SERMO O PSALM THREE BY W. J.

STRACEY " I laid me down and slept^ and rose up again; for the Lord sustained me. " — Psalm iii. 5. n^HIS psalm is headed in our Bible version as composed by David when he fled from Jerusalem on the insurrection raised by his own son Absalom. The account of this sad passage in the king's life is related at some length in the second book of Samuel. We read in chap, xv., " All the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness." Then it was that the king exclaimed, " Lord, how are they increased that trouble me ! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul. There is no help for him in God." But then comes- the consolation of true faith, which is far more proved and confirmed in us by sufierings and adversities than in the days of prosperity and plenty. The psalmist reasons with himself thus : " Though they say and do all this against me, yet thou, O Lord, art my defender, my worship, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my

20 PSALM III. voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Though in the midst of trouble, with many enemies and few friends — yea, even my own son risen up against me, still I laid me down and slept, and rose up again ; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousand of people, which have set themselves against me round about. Arise, Lord ; and save me, my God. Salvation be ascribed unto the Lord : thy blessing be upon thy people." This is the way in which David bore that

sorest trial of all in his eventful life. For what could be a greater afUction to him in his old age than to have his own son rise up against him, and to find the chief part of the people go after him in his rebellion, so that the king had to leave Jerusalem and.flee away ? Yet we see how entirely he trusted in God to deliver him, and the history tells us how soon his prayer was answered. Absalom was slain, and all who followed him were dispersed; and then all Israel turned back again after DavidBut this would be a poor interpretation of these words if that were all. When David is speaking as he does in this psalm, he speaks not only of his own afiliction and preservation, but of David's far greater Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in His affliction. As David passed over in sorrow this brook Kidron, so did Christ our Saviour cross the very same little stream the night before He suffered. (See S. John xviiL 1.) The plot was already in execution through the treachery of one of

DEA TH IS TUR ED I TO SLEEP. 2 1 the twelve. And all the people shouted as with one voice, " Crucify Him, crucify Him." The Saviour stood alone in His hour of peril. Most true was it of Him : " Lord, how are they increased that trouble me ! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be that say of my soul. There is no help for him in God." Yea, we read in the gospel how the crowd around the cross exclaimed, " He trusted in God ; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him." " He saved others ; Himself He cannot save." But as David in a few days' time returned in triumph to Jerusalem, so with David's greater Son, a far greater triumph awaited Him within three days. This verse, my text, is a true description of the cross and resurrection of our Lord : " I laid me down and slept, and rose up again; for the Lord sus-

tained me." The Lord laid down His life of His own wilL "He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost." As He had said before : " o man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of mine own self. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." And thus it was " He fell asleep " in death. The centurion who was standing by was so astonished at the Lord's manner of giving up His life that he exclaimed, " Truly this man was the Son of God." The cross was His bed, on which He stretched Himself for our sake. He slept upon it the deep, calm sleep of the departed— in peace with God, into whose hands He commended His human soul — in peace with man, for the first sentence of the

22 PSALM TIL Lord from the cross was, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." But death with Him, as with all who are His, was turned into sleep. Its powerful chain was then broken once and for ever. From that moment it was true, " death, where is thy sting? grave, where is thy victory?" On the third day He rose again, "like a giant refreshed with wine," like the sun going forth in the fresh glory of the early summer morning. He had perfectly undergone death, as we all do in turn ; it is the penalty upon Adam's sin in us. In Him, who was sinless, it was for our sakes. He died unto sin once ; but He liveth for ever unto God for us. Even His human flesh did not see corruption ; it rose triumphant over death before that the women arrived with the sweet spices with which to embalm the sacred body. From that moment death lost its supreme power over men. We know that as He our Head could not be holden of it, so we, if we are His, shall rise again, like Him, to receive no more a corruptible body, but an

incorruptible. The same change which passed on Him will be continued in us — "we shall be like Him." "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." o eye hath seen, nor heart conceived, the full glories of our coming resurrection. We know that the disciples could not even look upon the Saviour when for that little while He was transfigured before their eyes on the holy mount

