Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Saved as by Fire —Ps vi ,

VIII.
SAVED AS BY FIRE.

1 O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot

displeasure.

2 Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my

bones are vexed.

3 My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?

4 Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.

5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give

thee thanks? ,

6 I am weary with my groaning;

All the night make I my bed to swim: I water my couch with my tears.

7 Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine

enemies.

8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the

voice of my weeping.

9 The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. 1o Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed:

Let them return and be ashamed suddenly.—Psalm VI.

ANOTHER morning prayer this (comp. ver. 6), but of a very different strain from the last, forming one of the seven 'penitential Psalms' (vi., xxxii., xxxviii., li., cii., exxx., cxliii.) It is the utterance and entreaty, not merely of one greatly tempted, but of one suffering in consequence of sin, though we have not the means of deciding whether or not in consequence of any special sin. Yet how comforting to us, under a sense of guilt and apprehended wrath, to have such an example and such a directory for prayer!' Adest miseria,' writes St. Gregory, 'adsit et misericordia! These three things appear very prominently in this Psalm: full confession of sin, full outpouring of the heart, and full conf1dence in the Lord. And these are the three elements in all godly sorrow. The first embraces acknowledgment of guilt, vindication of the Divine character, and godly horror of sin; the second is approach to God with softened heart and opened lips, to tell all our fears and wants; the third consists of laying hold on the divinely appointed remedy, embracing the promises by faith, and being well assured that, for the sake of Jesus Christ, He is able and willing to receive, to pardon, and to answer us in peace. Thus from the cry of anguish do we gradually emerge into the words of peace, and even into the song of joy.

What a pathetic strain runs through the deprecatory supplication of ver. I! The 'anger' and 'hot displeasure' of Jehovah are apprehended, as having been justly deserved. Rebuke and chastisement are dreadful, chiefly so far as connected with sin. 'Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.' The first and most obvious effect of chastisement is self-examination and humiliation. Rebuke is God's call to repentance. But our most immediate feeling under it is that of being wellnigh overwhelmed. The remembrance not only of present, but perhaps of long past sins comes back upon us, and gradually deepens into a sense of utter vileness and wretchedness. All that we can here do is to deprecate in most suppliant tones: 'Jehovah—not in Thine anger rebuke me, and not in Thy hot displeasure chasten me.' Yet the opening word, 'Jehovah,' is 'a door of hope.' It implies grace. Accordingly, vers. 2 and 3 apply ver. 1 in the way of entreaty. 'Have mercy upon me' (or, 'be gracious unto me;' show grace, do grace), 'O Jehovah.' Grace is the opposite of wrath and hot displeasure; and it is grace, not merely forgiveness, which is sought. If the effects even of apprehended wrath are such to body and soul that we feel 'weak,' or rather faded—like a plant over which the withering blight has passed; that our 'bones are vexed,' or rather 'are afraid,' 'tremble,' and that our 'soul is much afraid,' or 'trembleth much,'—what must the reality be! Truly horror and anguish have taken hold on us. Afflictions, trials, and sorrows may be bitter; but the root of bitterness is sin, and ' the strength of sin is the law.' Oh, fellow-sinner, what exultation that we are still on praying ground !' It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!' The simple grandeur of these words comes with crushing weight upon the awakened conscience. 'From Thy presence whither shall I go?' What a cry of agony, when every open wound seems to cry out, yet not violently, but intensely, 'Heal me, O Jehovah!' There is a dreadful earnestness and reality which cannot brook delay: 'But Thou, O Jehovah, how long?'* My bleeding wounds will I lay upon Thy bleeding wounds, O Lamb of God, slain for me! Thus, and thus only, is there 'healing.' Thou and I, —as it were the only two beings in existence: I, the sinner wounded; Thou, the Saviour wounded. If there is not healing here, and healing for me, truly help is not anywhere.

1 This expression, 'How long?' was the constant comfort and motto of Calvin.

Another cry of anguish: this time not from depths so low. Light seems gradually streaming in. A sense of the free love of God is returning. Jehovah has been gracious; Jehovah is full of grace. His grace is the cause of my hope and the plea of my prayer, and that in my low and helpless state. From first to last it must be His work, and a mighty as well as a marvellous work: 'Return, O Jehovah, deliver my soul' (literally, 'pull out my soul,' the same word as in Lev. xiv. 40—the expression occurring in the same connexion in 2 Sam. xxii. 20; Ps. iv. 15, lxxxi. 7); 'cause me, or make me, to be saved for Thy grace's sake.' Most full experience of evangelical repentance this ; consisting of a view of ourselves, a view of God in Christ, with the prayer of faith as connecting bond. Not works, not amendment; but free grace, and all of Him 'who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,' 'and the work of faith with power.' 'Not for the sake of my merits', saith Luther, 'which are nothing at all. Therefore, help for Thy mercy's sake, that the glory and praise of Thy compassion may for ever appear in my salvation.' One glance into the yawning gulf beneath reveals alike the awful danger, and what the awakened soul chiefly dreads (ver. 5). It is not merely 'death,' or the separation of body and soul, which is the object of dread and awe, but death with 'Sheol' (rendered in our version 'the grave'), or the separation of body and soul from God,—the absence of all honourable remembrance of God (for that is implied in the term), and of all loving, or praiseful, and thankful record of Him. To those who have realized in any measure 'the pains of hell,' it is not necessary to explain expressions (vers. 6, 7) which, while labouring to portray feeling, come far short of it. Aptly, one here also notes on ver. 6, that while 'a word is often incapable of expressing its own meaning, a tear can always say what it would.'

