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happiness. He gives great things, and crowns His gifts with little acts of lovingkindness and tender mercy. Here is the unmistakeable sign of a loving nature. Peep over a boy's shoulder as he unpacks his trunk in the strange place where he has come to begin the battle of life. You shall be able to tell who packed it— whether he comes from a motherless home, or whether there is a throbbing, anxious heart, full of hope, and fear, and prayer, yearning after him in the home he left. The sign that no less sacred hand than hers who nursed him has packed that trunk is not in the ample supply of clothes and linen, nor in the careful inventory of contents nailed inside the lid, but in the little trifles, which, with moistened eye, he takes out one by one, a pocket Testament, a note with a few last words of love and counsel,—a little extra pocket-money from her own purse, or some little dainty prepared by her own hand. Thus do kind hearts, even amongst men, crown a full and generous supply of our wants with lovingkindnesses and tender mercies. They give liberally to satisfy an enlarged sense of duty, and a little more to express their love. It is thus that God deals with us. Illustrations of this are not wanting in the experiences of everyday life.
A man is in failing health for years; he is not ill enough to arouse apprehension, nor well enough to have much comfort in life. Some epidemic comes and numbers him among its victims. He is drawn down to the gates of death. His hold on life becomes slenderer day by day, until at last he hangs by a thread. Then the redeeming hand is put forth. Slowly, but surely, he is recovered. New health and new vigour-not the scanty measure of health and vigour with which he has lived for years past, but the strength and energy of early manhood-come back to him, and he enters the house of the Lord to praise Him not only for life spared, but for the crowning mercy of a long-lost strength.
So when God finds us in trouble, and works out deliverance for us, He is often not content with leaving us where we were before the trouble came, but lifts us higher on the hill of prosperity. This is the lesson which the Apostle James extracts from the history of Job: "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
This characteristic in God's dealings is strikingly illustrated in the history of redemption. Surround a man with such joys and comforts as are attainable in this world, and let him have the fear
of God in his heart, and that man will enjoy a measure of bappiness, such as would, I think, content most of us. Exclude pain, sorrow, and bereavement, and he would feel himself in a paradise. It is just such a condition which we picture to ourselves as man's original inheritance before he fell from God's favour. If God's design in our redemption aimed at nothing higher than the restoration to man of his lost estate, it would be a great and merciful redemption. In most cases it would satisfy our highest conceptions of heaven. The difference between the present state of mankind, without God and without hope in the world, subject to pains and griefs numberless, and in bondage through the fear of deathand such a state as Adam enjoyed in Paradise, would certainly have been a mighty difference. The saved in such a case would have had every reason to speak in adoring thankfulness of Him who had redeemed their life from destruction, but how much more now! What hath God wrought? By sending His Son to take upon Him our nature, He has raised human nature far above its original standing and destination. He made man a little lower than the angels, but He has redeemed him to occupy we know not what station of honour and bliss. Man redeemed is so superior to man created, that the tabernacle framed originally for the habitation of his soul is no longer suited for the tenant. Nothing short of a body made like unto the glorious body of the redeeming Saviour is sufficient for the dwelling-place of the renewed and glorified spirit. The earth itself must undergo a change before it will be a worthy abode for redeemed humanity. Fervent heat is to purify it. The new world is to rise from the ashes of the old. Geologists tell us that there is no break in the chain of life which connects the various epochs of creation, but the order of things hereafter to be established is to be on a scale so immeasurably superior, that the very foundations on which the present creation stands are to be purified by fire, that the new Jerusalem may not rest upon the sepulchres of ages; that not in the earth beneath, any more than in the heaven above, may there be any trace left of suffering, death, and decay. The glory of which the Scriptures give us a glimpse is so bright that the eye of fancy is utterly blind to it. We may raise our expectations with images borrowed from a past or present state of being, but, after all, " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." Is not all this glory and bliss superadded to redemption from everlasting
destruction a crown of lovingkindness and tender mercy? What seraph, burning with the warmest fervours of love that were ever kindled in the heart of a created being, could have conceived of such unmeasured love and mercy towards sinful mortals? See that ye neglect not so great salvation.
