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Strong Crying Ps xx 1-3,

XXVIII.
STRONG CRYING.

1 The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee.

2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.

3 Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice. Selah.

Psalm Xx.

This is a Psalm of very joyous confidence, such as well befits the experience of Ps. xix. For 'this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.' So strongly is this confidence here expressed that prayer seems almost swallowed up in praise. Indeed, as Luther remarks, it is a shout of triumph before the victory, and a cry of joy before the help. Another peculiarity, closely connected with the former, is the exclusive character of such faith. It is not shutting our eyes, as it were, to the things that are seen, but deliberately looking at them, and then away from them to much higher realities. A faith like this implies a deep sense of Christ's presence and sufficiency. For the sufficiency of a present Christ is ever the ground of our joy. He fills all, so that nothing is left empty; no want unsupplied; no fear unallayed; no request unanswered; no desire unmet. And in such joy we know not whether most to exult or most to tremble, for it is holy joy, wrought in us by the Spirit of God. Hence it is ever best and most appropriate that our joy should assume the form of prayer, and pour itself forth in fellowship with God, and in petitions for things agreeable to His will.

In its fullest sense the Psalm applies to Christ the King, and to the establishment of His kingdom. Whatever the primary or immediate occasion of its composition may have been, it reached far beyond David, and is a prayer of the Church, in which every individual believer may find his title to an expected answer. In the victory of our exalted Head over all His enemies our victory is included. Full of sweet comfort to every afflicted child of God, it is also very precious as being capable of application to our distressed brethren. And the optative form in which the verbs are couched in our authorized version, is in the original expressed by the future tense. This is most significant to the eye of faith, for ' we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.' 'Jehovah hear thee' (or, will hear thee) 'in the day of trouble' (literally, sorrow, anguish, pressure); 'the name of the God of Jacob set thee on high' (or, will set thee on high, and so forth in the four opening verses). There are days of pressure and anguish, of loneliness and desertion. Nor can any stranger bring his own standard to bear upon what I feel as my anguish. We have even more propriety in our sorrows than in our joys. In such circumstances, what is left to us? Surely not the help of man. Even where that is possible it is not sufficient. Like him of old, we must learn to spread our case before God. And He hears us in the day of trouble; not before it, but during its course. There is no ground for presumption and none for despondency; no provision made beforehand, nor does it arrive too late. The trial is needful, and perhaps the help is not what we had wished, for the 'wounds' may be as necessary as the trial of our faith, but He 'bindeth' them up. This seasonableness of help is peculiarly characteristic of our sympathizing High Priest, and alike exercises and consoles our faith. We must learn to trust Him till the day of trial. Most assuredly our Surety will not fail. The recollection of 'the name of the God of Jacob' is associated with Gen. xxxv. 3: 'Let us arise and go up to Beth-el; and I will there make an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.' Nor let us forget the previous preparation of putting away the strange gods, the becoming clean, and changing our garments (Gen. xxxv. 2). And our covenant-God will set us up on high where enemies cannot come near us,—in a place of strength and of glory. Enemies may not be removed, but we may be lifted above them.

The more faith is exercised, the stronger it waxes. 'He will send thy help from the sanctuary, and from Zion thy support.' We leave all in His hands, and look for the accomplishment of His promises. Both help and support are provided—holy help and covenant support. To speak reverently, if the Lord allies Himself with us, we must expect that while He hears us, He will take vengeance on our inventions. And our support is in accordance with the provisions and terms of the covenant of grace. Which of God's people, on looking back upon his past history, cannot put his seal to this; and shall we not trust for the future 'the name' and memorial of ' the God of Jacob?'

'Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread^
Are big with mercy, and will break
In blessings on your head!'

This twofold state of heart should we ever seek to cultivate: deep love to Jesus as our Saviour, and joyous boldness of expectant faith. He is not, and cannot be, unmindful of those for whom He shed His precious blood; nay, in His condescension He assures us that He is ' not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name.' Cornelius was told in vision (Acts x. 4), 'Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.' 'He will remember all thy meat-offerings, and thy whole burnt-sacrifices will He make fat' (perhaps, He will consume to ashes,—viz., by sending down the fire from above). These two sacrifices symbolized the offering of appropriate service of heart, life, and thanks unto God, and our entire self-surrender unto Him. The two are combined; and however different the form in which they may now be offered, they are the same in spirit and in truth as in Old Testament times. Yet in our offerings also is the principal part of Him. He remembers our new obedience, and He makes fat (or acceptable) our entire self-surrender to Him. And this is the eternal truth in the Old Testament symbol, that as the meat-offering was brought unto Him, so our new obedience also must be directly offered unto Him. The alms we give, the labours in which we engage, the comforts which we dispense, we would lay directly upon His altar. We serve the Lord Jesus in serving His people, or promoting His cause, and therefore the channel and opportunity are comparatively indifferent. Thus all are as He appointeth. So with reference to our whole burnt-sacrifice, or entire selfsurrender to Him, He must 'make it fat.' Gregory the Great speaks of works of faith, watered by our tears of lowest penitence and humblest confession, such as the anointing of the feet of Jesus by her who washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, as 'fat burntsacrifices.' And truly the alabaster-box, which contained the myrrh of Jesus' name, had been first broken in her heart, ere the alabaster-box, the gift of her love, was broken at Simon's table. There is nothing too precious for a meat-offering to the Lord our Saviour. We give Him that is dearest to us, though perhaps we give it weeping. Nor checks He our tears who knoweth our hearts. Yet withal He bids us ' depart in peace.' It is this aloneness with Jesus in the crowded banqueting-hall of Simon, this breaking through all restraints, this heedlessness of all others and of every other consideration, this entireness of our self-surrender, which characterizes the spiritual burnt-sacrifice. He makes it fat, and, we would add, irrespective of the question whether such is the primary meaning of the expression,' He turns it to ashes by sending His fire from heaven.'

