<< Psalm 37: Resting in the Lord >>
1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
10For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
12The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.
13The LORD shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.
14The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.
15Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
16A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.
18The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.
19They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
20But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
21The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
22For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
25I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
26He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.
27Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
28For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.
30The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.
31The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
32The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.
33The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.
34Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
35I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
36Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
37Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
38But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
39But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
40And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.
We all yearn for peace. Rest and security are the objects sought universally, but seldom found. The want of interior quiet is felt by every one ; it is the deepest desire of our being, but it is pursued wisely only by few, and can be attained only in the mode pointed out in the divine words we have read, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
That the Lord intended man to enjoy rest may be known by these three considerations ; first, He has made it the inmost affection of every human being; secondly, restlessness is destructive to the health of both mind and body ; thirdly, God assured us in His Word, and provided in His works, that we may come into a state of rest.
It may not appear at first sight evident that the demand for rest is an interior feeling in every one. Yet very little reflection will make it plain. Under the restless garb of the busiest of mankind abides the constant desire to procure a sufficiency, that he may enjoy in peace the gratification of his delights. Look at the energetic tradesman ; he seems incessantly active ; he labours early and late ; even in his leisure his head is busy ; schemes of gain and aggrandizement incessantly employ him ; one step won, leads to another ; his trade is ever extending, and he pushes on to firesh conquests : nothing seems so foreign to him as rest. Yet let him unbosom himself, and you will find all this activity arises from a wish to secure the means of attaining a secure rest in his declining years. He believes he can only be satisfied in the gratification of his desires, and when he has all that his wishes require he will recline in peace and enjoy rest. He thinks indeed in early life, often, that a very moderate competence will satisfy him ; if he gain such or such a sum, or such a style of establishment, he will have nothing else to seek, he will be satisfied and rest. This aim, however, realized, he is restless as ever. The possessor of one thousand, he desires to labour for ten thousand, and then he will be happy and quiet; this attained, he is anxious for a hundred thousand, and then it will require two to satisfy him ; but still he is struggling for rest in the future. He is seeking in the wrong direction ; but peace is the prize for which he struggles. He is pursuing tranquility, but in a region of the moral atmosphere too low to find it. He is grasping at its image in the region of storms, while rest dwells with innocence in the calm, serene, blue depths of the soul. Rest can only be had in the Lord.
The soldier seeks rest even in battles. He views his foes as the disturbers of his safety, his life, or his peace : he believes it essential to his rest that he should destroy them. And if he provoke an enemy who seems now at rest, and commences a struggle of a terrific kind, still his fear is that the time will come when the enemy he is now able to cope with, will be so powerful as to overcome him, and he and his will be unable to enjoy liberty, comfort, or perhaps life. To prevent this he enters upon the most fearful conflicts; his hope however is, that he shall be victorious ; and as the fruit of conquest, sit under his own home-roof and spend his days in peace. Great conquerors disable kingdoms in the pursuit of rest.
” They make a desert, and they call it peace.”
But these external conflicts do not confer calm confidence and heartfelt rest. Under the decent calm of outward social quiet a thousand cares may harass the soul and make it a stranger to peace. Storms of passion, innumerable gnawing anxieties, fears for the loss of health, wealth, possessions, power, place, fame, and above all, fear of death ; these infest the soul of the merely natural man, and make true rest impossible ; but he seeks it, he craves it ; it is his inmost wish. Not however by outward, but by inward victories can it be obtained. ” We wrestle not with flesh and blood,” says the apostle, ” but against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”— Eph. vi. 12. Victory over falsehood, victory over sin, victory over self, these are the means by which alone we enter into peace.
The rest, which is the inward aim of the soul, and to which every man may attain, is foreshadowed by the contentment of little children, though theirs is the peace of ignorance, not the peace of wisdom. They find their wants supplied and they have no cares. They have full confidence in the love of their parents, and no doubt as to their power. They have no evil intention and none of the fears which evil engenders. They attribute nothing to themselves, but all that they have received to their parents. They have no anxieties about food or raiment, and none concerning their future life. They do not covet the world’s possessions, but with the few trifles which are given to them for play, they are content. They love their parents’ friends, nurses, and playmates, and in this love they are happy. Where their parents are, they are confident and secure. ” Of such is the kingdom of God.” This state retires within as we grow older, and around it is wrapped, as we grow familiar with the ways of the world, many a fold of selfishness, worldliness, and distrust ; but still the child-owned states are contained within, and constitute a centre through which the divine influence comes, when we have strayed far into darkness, doubt, and difficulty, and utters with a gentle voice from the regions of innocence, ” Arise, for this is not your rest.”
