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Comfort to the Mourner —Ps cii 1-12,

XLV.
COMFORT TO THE MOURNER.

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.

2 Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble;
Incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

3 For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an

hearth.

4 My heart is smitten, and withered like grass: so that I forget to eat my

bread.

5 By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.

6 I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.

7 I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top.

8 Mine enemies reproach me all the day;

And they that are mad against me are sworn against me.

9 For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,

1o Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.

11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.

12 But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever;

And thy remembrance unto all generations.— Psalm en.

OUR seasons of holy gladness and spiritual resolution are, alas, in our present state but transient. Perhaps the very intensity of our asseveration to be, to act, and to appear on the Lord's side, may lead us to self-examination, to discoveries of our weakness and backsliding, and even to deep sorrow and almost despondency. Thus, by being made to look into our hearts, even after grace has laid hold on us, we learn to know our misery, and our need of Him, and are ever cast afresh upon the infinite compassion and the unfailing help of our blessed Redeemer. Accordingly, the earnest entreaty, 'When wilt Thou come unto me?' (Ps. ci. 2) is taken up in the language of deepest humiliation, ' let my cry come unto Thee' (Ps. cii. 1). It is indeed, as the inscription bears, 'a cry of the poor and needy, when he faints and fails' (compare the term thus paraphrased with Ps. lxi. 2, and the precious promise in Isa. lvii. 16), 'and pours out his meditative complaint before Jehovah.' Indeed, these words, 'I will not contend for ever, neither will I always be wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made,' might be placed as inscription over this Psalm. Most precious encouragement this in our 'meditative complaint '—not a mere complaint, but prayerful also, and mindful of His covenant mercy and His covenant promises. And so the Psalm, which opens with such mournful words, closes in the bright anticipation, not only of redemption, but of the consummation of all things, and of His people with them (ver. 26-28). The Lord will not only arise and have mercy upon Zion when the 'set time is come,' but 'the heathen shall fear the name of Jehovah.' He will not only ' build up Zion,' and 'appear in His glory,' but (as included in it and giving present comfort in present trouble) ' He will regard the prayer of the destitute.' For as all suffering and sorrow pointed forward to the suffering of Christ, the God-man, the second Adam, so all prophecy of the future glory, and even

of the restoration of all things, point back for comfort and consolation to the state and wants of God's people at all times. That is the full consolation, this its first-fruits; that is the full deliverance, this its commencement; and the same principles which shall be fully unfolded at last are every day applied for the deliverance of the Church as a whole, and of believers in their individual capacity. And so all past history of our sufferings contains a principle which truly applied to Him, and all future glory of the Church, a principle which even now truly applies to us; and thus has Scripture ever an eternal meaning, reaching far beyond man, and a present application, even in its loftiest strains, ever descending to our lowest estate. Accordingly, we do not wonder to find, at the close of this Psalm, the comprehensive view expressed of God's works, in the widest sense—the record of the first creation of heaven and earth by Jesus Christ (see the application of vers. 25-27 to our Lord in Heb. i. 10), bringing up the promise of the new heavens and the new earth (ver. 26), rendered necessary by the state of matters complained of in this 'prayer of the needy.'

The general scope of the Psalm, and its connexion with the following, has been well traced by one as follows : 'To feel sin and death, and under it to wrestle for grace and pardon, and to seek after the kingdom of God and His righteousness, is the subject-matter of Psalm cii. To feel sin and death, and withal to have received pardon, and the Spirit who maketh alive, and thus to praise God, and in faith and patience to join one's-self to all God's saints, is the subjectmatter of Ps. ciii.' Whatever the immediate occasion of this complaint may have been, it is the cry of the Church in dark and evil days, in which by faith and prayer she gradually rises above the things seen to assurance of God's mercy, and to bright anticipation of the full glory to come. Thus it is prophetical as well as historical.

The Psalm opens in the manner, and almost with the words, of so many others uttered under similar circumstances (vers. 1, 2). For these three features of sin, mercy, and deliverance—of confession, faith, and joy—are the fundamental characteristics of the hymnal of the Church. One has designated such words as 'the old and stereotyped words of God, which spontaneously rise in the heart and on the lips of every one who giveth himself to prayer.' The peculiar wants and feelings of the Psalm appear with ver. 3. What an expression of felt misery under a deep sense of God's displeasure! His ' days' or life ' consumed in smoke'—passing like the unused fuel; his bones (or innermost being) ' burned as an hearth;' his ' heart smitten and withered like grass '—and all enjoyments and pleasures converted into sorrow and bitterness. And if such is our partial sense of His ' indignation' and ' wrath' (the terms here used being the strongest in the language), what would the full realization in eternity be! Mark its effects upon his heart. He seems to himself like one of those unclean birds, tenanting desert and ruined places (ver. 4). During the hours allotted to sleep ' I wake,' like a little bird which sits solitary on the house-top, while all beneath enjoy the sleep which He giveth to His beloved. The rage of his enemies has been unloosed against him: 'they that are raging against me, swear by me'—make me their curse, imprecating my fate upon others (ver. 8). Ashes are his bread, and tears the wine of his cup (ver. 9). All this because of 'Thine indignation and Thy wrath'—till his days seem like a prolonged shadow, extending and deepening into the gloom of night, and he himself like ' herb withered,' plucked up by the root, and therefore withering. Such is the grievous misery to which he has been brought, and out of this there seems only one way of escape,—by grace. And this shining path which now opens before him, he is enabled to pursue in the exercise of most humble, most earnest, and answered prayer.

