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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 126

 

 

Verses 1-6

Psalms 126:1-6

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion.

A political fact that is emblematic, and a human experience that is common

I. A political fact, emblematic of moral restoration. The political fact here celebrated is the return of the Jews from Babylonian thraldom, through the interposition of Cyrus.

1. The political restoration was great. It was a restoration from exile, bondage, and destitution of religious privileges. And are not souls in their unregenerate state exiles alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, slaves “carnally sold under sin,” destitute of true religion, without God and without hope in the world?

2. It was Divine. Who else can effect the salvation of the soul?

II. A human experience common to most men.

1. A great difficulty to realize at once a great and unexpected event (verse 1). There is mercy in this. Could we fully realize such events as they occur, our nervous systems would be shattered, our mental powers would be paralyzed. Thank God for this dreaming faculty, a faculty which weakens the force of terrible events.

2. The irrepressibility of strong emotions (verse 2). There are emotions to which souls are susceptible that cannot always be suppressed; they are electric, and must break in thunder and flash in lightning. These emotions are useful, they clarify the atmosphere and bring in the sunny and serene.

3. The inspiring force of success (verse 2).

4. Love for others increasing with increased blessings (verse 4). He who practically appreciates the blessings he receives from Heaven will desire that others may participate in the same. He who is good will do good, he who is truly pious will be philanthropic.

5. True happiness comes out of suffering (verse 5).

6. Genuine work for others, however painful, will be prosperous (verse 6).

Captivity and deliverance: -

I. Our state by nature.

1. Captivity to sin.

2. Captivity to the law.

II. Our deliverance. The regenerating Spirit does not create in us new faculties. He rather purifies the old. He gives a right tendency and direction to those which already exist, and causing the wandering affections to flow in their proper channel. One immediate result of this Divine work is that of our being “turned again” unto God.

III. The emotions by which this deliverance is accompanied.

1. The emotions which are produced in the bosom of those whose “captivity is turned again.”

2. The emotion which is produced in the mind of those who merely observe this deliverance. (John Gaskin, M. A.)

Captivity turned

I. The captivity of Zion.

1. A degraded state.

2. A wretched state.

3. A guilty state.

4. A helpless state.

II. Deliverance from captivity.

1. Cyrus was a type of Christ, the great spiritual Deliverer; and if we are ever brought out of our spiritual bondage we must be content to owe our liberty to Him alone.

2. This deliverance is openly proclaimed and freely offered.

3. None are excluded.

III. the feelings with which they received the tidings of this deliverance.

1. Joy.

2. Manifested in praise.

3. Prayer. (R. Davies, M. A.)

A psalm of deliverance

Luther refers to the great and universal captivity of men under hell and the devil, and says it was a small matter for the Jews to be delivered from their bondage compared to our deliverance from these enemies. Sure I am that when the Lord so suddenly and wonderfully, and beyond their expectation, turned their captivity and took them home, our friends were, on that morning,. “like men that dreamed,” even those who had good understanding of the promises. To be delivered in the awful moment of death from sin, and sorrow, and pain, to enter in at the gates of the city with the sound of trumpets in their ears, must have seemed to them a too blessed dream. We know the men and women of whom we speak, and we know something of how happy they must be now. Loyal as they were to us and home, we know their roots were struck deep in another homo than ours. While they sat with silent harps by the rivers of Babylon, they thought of the sweetness, the beauty and blessedness of that far-off city. We saw them as if they were in a dream, and we could not hide from ourselves how ripe they were to have their captivity turned. Neither can all the sorceries and incantations of the great Babylon so intoxicate and seduce us, but that we shall take our places with them. Can it be that they have forgotten us? Are they so full of joy and so happy that this world and those they loved before never come into their minds? No, we cannot believe it. They have not forgotten us. They are now priests to God, and sometimes we can almost read our own names on their breastplates. As often as the High Priest says, “Father, I wish that they may be with Me where I am,” we may hear them cry, Amen. While they were yet on this earth, when they saw a new sight, or read a new book, or heard a good sermon, have we not their letters at home where they write, “I thought all the time of you. I did not half enjoy them because you were not there. I must stand on that hill-top, see that gallery, read that new book again with you”? And as they walk the streets of the New Jerusalem this night thinking of us, they ask, How long shall it be? When shall it be? They think how our hearts will swell at the sound of the trumpets; and as they walk by the living waters, they cry, O that they were hero to share my cup! Too literal critics find an enigmatical contradiction between the beginning and, the end of this psalm; but there is no enigma here. The hands of the redeemed trembled on the harp-strings when they thought of those they had left behind. It was not for those who pined in their captivity for whom they feared, but for those who prospered. John Calvin says that Daniel raised his banner in Babylon that believers might hold themselves in readiness to return. Paul has given us a banner with words inscribed in blood and gold, “for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” and as it waves in the wind, we see on the reverse scroll (2 Corinthians 5:1). (A. Whyfe, D. D.)


Verses 1-6

Psalms 126:1-6

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion.

A political fact that is emblematic, and a human experience that is common

I. A political fact, emblematic of moral restoration. The political fact here celebrated is the return of the Jews from Babylonian thraldom, through the interposition of Cyrus.

1. The political restoration was great. It was a restoration from exile, bondage, and destitution of religious privileges. And are not souls in their unregenerate state exiles alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, slaves “carnally sold under sin,” destitute of true religion, without God and without hope in the world?

2. It was Divine. Who else can effect the salvation of the soul?

II. A human experience common to most men.

1. A great difficulty to realize at once a great and unexpected event (verse 1). There is mercy in this. Could we fully realize such events as they occur, our nervous systems would be shattered, our mental powers would be paralyzed. Thank God for this dreaming faculty, a faculty which weakens the force of terrible events.

2. The irrepressibility of strong emotions (verse 2). There are emotions to which souls are susceptible that cannot always be suppressed; they are electric, and must break in thunder and flash in lightning. These emotions are useful, they clarify the atmosphere and bring in the sunny and serene.

3. The inspiring force of success (verse 2).

4. Love for others increasing with increased blessings (verse 4). He who practically appreciates the blessings he receives from Heaven will desire that others may participate in the same. He who is good will do good, he who is truly pious will be philanthropic.

5. True happiness comes out of suffering (verse 5).

6. Genuine work for others, however painful, will be prosperous (verse 6).

Captivity and deliverance: -

I. Our state by nature.

1. Captivity to sin.

2. Captivity to the law.

II. Our deliverance. The regenerating Spirit does not create in us new faculties. He rather purifies the old. He gives a right tendency and direction to those which already exist, and causing the wandering affections to flow in their proper channel. One immediate result of this Divine work is that of our being “turned again” unto God.

