This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. (Psalm 102:18)
The Bible is the greatest and best gift God has ever put into the hands of His creatures and subjects. It is His revealed mind and will; it is the standard by which all must be judged. Its doctrines, statements, warnings, precepts, exhortations, threatenings, and curses, relate to men, and God’s intention and attitude towards them. It is the sole and final arbiter, from whose decision there is no appeal The Bible is a perfect Book; and whatever in any creature’s opinion or conduct, be he man or angel, that is not in exact accordance with this Divine Book, is wrong. God is in it. He has magnified His Word above all His Name There is no appeal; the Holy Word of the living God cannot fail. “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man that He should repent.” (Num. 23:19) Conscience is not to be placed before the Scriptures; not even by its side as a partner. Man is not to judge the Scripture. As fallen we have no light. “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Ps. 14:2,3) The conscience must receive light before it can form a right judgment. Do not think the silence of your conscience in a matter proves you to be right; its silence may proceed from ignorance and death “But what if my conscience acquit me?” Then see if that of which you are thus acquitted is approved by the Scriptures; if it is, you may rejoice; if it is not, your conscience deceives you in its own darkness.“ To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.“ (Isa. 8:20) May we be saved from making our selves judges. Happy is the man who is not condemned by God’s Word in that which he allows. This final authority of the Bible, that is to say, the revealed will and judgment of God, the Lord’s people are taught and brought tremblingly to believe As doing truth under a Divine influence, they come to the light, that their deeds may be manifested that they are wrought in God. With the Apostle Paul they can say at times, “But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth.” (Rom. 2:2) Self-interest, that ingrained principle, is a mighty influence in us against the pure, straight Word of God. May the Lord give His dear people grace enough to lay all their things to the line and plummet of His infallible Word. The Word is the judge of what is right and what is wrong, both within and without us. When the Holy Ghost speaks a word with light and life on the conscience, it gives a person in that particular, a power and right to judge. “My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.” “The testimony of our conscience.” Paul could say this of himself; and as his preaching was made a blessing to men, he took pleasure in commending himself to “every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” If then, you lack the Divine enforcement of the Word on your conscience, you have no sort of power, or privilege, or right to judge, either of God, yourself, or your ways. You are carnal; and it is “he that is spiritual that judgeth all things.” “But my feelings, my experience, do not condemn me.” Your feelings, your experience,—all you are, all you feel, all you do—must come to be finally judged by the Scripture.
I desire to draw your attention today to the unerring, and to poor needy sinners, the comfortable testimony of the Word of God. There is no good thing men can desire for this life and for that which is to come of which the Bible does not treat. The Christian, to whom it may seem otherwise, would do well to follow Hart’s direction:
“If aught there dark appear,
Bewail thy want of sight.”
It is a rare blessing to be enabled to “search the Scriptures,” to come as empty pitchers to a full Fountain of living waters. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” This implies an inward power, a Divine influence from applied words. Paul tells the Lord’s people of one special use, one gracious end of the Scriptures,—” For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) Thus even the sad falls of many Bible characters “are written for our admonition; upon whom the ends of the world are come,” that we may be warned against tempting Christ “as some of them also tempted and were destroyed of serpents.” The Lord grant that our hearts may be very graciously brought to His Word for examination. Do we hold any doctrines? Let us see if they are in accordance with the sacred teachings of the Bible. Have we a hope? Let us try it by the everlasting gospel. Do we feel any hindrances and checks of conscience about the path we are walking in, or are contemplating entering upon? Be it ours, then to stand still, search and try our ways by the Word with prayer, to see if aught there condemns or approves; or if any further light may be given to guide and confirm us. If the Word and the Spirit are for us in our way, we may proceed; if against us, may we stop. May we never press against the Scriptures; for that is one awful way in which we may tempt and provoke the Lord.
In this Psalm two things are observable. First, a personal case, a case of trouble. Second, a statement of what wondrous mercy, power, and glory the Lord will show to Zion. Gathering these two things together in the text, the Psalmist says that all that is written about them “shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.” See the Lord’s gracious care for His people,—He will have the Bible written for them; He will constantly meet them in their hard cases, and speak comfortably to them. He will cast about them the bands of a man, the cords of love, and thus effectually draw them to Himself. How full of encouragement is the Word of God for poor tried people! The blessed Book is written for them. Behold the love of God for His people, in that He has given them His Word, and sends His good Spirit again and again, to make them know that their case is under His eye.
