Tokens for Good
“Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.”— Psalm Ixxxvi. 17.
I WOULD have you note, beloved friends, at the outset, how this man of God, in the hour of conflict, looks to his divine protector. He does not run about to consult with friends, nor does he set himself down to digest his bitter sorrow in solitude, but he gets away to the Lord his God, who has covenanted to help him. That same God who in his brightest days was his exceeding joy, is in his darkest night his surest consolation. Hence he cries, “Lord, show me a token for good. Do thou show it. Let it come from thee. All other signs and tokens I can forego, but do thou show me a token for good, and my spirit will be revived at once.” You see, he looks away from the secondary to the primary, from the temporal to the eternal, from that which he could see with his eyes, to him whom having not seen he trusted and rejoiced in. O mourner, learn wisdom from the father of the wisest of men! We need not hesitate to copy the pattern set by the man after God’s own heart. O you who are surrounded by persecutors, will you not imitate David? You cannot do better in every adversity than to look unto the Lord, the ever-merciful. I know you have been casting about to the right and to the left to find anchor-hold, and still the vessel drifts. Now, throw the great bower anchor into the depths. Let it go right down deep out of sight, and let it get a grip upon eternal faithfulness, and your barque shall outride both wind and tide. Trust the quicksands of human confidence no longer. Look to the Lord alone. It is a severance from man, a complete deliverance from the arm of flesh, that God designs by our trouble, and the sooner we come to it the better for us: certainly we shall the more quickly obtain the benefit designed by our trouble, and probably we shall the sooner come to the end of it.
“Trust with a faith untiring
In thine omniscient King,
And thou shalt see admiring
What he to light will bring:
“Of all thy griefs the reason
Shall at the last appear;
Though hidden for a season
’Twill shine in letters clear.”
Observe that, in the case of David, all his troubles drove him to his God. I have noticed in the case of too many professors that they seem to have a fair-weather religion, a summer-season faith, which shrinks and loses its colour in a little rain or a sharp frost, or when the wind blows from the cold corner of affliction. I hear of some who, when they are very poor, do not come up to the house of God. They say they have not proper clothes to come in, as if the Lord had respect unto our garments, which are nothing better than the covering of our shame. This is an idle excuse, and yet I know that poverty does drive some professors away from the God whom they profess to worship: they murmur and become discouraged, and give all up in a pet, as if they only loved God for the sake of bread, as a hungry dog will follow a stranger who feeds him. There are others who say, “I cannot hold up my head among my brethren as I used to do, and so I stay away from the congregation:” as if God wanted you to hold your heads up— as if he did not look most to those who hold down both their heads and their hearts. What, will you turn away from the stream because you are thirsty? Will you leave the bread because you are hungry? Is not godliness meant to be a comfort to you in your time of trouble? Do not poor men need the gospel? Do you not require it all the more now that your comforts are so greatly diminished? Above all things, seek ye the Lord’s face when trials surround you, or else, assuredly, you cannot be his own; for God’s people, though they cry to him daily, are yet driven to him more and more in proportion as they are brought low, and thrown into distress. “They cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.” This is one of the sure marks of the children of God— They kiss the rod, and the more the Lord chastens them, the more they cling to him. When the Lord smites, the ungodly kick against him; they are like the bullock that will not plough by reason of stubbornness, and when it feels a goad it kicks, and will not go on, but is bent on having its own way. But when the Lord has trained his people, and accustomed them to the yoke, they are obedient to the goad as soon as they feel it, and yield to his will as soon as it is made known. Nay, more than that, I think the more God chastens his people, the more they love him. I am persuaded that the most whipped of the Lord’s family are the best of his children. I do not say that any of you may wish for affliction; you will have enough of it without wishing for it; but I do avow my belief that the favourites of heaven are those who feel most of tribulation. The choicest plants in God’s garden are those that are watered with affliction, and made wet with the night dews of grief. His rarest vines are those which feel most of the knife, and are cut back almost down to the root. There is no fragrance so sweet as that which distils from a flower which the great husbandman has bruised; and when he seems even to have trodden upon it as though he despised it, he has been secretly blessing it, for the broken and the contrite heart he prizes above all things. Therefore, dear friends, let all your griefs send you in prayer to God, and you will then grow in blessing by every tribulation. When big waves of trouble come, pray that they may wash you on the Rock of Ages, and they will do you no harm. When you lose anything, try to make a gain of it by going to your God, that he may sanctify the loss. Whenever you are afflicted, instead of running away from him who smites you, run inwards to his bosom. If a man is very weak, and he is contending with a strong adversary, he will do well to get close to him. The farther off the heavier is the blow when a strong man deals it; but when the weak man closes in with him, how can the strong man smite him? What says God? “Let him lay hold on my strength, and I will make peace with him.” Fly in spirit to your God. Fly to him even when he seems angry; run on the point of his sword, for he will not harm the soul that confides in him. It cannot be that humble trust should meet with a repulse. Jesus declares, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”; and if you will but trust him, and, when he seems angry, will still fly to him, you shall find rest unto your souls. Ye children of God, mind this.
