Standing And Singing
“My foot stands in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord.”
You will remember our taking a pathetic verse for our meditation, some little while ago, which was the prayer of a saint in trouble, whose prayer was, “Look upon my affliction and my pain.” [See Sermon #741, Volume 13–A TROUBLED PRAYER–Read/download the entire sermon, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.] We must now look upon the reverse of the picture and thinkupon a Christian in prosperity and joy and, perhaps, as there may have been some comfort to afflicted souls before, so there may be some instruction tonight to those who are prosperous.
It is worthy of remark, at the outset, that the condition of a Christian cannot readily be judged by anyone but himself. Certainly his outward condition is a very unfair test of his real state. When Paul and Silas had been scourged and laid with their feet fast in the stocks, they seemed to others to be very miserable. But when, in the dead of the night, they began to sing God’s praises and the prisoners heard them, they proved themselves to be among the happiest of men! So was it with David. When the Psalmist wrote this song, he was slandered and vilified–every evil thing was laid to his charge. This was the case externally, and yet within, his mind was at such perfect peace that he could say, “My foot stands in an even place.”
It seemed to the common onlooker as though his foot would slip, as though he were like one hurled from the Tarpeian rock to be certainly dashed to pieces–but his soul’s experience was the absolute reverse of this. He seems to say to them all, “Hoot at me if you will! Seek to trip me up as you please! God is high above you all, and in Him I shall still stand my ground, for, blessed be His name, notwithstanding every attempt of the enemy to throw me down, my foot stands in an even place and in the congregation will I bless the Lord.”
There are two things in the text to which I would call your attention. The first is a Believer in a happy position. Andthe second is, a Believer engaged in a happy occupation. His “foot standing in an even place,” a happy position. “Praising and blessing God,” a happy occupation. We have here, first, then–
- A BELIEVER IN A VERY HAPPY POSITION.
Now, what does he mean by his “foot standing in an even place”? Well, is it not the very worst evil that a genuine Christian can suffer to fall into sin? To fall finally, would, of course, be our everlasting ruin. To fall at all, in any sense, is our greatest grief. Every true child of God would sooner sorrow a thousand times than sin once. His Father’s rod he has learned to love, but sin, even when it is the choicest pleasure, he has learned to hate. “Lord,” he says, “allow me to go anywhere except into sin. If the way is rough, so be it, if it is Your way, I will bless You for being in it. But if the road is ever so smooth, allow not my feet to tread it, if it is Bye-Path Meadow.” The worst evil that can befall a Christian, I say, is to fall into sin and continue to do so. On the contrary, one of the richest blessings that a Christian can enjoy is to be kept aright in his walk and conversation–year after year to wear a spotless character–year after year to be such an one as Daniel, that even the man’s enemies can find nothing against him except touching the Law of his God. Oh, this is a great honor! This is a rare jewel! There are some of God’s servants who will get to Heaven who never wore this jewel. They have been the Lord’s people, but yet their slips and falls have given them broken bones and troubled hearts–and they have been saved at the last “so as by fire.” But it is a choice mercy if the child of God is able not only safely to get into the harbor, but to get into the harbor without having touched a rock, without having sunk in a quicksand, without having suffered shipwreck–not only to come safely to Heaven, but to have “an abundant entrance ministered to him” into the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Now, dear Friends, the standing which is spoken of in the text relates to the secure standing of the child of God in respect to sin–regard to common, outward sin. there he stands in such an even place that sin touches him not.
First, I say there are some Christians who may take the language of the text in regard to outward sin and thank Godthat they are not just now exposed to vehement temptations. They are not journeying in slippery places, but their foot stands in an even place.
This may be occasioned by several causes. Sometimes it is caused by Providence. My Brothers, you have, perhaps,sometimes wished that you were rich. You have been in a little way of business and you have thought, “I wish I had a larger capital that I might launch out a little, that I might speculate, that I might get a larger income and accumulate at a faster rate.” Ah, you do not know. Those high places are slippery places, as some of late have proved to their own sorrow. You have need, instead of asking God to put you there, to thank Him that you are not so rich, that you are not therefore subject to the peculiar temptations incidental to great transactions of business, or great accumulations of gold. Comparatively, you may sit down and thank God that you are not in this position, but that your “foot stands in an even place.”