In this Psalm we have a particular case, a man in trouble, soul trouble. How awful for you if you possess a ceaseless religion! But if you have a case, a case for God, may He make this Psalm a good word to you. It is truly a most suitable scripture for people in trouble. In it, if one may so speak, it is as if the Lord said to His servant who penned it, “Write what you have gone through; the witherings you have felt, the reproach you have borne; declare the solemn cause,—My indignation and wrath made known in My dealings; put all these things down; for in days to come there will be people in similar cases, and I will have this written for their good. Write My mercy; declare My intentions to all in soul trouble, that they may be encouraged to hope.” Thus my text.
Let us then, as enabled, notice:— (i.) that we have here a personal case, a man in trouble, but also a man in prayer. “Hear my prayer, 0 Lord, and let my cry come unto Thee.” What an unspeakable mercy a spirit of prayer is! It is a promised blessing. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” (Zechariah 12:10) In the power of this blessing “Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord.” Thus does every afflicted, Spirit-taught soul; each one can, as enabled, say, “Hear my prayer, not my words merely, but my prayer, in my voice.” Even if there is no voice, yet if there is prayer it is a mercy, for God
“…understands a sigh divine,
And marks a secret groan.”
By prayer the Psalmist sought God’s face: “Hide not Thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble.” God’s face beaming on an afflicted sinner makes heaven. He shines in His glory in the face—or Person—of Jesus Christ. “God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) Nothing less will satisfy a sin-bitten, conscience-smitten sinner.
“Incline Thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.” This is the man of God,—one day like grass, green, flourishing, beautiful; the next withered, dried, burnt up by a hot east wind. 0, the blasts which blow across your soul! What terrible withering, what awful death! No life in prayer, no moisture on your spirit, no dew distilling on your soul, no standing up in faith. Now is the enemy’s time! He reproaches you, he does it all the day; he madly roars that you are a deceived person; he suggests horrible thoughts, unutterable ideas; he says there is no help in God for you. Again, what a withering thing is indwelling sin! It dries up your power to do good. “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” Once more, what an enfeebling thing is uncertainty as to your state before God! You may never have had the heavenly merry-making, the fatted calf, the ring, the shoes, the welcome. Your fainting spirit says, “It will never be mine to sit at mercy’s free board.” Such is the case. Listen, afflicted sinner, to what the God of all grace says,—”For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” (Psa. 12:6) How will He appear? Why, in His glory. “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.” This is when He manifests Himself in Christ, in His eternal love, mercy, and sovereign grace, to the comfort of the soul, and the confusion of his enemy. Thus it is written, “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.” (Ps. 102:13,14) Are you very low, pressed down by a living sense of your vileness into the dust? nay, crushed as it were, into dust itself? See, then, how the Lord comes. He takes hold of this dust by the ministry and builds it into Zion’s goodly, precious walls. Afflicted saint, God will have all this written for thy sake. 0, that this may be the favored hour for sending it home to some who are in need of it! The Scripture is good ground for you, my dear friends. “The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him.” (Isa. 56:8) These “others” are the miserable “dust” His servants take pleasure in; and whom the Spirit takes hold of for the glory of God.
“This shall be written for the generation to come: It shall be written that a man of God was in soul trouble, and that then his God and Saviour did not forsake him, but taught him to pray, enabled him to pray, to take his case, his sad condition, to the Lord, to go with his soul in his hand continually; and further it shall be written that this oft-sought Lord was entreated of His poor servant, that He bowed down His patient ear and heard him. It is thus the will of God that His children, the “generation to come,” the children born of Him shall pray unto Him in a time when He may be found. All this is written. The Lord means what He says; He is equal to His Word. If you are a praying person, go on in that heavenly course; there is every encouragement in the Scripture of truth for you. Whatever a guilty conscience, a heart convinced of unworthiness, a legal spirit, guilty fear, and an accusing devil may urge for your discouragement, press your case, continue in prayer. “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Pet. 3:3) No guilt shall bind, no sin depress, no temptation hold, no devil keep you when the set time is come. What is the ground of most of our objections that such poor guilty worms cannot be partakers of God’s rich mercy, of Christ’s free and full salvation? It lies much in a comparison of our wretched selves with the most high and holy God. He is immutably holy; I am vile, changeable, constant only in sinning He is good; I am evil. He is glorious; I am polluted, evil, only evil in the imaginations of my heart. He is Almighty; I am a feeble worm, and crushed before the moth. His foundation is in the heavens; mine is in the dust, and I am but of yesterday. But now, poor sinner, look at the ground the Lord God stands upon. He stands upon His own eternal goodness, His will, power, love, mercy, and purpose to save “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isa. 57:15) It shall he written that in a time of trouble I will be found. It shall be written what I did for Abraham and David; how I had mercy upon an idolatrous, cruel Manasseh, restored a revolting, false Peter, stopped a Saul of Tarsus,” These acts of sovereign grace shall all be written for the encouragement of poor, needy, withered people down to the end of time.
