There is a world of comfort contained in the simple words, "He leads me." As we have already had occasion more than once to note, in adverting to the same pastoral figure, our lives are no fortuitous concurrence of events and circumstances—we are not like weeds thrown in the waters, to be tossed and whirled in the eddying pools of capricious accident and chance, our future a self-appointed one. There is a Divine hand and purpose in all that befalls us. Every man's existence is a biography, written chapter by chapter, line by line, by God Himself. It is not the mere outline sketched by the Divine Being, which we are left to fill in; but all the minute and delicate shadings are inserted by Him. Looking no farther than our relation to Him as creatures, it is impossible for a moment to entertain the thought of our being beyond the leadings of God, and to speak of a life of self-government and self-dependence.

The complex machinery of the outer world, dumb inanimate nature in all its integral parts, is upheld by Him. "He weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance." "He counts the number of the stars." He guides Orion and Arcturus in their magnificent marchings. If one of these orbs were to be jostled from its place—plucked from its silent throne in the heavens, it is well known that the equipoise and perfect balancing of the material system would be fatally disturbed—devastation would reign triumphant. And shall we own Him as the leader of stars and planets, and ignore His sovereignty over the human spirit? Shall we acknowledge that He is Lord in the universe of matter, and not supreme in the empire of thought and human volition? No, "His kingdom rules over ALL." Angel, archangel, cherub, and seraph; man, beast, worm, "these all wait upon You!"

But it is not the doctrine of God's general sovereignty which in the verse selected for meditation we are called to contemplate. It is as the Shepherd-leader of His ransomed flock, and the manner and method of His leading: "He leads me in the path of righteousness." Not only does this proclaim that I am the object of a thought in God's heart, but a loving thought. It is the Shepherd intent on some loving purpose, in every intricate turn of the winding path. Ah! we know, at times, there is nothing more difficult to believe than this. "What!" we say, "God leading me as a Shepherd, and leading me in righteousness! How can I reconcile, with all this, so much that is startling and perplexing alike in my own experience and in the world around me, where I see vice extolled, and virtue trampled under foot?

There is a man, proud, niggardly, profligate, worthless; an extortioner, the oppressor of the poor. God is leading him along one of the world's smiling paths; elevating him to positions of influence and distinction; fame sounding her brazen trumpet before him—while yonder is a man of sterling integrity and worth, of high honor and boundless philanthropy—the friend of the friendless—his open hand keeping pace with his generous heart, who can tell of quite a diverse experience. What can it be but unruly capricious fortune that has dandled on its knees him who is thus worthless and mean-souled—and left the other, in some luckless moment, stripped and beggared; disappointing his hopes, cropping the wings of honorable ambition, spoiling him of his goods, dashing his ships on the rocks, baring his cupboards, and leaving his children penniless?"

'Can that' (another will say)—'Can that be the path of righteousness, that path which echoes to the mournful tramp of the funeral crowd, as some loved one is borne to the long home? My innocent babe is snatched away; oh! why take the green and spare the ripe? Might He not rather have taken the old gnarled, decrepit tree, with its hollow trunk scathed with the storms of years? Might He not rather have taken the rose with its spent and withered leaves ready to drop to the ground? Why has He plucked the opening bud; left old age with its crutches, and despoiled the cradle of its smiles?'

Hush these Atheistic thoughts—away with these unworthy surmises. He "leads in righteousness." He has an infinite reason for all He does. It is not for us to attempt to unravel the tangled thread of Providence. God is often, like Jacob of old, blessing the sons of Joseph with crossed hands. We, in our half-blind, short-sighted faith, would presume to dictate to Him, and prejudge the wisdom and rectitude of His methods. We are tempted to say with Joseph, "Not so, my father." But like the old patriarch, "He guides His hands intentionally."

As the sheep of His pasture, He may not be leading you along the bright meadow or sunny slope; He may be lingering amid stunted herbage; He may be turning down some bramble thicket—plunging into gloomy forest glades, while acres of rich sunny pasture are close at hand. But He sees, what you did not see; He sees an adder here; He sees a lion there; He sees pitfalls here; He sees a precipice there. He knows you better, He loves you better, than to set you in slippery places, and cast you down to destruction. He sees, if that fortune had been unbroken, that dream of ambition realized, that clay-idol undethroned—the alienated heart would have gradually, but terribly, lapsed away from Him.

Trust Him. In the midst of perplexing dealings say, "I know" (you cannot say "I see"), but let faith say, "I know, O God, that Your judgments are right, and that You in faithfulness have afflicted me." It is covenant love that guides you. If you are led up the mountain summits of worldly distinction and honor and prosperity, HE leads you—if along the lowly valleys of obscurity and poverty, humiliation and sorrow, HE leads you. Your life is a plan of the great God; and this is the most important element in the plan, "Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."

