“Talk you of all His wondrous works.”
1 Chronicles 16:9
This sentence stands in connection with exhortations to offer thanksgiving unto the Lord and to make known His deeds among the people. Thus it runs, “Sing unto Him; sing Psalms unto Him; talk you of all His wondrous works.”
The old typical religion of the Jews and the perverse superstition of the heathen made some places sacred and some places unclean–some actions holy and other actions, performed however well they might be–common and not to be connected in any degree with holiness. But the religion of Jesus Christ has once and for all swept away all holy places–wherever man is holy, every place is hallowed! Jesus Christ has consecrated the world by His Presence and wherever man chooses to worship, there is a house for God. The religion of Jesus Christ has also swept away those distinctions which men make as to actions being necessarily religious or irreligious. Some will have it that to sing a Psalm is to worship God–a sacred thing–but to feed the sparrows is, according to them, a secular matter. To come up to a place that shall be set apart for worship and there to bow the knee in prayer is adoration of the Most High–but, according to them, to perform acts of mercy and righteousness is not a tribute of homage to God! Now, the very essence of the Christian religion is just this–that it is not a thing confined to hours, times and places, but it is a thing of spirit. It lies not in outward garbs or in mere words, but pervades the whole spirit of man and makes him turn his entire life into worship! Then every action he performs in its spirit and under its influence is holiness unto the Lord! God is worshipped by servants who fulfill the duties of their station. By judges who decree righteousness. By merchants who deal justly. By children who obey their parents, and by parents who train up their children in the fear of the Lord. There is not a line to be drawn anywhere, so that you can say, “Outside of that you go beyond the sanctuary of religion and get into the outer courts frequented by the multitude.” Here has been the great mistake which some Christians have made with regard to politics. They have supposed that a man could not be a Christian and a politician, too. Hence much injustice has been done. The fact is, when a man feels, “There is nothing that belongs to man but what may be consecrated to God,” and when he says, “I, being God’s servant, may take all that belongs to man and devote it as holiness unto the Lord,” he reaches the highest order of manhood and illustrates the highest style of Christianity. We cannot fully exhibit the spirit of Jesus Christ till we have learned that we must carry out in every place–and in every sphere–the spirit of His religion.
I make these remarks because while we are first bid to sing unto God’s praise, we are next told to talk about His wondrous works. There is a praising for the assembly. There is a talking for the fireside–and both are to be holy! The praise is to be hearty, sincere, unanimous, full of animation–the talk is to be equally sincere, equally earnest, equally sacred. You are not to say, “I have done with praising God,” when the hymn is over and you begin to open your mouths upon ordinary topics! But in your ordinary conversation, in the fields, by the wayside, in the streets and in your chambers, you are still to go on praising God and talking of all His wondrous works.
Shall there be a connection established between such a common word as, “talk,” and such grand swelling words as “the wondrous works of God”? We wonder to find the little monosyllable in such a place! “Preach you of all His wondrous works,” would seem well enough. “Show them,” would seem sound theology, but talk you, talk you–in your ordinary, common, everyday conversation–make the wondrous works of God to be your conversation, your familiar talk! We must talk. We seem born to talk! We were, wretched, indeed, if we were forbidden to speak to our fellow creatures!Why, the world seems to be enlivened by continuous, not to say, incessant, talking–from the first blush of morning, on through all the bustling day and far into the shades of drowsy night–how our tongues are occupied! They run more quickly than our feet and carry less, though much mischief, sometimes, comes from their babble. They are sharper than razors, some of them, and cut deeper than swords, and kindle fire enough to set the world in a blaze! Now, this talking to which women are proverbially disposed and in which men indulge as freely as inclination prompts them–to be heard in every street, in every house and in every workshop–this it is which is to be consecrated unto God! The streams of conversation are everywhere to be drawn off from the gutters and channels in which they gather defilement–to be strained, cleansed and purified till they become fresh, clear and sparkling! Then the speech of humans–man with man, saint with saint, redeemed from the beggarly elements of common slander, envy, foolishness and vanity shall be lifted up as on eagles' wings till it is like the fellowship of the angels realizing the prediction of the Psalmist to the praise of the Lord–“They shall speak of the glory of Your Kingdom and talk of Your power.” Now, first–
- THE SUBJECT HERE SUGGESTED FOR OUR COMMONPLACE TALK–HIS WONDROUS WORKS–invites notice!