Once more, notice that the psalmist while he thus looks to God, and is driven to him by his troubles, manifestly looks to God alone. There is not in this psalm a word about friends, allies, or helpers. He has but one request, and this is, “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me.” His heart is evidently saying—
“My spirit looks to God alone;
My rock and refuge is his throne;
In all my fears, in all my straits,
My soul on his salvation waits.”
God alone— Oh! that is a word to be learned, to be learned by experience, and most assuredly none will ever know it unless they are taught by the Holy Ghost. I do not think we often learn it till we hear it in the thunder of divine power, when the deep-throated tempest within the soul mutters— “God alone! God alone!” In fair weather we are for mixing our trust, but when the whirlwind is abroad none but God will serve our turn. O my brother man, if thou wilt set one foot upon the rock of divine faithfulness, and the other foot upon the sand of human confidence, thou wilt go down with a great fall. Both feet on the rock! Mind that. Your whole confidence must be fixed upon your Lord. Hang only upon that sure nail upon which hangs the whole universe, and hang nowhere else. What says David? “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.” Beware of setting up a rival in the temple of thy trust. Who is it that thou wouldst yoke with God? What helper is there that thou wouldst put side by side with him? If thou couldst depend upon an angel— does it not make thee smile at thy folly to think of saying, “I trust in God and an angel”? Why there is no pairing such disparities. The infinite Creator of all is not to be yoked even with the most glorious of his creatures, and yet thou wouldst put thy fellow-man into the yoke with God, and trust in these two. Go, yoke an angel with an emmet if thou wilt, but never think of joining God with man, and making the two thy confidence, when God is all in all. Oh to be cut clear of all visible supports, and props, and holdfasts! You have seen a balloon well filled, struggling to rise: what kept it down? It longed to mount above the clouds into the calm serene, and yet it lingered. What hindered it? The ropes which bound it to earth. Cut clear the ropes, and then sec how it mounts! With a spring it leaps upward while we are gazing into the open sky. O for such a clearance and such a mounting for our spirits! Alas, we are hindered and hampered! What are the bonds which detain us? Are they not our visible supports and reliances? O my soul, thy human confidences have been to thee like the iron chain which binds the captive eagle to the rock; but if that confidence of thine were gone— if that chain on which thou dost doat so much were broken, even though it were with a rough blacksmith’s hammer— then thou couldst stretch thy wings, and be a child of the sun, and dwell aloft amid the eternal light. Oftentimes the thing which we most dread proves to be our grand necessity: by being deprived of earthly comforts we are cut clear of everything except our God. The Lord bring us into this state of high spiritual emancipation.
With this as a preface, I now come to notice the particular prayer which David in this state of mind puts up. It was necessary to give you this preface as a kind of guard against the very common tendency which exists among God’s people to depend upon signs and tokens. Especially as we are going to preach a little upon this prayer for a “token” it was essential to begin aright, lest we should add to the too common craving for signs and wonders. We will dwell first upon the request for a token, and then, if we have time, we will touch upon the result which David says would come of having such a token— that those which hated him would see it and be ashamed, because God had helped him and comforted him.
