"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."—Psa. 19:14.
How beautiful in the sight of right-thinking men is a well balanced, self-possessed and disciplined character; and in contrast with such, how unlovely are the undisciplined and ungoverned—the selfish, the unjust, the unkind and the violent-tempered. Naturally, the one awakens in us emotions of pleasure and admiration, and the other, of pain. And if such is the appreciation of virtue and the abhorrence of the lack of it among men who have lost much of the original image of God, with what a keen appreciation must they be observed by a pure and holy God.
Men of the world, who have no personal acquaintance with God, have no special thought as to how they appear in his sight; but with what carefulness should those who love him and who value his approval study to conform their conduct to his pure and holy mind. True, all the justified and consecrated, notwithstanding their imperfections and short-comings through inherited weaknesses, are acceptable to God through Christ, whose robe of righteousness amply covers us; but the measure of our acceptableness to God, even through Christ, is only to the extent that, while availing ourselves of his imputed righteousness, we are earnestly striving to attain actually to the standard of perfection. By so doing we manifest our actual appreciation of the divine favor. With what confusion and chagrin would one be covered who, in the midst of a fit of violent temper, or an unjust or mean transaction unworthy of his dignity or his profession, should be suddenly surprised by the unexpected appearance of a beloved friend of high and noble character. And yet the eye of such a one is ever upon us. And only to the extent that we dismiss this thought from our minds, or else that we undervalue the Lord's opinion and approval, can we allow the evil propensities of the fallen nature to run riot.
Realizing the downward tendency of the old nature, how constantly should the above prayer of the Psalmist be in the minds of God's consecrated children. But how, one inquires, may the difficult task of subduing the inherent depravity be accomplished? It is hard for one, particularly under exasperating circumstances, to control a hasty or violent temper, for another to bridle a gossiping tongue; and especially when the trials of life have put their colored glasses on the eyes and slightly soured the disposition. It is hard for another to be strictly just in his dealings with his fellow-men. And then what a host of inherent weaknesses there are, which every one realizes and knows that he must strive against, if he would be acceptable with God. The thoughts of our hearts are not manifest to fellow-men until we express them in words or actions; but even the very thoughts and intents of the hearts are all open and manifest to [R1296 : page 50] God. What a comfort to the honest-hearted!
The Psalmist repeats this inquiry, saying, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" and then replies, "By taking heed thereto, according to thy Word." And then he frames for us this resolution: "I will meditate on thy precepts and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word." (Psa. 119:9,15,16.) Here is the secret of a pure and noble life, acceptable to God. It is to be attained, not merely by prayers and righteous resolutions, but in addition to these, by careful, painstaking heed, by systematic and diligent effort at self-cultivation, by the careful and persevering weeding out of evil thoughts and the diligent and constant cultivation of pure, benevolent and noble thoughts, and by nipping in the bud the weeds of perversity before they bring forth their hasty harvest of sinful words and deeds.
But observe, further, that this heed or care is to be taken, not according to the imperfect standard of our own judgment, but according to God's Word. The standard by which we test our lives makes a vast difference in our conclusions. The Psalmist further commends this standard to us, saying: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." [That is, if we take heed to our ways according to God's law, it will turn us completely from the path of sin to the path of righteousness.] The testimony [the instruction] of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple [the meek, teachable ones—clearly pointing out to them the ways of righteousness]. The statutes [the decrees, ordinances and precepts] of the Lord are right [the infallible rules of righteousness], rejoicing the heart [of the obedient]. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean [not a menial, servile fear, but a noble fear, begotten of love—a fear of falling short of his righteous approval], enduring forever. More to be desired are they [the law and the testimony of the Lord] than gold; yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned [concerning the dangers of the way and the snares of the adversary, and concerning everything which is calculated to discourage, or to hinder his growth in grace], and in keeping of them there is great reward."
"Who [in the use merely of his own fallible judgment and without the standard of God's law] can understand his errors [can rightly judge himself]?" But when, as we measure ourselves by this standard, we detect and deplore our short-comings, let us remember the Psalmist's prayer: "Cleanse thou me from secret faults"—thus supplementing our efforts by our prayers.
But there is still another part of this prayer which the Lord thus puts into our mouths. It reads: "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." Let us consider what kind of sins would be presumptuous sins. To presume signifies to take for granted without authority or proof. A presumptuous sin would therefore be taking for granted and asserting as truth something which God has not revealed, or the perversion of what he has revealed. To claim and hold tenaciously as a part of God's plan any doctrine, merely on the ground of fallible human reason and without divine authority, would therefore be a presumptuous sin. Of this nature is the sin of those who malign the divine character by boldly teaching the blasphemous doctrine of eternal torment without warrant from the Scriptures, and in direct contradiction of them. And there are many other sins of greater and less degree which partake of the same character. But the words here seem to refer directly to some particular error into which there is danger of drifting—"Then shall I be innocent from the great transgression"—evidently, the sin unto death referred to by the apostles also (1 John 5:16; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31). Such a sin would be that of presuming upon the love of God to bring us salvation, even though we should wilfully refuse it through the channel which he has appointed—the precious blood of Christ, shed for our redemption.
Well indeed may we pray and strive to be kept back from presumptuous sins—sins of pride and of arrogant self-will which does not meekly submit to the will of God. Let us, beloved, beware of the slightest tendency toward pride and self-will, [R1296 : page 51] or the disposition to be wise above what is written, or to take for granted what God does not clearly promise. "Then," indeed, if we watch and strive against the very beginning of that proud and haughty spirit which surely presages a fall, we shall be "innocent from the great transgression."
"Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who doth meditate therein day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psa. 1:1-3.) If we make the Word of God the theme of our constant meditation, its principles will soon be assimilated and become part of our mental make up, making our characters more beautiful and commendable both to God and to our fellow men; and in harmony with this habit of the mind the acts of life will speak. The purified fountain will send forth sweeter waters than formerly, bearing refreshment and good cheer to all who come in contact with it. It will make happier homes—better husbands, better wives and better children. It will sweeten the temper, soften the voice; dignify the language, cultivate the manners, ennoble the sentiments and lend its charming grace to every simple duty. It will bring in the principle of love and cast out the discordant elements of selfishness. Thus it will make the home the very garden-spot of earth, where every virtue and every grace will have ample room to expand and grow.
It will not only thus favorably affect the individual and the home-life, but it will go out into the avenues of trade, and truth and fair-dealing will characterize all the business relations; and thus will God be honored by those who bear his name and wear the impress of his blessed spirit.
While the heights of perfection cannot be reached so long as we still have these imperfect bodies, there should be in every child of God a very perceptible and continuous growth in grace, and each step gained should be considered but the stepping-stone to higher attainments. If there is no perceptible growth into the likeness of God, or if there is a backward tendency, or a listless stand-still, there is cause for alarm. Let us constantly keep before our eyes the model which the Lord Jesus set for our example—that model of the complete fulfilment of the will of God, in which the whole law was kept blamelessly. Let us follow his steps of righteousness and self-sacrifice as nearly as a full measure of loving zeal and faithfulness and loyalty to God will enable us to do, and we shall have a blessed sense of the divine approval now and the glorious reward of divine favor in due time.r1296 "JERUSALEM REVIVING."
r1297 STRONG DELUSION.
r1297 A CRITICISM.
r1299 PROGRESSIVE JAPANESE.
r1300 "ROGUE CATCH ROGUE."
r1300 SPECIAL NOTICES.
r1300 EXTRACTS FROM INTERESTING LETTERS.