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I won't, in a kind of partial attempt to describe all that is within—the reason, and the will, and the conscience, and the memory, and the affections and desires. What a great life is inside! What a wonderful organ. And the Holy Ghost wishes the breath of thankfulness to breathe through all its stops. What a harp with many strings ! And every one can be thrummed by Divine fingers, can be struck with the plectron of Christ's own hand, can vibrate with this sweet, inimitable, spiritual music : “O my soul, my soul, bless God; forget thyself, thine outward self, and that clamorous outward world; dismiss it all, and come inside and draw the curtains close, and turn up the light, and sing thy psalm of praise to thine own God.” As we might put it in our braid, auld Scottish tongue: “Sing your ain sang.' That is what David is thinking of; only he says it in Hebrew, not in broad Scotch : “Sing your ain sang, your ain psalm, to your ain Redeemer."
“All that is within, bless His holy name.” Is there another point, or am I over-emphasizing it, when he says, His holy NAME”? I would set that before mine own mind when I am engaged in this heavenly exercise ; as if the Lord would have me understand that praise has a real "objective," just as prayer has. There is really One there before you, whom you are praising. As I have a name, and that name denotes, and connotes, and shuts me off from you, and you from me, so is it with the Highest. I am speaking to One as personal as myself, One who has a name, with all that a name denotes and connotes of personality. The Maker shall surely have what He has put in me. He that made
my eye, shall He not see? He that made my ear, shall there not be hearing in Him? He that made my heart, my inward heart, that loves and hates and throbs and swells, shall there not be in Him an heart to love and hate? All things that are personal are in Him. So that when we are praising the Lord, anything that would make us feel misty and hazy is taken away from us by this word, “ Bless His holy name.” Thou art beside thy God as beside a living friend, who just a moment ago lifted thee out of deep waters, and has set thee wet and shivering, or warm and dry, on the shore. Thou art at the feet of thy Saviour, thyself and He, as if, besides thyself, nor man nor angel lived in earth or heaven. For, you know, in these metaphysical, refining days, we need this little prelude, these few notes touched to put us right; to give us the key tones, to show us the lines and spaces
of the stave on which our song is set, that we may be sure and certain, and ring out the notes like those who “know their music," and are delivered from faltering and uncertainty.
Modern science is quite uncertain, either about me, myself, or Thee, Thyself, my God; quite uncertain ; dumb and dark. It is quite done with our hymns, either ancient or modern ; and hasn't, as yet, at any rate, published a collection of its own. Professor Huxley will be in no danger of getting into a whirling, excited, corybantic state over such “songs without words ” as agnostics sing.
6. Bless the- (BLANK),
(blank)” is rather thinnish, I should say; quite too utterly blank,
in fact. But something like that gets into religion, and it seems to be rather more sublime to be hazy and uncertain, to make God so big and vast that we cannot name Him. That kind of teaching never calls Him “The Lord my God.” That kind of teaching calls Him the Great Un. known-capital G and capital U. That kind of teaching deifies Him with capitals—the Infinite, the Immense, the Unseen. That kind of teaching says, "Pray; but, after all, the blessing of prayer is in its reflex action. The prayer goes out of your mouth, and comes back into your ear again, and does you some good that way." But the old teaching of the Bible puts God before me, and makes Him objective and real. I am not shooting at nothing. I am speaking into an ear that is connected with an heart that is connected with an arm that moves the world. “Oh, yes," says the modern; “pray; but it is reflex. Ask, seek; but you will never find.” As one has said, “You have lost your child, and you go looking for it. Look for it, and look for it diligently. You will never find your child, but it is a pleasant exercise. Seek, you will never find anything; but it's grand to be seeking; and by-and-bye you will not want your child.” Not so David ; not so, I trust, with
We seek, we knock, and it is opened unto us. The Living One comes forth and says, “I hear you ringing the bell; what do you want?” And so in praise, which in many ways is so akin to prayer, we will come with our souls filled with gladness, and tell Him, knowing that He listens, and is delighted with the incense and pure offering of a grateful heart.
One other note that the Psalmist strikes in this prelude leads me right down into the substance of the matter: "Forget not all His benefits.” O my believing friends, the trouble with us lies there. Our best servant to help us in this inward work of blessing and heaping praises on the name of God is a good memory.
I think we are sadly defective there. If you are forgetful, you will be silent. Has any soul here been getting dumb towards God in praise? You have been getting careless in the exercise of memory. “Forget not all His benefits.” For we do forget. Partly it is sin—black and base; partly it belongs to the limitation of our faculties; but too surely it happens that “Eaten bread is soon forgotten." We need to take time, like David, place and space, in which we shall, by means of memory, ransack and explore the ways of our God to our own selves, and thus get fuel to put on the fire that otherwise begins to burn itself out even in redeemed hearts. “Forget not all His benefits." Oh, how many of us must charge our hearts to-day with forgetfulness ! We would not so forget what any human benefactor had done for us. “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child,” and God has many of them, and some of them, I fear, in this very church this morning. And the reason is not a reason of desperate wickedness, or of any great malignancy. It is “ Evil wrought from want of thought, as well as want of heart." We do not remember. Familiar with the effect, we slight the cause ; and, in the constancy of God's gifts, think it is all a matter of the “reign of law," and this element of throbbing thankfulness dies down in the human heart. The vox humana stop of the great organ of Divine praise gets faint and uncertain for want of living memory. Now
I ask you to remember. Remember, first of all, thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee. Remember all the past years ; let memory bring out of its storehouse all your former blessings ; remember that you are a miracle of mercy, you are a monument of redeeming grace. Why are you here with all things as they are round about you, and the prospects you have ahead of you ; how has it come about? God, is the explanation; the covenant, is the explanation; the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, that is the explanation of thy life, with all its blessedness in hand, and its infinite blessedness in prospect, through the ages that are to come. Oh for a holy memory! We need to use memory as the divers use the diving-bell. There is a vessel which has gone down beneath the sea, but not in such depths that it cannot be reached. And the divers come; they go down into the dark, sullen waters to that vessel, and they explore the hold, and fill the chains with whatever they can pile into them, and those overhead draw them up. Have you ever been there? It is a strange experience to be on board a pontoon where divers are working. The diver comes with all his peculiar dress; he steps on to the ladder and away down he goes completely out of sight. And I cannot express how your flesh begins to creep as there comes up there from beneath, from the mysterious, from the hidden, from the unknown, up there comes from his hand working away down there in the depths, treasures which were sunken, hidden, in one sense lost, in the hold of that sunken vessel. And you remember what the diver needs, that those up above should continually send down to him currents and streams of fresh air. Ah ! let me not recklessly ask you to remember. Do not go down into the