Health, sickness—joy, sorrow—successes, reverses—worldly honors, worldly humiliations—receiving, surrendering—suffering, losing—in all these, He has in view your soul-prosperity. Better to have not even a place to lay your head, if the guiding Shepherd be with you—than all the world’s broad acres without Him. Better the empty barrel and the handful of meal, with God—than the full cup and gilded ceilings without Him. Better Lazarus with his crumbs, and his hope of glory—than Dives with his purple, and dainty provisions, and no heaven! Better yonder chained prisoner in the dungeon, than Nero in his palace. The one was the world's undisputed master, with his foot on the neck of subject millions; the other was an outcast Jew—a sheep, without fold or pasture on earth which he could call his own—yet to his guiding Shepherd he could say, "I have all and abound!" "All men forsook me, notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."

We own it, that these gracious leadings are often not discernible. We cannot understand His judgments, they are a deep, "a great mystery." You may have seen the somber mountains which descend in abrupt shelving masses into some of our peaceful Highland lakes. Their bases are lost in the unsounded depths of that still mirror; we see their trembling reflections, no more. But the mountains themselves are patent to view. So, if we cannot discern or understand God's judgments, let us acknowledge the "righteousness" which directs them. Let us say in adoring reverence with the psalmist, who seems to have had this beautiful image in his eye—"Your righteousness is as the great mountains, Your judgments are a great mystery."

What a grandeur and dignity, what a safety and security it would give to life, if we sought ever to regard it as a leading of the Shepherd—God shaping our purposes and destinies, that wherever we go, or wherever our friends go, He is with us! Even in earthly journeyings, if our pathway be the great and wide sea—"He gives to the sea His decree"—winds and waves and storms are the Shepherd's voice. If it be speeding along the railway tracks, nothing but that tiny iron thread between us and death, He curbs the wild frenzy of the fiery courser; He puts the bit in his iron mouth; He gives His angels charge over us to bear us up and keep us in all our ways.

If it be our position in the world; He metes out every drop in the cup, He assigns us our niche in His temple, fills or empties our coffers, makes vacant the chairs of our homesteads. But "HE leads us!" He will yet be His own interpreter. We can take no more than the near, the limited, the earthly view of His dealings—let us pause for the infinite disclosures of eternity.

Look at the husbandman laboring in his field. All this deep ploughing is for the insertion of the needful seed. In doing the work, he may appear to act roughly. Ten thousand insects nestling quietly in their homes in the ground are rudely unhoused. All at once, their ceiled dwellings are pulled asunder. Many a happy commonwealth is scattered and overthrown in the upturned furrow—little worlds of life and being demolished by the ruthless, remorseless ploughshare.

In like manner, some of our earthly schemes may be assailed and pillaged—our staff and beautiful rods broken—our worldly treasures scattered by the iron teeth of misfortune. But all is preparatory to a higher good, a harvest of rich blessing crowning the soul, as He does the year with His goodness, and making its paths drop fatness!

Let us, finally, learn the lesson of our entire dependence on our Shepherd Leader, and our need of His grace in prosecuting the path of the spiritual life. God had just taken some means to revive and quicken that life in the soul of the psalmist, "He restores my soul." Thus restored, he clings with greater ardor than before to the great Restorer. He is more keenly alive to his indebtedness to Him for keeping in healthful energy every spiritual grace. His feeling is not "I am revived, and restored, and quickened, I shall be able now manfully to pursue my own way."

The next note in his song, after telling of God's reviving grace, is to exult in God's sustaining grace—"He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Reader, make it your prayer to this "God of all grace," "Hold up my goings in Your paths, that my footsteps slip not"—"Lead me in the way everlasting!" And He will lead you—He will keep you. "The Lord is your keeper, your stay, and your strength, on your right hand." That path is an onward path of blessedness and peace. It is written, "The righteous shall hold on his way."

Rejoice then, you sheep of God! You shall never perish. All creation may become bankrupt; earth may lock up her furrows, and seasons refuse to revolve; the sun (heaven's great lamp) may be extinguished, and the stars rush from their orbits—but the Lord will never fail to be to His people their "Sun and Shield," giving them "grace and glory." Meanwhile be it yours to follow after that holiness—that "righteousness"—without which no man can see the Lord. Walk day by day, under the guidance and guardianship of your Shepherd; and in the conscious possession of His love, you must be happy. Trials will urn into mercies—sorrows will be transmuted into joys—losses will resolved into gains. You will sleep, like the little child through the night of storm, when he feels his parent's hand locked in his. In the very darkest of human hours—when the wind is sweeping and sighing through the trackless forest—when the tempest has shrouded moon and stars—and you are getting deeper and deeper amid the intricacies of entangling thickets—with such a Guide, Protector, Friend, you need fear no evil.

In the words of Ezekiel, you can "dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods." And when the morning breaks—the bright morning of heaven—when the earthly path is at end, and you attain the sunlit summit of the everlasting hills, you will be able to retrace, with adoring gratitude, all its windings. The prospect will afford material for a twofold song—the Song of Providence and the Song of Grace. You will sing "the Song of Moses, the servant of God, and the Song of the Lamb."

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