We may be assured that rest is intended to be enjoyed by us in this world from the circumstance that restlessness disturbs and destroys the health of both mind and body, and is therefore in contrariety to the laws which build up both. Opposites cannot come from God. The laws which create and form man do manifestly come from Him ; therefore the agitation and distrust which destroy man cannot be from Him. Mark the careworn visage of the person who has no lively hope in God. Fear is ever suggesting danger and exciting suspicion. Under certain circumstances, it is well known, fear will induce suddenly all the decrepitude of premature old age or even death itself. But where these extremes do not exist, the effect of anxiety is to make the mind in a constant disturbance, to induce unsound sleep, or prolonged sleeplessness. It affects the nervous system, disturbs the circulation of the blood, the action of the heart, the breathing of the lungs, the digestion, and through these the whole body. Mental disturbances undermine the bodily structure, and when through their secret sappings carried on for long periods, the body at length falls a victim to serious disease, it is often supposed to be afflicted by God; would we more truly examine ourselves, we should find the true cause to be deep in our absence from, our resistance to, and in our want of God. Divine Mercy seeks to alleviate the effects of our incessant cravings and cares, which are so destructive, by drawing the. mantle of night over us for many hours in the twenty-four; laying our selfish propensities to rest : pouring refreshment into the mind, and health into the body, and thus restoring us from the wear and tear of our wakeful time. Oh no, our diseases are not from Him. In Him is our help. Were man in order, he would live without disease, and without disease die. Taking a wide range over our history and our hereditary connexion with our ancestors, and their evils: our mental connexion, too, with evil beings, and our reception of their influences, it may truly be said, ” our sins and their consequences” are the deep causes of all our sorrows. ” Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good.” Fly then from restlessness and distrust as the enemies of the soul and the enemies of health. Rest in the Lord.
We are invited, by frequent calls in the Word, to rest on the Divine Love and Wisdom. Our text is an instance of it, and the whole psalm, of which it forms a portion, is a chain of golden truths all tending to the same counsel, and full of the same assurance. ” Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shall thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shall be fed.” ” Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” ” The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in His way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” “But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord : He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them. He shall deliver them from the wicked, because they trust in Him.”
All these invitations and assurances are full of consolation, and are intended to lead us to cast all our care upon Him who lovingly cares for us. In the New Testament, our Blessed Lord gives this tender address to all the children of sorrow; “Come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The blessed effects of thus going to the Lord, and resting on Him, are most salutary and delightful Care flies, anxiety ceases, calmness takes the place of unrest, and an orderly progression in virtue is felt, which brings us daily more and more into harmony with all that is good. As we ascend in purity, we ascend in intelligence and wisdom. We have meekly accepted the divine call to rest on Him, and learn how true are the sacred words, ” The meek will He guide in judgment, the meek will He teach His way.” As we abide, tranquilly resting in His divine will, all that is heavenly advances and grows within us, and we have a foretaste of angelic peace.
But when thus invited to trust in the Lord, we find obstacles arise. We cannot for a time repose entirely on the divine assurance. We are wanting in love, and therefore are wanting in having faith. We cannot yet rest in the Lord. Let us examine our real or supposed reasons.
We feel ourselves to be very weak, and our evils to be very strong. We fear we cannot entirely overcome them. Or if they do not trouble us much just now, we fear they will. They keep us from the Lord. We fear to go to Him with all our hearts, and we fear that as we are He will not receive us. But why is all this? The Lord Himself invites us to rest in Him. He assures us He will give us rest. His love for us is infinite, and infinitely tender ; and it is to strengthen and bless us that He invites us. Why should we hesitate? He who calls to us is the Being who has followed His children through all their wanderings, still with the same grand object to save them from sin and sorrow ; and He has saved in every age and nation those who have trusted in Him. Nay, it is that all-gracious Being who showed His love and condescension to us by becoming a man for us. He lived, and died, and rose again as the apostle said, that He might be Lord of the dead and the living (Rom. xiv. 9). Talk of our sins being strong, and our fear lest if they do not now, they will at some time overcome us; why it is the Lord of heaven and earth, who invites us to confide in Him. His strength, who supports the universe, is surely sufficient for us. It is He who overcame all hell in banded opposition when He redeemed the world. Surely, we need not fear that He will be powerful enough to save us. Besides that is His very object. He invites us to rest in Him, and lay our selfhood aside that He may redeem us from all our iniquities, and impart to us perfect peace. And what He says. He will undoubtedly perform. Rest, then in the Lord.
