THE TWE TY-THIRD PSALM. "He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness Psalm xxiii., 3.

The stress of this world's toil and strife, the soul often sinks down fainting ; needing a strong hand to lift it up, and a powerful restorative to bring back its living will. . Slowly, but surely, the "heat and burden of the day," bearing long upon the animal powers, wears and wastes them, till one link in the too tightly stretched chain, weaker than the rest, snaps asunder, and the man lies stricken to the ground, helpless, strengthless ; — work unfinished, difficulties unconquered, hopes unrealised. Or, like a lost sheep, which has wandered far away from the beaten path into the rough trackless wilderness ; wearied out with vain efforts to recover the right way, torn by the briars, wounded by the sharp rocks against which it

126 has fallen, footsore, parched with thirst, exhausted ^ fatigue, fainting for food, panting and feebly bleatii in the solitary place, where none seem near to help,* the soul sinks into despair. The world has been trio its pleasures have lost their attraction; its emptinc has bitterly disappointed its worshipper ; rougher ai

rougher the path has grown, till nothing but bam desolation has surrounded the wanderer. "He loofa on his right hand and beheld, but there was no man ih would know him ; refuge failed him ; no man can for his soul." Or, again, the " storm of sorrow ** h caught a weak creature, suddenly, without shelter ; tl darkness fell upon him ; the fierce blows came rapid one after the other, till he lay prostrate with terror ai exhaustion ; not knowing how to rise ; trembling fi fear of still greater calamities ; expecting death. Many are the soul's extremities. Some the natur issues of overburdened weakness ; some the ju working out of violated laws; some the mysterioi appointments of an inscrutable Providence. David experience was almost unlimited. He knew the wei^ of anxious toil, and what it was to feel it crushing hi to the earth. He knew the misery of a life which flc from pursuing enemies, hiding in dens and caves of tl mountains; suffering extremes of hunger and thin He knew the exhausting agony of grief, with " tea for his meat day and night." He knew the desolatic of guilt ; the wilderness of an accusing consciena

the awful bewilderment of a sinner, who has come to Umself in the very midst of his own wretchedness. He remembered a Mercy which ** brought his soul out 0f prison^* and *^ compassed him about with songs of deliverance'^ It was the mercy of the Good Shepherd, who " goeth after that which is lost until He find it." " He restoreth my soul : He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Here are acknowledged the mercy of divine interpositions; the fitness of divine ministrations; THE GLORY OF DIVI ELY ACCOMPLISHED issues.

I. One who sees the Shepherd's care in his life, acknowledges the mercy of Divine interpositions. " He resioreth my soul" An extremity confessed by us was the opportunity used by God. It was not an ordinary danger ; had it been so, we might have attributed much to the native elasticity of the soul. We were past recovery by ourselves. If a Divine hand had not laid hold of us and restored us, we must have perished. His mercy interposed. We 7uerc restored. We went on in the path in which He Himself graciously led us, as we were able to walk. We dare not ascribe our rescue to anything but His immediate, compassionate, interposition. Such mercy may have visited a soul wandering away from God, in a state of spiritual decline and

128 backsliding. eglected opportunities have produce indifference; chronic coldness of heart; blindnes to danger, and infatuated self-will. Who recoverct the fainting hopel Who knit together again Xk broken resolutions? We remember the time. Wt wonder that anything could restore us. He knew th< whole secret of our state. He understood the reasons of our life. He knew the worth of our excused He mercifully sent exactly the right remedy. Hi brought us to ourselves. It was His interpositioi that took us, in our wandering, into that place of bitt© shame and suffering, where we woke up suddenly t< feel what danger there was in backsliding, and w< cried out, with all our might, "Lord, save, or ] perish!" It was His interposition that provided th< voice of warning which thrilled us through ; th< kindly Hand which was laid upon our shoulder, witl the question, " Whither away V — the Providentia

appointment which exactly met our repentance, an< led it out into decided change and renewed life. " H restoreth my soul^ He came when sorrow had worked a sad changi in us. We were like a shattered vessel. The agon] of a grief beyond all human consolation, ha< broken our strength into fragments. Thought ha< become almost impossible. Energy seemed gone The occupations of life looked at us like cold-hearte< Strangers, and we shrunk away from them, thougl