God will have the atonement written for the generation to come, When the high priest and the Sadducees had laid their hands on the apostles and put them in prison, the angel of the Lord by night, opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” This life is the Person and work of Christ. Sinner, the atonement is bigger than your sins; it has more power to save than sin has to condemn. Sin is finite. If the sin of any creature could be a million times greater than it actually is, it would still be finite. Nothing in the creature can become infinite; though we may speak of sin as infinite as done against an Infinite Being. But the atonement is infinite; it was made by Immannel, God with us. “Feed the Church of God, which He has purchased with His Own blood,” (Acts 20:28) 0, full river of life! All efficacious river!
“It rises high, and drowns the hills;
Has neither shore nor bound;
Now if we search to find our sins,
Our sins can ne’er be found,”
Under the power of the Holy Ghost, Whose most gracious work is to glorify Christ, the guilty heart turns to the Lord for mercy, and waits until that mercy flows from the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, The precious blood of Christ sprinkled on the conscience gives life, liberty and peace, The peace of God then keeps the heart and mind by Jesus Christ. 0 blessed peace! Divine protection!
In the next place, we may say that God will have His “exceeding great and precious promises” written for the generation to come. Are the children blind? Then the Lord says, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. (Isa. 42:16) He has promised grace enough to preserve His saints who are engaged in a war with sin, so that sin shall not have dominion over them. To one in sore affliction He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Poor afflicted saint, it is sufficient now. Food for the hungry, and drink for the thirsty the Lord has promised, while heaven is assured to all over-comers. Another mercy, covenant mercy, the Lord will have written, yes, and preached too, even the promise of the Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for 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.” (John 14:16,17) If our religion is right it has two parts—if I may so express the matter—it is objective and it is subjective. As it is objective it has Christ in all the glory and benefits of His adorable Person and finished work, for its alone ground. As it is subjective, it is the creation of the Holy Ghost. Have you faith? That Divine Spirit wrought it with power. Have you received Christ, called Him Lord? it was by the Holy Ghost Do you possess and bring forth love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance? Those blessed graces are the fruit of the Spirit All. Inward grace is given by Him. All the known, believed, and admired glory of Christ is revealed by the Spirit of Christ. When, then, any word comes into our heart, fits into our case, forbids our fear, removes our heaviness, and enables faith to lay hold of God, and deliverance in Him, we owe all that to the Spirit. Then indeed we know that “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:10). “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen; unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20). How amazed is a poor, tempted, afflicted soul, when he is favored to understand by faith that the Scriptures were written for him. The invitations, the promises, the precepts and the admonitions, all written for him, “All things are yours.” How powerfully humbling is such a discovery! “Is this the manner of man, 0 Lord?” Blessed soul that has all this undeserved mercy! In it he knows that God is for him. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Ps. 113:6) In this case you will have the devil against you; but God will one day bruise him under your feet; your Redeemer is very strong, and will thoroughly plead your cause, “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.