III. The emotions by which this deliverance is accompanied.

1. The emotions which are produced in the bosom of those whose “captivity is turned again.”

2. The emotion which is produced in the mind of those who merely observe this deliverance. (John Gaskin, M. A.)

Captivity turned

I. The captivity of Zion.

1. A degraded state.

2. A wretched state.

3. A guilty state.

4. A helpless state.

II. Deliverance from captivity.

1. Cyrus was a type of Christ, the great spiritual Deliverer; and if we are ever brought out of our spiritual bondage we must be content to owe our liberty to Him alone.

2. This deliverance is openly proclaimed and freely offered.

3. None are excluded.

III. the feelings with which they received the tidings of this deliverance.

1. Joy.

2. Manifested in praise.

3. Prayer. (R. Davies, M. A.)

A psalm of deliverance

Luther refers to the great and universal captivity of men under hell and the devil, and says it was a small matter for the Jews to be delivered from their bondage compared to our deliverance from these enemies. Sure I am that when the Lord so suddenly and wonderfully, and beyond their expectation, turned their captivity and took them home, our friends were, on that morning,. “like men that dreamed,” even those who had good understanding of the promises. To be delivered in the awful moment of death from sin, and sorrow, and pain, to enter in at the gates of the city with the sound of trumpets in their ears, must have seemed to them a too blessed dream. We know the men and women of whom we speak, and we know something of how happy they must be now. Loyal as they were to us and home, we know their roots were struck deep in another homo than ours. While they sat with silent harps by the rivers of Babylon, they thought of the sweetness, the beauty and blessedness of that far-off city. We saw them as if they were in a dream, and we could not hide from ourselves how ripe they were to have their captivity turned. Neither can all the sorceries and incantations of the great Babylon so intoxicate and seduce us, but that we shall take our places with them. Can it be that they have forgotten us? Are they so full of joy and so happy that this world and those they loved before never come into their minds? No, we cannot believe it. They have not forgotten us. They are now priests to God, and sometimes we can almost read our own names on their breastplates. As often as the High Priest says, “Father, I wish that they may be with Me where I am,” we may hear them cry, Amen. While they were yet on this earth, when they saw a new sight, or read a new book, or heard a good sermon, have we not their letters at home where they write, “I thought all the time of you. I did not half enjoy them because you were not there. I must stand on that hill-top, see that gallery, read that new book again with you”? And as they walk the streets of the New Jerusalem this night thinking of us, they ask, How long shall it be? When shall it be? They think how our hearts will swell at the sound of the trumpets; and as they walk by the living waters, they cry, O that they were hero to share my cup! Too literal critics find an enigmatical contradiction between the beginning and, the end of this psalm; but there is no enigma here. The hands of the redeemed trembled on the harp-strings when they thought of those they had left behind. It was not for those who pined in their captivity for whom they feared, but for those who prospered. John Calvin says that Daniel raised his banner in Babylon that believers might hold themselves in readiness to return. Paul has given us a banner with words inscribed in blood and gold, “for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” and as it waves in the wind, we see on the reverse scroll (2 Corinthians 5:1). (A. Whyfe, D. D.)


Verse 2

Psalms 126:2

Then was our mouth filled with laughter.

The rapture of deliverance

I. The joy of the returning Jew.

1. Bewildering.

2. Rapturous.

3. Reasonable.

II. The joy of a returning sinner.

1. Look at him before return.

2. Look at his Deliverer.

3. Look at the deliverance.

III. To the experienced Christian.

1. Is your piety joyful?

2. Ought it not to be so? (F. Tucker, B. A.)

The laughter of the ransomed

God’s glorious deliverance always seems too wonderful to be real. Even the apostle who finds his fetters dropped off and his dungeon door swung open, is like unto them that dream: “he wist not that it was true, but thought he saw a vision.” So in modern times, when Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, the abolitionist, heard that the long fight was at last finished and every slave on British soil was a free man, he broke out instinctively into the joyful verse: “Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing.” (T. H. Darlow.)

Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.--

Heathen and Christian witnesses for God

I. God had done many things for His ancient people. Their exile was a punishment for their great national sin, and their return meant a revocation of that punishment. But greater blessings are possessed by God’s Church in these days. In place of mere ceremonialism we have truth itself--naked, transparent truth. Nor should we lose sight of our individuality. The Church is a congregation of individuals, and it may be said of these not only in their corporate condition as a Church, but separately and individually, “The Lord hath done great things for us.”

II. These great things are observed and acknowledged by others. The heathen recognized the blessings bestowed on the chosen people, while to the released captives their return to their old and beloved city seemed too good to be true. Our spiritual blessings are not so easily recognized by others as the return of God’s people was by the heathen. But in looking at Christian countries the heathen could not but be struck with the benefits that civilization, liberty and Christianity afforded. It ought also to appear to the ungodly neighbours of Church members, that even in a temporal sense God had done great things for His Church, and that conversion had been followed with blessed consequences of a temporal kind, though they could not see the gift bestowed upon the inner life. But whether outsiders recognized these facts or not, it is your duty to be God’s witnesses, and to tell relatives and friends and fellow-townsmen what great things God had done for us.

III. These great things demanded a special recognition, both from observers and recipients of blessings. There was danger lest the blessings were recognized and the Giver forgotten. Perhaps one of the tendencies of modern times is the exclusion of God from almost everything outside the Church--from education, from legislation, from civil and political and national affairs, from commerce, and from many other things besides. There ought to be a recognition of God not only within, but outside the Church. I am thankful that there is a recognition of God in this country. The motto on the Royal arms--“Dieu et mon droit”--shows a recognition of God in the highest place in the State. I am thankful that the Imperial Parliament does not sit on Sundays. What is that but a recognition of the Divine law and of Him who said, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Every time I pass the Royal Exchange in London I cannot help noticing the inscription, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” What a reminder is that place to the merchants, to the Bank of England, and to the Mansion House, the seat of the greatest of municipalities just opposite, that there is a Diviner God than Mammon. One of the most startling statements I ever heard of was that made by a learned scientist, that an examination of nature did not lead him up to God. Just think of some one shying that St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its architecture and traditions, did not lead to a recognition of the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren. What are your acknowledgments to God? (T. McCullagh.)


Verse 3

Psalms 126:3

The Lord hath done great things for us.

Great things for us

I. The fact propounded. Note the personality of the statement. “For us.”

1. As regards our country. Where is there country so fair or land so fertile as ours? Where is such freedom and peace enjoyed?