It is still more interesting, perhaps, to trace this characteristic in God's dealings with men's souls. Happy are you if you can trace it in His dealings with your souls. Let me remind you of the time when a voice came to you as from Sinai's cloudy, fiery gloom, saying, "God is angry with the wicked every day.". "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Do you remember how the eye of your soul, looking upward, beheld an angry God, how the load of your guilt lay heavy at your heart, how the promises of mercy seemed to have no application to you, and how the way of salvation appeared a steep which you could never climb? Hell gaped as it were at your feet, and death was to you only the opening of a prison door to lead you forth to the great assize. You cried for mercy thensimply mercy-a drop of water to cool the fever of your raging thirst. Then Christ came to you, and bid you look on Him and live, assured you of His love, invited your confidence, and spoke of rest for your soul. Rest-rest from an accusing conscience-rest from great alarms-rest from harassing temptations suggesting hard and murmuring thoughts of God that was almost all you desired. By grace you believed. The God of faith helping you, you brought sins, fears, and infirmities, and laid them down at the foot of the Cross, trusting in the all-sufficiency of Him who hung thereon to take them away, and bury them out of sight. At His forgiving word came peace-a peace so sweet, so utterly unlike anything you had experienced before, that your soul was for a season bathed in a sea of delights. Hope, new born in your heart, shed a light of such heavenly radiance there as filled you with rapture. You asked for rest, and there came not only rest, but joy; you asked that the fear of death and judgment might be taken away, and there came a hope of heaven so cheering and soul-sustaining that, in the strength of it, you felt that you could not only walk, but run in the way of God's commandments. Thus He who giveth more than we can deserve or desire redeemed your life from destruction, and crowned you with lovingkindness and tender mercy.
But you have had other experiences besides this. Some of you
have never had this, and, perhaps, never can have. Some find the Lord, driven to Him not by terror, but drawn to Him by the gradual discovery of His surpassing love and loveliness. Not every sinner seeks Him out, and, falling at His feet, cries, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." There are some to whom Jesus comes as He came to the impotent man lying by the pool of Siloam, and says, "Wilt thou be made whole?" Such enter into peace as a sick man waking from a long sleep of unconsciousness enters into the enjoyment of returning health. The change is so gradual, as scarcely to be perceptible until they compare present joys with how it was with them in days that are past. These, with all other Christians, know what it is, however, to have a season of darkness, in which the candle of hope only glimmers and smokes in the socket. All have to mourn peace broken and lost, corruptions strong and prevailing, unbelief again in possession. Of many a crisis in their history can they say with Asaph, "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped." It was not until the Lord again put forth His hand, this time, to heal their backslidings, that their heart was grieved, and they were pricked in their reins, and confessed themselves foolish and ignorant. Then a new song was put into their mouth: "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." There is great joy when a Christian gets his roll and hides it in his bosom ; there is greater when, having lost it, he once more grasps his precious treasure. It is like a renewal of redemption, with tenderer accompaniments of mercy and faithfulness. In recollection of such experiences, who will not sing, “He redeemed my life from destruction, and crowned me with tender mercies?"
The next verse is merely an extension of the thought of this. It specifies to what lengths God's crowning mercy and lovingkindness are carried. "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." It is a closer and more faithful translation to render them—"Who satisfieth thy beauty with good-thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
When Daniel was carried captive to Babylon, in his anxiety not to be defiled with meats offered to idols, or prepared in a manner which the law of his God had forbidden, he prayed that he might be fed on pulse. The officer who had charge of him and his three brethren feared to comply with the request, "for why," he said,
"should the king see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort?" His fears were founded upon his past experience, that the bloom and beauty of youth and health soon disappear under the endurance of privation. Care, want, and toil sharpen the features, deepen the lines upon the face, and give the appearance of premature age. Nothing fades more quickly than beauty in the presence of anxiety, grief, and want. The Psalmist says, "When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth." Beauty thus considered is the sign of youth, health, prosperity, and joy. To satisfy thy beauty with good is then to give all those blessings which sustain and preserve its freshness and bloom. Beauty is one of the brightest crowns which lovingkindness fashions, and tender mercy bestows.
With this rendering of the former part of the verse the latter well agrees, "Thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." It was an old belief that the eagle actually renewed its youth. Some see here an allusion to the fabled phoenix of Egypt, which, after having been consumed by fire, was said to re-create itself from its own ashes. But the figure is naturally enough suggested by the change which the whole feathered creation undergo at the period of moulting. The old and shabby feathers are cast off, to be replaced by new and handsome plumage. The change is very conspicuous in a large well-feathered bird, such as the eagle. An eagle half-stripped of its feathery clothing, and the very picture of age and decrepitude, in a few weeks regains its plumage and its strength, and soars upwards towards the sun, a perfect picture of youthful vigour.
I think I have seen something that answers to this. A man crushed in spirit by a succession of early sorrows, and broken down in health, returns to his home to wait in sullen despair for the end which he apprehends is not far off. No one ventures to console him, or to turn his thoughts from their accustomed channels. But rest does something for his worn and wasted frame, watchful but unobtrusive kindness something more. The associations of early days are revived by degrees, and exert their healing power. A genial, intelligent piety excites his attention and wins his confidence. In time the healing balm of religion is found, and peace returns. Then the brow becomes less careworn, the colour again mantles in the cheek, the old boyish smile plays about the mouth, and, chastened in spirit, but with something of an eagle's vigour, he enters again into the career of life. So again, a calm and peaceful