There are seasons in the experience of the Christian, where prayer is his only, and, we might almost say, his last resort. We seem to have lost all consciousness of faith and every motion of hope; and nothing is left us but to cry unto the Lord. It is emphatically 'the day when I am in trouble.' Such 'trouble' may not primarily arise from spiritual causes, but be occasioned by something outward, as by sickness, desertion, persistent opposition, slander, or felt desolateness. Indeed, all these seem to be included in the complaint of this Psalm. Through the intimate and inseparable connexion of all things with God, and our intercourse with Him, they bear directly upon our spiritual state, just as from a similar intimate connexion the condition of the body has its influence upon the mind. If, under such circumstances, God could forsake us—we say it reverently—our condition would indeed be terrible. But for all needed help He will be inquired of. Despair is the consequence of want of prayer. Deliverance and prayer are wedded in the covenant of grace. 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will answer thee.' So the Psalmist found it, and so God's people find it every day. It is when we lean upon the staff that we feel how strong is its support. Over against the experience of darkness and trouble stands the record of signal deliverance, running not only parallel to it, but far outrunning it, as John outran Peter. And ever when we come to the tomb, we find it empty—for Christ is not here, He is risen! The world's tears are dried up by time, those of the Christian are wiped away by the hand which still bears the print of the nails. They are also preserved in His bottle. In seasons of anguish, let me straightway fall upon my knees and tell all to God ; even though I enjoy not the sensible presence of God, though I feel no present encouragement to prayer or in prayer, though it seems as if I were beating the very air. If I can say nothing else, I may at least—under a sense, or in the apprehension of spiritual desertion—entreat God not to hide His face from me. I can also tell Him all my state, entering particularly into every aggravating circumstance. If I only go deep enough, I shall at last come upon the Rock. 'But Thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever, and Thy remembrance unto all generations.' And when the Rock is struck, it gushes forth its living waters.

1. Before I pray, and when I pray, let me remember that my encouragement in prayer is derived not from anything in myself, but from Him alone. 'The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.' If I keep this in view, I shall be able at all times to go to Him; for my varying circumstances, wants, or state of mind and heart, in nowise affect either my reason or my warrant for praying. Both these are derived directly from what He is in Christ Jesus. Nay, what in my perverseness I feel as discouragements, should rather incite me to prayer. The want of His felt presence, the fear of being left to myself, and the manifold troubles under which I labour, are they not so many reasons to 'arise and call' upon my God? In this connexion let me now believingly ponder the parable which shows 'that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.'

2. O my soul, dark clouds have this day gathered around thee. The heart knoweth its own bitterness. But reason not with thyself; least of all seek for comfort from sight or from carnal counsels. Go straight to God, go as thou art. Perhaps I may not be able at present even to search into this matter, with a view to the confession of my sin in connexion with it, until I have prayed. Let not Satan rob me of this. Let me now cast myself at the feet of Christ; for truly, next to the apprehension of the hiding of His face from me, is the fear of my hiding my face from Him.

3. O that I could at last learn this lesson: 'Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?' How unwilling and loath is my heart to give up this dependence upon the creature! How often have I experienced the bitter disappointment and the keen pang of being forsaken by man, and that when help seemed most needed. The stoop broke under me when, weary, I most longed for its support. 'Trust not in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no stay.' But does not this drive me to-day to Thee, who 'shalt endure for ever?' 'The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever'—in infinite grace, in almighty power, in unsearchable wisdom, in inexhaustible goodness, in never-failing truth, and in ever-ready help. Thus, if Thou cast me loose from my pleasant anchorage, drive me now to Thyself; and let me now, in blessed experience, O Lord Jesus, know it, that 'Thou art a refuge to them that are oppressed!'

A Thousand years have fleeted,

And, Saviour! still we see Thy deed of love repeated

On all who come to Thee. As he who sat benighted,

Afflicted, poor, and blind; So now (Thy word is plighted)

Joy, light, and peace I find.

I came with steps that falter'd;

Thy course I felt Thee check;
Then straight my mind was alter'd,

And bow'd my stubborn neck.
Thou saidst, 'What art thou seeking?'

'O Lord, that I might see!' Oh! then I heard Thee speaking,

'Believe, and it shall be.'

Our hope, Lord, faileth never,

When Thou Thy word dost plight; My fears then ceased for ever,

And all my soul was light. Thou gavest me Thy blessing;

From former guilt set free, Now heavenly joy possessing,

O Lord, I follow Thee!

F. DE lA MOTTE FOUQUB.
{F. Elis. Cox.)