1. It sometimes seems to us, in times of trouble, as if we had scarcely ever known before the value of prayer. So fresh, so great, and so comforting is the privilege felt, that we wonder how we so rarely went to, and so little remained at a throne of grace. At such seasons the mind sweetly acquiesces in God's promises, and feels them to be true long before it has experienced them to be true. And some of us, from the waywardness of our hearts, need more and louder calls than others. Thus do we learn to 'glory in tribulations also.' We wonder how the men of the world can be supported in their sorrows, and we wonder what can be wanting to those who sit in sweet stillness at the feet of Jesus. Consider, O my soul, that thou mayest ask all things! Nothing is withheld from thee that He can give with Himself. The limits of the covenant of grace are the only limits of thy asking, and of His giving. Consider with what love Jesus has loved thee, when He gave Himself for thee, and dwell upon this fact. No 'trouble' can be beyond the reach of His grace who has delivered thee from death. With every temptation He maketh a way to escape. The chief part of my ' trouble' springeth from within, not from without. It is mine unbelief, not His unwillingness, that stands in the way of inward rest and outward safety. There are indeed days of trouble to each of us, when the sky seems all overcast. Yet if we can say nothing else, we know that 'heaven will bring us sweeter rest.' 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' Only let us not doubt Him, but cry all the more earnestly, and hold fast by Jesus. Lord, burdened as I am, Thou wast burdened for me, and tookest away my heavy burden. Surely this is Thine hand, my Father. I will humble myself, I will confess my sin, I "will seek after Thee. 'I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.' 'Abide with us' on that sad and lonely evening,

0 Thou who hast opened to us the Scriptures, and shown us Thine own glory!

2. Defence, help, and strength: this threefold blessing do

1 need. Many are mine enemies, defend Thou; utterly powerless I am, help Thou; weak, give Thou strength. And here let me look back over the long record of His dealings with such as I am; nay, let me think of my own past history. Prayer begins at nothing and ends with everything. The very idea of prayer implies my utter poverty and His infinite riches. How often have I experienced all this from the day in which He called me out of darkness into His marvellous light, to this hour, when again I stand a needy suppliant at His throne of grace!' A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.' Though I have sinned and failed, and deserved nothing but Thy wrath and righteous indignation, yet, Lord, help and pardon me. And if my guilt cannot shut me out from Thee, surely nothing else can. Yet will I confess my sin, and greatly humble myself. Now, Lord, for Jesus' sake, seal upon my heart a sense of forgiveness and of Thy love. Show us Thyself and it sufficeth. There is not any sorrow nor want which can alienate us from Jesus, or for which His presence is not sufficient.

3. But let me be earnestly jealous about my 'burnt-sacrifice,' and my 'meat-offering.' We must have a spiritual history, beginning (so far as we are concerned) with self

surrender to the Lord, and unfolding itself in conscious
devotedness to Him. It must be our first object to be cer-
tain of this. And if we have never before sought Him, why
not this day, and at this moment? Immediateness is one of
the great characteristics of the gospel offer. He offers par-
don at present, which for every one of us is sufficient at present.
The present moment alone is ours. 'Agree with thine adver-
sary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.' Now
.would we come through Christ Jesus, who is the way, the
truth, and the life. Hear us, Lord, and save us, to the glory
of Thy grace.

Are thy toils and woes increasing?
Are the foe's attacks unceasing?

Look with faith unclouded,

Gaze with eyes unshrouded,
On the Cross!

Dost thou fear that strictest trial?
Tremblest thou at Christ's denial?

Never rest without it,

Clasp thine arms about it,—
That dear Cross!

Say then,—' Master, while I cherish
That sweet hope, I cannot perish!
After this life's story
Give Thou me the glory
For the Cross!'

S. Method1us.

{Hymns of the Eastern Church.)