2. As regards our religious privileges. We have a pure faith, an open Bible, and freedom to worship God as we think best.

3. As regards our individual wants. Homes, friends, food, sustenance, health, etc.

4. As regards our spiritual welfare. We were vile--we are made pure. We were far away--but are now brought nigh. God has done His part in all this, and if our eternal happiness is not assured the fault is ours, not His.

II. The feeling. “Whereof we are glad.” These Jews had been deprived of their privileges for some considerable period, and then, in the desolation of their spirits and in the misery of their servitude, they began to realize the mercies they had so thanklessly enjoyed. Do we not often tempt God to take away our privileges and to deprive us of our mercies? (J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

Grateful acknowledgment of Divine goodness

I. A pleasing statement. What “great things” God hath done for His people--

1. In redemption.

2. In conversion.

3. In the bestowal of Divine freedom.

4. The enjoyment of Church fellowship.

5. By providential interpositions and deliverances.

6. By spiritual advancement.

II. A joyful statement. This gladness implies--

1. Sensibility.

2. Real enjoyment.

3. Heartfelt gladness.

4. Social gladness. “For us.”

III. Application.

1. Mourn your ingratitude and forgetfulness.

2. Pray for quickening grace.

3. Anticipate the time when you shall be made eternally glad. (Helps for the Pulpit.)

Great things

I. The Lord’s work acknowledged. God is at the head of all our affairs. Many will not give God the glory. Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30); Herod (Acts 12:21; Acts 12:23).

II. Its greatness recognized.

1. Greater things than we deserved.

2. Greater things than we knew. Greater things than we expected.

III. An interest therein claimed. What advantage is there if we cannot say “for us”? The Jews knew what God had done by the edict of Cyrus. They must take advantage of it. God only opened the way, and constrained them to walk in it.

IV. Joyful gladness expressed.

1. Why are we glad?

2. How should we show our gladness?

V. Application.

1. Has the Lord done aught for you?

2. Have you acknowledged His hand?

3. Has it made you glad?

4. What are you expecting in the future? (The Study.)

Christian gratitude for the goodness of God: -

I. What things have been done for us?

1. National.

2. Domestic.

3. Personal.

II. Who hath done them?

III. How can we, for whom the Lord has done great things, most properly express our joy, and most profitably evince our gratitude? Those, certainly, may rejoice in benefits received whose consciences only testify to them of judgments deserved. Every one whom God has spared may warrantably believe that he has been spared for purposes of mercy. (T. Dale, M. A.)

Personal experience forceful

In most of the reviews of Mr. Morley’s “Life of Gladstone” attention has been called to the fact that whilst the whole work is a literary masterpiece, the third volume is far above the two previous ones in picturesque and stirring power. The events it records took place under the writer’s own eye, and in them he took a prominent part, and this has given an ease, a freedom, and a force of description that no secondhand reports or most reliable documents can give. That which we have for ourselves seen, tasted, and handled is the part of our testimony that tells and brings conviction to others. (H. O. Mackey.)


Verse 4

Psalms 126:4

Turn again our captivity, O Lord.

The thankful pray

For they have proved the use of prayer. As prayer found cause for praise, gratitude sees reason for renewed supplication. “The Lord turned Himself to the turning of Zion.” God returns to His people when they return to Him (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Deuteronomy 30:1-3; Deuteronomy 30:9-10; Nehemiah 1:9; Job 42:10; Psalms 145:18-19; Isaiah 10:21-22; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 59:20; Jeremiah 31:8-9; James 4:8). He liberated the exiles when they repented and offered supplication. If they have reached Mount Zion, there is still need for them to pray. Jehovah’s gracious hand has so lifted them a degree higher on the footsteps of His throne, that they may be nearer His inclined ear with their petitions. Let them say to Him, in the language of humble dependence, “Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.” Thou art to the soul like rain and fountains to the fields. Drought disappears before Thy breath; and the touch of Thy merciful feet clothes earth with beauty and plenty. And, from their past experience, from the constancy with which God has kept His word, from His demonstrated and eternal unchangeableness, they expect that for which they pray. Faith pleads the promises of Him who cannot lie (Genesis 8:22; Psalms 85:1-13.). “Thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.” Thy sure mercy we look for. A praying and praising heart is ready for showers of blessing (Joel 2:21). (E. J. Robinson.)

As the streams in the south.--

The streams in the south

In the East the rivers in the dry seasons are little more than fleeting streams, and sometimes they are entirely evaporated by the powerful action of the sun’s rays. The rainy season comes, and the beds, forsaken of the ancient river, begin to receive their annual tribute from the fruitful clouds, and the mountain-torrent, rolling in its accustomed channel, causes the streams to return again, changing the sandy waste into the majestic river, raising the sewer’s hopes, replenishing this parched land with the long-desired verdure, and man and beast again rejoice in the earth’s abundance. Thus prayed the pious psalmist:--“Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south”: that as the inhabitants of these sultry regions rejoice in the return of the reviving streams, so we, restored to our beloved country and temple, may rejoice in the long-expected deliverance. (W. Brown.)


Verse 5

Psalms 126:5

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Sowing and reaping

Painful work often finds pleasant reward. The way through the Red Sea and the howling wilderness leads to a fair and fruitful land flowing with milk and honey. Such is God’s law of compensation, always and everywhere working out its infallible result in the experience of His chosen people. Trace this principle--

I. In those whom God ordinarily employs in effecting the greatest good of others. Those who gain liberty for a nation, who achieve great things in art or literature, who are the leaders of great movements. They did none of these things, nor are such things ever done, without great personal self-sacrifice. They have had to sew in tears ere they, or any whom they sought to help, could reap in joy. Did Moses, or Joshua, or Gideon, or any of the old prophets sow without tears? or, having sowed in tears, did they fail in due time to realize the joy of harvest? Did not Athens poison her greatest philosopher and expatriate her grandest orator? Was not the most eloquent advocate of the Roman cause that ever raised his voice in the Roman Forum banished by the authority of a Roman senate, and beheaded by the perfidy of a Roman triumvirate? Did not the Copernican system of the universe long hang trembling on the lips of hated and persecuted men before it dared to stand forth and speak boldly to the world? and was it not afterward in the person of Galileo imprisoned, and in his books made to pass through the fire to Ignorance? Did the great discovery of Harvey cost him no pain or weariness? or were the works of Bacon, Newton and Shakspeare fully appreciated while they lived? And the artists who live for ever in their productions--the painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, who have filled the world with the triumphs of their genius--did they not toil, for the most part, in disappointment, and poverty, and sorrow, little esteemed during life, to be almost deified after death? The pioneer settlers of this new continent sowed the wilderness with their tears, and the heroes of American independence fattened her soil with their blood.

