THE CHURCH'S DOXOLOGY.
1 The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble:
He sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.
2 The Lord is great in Zion; and he is high above all people.
3 Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.
4 The king's strength also loveth judgment: thou dost establish equity, Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; For he is holy.
6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon
They called upon the Lord, and he answered them.
7 He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar:
They kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.
8 Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God: thou wast a God that forgavest
Though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.
9 Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill:
For the Lord our God is holy.—Psa1.m xc1x.
This, the third of the series of Psalms commencing with 'Jehovah reigneth' (Psalm xciii. ; xcvii.; xcix.), is the grand Magnificat of the Old Testament Church. It consists of three stanzas, each closing with 'He is holy' (vers. 1-3; vers. 4, 5, ver. 6 to end). Most aptly has Bengel summed up its contents in these words: 'the ninety-ninth Psalm consists of three parts, in which the Lord is praised as He who is to come, as He who is, and as He who was, each part closing with the praise, He is holy.' Thus, part first describes the future glory of Messiah's reign, when all the nations trembling shall own Him, and earth stagger under His footsteps, when Jehovah shall be great in Zion, and exalted above all peoples, when they shall praise His great and terrible name. Judgment and mercy shall then be shown. Zion and the world shall then own Him, whom now we lowly adore: our holy Jehovah.
But Jehovah is. He now dispenses judgment; He establishes equity. Above all, among His chosen people does He execute, in providence and in grace, judgment and righteousness. Highly we exalt; lowly we worship in His presence, at His footstool: He is holy.
And Jehovah was. Scan that record of the past. Foremost stand those mighty men of prayer, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Foremost stands His mercy in hearing, His grace in answering, His presence in the cloudy pillar, and, withal, His pardoning love and His holiness in dealing with them. Highly exalt, lowly worship at His holy mount: for Jehovah our God is holy.
Thus—thrice holy, 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,' with seraphim and the four living creatures (Rev. iv. 8), does the Church 'give glory and honour and thanks,' most literally each in each of these three stanzas—' to Him that sitteth on the throne, and liveth for ever and ever.' But what are we, to take His thrice holy name into our lips! Perhaps never more deeply than in such moments feels the soul its low and miserable state, and mourns in the dust before Him.
This is a burden, and a heavy burden, till He remove it (Isa. vi. 5-8). And in truth, there is only one burden which is really heavy to bear—that of sin. Every other burden-that of care, of sorrow, of want, or of difficulty—sensibly drives us straight to God. This alone seems to keep us from God. What force the experience of a burdened conscience attaches to the expression, 'Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy!' The misery of sin consists not merely in its consequences, but in its very nature, which is to separate between God and our souls, and to shut us out from God, and God from us. Yet the Spirit of God indicates, in the covenant of grace, a threefold practical influence of His holiness upon us, of which the issue is the opposite of despair. The various steps are marked as praise, exaltation, and worship (vers. 3, 5, 9). Of these the last seems by far the most difficult to realize. For it is in the nature of conscious sin to prevent even our approaches to God, to keep us from all comfortable fellowship with God, and to fill us with a heavy sense of our infinite and almost hopeless distance from Him. Yet, we will 'praise Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.' Great it is; most glorious and high; far above all human conceptions. Viewed in this light, even the fact, otherwise so consoling, 'The Lord reigneth,' leads only to the inference, 'Let the people tremble;' and 'He sitteth between the cherubim' (or manifesteth Himself as the covenant God), to the conclusion, 'Let the earth be moved,' or stagger. But His name is not only absolutely great and terrible in its manifestations, 'it is holy,' and therefore we 'praise' it. His greatness is all arrayed on the side of goodness, His power on that of righteousness and truth. 'The King's strength' (that which makes Him great and terrible) 'also loveth judgment' Hence the tendency of all His dealings is thus described: 'Thou dost establish equity, Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.' In the course of His government, He not only introduces, but establisheth equity; for ' the Lord reigneth.' Similarly, the manifestation of His 'terrible name' is to the effect: 'Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.' It is therefore right, proper, and becoming to 'exalt the Lord our God,' 'for He is holy' (ver. 5). Now, it seems as if at this, the point of our utmost despondency of self, we had also reached the 'door of hope.' He is great and terrible in Himself, and in His dealings. He is holy, and I am a sinner. The more I contemplate this, and praise and exalt His name, the lower I seem to sink, and the more depressing becomes the sense of my own vileness and unworthiness, till I am cast down to the lowest pit of self-abasement and self-despair. As the clouds which had obscured my vision roll away, the arch of heaven seems to extend its span, and higher, and yet higher, far above me, enthroned in His brightness, is that Holy One of Israel, whose glory filleth the whole earth. What am I, then—dust and ashes, sinful and sin-laden—to hold converse with that God! How dare I, a man of sinful lips, to look up to the King, Jehovah of hosts? Like Manoah, I tremble; like Isaiah, I say, 'Woe is me! for I am undone;' like Peter, I had almost prayed, ' Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' But here another fact meets me, by way of gracious contrast: 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.' 'When we were yet enemies, we were reconciled by the death of His Son.' There is not only a gleam, but a flood of light. When I try to think, and tremble as I think, of God in all the exaltation of His nature, and the glory of His character, the sound of the gospel message bursts as heaven's music upon my ear and heart. This God, this very God, is in Christ. Therefore He stretches down His hands even to me in my abasement. This is the sum and substance, the essence of the gospel. Surely the greatest greatness of God is His condescension; His highest glory, His self-abasement! Thus when in thought I reach the highest point attainable in His exaltation, I come straight to Christ, and then / worship. No longer do I merely exalt, or even praise; at least, no longer is it merely the tribute of the creature; it is the offering of the child. I do not merely praise, I also worship. No longer am I afar off, but very near. I may and do come. My whole heart and soul goes out after Him. There is a blood-sprinkled way, reaching from my lowly spot even to the highest heavens ; and there the Father meets me with the welcome of free grace—of undeserved, marvellous, sovereign love. I must sing, for my heart is full of joy. The great load is taken from me. I tread wellknown ground. I am on Calvary's height. I see the wellknown face, Jesus my Redeemer. I hear the well-remembered angels' song, which celebrates another manifestation of Divine grace and glory, another fruit of sovereign love. This path has been trod by many a pilgrim. From it have risen those precious pearly drops, which together form the great cloud of witnesses—' Moses and Aaron among His priests, and Samuel among them that call upon His name' (ver. 6). His exaltation in holiness has brought me face to face with His condescension in love.
