A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *9/28/2012
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise him. [Ps 28:7]
1. This passage has, to my mind, a particular charm. I do not know whether it breaks on your ear with equal pathos and power. To me it seems charged with softness and sweetness, like some gentle strain of tender music. Let us read it again. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise him.” I think I see a battle raging furiously, yet he whom it most concerns, after having displayed his prowess and fought valiantly, steps aside, and, sitting down in a quiet place, bombproof and almost out of sound of the cannons’ roar, talks with his heart like this. He forgets the raging strife: he is expecting a joyful victory. He knows his weakness, but he has caught a glimpse of the divine strength which is guaranteed to him. He is trembling, perhaps, from the toil of the fight, and yet he rests as one unconsciously subdued to settled calm and mild composure: he rests in God. In the same way, I want you, dear friends, to get out of the crowd for a while this evening, and take shelter in a quiet place. Forget just now the various troubles of business, the domestic cares which often harass you, and the inward conflicts which vex your souls. Whatever there may be to disturb, distress, or distract you, leave it alone. Now, for a while, revel in that sweet peace which only God can give, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, and say to your soul, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise him.”
2. The sentence, you will notice, divides itself into three parts. The first tells us of an assured possession — “The Lord is my strength and my shield”; and the second speaks of a definite experience — “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped.” There are no “ifs,” no “buts,” no suspense of the soul midway between hope and fear: he speaks without a trace of hesitancy, for he expresses his own actual experience. The third part of our text very properly closes with an expressed emotion; it is a very deep emotion — “My heart greatly rejoices.” And then, you see, the inward emotion is interpreted in a most proper fashion by an audible utterance — “With my song I will praise him.”
3. I wish to call your studious attention to the remarkable form of this verse. There is a pair in the case of each of my divisions, and the pair in each case consists of inward and outward. Notice, “The Lord is my strength,” that is inward: “My shield,” that is outward. “My heart trusted in him,” that is inward: “and I am helped,” that is outward. “Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,” that is inward “and with my song I will praise him,” that is outward. It is by no means trifling to notice these arrangements in the structure of sacred poetry, for there is a lesson to be learned from it: it teaches us that truth and beauty are to be linked together, and that to be holy we need not be uncouth. Very often we may observe a beautiful form and an admirable fashion in the language which embodied the thoughts of the inspired psalmist. If we look at them long enough and meditate upon them fondly enough, we shall discern a symmetry in all his hallowed compositions which charms the taste, rivets the attention, and helps the memory. The sacred poet served the Lord with his best powers, considering nothing to be good enough for the Lord whom he loved so well. Slovenly preaching, doggerel verses, and discordant singing ought to be avoided, if possible, and our devotion should have the sweetest possible expression.
4. I. Let us begin with the first division of our text, and may the Spirit of God give us full faith to accept it in all its depth of meaning. We have here A SURE POSSESSION, — “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”
5. With a double grip he takes hold on the divine covenant. “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” He gets a two-handed grasp on the God of salvation. A touch of the hem of the Saviour’s garment will heal; what divine virtue, then, must stream into a man who can hold with both hands — not merely the garment’s hem, nor even the garment itself, but the Lord himself. “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” Perhaps some of you cannot give the double grip; then give the finger’s touch, and it will save you. But do not be always content with that touch; ask to lay hold upon Jesus, and say, “I held him, and I would not let him go.” Ask to grasp him, like Jacob at the brook Jabbok with the brave resolve — “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Indeed, get beyond that, and pray to have Paul’s hold of Christ, which was so strong and firm that he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?” Both hands take hold, for the psalmist sees a double blessing; he also knows that he has a double need; and so he takes a double grip. “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” Were you to leave out the “my,” repeated again and again in this verse, how the sense would be spoiled. Let us try it — “The Lord is a strength and a shield.” Well, that is very true, but of what avail is that to me? My comfort must come from the fact that “the Lord is my strength and my shield.” Faith matured by experience, faith strengthened by the promise, faith invigorated by the Holy Spirit, who is the nourisher as well as the author of it — such faith is fired with sacred energy when it dares to lay hold on God, and say, “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” This is blessed work. May God grant to each of us to know how to perform it, and to this end let us seek the help of the Holy Spirit, without whom we can do nothing.