II. In the sphere of religion and morals. Whenever any great evil has been averted, or any signal triumph of truth and righteousness achieved, it has ever been at vast personal cost. See the Bible histories of all the heroes of the faith. Read St. Paul’s account of his sufferings. And thus it was that Christianity, whose throne was a manger, whose diadem a thorn-wreath, whose victory the crucifixion of its Author, whoso triumphal pageant a funeral procession to a borrowed tomb, whose earliest champions a little band of despised and persecuted fishermen, is now filling the earth with its voices of jubilee, and peopling paradise with the subjects of its redemption. What painful sowing was there in the dark and dismal catacombs of Rome, in the gardens of Nero, and the Flavian amphitheatre. But the blood of the martyrs has ever been the seed of the Church. In the days of the great Reformation the life of Martin Luther was a perpetual conflict with error, but it filled all Continental Europe with God’s blessed evangel, and on the same ground Dollinger and his noble compeers have lately renewed the good fight of faith. But look we higher. Who are these arrayed in white robes, with palms, and lutes, and starry diadems, and whence came they? “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne,” etc. They are all witnesses that the seed which your fathers scattered fell not all upon the rooks, among the thorns, and by the desert wayside. And this is your consolation--that however hard the toil, and however unpromising the seed-time, and however tardy the advent of the genial spring, an unweeping eye shall wash the field, and a celestial dew shall water the soil, and a creative power shall quicken the germ, and in due time the whitening grain shall summon the reaper’s sickle, and the harvest of joy shall have come. (J. Cross, D. D.)

The connection between present duties and future reward

I. Some of the occasions on which we are called to go forth weeping.

1. Over our religious profession. There are many struggles between light and darkness; many battles between sin and holiness: nature and grace are at enmity one with another, and must be so till “this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality.”

2. In the discharge of our duty.

3. When under the marked displeasure of God.

II. The precious seed which we are expected to bear.

1. The seed of cheerful self-denial.

2. The seed of patient perseverance.

3. The seed of perfect submission to the will of God.

4. The seed of genuine holiness.

III. The happy results experienced. Even here we taste the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of Divine love, and we become partakers of that happiness which the world cannot give, and which it is not in the power of the world to take away. But however much we may gather here, and whatever be the satisfaction which we experience from the blessedness of the harvest of Christianity in this world, the day of judgment will be the great harvest when we shall reap the labours of all our sowing. (W. Yate.)

Spiritual husbandry

Consider the text in its application to--

I. The Jews as a nation (Deuteronomy 32:3; Jeremiah 21:9; Leviticus 26:41-42). When they are thus brought to “sow in tears,” they shall undoubtedly “reap in joy.” This seems to be the favourite theme of the prophets, especially of Isaiah (Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 35:10). This is the event which the Jews themselves ardently long for; it is that for which they earnestly pray on the day of atonement; “O our Father and our King, discover Thy glorious majesty to us speedily; arise, and be exalted to the eyes of all living, and gather our dispersions from among the heathen, and assemble us that are scattered from the extreme parts of the earth, and conduct us to Zion Thy city with songs, and unto Jerusalem, the city of Thy sanctuary, with everlasting joy.”

II. Ourselves individually. Sorrow and suffering are the result of sin; and sin is interwoven with our very nature. But the Christian has not done with sorrow and tears, although through faith, which is of the operation of the Spirit of God, he has been led to trust in that Saviour who died for him, and the burden of transgression has been rolled from his oppressed spirit. Could the veil which now separates us from futurity be drawn aside, and those regions of everlasting happiness and sorrow which strike so faintly on the imagination be presented fully to our eyes, it would occasion, I doubt not, a sudden and strange revolution in our estimation of things. Many are the distresses, for which we now weep in suffering or in sympathy, that would awaken us to songs of thanksgiving; many the dispensations which now seem dreary and inexplicable, that would fill our adoring hearts with thanksgiving and joy.

III. The missionary’s labour and reward. As the poor missionary stands on the boundary of the vast wilderness, or goes forth to its culture “bearing the precious seed,” he must needs “weep” to think how little of the territory he can occupy. But though he weeps, yet shall he “rejoice.” As surely as the grain sown in the earth shall vegetate and bring forth fruit in its proper season, so surely may we expect the principles of the Gospel to spring forth in rich luxuriance, proving incorruptible seed, and yielding fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold. (W. Carter, B. A.)

Sorrowful labour

I. We are often called to labour in which we have little joy.

1. The call to labour, for instance, may continue when those whom we hoped to gladden with our diligence and fidelity are gone.

2. All earnest labourers are liable to fits of despondency; Christian labourers certainly not less than others. Overwork, perhaps, is followed by reaction, or the too eager hope is disappointed because we see not any results for all our doing. We think that our fellow-labourers are not as earnest as we, that we alone are bearing the burden and heat of the day. Then there comes up the question, what is the use of all our toil?

3. We may be called to work in which we feel but little special interest; work which is to us perpetual self-denial. Our hopes may all tend to one sphere of effort; duty may sternly compel us to another.

4. We have often to work amidst ungracious men, with no hope at all that our labour shall be successful. There are other and happier labourers in other and more promising fields; why should we be hero toiling to no avail?

II. God rewards us according to our fidelity, and not according to our gladness.

1. Christ has never said, according to your gladness be it unto you; not even according to your hopefulness be it unto you; but according to your faith. And faith’s triumph is seen in that it can live and labour when the light of joy is quenched; that it can call off the hopes that hover round an earthly brightness, and bear them up through darkness to the throne of the Invisible.

2. Our confusion of the reality of faith with the eagerness of feeling, our making so much of the cheerfulness of work instead of the work itself, shows that we are expecting the increase of ourselves rather than from God. The work is done; it leaves our hands, henceforth it is in His. The seed is sown; His seed is under His own care. He gives the dew of His benediction, the fruitful force is that of the ever-working Spirit. Not for nothing is it that God’s great ceaseless call to us is to do the work which He has given us; for, indeed, this is all we can do. We can be faithful to His call of duty, He is faithful to His promise.

