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STRACEY " God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trump. sing praises, sing praises unto our God: sing f raises, sing praises unto our King. For God is the King of all the earth : sing ye praises with understanding." — Psalm xlvii. 5-7. THESE words explain to us at once why this psalm is one of those specially appointed for our use in Church on Ascension Day. There is no other person, or time, or event, except the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, that we know of, to which these words can well be applied. The only other occasions to which they have ever been supposed to have reference are the removal of the Ark up mount Zion, to which the 24th Psalm especially relates, and to the Eapture of Elijah to Heaven in a chariot of fire. But then to this last event the term " God " is wholly inapplicable, while in the former we must by "God" understand "the Ark of God;" that symbol, as indeed it was, of the Divine Presence which was earned on the shoulders of the Levites from place to place, and finally up mount Zion. This reference would directly connect this 47th Psalm
THE ASCE SIO . 215 with the 24th and the 68th, the latter of which psalms it does resemble in many expressions common to both. But supposing this to have been the original application of this 47th Psalm, yet it is certainly not its highest and best, nor its most literal meaning, nor its most apparent reference. It can be really only a prophetical declaration of our Saviour's return to Heaven after He had fulfilled His course on earth. The psalmist here sees, by the power of God upon him, that great
future event to his great Descendant, according to the flesh, as though it had already happened; and he at once proceeds to speak of the spread of the Gospel over all lands, of Christ our Lord's reigning over the heathen, and of the people (that is, the Gentiles) being joined by faith in Christ unto the people of the God of Abraham. The ascension was and is the only occasion when it could be truly said, " God is gone up." We often read of God coming down from heaven, and we read of God appearing in one form or in one way or another to holy men of old upon earth, such as the visions granted to Abraham, and the burning bush, and the voice which proceeded out of it to Moses, the presence of the angel of the covenant, or other manifestations to various prophets. But this psalm speaks not of God's coming down, but of His going up ; and this can, so far as we know, refer to no other time or event than that of which S. Luke tells us : " He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His
2l6 PSALM XL VII. hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." The very words which follow this account of our Lord's ascension into heaven correspond very closely with the words of this 47th Psalm. There is a tone of great joy fulness about it. It begins with these words : " clap your hands together, all ye people : sing unto God with the voice of melody. sing praises, sing praises unto our God : sing praises, sing praises unto our King. For God is the King of all the earth : sing ye praises with understanding." Just so S. Luke, to whom we chiefly owe what we know of the ascension, tells us how the eleven Apostles were filled with joy, and praised and blessed God for our Lord's glorious Ascension. His words are :
"They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy : and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God." * All sorrow and fear disappeared "While our Lord was yet with them, we read of their "sleeping for sorrow." AVe read of His savin- to the two discip] on their way to Emmaus, " What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?" But from the moment that He had lift them altogether, all feeling of that kind disappeared. There is no more fear, no more sadness, no more doubt or hesitation. They are not afraid to lace the very men * S. Luke xxiv. 52, 53.
JOY A D PEACE I BELIEVI G. 2\J who had so lately crucified the Lord, proclaiming to them and to all men His Resurrection from the dead. And as with them, so with all of us— a sense of joy in believing, a special inward but sure happiness, derived from a sincere devotion and dedication of ourselves and our hearts to Christ as our Master, is a special, but it is an advanced gift of the Holy Ghost. In the religious life many, if not all of us, are like men walking tenderly upon ice, full of fears lest we may slip and fall, or the ice break beneath our feet; but after a time all fear of that kind will disappear in the faithful service of Christ, and we may walk securely and con* fidently, where at first we were afraid to venture. Joy and peace in believing is, I say, one of the sure results of a true faith and love and service of Christ; just as S. Paul heads the list of the fruits of the Spirit with these, "Love, joy, peace."* When any one's soul is first awakened to a more true and lively sense of religion, it is often filled with
doubts and fears of one kind or other. He doubts his own sincerity and his own steadfastness, or " what is truth," and what is right and what is wrong. Though Israel be led by Saul, whom God had chosen as their leader, yet they followed him "trembling." So were the apostles in their great hour of trial timid and fearful; but no sooner is the Ascension past than the change in them is most remarkable. They court * Gal. v. 22.
