The Saints’ Attendants
Psalm 23:6 — “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Wonderful poem dictated by the Holy Spirit! I do not wonder at the praise lavished upon it by a brother who today is in the presence of the King. I linger on his words while my heart is stirred by their aptness and beauty. He says, “One of the things that we never get tired of is this Shepherd Psalm. More people read that poem than any poem ever written. More people know that poem than any poem that was ever written. Dr. McClure was not the first man, nor the last that, dying, limped his way through the poem of the Shepherd’s Psalm. People have read that Psalm or repeated it with the rain of many tears dashing in their faces; people have loved that poem and have repeated it with the wildest winds of trouble that ever blew, blowing upon them; people have put that poem under their tired heads for a sleeping pillow; people have leaned on that poem for a staff better than alpen stock when they climbed the wicked winter mountains; people have had that poem when their way was dark and arduous. Oh, hearts, this is God’s own pastoral! Some long since poet, he of the harp and the shepherd’s voice, and the shining eyes and bounding steps, he saw it and felt it, and then did like all poets do — said the thing he saw and felt, and that is the “Shepherd Psalm.” And now, hearken, O child of God, the man who gave us the beautiful description of this Psalm one time after this said, “I am the saddest man in the world.” The winds were blowing on his face as he went down to the valley, but thank God, this man, too gentle and Christ like to harm others, felt the blows that sin in others bring; but he had the attendance of God’s own goodness and mercy, until the gates opened and he saw the glory of which he had often spake, and realized the blessedness of being in the presence of the Bishop and Shepherd of his soul.
Out yonder by the side of the brook, whose waters refresh him, I see a man of God; and the birds of the air by divine appointment wait upon him. Ravens are his servants, bringing him food from afar. Morning and evening the Providence of God sets his table, and God’s winged messengers place on it bread and meat.
Again I see him lying under a juniper tree sleeping as only a worn and weary man, discouraged, can sleep, when an angel touches him and says, “Arise and eat,” and before him was a cake, broken on the coals, and a cruse of water. First the birds of the air, then the angels from heaven, but all caring for one man of God.
Out yonder near a city in Samaria, I see another man; his enemies are closing fast around him. There are legions of them, all intent upon His destruction, and to human eyes that destruction is certain and sure. But when God opens the eyes of that man’s servant he sees above the head of his enemies on all hilltops round about, horses of fire and chariots of fire, a part of God’s celestial army, an advance guard from the skies to help, aye, to deliver one man of God. In fact, that is the designation of this man. He is not known by the string of letters after his name, but friends and enemies know him as “the man of God.” The schools do not confer this title; it comes first from the skies when God looks down and says of a converted, redeemed soul, “He is mine.” Thank God, all may be known as such who will meet the conditions.
Yonder in the jail, yes, in the inner prison, in Jerusalem, I see a sleeping apostle, at Easter time. Herod intends to behead him to please the Jews. Man proposes but God disposes, and in the darkness of the night an angel arouses him from his slumbers, leads him out of the cell, out of the prison, out through the gates of the city and bids him go on his way. Man is immortal till his work is done, and evidently God has more for this man to do.
But two of these men are prophets, and the other one is an apostle; they are eminent men of God, but will God care for His children, His followers today as He did then? Have we any such evidences as will show a divine interest in man, now, as we see in these instances in the past? Is there present care, present deliverance, present attendance, for God’s children now? Aye, to be sure there is. The visits of the ravens to the prophet by the side of the brook, of the angel to the sleeping man under the juniper tree, are only expressions of God’s goodness given for our encouragement, object lessons from the past, lessons from the King’s kindergarten of days gone by. Some time ago a friend said to a good old saint who was on the western slope, “How are you today?” And the reply was, “I am resting in God’s easy chair.” “Oh, tell me where is that?” “Romans 8:28: All things work together for good to them that love God. Philippians 4:19: My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus my Lord.” Fine piece of furniture to add to your belongings and it is free.