But, we sometimes forget the important lesson imparted in the words immediately following in our text, ” wait patiently for Him.” It is the attendant of our very imperfect knowledge of spiritual things that we are impatient. We wish to have our desires gratified quickly. We are not disposed to wait. We have very little knowledge of the texture of the soul ; but we surmise that whatever needs to be done in it can be done shortly and sharply, and we are anxious not to wait. In this, however, we only show our yet incomplete confidence in the Lord. We wish Him to work in our manner and in our time, and not according to the laws of His own divine order. Did we really feel that He is too good not to take the very best mode of helping us ; too wise not to know the most perfect method ; and too powerful not to be able to do whatever Hit love and wisdom dictate, then we should indeed ever say, ” Not my will, but Thine be done.”
In bodily sickness, which has greatly wasted the frame, or in the healing of a wound, we are aware we must wait patiently for a perfect cure. We know that the multitudinous parts and fine textures of the body need time for their complete restoration. And could we see the spiritual body diseased by sin ; full of wounds and bruises and putrifying sores, as the prophet expresses it, we should doubtless perceive the necessity of ” waiting patiently for Him.” We should not be discouraged, but confide. ” It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” — Lam. iii. 26.
But the divine words, “Rest in the Lord ; wait patiently for Him,” involve something more than a calm repose on the Divine sufficiency, he rests in the Lord who relies on the Lord’s laws. ” This is the love of God,” says St. John, “that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.” — John V. 3.
It is most important that we carefully observe this. A person often imagines he loves God, when he is only pleased with the sentiment of loving God. He may imagine too that he rests in the Lord when he is pleased with the idea of reposing beneath the protection of an Infinite Father and Friend. But this is very far from the requirements of real religion. The love of God, as a principle, is the love of His laws, of His wisdom, and of His ways : a love manifested by our obeying them when they are unpleasant to us equally as when they are agreeable. There is more love displayed by far when we prefer the Divine Will to some darling preference of ours, and do our duty under difficulties, than when we seem to ourselves to glow with emotion in worship. Many do this latter who are slow to take up the cross and follow the Lord. Yet, only, in works of love are divine principles established in us. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
As it is with loving the Lord, so it is with resting in the Lord. He rests in the Lord who confides in His laws, in His teachings, and in His promises. This, at times, will entail sacrifices. In the varied occurrences of this life of training and discipline, it not infrequently happens that some great advantage appears to be attainable by a departure from the law of right If we would rest upon selfishness and worldly love for this occasion, and close our eyes upon the Lord, we should become suddenly rich perhaps, or suddenly powerful. And unless we take the short road of unprincipled gain, we shall lag behind others in the struggle for fortune. We are strongly tempted to enter upon the wild race of greedy speculation, and forsake the just path of righteous dealing and slower profit. By dashing dishonesty we shall clutch sudden riches, and we can quietly regulate our spiritual duties at our leisure. But no, the voice of duty and of conscience says, ” Rest on the Lord; wait patiently for Him.” Rest upon His principles; rest upon His justice. Wait patiently for such rewards in life, as the divine laws will give. Whatever is more than this cometh of evil.
The lust of becoming suddenly rich, is one of the most prevalent evils of the present day. It gives rise to wild and dishonest schemes, to reckless speculation, to a restless mania for anything which promises extraordinary gain, and ultimately to wide-spread ruin. There underlies this a desire for self-indulgence, an aversion to healthy, plodding industry, and work for our neighbour’s good. We wish not to render uses to others, but only to make them subservient to ourselves. Such a course is replete with anxiety and with danger. We rest not in the Lord, but in ourselves. We have no peace, but an ever agitated mind. We walk on hollow ground, and fear every moment it will sink with us. Thus is a painful uncertainty our constant companion, and not infrequently insanity the result. Oh, how much better would it be to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him! The gain may in such case be slower, but what of that ? We are performing uses, and we love to perform uses. All the real necessities and comforts of life are supplied, and what want we with more ? ” A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” — Luke xii. 15.
