WE have, in reading the Book of the Psalms, a great variety of Christian experience; sometimes the sacred writers seemed to be almost on the verge of distraction, as if hope itself had almost expired; then again, we find them on the mount of joy, blessing and praising the Lord. And so we find till we arrive at the commencement of this Psalm. Here, it is said, David's Psalm of Praise: simply because, that from the beginning to the end there is no complaint, no expression of sorrow, there are no words expressive of dismay or anything of the sort; it ends with praise, love, and adoration, so that, as one writer has said, it is almost as if the Psalmist was in Heaven. There seems to be no trouble, and consequent sorrow; it is all this beautiful joyful feeling of praising the Lord. Did the Psalmist end his life like this? Was he not a type of Him that was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and has he not now got to the end of all his troubles, and all his sorrows, and arrived at a place at the right hand of God, where it is all glory and joy for evermore. May we not hope that by the Psalms being written like this, the Christian's end will be peaceful, and perhaps joyous? We find the sacred Scriptures are descriptive of saints. If so, may believers be enabled to be looking forward to their last days being days of gratitude and praise. If we live to be very old, there will be various infirmities to pull us down, but the Spirit of God can lift us up above all this; and the aged may perhaps pass away praising the Lord.
In our text we are invited to notice: First. The object of praise. "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord."
Secondly. The employment (It is very delightful employment under the Lord's teaching and presence): "Praise."
Thirdly. We notice how universal this praise is to be: "All thy works shall praise thee."
Lastly. Saints and their employment: "All thy saints shall bless thee."
May the Lord teach us; for who amongst us all do not feel their great inability in this wondrous work of looking into God's word, and speaking of the Lord?
First. The object of praise. Here is a glorious object presented to us which thought can never define, and which language is too poor to describe, because our words are but air, and GOD is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him (and He finds them too, because the Holy Ghost teaches them to worship Him.) When we think of this great and glorious Being mentioned here, how low and poor everything natural and human appears. Athens, they say, was the eye of Greece, Greece was the eye of the world; so they boasted in olden times. Here is a man at Athens (Paul); he saw many altars and many inscriptions, but he found one, he tells us, with this inscription, "To the unknown God." (Acts 17:23) All the wisdom of Greece could not find out this Being, and thus they tacitly acknowledged that there was an unknown God; a God they did not understand. So that all the wit, wisdom, learning, and education, and all the boasted gifts of Greece, never found out this God; they could not define His character; they acknowledged that they did not know Him? But Christians know Him. Do you and I know Him? Have we been brought to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent? (John 17:3) (And it is such a comfort to the children of God): "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa. 35:8) (No! poor child of God, with all our acknowledged ignorance, the Lord will see that we do not err in heavenly things, or in a knowledge of Himself.) 9th verse: "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon; it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there"--then they find the way; they are led to know the living Way, the Truth and the Life. They shall walk there; and these, "ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads." Are you in sorrow today, in captivity, in some great trial, have you concluded (unscripturally) that there is no way for your escape? The ransomed of the Lord shall return from all that and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, "they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." They had much sorrow and sighing on their journey, but that shall all flee away. Let us be looking forward to this, and when we think of our God, the Lord, the great object of praise in our text, may we not, with the Psalmist, reverently say, as he did: "All they works shall praise thee, O Lord."
The Lord Himself teaches His people to know Him. "Isa. 54:13, "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." It is great peace in Christ--great tribulation in the world--we set one of these over against the other. What are our trials or tribulations compared with the peace we have in Him; covenant peace, eternal peace, present peace, everlasting peace. "My peace I give unto you, my peace I leave with you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you" (poor world, what peace can it give?" "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid"--So in our text: O! LORD--Just opposite to the levity and lightness of the general profession of religion of the day. People talk about religion as if it is something in their usual employment; as if it is of no more weight than politics; but the Christian is brought to say, O Lord.
