By Horatius Bonar
"There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." -- Psalm 4:6
THERE are two cries here--the cry of the sons of men, and the cry of the sons of God. They are very unlike. Yet they are both importunate. They go up unceasingly. Earth is full of them. Wherever you go, you hear either the one or the other. They are the cries of men like ourselves; of men who have souls to fill; who know what sorrow is, and what is joy. The men who utter them are made by the same God; placed in the same world; heirs of a common mortality; moving on to one eternity. We find them often side by side; in one city, one village, one family. Not the Hindoo using one cry, and the European the other; but intermingled; the two cries constantly going up from the same places.
I. The cry of the sons of men. "Who will shew us good." Let us mark what it is, and what it means.
(1.) It is the cry of emptiness. These sons of men feel that there is something lacking. They were not made for this perpetual hunger and thirst. They are empty, and therefore they cry. They are poor and needy; but find no supply.
(2.) It is the cry of weariness. They who utter it are seeking rest, but finding none; they labour and are heavy laden. They would fain rest, but know not how or where. UNREST! This is their portion. Unrest here; sad prelude of the eternal unrest, the never-ending weariness.
(3.) It is the cry of darkness. All is darkness and blindness. They grope about, not knowing which way to look, or to turn; and they cry, shew us, Shew us something; for our eyes are blind; we have tried in vain to see.
(4.) It is the cry of helplessness. They have tried many expedients; tried to create good for themselves, or to get it from others; but in vain. They find themselves helpless.
(5.) It is the cry of earnestness. It comes forth often amid bitter tears and groans. Men are bent on being happy; they would do or give anything for happiness. They are mistaken, yet in earnest. They would take any good, if they could get it.
(6.) It is the cry of despair. Who, who, who? They have tried every one, everything. All in vain. They are emptier, hungrier, thirstier, sadder than at first.
(7.) It is a loud and universal cry. Many. Yes, the whole world. It is Esau's loud and bitter cry reverberating through the earth. It is the cry of the many, not of the few. The world is unhappy. It has no rest. It is thirsty, and knows not where to drink; it is hungry, and knows not where to find bread. It weeps, and knows not how to get its tears dried! Every man walks in a vain show; going about asking, Who will shew me any good?
II. The cry of the sons of God. Very different in all respects. They know what is written, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good."
(1.) It is the cry of the few, not of the many. For the sons of God are a little flock. One here, and another there; not like fields of grain, nor gardens full of flowers, but plants in a desert,--a few scattered ones here and there.
(2.) It is a certain and definite cry. They know what they want, and how to get their want supplied. They do not grope about on all sides; they go straight to the source.
(3.) It is a cry to God. It is God alone in whom their hope is. They go straight to Him. Whom have I in heaven but thee? He is their portion and their all.
(4.) It is a cry for light. They have some light already, but they want more. We have a sun, but we need it daily; more and more sunshine!
(5.) It is a cry for light from the face of God. Light! Light from God! Light from the face of God. The light of God's countenance! This means that God was to gladden them with His favour and love, of which the benignant smile of the countenance was the expression. Lift up the light of thy countenance on me, is our lifelong prayer!
(6.) It is a cry which will be answered. The cry of the sons of men goes up in vain. They speak to the rocks, and get merely the echo of their own voice. But this cry is heard; daily, constantly. Light streams down and into them. God's countenance is their sun. There is health in it,-- "healing in His beams." What a contrast between the two cries and the two answers!
O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity? How long will ye doat upon this vain world, and worship it as your idol? How long will ye treat its broken cisterns as if they were the fountains of living water? Oh, love not the world!
What will its good things profit in the day of the Lord? Will its pleasures cheer a death-bed, or brighten the gloom of the grave? What is the ball-room when "its flowers are fled, its garlands dead?" What can the music and measure of the dance do for you when sickness comes, or the last trumpet sounds? Will that gay dress of yours do for a shroud? Or will it suffice instead of "the fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints? How will these "revellings and banquetings" appear to you in the retrospect of time, still more in the retrospect of eternity? What will you think of your "idle words," your "foolish talking and jesting," your "filthy communication," your riotous mirth, your luxurious feasting, when you stand confronted with the last enemy, or before the Judge of all? You have gone from scene to scene, from gaiety to gaiety, from party to party, from vanity to vanity, from novel to novel, from ball to ball, in the dreary emptiness of your poor aching hearts, crying, "Who will shew us any good?" and when the end comes, what is your gain? Is it heaven, or is it hell? Is it joy, or is it woe?