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The Christian Way-Song —Ps xxxi 3°7

XXXVIII.
THE CHRISTIAN WAY-SONG.

1 In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust!

Let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.

2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily:

Be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.

3 For thou art my rock and my fortress;
Therefore for thy name's sake lead me and guide me.

4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me; for thou art my

strength.

5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God

of truth.—Psalm Xxx1.

These verses mark, perhaps more comprehensively than any other similar passage, the covenant relationship of the believer to his God. Not only good hope through grace, but safety from all danger, calm and peace in the surrender of our spirit to God, and the assurance of our redemption, are here expressed in the language of filial prayer. A precious life-song for our faith, a sweet night-song for death, it opens (ver. 1) with a conviction which at its close (ver. 5) is shown to have been amply warranted. It almost seems as if on reading it we felt ourselves ' compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses.' How many of God's dear children have comforted themselves with these words, during their 'great fight of afflictions;' how many have in its language breathed forth their prayers and their hopes; how many have experienced the reality and truth of its consolations! Above all, to how many have the words of ver. 5 proved not only their last prayer, but their joyous farewell to earth when they laid themselves down to rest in Christ. Now, world and time, enemies and death, do your worst: we are beyond your reach. 'Into Thine hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, Jehovah, God of truth.' Many holy men of old have died with these words on their lips. Polycarp and John Huss thus comforted themselves on their way to the stake. Luther and Melanchthon repeated them on their deathbeds. 'Blessed,' saith Luther, 'are they who die not only for the Lord, as the martyrs, nor only in the Lord, as all believers, but also with the Lord, as they who expire with this saying.' And yet better than all, we remember that this formed the last utterance of our blessed Lord Himself upon the cross (Luke xxiii. 46). As one has said: 'David committed his spirit unto God, in order not to die; the other David, that dying He might not die.' Once more then, is it believing fellowship with Christ which makes this Psalm, which is typical of Him, so precious to His people. He hath trod this path, and we follow Him ; and because in all its fulness it was true of Him, in all its richness it applies to us.

The Psalm opens with an assertion of confidence: ' In Thee, Jehovah, have I trusted' (literally, fled for refuge). Therefore is it Jehovah, God in Christ, and not my faith nor feelings which are my comfort. Anticipation of acknowledgment on His part is only to give glory to Him as 'the God of truth.' Yet is this also couched in the language of prayer, remembering that it is of grace, and that our faith might readily fail. 'Let me not be put to shame for ever; deliver me in Thy righteousness.' Both hold true: it is impossible that God's people can be put to everlasting shame; and they will never be ashamed. The former (which is the lot of the wicked) could only take place if our hope perished. The latter also is insured to us in the promise of continuous grace. Our deliverance is in the 'Righteousness' of our God. For it is righteous that the deliverance purchased by Christ for His people should be applied to them; it is righteous in Him to fulfil His promises in which He has caused us to trust; 'it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you ; and to you who are troubled, rest with us.' And let us also mark in this prayer the holy progress in confidence. It is a great thing unhesitatingly to say, ' In Thee, O Jehovah, have I put my trust;' to grasp that outstretched hand, and to take our firm stand upon that foundation. But to go beyond this, and to expect not only present but constant deliverance,—' let me never be ashamed,' —is a very decided step in advance. Lastly, to look not merely for help, but for an immediate answer to our prayers, —deliver me speedily,—marks the holy earnestness of the true Israel of God. Such prayers our God always heareth. There is neither doubt nor 'may be' about them. We know in whom we have believed ; we are 'well assured' that He who hath promised will also perform. We are not as uncertain, beating the air. God is in Christ, contains to us, with the assurance of our salvation, the pledge of every promise. 'He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.' Assuredly, we can doubt only one of these two things—either tvhat we ask, or Him of whom we ask. The latter is unbelief, springing from looking to ourselves, or else from not beholding Him as in Christ. The Lord heareth my prayer, not for what I am, but for what He is ; not because of my faith, but because of His infinite love in Christ, and of His covenant of grace (Heb. iv. 14-16). To be uncertain as to what we ask is doubt, in the strictest sense, and as such is smitten with impotence. But let us bear in mind that all which we can connect with the glory of God ought at once to be removed from the category of doubt. 'Deliver me in Thy righteousness! I would desire to have such filial 'trust' in Him, as to unburden all my heart unto Him. Though words should fail, sighs will speak; and though I should stand 'behind' Him, still may I reach His feet with my tears. The distinction which is sometimes made between things spiritual and carnal, is itself too often carnal. Applied to prayer, it seems little better than the idea of the Syrians: 'Jehovah is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys.' Nothing is too great for Him to do, nor too small for Him to notice. Strange though it may appear, it is more pleasing to our unbelief to depend upon God for spiritual than for temporal things; far easier to believe in answers to things unseen than to those that are seen. But let us take cognisance of our God. On the petition, 'Bow down to me,' one well remarks: 'This meaneth, O my God, Thou hearest so gently, as to perceive even my sighing! Do not delay, I entreat Thee. I have no outward protection, no fortress or defence; be Thou my fort and my defence! Here we learn how the children of God are wont to speak to their dear Father, as one friend to another, as a child to its parent: O dear Father, bow down Thine ear to me. Lo, this does faith, and so filial confidence encompasseth the Lord, and saith to Him: Thou alone knowest all my anguish, to Thee will I confide it, and as it were secretly whisper it into Thine ear. And the use of such anthropomorphisms in our religious experience, it has been truly observed, are as characteristic of living faith as that of bodily representations of religious truths is contrary to the spirit of such faith. To realize, as it were, the eye and the ear of the Lord, to feel His hand and to hear His voice, to long for His countenance, and to dwell in His house, is the language of personal converse with Him, suited to our present state.