When we feel the weight of sin and guilt, then we reverence His Majesty; when He spoke pardon to our hearts, then we delighted with holy reverence to adore and bless His Name; and always under the Spirit's teaching, the same feelings are produced. It is, O! LORD, somtimes we wish almost it had been written as in the original, O! JEHOVAH. Then we should see that our covenant God is our object of praise; that the eternal Father is still the Father of His Church and people; that He is a good, kind, and gracious Father; that His children think of Him reverently and worship Him reverently. Is He our Father? It is very easy to address God as our Father, but when we are brought to have to do with God, and brought to know our state as sinners, there is none can satisfy us on this point but God Himself. Not all the force of argument, not all the eloquence of preaching, even the written word itself, without the Holy Spirit's power can give a sinner to know that God is his Father. Perhaps some of you are waiting for this. It has been proved to you from Scripture (because you are a poor distressed sinner) that God is your Father, but you cannot yet get the comfort of it; you cannot take hold of it. That is honest, and your honesty proves it is the work of Christ in the soul. Some seed fell into good ground (honest hearts). Grace makes the heart honest, and nothing can satisfy you, that are thus made honest before God, but--as the Apostle wrote: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs" (O, how blessed) "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:16,17) We want the Spirit's witness in our hearts from day to day that we are born of God;
"And bear Thy witness to my heart,
That I am born of God."
And I tell you it is not safe ground for any to rest their hopes of Heaven upon anything short of this; and you had better be waiting and crying to the Lord for this evidence of your relationship and sonship to God the Father all your days, than to take this up in a light airy way and call God your Father. It is true the Lord taught His disciples when they prayed to say "Our Father," but they were His disciples, they were not worldly people. So we have these words, O LORD, set before us as our great object of praise. A child will surely praise its father before any; the father is dearer than all others; just so, Christian, if you are seeking this and cannot rest upon human testimony, if you are waiting, and crying to Him for this, you will have this internal witness in the Lord's own time, that you may claim God as your Father, and your conscience will not accuse or condemn you. Such is the power of Divine grace in the heart; so we look to this glorious Person in our text, O LORD (JEHOVAH) the object of praise.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was despised and rejected of men. Can you love Him as rejected by others; can you worship Him as one with the Father, even in His great humiliation; can you in thought go to Calvary, and see Him nailed to the cross there, and in your soul bow before Him and bless and praise Him? Because Christ too is the object of praise; some of us have praised Him, and we will praise Him, and not give our praise to another. The Lord will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to graven images. O how sweet, when faith is strong in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bless and praise His great and holy name. When did you begin this heavenly employment? Where? Because there has been a beginning; you can recollect something about it, perhaps, when you said:--
"O, my Jesus, Thou art mine,
With all Thy grace and power;
I am now, and shall be Thine,
When time shall be no more."
Solemn heavenly employment under the unction of the Holy Ghost, to bless and praise the Lord Jesus Christ. So the Holy Spirit, as one with the Father and the Son, is set before us in the two words, O Lord, or, O Jehovah. It was He who quickened us when dead in trespasses and sins; we did not ask Him to do this; we did not know there was such a quickening power. He quickened us in a sovereign way effectually; He made us feel our need of a Saviour, He has led us on, kept us and comforted us at times, until now. So the people of God feel that this great Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is their great object of worship, "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord."
Secondly. The employment mentioned in our text is Praise. "This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise." How delightful, how precious this heavenly employment, when we can sing with the spirit and with the understanding also. This as you know is the beginning of the employment of the Church, that will never end. What do they do in glory? They all bow and praise Him that lived, loved and died to redeem them. What do sinners do upon the earth? In their feeble way they, too, render praise to the Lord for His great goodness to them. Perhaps you cannot sing; never mind, the heart can sing if the spirit is right; but I think that those that have voices to sing should use them in the service of God in praising Him. The tongue was given to praise the Lord, not to grumble with. Saints delight in praise. "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion." (Ps. 65:1) Under the Jewish dispensation a part of their service was praise to the Lord: the Levites had to sing His praises; and we read in history that it was a most powerful and melodious sound, when they sounded forth the praises of God with their instruments. This is our employment. Perhaps you sing at home. It does not matter where it is; if your heart is warmed with the love of God; praise Him. The spirit can join with the Church of God in praising Him. We shall never praise Him as we could wish, to say nothing of as we ought. There are times when you feel you can unite in this universal praise mentioned in our text. How sweet, how blessed! In the Church of God, amongst the saints of God, the voice of every redeemed sinner shall be heard ultimately, praising and blessing Him. Even at home when the heart is merry, though the voice not fit to be heard, we praise Him as well as we can.
