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"In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust : let me never be put to confusion." PSALM xxxi. I.
THERE are times in our lives when at the thought of all that we have to do, and of all that we have to fear, our hearts sink within us. Our duties are great and often difficult, and they are unceasing. There is no end of them. Doing them to-day does not relieve us from the necessity of having to meet new ones to-morrow. And so much hangs on these duties. There is mercy, there is considerate allowance, there is forgiveness ; but yet so much hangs on these duties. And how can we be sure of always answer ing as we were meant to answer the call of God, of fulfilling, as He requires of us, His will ?
And our dangers, too, are great. We see in the Bible, we see in all experience, how common it is to fail, to be led from the right way into the wrong ; how much there is in the world of secret, hidden mischief ; how the path of human life lies among snares and pitfalls. We know that we must be tried ; we know that we must be tempted. Things will
happen which will put us to the proof, which will
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show what we are and what is in our hearts. And we know that we are weak, and have made mistakes ; that we have before now been tried and found wanting. And who can tell what is waiting for us in the dark unknown future before us ? Who knows what we may have to suffer ; who knows what we may have to lose ; who knows what enemies are lying in wait for us in the dark time to come enemies terrible, unseen, and unknown, of those in the spiritual world which war against the soul ? What may not be our appointed lot of trouble? What strange changes of our fortune may we not see on our passage to the grave ? What may we not have one day to choose between ?
We must feel that we are born into an awful world, awful in what it shows us and in what it hides ; awful in its ever new beauty and ever new opening glories ; awful in its undiscovered secrets, and its darkness which no eye or mind can pierce
through. It spreads all round us and folds us round, and we feel, as it were, lost in it. We are like chil dren lost on a wide common on a dark night. Where we are going, what may befall us, is hidden from us. What has happened to others, why should it not happen to us ? Where can we feel our guide ? Who can feel sure that he will be guided safely; that help will come at the moment when it will be of use ; that, when we are least thinking of it, the evil day may not come ?
These things, I say, will come into our thoughts sometimes. They do not come, perhaps, into the thoughts of the brave, or into the thoughts of the dull and insensible, who never look forward ; but
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all of us are not insensible, and all of us are not brave.
When these thoughts oppress us we are told, and rightly told, to put them away from us. They are weak thoughts, vain thoughts, faithless thoughts,
useless thoughts ; and, taken by themselves as they come upon us when they distress us, they are false thoughts. For besides that they cannot do any thing to strengthen and defend us, besides that all they can do is to disturb and discourage us, besides that all dwelling on what we can know nothing of and cannot help is one of those wrong things which we ought to, and which we really have tfie power to drive out of our minds, at the outside, the thoughts themselves are but Jialf true.
For if it is true that our duties are great, it is true also that in their own due time and season they will not be greater than we may hope to have strength to do. If it is true that our dangers are great and manifold, it is also true that our safeguards and means of escape are as many and as various, and that we may wisely and reasonably trust them. If experience shows many failures, it shows too as many triumphs. So that to think only of what is against us is to think of what is only half the truth. And half the truth becomes falsehood when we think of it as if it were the whole truth.
But in our days of weakness and trouble these fears and anxieties will not always go because we bid
them. They will not always give way to what, in calmer and cooler moments, we see to be truth and reason and good sense. And even if we do keep them down, they do not lose their power to disquiet
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and sadden ; their shadow falls across our path, and we cower and shrink before the unknown future and its unsearchable darkness, which looks so threatening because no one can tell what it may hide and have in store. To-day, perhaps, we can face it boldly To-morrow the awful "may-fa s" of the time to come open out one after another with oppressive clearness, and rise up before us, challenging us to say that they are impossible. We have no covenant with pain or death ; we are not assured against what has visited other men. Who knows what news to morrow may bring us ? Who knows what we may be called to go through before the month is past ? Who knows what accident may happen to us ? Who can say that, turning any corner, we may not meet our fate?