I. David puts up A REQUEST FOR A TOKEN. It was a token from God, mark you, and it was a token entirely according to God’s will. Never forget that it was a token asked in faith, and not in unbelief; for there is a great distinction here.
Dear brethren, we have no right to say, “My God, I will believe in thee if thou wilt give me a token, and, if not, I will remain in hesitating unbelief for the English of that is, “I will reckon thee to be false unless thou show me a sign according to my will.” If God be true, thou art bound to believe him, whether he give thee a token or not; and thou art not permitted to suspend thy faith upon conditions of thine own inventing. Whether he will or will not give thee a token must be according to his own mind. He may give or withhold as he pleases; but thou art bound to believe him, since every man is bound to believe the truth. God has never been false to thee; thou hast therefore no cause to doubt him. If he give thee the light, be thankful; but as his child thou art bound to trust him in the dark. If he speaks to thee a favourable word, thou art to be glad; but thou art bound to trust him even if he speaks nothing but rough words to thee, for he is just as true. His truth and thy belief in that truth must not be thought to depend upon signs and tokens: his word is very sure, and may not be questioned.
Moreover, we have known some who professed to be the children of God, who have picked out certain tokens according to their own whims and fancies and follies, and they have spoken as if God must do this or that at their dictation. I fear that in some this is a wicked presumption not to be tolerated for a moment. At best it is a childish folly, which men in Christ Jesus ought long ago to have outgrown. I do not doubt that the Lord has indulged some of his little children with marks and signs while they were very, very feeble, which he will never give them again, and which they ought never to seek for again— which, indeed, now that they have grown up to riper years and to more strength of grace, they ought themselves to put away as childish things. Not a few of these signs they may even suspect, saying, “Peradventure after all there was not so much in those marks and tokens as I thought there was. They helped me just then, but I could not rely upon them now; I prefer that which is better and surer.” The Apostle Peter, after he has described Christ upon the mount as manifesting himself to his servants in the transfiguration, declares, “we have a more sure word of prophecy.” What, more sure than the transfiguration? Yes, more sure even than the evidence of their eyes when they saw their Lord glorified upon the holy mount. If thou hast ever been upon the mount with Christ, and if thou hast seen all his brightness, yet still thou art not to compare even the sight of thy eyes, when they see the best and brightest that they can see, with the word of testimony which must be sure— a light that shineth in a dark place. All the rapt experiences which we have ever had are not to be trusted in comparison with the word of God. I say it advisedly, even the sweetest communion we have ever had with Christ may after all be suspected, and indeed it is upon such ripe fruit that Satan soon sets his hand that he may rob us of its savour if possible, for he is not slow to cast doubts upon the holiest joys of God’s elect. There may come a time when we shall fear that we were carried away by excitement, or deluded by fanaticism; but he who speaks the word of Scripture cannot lie, and when his Spirit speaks that same truth into the soul we have therein a testimony which never can be doubted, but must be accepted over the head of everything. “Let God be true, and every man a liar”— ourselves and all; all liars as compared with the eternal verities of the revelation of God the Holy Ghost. The basis of faith is not our experience, but the testimony of God, and we must mind we do not make the feet of our image partly of God’s gold and partly of our clay. Our experience may be in error, but the infallible word of God cannot be, and it is upon that alone which we must stand.
Yet we may ask for tokens in a subordinate sense. Trusting in the Lord, token or no token; believing his word, evidence or no evidence; we may then humbly ask confirmatory seals to our souls. Taking his promise as it stands, and believing it, though the heavens themselves should seem to rock and reel — we may then say, “Yet Lord, inasmuch as I am but dust and ashes, and therefore weak and trembling, show me a token for good.”
