Psalm 136:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. The sun to rule by day. We cannot be too specific in our praises; after mentioning great lights, we may sing of each of them, and yet not outwear our theme. The influences of the sun are too many for us to enumerate them all, but untold benefits come to all orders of beings by its light, warmth, and other operations. Whenever we sit in the sunshine, our gratitude should be kindled. The sun is a great ruler, and his government is pure beneficence, because by God's mercy it is moderated to our feebleness; let all who rule take lessons from the sun which rules to bless. By day we may well give thanks, for God gives cheer. The sun rules because God rules; it is not the sun which we should worship, like the Parsees; but the Creator of the sun, as he did who wrote this sacred song.

For his mercy endureth for ever. Day unto day uttereth speech concerning the mercy of the Lord; every sunbeam is a mercy, for it falls on undeserving sinners who else would sit in doleful darkness, and find earth a hell. Milton puts it well:

"He, the golden tressed sun
Caused all day his course to run;
For his mercy shall endure
Ever faithful, ever sure."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. The sun to rule by day. This verse showeth that the sun shineth in the day, by the order which God hath set, and not for any natural cause alone, as some imagine and conjecture. --Thomas Wilcocks.

Verse 8. The sun. The lantern of the world (lucerna Mundi), as Copernicus names the sun, enthroned in the centre -- according to Theon of Smyrna, the all vivifying, pulsating heart of the universe, is the primary source of light and of radiating heat, and the generator of numerous terrestrial, electromagnetic processes, and indeed of the greater part of the organic vital activity upon our planet, more especially that of the vegetable kingdom. In considering the expression of solar force, in its widest generality, we find that it gives rise to alterations on the surface of the earth, -- partly by gravitative attraction, -- as in the ebb and flow of the ocean (if we except the share taken in the phenomenon by lunar attraction), partly by light and heat generating transverse vibrations of ether, as in the fructifying admixture of the aerial and aqueous envelopes of our planet, from the contact of the atmosphere with the vaporizing fluid element in seas, lakes, and rivers. The solar action operates, moreover, by differences of heat, in exciting atmospheric and oceanic currents; the latter of which have continued for thousands of years (though in an inconsiderable degree) to accumulate or waste away alluvial strata, and thus change the surface of the inundated land; it operates in the generation and maintenance of the electromagnetic activity of the earth's crust, and that of the oxygen contained in the atmosphere; at one time calling forth calm and gentle forces of chemical attraction, and variously determining organic life in the endosmose of cell walls and in tissue of muscular and nervous fibres; at another time evoking light processes in the atmosphere, such as the coloured coruscations of the polar light, thunder and lightning, hurricanes and waterspouts.

Our object in endeavouring to compress in one picture the influences of solar action, in as far as they are independent of the orbit and the position of the axis of our globe, has been clearly to demonstrate, by an exposition of the connection existing between great, and at first sight heterogeneous, phenomena, how physical nature may be depicted in the History of the Cosmos as a whole, moved and animated by internal and frequently self adjusting forces. But the waves of light not only exert a decomposing and combining action on the corporeal world; they not only call forth the tender germs of plants from the earth, generate the green colouring matter (chlorophyll) within the leaf, and give colour to the fragrant blossom -- they not only produce myriads of reflected images of the Sun in the graceful play of the waves, as in the moving grass of the field -- but the rays of celestial light, in the varied gradations of their intensity and duration, are also mysteriously connected with the inner life of man, his intellectual susceptibilities, and the melancholy or cheerful tone of his feelings. This is what Pliny the elder referred to in these words, "Caeli tristram discutit sol, et humani nubila animi serenat." ("The sun chases sadness from the sky, and dissipates the clouds which darken the human heart.") -- F.H. Alexandar Von Humboldt (1769-1859), "Cosmos."

Verse 8. The sun.

O sun! what makes thy beams so bright?
The word that said, "Let there be light." --James Montgomery.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8-9.

  1. The glory of the day of joy.
  2. The comforts of the night of sorrow.
  3. The hand of God in each.