Such cry cannot be unheard ; for God is Jehovah. 'God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.' While he is yet mourning, confessing, pleading, dreading before God (which is very different from fearing merely the consequences of sin or carrying our grief within us), light and comfort are suddenly poured into his soul, and that not from himself, nor from his own altered state of feeling, but from God. This experience is ever combined with holy shrinking from sin and holy separation from sinners (ver. 8). It almost seems as if the realization of his 'enemies' (ver. 7) had now led him to the realization of his Friend (ver. 8). Three times does he triumphantly repeat the assurance that he is heard (vers. 8, 9)—in his ' loud weeping,' his earnest 'supplication,' and his humble 'prayer.' And this is Christian assurance in its practical aspect and application: not any abstract belief or supposition, but continuous application to Him from the depths; with this twofold certainty—that 'Jehovah hath heard,' and that 'Jehovah will accept' (or, take; in our version 'receive') 'my prayer.' Amen—even so be it unto us. Through grace, by faith; and as for all the rest,—as for the enemies, whether men or devils,—safe, quite safe, joyously safe, safe for time and for eternity; for they are no longer mine but Thine enemies.

1. O my soul, again, and in the depths, learn this most sweet and blessed lesson, that 'we ought always to pray and not to faint.' This is the alternative, as thou well knowest: to pray or to faint. But grace has decided it in favour of praying, by the gift of Jesus Christ. Evangelical repentance, not self-consuming sorrow, is possible; grace flows from the mercy-seat in the channel of Christ's finished work. 'All things are possible to him that believeth '—even salvation. Let me here believingly meditate on Heb. x., especially vers. 17-24. The question as between praying and fainting thus decided, let me ever remember it when ' my soul is cast down within me,' and when 'deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts.' Whatever those waterspouts be, they are Thine; and herein lies at the same time the danger and the hope. O my soul, not unfrequently hast thou felt so utterly 'sore vexed,' afraid, and 'faded,' that prayer seemed to die on the lips and to be almost impossible,—until the Lord, by His Spirit, shone on some such declaration or promise as Rom. viii. 38, 39, and then the conflict seemed at once decided, and streams of grace were flowing through these blessed words, refreshing, watering, and reviving. Grace is the turning-point of despair—from me to Thee; and then I am safe.

2. Therefore, however low I may sink, there is not a depth but grace goes still deeper. 'Underneath' (still underneath, at whatever depth) 'are the everlasting arms.' 'The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost' For the first time, and in the only sense, do I boast in the title— lost; and eagerly do I claim to write my own name in full between these four letters, which otherwise would have been covered by those of hell, but now are met by those of ' seek' and 'save.' Truly language cannot fully express what I am and what I deserve; yet tongue of man or angel cannot adequately tell or sing what Thou art and what Thou givest. 'O to grace how great a debtor!' Nor let me here forget devoted, grateful service in acknowledgment, though not in payment of the debt. With my sins I now dismiss my sorrows; and with my sorrows, my fears; and with my fears, mine enemies. I learn the doctrine of holy carelessness, which is being 'careful for nothing' (either for soul or for body, for time or for eternity), 'but' (and without that addition it were not the truth) 'in everything, by prayer and supplication' (sometimes rather by prayer, at others rather by supplication, but always) 'with thanksgiving,' letting our 'requests be made known unto God!

3. O my soul, thou mayest go as deep as this Psalm: thou canst not go deeper. Thou mayest overwhelmingly feel thyself lost: thou canst not go deeper. Christ is a Saviour: thou canst not go higher. This embraces thy full case, and meets it. 'I will arise and go to my Father:' there is the need, the warrant, and the assurance. I need no more. To ask more were unbelief. God requires no more. He has given Christ. Much as I have learnt about grace, it seems to me as if it were still towering so far aloft as to reach ' unto the clouds' (see Ps. xxxvi. 5-10). Remember, grace is God's sufficiency in our insufficiency, God's rich giving in our abject poverty, God's coming in our tarrying, God's pouring forth in our emptiness. And grace is its own reason: give grace —for Thy grace's sake! How precious, then, is the covenant of grace; and even much more so the Mediator of that covenant, Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour! Lord, when I do not see, help me to believe; let my soul, and the souls of those dear to me, and of all for whom I pray, be precious in Thy sight; let them be bound up with Christ in the bundle of life.

Safe home, safe home in port!—

Bent cordage, shattered deck,

Torn sails, provisions short,

And only not a wreck:
But oh! the joy upon the shore
To tell our voyage-perils o'er!

The prize, the prize secure!

The athlete nearly fell;

Bare all he could endure,

And bare not always well:
But he may smile at troubles gone
Who sets the victor-garland on!

S. Joseph Of The Stad1um.

{Hymns of the Eastern Church.)