The prayer: 'Be Thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me,' is immediately followed by the blessed conviction: 'for Thou art my rock and my fortress,' and by the gracious inference, 'therefore, for Thy name's sake lead me and guide me.' The latter plea, both in its substance and terms, is known to us from Ps. xxiii. 2, 3. The connexion between the closing prayer of ver. 2, and the argument of ver. 3, marks the true logic of faith, which ever infers from our experience of His grace, the fresh bestowal of His mercy. As it were, Thou art my Saviour, therefore in Thine infinite compassion prove Thyself such, and save me. Still further do we mark that the plea and the petition are equally remarkable. I have neither hope nor help in myself, nor in men, but Thou hast pledged Thy gracious word; 'Thou art my rock and my fortress.' Thou canst not fail nor desert me. Therefore, wherein and where I do not see, 'lead;' and wherein and where I do see, 'guide me.' Thy hand and Thy voice, Thy power and Thy grace, are alike needed. More than human strength is requisite to 'pull me out of the net;' but then, 'Thou art my strength.' What serenity when, by grace, I reach this altitude: 'Into Thine hand I commit my spirit!' Surely this is 'good hope through grace,' and 'strong consolation' for those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them; 'for Thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah, God of truth.' To commit my spirit, troubled like the lake of Galilee, to Him to speak peace to its swellings, because I am His own bloodbought property, 'redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood' of the Lamb of God; to leave myself (body, soul, and spirit) in His hands, as my God and Father in Christ, is peace. It is this contentment of the soul in Christ and with Christ which constitutes peace. The expressions here used are also very peculiar and instructive. For the word rendered 'commit' means literally 'to cause to be separated,' and refers in its derivatives (as in Lev. vi. 2, 4; v. 21, 23, of the original), to what is intrusted for safe keeping. Again, the word rendered 'spirit' is not equivalent to that ordinarily translated 'soul.' The latter views 'the principle of life in men rather as an effect,' the former, 'as a cause.' Thus the believer gives over the inmost spring of his being to the safe keeping of his covenant-God, and intrusts it to Him as to the God of redemption (Ps. xxxviii. 16). And though this may perhaps more obviously occur to us in connexion with death, it refers even more pointedly to life. For in dying we shall make only the final and most needful application of what is the only true principle of living. But, whether living or dying, this spirit-surrender to God our Saviour is alike the spring of our strength and of our peace. Such peace 'passeth all understanding;' it not only goes far above and beyond it, but it goes another way. I understand not, I rest; I 'commit my spirit' into His pierced hands; I give up to Him all thought and care, for soul and body, for time and eternity, and that is peace. 'He is our peace;' not merely our peace-maker, but Himself our peace; not in any figurative, but in the most literal sense of the terms. The more absolute, and hence the more simple our faith is, the fuller will our peace be. 'Thou hast redeemed me,' I am Thy purchased possession; and again, Thou art' Jehovah, God of truth.' He cannot change, He will not fail, and what He has said He will also do. We have 'two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.' Nor is there in this holy confidence anything incompatible with the deepest humility. The very idea of prayer, the 'strong cries,' and the faith which exalts Christ and despairs of self, imply the most thorough self-abasement. 'Bow down Thine ear to me' (ver. 2). But let us not confound unbelief, or the absence of intense expectancy, with humility. The former entertains low thoughts of Christ, the latter of self. But how rich and full are the covenant blessings vouchsafed to us in Christ; what ready access to'Him, how certain the answers, how safe the way, how peaceful the journey, and how glorious the end !' O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!'

1. After reading and meditating on these five verses, let me diligently compare them with their New Testament, explanation and application in Rom. v. 1-11. It begins with peace through Christ, and it ends with complete salvation by Him; and it embraces all that lies between these two terms. O my soul, Christ is all! Thy Saviour does all, has all, is all. None but Christ. Feed upon that bread of life; drink from that water of life; let it be a well-spring in thee, springing up unto eternal life. 'Out of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.' O for more of Christ—to know more of Him, to love Him better, to cleave more fully to Him !' Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.'

2. 'In Thee, O Jehovah, do I put my trust.' Amen, Lord. 'Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee.' However weakly and insufficiently, yet I do put my trust in Thee. I will not let Thee go. O Lord, Thou art my Saviour. I have no other trust, and I make Thee my trust. I believe in Thee as my Father in Christ; I cast my burden, I lean my weight on Thee. 'Let me never be ashamed.' Let sin and Satan never prevail against me. Let me never be put to flight. I am weak and wicked, foolish and wayward; Satan is cunning and mighty; the world is arrayed against me. 'My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.' 'Let me never be ashamed,' come what may—the world, the devil, or sin. O Lord, however small I am, and just because I am so small, Thy truth is bound up in it and the glory of Thy grace. Hallelujah! Thou art my rock and my fortress, and a strong rock and a blessed house of defence to save me, body and soul, here and hereafter.

3. This one thing would I fain both learn and teach, as the lesson of my life and ministry, 'that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.' Men, as created by God, as fallen and ruined in Adam, and as salvable in Christ. Always to pray; not only in every state of soul, but under all circumstances, and at all times. And not to faint; either before they pray, while they pray, or after they have prayed. But for this and all other gracious motions, O reveal Thyself in Christ, and by Thy blessed Spirit work Thou in us this day, and for evermore.

0 Thou, by long experience tried, Near whom no grief can long abide; My Love! how full of sweet content

1 pass my years of banishment!

I hold by nothing here below;

Appoint my journey, and I go;

Though pierced by scorn, oppress'd by pride,

I feel Thee good—feel nought beside.

Ah, then, to His embrace repair;
My soul, thou art no stranger there;
There love divine shall be thy guard,
And peace and safety thy reward.

Madame Guyon.

{Cowper.)