Let us in all these things rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.
But some are prepared to confide fully in the Lord in relation to spiritual things ; in their natural affairs, however, they have painful misgivings. They see wicked men prosper. They see prosperous vice often honoured. They find themselves sometimes in straitness and difficulty, and these things grievously try them. It was so in the Psalmist’s time : “Ihave seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.”
We should never forget that this world is not our perpetual home; it is but our training place. The Lord refuses us some indulgence in wealth to prepare us, perhaps, for higher blessings. He is good in what He refuses, as well as in what He gives. More men can safely bear the temptations of poverty than the temptations of riches. Better privation for a time to be succeeded by everlasting wealth, than riches for a time to be succeeded by everlasting poverty. We should feel assured that Divine Mercy does all things for the best. He has eternal ends in view, and if He does not give us precisely what we want, it is because He has some better thing in store for us. It is not for lack of power to give us all we wish. ” All power is given unto Me,” the Lord Jesus said, “in heaven and on earth” (Matt xxviii. 18). If He, therefore, has not given riches and rank, it must be because He sees it would not be for our eternal good. Rest in the the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Be assured all might is in the hands of our blessed Redeemer, and His love is as great as His power. No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Resting in the Lord implies its responsibility as well as its trust. He who hangs down his hands, and does not use the powers he at present possesses, does not rest in the Lord, Trust in the Lord, and do good, and thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shall be fed. Our future grows out of our present, and only by wisely and diligently using the powers we have, do we walk in the path of Divine Providence, and prepare for the blessings Providence has in store for us. Some persons are ever dreaming and pining for a splendid future, building castles in the air, but nothing on the solid earth. There is no harm in sketching a plan for future progress, if we are not withdrawn thereby from present duties. But, on the contrary, if we are allured from the duties of to-day, by the projects of an unrealized phantasy ever fleeting before us, the injury is very great. We should do our present duties in the best possible manner, and trust in the Lord for the result. The present is in our power, the future we dream of may never come. If we do our best now, using every talent we have, we are certain to be in the best condition to receive any future good that may await us. If we are not energetic now, but propose to be so at some distant period, we are probably only encouraging some lethargic tendency in our nature, which is disposing us ever to procrastinate. ” Work while it is day ; the night cometh when no man can work.” Be earnest now, be diligent now, be trustful now, and be happy now. ” Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Work and wait.
We shall be encouraged to this reposing upon the divine care if we reflect upon the proofs of it, which are visible around us. We are told that when the celebrated traveller, Mungo Park, was in one of the remote wilds of Africa, and had been plundered by some barbarians of the trinkets which he had been accustomed to barter with the natives for food, ho became so deeply discouraged that he lay down with the feeling that he was forsaken of God, and there was nothing for him but to lie down and die. But on the spot where he lay there was a beautiful specimen of moss, and his eyes fell upon its exquisitely-formed leaves, and thoughts came into his mind, like the whispers of an angel — God must have formed that ; His love, wisdom, and care are here ; and surely He who has provided for that moss, will much more care for me. Hope sprang up within him, and shortly help came. A negro woman found him, took him in, found him a mat for the night, and food to assuage his hunger. He learned a practical illustration of the promise, The Lord will provide. Let us look around. Not a blade of grass grows by its own contrivance. Not a flower blooms, but from divine bounty. And yet how richly is Nature stored! How lavishly is every thing provided with the means of being. “See the lilies how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” He who provides for the grass and the flowers will much more provide for us. ” Rest in the Lord.”
” We see no more in Thy pure skies,
How soft, O God ! the sunset dies !
How every coloured hill and wood
Seems melting in the golden flood :
Yet by the precious memories won
From bright hours now for ever gone,
Father, o’er all Thy works we know
Thou still art shedding beauty’s glow;
Still touching every cloud and tree
With glory, eloquent of Thee ;
Still feeding all Thy flowers with light,
Though man hath barred it from our sight,
We know Thou reignest, the unchanging One, All-just!