You may be thankful, too, if you are not extremely poor, for extreme poverty, like extreme wealth, is a very dangerous position. When a person is extremely poor, he may be tempted to steal. If he should be able to overcome that, he will be tempted to envy and may be very jealous of those who are better off than himself. And I do not know a more miserable spirit than an envious one! Nothing can be more un-Christian than to be angry with my fellow man because he happens to have more of outward good, and of inward excellence, too, perhaps, than I may happen to have. Thank God that your lot is cast in the middle place! If Agur’s prayer is fulfilled in you–“Give me neither poverty nor riches”–if you havejust enough to have food and raiment, be content therewith and say, “I thank God that Providentially I am not exposed to the temptations of fashion and all its mazes, and I am not thrust into the temptations of penury with all its grief–in that respect my foot stands in an even place.”
How many a young man is dazzled with the idea of fame! “Ah” he thinks, “if I could but carve my name on that rock! If I could, I would mount higher than that last, and carve my name high up there!” Yes, but how many have rolled back, have tried to scale the battlements and have fallen to the bottom, mangled corpses?–
“The path of glory leads but to the grave!”
Be thankful, young man, if God should mark out for you a quiet path of usefulness in the Sunday school, or in some village station, or in some place where, in the midst of your little family, you may bring your children up as a godly parent should, and at last, before the clods of the valley shall close over you, you may have, before you go hence, to thank God that your foot stood in an even place, though it might have slipped if you had been called to a more dangerous point on the hill! It is best for us to be thankful for the position in which Providence has placed us, for I suppose that most of us now present will see that we are not peculiarly exposed to either of the extremes and, therefore, in that sense our “foot stands in an even place.”
Sometimes this is the case not so much with regard to our own condition, as to the place of our abode and the surroundings of our family circle. How many of you young people ought to bless God that you are converted and live where you do! I know the temptation with some young persons is to wish to get away from the parental roof very early and to try to set up on their own account. Young woman, if you have a godly father and a godly mother, be in no great hurry to go away from the hearth where piety has been your joy! Young man, if you are apprenticed with godly people, do not be in such hot haste to be away from the place. This is a wicked city and for every place where a young man’s foot may stand “in an even place” in it, there are 50 places where it will need all the Divine Grace he has and a great deal more that only God can supply, to keep him from giving way to temptation!
I am afraid that now-a-days, such is the general business habit, as we say, and the fastness of our living, that many of our young people do not think enough of religious privileges. I have read of a Jew who would not trade in a certain town because there was no synagogue in it–he said he would rather be at another place because there was a synagogue there. And what the Jew felt in this respect, surely the Christian ought to feel far more! If you have to put up with far less money, yet if you have an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and mixing with God’s people, be not in a haste to throw away your golden privileges for the sake of those poor brazen gains which are pitiful in comparison with spiritual wealth! It is a wonderful mercy–a mercy which some of my dear Friends now present would prize very much if they could have it–it is a wonderful mercy, I say, to live in the midst of godly people! Contrast it to the living with the ungodly! There are those in this place now who, when they go home from this place of worship tonight , will hear oaths and blasphemy before they fall asleep. They will probably be startled in the morning by hearing the name of God profaned. Their religion provokes the animosity of their dearest friends! They cannot be at their work without hearing ribaldry and without being selected to be the butt of all the archers who shoot at them, sorely wound them and grieve them–for though there are no burnings at the stake now-a-days, yet there are “trials of cruel mocking,” and these “mockings” are sometimes very “cruel” indeed! There is all the difference between the plant in the sheltered corner of the garden and the other plant set out in the wild, bleak waste for every frost to nip! Be thankful, dear young friends, yes, and let us be thankful who are not so young, if we are placed in a position where we are not continually exposed to the vicious example, or to the frowns of gainsayers. Let us say thankfully with David, “My foot stands in an even place in that respect: and in the congregation will I bless the Lord for it.”
