SERMO O PSALM FORTY SIX W. J. STRACEY " God is our hope and strength, a very present help in (rouble.

Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof rage and swell, and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same" — Psalm xlvi. 1-3. n~lHE psalm preceding this represents the Church as -*~ the Bride of Christ ; His love for her ; and her extension far and wide. "Instead of thy fathers" (it says) "thou shalt have children, whom thou mayest make princes in all lands." This 46th Psalm represents the safety and perpetuity of the Church under all outward trials and afflictions. Just as our Lord has declared, " Upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Placed as it is amongst the first seventytwo psalms, we should naturally call this more especially a psalm of David. And though David's own life affords ample occasions to which the words of this psalm may well seem to refer, it appears to have more especial reference to the times of Hezekiah, and God's deliverance of Jerusalem from the army of Sennacherib,

206 PSALM XLVI. king of Assyria. There are several expressions in this psalm which connect it with that event in a peculiar degree. Thus the psalm says, " God shall help her, and that right early," or " when the morning dawns." So in 2 Kings xix. 35, we are told, "The angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and fourscore and five thousand : and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all

dead corpses." Then the psalm says : " He breaketh the bow . . . and burneth the chariot in the fire." It was in the use of the bow that the Assyrians especially excelled ; and the particular boast of Sennacherib was, " With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the heights of the mountains." * Again the psalm says : "Be still then, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." So this was the prayer of Hezekiah : " ow therefore, Lord our God, I beseech Thee, save us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art God, even Thou alone." And in 2 Chron. xxxii. 23, we are told that Hezekiah " was magnified in the sight of all nations." Still, though there seem such especial connection in the words of this psalm with the reign of Hezekiah, this need not have been the original or only occasion to which it belongs. There are many parts of God's word which have a double reference or meaning, combining two events in one, as our Lord's * 2 Kings xix. 23.

GOD IS OUR HOPE A D STRE GTH. 207 words on the mount of Olives refer evidently to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, but also to the end of the world. Yet there are very few periods in the history of any land, or in the lives of individuals amongst us, where we may not find a great support and stay to our faith in God by a devout use of this psalm. In these days of wars and rumours of wars, when all nations are armed to the teeth as never before in the world's history ; in the numberless revolutions and public disturbances of our times ; in days which seem never free, in one quarter or another, from famines, or pestilences, or outward troubles of one kind or other ;

in the bitter discussions which go on between individuals, or various bodies of professing Christians ; when here, and then there, the world rises up against the Church, what a consolation for godly people to turn to this great truth, " God is our hope and strength : a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear." " God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed : God shall help her, and that right early." " The Lord of hosts is with us : the God of Jacob is our refuge." Such words help to prove the truth of what the prophet declares : " Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace, whose heart is stayed on Thee." Whether we look at ourselves as a Church, as a nation, or as individuals, its words alike come home to us. They remind us very much of the 2nd Psalm, in which is

203 PSALM XLVI. described tlie folly and uselessness of sinful men contending with God ; because just as the Eesurrection was the first great result of the Cross, or as the Angel in one night set Hezekiah free, so God can ever bring to nought the devices of sinful men, and turn evil into good, and in each individual case " make all things work together for good to them that love Him." Of the Church as a body we know at all times " God is in the midst of HER." It is God's presence which purifies, edifies, preserves, and extends the Church from one generation to another. It is the fulfilment, we know, of our Lord's prayer — "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you/<9?- ever; even the Spirit of truth ; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you ; " and these words, " I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." It is this which above all else separates the Christian from Jew or

Gentile. There is a great spiritual power bestowed upon the Church of Christ, pervading all lands, consecrating every soul wherein He is to God. It is the seed of immortality, the heavenly beginning and support of the Eesurrection in each of us unto eternal life, of which the eyes of men see nothing but its work and effect — the very condemnation of him who, being called of God, yet lives in sin, because his body has become "the Temple of the Holy Ghost." This is the salt