And bless Thee still, with free and boundless trust?”
Why look for other examples of divine love ? We are ourselves in every respect the most striking instances of it. We came into the world naked, helpless, and ignorant. We did not even know our wants, much less how to supply them. Yet so admirable were those arrangements of Divine Providence, that our every want was abundantly supplied. Food was created for us of the best kind, and at the best place. Cradled on the mother’s lap, surrounded by parental love, who is so well cared tar as the helpless child ? If danger were around, the baby would be first the object of every one’s attention, and its safety would be first secured. By girding it with a circle of love, divine mercy has secured for it every other blessing and defence. Oh, that we never forgot this lesson of divine care, thus given at the outset of life, but remembering how well we were provided for, when we could do absolutely nothing for ourselves ! Ever be prepared with the conviction that —
“He who hath helped us hitherto,
Will help us all our Journey through.”
Rest, then, in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Let any one look back over the events of life, and he will have sufficient evidence of the goodness of his Heavenly Father to convince him that he need never despair. We cannot see the ways of Providence beforehand, but we can discern them after their work has been completed. We can stand, as Moses did, in the cleft of a rock, and see, though yet but dimly, not as on the top of a rock, but as in a cleft, the glory of the Lord from behind.
In contemplating this, how many instances of wise arrangements, of unexpected aids, of deliverances from danger, of comforts in sorrow, of evil overruled for good, of light breaking forth in darkness, and of joy in grief, shall we not have to recount? Joseph is a remarkable illustration of this, given in the Holy Word. When he was rudely thrown into a pit, and left to die, how forlorn must have been his thoughts! He was far from home, and from help. The only persons he could, from their relationship, have fairly expected to give aid, being those who had left him to destruction and death. Yet help came. Foreigners from a far land were brought by at the right time, relieved him, and took him to the right country for to work out the merciful designs of infinite love for him and his. Then, again, in the still worse sorrow, when he was cast into prison by a powerful noble, on a vile charge, supported by one whose word was not likely to be doubted, how dark all must have seemed ! Even his good name was not left to him. He was not only in confinement and poverty, but in disgrace. No one spoke for him. He was no doubt considered a detected hypocrite. Yet the Lord, we are told, was with him, and gave him favour in the eyes of the keeper of the prison. Whatever Joseph did prospered. Even dreams were sent for his help, and the means that had been taken to crush him were the very things which led to his exaltation. He was raised from the dungeon to be second in the land. A striking encouragement to all, to rest in the Lord.
It is often not difficult to admit the overshadowing presence of Divine care, and the all-penetrating influence of Divine Providence as a doctrine, but it is not always so easy to acknowledge it practically, and in our own case. Yet this is the very thing wanted. The doctrine only descends as a source of strength, purity, and consolation, when we recognize it in the application to us, and in every circumstance of life, the sweet and the bitter.
” The good are better made by ill,
As odours crushed are better still.”
It cannot be that He who so tenderly provided for our little bodies when we were infants, and our influence was extremely small, will now forsake us when we have connections, dependents, and relationships, wide-spreading for good or for ill. Let us not talk of Divine Providence in great matters; it is in small. All great things are made up of small. What is small when considered in its consequences ? Mountains are made of atoms, oceans of drops. A signature incautiously given, nay, even a shake of the dice, may entail loss of fortune, and horrors too terrible to think. A word, a look even, may be potent far and wide for weal or woe. It must be, therefore, that those are all under the watching care of unerring goodness and wisdom. Not a hair of our heads falls to the ground but our Heavenly Father knoweth. And, if so, why should we ever despond, or ever repine ? What He does, He does from love and wisdom, and what He permits. He also permits from love and wisdom. The Divine Gardener knows best what His plants require to prepare them for paradise. Let it be ours to feel assured that He ordains all good possible for our happiness; and only permits such affliction as is necessary to lead us to purity and peace.