Besides this, our foot may be kept by Providence and Grace combined. Providence may have placed us where theministry is instructive and established–and then our foot stands in an even place. I have known some shepherds of flocks and, in the short time in which it has been my privilege to preside here, I think I have seen them veer to all points of the compass. There are some I know now whose particular position in theology no one ever did know and, I suppose, will never be able to ascertain, for there seems to be no definite teaching, no declaration of Doctrines, no laying down of established Truths of God! And, mark you, it is a great mercy when the Lord teaches us something and makes us know what we do know, and when what we hear we understand and receive into our souls by the teaching of the Holy Spirit! It is a great mercy when we are not carried away by this fanaticism, nor the other enthusiasm, but when we are cast into connection with people who hold fast to the faith which is delivered to them and are not to be carried about by every novelty, but are conservative of the grand old Truths and hold fast to the Doctrines of the Cross of Christ! It may have been the lot of some of you, dear Friends, to sometimes be members of one church and sometimes of another–sometimes of a church given to quarrel and to break up, or, on the other hand, members of churches that are taken up with every novelty. Oh, be thankful that you have, many of you young Christians, round about you, fathers in Christ and matrons in Israel who confirm you in the faith, under God, and through whom your foot has been made to stand in an even place. For this mark of Grace, bless the Lord!
But to go still farther. Sometimes the Christian may thank God for his standing, not so much because of his position in life, nor because of the outward means of Grace, but because of the inward establishment and spiritual growth whichGod the Holy Spirit has given him. Oh, what a mercy it is, Christian, if your experience has been your own and you are come at last to a settled state of rest of heart! The devil sometimes says to you, “You will never be able to attain to the Glory and the Kingdom–you will never overcome your foes.” But you can say, “Ah, in this respect my foot stands in an even place, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him until that day.” Sometimes your outward troubles are very many and the fear is that they will be too much for you–but oh, what a mercy it is to be able to stand in an even place in that respect, and say, “Goodness and mercy followed me all the days of my life, and I am persuaded that they always will. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God will be with me to be my Stay!” When experience and patience have produced in us unstaggering faith in God, what a blessed life we lead! But the unbelieving heir of Heaven, the man of little faith and little confidence in God–he is blown about by every wind and every difficulty staggers him–he is ready to weep under every trial! But the true Christian knows that these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work out for him a far more exceedingly and eternal weight of glory! He believes that Jesus walks the stormy waters. He can hear Him say, “It is I,” and he is not afraid. He feels that he cannot suffer shipwreck while Christ is in the vessel with him and, therefore, if not always rejoicing, yet he is calm and patient, waiting for the salvation of the Lord. I think I know some of you who have been for years in this condition. You are not now as you used to be–all in Heaven one day and all in the depths the next. You are not so readily excited as you once were. An earnest Prayer Meeting fills you with holy joy, but it does not transport you quite out of the body as it once did. On the other hand, if some sharp affliction should come upon you, it still distresses you, but it does not perplex you and cast you into despair as it would once have done! You are no longer an infant, but you have become a man or woman in Christ Jesus! You have grown strong. You are rooted, grounded, and settled in the faith! Now, be very tranquil, dear Friends, and thankful that you can say concerning these things, “I am not to be moved by them–temptations that were once formidable to me are so no longer, for I know the promise and the faithfulness of my God–and my foot stands in an even place.”
Once more. This may sometimes be peculiarly true of the Christian, when he has been enjoying near, dear, and ripened fellowship with the Lord Jesus. We sometimes stand on Tabor with our transfigured Lord! It is not always Gethsemane. It is sometimes the mount of the first Glory and sometimes whatever occurs has no more effect upon us than tempests upon solid rocks! The joy of the Lord, the Presence of our Savior, the light of His love, the feast at His banqueting table–these things become so all-absorbing to us that we can say with Dr. Watts–
“Let earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled.
