|Lord, teach us to pray.| -- Luke xi.1.
|Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.| -- Ps. lxii.8.
EVER since the days of St. Augustine, it has been a proverb that God has made the heart of man for Himself, and that the heart of man finds no true rest till it finds its rest in God. But long before the days of St. Augustine, the Psalmist had said the same thing in the text. The heart of man, the Psalmist had said, is such that it can pour itself out nowhere but before God. In His sovereignty, in His wisdom, and in His love, God has made the heart of man so that at its deepest -- but for Himself -- it is absolutely solitary and alone. So much so that,
Not even the tenderest heart, and next our own,
Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh.
They see us smile, and they hear us sigh, but the reasons why we smile or why we sigh are fully known to God alone.
Now we all have hearts. Whatever else we have or have not, we all have hearts; and all our hearts are of the same secret, solitary, undiscovered, unsatisfied kind. And then, along with our hearts, we all have God. Wherever in all the world there is a human heart, God also is there. And He is there in order to have that heart poured out before Him. And out of that, out of the aloneness of the human heart, and out of the nearness of God to every human heart, there immediately arises this supreme duty to every man who has a heart, -- that he shall at all times pour his heart out before God. It is not the duty and privilege of psalmists and great saints only. It is every man's duty, and every man's privilege. And, indeed, all our duties to God are already summed up in this one great duty; and all our privileges are held out to us at once in this unspeakable privilege. |Trust in Him at all times: ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.|
Now the whole profit of this fine text to us will lie in our particular application of it to ourselves. It is with this view that the text has been written. The text rose, at first, out of David's experience, and it is offered to us for our experience also. That is the reason why those holy men of old wrote out, to all the world, their most secret experiences. They were moved to do so by the Holy Ghost in order that we might learn to follow them in their walk with God, and in their deepest spiritual life. Come then, my brethren, and let us take lessons from those saints of God in their high and holy art. Let us go to their divine school, and learn of them how we also are to pour our hearts out before God. And let us take our first lesson from David in this fine psalm now open before us. When we really study the lesson he has set to us, we easily see how David came to be so tempted to bad passions and to evil thoughts of all kinds; to revenge and retaliation against his enemies, and to doubt and despair of God's fatherly attention and care. As we also are often tempted in our adverse circumstances; and that, in ways and at times that, like David, we can tell to no one. No man, we say with David, cares for our souls. But then, that is just our opportunity. That is just the very moment for which God has been working and waiting in our case. Do not let us miss it. Our immortal soul is in it. Our eternal life is in it. Only let us pour out all our loneliness and all our distress, and all our gloom, before God, as David did, and all will immediately be well. For either, He will remove our trouble at once and altogether; or else, He will do better, -- He will make His love and His peace so to fill our heart that we will break out with David and will sing: |In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God.|
And, as with all our trouble, so let us do with all our sins. For our sin is the mother of all our trouble: get rid of the mother, and you will soon get rid of her offspring. And the only way to get rid of sin -- as well as of sorrow -- is to pour it out before God. For one thing, you are often tormented and polluted, -- are you not? -- with sinful thoughts. Now as soon as they enter, as soon as they arise, -- pour them out before God. Pour them out before they are well in. Cleanse your heart of all unclean thoughts, of all angry and revengeful thoughts; of all envious and jealous thoughts; of all malicious and murderous thoughts, -- sweep them out as you would be saved. Repudiate them. Deny them. Denounce them. Declare before God, as He shall judge you, that all these evil thoughts of yours are not yours at all. Protest to Him that it is some enemy of yours and His who always puts them, somehow, into your heart. And pour them out like poison. Pour them out like leprosy. For poison and leprosy can but kill the body; but bad thoughts, entertained in the heart, will kill both body and soul in hell. Let no sinful thought settle in your heart for a moment. Call aloud on God the instant you discover its presence. Wherever you are, and however you are employed, and in whatever company, -- that moment call on God. That moment pour out your heart before Him. He knows all that is in your heart in that moment of temptation; and He waits to see what you will say to Him about your heart, and what you will do with it. Disappoint Him not. Neglect Him not. Displease Him not. He has told you a thousand times what you are to do at that moment. Do it. Do what David did. Do what God's tempted and tried people are doing every moment all around about you. |Trust in Him at all times: ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.|
|My sin is ever before me,| says David in his greatest psalm. And as often as his sin comes up again before him, he makes another psalm concerning his sin and pours it out again before God. Do the same. Do like David. His awful story is told for your salvation. Speak then, to God, like David. Say to God, like David, that that former sin of yours is ever before you also. Say to Him that the more you cleanse it away, -- nay, the more He Himself cleanses it away, -- the more somehow it is ever before you. Say to Him that you cannot understand it, but that, the more you repent and turn from your sin, the more you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and, the more you wash your hands in innocency, the more you loathe yourself for your iniquities and for your abominations. As often as such terrible experiences as these visit you, -- just remember poor sin-pursued David, and pour out all the undying remorse of your heart again and again before God. When your guilty conscience awakens again on you, like the fury it is; when you are not able to look up for absolute shame; even in the hour of absolute despair; even when death and hell would almost be a hiding-place to you in your agony, -- fall down, and pour out all that before God. For it is neither death nor hell that is a refuge for you. Almighty God, and Almighty God alone, is your refuge and the rock of your salvation, and though you may have poured all that sin out of your heart ten thousand times before, -- pour it all out again. And say to Him in your excuse that your sin is ever before you. Ask Him to whom you can go. Ask Him, tell Him, what is His name, and what is His Son's name. And, as you pour out your heart as never before, say as never before, --
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
|And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest: as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.|
|At all times,| is a most precious expression. And as God would have it, for your instruction and for mine, as to |times,| I came the other day upon these half-legible entries in an old black-letter Diary. And indeed it was when I was spelling my way through the rusty pages of that old diary that it came into my head to preach this sermon. The entries that specially bear on this text are these, -- I copy verbatim:
|The fourth day of the week -- Wednesday. All day, my heart has been full of wonder and praise at God's extraordinary goodness to me. I went back and back all day on the Lord's leading. Till all day my heart has been one pool of love and admiration as I poured it out before God.|
|The fifth day of the week -- Thursday,| writes this diarist, |is always a day of peculiar temptation to me, and to-day has been no exception. I could not go up into my bed till I had poured out all the corruptions of my heart before God. And because I could not sleep, I rose and went over the evil day again, and made a more and more clean breast of it all before God.