Brothers and Sisters, we ought to talk more about God’s wondrous works as we find them in Holy Scripture. Do youread them? Alas, in how many a case the Bible is the least read book in the house! I am inclined to think that although there may be more Bibles in England than any other book, there is less of Bible reading than anything else in literature! The sacred volume seems to be scarcely known to many, except from Chapters read in the public services, and the quotations of the minister, while alas, alas, for us, our conversation has very little in it of the records of the mighty acts of the Lord! But the old saints were known to speak to one another about the historical parts of Scripture. They dwelt full often, and never seemed happier than when they were dwelling upon it–on that story of the Red Sea, when the Lord smote Rahab and broke the head of the dragon. How they would stand together and speak of the Books of the wars of the Lord, of what He did by the brook Arnon, and how He led His servants through Jordan and brought them into the Promised Land, cast out the Canaanites and slew their kings! They talked of these things, not merely as historical events, but as seeing the Lord in them all! And they so spoke and so read of them as to see in them subjects worthy of their study. I do not know how it is, but we do not get at the history of our own country in anything like the way in which one might desire, for really, the wondrous works of God which He has done here in this land are such as we ought to speak of at our firesides! We should look upon the events of history and the chronicles of each day in this light. And if, as we scanned the ample pages of history, rich with the spoils of time, we saw God’s hand fashioning its contingencies and molding them into destiny–and the impress of His footsteps upon all its stupendous revolutions–we should not lack for topics of conversation, but our memories would be stored, our interest excited, our minds elevated with noble passions and our social conversation ennobled by the inexhaustible resources of wisdom as we talked of all the wondrous works of the Lord!
But, Brothers and Sisters, our own history will enable us to relate such a multitude of tender mercies as may wellbecome incentives to gratitude and praise. How much might we tell of what the Lord has done for us personally! Here is a subject that shall never be exhausted. Talk to one another–especially to those who can understand you because they have felt the same–of the long-suffering of God when you were in your ungodly estate–the wonders of that love which tracked you with its many warnings while you were still strangers to yourselves and to God. Talk of that Almighty Power which, when the predestinated hour had come, laid hold upon you and made you yield! Speak of what the Lord did for you when you were in the low dungeon of your own self-abhorrence–how He met with you when you were brought to death’s door–how Jesus appeared for you and clothed you with His Righteousness–and your spirit revived and your heart was glad. Shall the slave ever forget the music of his chains when they dropped from his wrists? And will you ever cease to speak of that happy day, the happiest of all days, when all the chains of your transgression were forever broken off at the love touch of your Redeemer? Oh, no! Talk still of the wondrous works of God as connected with your conversion. And since that time, however quiet your life may have been, I am sure there has been much in it that has tenderly illustrated the Lord’s Providence, the Lord’s guidance, the Lord’s deliverance, the Lord’s upholding and sustaining you! You have been, perhaps, in poverty–and just when the barrel of meal was empty–then you were supplied. Talk of His wondrous works! You have been in great temptation and when you were reeling under it, or when you were slandered and no name was thought bad enough for you, His sweet love has appeared to you and helped you to rejoice in this, also, for Christ’s name sake. Talk of this! You have gone, perhaps, Christian, through fire and through water–yours has been a very checkered life. You have fought with lions, or have stood in the Valley of the Shadow of Death–but in it all God’s aid has been very wonderful! There have been miracles, heaped upon miracles along your pathway! Perhaps you are like the Welsh woman who said that the Ebenezers which she had set up at the places where God had helped her were so thick that they made a wall from the very spot she began with Christ to that she had then reached! Is it so with you? Then talk–talk you of all His wondrous works! I am sure you would find such talk most interesting, most impressive, and most instructive, for the things we have seen and experienced, ourselves, generally wear a novelty and abound in interest beyond any narrative we get from books, or any unauthenticated story we pick up secondhand. Tell them how God has led you, fed you and brought you to this day–and would not let you go!
There is a topic for you–and you never shall know how large it is.
II. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS SUBJECT IS BOTH NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE.
Were we to talk more of God’s wondrous works, there would be this negative good, that we should talk less aboutour own works. A man never lowers himself more than when he tries to lift himself up. There are some whose propensity is to use vain swelling words about their own doings–and they seem to be never better pleased than when they are bragging and saying, “ I did the other.” “Talk you of all His wondrous works.” As for your puny actions, if you judge and estimate them properly, you will find more to mourn over than to boast of! Give to the Lord the glory that is due unto His name and your discretion shall not be periled.
If we talked more of God’s wondrous works, we would be free from talking of other people’s works. It is easy to criticize those we cannot rival, and carp at those we cannot emulate. He who could not carve a statue, or make a single stroke of the chisel correctly, is quick to point out where the handicraft of the greatest sculptor might have been improved. It is a poor, pitiful occupation, that of picking holes in other people’s coats–and yet some people seem so pleased when they can perceive a fault that they roll it under their tongue as a sweet morsel! Why should this be? Why should you find fault with God’s servants in this way? They are not your servants, but His servants–He will call them to account. He does not ask you to be thus officious. Talk you of His wondrous works and you will not speak so unkindly of His servants!