Notice what it is that David lays hold upon with his two hands.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield”: it is not the Lord’s
promised grace, nor is it the bounties of providence, which he has
bestowed on me, which I regard as my strength and my shield. It is
not even the Lord’s work in my soul, neither is it the assurance of
my faith, nor yet the ardour of my love, that has become my strength
and my shield. It is not the Lord’s book even, though its inspired
oracles can enlighten the eyes, fortify the heart, and refresh the
spirit. It is not the Lord’s attributes of power and faithfulness and
watchfulness; but it is JEHOVAH himself who is strength and shield to
me. Now, he who lays hold on God has done a daring deed, at which
even “the man greatly beloved” might stand aghast, were it not
written, “Let him take hold of my strength.” Oh to say, “My God!”
There is more eloquence in those two words than in all the orations
of Demosthenes or Cicero. All the genius, learning, and penetration
of the heathen world could never teach us how to claim the Deity, and
take possession of the God of the whole earth. What can we discover
in the philosophy of Pythagoras, Aristotle, or Socrates that will
compare with this? The man who can truly say, “The Lord is mine,”
has an inheritance which death cannot wither, which space cannot
encompass, which time cannot limit, which eternity cannot explore.
He may be poor in pocket money, as I suppose the owners of large
estates occasionally are; but he is infinitely rich, for he has
real property, and an absolutely valid title to it. He may
feel distressingly weak, but he is infinitely strong. He may
consider himself to be empty, but he has all things and abounds, he,
I mean, who can say, “The Lord is mine.” Come, my brother, be bold
enough to look into your privilege. Think of it! What if you could
say, “The world is mine?” It will be consumed by fire. What if you
could say, “Heaven is mine?” Yet if the God of heaven were not there,
it would be a wilderness. Oh, beloved! if you can say, “God is
mine — Father, Son, and Spirit are mine,” what more do you want to
gratify your eager quest for unspeakable joy? Come, can you conceive
satisfaction more substantial than to know of a surety that God is
your Father, your Redeemer, your Sustainer, your All, — your All in
all? Do you wish for a better song than this —
So I my Best Beloved’s am,
So he is mine.
Can you imagine any sweeter music than the minstrelsy of a love so melodious, touching as it does the strings of that mysterious instrument, the soul? Is this not the climax of all wishes, all passions, all desires, all delights? We hail you, son of Jesse, as the harmonious music of your sublime psalms breaks on our ears: but oh, you Son of David! we adore you because you have taught us to take up the strains as our own. We ourselves have felt in fact what the sweet psalmist spoke in figure. We, as your willing followers and your acknowledged disciples, do now, by right and decree which you have given us, appropriate to ourselves the poems, parables, and prophecies which once vibrated in dark sayings from David’s harp, as precious utterances concerning heavenly favours to which your sovereign grace has made us to be fairly and fully entitled.
7. Unhappy are you who cannot call this God your God, whatever else you may have to glory in; but happy are you who know that God is yours, however little of this world’s wealth may fall to your portion. So we have considered the double grip, and what it lays hold upon. Let us not pass on until we have imitated the grasp of faith and appropriated the infinite treasure. May the Holy Spirit enable us.
8. Notice under what aspects God is thus laid hold on. Inwardly, first, as we have said, as our strength: — “The Lord is my strength.” Brother, do you know how strong you are? If you have said, “The Lord is my strength,” I challenge you to say how strong you are. “Ah, sir,” you say, “I know how weak I am.” That I will also take liberty to question; for albeit that you know yourself to be as weak as water, you are even weaker — weaker than even your despondency has dreamed. “I know I am nothing,” you say. Yes, but you would not even have had grace enough to know you were nothing if God had not given it to you. To be nothing is ours by nature; but to know that we are nothing and to confess that we are nothing is a gift of his grace. Brethren, we are emptier than emptiness, and more vain than vanity. We may tax language and use extravagant hyperboles, but we shall never be able to aptly to estimate our own utter insignificance. We are weakness itself, hampered with the conceit of power; and yet if we can say in truth, “The Lord is my strength,” we cannot estimate how strong we are, for there is no measuring omnipotence. Come, let us consider the matter, and let each believer speak personally. He who made the heavens and the earth is my strength. He who firmly fixes the mountains so that they do not move from their places in the day of tempest, when the cedars are breaking, is my strength. Although he will one day rock heaven and earth, and all creation shall flee away before his presence, he is still my strength. These are only the hidings of power, but, truly, all the force reserved and lying latent in the Almighty bosom is engaged for his saints, and is my portion. Whatever omnipotence can do — (and that is a wrong expression to use, for omnipotence knows no frontier or confines to its sphere of possible action) is ours. All that God has done is very little in comparison with what he can do when his arm shall be bared to complete his mighty purposes; yet all the possibilities that pertain to God belong to his people. “The Lord is my strength.”