Oh, yes, today we have, as children of God attendants every day who wait upon us. Many professing Christians today are like Moses: they pray “Show me thy glory,” when it is the last thing they are fit to see. God answered that prayer, but not as Moses asked. He just put him in a cleft of the rock, and made His goodness pass before him, and eighteen hundred years afterward when he was unencumbered with a body, he showed him on the summit of Mount Tabor, His glory; and when Peter, James and John, in the body, saw the same glory, they were so overcome that they knew not what they said. God knew what was best for Moses, so He passed before him in the cleft of the rock, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth keeping mercy for thousands.” But today far beyond the privilege that Moses enjoyed we are hid in the rock that was cleft on Calvary, and not for one day, but for three hundred and sixty-five days in every year, the goodness and mercy of the Lord passes before us. The Christians of the Twentieth Century are living on the tallest mount of the ages, nearer God in point of privilege than any age in the past. Go back to that time when just one man was privileged to see these things and tell the multitude? Go back to that time when Israel followed the cloud by day and the fire by night? Go back to that day when three men only go up in the Mount with Jesus? Nay, nay, nay; I prefer this blessed, Holy Ghost dispensation when every man can commune with God and when goodness and the mercy of God are to be seen every day. “Oh,” someone says, “I wish I could see them!” Open your eyes, yes, the eyes of your soul. There is an old proverb, “Seeing is believing.” I want to give you something better that is founded on God’s Word. Get it, will you; let it burn into your very soul, “Believing is seeing. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen. Blessed are they who having not seen with their mortal eyes yet have believed. Faith and trust are the eyes of the soul. Use them and be glad. You will see far down the future, and say with the sweet singer of Israel, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Some folks testify, “Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.” I am glad of that. No doubt it is true, but it I s the privilege of you and every child of God to say, “shall follow me all the days of my life.” The meaning and the experience are like this: they shall be my attendants — God’s goodness and mercy — all the way.
Let us examine this privilege. Goodness supplies all our need, is the treasurer of God’s storehouse. Do not talk today about ravens to feed a man, angels to do his baking and cooking, the heavens to drop manna right on the pathway six days out of seven. Why, the believer today has as a constant attendant the goodness of God, goodness that in the years gone by has been feeding, warming, clothing, enriching, redeeming the millions of God’s children. Why, I am ashamed that I haven’t trusted more. Just to think for one moment! When the world’s oppressed millions of God’s own children needed a land in which they could grow to the stature of free men, goodness gave then, a continent; when the wood was giving out, and the timber was growing scant, goodness uncovered the coal mines that man might be warmed and cheered; when the great monsters of the deep decreased, and as humanity increased and homes were multiplied, that these homes might be illuminated, goodness uncovered the reservoirs of oil, and we have it in wonderful supply. Goodness is love in action, and goodness waits on man. Believe it? Aye, I can and do believe anything that magnifies the goodness of God. Ever since Christ was lifted up on Calvary’s cross that man might be raised to a throne, I have been a believer in the text: Goodness shall attend me all the days of my life. Some time ago I saw an engraving. It represented several scenes in the life of man, as the artist saw them. First a little child — standing on life’s pathway. The path ran near a precipice, but between the child and the danger was a guardian angel. In another scene was a youth embarked on the stormy waters of life. Here and there were the rocks, but the angel still guided the boat and the youth was safe. There was still another scene. It was of an old man drawing very near to the eternal shore, peaceful, serene and triumphant, and still the angel pilot was there. When Admiral Farragut was dying in Chicago, at a hotel, he wanted his pastor, or some man of God, to pray with him, and his wife sent for the preacher. A servant in the hotel who was a Romanist sent for the priest and the priest came in a hurry. It would have been” sent all over the world that in his dying hours the hero of Mobile Bay had called for a priest. The priest approached the bedside and began with the services of the church, but the Admiral shook his head, again and again. His wife, seeing something was wrong, drew near and asked what was the matter, and the dying Admiral said, “I want my own pilot. I want my own pilot.” Thank God, we can have, clear down to the end, goodness and mercy until faith is lost in sight, and we look on the King in His beauty and are inhabitants of the land that is now afar off. Oh, it is true, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him.” They say in England that if a man walks, he is poor; if he sometimes calls a hack, he is better off; if he has a footman, he is rich; and if he has two footmen he has a great inheritance. Judging by that every child of God has a great inheritance, for two of God’s servants goodness and mercy are always with him. Paul wrote to Timothy of an inexhaustible supply in Christ Jesus, for who can measure the riches of the grace of God as manifested in the gift of His Son to be our Savior? Think of it! goodness by your side all the time, in his hand the key to a never-failing storehouse. and in your possession the promise, “Every need shall be supplied!” Ask largely that your joy may be filled. Some one who evidently knew puts the Christian’s privilege in verse:
“I have a never-failing bank,
A more than golden store;
No earthly hank is half so rich
How then can I be poor!
‘Tis when my stock is spent and gone,
And I’m not worth a groat,
I’m glad to hasten to my bank,
And beg a little note.
