fruits. The Lord is our only 'good,' and all gifts, blessings, and privileges which we enjoy, whether temporal or spiritual, come to us directly from God. I may have my larder full and my table spread, yet I pray none the less earnestly than my poorest brother, 'Give us this day our daily bread.' My manna comes from heaven every day, and well may it be called manna— 'What is this ?'—as expressive of its heavenly origin. Again, it becomes us, as God's elect, to separate ourselves, not from
intercourse but from fellowship with the world, and that in its most attractive forms. 'Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity against God?' With all their observance of outward ordinances, deep-seated in their hearts is alienation from Him. There cannot be a covenant between us and them,—there ought not even to be a truce.
2. The delight of the soul in realizing its heavenly portion is almost unbounded. There is a true contempt of the world—not of men, but of worldly elements—which is the necessary sequence of our intense satisfaction with the heavenly inheritance. And ever and again do we joy to refer all to Him who is 'the Author and the Finisher' of our faith. Along with this let us cherish the spiritual determination to 'set Jehovah always' before us. Most of our doubts and difficulties arise from neglect of this. To have a single eye is the condition of being full of light. Lord, let me not seek mine own; let me be jealous for Thee; what affects Thy cause and kingdom affects me; keep me close to Thyself, nay, be Thou at my right hand for ever!'
3. Though I should not cherish morbid feelings concerning this life, as if it were not the best state for me at present, nor a morbid desire to lay down my armour ere the battle is finished, let me ever and again refresh myself with thoughts of the victory, the home, and the rest. Thus shall I best be nerved for the strife. And what carefulness of walk becomes me; nay, what high dignity attaches even to the body, in view of God's provision for us, whom He has redeemed, body, soul, and spirit. That is not common which bears the impress of the King's property. That should be kept pure and
bright which is destined for the Master's household. We often fail, because we fail to realize our dignity and privileges. 0 that I had grace to live this week, this day, as in view of 'the inheritance of the saints in light!' Out of that fulness of joy which is in Thy presence, let me now have enough for comfort, for strength, and for refreshment; and evermore give me to drink of this water!
Jesus my Redeemer lives,
Christ my trust is dead no more;
In the strength this knowledge gives,
Shall not all my fears be o'er;
Calm, though Death's long night be fraught
Still with many an anxious thought?
Jesus my Redeemer lives,
And His life I too shall see:
Bright the hope this promise gives,
Where He is I there shall be.
Shall I fear, then? Can the Head
Rise and leave the members dead?
I shall see Him with these eyes,
Him whom I so truly know;
Surely I myself shall rise,
With His love my heart shall glow:
Only then shall disappear
Weakness which besets me here.
Lou1sa Of Brandenburgh.