Sometimes we think we have no doubt of the divine kindness, if men would not interfere with it. We are satisfied that every provision has been bountifully made for the good of man and for continued well-being, but that evil men come between the Creator and His creatures, and deprive men of what their Maker’s love had designed for them. Evil men enrich themselves at the expense of the many, and keep multitudes depressed for individual gain. And, no doubt, there is much truth in this. But we must never suppose that this, also, is not under the supervision of the Lord. Our text says, ” Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” The prosperity of the wicked is often the only means of making them useful to society. Outward success will often stimulate them to make gigantic efforts for human improvement, and they cannot benefit themselves without benefitting others. Such are the admirable laws of Divine order and wisdom, that selfishness is compelled to minister to the public good, and this willingly. The millionaire who seeks still to increase his wealth, must spend it in more extensive arrangements for increased manufacture and wider commerce, and thus he sends a blessing to thousands of cottages, as well as multiplies the productions of nature and art. Instead of being a pest to the earth, which he would be if he were wicked and useless at the same time, he is made to be an instrument of extensive good. Fret not thyself because of him (though an evil doer) who prospereth in his way. He is also under the benign care of Him who will make the best of him. The Lord will either lead him from his evil in His own merciful way, or overrule it for good. ” Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”— Ver. 1. Grieve not at their prosperity. It is short-lived, and a poor exchange for the everlasting riches which they despise. Rest thou in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. No one can really injure thy lot but thyself. Thou art guarded with a Father’s care, and none can do thee real harm.
We are not, however, to remain undisturbed only when we see the wicked prosperous, and confide that all things are under the guidance of unerring wisdom, working for the universal good, and for ours ; but also to remain trustful and unshaken even amid the wicked devices of the evil. Fret not thyself because of tho man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
The devices of the evil are of two kinds. There are snares in relation to our worldly prosperity by wicked men, and snares against our spiritual prosperity by wicked spirits. Both these beset our path everywhere. And in sight of their number and their malignity we sometimes quail, and fear that we shall hardiy escape some of them. Philip Quarles expresses them very quaintly, but very truly : —
” The close pursuers busy hands do plant
Snares in thy substance ; snares attend thy want ;
Snares in thy credit; snares in thy disgrace;
Snares in thy high estate; snares in thy base;
Snares tuck thy bed ; and snares surround thy board ;
Snares watch thy thoughts; and snares attack thy word;
Snares in thy quiet: snares in thy commotion;
Snares in thy diet; snares in thy devotion;
Snares lurk in thy resolves; snares in the doubt ;
Snares lie within thy heart; and snares without ;
Snares are above thy head; and snares beneath;
Snares in thy sickness: snares are in thy death.”
This catalogue is true and terrible; but what then? The All-wise watches over us; the Omnipotent guards us. If we rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, live on His principles, walk in His ways, we shall be perfectly safe. The simplicity of the straightforward, baffles the cunning of the malignant. They walk on their own pure course, live in the light of truth, and the cunning devices of the wicked fail of themselves. We need not trouble ourselves about them, but go straight on, doing what is right, and all will be well. ” Whatever be the device, our souls will escape, as a bird out of the snare of the fowler ; the snare will be broken, and we shall escape.” — Ps. cxxiv. 7. Let us not be faint-hearted, nor discouraged. Let us not fear a thousand schemes of earth or hell, but fearlessly walk in the path of purity, and the result will be safety and blessing.
Lastly, let me address my brethren of all ages, states and circumstances, in these divine words, ”Rest in the Lord.”
Young man, be not ashamed to adopt as your guide the laws of virtue and religion. Rely upon them, they will save you from a thousand errors, a thousand dangers. Let them guide you in your reading, let them guide you in the choice of your companions ; and, above all, let them guide you in your marriage. Make all your arrangements on these divine principles, and you are safe.
Parents, rest in the Lord, in training your children. See that their education is conducted upon the principles of truth and justice. Let them be trained to be really upright, truthful, and loving. Avoid, in your life before them, whatever would sanction low motives, improper and unprincipled habits or conduct. In all things rest in the Lord. Fully confide, that thus resting on true principles, the results will be happy. Wait patiently for Him.
Troubled Christian, in your sorrows, trials and temptations, fear not “Rest in the Lord.” It may be that your afflictions are bitter and prolonged. You have prayed that they might be removed, and hoped they would soon be over, and still they continue. Weary nights and weary days you have, and you see yet no termination. Do not suffer your faith to droop. Rest upon the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Keep your soul tranquilly reposing on the laws and promises of the Divine Word. Be assured that in the end all will be found to have worked for the promotion of your true well-being here and hereafter. Cling to the great principles of practical love to God and love to man. Suffer, if need be, but never depart from faith in the Lord Jesus. Rest in Him, and wait patiently for Him.
