I The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy-work. '2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of
In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends
And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.—Psalm xIx.
It is one of the most common yet most grievous deceptions of the enemy, to lead us to separate the God of nature from the God of grace. Of the many who profess to view the one, how few realize the other! And if the world is ignorant of the God of grace, may not the reproach be sometimes brought against believers that they fail, if not in realizing the God of nature, yet in feeling that the God of grace is also the God of nature? This conviction, if properly entertained, would give us an entirely new, even a spiritual view of nature. Ungodliness, or refusal to submit to Jehovah, lurks deep in our hearts, and there is perhaps the same leaven of atheism in the morbid asceticism which joys not in the gifts of the Lord, as in the gross impiety which shocks our religious feelings. But besides, it is, to say the least, a grievous want not to behold the beauty of the Lord in His works as well as in His Word. Our attention should not require to be specially called to them, nor should a mechanical assent to their declaring His glory suffice us. They should be quick to discern the hand of the Lord who have learned to hear His voice. Again, it is most needful to be properly instructed in this matter, not merely for worship, but for comfort. Believers enjoy their propriety in nature in measure as they feel that these are the works of their Father. For this fair dominion cannot remain subject to sin and to death. Lastly, believers gain a different view of the ordering and adapting of the laws of nature, of the government of the world, and consequently of the prevailing power of prayer, when they fully enter into this experience: 'All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Jehovah; and Thy saints shall bless Thee.'
Here is a morning song which most vividly sets before us the healthy spiritual state of a believer. Awakening from 'quiet rest, because Thou hast sustained me,' he openeth His eyes to all the wonders about him, and reads in the sky, sun, moon, and stars, the name and the glory of his God. But brighter far than all their glory, and louder far than all their praise, he sees and hears what the covenant of grace unfolds. This indeed is dearest to his heart. Not that he neglects
the one, but that it leads him onwards and upwards. 'All this and heaven besides/ said an eminent saint of our days, when one of the fairest prospects in our isles was opened to him. Nay, all this and a present heaven, and present fellowship with our Saviour. What were the heavens without the God of heaven, who is also our God and Father? And, as one has remarked, though the heavens declare the glory of God, they declare not His will, by the which we are justified and sanctified. All this is ours, and heaven is ours, and thus have we true gladness, because we have found Him of whom Moses and the Prophets spake. With such cheerful spirit look we abroad, because we have possessed ourselves of the pearl of great price.
Truly God 'has not left Himself without a witness.' 'Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.' There are silent sermons delivered all day and all night in every place. Alas, that men heed not the testimony! Engrossed with other matters, or forgetting the Creator in the creature, what might have proved precious instruction is lost to them. Yet only to tJiem. For, when we look upward, 'the heavens declare' (relate, tell) 'the glory of God, and the firmament showeth' (makes known, announces) 'His handy-work.' The sidereal heavens, with their untold worlds, relate His might and wisdom; the blue sky above us, with all its wonders, announces its Divine origin. Busy, many-tongued 'day pours forth speech unto day,' and silent 'night showeth knowledge unto night' The unfinished communication of one day pours, like the waters of an ever-flowing stream, into the next day, each taking up the broken tale, and each too short-lived to finish it. The unspoken instructions of one night are resumed by her sister, till silent nights shall burst into the bright and never-ending day of eternal Hallelujah. The story is ever the same. When I open mine eyes in the morning, it is upon the continuation of yesterday's story of wonders. When at night I lay me down, the srlent watchers overhead bring with them the record of the mercies of last night. This sun has risen over Beth-el, and seen many a Beth-el since. This night with all her silent lessons has shown knowledge to Abraham, and taught the shepherds in Bethlehem's plains what it taught to him who had seen His day afar off. And the skill which ordered these heavens, and the hand which arched this sky, and the power which filled both these heavens and that sky, are those of 'our Father' which is 'in heaven.'
Surely, where He has placed mute testimonies will He also have living and speaking witnesses; and these proclamations which are being put up in all parts of His creation, are themselves evidence and pledge that He will take the government unto Himself. 'Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.' It seems as if this Psalm, and Psalm xxxii., which in a sense completes its teaching, had been favourite hymns with Paul. And the reason of it is manifest. For the one was to him a constant spiritual commentary on nature, in his labours far away among the heathen, who, silent themselves, had so grievously misunderstood and misapplied its teaching. Again, Ps. xxxii. would show him how easily free grace could accomplish what free grace had promised. And these two Psalms are, indeed, excellent missionary hymns. Far away from home and its privileges, has the missionary been long preceded by silent preachers, who speak to him as they do to those who understand not their teaching. 'It is not language; they are not words; nor is their voice heard' (for so, as it appears to us, ver. 3 should be rendered). Yet unspoken and unheard as is the testimony of heaven and sky, 'their measuring line has gone forth in all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.' One at least understood the language of these messengers. In his believing view, they have measured the boundary-line of earth as the King's possession; to his believing ear they have made proclamation of the King. Thus, as their record is daily and nightly repeated, have we a pledge, more precious than the rainbow was to Noah, that Jesus will take possession of His kingdom and reign. And so read we Rom. x. 18. Unheeding all the wickedness and vileness which is constantly enacted in their view, like the seraphim these heralds constantly proclaim God. And as from his chamber steps forth the bridegroom, so at early morn sheds the glorious sun his fresh and reviving light; as a hero in his strength he passeth over his course, nor is aught hid or withdrawn from his rays. The sun is in nature the fullest emblem of the Divine manifestation, as he is the source of our terrestrial wellbeing. His light, life, and heat, and the all-pervading, all-penetrating, reviving, and healing influences of his beams, ever remind us of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings!