Lastly: “And the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. Praise is comely for the upright;” and all who are created in Christ Jesus unto good works are upright in the highest possible sense, in which the word can be applied to a creature. Mercy received will cause us to make melody in our hearts to the Lord. Praise is an ascription of glory, honor, majesty, and dominion “unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Well, my dear friends, have you praised the Lord as Paul did when he said, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift”? 0, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His priceless gift. No Lord Jesus,—no hope, no open door of mercy, no plea, no smile from God, no help from trouble. When the Holy Ghost makes Christ known, then God is praised. How often have some of us been brought low in order to prove how ever ready the Lord is to help us; low in soul, low in body, low in circumstances. Here have we been, yea, “scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.” (Psa. 141:7) But in time wisely fixed, the Lord has helped, spoken to us by His Son. Then let us give thanks for the Lord Jesus.
Again, have we not, some of us, reason to praise the Lord for His Word? Has not the Spirit of truth made it life, light, and power in us? Now a convincing word has laid us low; then a passage which has set forth before our wondering eyes, our own case, has surprised us; now an invitation to draw near to the Lord with our every complaint? Want, and distress, has fallen upon our spirit; then a word of support of deliverance, has been spoken home to us. 0, the Divine benefits of the Bible! The Bible as made over to a poor afflicted person. 0, may we praise Him Who has both given the Scriptures generally, and spoken some passages of them to us particularly. May we praise Him for the kind reproof, the shining promise, the directing precept, the nourishing truth of the Scripture. But one may say that he has never had the home-spoken word. Well, see if you can traffic with heaven as some of old did; of whom it is said they “obtained promises;” if you can succeed by supplication, by importunity, how rich you will be! And you will prize what you labor for. Your way may be rough; but one word standing on your side will ensure you a good escape from the windy storm and tempest; for “the Word of the Lord endureth for ever;” you will never get to the end of that, it is still to come. You cannot dry up the Word; you must take the Lord out of it to exhaust the promise. Has He promised you His presence? You say, “Yes, and He granted me a wonderful experience of it!” And yet the promise is to come, it is for ever. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And then you shall enter into the joy of your Lord, and go no more out. What deaths has the Lord swallowed up by His applied Word; what sorrows has He moderated and sanctified; what tears has He wiped from faces foul with weeping; what bitters has He turned into sweets; what abounding hope has He filled some of us with, by His Word spoken on our hearts! Shall all these mercies “be forgotten in unthankfulness, and without praises die?” May we be enabled to honor Him by judging Him faithful, as Sarah did. We often forget Him.
Once more, praise Him for the displays of His fullness, and wisdom, and grace. He has made these things known in His Word, and also in some of our hearts. Poor child of God, you shall never lack a real, a needed good. For the Lord God is a Sun and Shield: the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psa. 84:11) Is He not wise, yea, Wisdom? Whose eye has guided you in seasons of darkness and perplexity? 0, do not measure Him by your present confusion, but by His Word. How well does Erskine write of Him:
“Who all from nothing’s womb disclosed,
Can make the amazing product cease.
With Him our order is confused;
With Him confusion brings forth peace.”
It is written “I Wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.” (Prov. 8:12) Therefore, hang on His gracious testimony of Himself; trust not to your own wisdom, but wait on Him till He makes His Word good. Both in providence and grace He will display Himself as good, wise, and gracious.
Yet again, we may praise Him in His word for His all-sufficiency, It is written, “Fear not, Abram; I am thy Shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen. 15:1) “I am sufficient for thee.” 0, as made known, how all-embracing is this truth to the vision of faith, the perception of the soul! God, in this all-sufficiency, “is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help” in time of trouble. For help in times of trouble, according to His promise, the Lord be praised in the beauty of holiness, for His mercy eudureth for ever.
Lastly, it is written, “Where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3) How often do some of us cast up accounts, see how matters stand for eternity. The best account is that of the Apostle’s, “Blotting out the handwriting which is against us;” and that being done, how ready is the soul to go home. The grace that removes sin from the conscience can loosen every tie that binds us to earth. “Where I am,” That Jesus Whom you have seen by faith, whose voice, truth, and power you have known in times of affliction, sorrow, and temptation, even He says, “ Where I am, there ye may he also;” even with His Father in His Throne. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His Throne.” (Rev. 3:21) 0 blessed prospect! and the Lord set this even before the poorest, the vilest. “Lord,” said one such, “remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42,43) May such a gracious word be spoken to sinners, who though not in like circumstances, are involved in the same common ruin, and condemnation of sin. How, thus blessed, would their hearts rejoice and praise the Lord, as the people whom the Lord has graciously created for His Own glory. Amen.