We may feel quite safe in seeking tokens of the kind which are mentioned in this psalm. And first, we may beg for answers to prayer, because the psalm begins with, “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me”; and farther on we read in the sixth verse, “Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications.” There is no fanaticism in expecting God to answer prayer, and there is no misuse of logic in drawing the inference that, if he does hear my prayer in the time of trouble, this is a token for good to my soul. Has my prayer been accepted before him? Have I received the gracious answer of peace? Then let me be comforted thereby. Especially was I in deep distress where no man could help me, and did I then cry to him, and did he come to my rescue? Assuredly, this is a seal that is set to my soul that I am no hypocrite. This is a token that I am no stranger to God, and that I am not cast away from his presence. Answered prayers are hopeful arguments of acceptance. David fitly said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me,” and then he joyfully added, “But verily God hath heard me.” Thus he proved the soundness of his heart before God. I ask you to look back and see whether you have indeed prevailed with God in secret prayer. Have you had your Jabboks and your Carmels? Do I not speak to many who are familiar with the great Hearer of prayer? Has he not often heard you? I am not too bold when I assert that the Lord has granted me according to the desire of my heart times without number. The devil himself can never dispute me out of facts— facts which shall for ever stand on my memory, “engraved as in eternal brass,” for out of the depths I have cried unto God, and he has as distinctly answered my prayers as though he had rent the heavens and come down to succour his servant. With overwhelming delight he fills me, for he hath had respect unto my cry. His tenderness to me in this respect has made my life singularly happy, though I have had a large share of pain and depression. When I think over the seasons in which the Lord has specially answered me, I bid defiance to all the sceptics and scientists who haunt our footsteps. Brethren in Christ, you have, each of you, in your own way, according to your own need, had sure instances of the faithfulness of God to you, and these have been reviving tokens of love. At this present be of good cheer. Even if for a while the heavens should seem as brass, and prayer should not be heard, recollect that he did hear you in times gone by, and he is the same God, and changes not, and therefore is hearing still, and will answer by-and-by. Therefore cry mightily to him. It may be that your prayer is like a ship, which, when it goes on a very long voyage, does not come home laden so soon; but, when it does come home, it has a richer freight. Mere coasters will bring you coals, or such like ordinary things; but they that go afar to Tarshish return with gold and ivory. Coasting prayers such as we pray every day bring us many necessaries, but there are great prayers which like the old Spanish galleons cross the main ocean and are longer out of sight, but come home deep laden with a golden freight. When prayer has tarried, the Lord our God has made up for the delays, and showed us why he did delay— to give us a richer and a rarer blessing through our waiting, and also to prepare us to receive it. Go on in prayer if you have no immediate answer, and let the answers you have had in years gone by be tokens for good to your soul at this time.
“God liveth still!
Trust my soul, and fear no ill:
God is good; from his compassion
Earthly help and comfort flow;
Strong is his right hand to fashion
All things well for men below;
Trial, oft the most distressing,
In the end has proved a blessing:
Wherefore then my soul despair?
God still lives, and heareth prayer.”
You meet with another class of tokens in the psalm, and these concern the preservation of character. Kindly read the second verse: “Preserve my soul, for I am holy.” I know I am speaking in these dark and troubled times to many of God’s children who are tried in business, and sorely exercised by the general depression: your great fear arises out of a dread of failure to discharge your debts. You have been praying to the Lord about your business; and perhaps Satan has tempted you to a measure of unbelief against which you are daily fighting. Now, has the Lord helped you to do that which is honest and upright before men? Has he preserved your soul because you are consecrated to him? You have been a loser, but in that loss can you say, “No fault attaches to me: it is the act of God. Things have not prospered with me, but I have been diligent, and I have used my best discretion, and I have curtailed every expense to save as much as possible. I have sought to eat my own bread, and not the bread of another man, and I would sooner come to labour with my hands in the most menial service than that any should say of me that I have forgotten the way of uprightness and integrity”? If such be the case, you will feel acutely the difficulties of your pathway, but you must not give way to despondency. Look up and play the man, and by no means give up. Fly to the Lord in this hour of need, and see what he will do. It is written, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,” and if such has been your case it is a token for good. You have not lost much if your character remains untarnished. After all, “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”; and “a good name is better than precious ointment.” When God gives a man grace to rejoice in his abundance, it is a great thing; but it is an equal favour when he gives to others of his people grace to rejoice that they are brought low. There is often more contentment in a narrower sphere than in a wider one, and a great deal less care and anxiety, and more fellowship with God in a cottage than in a broad mansion. If God keeps your character spotless, reckon that the smell of fire has not passed upon you. If the Lord enables you to do the right, let him do what he pleases with you. If we can pay twenty shillings in the pound, and walk out of the house free from any charge of unjust dealing, we may feel that the worst grief of all is over, for to an honest heart it is a crushing trial to be unable to pay every man his own. May the Holy Spirit lead you in the path of uprightness, and you need not envy any among the sons of men.
A third form of token for good is found in deliverance from trouble. We have that in the second verse also: “O thou, my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee,” and all through the psalm David is crying for deliverance from trouble. I am addressing many who have felt the strokes of tribulation. You have been brought very low; in your horror it seemed to you like the lowest hell; but you have been brought up from it, and you can at this hour sing of delivering grace. We are not all hanging our harps on the willows, some of us are praising God upon the high sounding cymbals because of his delivering mercy, for he has brought our soul out of prison, has delivered our soul from death, our eyes from tears, and our feet from falling. When these things come, they are to be regarded as tokens for good, if they come as the result of prayer and faith. Our personal testimony should be like that of David in the thirty-fourth psalm: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” When our distresses are ended our songs should begin, even as the psalmist says of men rescued from peril: they pray, and then they praise. “Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” There ought to be praises where there have been deliverances. When we have gone to God in prayer with open mouth, and he has filled it, then should we go back again with the open mouth, to have it filled with his praises all the day long. Come, friends, look back upon the rescues and recoveries of the past, and rejoice in the Lord. One good old saint, when she heard one sing,
“Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through,”
said, “Why, my road, when I look back upon it, is paved with Ebenezers. I cannot take a step but what I step upon a stone of help; and on both sides I see so many records of the Lord’s goodness that the road seems walled up by them on both sides.” Many of us can say the same. Well surely
“His love in time past forbids us to think,
He’ll leave us at last in trouble to sink.”
If he has delivered us from the jaw of the lion and the paw of the bear, shall we be afraid of that uncircumcised Philistine? No, but the giant boaster shall fall before us. In the name of the Lord will we destroy all future foes, because in his name aforetime we have destroyed the like. That is fine language which Paul uses in the epistle to the Corinthians: “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”
These three forms of tokens for good are very sure, and very sober, not at all like those which fanaticism seeks after, and yet they are most valuable. Answered prayers, preservations from sin, and deliverances from trouble are rich jewels from the Bridegroom’s hand, marks of love most costly. Those who have them should not forget them. “Shall a maid forget her ornaments?” Shall gifts of the Bridegroom be put away as though they were of no value? God forbid.
There is another form of token which must never be overlooked, and that is, a sense of pardoned sin. This comes in in the third and fifth verses. “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” Even though we have been sustained in our integrity, we must, nevertheless, be conscious of many faults. You cannot go through either the joys of this world or the sorrows of it without incurring a measure of defilement. He who picks his steps the most successfully will yet gather soil upon his feet, and they will need washing by those dear hands which alone can take away the stain of sin. When that washing is given, it is a very choice love-token. If you feel that your conscience is purged from dead works— if you are walking in the light as God is in the light, and are enjoying fellowship with the Father, while the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth you from all sin, then rejoice in the token for good which is given you. If you know the power of that word, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”— if you are indeed “accepted in the Beloved,” then know of a surety that one of the best tokens for good is in your possession. It may be that your purse is scant, but your sin is forgiven! It may be that disease is creeping over your flesh, but your sin is forgiven! What a bliss is yours, whatever your trial may be! Suppose yourself to be in danger of shipwreck: the ship is going down, the passengers are shrieking with terror, for there is nothing before them but the murderous waves. The boiling floods will soon conceal the last vestige of the ship: grim death opens his wide jaws! The last moment has come! But what do I see? What was that which rose upon the crest of the wave? It was the life-boat! Yes! Here comes the life-boat, and you are put on board it! What is your thought at the time? What must be your thought? What! Did you whine cut, “I have lost, my best portmanteau, which I left in my cabin”? What a fool you would be if you talked like that! The boatmen would be ready to throw you into the sea. No, your gratitude forgets all minor things, and rejoices in the grand deliverance. You cry, “My life is saved! My life is saved! Blessed be the Lord for saving me! My money, my very clothes— for I started up in my sleep, and leaped into the life-boat— I have lost them all, but I am alive, and that is enough. Thank God, I shall see my native land again!” Shall a man who is delivered from hell, and whose sins are forgiven, go whining all the day long because he has lost his money, or some other trifle, for trifle it is as compared with his soul. “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life”; and if our life be saved in Christ Jesus, through the forgiveness of our sin by his most precious blood, how can we fret? Why, man, God has given you a mercy that may swallow up your troubles as Aaron’s rod swallowed up all the serpents. “Strike me, my God,” said one of old, “Strike me as thou wilt, now that thou hast forgiven me.” The pardon of sin is such a token for good that all ills disappear before it.
