James Smith, 1860
"As a man thinks in his heart — so is he!" How much depends on the thoughts. Our thoughts influence our feelings, and regulate our conduct. And yet, many pay but little attention to their thoughts — but allow them to rove and ramble from one subject to another as they will. Even in the house of God, under the means of grace — many indulge in wandering thoughts. What a shocking volume it would be, if the thoughts of a large congregation, during the service of God, were written down and published! Who would not wish the volume burnt — if everyone's name was published with his thoughts! Yet we have pleasant thoughts, holy thoughts, and deeply devotional thoughts there. At times we can say with the Psalmist, "We have thought of your loving-kindness, O God — in the midst of your temple!" Psalm 49:9.
The PLACE. This was the temple erected by Solomon, from a plan drawn in heaven, and provided for very largely, by David. It was the palace of the Great King. It represented the Church and its worship, both on earth and in heaven. Every part of it, and everything connected with it, was typical, and therefore instructive to us.
It may represent also a visible church of Christ — the place in which it meets. The house of prayer, which we often call the house of God. This is a place of instruction — where God teaches us by his word, his servants, his ordinances, and his Spirit. It is a place for impression — for here God impresses truth on the mind for our conviction, conversion, consolation, and sanctification. It is a place for meditation — for here the thoughts should be fixed on divine and holy subjects; and we should meditate upon them as they are presented to our minds, to be the food and nourishment of our souls. It is a place for worship — as God has said, "My house shall be called the house of prayer for all people." Here we meet to praise God for his mercies, to plead with God to fulfill his promises; and to adore the divine nature and infinite perfections of the Most High God. The house of God is to be visited, as God's favorite dwelling-place; here we should wait upon God, watch in the ways of God, expect the presence of God, profit by the word of God, and think of the loving-kindness of God.
The SUBJECT. This was God's loving-kindness. There are some things in God, and some manifestations of God — which are so excellent, that no single word will represent them, and compound words must be formed for the purpose. This is the case here.
God's loving-kindness is love flowing in the channel of mercy, to visit miserable sinners; or, love exercising the tenderest sympathy, toward suffering believers. It is love, breathing pity — speaking compassion — acting with exquisite tenderness.
Its OBJECTS are the Lord's people, who are a poor, weak, sinful people; often suffering from affliction, persecution, or oppression. It is in its nature great — as the heart from which it flows. It is glorious — as the nature which it represents. It is free — as the very air we breathe. Its effects are sweet and precious, for it makes the most costly communications — it puts forth the most powerful operations — and it imparts the most ravishing manifestations.
God of love, let your loving-kindness be before my eyes, let it fill and exercise my thoughts, let it delight and refresh my soul; that with one of old I may be constrained to cry out, "How excellent is your loving-kindness, O Lord! Therefore the sons of men put their trust under the shadow of your wing!"
The Exercise. "We have thought of your loving-kindness, O God." The word signifies to wait, to be silent. It does not refer to violent, powerful, and agitated thoughts — but to quiet, tranquil thought. We should reverently think of loving-kindness in God, as setting forth the superlative excellency of his nature. We should calmly, quietly, and reverently think of the loving-kindness displayed by God — showing the touching tenderness of his heart toward the children of men. We should reverently think of loving-kindness to be expected from God — as from our heavenly father, and covenant God in Jesus.
We should think very seriously, frequently, and fixedly of God's glorious loving-kindness; and this will refresh our minds when dry, barren, faint, and weary — it will enable us to conquer our fears, and overcome our doubts — it will revive and strengthen our hope — it will excite and draw forth our love — and it will make the house of God appear glorious! O may my thoughts be occupied with the loving-kindness of God, whenever I take my place in his house, or engage in his service!
Observe, we are — as our thoughts are; therefore we should direct our thoughts to profitable subjects. If the thinking powers are well trained and exercised — we shall be preserved from much gloom and misery, as well as from much sin. The power to think is a great privilege — it brings with it a solemn responsibility. It shows the dignity and superiority of our nature — but it proves also that we are accountable. God's temple, or the service of God's sanctuary, is calculated, and intended, to awaken and nourish profitable thoughts.
The word of God furnishes us with subjects of thought, and among the rest, the loving-kindness of God stands forth most prominently. Let us then watch against carnal, polluting and irreverent thoughts — especially in the house of God; and let us pray for grace, that whenever we take our place in the worshiping assembly, the words of our mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, may be acceptable in the sight of God, who is our strength and our Redeemer.
Reader, how about your thoughts? How are they occupied — with what are they engaged in the house of God? Do you carry and transact your business there? Do you go over again your carnal pleasures there? Or are your minds occupied with God's loving-kindness?
Do wandering thoughts in God's service distress you? Do you mourn over them, and pray against them? God knows our thoughts. God, particularly notices our thoughts. The book of God's remembrance contains a record of our thoughts. O that I may so think of God, of his word, of his works, and of his ways — as to be able often to say, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul." And in the words we have been considering, "We have thought of your loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple!"