III. Our text speaks not only of sheaves for the sowing, but also of rejoicing for the tears. The very tears are a seed that shall have a joyful springing; the sorrow shall return again in joy. The sorrowful sowing is a testimony for God, and this shall bear its fruit in icy. There is a striking contrast between the taunt of those who carried the Jews away captive, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion”; and this saying among the heathen, “The Lord hath done great things for them.” The patient labour of the exiles, the quiet toil of those who could not sing, won the heart of their oppressors. They were glad when the captives were restored, and sent them away with kindly gifts. Israel’s patience was the patience of faith; and Israel’s faith was a witness to the fidelity of Israel’s God. The patience and faithful effort of sad but trusting souls, Christian faith abiding unshaken though joy has gone out of the life; here is a lesson which cannot fail of impressiveness. It reaches to the unbelieving, and constrains them to thought concerning the Gospel; it cheers the heart and strengthens the faith of all believers. Each new revelation of God’s grace that comes on us as a surprise reproves us that we did not always rejoice as those who might be sure that all God’s ways are love. But it is blessed to feel ourselves reproved that our God may be exalted; we welcome the humbling lesson about ourselves which makes us more fully know how good He is. The joyful reaping that follows a tearful sowing prepares us for new trials of our faith. There may come again to you a time of tears, a time of sorrowing toil; but you know whose hand will at length wipe away all tears; you know that there is no seed-time but will at length yield its rejoicing sheaves. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)

Weeping and reaping:

I. An inspired provers. A proverb is often helpful; an inspired proverb ought to be to us an inspiration. Write it down at the head of all your difficulties and in the midst of all your struggles; it is one of God’s own pithy sayings, a maxim He Himself has made--“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

II. A personal experience. It is as though one shouted of his success, and announced Jehovah’s triumph. By this he would record his gratitude, and encourage his hearers. If the moss in the desert could stimulate the fainting traveller, if a flower outside the prison wall could speak comfortably to the prisoner in his dreary dungeon, if a solitary star shining through the blackness of the night could bring hope and guidance to the storm-tossed mariner, may I not believe that this experience of David, or whosoever the psalmist may have been, long years ago, will be as a ministering angel to such as are tempted to think that the seed is wasted, that the harvest can never be, that their hopes are dashed to the ground to rise no more for ever?

III. A prevailing principle.

1. In everyday life. Scientists and inventors have toiled, and moiled, and thought, and struggled for many a long year. They have, for the most part, received little help from others. One or two perhaps espoused their cause and helped them through, but the rest either jeered and sneered, or else looked on complacently as if to say, “We shall see what we shall see, but we do not think it will come to very much.” It was a sowing season; aye, and if we had been behind the scenes we should have seen that it was a weeping-time as well. Some of these sowers died in obscurity. Many of them did not live to see their talent and their skill appreciated, but there was a harvest-time for all that, or if it has not yet arrived it is yet to be. On the other hand many of them did reap the reward of their talents; the proverb held good in most instances. So with philanthropists, and merchants, and discoverers; so indeed with all of every class. There are exceptions, of course, to this rule, but the exceptions proved the rule. Sometimes another reaps where one has sown, but for the most part the maxim holds good. Those who are honest, and earnest, and self-denying in their toil, those who wait awhile shall live to see success, and to reap reward,

2. In spiritual matters.

4. And to suffering.

IV. The proverb, the experience, the principle is also a precious promise. We have here--they make my eyes to shine with gladness--two of God’s “shalls.” These are absolute affirmations from the lips of Jehovah, who speaks, and it stands fast. (T. Spurgeon.)

Seed-time and harvest: -

I. The sower.

1. He recognizes a field of labour.

2. He employs his activities in the field.

3. He often toils with few co-operatives.

4. He mourns over his arduous work.

II. The seed-time.

1. It only lasts for a limited period.

2. It is often marked by adverse influences.

3. In anticipation of the seed-time the necessary seed must be secured.

III. The harvest.

1. It is certain.

2. It may be sometimes late.

3. It is sometimes bountiful.

4. It is compensating. (H. Peach, B. A.)

The agriculturist a picture of the Christian reformer

I. In the nature of his operation. The work of each is--

1. Necessary. The Creator does not do for the creature that which He has given the creature power to do for itself. The life of the world depends upon the work of the agriculturist. The work of the Christian reformer is equally necessary. If ignorance, error, and wrong are to be replaced by knowledge, truth, and right--if righteousness is to spring out of the earth--the Christian reformer must work.

2. Righteous.

3. Divine.

4. Productive of wonderful results.

II. In the mode of his operation.

1. Both have to disseminate a divine thing. The “seed” of the one is like the doctrine of the other; both are charged with life, and both are capable of indefinite expansion; both require suitable soil for their germination and development; both are perfect in themselves.

2. Both have to work in faith.

3. Both have to work under trial. The agriculturist sometimes “goeth forth weeping.” This was often the ease with those oriental farmers who lived in neighbourhoods infested with those wandering herdsmen who neither so.wed nor reaped themselves, but obtained what they required by plundering the cultivators of the soil. Such farmers, therefore, often carried their seed from their houses with anxiety and fear, and very often they found it necessary to have armed men to protect them in their operation. The Christian reformer has trials in his work How much distress does he experience, not only from the opposition of the world, but from the apathy, narrowness, and inconsistency of its professors!

III. In the issues of his work.

1. The manner of their return. They shall come with all the fruits of their labour. The pious parent, the Sabbath-school teacher, the missionary, the minister,--all shall return with the fruit of their labours. It shall be found then that none ever laboured in vain.

2. The certainty of their return. The traveller who goes abroad in search of undiscovered lands, like Franklin, may return no more; the merchant who goes to foreign markets in quest of gain may return no more; the hero who goes out to chastise a foreign foe, like Raglan, may return no more; but the true Christian reformer shall return. His harvest must come. Yes; when the battles of the world shall be over; when the markets of the world shall be closed; when the governments of the world shall be dissolved; when the Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world; when the purpose of mercy shall be fully realized; then, “ doubtless,” the men of every age and clime, who have wept, and toiled, and prayed for the spiritual cultivation of the world, shall return. (Homilist)

Sowing in tears: -

I. Sowing as compared with reaping is a very laborious process. The land must be cleared, the soil broken up, the stones and rubbish removed, etc. That which is reaped in a few hours has cost him in the sowing many long weeks of toil. It is so in the spiritual life. The hard labour is at the beginning. The fallow ground and the stubble are to be broken up. The agony is at the gate that opens into the narrow way of a religious life. All after experiences are comparatively facile and pliant.

II. Sowing as compared with reaping is a lonely work. The reapers go in bands with shout and song; but the sower goes alone. And so in those spiritual processes connected with the new birth, each heart “knoweth its own bitterness.” Over those inner furrows of the soul goes no sower but the man’s own conscience in the sight of his God.

III. Sowing as compared with reaping is in an untoward season. The sower must be out in the rough winds of March, under the dark, leaden sky, and upon the cold, clammy earth. It is so in spiritual things. The harvest is in revival periods of warmth and enthusiasm, but the sowing must be in times when the church is cold and everything looks discouraging and gloomy.