2l8 PSALM XLVII. suffering and publicity whore before they would have shrunk from it ; and on the very first stroke of persecution, we read, " They departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name's sake." But it was exactly thus our Lord had promised: "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy, and your joy no man taketh from you." Let us remember this. One sure result 6f our faith and love to Christ is to be in due time joy, and happiness, and peace in believing ; that " peace which passeth all understanding," from the assurance that we are one with Christ, and Christ with us ; that God is working in us of His good will and pleasure, and that we are fellow-workers with God. Let not any of us expect this sense of inward joy and peace at the very beginning of a religious life. It is a long process which every flower passes through before it shows itself in all its beauty of colour, perfection, and sweetness. But it is one certain result, sooner or later, of a holy life, that we shall have in us this "joy in the Holy Ghost." It is sure to come; it is sure to follow; only not immediately, not at first. This is one reason why many fall away. They begin well; but they hope to be perfected at the very commencement of their career. They expect to reach the end of their journey as it were
by one stride, or a day's progress ; and not finding this to be the case with themselves, they fall away. It is ever true, "Many are called, but few chosen." Seed
PRAISE IS ADMIRATIO OF GOD. 219 sown on a rock may spring up and grow ; but as soon as the sun shines upon it, it withers away, because it lacks moisture, and has no deepness of earth. And no doubt this is why the Apostles so often inculcate patience upon all. " Add to your faith virtue ; and to virtue patience," says S. Peter. " Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and later rain. Be ye also patient ; stablish your hearts," says S. James. S. Paul also uses the word patience again and again in his epistles. Praise then to God is really the expression of joy and peace in believing, and grows in us as we ourselves grow in grace. To offer praise to God is the highest and best reason of all for coming to Church. o doubt, if some of us were asked why we meet together in Church, we should give some such reasons as these — that we come to pray to Almighty God for what we want; or we come to confess our sins, and pray for their forgiveness ; or we come to hear God's Word, and to learn our duty better by listening to sermons and expositions of Holy Scripture ; but no one of these reasons is the highest and best reason of all. The highest and best object for coming to Church is to worship Almighty God for ivhat He is in Himself; to offer up praise, and adoration, and thanksgiving to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; above all, to praise God
220 PSALM XLVII. and Christ the Saviour of all for the Redemption of the world through His Blood, and for the gift of tbe Holy Ghost. Praise may be called " the admiration" of God for what He is in Himself, and has done for us. Our own selfish wants and needs may follow ; but they are not the first thing to be thought of. Thus it is the Cross, and the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, and the gift of the Holy Ghost which followed, which should especially draw Christian people together into the House of God. And thus it is, brethren, that the Holy Sacrament is the one special w T ay which Christ Himself has instituted for us all to commemorate His death and passion for us, and to show forth our thankfulness for the same ; it is this which should be the principal, the highest and best reason of all which brings us together within these holy walls. " O sing praises, sing praises unto our God : sing praises, sing praises unto our King." This is to do as the Angels do around the great Throne in Heaven. There the Hymn never ceases ; there no shadows of evening shut in the day, and no night spreads its curtain, as it does over us. Praise is the highest kind of prayer. It is to forget ourselves in God. It is, as I have said, to worship God as He is in Himself, and for what He has done for us ; and not for what we hope for, or would desire and want for ourselves. In Heaven there are no wants to be supplied, no sins to be forgiven, no dangers to be saved
WORTHY IS THE LAMB. 221 from, no pains to be removed, or tears to be dried up ; and so wbat we know of worship and service in Heaven consists in acts of adoration and praise, and the perpetual hymn of " Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts ;
Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. Glory be to Thee, Lord." " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and honour, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever." Poor and feeble at best can our praises be here. As yet we see but through a glass darkly ; there they see face to face. Still let us try to begin on earth what is to be perfected in us and by us in Heaven. Let us keep before our minds the thought of Christ's Assumption to the Right Hand of God, and trying to be like Him, and to do His will, and to follow His steps, pray, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom." " sing praises, sing praises unto our God : sing praises, sing praises unto our King."
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