Still I can smile at Satan’s rage,
And face a frowning world.”
Such a soul, all taken up with Divine Love, sitting at the feet of Christ with Mary, has neither room nor time for Martha’s cares and encumbrances, but can rejoice and say, “My heart is fixed, oh my God! My heart is fixed, I will "sing and give praise.” Such an one may be poor and yet cannot be poor! Such an one may be sick and yet must be well! Such an one may be alone and yet not alone, for his Lord is with him! I wish that you and I could more often say in this respect, “My foot stands in an even place, and in the congregation I will bless the Lord.”
Now you can see that all this view of the text is but occasional. But there is a view of the text that is permanent. As I have already said with regard to the great sin, the sin which is unto death, the sin which would destroy a Christian, every child of God may at every time say, “My foot stands in an even place.” The child of God may sin, but he cannot sin away his birthright. The heir of Heaven may fall, and he may fall foully, too, but though he falls seven times, he shall be lifted up again–and the eternal hand of God shall keep him, even to the end! Beloved, it is our mercy to believe that–
“Once in Christ, in Christ forever,
Nothing from His love can sever.”
If you stand on the Rock of Ages, my dear Brothers and Sisters, you stand on a Rock which never can reel beneath you, and from which no power, either earthly or infernal, can ever tear you! If you are in the hands of Christ, you know what He says–“No one is able to pluck them out of My hands; My Father which gave them to Me is greater than I, and none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hands.” Oh, how safe they are, then, in the hands of Christ, first, and in the hands of God after–as if to give a double security, a two-handed guarantee–the power of Christ and the power of the Eternal Father being both guaranteed to the safety of the Believer!
But may the Believer ever say within himself that he is safe? Beloved, he may never say that he is safe in himself! No, that were, indeed, but a lie! But he may always say that he is safe in Christ Jesus. He may never say, “My mountain stands firm; I shall never be moved.” But he may say–
“My life is hid with Christ in God,
Beyond the reach of harm,”
And, “Because He lives, I shall live also.” He may not say, “I know that I, by my own strength, shall persevere to the end.” But he may say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him until that day.” The perseverance of the Christian is not ensured by the Christian’s resolve to persevere unto the end, nor by the Christian’s own power, nor by any plans which the Christian can adopt! That perseverance is secured by the promise of Christ, by the energy of the Spirit, by the watchfulness of God and by the faithfulness of God to His own Covenant!
Oh, Christian, how happy are you to be loved with an everlasting love, to have your name written in an Everlasting Covenant, to know that if your house is not so with God, yet He has made with you an Everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure! Your foot stands at all times, in this respect, in an even place where justice and mercy are sweetly balanced, where justice and truth have taken away all irregularities, where the path is even and plain! Oh, let your tongue sing praises unto the Lord!
And now just a few words, and only a few words, though as earnest as possible, upon–
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S HAPPY OCCUPATION.
The Psalmist says, “In the congregation will I bless the Lord,” and surely we ought to do the same. Oh, think, dear Friends, in your own remembrance, how many professors have perished! I scarcely dare to look back upon them. They once floated as calmly upon the surface of the sea as you or I do. There they are. I see the broken hulks, the boards and broken pieces still tossing upon the surf! Can you see the corpses as they strew the ocean–corpses of warriors apparently as brave and as well armed as we are! There is Demas, he has made shipwreck. There is Judas, too, the first son of perdition. Now, Brothers and Sisters, if we have been kept, if our feet have been made to stand in an even place and we do not bless the Lord, the very stones will cry out against us! Why is it that we have not fallen into sin as many others have done? Why, indeed, but that the Grace of God has prevented us? There was everything in us that would have led us into the same mischief–the same sin, the same unbelief, the same evil habit of departing from the living God–and if it had not been for preventing Grace which has held us fast, we would have made shipwreck as well as others! Let us praise God if, after 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years, or perhaps more, we are still spared to stand in the midst of the Christian Church upholding our integrity! Surely we ought to say, “In the congregation will I bless the Lord.”