Ideally so ^uniliar with them. " Can life ever be the aame I " we cried. " Is not death itself better than such dreary desolation?" But the mind resumed its activity. Energy returned. Occupations became again attractive. Life, though never the same, because never without a remembered loss, was not a cheerless waste, but the threshold of the future. We looked forward more ; we looked around us less. Hope had been kindled afresh by the fiery trial which had consumed some of our earthly joys. The brightness of heaven henceforth lay upon the path, shining more and more ; and it will shine unto the perfect day. Was it not merciful interposition 1 "Ife restoreth my souir Or, it may have been otherwise with us. We look back and recall an averted calamity. We watched and waited for it, with a suspense which seemed to press out the very marrow of our soul with its awful weight It was a time of such mingled terror and oppressive helplessness, that we often feel astonished, as we remember it, that reason did not give way. If the expected shock had followed upon the continued strain, surely nothing could have recovered us. But

His mercy interposed. The trial was not greater than we could bear. The danger passed. The weight was lifted off. The overwrought heart found rest I'he scaring terror vanished, and the tears of joy refreshed us with a sense of recovered nature. " He restoreth my souir

i3^ Who is there that cannot record such mexcyf Whose experience has never revealed to him a Hand greater than his own at work in his life! Who has not at some time felt himself dealt with by a loving Power all-sufficient in his weakness ; bringing back the joy of salvation ; upholding with His free Spirit ! It is the Shepherd carmg for the sheep. We dare not, we would not, forget, — " He restoreth my soul^^ 2. There is acknowledgment, in David's words, of the fitness of Divine ministrations to the facts of individual life. ^^Heleadeth me in the paths of righteousnessP That is to say, when, by special interposition, He has recovered my soul from danger, from a state of prostration and threatened death, then, He leadeth me on, just as I am able to go, in the right path, towards perfect peace and safety. In the merciful dealing of the Shepherd with the sheep, we must recognise, not only the love which flies to our rescue, but the patience, the unchangeable, unwearied, a£fection, which adopts its constant ministrations to our continued necessities. ow, whether we look at the leading grace of Providential appointments, or at the wonderful adaptation of Divine ordinances to the weakness of our state, we must adore the same perfection of the Shepherd. The right path is pointed out to us, and the right steps to take, that we may advance in that path. We have

stood still, just restored from the extremity of sorrow, able at last to think about going forward. And, yet, how shall we go 1 What must be the next step? Has a true believer had to wait long before he was compelled, by the merciful ministration which was sent him, to exclaim, ^^He leadeth meV^ The event went before which opened the way. The desired counsel came which gave clear decision to our steps. We had nothing to do but to follow. Or, it may be, that a good man has struggled long with what seemed an insuperable difficulty. Patient toil, anxious, earnest, striving, seemed all in vain. He sank down, at last, before the shut door, able to knock no longer, fainting for very weariness and despondency. The rescuing mercy of God, not only called back his spirits, but showed him the difficulty vanished, the gate opened, the way clear before him, inciting him to new efforts and new faith. He wakes up to understand his life. ^^ He leadeth mer The soul that has wandered acknowledges, oftentimes, the same leading mercy. When the quickened conscience has confessed His presence, when the subdued heart has yielded itself to the gentle Hand which has laid hold of it again, is there not an evident adaptation of Providential appointments to the demands of the restored soul? The new desires see it so. The searching earnestness of repentance lays hold readily of the helping facts around. We may be halting and stumbling still, but

we advance. He sends friendly faces to cheer us ; ] snatches away dreaded temptations ; He shows us t chain to the lions in the way; He suggests to methods of life which bring back our lost happine and restore our broken habits. From one stage another, we are conscious of most merciful minisb

tions, adapted exactly to the successive requiremen We adore His condescending patience. ** ffe leadi me in the paths of righteousness.^ ot in Providential dealings alone, but in t provisions of religious opportunity, we behold t adaptation of mercy to individual necessities. T written Word often leadeth us. A single verse Scripture will sometimes come out of the page wi such marvellous clearness of meaning, and su unusual exactness of application, that it may be co: pared to the hand of another laying hold of our ha: and leading us onward. Promises which we kn< well by heart, and which we have repeated to* ourseh thousands of times, seem to be uttered by a sup natural voice in our ear, as the special encouragemei for the special trial. Our reading of the Scriptu whatever portion of it is before us, seems to be looking down upon earthly things from a heig above them, and seeing them all as comparative insignificant. The written Word leadeth us, over t difficulties, through the clouds ; holding us up in t rough places ; opening the prospect into life ! T