Is there nothing but the calm, deliberate debate of unexcitcd reason, arguing about what is likely and what is sensible and prudent, to meet this pressure? Is there nothing else to take off the burden on the heart and spirit ? Is there no present and immediate remedy against fears which are so trying just be cause they are so dim and vague ? Is there any thought which can be set against these thoughts, strong enough to overpower them, weighty enough to be put in the balance against them, true enough to be matched against what is true in them, real enough to be relied on, for the heart of man to lean on, cheering enough to nerve our spirits to face the chances of our lot, and to quicken our fainthearted ness into life and hope ?
There is such a thought. There is a thought, resting on which, and calling it up in our souls in its
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simple, plain, living truth, we can endure, and feel ourselves comforted and at peace, when a too vivid sense of the risks and jeopardy of man s life threatens
to crush us. It is the thought that God guides us ; that we are not walking and wandering unwatched, uncared for, helpless among enemies, blindly stum bling along a path in which no one directs our steps ; but that all round us, now and to-morrow, and each hour until the end, are the watchful eyes of God, are the mighty hands of God. From the range of those eyes we can never stray ; from out of those hands we can never fall. Infinite wisdom is in that foresight that never fails ; infinite love and goodness in that power which has no master. Are we able to trust that wisdom ? Are we willing to submit our selves to that will? Then we are within a shelter where we can take no harm. Then, come what may, we are safe.
This is the belief which is the foundation ol the book of Psalms. No men ever in this world felt this truth so deeply and so unceasingly, felt it as the living and ever-present principle of each word and thought, as the men whose hearts the Spirit of God taught to write the Psalms. And it was to stamp this truth upon all the ages and degrees and changes of religious faith, to keep it clear and fresh and strong, however men might otherwise differ from one another, rich from poor, learned from unlearned,
Greek from Jew, men of this day from the men of hundreds of years ago, it was to keep up among them all this great truth, that in the hands of God man may rest safe, that the Psalms were gathered into one book, and sung as the natural and familiar
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expression of faith and trust, from generation to generation, from church to church, and have been adopted as household words of prayer.
This thought, this truth, that God guides those who trust Him, and never guides them wrong, is the mark, the distinguishing doctrine, the keynote, of the book of Psalms. Just as we mark in Isaiah, as that which is especially his own, his prophecies of Messiah and of the Gospel redemption ; just as we say that the ruling and leading thought in St. Paul s epistles is the doctrine of grace, and in St. John s the repeti tion of his Master s call to love, so in the Psalms the leading and ruling thought, which makes them different from all other books, is the belief in God s unfailing guardianship. It is summed up in that
verse which I have read as the text, and which, in a somewhat different shape, ends our great Christian hymn of Te Deum, " O Lord, in Thee have I trusted ; let me never be confounded."
It is the verse, of all others, which might be taken by itself to express the spirit of all the Psalms. In prayer, in assertion, in prophecy and promise changed, it may be, in turn of language or choice of words, nay, even in complaint, in expostulation, in misgiving and fear, in appeals in which are interwoven an agonised despair, this expression of faith appears again and again, running like a golden thread, and mixing with colours dark and light throughout the Psalms. " In Thee, O Lord, have I put my trust ; let me never be put to confusion." " They put their trust in Thee, and were not confounded." "Be strong, and He shall establish your heart, all ye that put your trust in the Lord." " My God, my God, look upon me ;
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why hast Thou forsaken me? . . . Our fathers hoped in Thee ; they trusted in Thee, and Thou didst deliver
them." The verse, indeed, is one which has played its sad, yet high and comforting part in many a sorrowful history. Except, perhaps, that other verse in the thirty-first Psalm, " Into Thy hands I commend my spirit," no other verse of the Psalms probably has been so often the last words on the lips of dying men. The assertion of a hope, which the close of all earthly hopes cannot shake, it has offered itself as a stay to the spirits of men to whom hope was over here.