Thus far for the lessons of nature. And now abruptly— almost as if he had lingered too long in the court of the Gentiles—the holy worshipper turns to higher spiritual realities (ver. 7). These two things let us carefully avoid: not to perceive the voice of God in nature, or else to remain entranced by what after all is song without words. There is a true sense in which we are led up 'from nature to nature's God.' But even here it is extremely dangerous to linger too long without. The heart of the believer longs to hear the voice of the Beloved. It is grace, our gifted interest in all, because in Him, which charms and holds us entranced. Oh what a God is our God, who has made the heavens the strings of His harp, and written His Name in the sky; the endless story of whose glory pours forth each day to its dying breath, and whose knowledge is nightly taught to a silent uerse; whose sun, all-pervading in his gifts, is but the faint type of Him whose likeness of light he bears. But the cross and Calvary, grace and truth, are ever our main theme. We know more than the heavens preach, for His Son hath spoken to us in these last days. Yet is it well thus to connect nature with grace. For then each morning's sun will also revive and warm our hearts, and carry us on his beams up to Him who is the light and life of the soul.
1. 'Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.' O my soul, dread the practical atheism of those who are ever quick to discern second causes, but ever fail to recognise the first cause. All these are His creatures : they sprung into being by His creative word; they must therefore have been intended for His glory; and this their object will finally be accomplished. Even now they subserve most important spiritual purposes. They already declare His glory, and are employed in His work. God has very varied messengers. Not only do ' dragons and all deeps' praise Him, but' fire and hail, snow and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling His word! It is very precious and very comforting to think of these His creatures as 'fulfilling His word.' How readily can He call them forth 'from their chambers!' And how easily can He, who ' commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves' of the sea, make ' the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.' Therefore let me not be afraid at any outward thing; all these are God's servants. Even with reference to the devil, as one of the Fathers has it, 'his will only is evil, but his power is just; for his will is of himself, but his power is of God.' Therefore what strong consolation and security have we, whose Father in Christ is that God, and who know that whatever messenger or servant He may employ, though it be the storm or the pestilence, famine, disease, or want, His purposes are those of infinite and eternal grace.
2. Again and again let us learn this lesson: 'All things must work together for good to them that love Him.' Our Christianity must not wither when temptations arise, nor be choked by the possessions and enjoyments of this world. In the enjoyment of the creature let us learn how passing its beauty is, and how glorious and gracious the Creator. If creature-good be withdrawn, let it only lead us the more closely to Him who faintcth not, neither is weary. It is a morbid asceticism which shutteth itself up from the world. Sanctification is not negative, but positive. It is not a negation of the world, but an affirmation of God in it. Our religion lies not in withdrawal from the world, but in leavening it with the gospel. Yet how exceedingly difficult is it to be rightly affected in this matter. Lord, I ever err by excess. I have laid too much value on the things of sense and of time, and have forgotten the Giver in the gift, nay, I have been carried far beyond Thee, and chosen mine own ways. Thy gifts, instead of leading me to Thee, have led me from Thee. I have not read Thy name in nature, nor viewed Thy propriety in the creature. Pardon, Lord, and teach me to know wisdom. Or else we have strayed into the opposite extreme, and even if we attached not merit to it, we imagined that we had overcome sin by retiring so far as we could from contact with His creatures. Yet should all these be made subservient to Thy glory. So help me to live as to live for Thee. Then only make I right use of the creature when it bears constant reference to Thee.
3. 'Their line is gone forth through all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.' Wherever we may go to preach His name, He has had a preacher before us. We need not despond in our work. His sun, His moon, and His stars must shine upon His earth. 'Now we see not yet all things put in subjection under Him.' What, ever after that glorious promise (Gen. xv. 5), the stars must have been to Abraham, that and much more are His works to us. And yet they preach unspoken sermons! How much greater privileges have been vouchsafed unto us! We clearly know what they dimly indicate. This God is our Father in Christ Jesus who loved us. And shall we be mute alone of all His works, we to whom most mercy has been shown? Mark this, my soul. All His works reflect His glory. Fear not the creature, worship the Creator. Love not the creature with absolute love; 'love the Lord, all His saints.' Serve the Lord in and with all these things, and show forth the praises of Him who hath given thee propriety in them by giving thee propriety in Himself. This day let me make believing acknowledgment of God in the world, and believing use of the world for God.
There nor waxing moon nor waning,
Sun nor stars in courses bright:
For the Lamb to that glad city
Shines an everlasting light;
There the daylight beams for ever—
All unknown are time and night.
For the saints, in beauty beaming,
Shine in light and glory pure;
Crown'd in triumph's flushing honours,
Joy in unison secure,
And in safety, till their battles
And their foes' discomfiture.
Christ, Thy soldier's palm of honour,
Unto this Thy city free
Lead me, when my warfare's girdle
I shall cast away from me:
A partaker in Thy bounty,
With Thy blessed ones to be.
S. Peter Dam1ano.