IV. Sowing as compared with reaping is a self-denying work. The farmer takes from his granary corn which he needs for his present supply, and scatters it that it may fall into the ground and die. The initial processes of religion involve self-denial. Man must be grown up. Many selfish aims and ambitions fall into the ground and die, that out of them may spring a higher and nobler life--the life that we live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. (T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)


Verse 6

Psalms 126:6

He that goeth forth and weepeth.

Tearful sowing and joyful reaping

All life is a sowing. Some sow to the lusts of the flesh. A chosen company sow to the spirit. These often sow in sadness, for such sowing involves self-denial and struggling against the flesh. But their reaping will compensate them. Now this holds good in regard to the whole spiritual life, but it applies also to individual incidents in that life. To prayers offered amid tears. To the daughters of affliction, the sons of pain. But we take the text in regard to every Christain worker.

I. Describe his service. It is said of him, he goeth forth. What does this mean? This, that he goeth forth from God. God has sent him. It is a sin beyond all others to take up the ministry as a mere profession. And this going forth is from the place of prayer. Our truest strength lies in prayer. But the word tells of the whither as well as the whence. And this going forth is away from the world, “without the camp,” aye, and beyond the range of ordinary Christian labour. “He that goeth forth,” not he that sits at home, shall win the reward. “And weepeth.” What means this word? As the former word told of the mode of service, so this tells of the man himself. A man who cannot weep, inwardly if not internally, cannot preach. He must be sensitive, tender-hearted, a man in earnest. Some one asks, “Why does he weep?” Because he feels his own insufficiency, because of the hardness of men’s hearts, because he is often disappointed. Blossoms come not to be fruit, or fruit half ripe drops from the tree. Next, we read, “he beareth precious seed.” This an especial point of success. There is no soul-winning by untruthful preaching. The Gospel, and that only, will serve. Tell it out as those who know it is precious, not flippantly, or as though we were retailing a mere story from the “Arabian Nights.” And as those who know that the truth is a seed. Do not speak of it and forget it, or think of it as a stone that will never spring up. Believe there is life in it, and something will come of it.

II. The worker’s success. “He shall come again” to his God whence he set out, come in thanksgiving and praise. “With rejoicing,” yes, even in his very tears, but mainly in his success. Many have asked whether every earnest labourer may expect to have this. I have always inclined to the belief that such is the rule, though there may be exceptions. It seems to me that if I never won souls I would sigh till I did. I would break my heart Over them if I could not break their hearts. I cannot comprehend any one trying to win souls and being satisfied without results. With sheaves. As an old expositor says, he comes with the wains behind him, with the wagons at his heels. They are his sheaves, for though all souls belong to Christ, they yet belong to the worker. God puts it so, “bringing his sheaves with him.”

III. The golden link of “doubtless.” The promise of God says so. The analogy of nature assures you of it. God mocks not the husbandman. And Christ assures you of this. Think, too, of those who have already proved it. See the triumphs of missions. Therefore be up and doing. You who are not saved, I ask you not to sin, but to come to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The sower and his harvest: -

I. The qualities and requirements of the successful sower.

1. He “goeth forth.” This shows a set purpose, a fixed and definite design. It also suggests that the work is done at some personal cost, some self-denial.

2. He “weepeth.” The burden of souls is laid upon him. A trifler must fail; this thorough earnestness is essential to success.

3. He “bears precious seed.” The seed is the living word for a lost world; truth for souls wandering in fatal error; “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.” It is precious, because it is the gift of God’s love by Jesus Christ; because of the price paid for it; because of its fruit, peace, love, joy in the Holy Ghost. How does he bear it? Best of all forms, the only perfect mode is in the heart; so that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak.

II. The character of the harvest promised.

1. It is abundant. For seeds in the hand there shall be sheaves on the shoulders.

2. It is gladdening. The sower goes forth weeping; he returns rejoicing.

3. It is sure. (J. McTurk.)

Sowing and reaping

I. The seed.

1. Its origin is Divine.

2. Its vitality.

3. Its value. “Precious.”

II. The sower.

1. His energy--“goeth forth.” He does not waste his precious time in berating other sowers, or in telling what wonders he is going to do in the future; nor does he allow his zeal to evaporate in sentiment or song. But he “goeth forth.” We have a sufficient number of word-critics and analyzers; we want more men who would rather scatter the seed than argue about its constituent elements.

2. His emotion--“weepeth.” Why?

3. His errand--“Bearing precious seed.” The bread of life for a perishing, famine-stricken world. The God-sent sower is a man of one work and one kind of seed. He is not a drawing-room evangelist; he “goeth forth.” He is not a man of business, he is not a politician, he is not a scientist. He is a worker for God, a sower of the seed. He preaches Christ, not himself; God’s thoughts, not his own.

III. The success.

1. Certain.

2. Inspiring.

3. Remunerative.

4. Individual ownership. “Their sheaves.”

5. Palpable results. “Bringing.” Then to sow is to reap. (T. Kelly, D. D.)

The home and foreign fields compared

Some think the mission cause is less popular now than formerly. This opinion may be true to some extent. There may not now be the excitement which, we are told, prevailed at first. For this several reasons may be assigned. The novelty has passed away. Other institutions have sprung up to divide public interest. But the chief reason no doubt is, that experience is bringing out the real nature of the work undertaken as it was never brought out before. Does not very much of the disappointment and complaint which we sometimes hear expressed at the result of mission work arise from wrong expectations?

I. As to the soil, what a contrast this presents to that at home.

1. Look at its extent. Those who know nature and mankind only in small countries like our own cannot conceive the proportions they assume in the world’s great continents. There is not a greater difference between the hills which we call mountains, and the streams which we dignify as rivers, and those elsewhere, than there is between humanity here and humanity there. It may be thought at least the moral greatness is with us. As to superior civilization, much of this is prejudice, which a wider acquaintance with the world dissipates. I confess that the only indisputable point of superiority in us, as far as I know, is in the possession of a pure and true religion. Take this away, and we should be no better than the rest. But as to material size and numbers, we are comparatively insignificant. Place a man on a peak of the Alps or Himalayas, and what an overwhelming astonishment comes over him. A like feeling is experienced by one who finds himself moving among the world’s great populations. In this country we have thirty millions to deal with--thirty millions to save, one by one. But you might divide China alone into twelve such countries, with twelve times thirty millions. You might cut up India into six such countries, with six times thirty millions. The mind is lost even amid such numbers; but what would it be in measuring entire continents? The number of mission-converts is often compared with the total population of the world. But it would be fairer to make the comparison with the number actually brought under Christian influence. Missions, though universal in spirit and aim, are not so in fact. Compare the ground gained with that actually attempted, and the disproportion will appear less.