With Jehovah for our strength we obtain a matchless capacity for
endurance! It is marvellous how much a believer can bear when the
Lord sustains him. “Out of weakness we are made strong.” Do you see
that bruised reed over there? It is a fit emblem and a fair picture
of a man alone. You cannot trust the weight of an ounce to it, it
bends under its own slender weight, even though there is no pressure
to force it down. That is you, dear brother: that is you, dear
sister. But see that strong and potent column which bears upon it a
huge roof or an iron bridge across which will thunder thousands of
tons? That is yourself when God is with you; yes, you are stronger
than that, for nothing shall be able to break the man to whom God is
his strength. “I could not bear that,” you say; “I know I should be
crushed.” What are you thinking about — the loss of that favourite
child? Thinking about the death of your dear husband? May God grant
that you may not have to suffer it. The death of a wife? — the loss of
all your goods, the cruel wounds of slander, or the desertion of
friends? Are all those trials likely to befall you, and do you say,
“Alas, I could not live if such afflictions should overtake me?” My
dear friend, if you can say, “The Lord is my strength,” you can bear
anything and everything. You could bear a martyr’s death if the Lord
should be your strength. He could make a stalk of wheat to bear up
the whole world if he strengthened it; and the faintest and most
trembling child of his who ever whispered a prayer, he can make to
bear the greatest griefs and the heaviest trials without the
slightest repining, for his Spirit can infuse unconquerable patience
into the believing heart. Of course, the power to endure depends upon
the strength imparted, and not upon the inherent fortitude of the
individual. It does not make much difference what the struggle or
what the sorrow is if we have sufficient strength. A little child
with a small basket may be overloaded; while his father with ten
times the load to carry will walk briskly, and whistle as he carries
his burden along the street, thinking lightly of his lading. The
increase of the burden is not the thing to groan about if there is a
proportionate increase of strength. Emigrants have told us that they
could labour with less fatigue in Australia than they could loiter in
England. Whether that is so or not, assuredly, it is easier to toil
with divine aid than to rest without it. “As your days your strength
shall be.” Notice that. If the Lord shall heap the load upon your
poor shoulders, he will impart courage to your mind, and vigour to
your spirit, so that you shall endure all his righteous will and find
your soul thrice blessed in the endurance. “The Lord is my
strength”; then we can, like Samson, slay the lion and find honey in
it, or strike the Philistines and divide their spoil.
Let me but hear my Saviour say,
“Strength shall be equal to thy day!”
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all-sufficient grace.
10. If the Lord is our strength, our inward strength, we can do anything. At times we faintly think that we cannot get through our task; for the quota of bricks appears to be doubled, and straw is hard to find. Look up; for the Great Taskmaster always bestows upon us special ability when he demands of us particular service. Perhaps we are called to a high and solemn engagement of more than common responsibility. We shrink with timidity and put our mouths in the dust at the thought of it, and say, “Who am I, and what are my qualifications, that I should be summoned to speak for God, to act as his ambassador, or to fill a post of such vast importance? I am only a child: how shall I undertake an enterprise at which our venerable forefathers might well have been daunted?” But the Lord’s answer is, “I will be with your mouth. I will be your strength.” Well, then, we may cry with David, “I will speak of your statutes before kings, and will not be ashamed.” If the Lord makes us strong, there is no office upon which we may not venture, there is no duty we cannot perform, there is no sacrifice which we cannot cheerfully offer, there is no battle in which we cannot prevail.