services of th6 Sanctuary are employed by the same Mercy. We have found everything in those services lay hold of our soul, and lead it on. The songs of praise seemed like our own heart coming out of its depths of gloom, and mounting upward towards heaven ; the petitions of God's people seemed to draw our desires onward, and put new strength into our holy resolutions; the unfolding of the Truth seemed the unfolding of the future. We could see things differently. We could look further than our o^vn

insignificant surroundings. We came from the house of God rejoicing, — This is advancement; there is sufficient Grace for me ; I can persevere and reach the end. *'^He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness''' 3. The glory of Divine Mercy is glory to the Shepherd's name. ^^ For His name's sake, He restoreth my soul." "i^r His nam^s sake,'' He leadeth me to the glorious issue. His name is identified with the safety and peace of His people. David's faith was not resting on sentiment; on mere individual experience ; on outward, earthly, facts. If it had been so with him, he would not have sung his confidence so calmly, with that heavenly sweetness which breathes in his psalm. The very form which his words take is a clue to the kind of faith he exercised. He is not dwelling upon the past of his own history, as though he made it everything. He tells it as evidence of the

^34 Shepherd's character. He places his trust in the personal, ever-living, never-absent, Redeemer. So he sings, not "He Aas restored my soul," but " He restoreih my soul \ " not " He has in past times led me,** but "He I cadet h me," now^ always^ ** in the paths of righteousness." His name is my assurance ; ^^for His name's sake " He is my faithful, merciful. Shepherd. " What is His ame ? " This is the question of our deepest soul. We cannot trust in an unknown GfkL We cannot realise the presence of an unnamed Being. or is it enough for one who desires to feel himself led in paths of righteousness, like the sheep led by the shepherd, to look at God as the Author of natural laws; as the moral Governor of the world; as the Ordainer of all events and issues ! We want more than this general name of God. We want such a name

to be revealed as we can feel assured is identified, in a special manner, with our own being. David found that name in ^'' Jehovah r We, as Christians, find it yet more distinctly in ^^JesusP It is a ame which, while it is man's, is also God's. We know that God has taken our weakness into His strength. We believe in His name, because in that name He has declared Himself " all our salvation and all our desire." All our experience is an unfolding to us of the ame in which we trust. "I know," says the tried one, "in whom 1 have believed." I know that His name is above every name. I know that He is to me all that

^^5 His name promises. I know that ^^for His nam^s sake^ He cannot leave unfinished the work which is begun. The path, in which the Shepherd leadeth us is not an endless seeking without finding. He knows the issue. He beholds the end fi*om the beginning. His ame must be glorified in the praises of eternity. The issue of His wonderful dealings, the resting place after all the leading through the paths of righteousness, — must it not be His name shining out like the sun, filling all existences with the light of His countenance] The Shepherd leads the sheep now. He rescues them, restores them, takes them out of the wrong way, carries them forward in the paths of righteousness. But the sheep cannot know all that the Shepherd is in Himself, until the time of their trial is past, and the time of their rest has come. "We shall see Him as He is." Thoughts of our own necessities will no longer intervene as clouds before His face. Wrestlings of soul will exhaust us no more. All tears wiped away ; all temptations held aloof ; nothing shall disturb the fixed, rapt, adoration of Him in whose

glory we shall feel ourselves transfigured. Millions of ages will wear out none of His glories. " He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.'* Let us, then, link together the present and the fiiture! As He leadeth us, day by day, along the paths of righteousness, often bidding us simply trust in

136 His love, because we cannot trace His wisdom, let us remember His name ! We shall come out at last into the place which He has prepared for us, and Hi? promise shall b^ realised,—'' I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is the ew Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God ; and I will write upon him my new name." In the expectation of that glorious issue, let us patiently wait ; let us watch ; let us work ; gratefully singing the Shepherd's praise,i — " He restoreth my soul : He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake ! "



Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful