Things To Be Remembered
“A Psalm of David to bring to remembrance.”
THESE words form the title to the Psalm before us, which we read just now in your hearing. Let us note, for a short time, the subjects which David thought it necessary to bring to remembrance. We must all have noticed that our memories much more readily retain evil than good. The snatch of a profane song heard in childhood will remain with us to our graves–while many a holy thought leaves scarcely an impression upon the tablets of memory. We heard it–it is gone–it would be difficult to recall it. The draft that flows down the rivers of Sodom, one retentively collects, but the goodly cedars of Lebanon that are floated down the stream pass by unheeded. We may well say, “Forget not all His benefits,” for, alas, while the multitude of God’s benefits is forgotten, if there is anything to murmur at, it is pretty sure to be treasured up as though it were a priceless relic to be carefully preserved! May the Lord mend our memories. As He makes us new men and women in Christ Jesus, may the Holy Spirit give to our memories the power to grip the right and the true–and with a loose hand to let slip that which is evil and contrary to His rule. The Psalm is “to bring to remembrance.” This seems to teach us that good things need to be kept alive in our memories, that we should often sit down, look back, retrace and turn over in our meditation things that are past, lest, at any time we should let any good thing sink into oblivion. I have read the Psalm to you and I think you will all agree with me that among the things which David brought to his own remembrance, the first and foremost were–
- HIS PAST TRIALS AND HIS PAST DELIVERANCES.
Come, my Brothers and Sisters, let me stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance. Let me remind you of your past battles and victories, of your troubles and conflicts and your sweet cheer and safe preservation. It will do you good to remember them–such a remembrance will prevent your imagining that you have come into the land of ease and perfect rest. We may have our time of prosperity and say with David, “I shall never be moved. Lord, by Your favor, You have made my mountain to stand strong.” But soon adversity surprises us, as it suddenly overtook him and changed his note, “You did hide Your face and I was troubled.” This is not the place for us to have peace and rest! We are as yet at sea–the vessel has not reached the port. We are as yet in the wilderness–we have not come to the goodly land, even to Canaan. We are not yet out of gunshot of the devil. We are not yet beyond afflictions and trials and if, for awhile, the weather has been calm and the sun has been bright–and we poor pilgrims have been trudging on along green pastures and by the side of still waters–let us remember the giants with whom we fought in days long gone! Let us remember the hills of difficulty, the valleys of humiliation, the conflicts with Apollyon–for as it was at the first, so shall it always be till we come to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Oh, you who are making for yourself a downy nest and building up a castle in the air, remember you do this without the permission of your God! No, you do it in the teeth of His warnings, for has not Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation”? And is it not written, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous”? Bring to remembrance, then, your former struggles lest you begin to settle upon your lees and fancy that there is no more trial for you!
Remember them, too, bcause they will refresh your memories with regard to the mercy of God and so will stir youup to gratitude. Oh, we thought when we were in trouble that if the Lord would guarantee us deliverance, He would never hear the last of it! We said to ourselves, “I will praise Him while I have any being if He brings me out of this strait and sets my feet, once again, in a large room.” But our song was not quite as long as we expected and, after having praised God a little, the novelty of the mercy departed and our gratitude subsided. But, oh, my Brothers and Sisters, have we not much cause to bless God? Have we not cause to bless Him that we have been delivered from the burden of guilt–a burden that once bowed us to the earth–that we have been saved in dire afflictions when it seemed as if we must be crushed, that tribulations have been averted which threatened us, or that we have been sustained under those which have actually come upon us? Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song! And weave that new song out of the remembrances of His past mercies when He appeared for His servants in the times of trouble and worked amazingly for them according to the counsels of His love! Blessed be the name of the Lord at this time as we bring to remembrance trials past, and mercies that have been received!
Such a remembrance will be of great service to you, my Brothers and Sisters, if you are at this time enduring the likeexercises. What God was, that He is. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever,” is His people’s trust and glory. Having begun to deliver you, He will not afterwards forsake you! He has not brought you this far to put you to shame. What is the trouble of today? You have passed through another quite as great. What is the doubt that assails you? You have already met a doubt quite as gloomy and by faith you have overcome it! What is the fear which now gathers like a heavy cloud? The time before, it burst with mercies upon your head–and it shall do the same again! Draw courage from the recollections of the past and go forward to the fears of the future–and they shall vanish as you advance confident in your God. The great point, however, in David’s Psalm is–
II. TO BRING TO REMEMBRANCE THE DEPRAVITY OF OUR NATURE.
There is, perhaps, no Psalm which more fully than this one describes human nature as seen in the light which God, the Holy Spirit, casts upon it in the time when He convicts us of sin. I am persuaded that the description here does not tally with any known disease of the body. It is very much like leprosy, but it has about it certain features which cannot be found to meet in any leprosy described either by ancient or modern writers. The fact is, it is a spiritual leprosy–it is aninward disease which is here described–and David paints it to the very life and he would have us remember this. Child of God, let me bring to your remembrance, tonight, the fact that you are by nature no better than the vilest of the vile! “Children of wrath even as others,” are we. Even you who are favored by Divine Grace to enter into rich fellowship with Christ are no better, naturally, than the lost spirits in Hell! There was no difference at birth and no intrinsic essential difference of moral constitution between Peter and Judas, between Paul and Demas, between the brightest Apostle and the bloodiest persecutor! We have grown in Grace–had we been left to ourselves, we would have rotted in sin! We have gone from strength to strength in the way of holiness, but if it had not been for Divine Grace that interposed most sovereignly, we would have gone from depth to depth in the way of crime!
Just turn that over for a minute. By nature not one whit better than the rest of mankind, see what Grace has done for you in making such a difference! Why are you not tonight upon the drunkard’s bench? Why fill you not the seat of the scorner? Perhaps you have been there already, and if Divine Grace had not prevented, you would have continued there! I think it does us a world of good, when Grace has made the difference, to still take the place which the publican did. I never feel so well in spiritual health as when I cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Somehow there is a safeness about it, when a sense of sin makes one cling to the sinner’s Savior. Growth in Grace and high frames in spirituality are very pleasant, but it does us so much good, every now and then, to come right on the ground again, flat on our face before the Lord, crying out, “What am I that You have brought me to this? God forgive me, and accept me through the precious blood, for in myself I am loathsome, vile and abhorred–and in me there dwells no good thing.” The best mode of living is to live upon Christ every day as you did the first day of your conversion–always to stand at the foot of the Cross with–
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Your Cross I cling.”
A saint, I hope, by Grace, but a sinner certainly by nature. Still, still dependent upon the same merit of the Substitute, still accepted through the continual plea of the Divine Intercessor who has espoused my cause and is able to save to the uttermost, them that come unto God by Him. “Heirs of wrath even as others”–this is what we were! Sinners saved by Grace–this is what we are! It is well to bring to the remembrance of the child of God that although his past sin is all blotted out, and he is justified by faith which is in Jesus Christ, yet there still remains in him the old body of this death. Sin, the force of sin, still dwells in him! Now, Brothers and Sisters, there are times when everything goes very smoothly with us. Everybody treats us kindly. We are much in religious exercises. We go from Prayer Meetings to lectures, from lectures to sermons, and from sermons to our room and to our Bibles. We do not get vexed or troubled and we begin to think, “Now I really am somewhat of a superior being. I think I am not what I used to be–I never could be roused to that old anger which once flamed out so furiously, nor could I now be led into such fretfulness as once was known to overcome me.” I have noticed–take my experience for what it is worth–that the most dangerous time in the Christian’s life is when he has been nearest to God in devotion. You meet the devil and not expecting him, he is too much for you. It is just when you have been most spiritual that the temptation which you had almost thought would never come again, trips you up, and ah, how soon you find that if when upon the mountain, your face glowed, down in the valley, again, unless your Master holds you up, your foot will slip and your face will be covered with the filthiness of the valley! Remember, child of God, let others say what they will to you, that the dictates of experience and the teachings of God’s Word lead you to the remembrance that there is still in you a spirit that lusts after all manner of evil, a nature which, if it were not curbed and confined by the Grace of God, would make you again to be what you were, yes, and would bring into your house seven devils worse than the first! Never conceive that any one of the evils of your nature is so dead that it cannot have a resurrection. Strive against every form of sin, every thought of sin, every carnal tendency, every evil passion–and when you have striven most, never count your victory to be complete until your feet are within the pearly gate! Never reckon that you may take off your helmet and lay aside your sword and say, “The battle is fairly won,” until you have crossed the River of Death and go waving the banner of love in the streets of the New Jerusalem!
David brings this to remembrance and that, too, in the most forcible words. Some of the children of God can use very terrible words about what they feel in their own nature, so that ungodly men say of them, “How bad these Christians must be!” It is not that they are worse than others, but that they have the sense to see the evil. A man in a black coat may have a hundred spots and blots upon it, but nobody will see them–but let him wear a coat of white and if there is only a little a speck of mire, it is immediately perceived! The holier the Christian becomes, the more readily he perceives his imperfections and the wickedness of his sins–and sin, instead of becoming more bearable to a Christian, becomes growingly more and more intolerable! A man in the water may bear much–in fact, much of it might roll over his head and he would not feel the weight of it–but let him come out on the dry land and put but a small quantity of water in a bucket and how heavy it is when he carries it upon his head! When he is in the water, he does not feel the weight, for it presses him on all sides–but get him out of the water and then he begins to feel its gravity. So, a sinner in his sin is like a man in the deep–he does not feel the weight of his sin. But get him out of it, bring him into a new element, and then immediately sin becomes exceedingly sinful! Oh, if we could but be perfect! If it were possible to be rid of this evil nature! So we sigh and so we cry, waiting for the adoption, for the coming of the Lord, for the perfecting of our nature as it shall be, by-and-by, when the furnace work of Providence and the refining work of Divine Grace shall all be done!
It is a gloomy thing to bring to your remembrance, my dear Friends, but it is often brought to mine, and I know it is good for me–what you were by nature, and what you still are, unless the Grace of God prevents it. Remember old John Bradford’s remark whenever he saw a man go by his window to Tyburn to be hanged–and he lived at that time where he saw them all –“Ah,” he said, “there goes John Bradford if the Grace of God had not prevented.” It is said that a Scotchman once went to see Rowland Hill and, sitting down, he looked at the lines in his face. He looked a long while, till Rowland smilingly said, “And what are you looking at, my Friend?” “I am looking at the lines in your face, Mr. Hill.” “And what,” said he, “do you make of them?” “Why, that if the Grace of God had not saved you, you would have been a great rogue.” “Ah,” said Rowland, “and you have hit the mark!” It is even so, and even worse than that! If the Grace of God had not come into our hearts and made new creatures of us, we had been equal to the devil, or, at any rate, it would not have been our fault if we had not excelled even Apollyon, himself, in rebellion and enmity to God! A third thing the Psalm brings to our remembrance is–
III. OUR MANY ENEMIES.
David says that his enemies laid snares for him, sought his hurt, spoke mischievous things and devised and imagined deceits all day long. “Well,” says one, “how was it that David had so many enemies? How could he make so many? Must he not have been imprudent and rash, or, perhaps, morose?” It does not appear so in his life. He rather made enemies by his being scrupulously holy. His enemies attacked him not because he was wicked, but, as he says in this very Psalm, they were his enemies because he loved the thing which is good. Now, you must not suppose that because you seek to live in all peaceableness and righteousness, that, therefore, everybody will be peaceable towards you. Far from it! Our Lord put us upon the right tack when He said, “I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword.” The ultimate result of the religion of Christ is to make peace everywhere–but the first result is to cause strife. When the Light of God comes, it must contend with the darkness. When the Truth of God comes, it must first combat error. And when the Gospel comes, it must meet with enemies–and the man who receives the Gospel will find that his foes shall be they of his own household. You shall not be helped by an ungodly father, nor be cheered onward by an un-Christian mother. One would think that even nature, itself, might lead parents to admire that which should make their children virtuous, preserve them in this life and bless them in the life to come. But such is the enmity of the human heart against Christ and His Gospel, that hundreds of parents have been monsters to their children when those children have been obedient subjects to Christ! Why those stakes, those dungeons and those racks? Why the snows of Piedmont dyed scarlet with human gore? Why the glens of Scotland marked with the lurking places of the saints? Because this world hates the people of God! “You are not of the world,” says Christ, “even as I am not of the world, and therefore the world hates you.” It is good to be reminded of this, that we may not be astonished at the fiery trial as though some strange thing had happened to us! It is the part and lot of the follower of the true to have to contend with deadly odds.
And remember, Christian, you have enemies who seek to turn you aside and do you mischief. You are not now traveling along a road that is safe for your feet, in which there is no enemy whatever, but behind every hedge there lurks a foe. Whether you are in high or low estate, temptation will assail you. It is not possible for you to shut the door so quickly as to shut out temptations to sin! Snares assail you in your bed and at your table–snares will be about your feet at home and abroad, with your fellow workmen and in the bosom of your family. Be always on the alert then. Travel with a naked sword–never sheath it. “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation,” and until you have come out of the enemy’s country, into the land that flows with milk and honey, always hear your Captain say, “What I say unto you I say unto all–watch.” Watch–especially watch against those who come to you with words softer than butter which inwardly are drawn swords! Watch against temptations that appeal to your pleasure. You need not be so much afraid of that which grieves you as of that which charms you. Watch against the fair siren whose fascinating song will attract you from the billowy deep with the hope of rest to where, alas, you will find shipwreck and ruin! Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it moves itself aright. Let the charm of the temptation be the warning to you. Let the pleasure be the very beacon which shall make you turn aside from it, feeling that there must be evil lurking there. Christian, be always on your guard! Never be taken by surprise. Once more–
IV. THE PSALM REMINDS US OF OUR GRACIOUS GOD.
Anything which drives us to God is a blessing and anything which weans us from leaning on an arm of flesh, and especially that weans us from trying to stand alone, is a blessing to us! Think awhile how much you owe to the Grace of God who has preserved you until now. The man who carries a bombshell within his heart, and has to walk through the midst of sparks, may wonder that he has not been blown to pieces–
“Kept alive with death so near,
I to God the glory give.”
With such a heart as mine, if You, O Lord, had not held me fast, I had long ago declined and turned back to the world! Praise the Grace that has held you till now! Keep in remembrance the patience of God in enduring with you, the power of God in restraining you, the love of God in instructing you and the goodness of God in keeping you to this day.
Nor ought we ever to forget with regard to our inward depravity and the Grace of God, that mighty work which the Holy Spirit has undertaken. I was trying the other day in my own mind to weigh in the scales the work of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit–and the only conclusion I could come to was this–that I did not know which in its execution was the more difficult, or which in its results was the more precious. For Christ to take the guilt of sin and suffer was certainly a marvelous thing, but for the Holy Spirit to condescend to dwell in our hearts and to combat day by day withour sin until He should eradicate the very principle of selfishness and make us to be holy even as God is holy–this is a work worthy of God! And if the former work, that of Christ, was Divine, certainly this is no less so! Oh, let us never depreciate the Holy Spirit’s work, but looking forward to what we are to be, as well as backwards upon what we were, let us magnify the Holy Spirit with our heart, soul and strength who has worked all our works in us and by whom we shall be presented faultless before the Presence of God without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing!
“My God, I thank You for reminding me of Yourself, of Your Son by whom I am cleansed, of Your Holy Spirit by whom I am sanctified, of Yourself by whom I am daily succored. Oh, bind me to Yourself with tenfold cords and as your Providence brings me where I have to encounter new sins, and new trials, and to experience new deliverances and new mercies, may You be brought more closely to my soul and may everything bring You to remembrance.” We never walk so safely as when we walk with God. We are never so rich as when we are poor in everything without Him, and never so strong as when we are weakness, itself, except for such strength as we get from our invisible Helper. Lean heavily there, Christian. Lean heavily! You can never make that arm weak. Bear with all your weight–He can never tire. Cast all your burden upon Him. You may even be glad to have a burden to cast there, so that you may have opportunities of knowing and proving the power and faithfulness of your God. Tonight, as your troubles have been brought to remembrance, let those bring your weakness to remembrance–let that bring your God to remembrance and so do you go up the rungs of the ladder from the bottom of the horrible pit and of the miry clay, to the very heights of joy and gladness! And as you go say, “My God, You are mine–mine, despite my sin–mine to deliver me from it all and to make me like Yourself, to dwell with You forever.”
Brothers and Sisters, the mercy is that all the badness that we see in ourselves does not at all affect our standing before God, or our belief in our own personal safety! Though I see within myself all that is foul and corrupt, everything that is villainous and even devilish, by nature, yet do I know that I am saved and rejoice that neither death nor Hell shall divide me from my Master’s bosom, for our standing rests not in ourselves, but wholly in what Christ has done! His perfect work presents to us a foundation upon which we can build securely–and though we grieve daily over indwelling sin and have come to God with many a bitter accusation against ourselves, yet glory be to His name, Christ changes not and our acceptance in the Beloved does not wax and wane like the moon, but abides in one sacred, high, eternal noonday never to go down! Glory be to God, and let our souls exult in such mercy as this!
I would to God as I bring these things to your remembrance, that you would remember how many have forgotten these things all their lives. How many of your own companions live as if there were no God and no hereafter? I bring them to your remembrance. Pray for them and do what you can to lead them to Jesus!
I wish I could bring to their remembrance that they must die and that after death there comes the judgment–andthat the judgment for an unpardoned soul means eternal destruction from the Presence of the Lord! Oh you who have much remembrance for the things of this world that are not worth remembering, for awhile use that faculty for nobler ends. Scrape not up the mire of the streets, but begin to gather a little of the pure gold that God puts before you! Think upon your latter end! Think upon the Gospel which now is preached to you. Think upon the time when it shall be preached to you no more! Think of the hour when you shall be called to account for having rejected the Gospel’s invitation. Whoever trusts Jesus shall be saved. Rely upon what Jesus has done and, guilty as you are, your sins shall be forgiven!
God grant that it may be so with you, for His love’s sake. Amen.