It is said, "It is meet that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is alive again; and was lost and is found." The elder brother wanted to know what it all meant; they said, your brother is come, but it appears he was sulky and would not go in, or join in the praise. However, when a sinner is turned to God (like the prodigal)
"Angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry: Behold he prays."
And the praying sinner shall in due time join with the Church of God in this heavenly employment, and bless and praise His holy Name. You are thinking, perhaps, with your burden of grief, affliction at home, trouble, care or anxiety, "How can I praise Him?" There is something in the bosom called the heart, soul or spirit that, according to the word of God, will sing the praises of God when none but God can hear. So the people of God find that their employment is praise. Now the Lord has so ordered it, that the end of all this trouble generally is praise. If you have been cast down and tried, and there has not one note proceeded from your heart to the Lord, unless God answers your prayers (and He will) perhaps you think there is something lacking in it. Do not let us doubt Him. I know He answers prayer. When He is pleased to bring us out of some great trial, when He is pleased to answer prayer so manifestly, then the heart is tuned for praise for a time; we bless and praise His dear name, and this is the employment of the Church here and will be for ever above the skies.
Thirdly. It is universal: "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord." Of course all do no praise the Lord audibly. All praise the Lord in that way in which He has created and made them. There is not an opening bud in the spring but gives God the glory of its existence. There is not a star in the heavens but is ever singing as it shines,
All God's works praise Him. Let us see what the Psalmist said (Ps. 19): "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." We say sometimes of the works of men it does them credit; wonderful work, wonderful building; he must have been a very clever man to have purposed and carried out such works. Just so with the Lord. That sun there; who made it to shine? We need not wonder that the Persians worshipped the sun, because they had not the gospel, and I daresay they thought and felt that if there was a God, that was it. What a wonderful body is the sun, and they worshipped that. When the Gospel comes these things flee away. The moon shining quietly through the night tells us that there is a God that made it, and a God that keeps it in being. All the planetary system show forth the praise of the Lord. Who could make one star? Not all the freewill people that talk about getting to Heaven by their works. Those high mountains how wonderful! How they speak the glory of their Maker. These praise Him. We look upon the sea and say what a wonderful work is this. "He hath founded it upon the earth," said the Psalmist. We always thought the sea was lower than the earth, but according to the Scriptures it is higher. "Thus far shalt thou go and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." How beautiful the sea is. What a God we worship. Perhaps another day there is a storm. We look at it with wonder and say, "How those huge waves and billows speak the praises of God. What a God He must be. "This God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death." When I look at God's created works in life, I feel ashamed of doubt. See what the Psalmist said: (Ps. 148) "Praise ye the Lord, praise ye the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels; praise ye him all his hosts. Praise ye him sun and moon: praise him all ye stars of light. Praise him ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded and they were created." In Psalm 147: "He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat. He sendeth forth his commandment upon the earth, his word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool." We do not see it so here, but some one tells us that in his travels, when near the Dead Sea in Armenia, a snowstorm came on, and the flakes were as large as the eggs of fowls. Of course they fell softly, but as he said, if a traveler was far from home or refuge, very likely he would be snowed up and die in the snow. "He scattereth the hoar frost like ashes." All to bless and praise Him, and to show forth the praises of the God of Israel, "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord." Yes! the wrath of man shall praise Him and the remainder of that wrath will He restrain. You have some one who opposes you very much. Never mind, leave it with God! He will see to it, He will be glorified by it. Was He not glorified through the rage of men when Daniel was put into the lion's den; and when the three children were cast into the fiery furnace? Didn't they come out safe and sound? "Did we not cast three men into the furnace," said the King, "but I see four, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." His wrath, determined as he was to kill the people of God, all ended in the same way, and so with the wrath of your enemies. Take it to thy God; leave it with Him.