In sickness, rest upon the Lord. You may have to endure pain, watchings, wearisome days and nights. Still trust, confide, love. Wait until infinite love restores your health again. Wait patiently for him.
Dying Christian, fear not: rest upon the Lord. You are merely going the road to which you at birth were destined. Nature trembles, but the spirit will enter into greater liberty and life. Divine mercy has promised to accompany you in your passage into eternity. He whispers to your heart, ” Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.”
” Shudder not to pass the stream!
Venture all thy care on Him !
Not one object of His care
Ever suffered shipwreck there.”
One more application of these divine words, and we have done. It is evidently a law of divine love that man should work. Every one has talents to perform some useful part in the universe, and should seek his happiness in doing it. Each use is a channel, as it were, down which bliss from the Lord will descend in proportion as it is faithfully done. Every one in his sphere should be a worker, and in doing this, there is great reward. The Lord says, ” My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The Essential Divinity had been active before He had assumed our nature for creation, and now that He had descended among men He was active in the Humanity for our redemption. All the angels are ministering spirits. The law of labour is the law of love. Without it, the body remains weak and unsolid, and the mind stagnates. A wandering, restless languor, oppresses the spirit that shrinks from its allotted portion of the world’s work. A distaste of life comes from inactivity and idleness, which increases by time, until the wearied and self-tortured spirit rushes into some vicious exertion against others, or seeks refuge in self-destruction. How much better would it have been to rest in the Lord : to take our allotted labours as a gift and a blessing from Him. If we strive to do it earnestly and well, it will be to us a fountain of life and joy. In doing God’s commandments there is great reward. We should never seek to fly from our allotted portion of the world’s labour, but strive to do it well. The opposite feeling induces often anxious desires to become suddenly rich that we may escape from our post of duty as early as possible: a speculative gambling spirit of greediness and an impatience with the ordinary rewards of honest trade. We do not rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him : we are all on fire to catch at some enormous gain, and to become magnificent by magic.
This often induces dishonesty, both in trade and in trust. To escape from present responsibilities to the fancied bliss of living in splendour and doing nothing, a man will strive for unrighteous gain, and betray the trust which confiding friends have placed in him. And when we bear in mind the prevalence of the doctrine that a man can go to heaven by believing only, that a life of virtue is not necessary, but he can be fitted for its everlasting joys in a few moments, we need scarcely wonder that every now and then the world is shocked by great acts of fraud, and we meet everywhere, almost, and in everything, petty adulterations. O how different a world this would be if we were content with the certain and happy rewards of right! These may seem to come slowly, but they come fast enough for all reasonable demands. No man we are assured, who cultivates his powers and talents, makes the best use of his time and ingenuity, seeks all the information of which he is capable, and works these out in a genuine and earnest performance of his duty, will fail of his reward. It may need patience, but it will come.
Our Heavenly Father gives us not only His blessings in heaven, but, as far as the great end of our existence will permit, a happy existence in this life also. ” Trust in the Lord, and do good,” says the Psalmist, ” and thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” that this spirit of resting satisfied with our place and our work in the world were universal ! A man will sometimes find he can do something else promising more important results than what he is now engaged in, and he should no doubt change to that. But having discovered what he can do best, let him labour in that for love, let him rest satisfied with his calling, depending that in conscientiously carrying out his usefulness, he will be truly blest. If he find obstacles to overcome, difficulties in himself and difficulties in his business, let him wait patiently, and work actively, and these will disappear. Let him be conscientiously assured that he is really performing a use in the world, and then pray to the Lord daily for love, direction, and power, to do it well. Let him rest assured that full ability will be given him, and in the performance of his daily duty he will find his whole life become a life of religion. Every act will be an act of piety. The old adage, to work is to worship, will be realized in him. The Lord’s will realized in him, will be done on earth as it is done in heaven, and every blessing that Divine Mercy can impart will be his. Let us all, then, thus rest upon the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. When our selfish desires would induce us to quit our posts in the world, let us persevere. When temptations would urge us to quit duties that at present are somewhat irksome, although in the highest degree useful, let us patiently rest where we are; trust that He who gave the work will make it easy. Let us all, in our several vocations, ” Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)