11. Very likely I may be addressing someone who does not know or appreciate the faith which fortifies the feeble followers of Christ like this. Are you a very strong man, and do you boast about your strength? Friend, the strength of Samson served him a sorry turn when he was without his God; let his blindness warn you. Another friend, conscious that he is a man of education and culture, does not doubt that he can make his way in the world. Oh, sir, Solomon’s wisdom was of poor account when he forgot the statutes of the Lord, pursued the fashions of his times, and allowed altars to be built to the strange gods of his wives whose sensual fascinations took away his heart. There is no strength of muscle or of mind except in God. “God has spoken once: I have heard this twice, that power belongs to God.” Blessed are those who look for strength to the strong, for wisdom to the wise, for safety to the Saviour. They shall say, in the words of our text, “The Lord is my strength.”
12. David, in giving two grips, laid hold upon God concerning the outward manifestation: “He is my strength and my shield.” Looking back upon the past, I trust that many of you can say that God has been your shield. It is he who protects us from known adversaries; from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; from all the arrows that fly by day, and from all the terrors that haunt us by night. From adversaries of whom we know, and against whom we would be always on our guard if we could, God is our shield. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.” He who has made the Lord his refuge, and the Most High his habitation, shall be safe; no real evil shall happen to the just. “The Lord is my shield.” Nor is he alone our shelter from public enemies; he is our guardian against those dangers which we do not know about. How many perils may have menaced your personal safety, your domestic happiness, or your fair reputation, of which you never knew! Thank God for unknown mercies, as well as for hair-breadth escapes. Often in travelling you may be within an inch of death and never be aware of it. Our gratitude to God may be stirred when we perceive a danger and escape it; but are we not even more beholden to him when we do not even perceive the peril, and reach our journey’s end, or wake up in the morning, or live through a year, without sickness, without calamity, without alarm? Without violently imagining mischiefs or nervously inventing perils, we may soberly judge that dangers have frequently hovered around us even in the calmest hours, and from all these we have been preserved, because the Lord is our shield.
13. It is the greatest comfort to feel God’s Spirit within you making you strong; but it is great joy to know that God is all around you, making you safe. “He is my shield.” Knowing as we do that our adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion walks around seeking whom he may devour, and that he may be perhaps trying to seize upon one of us at this very moment, our security from his hostile attacks is this — The Lord is our shield. Satan will only waste his arrows against the eternal buckler. There may be a plot formed against you by a cruel adversary whose hatred is unknown to you; but do not fret yourself with fear of hidden dangers; let them lie where God permits them to conceal themselves; do not unearth the foxes nor stir up the young lions, for you are safe in your simplicity. Is it not written that “the nursing child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den?” “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.” Though earth and hell should blend their malice, they are safe whom God protects. The secret plans and crooked counsels of those who conspire against the saints shall all be foiled, for there is one who frustrates every evil device and takes the wise in their own craftiness. “Where would you hide yourself,” said one to Luther, “if the elector of Saxony should withdraw his protection?” He smiled, and said, “I put no trust in the prince of Saxony. Beneath the broad shield of heaven I stand secure against Pope and Turk and devil.” So he did: and so do we. If we only have faith in God, we can sing, in the language of the text, “The Lord is my strength and my shield. He strengthens me within and he protects me without. What more do I want?”
14. Before I leave those first two sentences, I want you to notice that this is a matter of fact, a fact which many here present can attest to: “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” It is not a pretty speech that we have selected as an appropriate motto for a retrospect, nor is it a piece of sentimental religious poetry in which imagination counterfeits Christian experience; but it is a positive fact, to which very many of us who have been tried and tutored in the pilgrimage of life can bear our personal testimony. “The Lord has been my strength”: at this moment I set my hand and seal to that statement before you all. I should have proved myself to be weakness itself in many an emergency had not Eternal power upheld me: I should have been far from calm resolution, and drifted near to madness; not firm and steady, but frail and faltering, had he not interposed on my behalf, and kept this heart in the hour of trouble. Is not the same confession due from each of you? You have waded through your trouble, dear sister: you have escaped from that dilemma, my brother; and do you not ascribe your deliverance to the Lord who strengthened you? Come, now, where else did you get your strength from? You cannot trace it to anything else than a divine source. Has not the Lord been your shield? Have not some of you been in positions in which no one else could have guarded you? Perhaps your own fault has placed you in predicaments out of which you could never have extricated yourself had he not stretched out his hand and pulled your feet out of the net. Then you said to your soul, “This is no fiction. This is the finger of God.” It is right-hearted sincerity, and not wrongheaded enthusiasm, which prompts us personally to affirm — “The Lord is our strength and our shield.” We can say it as deliberately as the miser might say, “The bank is my confidence, my money is my trust”; or as the merchant might say, “My wealth is on the sea, my ships bring in to me my yearly income,” or as the mother might say, “My children are my joy.” We can boldly proclaim it, and challenge all critics, for it is really so, “The Lord is our strength and our shield.” Beyond doubt or question this is an assured possession.