And then, again, as the Christian ought to do it, so it is the best thing that he can do, for nothing can be more usefulto him. I fancy if we praised God when we are in the enjoyment of mercies, we would keep mercies longer. If God had more gratitude from us when we are well, He would help us to continue in good health, but He knows that we need to be sick, sometimes, to make us know the value of health and, therefore, He sends us to the bed of sickness that we may learn a lesson of gratitude? And if we were more grateful, we might, perhaps, be spared some of our troubles. And so while we are kept standing, if we bless the Lord for it, it may be that He will continue thus to keep us, but if not, He may allow us to slip in order that we may learn where our great strength lies–and may thenceforth praise His name! Christian, to praise God will be of the utmost service to you. The fact is, you must praise somebody–and if you do not praise God, you will slip into praising yourself–and that will make you hateful in God’s esteem, for the Lord hates a proud look. If you once begin to say, “It is my own goodness and the excellency of my natural temperament that have kept me,” you will soon come down–and great will be the fall thereof. But if you praise God, it will keep you from, self-conceit.
To praise God is, also, one of the sweetest medicines for worldliness. Most medicines are very strange–sour or bitter. I sometimes think doctors make them thus, for many persons would not think them effectual if they were not nasty! Probably there might just as well be sweet medicines as bitter. I do not know why there should not be. Certainly praise, though it is sweet and pleasant, is profitable and curative, too!
It will cure you of worldliness quite as much as will sorrow. If you sit down to a loaded table and bless the Lord for it, the abundance will not give you “fullness of bread.” If you go abroad in the world and God increases your wealth, and you are grateful for it, it will not eat as does a canker, nor injure you, but the gratitude you have will be a sweet corrective force to keep you from being a mere earth-grubbing mole–as you would have been if you had not been lifting your eyes to Heaven and mounting up on the wings of praise, as the eagle does, with his face towards the sun! Praise God that you have been able to bear your prosperity and you will probably have a longer time of it, and you will get good out of it. Moreover, as you ought to praise God and it is useful to praise God, so let me say that it is honorable to God that youshould praise Him. There ought to be somebody to speak well of Him, for this wicked world is constantly abusing Him. If a man’s own children do not praise him, where can he expect to have a good name? Oh, you who are the children of God, I am afraid you sometimes give your God a bad Character! Those long faces of yours. Those dolorous tales about Providential afflictions–when they hear and see these, the world says, “Ah, we always said so–they are a miserable set and they serve a very hard Master!” But it is a gross lie! There never were servants that had such a good Master as we have! We love His House! We love His service! We love His wages! We love Him! We are the happiest people in all the world and though the worldling will have it that we must be wretched because we are religious, we reply, “Our religion is our joy and our comfort! It is our delight and our bliss! We wish we had more of it! We serve a blessed God and we will speak well of His name .”
To bless the Lord, while it is honorable to Him, will often be useful to our fellow creatures, and this should be themost practical point. David said, “In the congregation will I bless the Lord,” by which I understand he felt that his blessing God might be useful to others, else he might have shut himself up in his room and praised God there. David was not like some of whom we know. I hear of some about the country who say, “I shall not go to the place of worship in my village. I cannot get on with the minister. I buy Mr. So-and-So’s sermons and I find more Truth in them, so I shall stay at home.” You remember the view the Apostle took of this when he wrote, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is”–a very bad manner, let me say, by the way the Apostle mentions it! If there are a few people of God anywhere, join with them, and if they are such a people as you cannot think of joining as people of God, open a place of your own! Make it a point of conscience that where you have a house, God shall have one, and that where there is a tent for you, there shall be an altar for Him! How much might the Kingdom of God spread if Christian people everywhere took care of this! David could have praised God alone, it is true, but he was not satisfied with it. He loved that genial warmth, that glow of holy fire which always comes when hearts come together. And so he says, “In the congregation will I praise the Lord.”