2. Contrast, again, the nature of the two fields. In this respect the conditions are as opposite as they can be. At home Christian agencies are more nearly adequate to the work to be done. It is true there is much religious destitution. But what sort of destitution? Not so much destitution of ministers and sanctuaries as of the religion which would make more ministers and sanctuaries necessary. Must there not be more religious success and growth before more of these outward products of religion will be seen? But Christian churches are not all. Our whole country is professedly Christian, and has been a thousand years. A thousand years of history are in our favour. Our doctrines are the doctrines generally received. Besides a powerful Christian literature, the general literature of our country is Christian in spirit. The stamp of the Bible is on our national character. All this is an incalculable gain to the cause of truth. The way of the preacher is made easy. Directly you go into a heathen country, this state of things is reversed. When we speak of the wickedness and spiritual apathy of heathen lands, we may seem to mention nothing special. Are these unknown at home? Bad as the state of morality may be here, we assure you there is worse than your worst. Heathenism makes the same sins blacker. If there is so much wickedness where so many checks are at work, what must there be where most of these checks are unknown, and religion herself becomes the patron of vice? Converse with the priests, read the lives of the deities, observe the images of impurity and cruelty--“lust hard by hate”--which surround you in worship. As to the practical effects of idolatry, its very nature is degrading. In judging of mission work, then, many forget that abroad we meet with all the old hindrances, and others still more formidable.

II. Let us look also at the sowers. In this respect we may think there is no room for difference. The same agencies will suit either field. Let us see. What is the state of things at home? First, the language is the preacher’s own. He has not to plunge into the difficulties of a new tongue and literature. Again, the machinery is provided to his hand. In both respects how different abroad! In many parts a difficult language, imposing long and hard toil, blocks the very threshold. The labourer may be full of zeal. His soul, like Paul’s, may be stirred by what he sees. But he is dumb. For long he is a child learning to speak. Take the other point. Suppose you have a system of agencies formed and at work. Many could most efficiently keep it going who would not be equal to originating it. It is evident that on both grounds the mission-field requires special gifts--mental adaptation, a spirit of enterprise, skill to create and organize. There must be these special qualifications-for the special work which lies before us in other lands. Even the best labourers must often lament their insufficiency. They often feel the terrible disadvantage at which they labour. Every seed as it falls into the earth is wet with tears wrung from earnest, anxious souls. “The sun goes down on a life of faithful toil, and little impression is made on the waste, few ears are gathered. What a contrast between the present beginnings and future destiny of the Gospel! The Church goes forth weeping; she returns with sheaves rejoicing. Now wrong has the majority; the triumph seems to be with error; faith struggles for mastery in one place, for existence in another. All this will be reversed. Instead of sowers weeping, you will hear shouts of reapers rejoicing--shouts which ring louder and sweeter for the years of working and waiting which have gone before. Instead of a few bright patches of fruitfulness, enough to keep faith alive, the world’s wide field shall stand thick with sheaves--sheaves of souls dearly ransomed and hardly won. Meanwhile what is our duty? To sow on. Let not weeping hinder sowing. Sow money, sow sympathy and prayer, sow lives of earnest work for Christ. (J. S. Banks.)

The hope of the spiritual sower

If it takes six months for nature to restore to the farmer his reward, how much do you think is needed before this world is made to rejoice and blossom like the rose? We must be patient, we must be generous, we must be far-seeing; and we must remember that all the money that is sunk in schoolrooms and sunk in good teaching, all the money that seems occasionally to be flung away--I do not mean anything foolish--in this field of education, will be bearing fruit when we are dead. And upon the thoroughness of the education in England during the years to come will depend our prosperity and our position amongst the nations of the earth. We ought to be thankful for our army and navy, but in the future nations are to depend less upon armed men and more upon intelligence. Or if you take the ease of social reform in any of its departments, why, it is over fifty years since men began to work at the temperance cause, and sometimes it does not seem to have advanced greatly. But it is advancing, and habits of temperance and self-restraint are spreading amongst the people. We may not in our days see a sober and thrifty nation; but some day, when this land is delivered from the curse of drunkenness and the improvidence which follows it, people will rise up and bless the sowers in the sleet of past days. And, if that be true of education and morality, what will you say to religion--to recast a single soul in the character of Jesus Christ? To recast a whole race will take centuries; but it is going to be done l He that works for a speedy return works for a passing return; he who works for eternal ends must work deeply and wait patiently. He may die before the vessel comes into harbour, but he is going with the tide that is to carry her into harbour. The throne of God is established in righteousness and not in unrighteousness. Did not Christ, living and dying, triumph over this world? It is with such that this man allies himself, whom you may think so foolish and short-sighted. He places himself beside the throne of light; he places himself beside the throne of Jesus Christ. If he is beaten, he is beaten, when every one of us is beaten, and the whole human race is beaten, and nothing remains but ruin and chaos. If there be order, he wins; if there be righteousness, he is going to come out conqueror. “Well,” you say, “I like to see a little.” Well, then, my friend, will you remember that your life is not the whole life of the Kingdom of God. And although the class you are going to teach this afternoon in that back street is just a little bit of heaven begun, as well as you can begin it, it is not the whole kingdom of heaven. What do you think of the prophets now, and especially the prophets who prophesied the Messiah in heathen Babylon and decadent Jerusalem, and who died and never saw the promise, and never saw the prophecy fulfilled? And now, behold, we have seen everything they said come true, and generation after generation has blessed them for their words. Courage yourselves with the Psalms, with Amos, with Hosea, and the second of Isaiah! What do you say of the prophets? They gave up all they possessed and went out and preached the Gospel. And some preached in heathen cities, some in Europe, some Asia, and we do not know where some of them preached. And they died. So far as we know most of them were martyrs. (John Watson, D. D.)