15. II. Now, have patience with me while I endeavour, in the second place, to expound to you A DEFINITE EXPERIENCE. It is related in these words: “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped.” Here, too, we have both inward and outward, as I told you before — “My heart trusted in him,” that is work done indoors, within the soul; “I am helped,” that is mercy received outdoors, publicly and actually.
16. Notice the scrupulous loyalty of the believer whose entire confidence is centred in God. “ ‘My heart trusted.’ I did not say ‘I trusted,’ as one who makes a profession with his lips, but rather with strong conviction and profound emotion, ‘my heart trusted.’ ” It is truly shocking to see people stand up, and recite a creed, to the truth of which they attach no importance. They say or sing, “I believe this, and I believe that,” and as they repeat the words prescribed for them, they superstitiously turn in a certain direction. But happy is that man who, turning east, west, north, or south, in his heart trusts — in his secret soul believes. There is no believing worthy of the name except heart believing. If your head believes a thing it is of little consequence; but in soul-saving faith the heart is so believing as to trust, and the mind is so assured as to be at peace. “My heart trusted in him. My poor heart fluttered in the time of trouble, it was agitated, it was distressed, for all its visible refuge had fled away; but at last I said, ‘I must lean upon my God, and I must cling to him.’ In very despair of all other things I cast myself at the foot of his throne. My heart trusted in him.” Has it been so with you recently? Has your heart been trusting in God? That is a very strong expression of the prophet when he speaks of the heart going a whoring from God. The language is vehement even to coarseness; but it is not too forcible, for it involves the commission of a spiritual uncleanness when the heart trusts any other helper than God. “My heart trusted in him.” Oh, it is so easy for the heart to get trusting in itself! And he who trusts his own heart is a fool. It is frightfully easy for the heart to rely upon man, as we know very well! Did you ever notice the middle verse of the whole Bible? It is the eighth verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” The comparison will not bear a thought, the preference is infinite: for confidence in man will betray your hopes, but faith in God will enrich you beyond your expectations. May our heart always keep to that — trusting God; trusting in God alone. “My heart trusted in him.”
In the next clause of the sentence, which is the outward
manifestation of the inward experience, we have the result: “I am
helped.” If I myself had been writing this psalm, I think I should
have written it like this: “My heart trusted in him, and I was
helped”; for it is a rule in composition that if you bracket two
sentences together you should write them in the same tense. But, as
old Master Trapp says, faith has no tenses, because faith deals with
a God who has no tenses except the present, for his name is “I AM.”
Our faith does not say, “I trusted in him, and I was helped.” No:
she has all former mercy present before her eyes, and she sings, “I
am helped.” Nor does faith say, “My heart trusted in him, and I
shall be helped.” Perhaps the needed help has not yet arrived,
but she is so sure that it will come that she cries, “I am helped. Am
I as poor as I was before I prayed? No, I am not, for I have obtained
the blessing that I asked for. I appear to be as weak as I was before
I trusted him, but I am not, for the Lord is my strength; and, having
trusted in him, I am helped.” I wish we lived more in that
blessed present tense in which God dwells.
He fills his own eternal “now,”
And sees our ages pass.
Now, brethren, let all the past of God’s mercy come up to your
memory, and let that be a part of the “now”; and then just take,
as it were, a spring, and bound forward into the future — indeed, leap
right across life, as though it were a narrow rivulet, into heaven,
and put the eternal future into the present “now,” and sing as
our sweet poet does —
Lo! a “new song” is in my mouth,
To long-loved music set:
Glory to thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.
“I am helped.” I have now the good I crave. By faith I believe it as a present possession. I am helped: I am helped. The past lives in my gratitude, the future lives in my confidence, and both equally meet in the present, and my soul is glad. “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped.”