WE SEE THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY. 209 which preserves the Church as a body, and individual members of it, from corruption and failing. It is the greatest security of all against sin, if a man but know and feel, when a temptation comes upon him, that his body is indeed " the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in Him ; " and " if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." We no more understand how this union is effected or exists than we understand the union between body and soul in each of us, or how the eternal Godhead existed in our Lord Jesus Christ with the perfection of man's estate in body and soul. But things that we can see or explain require no faith ; for " faith is the evidence of things OT seen, the substance of things hoped for." In Heaven there is, and there will be, no faith, because all there is clear, and known, and seen. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And in immediate connection with this subject is the presence of Christ and the Holy Ghost, in and by means of the holy Sacraments. We do not now see, as the apostles did, the Holy Ghost descend from Heaven, as at our Lord's baptism, in the form of a Dove ; nor do " cloven tongues like as of fire " visibly sit upon the head of each of us ; but for all that, the words of the Baptist are true to all : " He shall baptize you

with the Holy Ghost." And still more. In the other holy Sacrament, which we are about to celebrate once more, without any change in their natural elementary 11. P

210 PSALM XLVI. nature (for that would contradict our very senses and perception), we know by faith that these words are for ever true in some way above our explaining or understanding : " This is my Body : this is my Blood." " Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, ye have no Life in you." "This is the Bread of life : whoso eateth of this Bread shall live for ever." These are all subjects which exercise, and so •prove and test, a man's faith. When icodemus asked of our Lord, "How can these things be?" and the Jews, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" in neither case was any explanation vouchsafed to the inquirers. They are presented as bare facts, attested by God to be great and important truths affecting each man's salvation ; but we are left to believe them or not without compulsion ; only let us all remember this, that " without faith it is impossible to please God." If we cannot trust God's word — and that is, I fear, the case with many who are not in the least aware that it is so with them — then we have no signs from heaven to look for, in hope of bringing us to the truth; but a man may be allowed to slumber on, like the five foolish virgins, who, when they did wake up at last, it was at the bridegroom's presence, and when He had entered in, the door was shut, and they not being ready were for ever excluded. Here then, in this psalm, we have the great declaration of the Emmanuel — " God with us." " The Lord of

EMMA UEL. 2 I I hosts is with us ; " the greatest and most blessed truth which this world has ever known. Its continuation is by the presence and gift of the Holy Ghost, a gift never to be withdrawn so long as this world lasts. Christ speaks of what is done to His ministers, or to little children, or to the poor, as done unto Hiirlself : " Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." ow do let us try to believe and feel how true this blessed promise is, and let us go and work on its assurance. The cross has brought us Eedemption and Salvation, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit alone which can give us strength to overcome sin and live unto God. Go and live daily in this thought — " The Lord of hosts is with us." Its fulfilment in ever-increasing truth and power should be one special subject of our prayers ; for " if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children : how much more shall your Father, which is in Heaven, give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him ? " This is the only sure way for any man to grow in grace, and to go on, as we all have need to do, " from strength to strength." It is not often, if ever, that God will let us know what advance we have really made while His work is being perfected in us. The greatest saints have ever been the most humble, and least conscious of any excellence in themselves. But though neither they, nor it may be we, see all the grace that is going forward in them, still God's eye sees it, "to

212 PSALM XLVT. Whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from Whom no secrets are hid."

My brethren, let us seek to excel more and more in all gifts of the Holy Ghost ; for this let us pray, let us wait, and let us work. This is the way of perfection, this will be the measure of our glory in the life to come. Of Stephen it is said three times over, in the few verses which speak of him, that he was "full of the Holy Ghost." True it was his lot to lay down his life for Christ, and to pass away from sight by a sudden and cruel death ; but to his eyes, even on earth, Heaven was opened, and he saw " the Son of man standing at the Right Hand of God." If so, why should we ever fear for ourselves, or for the Church as a body ? " God is our hope and strength : a very present help in trouble ; therefore will we not fear." " The Lord of Hosts is with us : the God of Jacob is our refuge." Vain are the efforts of sinful men to hinder God's work in His Church. They toss themselves, like the angry waves, upon the fragile shore of sand. They may " stretch forth their hand to vex certain of the Church," but the guilty arm falls powerless, like the withered hand of Jeroboam. Of old persecutions were God's way of spreading the faith, till it became a proverb amongst Christians, " The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The persecuted " went everywhere preaching the word." So let us feel this assurance in ourselves, to which this psalm calls us : "I am persuaded, that

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