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the ungodly in such prosperity. They are in no peril of death : but are lusty and strong. They come in no misfortune like other folk ; neither are they plagued like other men
.. These prosper in the world; these have riches in possession. And then he thinks, when this is so, that his own efforts to live uprightly, and to keep a conscience void of offence, are of no benefit to him. Then have I cleansed. my heart in vain, and washed mine hands in innocency. All the day long have I been punished, and chastened every morning !
Such is the tone of the first part of this 73d Psalm. It is the tone of man perplexed and puzzled at the impunity and prosperity of the wicked—a tone in which we often sympathise. For who has not felt the same? Who has not felt his heart depressed at seeing honours, and wealth, and worldly greatness heaped upon an unworthy head? Who has not been tempted at times to cry out, Then have I cleansed my heart in vain, and washed mine hands in innocency? God hideth away His face, and taketh no heed. The righteous and the wicked are all as one before Him!
Indeed, brethren, there is much in the world, at first sight, which inclines us to think and speak, as the Psalmist does here, about the prosperity of evil-doers. But as we go on with this psalm, a great change comes over it. The writer rises out of his perplexity, and sadness, and speaks more truly, and more cheerfully of God's dealings with His creatures. Then thought I to understand thisto discover the reason why the wicked prosper : but it was too hard for me ; until I went into the sanctuary of God: i. e. until I applied to God in prayer, and meditation. Then understood I the end of these men: namely, how Thou dost set them in slippery places, and castest them down, and destroyest them. Oh, how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end! Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh, so shalt thou make their imaye to vanish out of the city!
That was the conclusion of the Psalmist, when he meditated more deeply upon the prosperity of the wicked. He saw that their prosperity was only in appearance,—that it had no real substance, that it was as a dream, liable at any moment to be broken up. He saw that their wealth, and their power, and their supposed impunity, were often the cause of their ruin—that God set them in slippery places, on purpose that He might make them fall. And seeing this, he dismisses his former doubts, and blames himself for ever having entertained them — for having thought for a moment that God was regardless of mankind, and that He did not distinguish between the righteous, and the wicked. So foolish was I, and
I ignorant : even as it were a beast before thee! Nay, more : not only does he dismiss his doubts and rise above his perplexities, but he remembers the former things,-the comfort and support vouchsafed to himself by God, and be breaks out into a cry of holy fervour,– Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? and there is none upon carth that I desire in comparison of Thee. My heart and my flesh faileth : but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever !
Now it is upon this pious utterance of the Psalmist that I would dwell for a few minutes to-day. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee! It is the expression of a soul that has found rest,—found the true rest, the only satisfying rest—rest in God: of a soul that makes to itself no idols, neither of things in heaven, nor things in earth ; which gives to the Lord God His rightful homage—worships Him, and Him only, with all the heart, mind, and strength. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee!
Now, could any one of us use this language ? - use it without exaggeration ? use it in honest, simple truth, as the expression of his own mind ?
We must, I am sure, all wish to use it; but could we really do so ? Let each be his own judge in the matter. Take the words, and divide them, and then put the question with regard to both the clauses,- Whom have I in heaven but Thee? Could we truly say so much as this? Could we truly say, that heaven's chief attraction for us is, that God will be there? Do we not commonly think of heaven as a happier sort of earth, where the same life will go on, only without its sorrows and anxieties, that goes on here ? And yet we have more than one hint from our Lord that this is a mistake. They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage . but are as the angels of God in heaven! And we know. from another scripture what the occupation, and joy of the angels is in heaven,— They do always behold the face of the Father ! surely will it be with the happy saints hereafter. They will always behold the face of the Father ! Their chief joy, the great happiness of heaven, will be, that they see God face to face, and know even as they are known !
Then, brethren, let us learn to associate heaven with just and worthy thoughts. Let us put aside all earthly notions about it,—all notions derived from our common life, pursuits, and
pleasures here; and let us lift up our hearts to the great thought, that in heaven we shall see God. That He Who inhabiteth eternity, will dwell visibly among His redeemed people, making them full of joy with His countenance !
So far, then, of the first clause in the verse before us,- Whom have I in heaven but Thee? In order to use this language ourselves, we must have, I have said, worthy thoughts about heaven. We must cease to think of heaven, and the life there, as the prolongation of our present existence. We must always connect with it - with the idea of heaven - thoughts of God, of His presence, and of His praise.
And this we might attain to, and possibly some of us have attained to already. But what shall be said of this which follows,—There is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee ! This, surely, you will say, this is a hard saying, who can hear it?
And I admit the difficulty of it. A man must have gone through much trouble, and lived some time in the world, before he can fully enter into the meaning of these great words,— before he can say, speaking to God and of God, There is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee !
While we are young-while we are in full bodily health, and vigour, the earth has many