Now I can pray; I am 'among them that call upon His name.' 'They called upon Jehovah, and He answered them" —why not me? Moreover, from this point His holiness is perceived to be specially manifested in accordance with His love, in the covenant of grace. The blood-sprinkled mercyseat rests on the ark which encloses His law. The demands of .justice and holiness have been fully met in Christ Jesus. Even in His 'terrible' dealings we now note that' He sitteth between the cherubim' (ver. 1) ; that He 'is great in Zi^f (ver. 2) ; that He is 'the King' of saints (ver. 4). Nor will I forget that the King's highway is one of holiness, or of being separated and conformed to Him—transformed into His image. 'He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar'—this was His revelation in grace. 'They kept His testimonies, and the ordinance that He gave them'—that was their reply by grace. And oh, the blessed assurance that nothing can disturb our standing in the covenant (ver. 8). Answer and forgiveness are certain, though vengeance is taken of our inventions. How every word and expression here seems to go right to our hearts! The very designation of our sins and punishments is so true. Yet, withal, we are not shut out from Him. We are able to speak to, and to hear Him; we receive what we need, and much more; and, above all, we have the sweet, abiding sense of forgiveness, notwithstanding 'our inventions.' When we smart under chastisements or disappointments, we know that it is the fire which burns up the hay, wood, and stubble—a Father's dealings in compassion and mercy. We willingly, we gladly take these chastisements, which now are to us fresh pledges of our safety. For safe, eternally safe, remains the foundation, and unclosed the way of access. O surely with all our heart do we accord: 'Exalt Jehovah our God, and worship at His holy hill: for Jehovah our God is holy.'
1. O my soul, thou hast often groaned under the burden of sin. It was not so much that thou didst despair, as that thou didst despond. It was not that Christ seemed unable or unwilling to save thee, but that thou couldest not realize Christ. All seemed like a dreary blank. An awful weight of oppression seemed to press me down. The more I sought to draw near to God, the farther He seemed to remove from me, till at last I had almost resigned myself to silence and darkness. But it is not so. It is right and well that sin should bear me down. God is'great' and 'high,' and 'His name' 'great and terrible.' But 'God is in Christ;' and though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as snow; though they be like crimson, they shall become like wool. O that blessed gospel-sound, like springs of water in a dry and thirsty land, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land! O wondrous grace, which is grace to me!
2. I can pray, I may pray, I must pray. There is 'His footstool,' therefore He can be worshipped. Moses, Aaron, and Samuel have knelt at it; therefore, and on the same ground of His absolute love and of my absolute need, may / kneel at it. 'They called upon Jehovah, and He answered them;' therefore I must pray. I need forgiveness and an answer. Whom He answers, He always forgives; and whom He forgives, He always answers. Not the brightness of Thy nature, but the glory of Thy love ; not the thunders of Sinai, but the words on the cross, 'It is finished,' are my warrant and my plea; and this plea is all-prevailing.
3. Now, when I have learned to 'worship at His holy hill,' I feel 'that we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.' It is quite a different kind of dealing, and I take it quite differently. There is not a drop of wrath in the cup, and there is not a drop of bitterness in me. It is right and well that it should be so, both as regards His character, His truth, and my wellbeing; and I can now ' exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool ; for He is holy.' Chastisements have to me a totally new meaning. 'Judgment must begin at the house of God.' Yet, oh, let me remember in my prayers, and in my dealings with the world, how awful those judgments will be which must consume the wicked ; and this day let me prayerfully read once more over the four opening verses of the Psalm, and plead for my brethren at a throne of grace.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea,
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee ;—
Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!