Did we talk more of God’s wondrous works, it would keep us from the ordinary frivolities of conversation. In theolden times they that feared the Lord spoke often, one to another, and the Lord listened and heard–and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name. Suppose for a moment that our ordinary conversation were taken down by an eavesdropper, as in the case mentioned by Malachi? I do not know what your conversation was about at tea-time this evening, but supposing that somebody had been listening and hearing–and that you knew for certain that it was going to be put into a book and printed–would you feel quite easy? Suppose we could have put down in a book the talk of all our people during the day–and could have it all read out? I am afraid we would find that our talk is not always such as edifies and not always seasoned with salt! In fact, some Christian people never thoroughly talk good Gospel talk unless somebody is present in whose esteem it is likely to raise them, or until they get into such company as they suppose will relish it–and then they feel compelled to accommodate themselves to the occasion. The habit of thoroughly good godly talk is not common among professors. I wish it were. I wish that not only sometimes our talk were what God would have it to be, but that it were always so, that our common conversation were like salt ministering Divine Grace unto the hearers.
As there is a negative excellence about this subject of conversation, so there is also a positive excellence. Supposing we were to talk more of God’s wondrous works–when the habit was acquired, it would necessitate stricter habits ofobservation and of discrimination in watching the Providence of God. Memory, the treasure house of the mind, must have its goods assorted and its records indexed so that the things of which we hear and read might not only be well retained, but easily referred to. As Cowper says–
“But conversation, choose what theme we may,
And chiefly when religion leads the way,
Should flow like waters after summer showers,
Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers.”
Alas, the mercies of God flow by us like a river! We forget to count their multitudinous waves. We receive the mercies fresh every day and take but slight account of them! Too often they are–
“Forgotten in unthankfulness,
And without mention, die.”
The spirit of observing God in all things was prevalent among our Puritan ancestors. They saw God in every single drop of rain and in every ray of sunlight. They were known to talk about the most common changes of the atmosphere as coming from the hand of God! They speak of incidents which we might account trivial as connected with the decrees of Him who orders all things after the counsel of His own will. Oh, that we, too, amidst the various maze of life, could thus learn to track the course “of boundless wisdom and of boundless love”! Such conversation, Brothers and Sisters, would be very ennobling. Why, it would liken us to the ancient saints and the spirits before the Throne of God! What is their conversation there? How they talk of God’s wondrous works, God’s works in Creation, God’s works in Providence, God’s works in Grace! They are too taken up with the splendor of the Divine Presence to suffer their pure conversation to degenerate into any meaner theme. Yes, and living as we do in the Presence of God, professing to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and to have been lifted up from the world into communion with Jesus Christ, it ought to be our holy ambition to let our conversation be of things that are like our standing–things that are worthy of our high calling and profession–things that have to do with our election and will help us onward to our eternal portion! We would not be so groveling, as we are, if we talked more of the wondrous things of God.
And Beloved, while holding this lofty fellowship of heart and tongue, how would our gratitude glow and what animpulse would be given to our entire life! I do not know how you find it, but with me it is no easy matter to maintain spiritual life in the fullness of its vigor. To go week after week, month after month, and year after year, plodding on in the pilgrimage is hard work! It needs no small degree of strength, resolve and skill. If it were one tremendous leap, we could soon perform it. If it were but a spurt in the race, we might soon win the prize–but to go on, on, on–and still to keep up our zeal, still to be awake, still to be earnest–here it is one feels the need of the mercies of God to be means of Grace to us, to refresh our gratitude and put fresh fuel upon the altar. Oh, Brothers and Sisters, we have not lived yet! We do not seem to recognize what the Christian life really means! When I instanced our conversation just now as being poor, and mean, and barren, I did but cull one mildewed leaf out of the whole field, for I fear our whole life is much alike. Lord, revive us! What means is He likely to use except He employs the rod of chastisement as the renewal of our memory of His great loving kindness, that we may be constrained to dedicate ourselves more fully unto Him? But times flies. Let me proceed, therefore–
III. TO URGE THIS TALKING, ORDINARILY AND COMMONLY, ABOUT GOD’S WONDROUS WORKS.
I have already said that it would prevent much evil and do us much good. May I not safely add that it would be themeans of doing much good to others? If we spoke often of God’s wondrous works, we might impress the sinner. We might enlighten the ignorant. We might comfort the desponding. You say, “But how are we to do it?” I reply, “How is it you have not done it before?” If we began early in our Christian course to make Jesus Christ our companion in the familyand everywhere we went–and to take Him always with us–we would never leave off! It would become the business of our life! I have noticed that many Christian people delay in this matter for years. They cultivate habits of retirement and reticence more upon this subject than upon any other! Perhaps it is a long time after they have believed that they come forward to obey the second great command of Baptism–and the same shyness happens with regard to their talking about Christ in all companies. They do love Him–at least in the judgment of charity, we trust they do. We acknowledge them, but having never began at the first to acknowledge Him openly, they cannot break the ice now. If they had then had the courage to say, “I have given Christ my tongue and mean to use it for Him. I am His servant and I mean to serve Him wherever I go,” they would still have continued the profession and the practice! Brothers and Sisters, is it shyness that restrains you? Take care it is shyness and not cowardice! Say to yourselves, each one of you–
“Am I a soldier of the Cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?”