19. You must notice, reverting again to the words of the text, that this confidence was, from first to last, confidence in God, and therefore it was honoured with a gracious result. “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped.” Many, many times we have been obliged to say, “My heart trusted in So-and-so, and I am deceived”; but here it is, “and I am helped.” Sometimes it happens: “My heart trusted in such a one, and I am disappointed, though not deceived. He would have helped me, but he could not.” But here it is, “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped.” All has happened according to promise; there has been no failure of faithfulness, no breach of covenant, no forgetfulness, no delay. I am helped sufficiently, punctually, continually, and so I always shall be helped until toiling and travelling days are over. Glory be to God for this.
20. Dear friends, have all of you who are Christians attained to a Christian experience? Doctrine, you know, is very important; it is good that you should learn it, understand it, and adhere to it; but doctrine is only the truth in which you are instructed, and avails you little for growth in grace until you experience its power in your own souls. Do you know why so many people run away from the truth as it is in Jesus, and take up with strange conceits and newfangled notions? It is because they have no inward experience of the old truths. Let a man once have a deep experience of the evil of sin, and I will warrant you he will feel his need of a Saviour and the necessity of an atonement made by blood. Let him have an experience of the power of the blood upon his conscience, the peace that comes out of substitution, and he will cling to the cross, he will be ready to die for the cross. He has such joy rising out of it as he never found elsewhere. I am obliged to cling to the gospel, for if it is not true I am a lost man: I must hold firmly to it, for there all my hope is fixed, and if it is taken away, my sun is quenched, the well of my joy is dried up, and life becomes a lingering death. But, beloved, an experience of those blessed truths which God has revealed to us by his Spirit writes them where they cannot be erased; not upon the tablet of the brain, from which they may be effaced, for men forget, but upon the tablet of the heart, from which they cannot be obliterated, for men do not disclaim what has become a part of their inward consciousness, and which God has made dear to them as their lives. May you all have such a definite experience as the text sets before us. The Holy Spirit will work it in all the saints.
21. III. Lastly, here we have A DECLARED EMOTION: “Therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise him.” Here, again, is the inward phase, you see — “My heart greatly rejoices”; and then there is the outward embodiment of the internal feeling — “and with my song I will praise him.”
22. Behold a heart rejoicing with a sacred and intense delight! Some people’s rejoicing is only skin deep. They laugh; their face is surfaced over with smiles, and their mouth bubbles up with silly glee. To my mind there is hardly anything more sad than the frequent laughter which exposes a vacant mind. The moment company has gone this volatile mirthfulness subsides, and the jolly companions resolve into solitary individuals, each one is dull and dreary, any of them are far enough from being happy. You may, perhaps, have heard of Carlini, one of the most famous clowns of the beginning of this century, a man whose wit and humour kept all Paris in a roar of laughter; but he himself had little share of the cheerfulness he simulated so well and stimulated so much. His comedies brought him no comfort. Though a professor of mirth, he was a victim of melancholy. He consulted a physician; and asked him for a prescription to relieve his lowness of spirits and habitual despondency. His physician gave him some medicine, but advised him by way of recreation to go to the theatre and hear Carlini, whose fun and frolic were of such repute. “If he does not fetch the blues out of you, no one will.” “Alas! sir,” he said, “I am Carlini.” And so, doubtless, it has often happened that men make glee for others when they are full of gloom themselves. The face smiles like summer, but the heart is freezing with the cold of winter. Not so the man who has laid hold on God. “My heart rejoices,” he says, “my heart rejoices.” No, he puts in the word “greatly.” “My heart greatly rejoices,” as if it were as full of joy as it ever could be; as though it throbbed and danced joyfully with a fulness of delight. “My heart greatly rejoices”; and Christian men can say this whenever they lay hold on God, even though they are surrounded with a world of trouble. We know sometimes what it is to wear a sad face with a glad heart, just as some others are wearing a glad face with a sad heart. Blessed is the man whom God has taught greatly to rejoice: let him indulge the holy humour to the utmost of his ability.