There is another token for good mentioned in the psalm which you may well pray for. You will find it in the fourth verse: “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” This is support under trial.
It is a very blessed token for good when you are able to keep calm, quiet, and happy in the midst of losses, crosses, bereavements, and afflictions. All the water in the sea will never hurt the ship so long as it is outside, it is only that which enters the vessel that can sink it. Hence the Saviour says, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God; believe also in me.” In the world ye shall have tribulation, but let not your heart be troubled. Now, are you, dear friend, conscious at this time while everything is going against you that you never were happier than you are now? Can you give all up? Can you be resigned to your heavenly Father’s will? Does a sweet patience steal over you? Do you sometimes say to yourself and to your friends, “I would not have believed that I could have passed through this as I am doing”? Well, that is a token for good, and you may take comfort from it. What does it matter to a man after all whether God increases the load and increases the strength, or whether he decreases the load and decreases the strength? If a man has to carry a pound weight, and he is so weak that he can only manage to carry eight ounces, well, he is an overloaded man; but if a man had to carry a ton, and God gave him strength enough to carry two, why, he would be a lightly-loaded man, would he not? It is not the weight of the burden, it is the proportion of the burden to the strength. Now, the proportion of the burden to the strength was settled long ago— thousands of years ago. It is written, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be”; and there was one who proved it eighteen hundred years ago, and exclaimed, “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” You see the scale; if there is an ounce of suffering, there is an ounce of consolation. Almighty wisdom keeps the measure exact: Let the tribulation abound. Put it into the left-hand scale. Heap it up. Put in more and more trial. What a weight it is! Yes, but there you see in the right-hand scale the balancing consolation; and I think if we were wise we should be willing to accept— nay, we should even rejoice in— the abounding tribulations because of the abounding consolations. We shall always be little, I am afraid, while our trials are little; but it is when we get into the deeper waters that the Lord helps us to swim, and he makes men of us then, and we begin to glory in tribulation also, because the power of God doth rest upon us. Oh may the Lord give us faith to come up to this point, and this shall be for ever a blessed token for good when we can say,
“I stand upon the mount of God,
With sunlight in my soul;
I hear the storms in vales beneath;
I hear the thunders roll:
“But I am calm with thee, my God,
Beneath these glorious skies;
And to the heights on which I stand,
Nor storms nor clouds can rise.”
May God endow us with that token for good; for serenity in suffering, patience in tribulation, joy in the very prospect of death, these are all as white stones, which are the secret signs of divine favour.