Harvest joys:

We are just in the middle of harvest. We are reaping; we are bringing our sheaves home: and we, too, reap with joy, more or less; we bring our sheaves home with rejoicing. There are many good reasons for this. The harvest, you all know and feel, is the end and crown of the year,--the end, not in the same way in which winter is the end of the year, as closing its eyes, and laying it in its grave, but as being its consummation and fulfilment. It is the end for which the seasons roll round in their busy course. It is the end for which the earth opens her womb, and pours out her fatness. It is the end for which the sun looks down with his fostering fatherly smiles upon the earth, and cherishes her day by day more and more, according as she can bear it. Moreover, here, too, there is need of tears: there is need that the bosom of the earth should be torn up by the ploughshare. She likewise must go forth on her yearly way weeping, when she bears her precious seed; or she will never come again rejoicing, bringing her full sheaves with her. God has blessed the work of your hands: He has given you a good harvest: it will bring you in much profit. Let it be your care then that the poor shall also be partakers in the blessings, which God’s bounty has poured out for them as well as for you. When any prosperity betides a household, it is right and fitting that all the members of the household, from the highest to the lowest, should partake in that prosperity, that all should be invited to a fellowship in the same rejoicing. So may the servants in a household be encouraged to feel that they are united to their masters by some other bond than the iron chain of necessity,--that there is something in their faithful services beyond the worth of money, and which no money can repay,--that they are moral beings, with hearts and souls, with consciences and affections,--that they are to show this in their conduct, and that their masters also are to show their conviction of this in all their dealings with them. In this manner does it behove you to show your thankful conviction that the harvest is indeed a blessing, and not to thwart God’s gracious purpose, that it should be a blessing, not to you alone, but to all men, of every class and condition. For this is what renders it truly precious. The earth rejoices because she is made God’s minister to pour forth her treasures for the support of mankind. And this is a further reason why you also may lawfully rejoice in the harvest. Joy for any outward good that befalls ourselves is narrow and selfish and barren. But joy for any good we may be enabled to do to others is of a right kind. It is a joy which has the purifying spirit of love in it, a joy such as the angels feel when they are sent on God’s errands of mercy. This is the great privilege granted to you whose calling is to till the ground. You are employed by God as His ministers for the good of your brethren. It is through your means that the race of man is sustained and enabled to live from year to year. It is at your hands that God gives us our daily bread. For this thought, moreover, should be always present to your minds; that that which you do, you do not of yourselves and by yourselves, through any strength of your own arm, or any wit of your own head, but only through the power of God, as His servants and ministers. When we look at the harvest as the gift of God, then it becomes a ground of pure and unmixed rejoicing. As he who is truly suffering from want and distress is thankful if you give him a small alms, and is the more thankful if your alms be large, so, if we are really convinced that the harvest is the gift of God’s bounty, then, even if the harvest be a scanty one, we still rejoice and are thankful to God, from whom we had no right to claim or expect anything richer; and if the harvest be abundant, we are the more exceeding thankful. Indeed this, you will ever find, is one among the many benefits which arise from the habit of looking at all the events and dispensations of this world as the appointment and ordinance of God. You will be confident that, whatever their immediate appearance may be, they are good, and are designed for good. You will be delivered from all repining on account of them. What, ever they may be, you will be thankful for them. If the dispensation be grievous, you will discern something that required to be chastened and corrected: and for that chastening and correction you will be thankful to Him whose chastening is a sure proof of His love. If, on the other hand, the dispensation be such as even the natural heart welcomes with delight, your rejoicing on that account of it will be doubled, when you look on it as a token of your heavenly Father’s bounty. (J. C. Hare, M. A.)

The certain reward of good works

Our text, taken in its largest significance, is to be classed with those passages which speak of the reward of good works, and use that reward as a motive to their performance. There can be nothing clearer from the Bible than that though man can expect nothing for his works, so that his best actions, if tried by their own merit, would produce only wrath; he will, nevertheless, be judged by his works, and receive a recompense, of which these works will determine the extent. It is impossible that man should gain any reward, if you connect with reward the notion of merit; but it is quite possible that while that which is bestowed is of grace and not of debt, yet there may be a rigid proportion maintained between his actions and his condition, so that his final allotment will be dependent on his works, as though those works could establish a right to some portion of happiness. And when this principle has been settled--the principle that though We cannot merit from God our actions will decide our condition--we may speak of good works as to be hereafter rewarded, because they shall as actually regulate our portion as though that portion were a recompense in the strictest sense of the term. If, then, it be lawful to speak of reward, we may certainly speak of the husbandman who “goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed,” as coming “again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” It will frequently happen that we have no means of ascertaining that any beneficial results have been produced by our most earnest and disinterested labours; and it is quite possible that no such results have yet followed, and that they never will follow. The minister may have toiled in vain; the parent may have striven in vain; the philanthropist may have been generous in vain. Not only may it be true that none of these parties can discern any fruit of their exertions and sacrifices; it may be further true that no fruit whatsoever has been yielded; so that minister, and parent, and philanthropist have apparently spent their strength for nought. And yet, even in this extreme case, you can only suppose that the retributions of eternity will abundantly prove the statements of our text. The “precious “ seed has been sown; the man perhaps “weeping” as he sowed it, and our decision must be, if we shut out the appointments of the future, that it is utterly lost, and will never, in any fruit, return to its original proprietor. But, if you bring those appointments of the future into the account, you presently discover the falseness of such a decision. You show that God has kept an exact register of our every effort to promote His glory and the welfare of our fellow-men, and that whatever may have been the success of that effort, it will receive a recompense proportioned to its zeal and sincerity. There must be no such thing as the giving up in despair, because hitherto we seem to have been toiling in vain. We cannot tell that it has been in vain. We know that the remark is often made that the children of religious parents turn out worse than those of worldly; but we have no faith in the historical accuracy of this remark. Now and then there will be striking and melancholy cases; and these cases the more noted because occurring in families upon which many eyes have been fixed, are taken as establishing a general rule, and that a rule which concludes against the worth of religious education. But we are persuaded that the sum total of the evidence from fact is immeasurably the other way; and we have no hesitation in appealing to this evidence as corroborating the gracious description of our text. It will sometimes happen that the parent’s efforts are frustrated, so that neither during his life, nor after his death, is the prodigal child reclaimed from his wanderings. But ordinarily you have the spectacle of the old age of a father and a mother cheered by the piety of their offspring. If the sons and the daughters have been carefully trained in the way they should go, then adherence to it will be generally amongst those rich consolations which God ministers in their last days to parents. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Better plant than build

If a man builds, Nature straightway sets to work to undo his building. Rust eats into the iron and decay into the wood, and little by little time ravages and destroys. But if a man plants, Nature proceeds to complete his unfinished work. He sows a seed, and behold wheat; he plants a cutting, and behold a tree. Such is the difference between working alone and working with God. He who sows truth in human hearts works with God. The seed drops into the heart; lies there; is long hidden; sprouts; pushes forth the blade and ear, and finally the full corn. Not at once, often only after long delay; but it fails not. Heaven and earth shall pass away; all things material decay. “But My words shall not pass away;” truth is imperishable. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
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Psalms 127:1-5

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 126:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-126.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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