23. What, now, is the outcome of this sacred, soul-satisfying joy? He says, “With my song I will praise him.” Whenever you feel extremely glad in the Lord, be sure to mention it. This is one of the emotions which ought never to be concealed. When I have been preaching among the Primitive Methodists, at the very mention of joy in the Lord, I have heard them call out “Hallelujah.” In Wales I have heard the “Gogoniant” — glory be to God. We do not commit such improprieties here. Do we? We are too quiet and proper to transgress the rules of enforced decorum: and yet, sometimes, it might be the most natural thing in the world for a Christian to feel that he could not hold his strong emotions in stiff restraint, but must shout aloud, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Do you think, dear friends, we sing enough? I do not think we do. The world is very pleased with singing of a certain kind. Tuneful airs are tacked on to trashy words. What foolishness we hear in the popular songs of the day. I have been quite unable to understand the sense when the sound has jingled in my ears. When I have asked, “What does it mean?” no one has been able to interpret, or at least to make me comprehend it. To them it may have appeared like a clever ballad; to me it seemed mere empty doggerel. Well, if they are not ashamed to sing their Bacchanalian [a] songs, and sometimes to make night hideous with their choruses, surely we need not be ashamed to sing the songs of Zion, and to sing them with spirit too. Good woman, why do you not sing? You could handle ironing just as well if you sang a psalm. You could mend those children’s clothes quite as cleverly if you would sing a hymn. Good friend carter, you could crack your whip as you walked along by the side of your pair of horses in the cart and yet hum a favourite tune all the while. To get alone and sing some sacred melody by yourselves is very refreshing. My father had, years ago, a servant who was always singing, and when he asked her why, she said that it helped to keep bad thoughts away. I knew a boy who was so fond of singing the praises of the Lord that his employers would let him go out on the Common sometimes to give vent to his vocal powers, for he sang rather too much and too loudly for a quiet house. I love to see young Christians full of joy. It is good, sometimes, to get away and have a song for yourself, as much as if you said, “I am not singing for any one of you, but I am singing to God.” I listened one night and heard the nightingale with its delightful “joog, joog, joog,” pouring out such sweet music that it seemed to make the moon stand still, charmed with the strain. I know that the nightingale did not sing to me. He did not know that I was listening, nor would he have cared if he had known. Perhaps if he had noticed that I had been so close he might have flown away; he was singing without regard to human ears. It is a sweet thing just to sing to the Lord. Classical music is all very well, but heart music is the essence of sweetness. “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped, therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise him.” When you walk through a woods in spring-time you come upon a stretch of blue hyacinth. You imagine that a piece has been torn away from the azure mantle of the sky and thrown down among the trees. Why are those hyacinths clothed in such cerulean [pure deep blue] splendour? For what purpose is their sweet perfume exuded in such lavish profusion? Do you say, “They waste their sweetness on the desert air?” Indeed, oh man! know rather that God is abroad: those flowers are his, and this is his garden: he delights to gaze on their living sapphires. Did you ever come upon a clump of lovely flowers right away in a solitary place of forest, moor, or common, where the foot of man has seldom profaned the soil? Have you not paused to admire? There they stand with their golden cups, like the cupbearers of a king! Why are they here in such gorgeous livery? Who is all this beautiful variety of form and colour intended to greet? “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” What king has come to dine here and sip from those jewelled chalices? It is the eternal God who made them, and who takes delight in the work of his hands: it is he who walks among these solitary beauties in the cool of the day. Did you not see the flowerets bow their heads in worship as they felt his breath among their foliage?
Down deep at the bottom of the sea the coral grows in luxuriant
abundance, and many tinted shells that seem like unfinished rainbows
are lying there unseen, never to be seized by human hands, and
bartered in the market for gain. The Lord visits those cool grottos,
and takes pleasure in his own delicate handiwork. All things are not
for greedy man; the Lord has his reserved gardens, his springs shut
up, his fountains sealed. So let it be with us. Do not let us wait to
praise the Lord until we can get an audience of our fellow creatures,
though we may sometimes wish that our songs would charm their ears
and win their love for Jesus; but let us, often, retire into holy
solitude, and then all alone break the silence of our loneliness,
saying, “My heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise
the Lord. As long as I live and when I die, and when I rise again,
and through eternity, with my song I will praise him.”
In blessing thee with grateful songs,
My happy life shall glide away;
The praise that to thy name belongs,
Hourly with lifted hands I’d pay.
Abundant sweetness! While I sing
Thy love, my ravished heart o’erflows;
Secure in thee, my God and King,
Of glory that no period knows.