Lastly. We come to the close of our text, "Thy saints shall bless thee." God's people are called His saints because they have been sanctified from everlasting.
"'Twas grace that wrote my name
In God's eternal book;
'Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took."
"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Who dare deny that? Do you want the evidence of it? "Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) Do you feel your heart drawn to Christ? Then He is telling you that He has loved you with an everlasting love! God's people are sanctified by Christ to love God. "Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11) You say, "How can I be sanctified; troubled as I am with my sins every day?" So are all sinners troubled! "What will ye see in the Shulamite, as it were the company of two armies." (Songs 6:13)
"Grace bids me seek the Lord by prayer,
Sin almost drives me to despair."
God sanctified us by setting us apart to His own honor and glory when He took hold of us, when He convinced us of our sins. Our good old minister used to say, "Some tell us we must leave the world and get away from it." They need not tell us that; we want to get away from it; it has been our desire to live apart from it ever since God called us by His grace and set us apart by His spirit for Christ. Thus God calls His own people, "and thy saints shall bless thee." They sat down at His feet, every one receiveth of His word; He separated them to Himself to be a people for His honor and glory. Oh! has He separated us like this (I mean in the spirit) and set us apart from the vanities of this world? Go! ye that love the world; pursue your course, till perhaps some morn you will lift up your eyes in Hell being in torment.
The Lord calls them His sanctified ones, His saints and people. What a mercy to be set apart from this world, from the condemnation of God's holy law; set apart from the wicked, called out from amongst men to bless and praise the Lord. And are there no other of thy sons? said Samuel, and Jesse said--There is the youngest, and he is somewhere with the sheep. It was that one God had set apart to be king in Israel, and to be the writer of many of these Psalms. When Christ takes possession of the heart, the man that swore begins to pray; the man whose conversation was light and frothy now becomes solemn and sedate. He is called out, separated, set apart by the power and grace of God; he is one of God's people, and Satan will never drag him to Hell, for "The righteous shall hold on his way"--and their way is just opposite to the way of the world. "All thy works praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee." This blessing, how beautiful! If the Lord is pleased to bless you today manifestly, if the Lord blesses you with a sense of His love and grace and favor, then you will bless Him. I do not mean you can add to His holiness; but you will bless and praise His holy name--"All thy saints shall bless thee." Some tried one may say: "You only mock me in my sorrow; you only add to my grief by talking like that; how can I bless the name of the Lord?" I know you cannot under your present feelings, but God has promised to bring you out from that, "and thy saints shall bless Thee." Thou shalt yet bless and praise the name of the Lord; thank God for making you His child; for sustaining you till now; for promising to be with you all the journey through; and you know His promise is as good as if He had already done it. His promise cannot fail for evermore. He is faithful that promised, who also will do it. This secures our Heaven. Then we bless His holy name. Let all creation praise Him; let everything that has breath praise Him, and show forth His honor and glory; the church, the redeemed, the blood washed church of God, sanctified by the Holy Ghost, by the love of a Triune God. All His saints shall bless Him now, and when they get away from the body, when they get away from this load of flesh, when they get away from all their troubles, and as they enter through the heavenly gate into the city, they will begin to bless Him, for they shall see Him without a veil between, they shall adore, magnify, and bless His great name. May you and I be found amongst that great multitude without number to praise and bless Him there for ever. May He give unto us His spirit and His love, that we may bless Him now, and praise Him there for ever and ever.