What? In the presence of the noble army of martyrs who feared not to die, do you fear to speak? What? If they stood on the burning firewood for Christ, cannot you bear, if so it must be, a jeer or sarcasm? Must you be wickedly dumb when you might do so much for Christ in the circle where His Providence has cast you? Oh, be ashamed of having been ashamed! Ask the Master that whatever fear you have, you may be delivered from the fear of man which brings a snare!
But some will object, “I have no gifts or ability.” No, my Brother, my Sister–it does not need any ability to talk, or else there would not be so much talk in the world as there is–talk in the ordinary strain, the commonplace prattle which breaks the silence of the world. It is what everybody is doing. There is no gifted tongue requisite. There are no powers of eloquence invoked. Neither laws of rhetoric nor rules of grammar are pronounced indispensable in the simple talk that my text inculcates, “ Talk you of all His wondrous works.” I beg your pardon when you say you cannot do this. You cannot because you will not! If you would, you could speak well of His name. Because there is no need of ability in anyone to say something for Jesus after an ordinary sort, I press it upon you!
Are you a nursemaid? Talk of His name to the little prattlers with whom you are entrusted. Or are you a crossingsweeper? Friend, there are some you can get at that I could not! I will be bound to say the crossing-sweeper has a friend who would be frightened if I were to speak to him. “But I am so poor,” you reply. “I work in the midst of such a ribald, blaspheming set.” Ah, Friend, but you can talk! I know you can! There are times when you can talk even to those blasphemers! It is little use talking to a drunk–it is like casting pearls before swine. But he is not always drunk! There is a time of sobriety–and then it is that you are to go to work. You are not so to talk of Christ as to stop the mill, or to interpose your religion in the way of business. That were indiscreet. But there are leisure times, there are hours for dinner, there are times when they talk to you–and then is your time to talk to them. As the profane take the liberty to force their irreligion upon you, so you take the liberty to force your religion upon them! Use your wits. Find out the proper times and then turn them to the best account. “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand, for you know not which shall prosper, this or that.”
I have only one aim tonight–if I can succeed in it, I shall be very thankful–that Christian people shall talk more of the love of God at the table! At the breakfast table, at the tea table, at the dinner table–that domestic companionship and social hospitalities may be hallowed! And this without depriving them of their genial conviviality, but rather infusing into them a higher entertainment. That we who are masters shall talk of the things of God so that our servants shallhear of them and that servants shall so speak of Christ that their fellows shall hear about Him. The great weapon of the Christian religion has been the public preaching of the Word, nor would I disparage it, but it will never evangelize the nations unless there is attendant with it a constant reiteration of the preached Truth of God till it flows through innumerable little conduits into every circle of society! Wycliffe was but one man, but he taught others to read. One page of Matthew’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Romans was given to each. They went out and read it in the streets. And so was the Truth of God spread until it was said that you could not meet two men on the roadside, but one of them would be a Lollard! In Luther’s day it was not merely the preaching of Luther, it was the singing of the hymns and the Psalms at the spinning-wheel! It was the occupation of the solitary colporteur–it was the general chit-chatting with everybody at the blacksmith fire, in the farmyard, on the Exchange! Curiosity was excited, enquiry was prompted, the popular conversation was inoculated! The fever of that healthful sickness–repentance toward God–was spread abroad and communicated from one to another! “Have you heard the news? Have you heard that Luther has proclaimed that men are justified by faith and not by works?” It was this that shook Rome! It is this which will shake her yet again. The waking up of Christian life throughout the entire body of the Church of God–and the enlisting of the entire life of the Christian Church in the cause of Christ is an enterprise to be consummated by the individual agency of each–and the general action of all who seek the Glory of God and the welfare of man! Talk you, therefore, of all His wondrous works!
Oh, that there should be any here who never thought of God, much less talked of His wondrous works! Wondrous, indeed, is God’s patience that has kept you alive! Marvelous His long-suffering that, after having neglected Him all these years, He has not cut you down! The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib, but you have not known God! You would not keep a dog that would not follow you. You would soon dispose of an ox that was of no service to you. Oh, why has God kept you? It is a wonder! Here is another wonder–He bids us entreat you, allure you, encourage you with a saving promise, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Take heed of this Gospel! May the Holy Spirit make you yield to it. Trust Christ! Obey Him by avowing your faith in Him, and you shall be saved!
The Lord grant it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.