Sometimes my banker smiling says,
‘Why don’t you oftener come!
And when you draw a little note,
Why not a larger sum!
Why live so niggardly and poor?
My bank contains a plenty.
Why come and take a one-pound note?
When you might have a twenty.
Nay, twenty thousand ten times told
Is but a trifling sum,
To what my Father has laid up
For me in God’s own Son.
Sure then my Banker is so rich
I have no need to borrow.
But live upon my notes today,
And draw again tomorrow.”
But we must not pass by mercy for mercy does not pass us by. Mercy blots out all our sins. I remember when I went to the altar a poor penitent sinner, and the burden of my prayer was, “Lord, have mercy on me!” Mercy is the first thing a sinner, conscious of his guilt, applies for. At the battle of Bull Run a wounded soldier as he laid on the field cried, “God have mercy on my soul!” It seemed to be contagious; for here and there among the wounded, the cry was taken up, “Have mercy on me, O ‘God.” The Psalmist declares, “Thou art plenteous in mercy O God.” But who counts the mercies? Who recognizes mercy as an attendant upon the believer? And yet we are the recipients of continual mercy. A benevolent person gave Rowland Hill a hundred pound note to dispense to a poor minister. It was too much to send all at once, so Mr. Hill put a five-pound note in a letter and also these words, “There is more to follow.” In a few days he sent another letter, same amount and same words, and so until the hundred pounds were all sent. So God sends us one mercy after another and with every blessing comes the promise, “More to .follow.” “I forgive your sins, but there is more to follow. I adopt you into my family, but there is more to follow. I sanctify you, but there is more to follow. I make you more than conqueror, in the very hour of death, but there is more to follow. I receive you unto myself in heaven, but there is more to follow.”
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.”
Still always more to follow. Mercy and goodness not only follow us here, but they assure us of a home hereafter. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The Psalmist said, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. A day in thy courts is better than a thousand.” God’s worst, smallest, is better than the devil’s best. Better have the lowest place in God’s economy of grace than to sit on the devil’s throne. Any place in God’s Church is better than we deserve. When the poor prodigal made up his mind to come back to his father’s house, he was so mindful of his unworthiness that he determined to ask, “Make me as one of thy hired servants, for I am not worthy to be called thy son.” Paul speaking of this great privilege says, “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he has loved us, Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ and hath raised us up together and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Beloved, are you sitting together in heavenly places in Christ? Are you singing as your present experience:
“I am dwelling on the mountain,
Where I ever would abide;
For I’ve tasted life’s pure water
And my soul is satisfied.
There’s no thirsting for life’s pleasures,
Nor adornment rich and gay,
For I’ve found a richer treasure,
One that fadeth not away.”
“Oh, the blessed privilege of the children of God, sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, dwelling in the House of the Lord! An old saint said one time, “Why, I live there.” We do not have to wait until we die to sit there, to live there.’ ‘Tis heaven below, my Redeemer to know.” “NOW are we the sons of God.” To the Christian this world is just the ante room to .heaven, and death is just the corridor to the more beautiful part of the Father’s house. Bye and bye we shall go through it, and with the mortal changed to immortality, with this earthy changed to the heavenly, with eye undimmed, seeing no longer through a glass darkly, but face to face
“Knowing as we are known,
How shall I love that Word,
And oft repeat before the throne
Forever with the Lord!”
And that forever means, Home forever, trials all past, death and the grave past, inside the city of our God and Home forever, cruel partings past, our loved ones with us for ever.
“No chilling winds nor poisonous breath,
Shall reach that healthful shore; .
Sickness and sighing, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.”
I have imagined a Christian dying; no, not dying, that is a misnomer. I have imagined the homegoing of the Christian. Friends are weeping all around. Heart strings are snapping. Farewells are being said. Every breath is watched as the last, but I see that pilgrim step out of the house of clay, and mount upwards to the city of our God. I hear him as he shouts, “Old body farewell, earth farewell,” and as the songs of the redeemed fall on his ear, with goodness and mercy his constant attendants still by his side, he enters in through the gates into the city of our God. And all the angels strike their harps of gold, and all the prophets shout, and all the redeemed sing, as our Christ rises from His throne to greet his last trophy from earth and says to him in tones that thrill the Church triumphant, and makes all the bells of heaven ring for joy, “Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord and sit down on His throne.”
“Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The Triumphs of His grace.
Angels assist our mighty joys,
Strike all your harps of gold,
But when you raise your highest notes,
His love can ne’er be told.”