Spiritual Success--Ps. cxxvii.


1 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:
Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of

sorrows: For so he giveth his beloved sleep.

3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is

his reward.

4 As arrows are in the hands of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:

They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.—Psalm Cxxvn.

All who are exercised to discern spiritual realities have made frequent experience that those passages of Scripture which are clothed in symbolical language often contain the fullest and richest instruction. They seem designedly to have been couched in figures of the widest application, and, with the truths which they directly convey, to carry promises of higher and deeper realities. Thus, this Psalm of Degrees mounts so high, that even the view of the Fathers, who understood the sleep granted to His beloved as referring to the rest preceding the resurrection, seems warranted. Whithersoever we can carry this Psalm, let us to the full enjoy its consolations; for God gave it not to me only, nor to thee; not to Solomon, nor to the Jews only, but to the Church in all ages, and to the believer, under every circumstance of living, of suffering, of working, of hoping, and of trusting.

If, as the inscription bears, the Psalm was written by Solomon, it may have had its primary application to the building of the temple, and to the reign of safety and of peace which made him so eminent a type of the Prince of Peace. In that case it would point directly forward to the building of the Church of God; to every work undertaken in His name, and for the advancement of His glory; and to the safety, the peace, and the privileges of all who, as His beloved, rest under the shadow of Christ's wings. Thus it were a song on the text, Prov. x. 22: 'The blessing of Jehovah maketh rich, and troublous labour addeth nothing to it,'—a sentence which, both in its positive and negative bearing, ought ever to be present to our minds. The steps or degrees in this Psalm, though distinctly marked, are not so regular as in some of the others. The twice repeated 'in vain' of verse 1 may be regarded as the motto or step for verse 2. The correspondence between the two clauses in ver. 1 is also very striking. It is as if, on entering upon some spiritual undertaking, or even in referring to the present state of matters, he emphatically disclaimed as vain every other interposition or help than that of Jehovah. And of this 'in vain' it is well constantly to remind ourselves, especially in seasons of activity or of peace. For then are we most apt to fall into the snare of this vanity. The next 'degree' is that of success and prosperity, 'sons' (vers. 3, 4), which is ascribed to the same Jehovah whose help and protection constituted the commencement and continuance, as now the completion of our wellbeing. Hence also ver. 5 goes not beyond this, but contemplates the highest symbol of full security, influence, and power, in the figurative language of the Old Testament, which St. Augustine explains as of' spiritual children, shot forth like arrows into all the world.'

A modern writer aptly sums up the primary meaning of the Psalm as follows: 'The building of the house which gives us shelter; the continuance of the city in which we peacefully and securely dwell; the procuring of those means by which we sustain and enjoy life; the obtaining and upbringing of children, which form the comfort and support of the aged parent—all depend on the blessing of God. No earthly measures can obtain them; prudent provision cannot secure them; anxious labour cannot insure them; impatient cares and murmuring cannot constrain them.' Of this, indeed, have we ample and daily proof, though here perhaps, more than in any other case, assent to the truth of God's word leaves still the other and main element of being among His 'beloved' unprovided. There is an heritage which is his reward, and a labour the fruit of which He giveth to His people, while sleeping, without any exertion of their own, when they wholly resign all their own attempts, and in conscious helplessness calmly resign themselves unto Him. And this truth our faith embraces, that real strength, happiness, and security—victory, even in the opinion of the world (ver. 5)—come not from our working, but from what He has done and doeth, and are obtained by simple, childlike trust, which calmly resteth in Him.

Thus has this Psalm many and varied applications. It is a delightful song for a minister of the gospel, a good motto or life-word for the head of a house, and, in general, an excellent cordial for those who may begin or carry on any work for Christ. There is also a passage in it most suited for the night-time, whether of body or of soul: 'So He giveth His beloved sleep.' A precious lullaby for the fevered frame, restlessly tossing, and an unspeakably sweet consolation for the troubled heart. To pillow one's-self on His breast, and to wait for the sleep and refreshment He giveth,—holding in the meanwhile heart-converse with Him,—is soothing medicine indeed for body and soul. But, above all, it is the felt weakness, expressed in the opening verses, which, in its spiritual application to Christ, forms our strength and constitutes our comfort . For, truly, what is the worm Jacob to thresh these mountains? But there is such holy boldness, such undismayed valour, and such calm certainty of victory, when, in the felt sense of my inability, I am cast upon the Lord, urging with Him that all this work and undertaking is and must be entirely His own, as will infallibly sustain and bring to triumph the weakest of men. For here it cannot be a question of difficulties arising in the course of my work, or of discouragement springing up to paralyse my efforts. All these,—nay, the sum of all,—difficulties and discouragements I have had in me and with me before I began; and I begin by casting them all upon the Lord. I am not left to find out how heavy the stones are, as I try to lift them one by one; or how many the enemies, as I go round my watch; or how arduous and incessant the toil, as it repeats itself from sunrise to night : but I have seen it all, and much more, in advance, and I have provided for it by casting all upon the Lord. Now I only feel the blessedness of His building, keeping, and working, while I take sweet rest in the Lord my Maker. Surely ' children are an heritage of the Lord.' May the Lord build us such an house!

1. O my soul, this is thy very strength, that thou art weak. Now hold fast by thy Saviour and Lord, who hath loved thee, and bought thee with His precious blood. Let me delight in confessing to Christ my weaknesses, doubts, and difficulties, since He is able and willing to save unto the uttermost. Let me be detailed in my complaint. It is not one, nor many, but all my burdens which I must roll over upon Him. What are they now ?—and oh, give me grace not to seek to bear any of them myself.

2. O Lord, this work which I undertake to-day, this duty which devolves upon me, is Thy work. Let me connect all with Christ, by connecting it with His glory, by doing it in His Spirit. Let me make Him my companion, by making myself His companion. O Lord, do Thou it for me, for Thine own name's sake. The house I have to build, the city I have to keep, the work I have to do—let me now lay it all fully before the Lord. Each stone, each round of my watch, each hour of my labour,—each living stone, every act of watchfulness, every labour of love,—all by the Lord, and in the Lord, and with the Lord. And now let me plead all this with Thee, and believingly look up.

3. I build under the eye of the Master, within His hearing, within reach of His arm. What strength, joy, and consolation in that thought; and oh, what a living spring of prayer!

0 WHAT the blessedness, dwelling alone,
Filled with the peace to the worldly unknown,
As in a mirror the Bridegroom to see,
Fearing no peril, nor toil that can be!

Woe is me! What is existence below?
Trouble on trouble, and blow upon blow!
What is in this world save sorrowful years,
Much tribulation and plentiful tears?

Grant Thou Thy patience, O Jesu, to me!
Grant Thou Thy graces, my safeguard to be!
So that in all things Thy will may be mine,
Bearing all troubles, because they are Thine.

Still let me study like Thee to appear,—

Still let me seek to be crucified here:

That, if my anguish, like Thine, is increased,

1 may sit also with Thee at Thy feast.

Low before Him with our praises we fall,
Of Whom, and through Whom, and in Whom are all:
CyWhom—the Father, and in Whom—the Son,
Through Whom—the Spirit, with these ever One. Amen.

Hymn Of The F1fteenth Century.

{NealSs Mediteval Hyjnns and Sequences.)