THE RESURRECTIO OF THE BODY, 23 All that glory, which He has of His own, will He share with us, whom He deigns to call His friends and brethren. Just as He laid down and slept, and rose up again — "for the Lord sustained Him" — so will it be with us. God knows each grain of sand which has formed our human body. It is instinct with life. It only waits the one long-expected word and sign, and our churchyard will be full of life; each turf in it will heave with life which cannot be compressed. "All who ar6 in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." Eacli lies now in his narrow bed ; but the morning of the resurrection will soon come, the glorious morning when the sons of God shall go forth, and enter into the joy of their Lord. It is the Lord that now sustains us, and will then call us forth. Where His Spirit dwells, there dwells a life which is not touched by any power or principles of earth. It is the Spirit's dwelling in us which gifts us with every power over sin, and will raise us up at the last day. " I laid me down and slept, and rose up again; for the Lord sustained me." He sustains us here, that we may share in His resurrection hereafter. As He says in the gospel of S. John: "I am that bread of life. Tour fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which

Cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. . . . Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh

24 PSALM III. my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." It is this spiritual presence of Christ in us which will make us in our resurrection "like unto Him." It is this assurance of faith in Him which takes away our bitter sorrow as one by one we lay those we love in their last resting-place. Earth hide^ them from our eyes; but they are all known unto God. The living spirit rests in his own appointed place, the paradise of God; and of the body we may say, "My flesh also shall rest in hope." For why? " Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell ;" i.e, the grave. It will come forth to live for ever, if sustained on earth in union with the Lord our Saviour, and thus kept the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is that this verse of my text refers first to David, then to Christ in His passion and resurrection, and so from Him to us and our resurrection. But there is one way more in which these words may be said to touch us. It is a lower and less important one; that is, in our daily taking rest to recruit our strength, and rising up in the morning prepared for all the duties and labours of the new day, preserved through the night, and raised up, we know not how, in the morning. Perhaps most of us think little of the mystery of sleep — what it is, or what comes of the busy mind which all day long is plotting and active, and working with untiring energy. We pass many hours at a time, each day we live, perfectly

OUR DAIL Y SLEEP A D A WAKE I G. 2 $

deprived of all consciousness, but actually renewed in power by that positive loss of all power. Our nightly sleep is and ought to be a good reminder of the long nights rest which remains for all but the last generation of man before the resurrection. And if it is so, my brethren, no less should our awakening out of sleep often remind us of that blessed change of which I have been speaking, when we shall awake to the eternal day, the day which has no shadows, the day which has no night nor darkness at all. " I laid me down and slept, and rose up again ; for the Lord sustained me." As this was true of Christ, so will it be true of us ; but also so is it true of us in our daily sleeping and awakening. "The Lord sustained me;" in that is the true secret of all such power and change. Our natural life, we all well know, hangs upon the will of the Almighty. What we have is His gift ; our continuance is at His pleasure. "When He taketh away our breath we die, and are turned again to the earth." But higher and better than our natural life is that spiritual life kindled in the regenerated soul of each of us. It is born of the Spirit, it is sustained of the Spirit, and depends upon the Spirit's abiding presence within us. Over this life we have, every day we live, a continual influence. We may gain for ourselves more and more abundantly of His endless power and perfections ; or we may resist His influence, and quench

26 PSALM III. His power and life in us, and finally drive Him from His throne and dwelling-place. Let us take heed, my brethren, that the Lord does sustain us. Let us give ourselves to Him day by day; let us live unto Him. The more we love Him, the less will the best that this

worid has to ofifer occupy our hearts and care. Each day we have an account to make up — new sins to confess and ask pardon for, new mercies unconsciously bestowed and unconsciously received, new gifts of grace which we need to ask, and by our asking receive. Let us try to keep God's commandments even to perfection ; let us pray for grace to do so, and to use that grace when it is given us. Day by day let us thus lie down and sleep, and rise up again, sustained by the Spirit of the Lord, ruled by the Spirit of the Lord, led of the Spirit. If so, then we may look forward with blessed confidence to the still longer sleep, and its last and only awakening, when the morning of the resurrection-day shall dawn, when " salvation cometh of the Lord, and His blessing shall be upon aU His people."

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