Cheering visits from Christ, and fresh anointings of the Holy Spirit, are also most sure tokens for good, and if not mentioned expressly in the psalm, must not be omitted in our sermon. They are, however, here in such phrases as these:— “Rejoice the soul of thy servant,” in verse 4; “unite my heart to fear thy name,” in verse 11; “O turn unto me and have mercy upon me,” in verse 16; and in the latter clause of our text, “thou, Lord, hast holpen me and comforted me.” The Lord graciously visits his people, the clouds break, the night declines, and the day begins to dawn. Precious promises are applied to the heart with reviving power, hope is strengthened, and joy is renewed. Sweet communion is enjoyed under affliction, and Christ is seen sitting as a refiner at the mouth of the furnace. Sin is no longer allowed to burden the heart; yea, the very memory of it, so far as it would cause pain to the mind, is utterly removed, and the glad spirit rejoices in the consciousness of full acceptance with God. Ordinances and the word become sweeter than honey or the honeycomb, and the man feasts in the house of the Lord as one who is an honoured guest at a royal banquet, where the banner of Jesus’ love waves over his head, and he himself leans his head on his Lord’s bosom. This is a token for good, the memory of which shall cheer him for many a long day, and being treasured up like some sweet smelling herb, shall serve to render fragrant his sick chamber or his prison-house. O the joy of saints when the Bridegroom is with them; they cannot fast or be of a sad countenance, for their assurance of his divine love drives every care and fear away.
“Tis like the singing of the birds
When winter’s frost is fled;
And like the warmth the sun affords
To creatures almost dead.
“’Tis like the comfort of a calm
Which stills a stormy sea;
And like the tender, healing balm
To such as wounded be.”
Of such tokens for good may we enjoy rich store, until the day break, and the shadows flee away.
II. I had many things to say unto you, but I remember Paul’s mistake that he made when he preached until midnight, and Eutychus fell from the third loft, for he had gone to sleep; and as I could not possibly raise a sleeper from the dead, as Paul did, I will not try the experiment of preaching as long as Paul did. I cannot say anything as to THE RESULT OF SUCH TOKENS. The influence of these tokens upon our foes must be undescribed save that many a time the favour of God to his people has been so conspicuous that their most malicious adversaries have stood in awe of them. Their answered prayers have been like armour to them, their patience has lit up their faces with an aweinspiring splendour, and their integrity has been a wall of fire round about them. Even the devil has stood abashed in the presence of the favoured ones when God has dressed them in their marriage robes. He has known that they were of that chosen race against which he never can prevail. As for other enemies— “when a man’s ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Like Pilate’s, wife, even worldly people have pleaded that good men should be let alone; the Lord has made them dream of the glory of their virtue, and they have been afraid. There is a dignity which doth hedge about those who are kings unto God. They that dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth are afraid because of the tokens for good which God sets on his saints.
Here we leave these words, only adding this, what an unhappy state must those be in who have troubles, but have no God to go to; enemies, but no heavenly defender; darkness, and no star of hope!
How poor must you be who cannot escape affliction, and yet have no helper in affliction! You run to your friends, do you? Ah well, they are a poor refuge to fly to, for mostly they are our friends when we can help them, but when we need anything from them, they do not know us. You trust yourself do you? Ah well, I thought little of your friends, but I think less of you, for you are dust and ashes, and nothing else, and if your trust be in yourself it is a dream. And so you are a self-made man! your own creator? You need not be so very proud of your work. As you made yourself, and keep yourself going, you will come to a frightful end one of these days, when the inward force decays into weakness, and all the springs of nature fail. Whatever you make your god is like yourself, and both you and it must pass away ere long. Your hope shall be as a spider’s web, and your expectation shall melt like the hoar frost when the sun arises. The Lord is coming, the Lord is coming, and woe unto hypocrites in that day! It will go ill with self-confident men in that day. But as for such as trust the Lord, do you know what they say? and they speak as inspiration bids them speak— “I shall be satisfied.” I am not yet; but I shall be satisfied. And when shall I be satisfied? “When I awake with thy likeness.” When the archangel’s trumpet sounds, and wakes me into immortal perfection, then shall I be satisfied. Oh seek the Saviour’s face. Dear hearts, that never have sought him yet, seek him now; for there is no satisfaction to be had apart from him. Get away to him; get away to him to-night. Cry unto him, for he will hear you. Come unto him, for he will receive you. May his divine Spirit lead you to cast yourselves on him, for he will in no wise cast you out. The Lord bless you, for Jesus’s sake. Amen.