25. How I wish that some would begin at this moment a life of praise — begin by taking God to be their strength — begin by trusting in Christ to be their shield — begin by an experience of the power of prayer to bring them help. If you do so, you shall rise from height to height in your flights of praise: you shall first join with us below to sing as best you can, and afterwards you shall mount into the upper orchestra where all the chosen singers meet, and sit and chant with them the endless anthem which ascends to Jehovah, our strength and our song.
May God bless you, beloved, and give you to know and prove the
sweetness of this blessed text, and make you to sing David’s divine
song to the stringed instruments of your renewed hearts all the days
of your lives. Amen.
[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ps 27; 28]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 73” 73 @@ "(Part 2)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 23” 23 @@ "(Version 3)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — Faithful And Unchanging” 193]
[a] Bacchanalian: Characterized by, connected with, or given to drunken revelry; riotously drunken. OED.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 73 (Part 1)
1 Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honour shine.
2 But, oh their end! their dreadful end!
Thy sanctuary taught me so:
On slipp’ry rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.
3 Now let them boast how tall they rise,
I’ll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Till they plunge deep in endless pain.
4 Their fancied joys, how fast they flee!
Just like a dream when man awakes:
Their songs of softest harmony
Are but a preface to their plagues.
5 Now I esteem their mirth and wine
Too dear to purchase with my blood;
Lord, ‘tis enough that thou art mine;
My life, my portion, and my God.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 73 (Part 2)
1 God, my supporter and my hope,
My help for ever near,
Thine arm of mercy held me up,
When sinking in despair.
2 Thy counsels, LOrd, shall guide my feet
Through this dark wilderness;
Thy hand conduct me near thy seat,
To dwell before thy face.
3 Were I in heaven without my God
‘Twould be no joy to me;
And whilst this earth is mine abode,
I long for none but thee.
4 What if the springs of life were broke,
And flesh and heart should faint?
God is my soul’s eternal rock,
The strength of every saint.
5 Still to draw near to thee, my God,
Shall be my sweet employ;
My tongue shall sound thy works abroad,
And tell the world my joy.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 73 (Part 3)
1 Whom have we, Lord, in heaven but thee,
And whom on earth beside;
Where else for succour shall we flee,
Or in whose strength confide?
2 Thou art our portion here below,
Our promised bliss above;
Ne’er can our souls an object know
So precious as thy love.
3 When heart and flesh, oh Lord, shall fail,
Thou wilt our spirits cheer;
Support us through life’s thorny vale,
And calm each anxious fear.
4 Yes, thou, our only guide through life,
Shalt help and strength supply;
Support us in death’s fearful strife,
Then welcome us on high.
Harriett Auber, 1829.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 23 (Version 1)
1 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he mikes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
2 He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake his ways:
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
3 When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
4 Thy hand, in spite of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows;
Thine oil anoints my head.
5 The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
Oh may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
6 There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, or a guest,
But like a child at home.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 23 (Version 2)
1 The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
2 My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.
3 Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
4 My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
5 Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for ever more
My dwelling place shall be.
Scotch Version, 1641.
Psalm 23. (Version 3)
1 The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want beside?
2 He leads me to the place
Where heavenly pasture grows,
Where living waters gently pass,
And full salvation flows.
3 If e’er I go astray,
He doth my soul reclaim;
And guides me in his own right way,
For his most holy name.
4 While he affords his aid,
I cannot yield to fear;
Though I should walk through death’s dark shade,
My Shepherd’s with me there.
5 In spite of all my foes,
Thou dost my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
And joy exalts my head.
6 The bounties of thy love
Shall crown my following days;
Nor from thy house will I remove,
Nor cease to speak thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 23 (Version 4)
1 The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a Shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye;
My noonday walks he will attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.
2 Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My stedfast heart shall fear no ill,
For thou, Oh Lord! are with me still:
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Joseph Addison, 1712.
God the Father, Attributes of God
193 — Faithful And Unchanging
1 How oft have sin and Satan strove
To rend my soul from thee, my God!
But everlasting is thy love,
And Jesus seals it with his blood.
2 The oath and promise of the Lord
Join to confirm the wond’rous grace;
Eternal power performs the word,
And fills all heaven with endless praise.
3 Amidst temptations sharp and long,
My soul to this dear refuge flies;
Hope is my anchor, firm and strong,
While tempests blow and billows rise.
4 The gospel bears my spirit up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood.
Isaac Watts, 1790.