To men of very different times and different feel ings ; to men dying in their strength by violence, or worn out by long years of toil ; to the missionary on his deathbed in a strange land ; to the martyrs of the rival creeds of Christendom ; to the victims of deadly political strife, at the stake, on the scaffold, and at the block, these words have come back to the remembrance of men who had but one gasp between them and death ; and in them they have said their last hope and prayer, each in his own language : " In te> Domine, speravi : non confundar in cEterninn" " O Lord, in Thee have I trusted ; let me never be confounded."
And what to them was the last comfort in dying
is the only sure stay and support to us in living. They died feeling that, in spite of dying, they were still in the hands of God. If we would, without dis tress and weakness, face our condition, we must open our hearts to the belief that, living, we arc also in the hands of God ; that whatever we may live to see or to meet, we are never out of the hands of God,
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never out of the reach of His power to save and to restore. We cannot know our fate. We cannot foresee what may befall us. We cannot guess what we may be called upon to go through. We know that we are weak, and that deep and wide on all sides of us are the " overflowings of ungodliness," the forces of evil, the deceits of sin. We know not in what difficult position we may be placed, and with what weight of responsibility on our head. We know not what God may choose to take from us ; what light in our sky He may darken or put out ; what power in our souls He may cloud over or with draw. We know not what a day may bring forth. But what we do know is, that in it all and with it all
there comes to those who put their trust in God a Hand which wisely and strongly orders all things ; there comes the Providence which beholds all things from end to end ; there is present the same pro tection of that everlasting Goodness which has never failed those that hope in Him which is able, through all appearances of loss and overthrow and perishing, to save to the uttermost what is committed to His charge.
Let us then turn to those great truths of God s Guardianship and Providence on which our souls were meant to rest and stay themselves, and be at peace. Let us make them our familiar thoughts, as they were to those who, in their trials, their dangers, their fears, their anguish, rose out of them into Psalms of hope and trust and sure success. So shall we be ready for what may come upon us. So may we look forward without terror. So may we bear the burden when it comes without losing patience. Let
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us have that trust in God in our hearts ; so will it
spring up in old, well-remembered words and texts, which will come into fresh light and meaning to us in our hour of necessity.
Let us now, in our day of peace and calm, learn to commend into the Hands of God our spirit, soul, and body, which He has created, redeemed, regener ated ; and with it our whole course of life, and all who are ours, and all that belongs to us. Let us commend it all, our life, and all its changes and issues, to Him, to whose Wisdom and Love and Truth we may surely leave them. Let us beseech Him now, in our time of health and strength, to be with us at the end ; that when the close is to be, 1 le would " direct it in peace, without sin, without shame, and, if it please Him, without pain, gathering us together with His Elect when He wills and as lie wills." So may we go forward in hope and peace, committing all our ways to Him ; casting our burden on the Lord, who will not suffer the righteous to fall for ever ; casting all our anxieties upon Him, for He careth and taketh thought about us. Then the bright days of calm and sunshine will not be treacherous, for they are the rest of God, and God gives it to us, and guards it round. " The hills stand about Jerusalem ; even so standeth the Lord
round about His people, from this time forth for ever more." Then need we not fear in the days of dark ness, for in them too God is there. " Behold, He that kecpeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper : the Lord is thy defence on thy right hand ; so that the sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night." Then, when
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one deep calleth to another ; when trouble is heavy on us, and all its waves and storms have gone over us ; when we hear the voices whispering, " Where is now thy God ? " we shall know how to fall back on the thoughts with which the Psalmist once and again cheered on his heart to hope : " Why art thou so vexed, O my soul, and why art thou so disquieted within me ? O put thy trust in God, for I will yet give Him thanks, which is the help of my countenance, and my God." So let us look forward. " O Lord, in Thee have I trusted ; let me never be confounded." In all time of our wealth and peace let us learn to say this with truth and earnestness. Then, in all time of our tribulation, will it become our fit and
natural appeal. Then, at the hour of death, it will rise to our heart and lips, a prayer which is the warrant and prophecy of its own fulfilment : " O Lord, in Thee have I trusted ; let me never be con founded." " O Lord, in Thee have I trusted ; I shall not be confounded."
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