There are several ways of doing this. You may praise the Lord, you know, by singing–and what a delightful employment that is! I sometimes wish we all knew how to sing. It is very well for us to sing our best, but that best might be a great deal better. Our Moravian friends can, nearly all of them, sing, and if you were to go to their settlement you would find all of them able to join in the sacred song. It is miserable work where there are two or three fellows in white surplices who get up to praise God, or where there is a big machine out of which the music is brought. I suppose the Lord does have mercy upon such folly, but how there can be anything like spiritual worship coming from a box of pipes I cannot understand! The hearts of God’s people praise Him out of living organs! We must bring something like spiritual worship and when we have learned to praise God with the understanding as well as with our hearts, surely it will be none the less acceptable to Him, but all the more! He ought to have the best of the best and when we bring Him our praise it should be the best praise that it is possible for even hearts to make!
But there are other ways of blessing Him. You who cannot sing, can perhaps praise Him by your preaching. Oh, howwe can help the Lord when we speak well of His name from the pulpit! It enlarges the scope and sphere of our praise when we can call upon hundreds, or on these occasions here, in this house, upon thousands of others, and say, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together! Come, let us bow down and worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker–let us come into His Presence with thanksgiving and unto His courts with joy.” It is sweet work to preach when our preaching is blessing God!
Some of you cannot preach and you cannot sing. Well, you can bless God by your conversation. May the Lord giveus many of His servants to bless Him in the farmyard, in the counting-house, behind the counter and in the factory! To bless Him when they are driving their carts, whose hearts are so full of praise that they naturally speak well of God as they speak well of some good friend who has helped and prospered them! Let me enlist you to bless God this very night before you go to bed–bless Him, I mean, in talking to someone else to whom your testimony for God may be blessed. Now, I charge you–you who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are His followers–if He has treated you badly, tell of it, speak honestly!
If you have found Him to be a hard Master, tell it to warn others against Him! But I know you cannot! You dare not say a word against Him, though you can say ten thousand words for Him–and would do so if it were not for your bashfulness. You can all say–
unloose my stammering tongue.
Who should louder sing than I?"
Tell others that you have tasted and handled the good Word of Life, that you have found it a delightful thing to weep the tears of penitence, to turn with faith to the Savior and trust in Him. Do you say, “To whom shall I tell it?” Go, husband, tell it to your wife! My good Sister, tell it to your husband! Tell it to your child! Tell it to your brother! “Andrew first finds his own brother, Simon Peter.” You go and do the same! Tell others and so help them to praise Him, too!
And there is another way of blessing God, even without much time. A Christian can bless God by his life. I heardsomebody say of a Christian Brother at Manchester that “he preached with his feet.” Ah, that is a noble way of preaching! May we have many such preachers! That is to say, by practical living, by walk and conversation. May you praise God by your consistent cheerfulness! There are Brothers and Sisters in this place to look at whose face is always enough to make one feel happy! They are not better nor richer than many I know of, but they seem always happy. They seem to live with Jesus–and when they speak, they speak well of Him. I am sure they are the most likely people to bring in converts. Ask the Lord to make your face to shine. Pray that you may look at Him until you are changed from glory unto glory! You know what that means–that the Glory there is in Christ may come upon you–from glory to glory–that your face may shine like that of Moses, the Light of God’s Countenance being upon you through your praising and blessing Him!
I am afraid my sermon has no relation to some here present, but I ask them whether God has not been good to them in many respects. They have been kept alive–let them be grateful for the mercies they have and let their gratitude lead them to penitence, to think that they have sinned against so good a God! Ah, my Hearers, if you will but repent and come to Him, He will be found of you. Knock and His door will be opened. Speak to Him and He will hear and listen to you! Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and He will wash you in His blood and bring you to His Father’s right hand in the Kingdom! The Lord bless these words, spoken in much conscious weakness, for Jesus' sake. Amen.