|Die Dom.| (a Latin contraction for the Lord's Day). |Passed a poor day, but the clouds scattered before sunset.|
I was much struck with this, as I think you will be. |Communion Day. For some time past I have had to live in the same house, and even to eat at the same table, with one I cannot bear with. I went on sinning against him in my heart till the fast day. When the Lord sent me a message by His servant out of the 62nd Psalm| -- our psalm, you see! -- |and I was able to lay His message to heart. On the fast night I went to specially secret prayer and poured out again and again and again my whole evil heart before God. Next morning I found it easy to be civil and even benevolent to my neighbour. And I felt at the Lord's Table to-day as if I would yet live to love that man. I feel sure I will.| Yes, ye people! Pour out your heart in that way before Him at all times, and on all the days of the week; God is a refuge for us also.
But with all that about God and about His people, psalmists, and saints since then, the half has not been told. After all that, I have something still to say that will add immensely to the wonder and the praise of the text. And it is this. We do not, properly speaking, pour out our hearts before God we pour our hearts upon God. We do not pour out our hearts before His feet: we pour out our hearts upon His heart. We do that with one another. When we pour out a confession or a complaint or a petition before any one we try to get at his heart. We try to get at his ear indeed ; but it is really at his heart that our aim is; and much more so with God. We throw ourselves at His feet indeed ; but, beyond His feet, we throw ourselves into His bosom. We press and pass through all His angels round about Him. We shut our eyes to all the blinding glory. We pass in through all His power, and all His majesty, and all His other overwhelming surroundings, -- and we are not content till we come to His heart, to God's very, very heart. What a thought! Oh, all ye thinking men! What a thought! What a heart must God's heart be! What knowledge it must have! What pity it must hold! What compassion! What love! How deep it must be! How wide! How tender! What a mystery! What a universe we belong to! What creatures we are! and what a Creator we have! and what a God! |Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.|
And then, over and above all that, there is this to crown it all. Not only do God's saints pour out their hearts upon His heart: He pours out His heart upon their hearts. His Son has come to us straight out of His Father's heart. His Eternal Son is ever in, and He is ever coming forth from, the bosom of the Father. And then the Holy Ghost comes into our hearts and brings God's heart with Him. Which heart, it cannot be too often said, He, the Holy Ghost, indeed is. That, O many of my brethren, that is God's very heart, already poured out this day upon your heart ! That softening of heart under the Word, that strong, sweet, tender, holy, heavenly spirit that has taken possession of your heart in this house. What is that? What can it be, but God's very heart beginning to drop its overflowing strength and sweetness into your open and uplifted heart? Pour out your thanks for that outpouring of His heart upon you. And pour out your prayer for still more of His Holy Spirit. Beseech Him not to take His Holy Spirit away from you: say to Him that, in your estimation, His loving-kindness is far, far better than life. Say to Him that you have seen His power and His glory this day, as His saints are wont to see Him in His sanctuary; and as He sees that you truly desire it and truly enjoy it, He will say to you also: | A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. I will put My Spirit| -- My own Holy Spirit! -- |within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them.|
I will not dwell on them, but I must mention four reflections that have been much in my mind all through this meditation.
First, the greatness, the all but Divine greatness of the heart of man. I do not know that the highest and most rewarded archangel of them all has an honour and excellency of grace bestowed upon him anything like this, -- to be able to exchange hearts, so to speak, with God: we pouring our heart upon God, and He pouring His heart out upon us.
Second, the unspeakable happiness, even in this life, of the man who pours out his heart, at all times, upon God.
Third, the awful folly -- were it nothing worse -- of carrying about a heart, and hiding a heart and all it contains, and never pouring it out upon God, even when permitted and commanded so to do.
And fourth, never for a day, never for an hour, forget this golden Scripture: |Trust in Him at all times: ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.|