Poor and Contrite Spirits the Objects of the Divine Favour
Adapted from a sermon by Samuel Davies
"But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Isaiah 66:2
As we are made up of physical bodies as well as immortal souls; and are gifted with physical senses as well as the ability to reason; God, who has wisely adapted our religion to our condition, requires bodily as well as spiritual worship; and commands us not only to exercise the inward powers of our minds in proper acts of devotion but also to express our inward devotion by suitable external actions, and to serve him in the outward ordinances which he has appointed.
And so it is under the gospel, in the church age; but it was more remarkably so under the law, in the Old Testament, which, compared with the pure and spiritual worship of the gospel, was a system of physical ordinances, and required a great deal of external pomp and ceremony, and bodily services.
In that time, a costly and magnificent structure was built, by God’s direction, in the wilderness, called the tabernacle, because it was built in the form of a tent, and movable from place to place. And afterwards a most stately temple was built by Solomon, at huge cost, where the divine worship should be celebrated, and where all the males of Israel should solemnly meet for that purpose three times in a year.
These external forms of worship were not intended to exclude the internal worship of the heart but to express and assist it. And these ceremonials were not to be put into the place of morals but observed as helps in the practice of them, and to prefigure the great Messiah. Even under the Mosaic dispensation, God had the greatest regard to holiness of heart and a holy life and the strictest observer of ceremonies could not be accepted without them.
But it is natural for degenerate mankind to invert the order of things, to place a part, the easiest and lowest part of religion for the whole of it; to rest in the externals of religion as if they were enough, without regarding the heart; and to depend upon pharisaical strictness in the observances of ceremonies, as an excuse for neglecting the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
This was the unhappy error of the Jews in Isaiah's time; and this the Lord would correct in the first verses of this chapter. The Jews gloried in their having the house of God among them, and were ever trusting in vain words: Jeremiah could exclaim: "Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’" (Jer. 7:4) They filled his altars with costly sacrifices; and in these they trusted to make atonement for sin, and secure his favour.
As to their sacrifices, God lets them know, that while they had no regard to their morals but chose their own ways, and their souls delighted in their abominations, while they presented them in a formal manner without the fire of divine love, that their sacrifices were so far from gaining his acceptance, that they were detestable to him!
He abhors their most expensive offerings as abominable and profane! "He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig's blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations!" (Isaiah 66:3)
To remove this superstitious confidence in the temple, the Lord tells them that he had no need of it; that, as large and magnificent as it was, it was not fit to contain him; and that, in consecrating it to him, they should not proudly think that they had given him anything to which he had no prior right. "Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne” (v.1)—where I reign in majesty and magnificence; and though the earth is not adorned with such grand displays of my immediate presence, though it does not shine in all the glory of my royal palace on high yet it is a little province in my immense empire, and subject to my authority; it is my footstool.
If, then, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; if the whole creation is my kingdom where is the house that you build for me? Where is your temple which appears so stately in your eyes? It vanishes, it is sinks into nothing.
Is it able to contain that infinite Being to whom the whole earth is but a humble footstool, and the vast heaven but a throne? Can you vainly imagine that my presence can be confined to you in the narrow bounds of a temple, when the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain me? Where is the place for me to rest? Can you provide a place for my resting, as though I were weary? Or can my presence be restrained to one place, incapable of acting beyond its physical limits? No! Only infinite space can equal my being and perfections; only infinite space is a sufficient sphere for my operations!
Can you imagine that you can bribe my favour, and give me something I had no right to before, by all the stately buildings you can raise to my name? Is not the universe mine? For all these things my hand has made out of nothing, and all these things have been or still exist by the support of my all-preserving hand; and what greater title can there be over anything but that from its very creator? Your silver and gold are mine; and mine are the “cattle on a thousand hills!” (Ps 50:10) And therefore, you but give me what is my own! says the Lord.
This manner of speech is worthy of God. Thus it is suitable for him to advance himself above the whole creation, and to assert his absolute property in, and independence of the universe. Had he only turned to us the bright side of his throne of justice, which overwhelms us with unbearable splendour; had he only displayed his majesty un-mixed with grace and condescension in such language as this, it would have overwhelmed us, and driven us into the deepest despair, as the outcasts of his providence, and beneath his notice.
We might rightly fear he would overlook us with majestic disdain, or careless neglect, like the little things that are called 'great' by mortals, or as the busy rulers of our species are apt to do. We would be ready, in hopeless anxiety, to say, "Is all this earth which to us appears so vast, and which is parceled into 'a thousand mighty kingdoms', as we call them, is it all but the humble foot-stool of God? Hardly worthy to bear his feet? What then am I? An atom of an atom-world; an insignificant individual of an insignificant race! Can I expect that he will take any notice of such a trivial thing as me? The vast affairs of heaven and earth are under his command, and he is engaged in the concerns of the wide universe and can he find time to concern himself with me, and my little interests?
Will a king, considering and weighing the concerns of nations, preoccupy himself with the well being of the worm that crawls at his footstool? If even the magnificent temple of Solomon was unworthy of God, will he admit me into his presence, and listen to my concerns? How can I expect it? It seems daring and presumptuous to hope for such condescension. And shall I then abandon any hope of a favourable word from my Maker?
No! vile and unworthy as you are, hear the voice of divine condescension, as well as of majesty: "this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word!" Though God “does not live in temples made by man,” (Acts 17:24) though he pours contempt upon princes, and scorns them in all their haughty glory and pretentious majesty yet there are people whom his gracious eye will look upon kindly!
The God who inhabits eternity, and dwells in the high and holy place, he will look down through all the shining ranks of angels upon-whom? Not on the proud, the haughty and presumptuous, but upon him that is “humble and contrite in spirit,” and trembles at his Word.
To this man will he look from the throne of his majesty, however low, however base he may be! This man is an object that can, as it were, attract God's eyes from all the glories of the heavenly world, so as to pay attention to a humble, self-abasing worm! This man can never be lost or overlooked among the multitudes of creatures, but the eyes of the Lord will find him in the greatest crowd, his eyes will graciously fix upon this man, this particular man, though there were but one such in the whole of the creation, or though he were banished into the remotest corner of the universe, like a diamond in a heap of trash, or at the bottom of the ocean!
Do you hear this, you who are poor and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at his Word? You who, above all others, are most apt to fear that you will be disregarded by him; because you, of all others, are most deeply aware of how unworthy you are of his gracious notice. God, the great, the glorious, the awesome God, looks down upon you with eyes of love, and by so much the more affectionately; by how much the lower you are in your own esteem! Does your heart not leap within you at the sound! Are you not lost in pleasing wonder and gratitude, and thinking, "Can it be? Can it be? Is it indeed possible? Is it true?" Indeed it is! You have his own word for it, and do not think that it is too good to be true, but believe, and rejoice, and give glory to his name; and fear not what men or devils can do to you!
This is a matter that concerns each one of us. It is of the greatest importance for each of us to know whether God looks down on us in this way; God on whom our very being and all our happiness entirely depend. And how can we know this? In no other way than by discovering whether we have the characters of that happy man to whom he condescends to look. These are not the self-important and high characters, they are not formed by earthly riches, learning, nobility, and power: "But this is the one to whom I will look," says the Lord, "he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
Let us look into the meaning of each of the characters.
I. To begin, it is the HUMBLE, the poor, to whom the Majesty of heaven condescends to look.
This does not mainly refer to those who are financially poor in this world; for, though it is common that he chooses "those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom;" James 2:5 yet this is not a universal rule; for many, sadly, who are poor in this world are not rich towards God, nor rich in good works and therefore will hunger throughout eternity in hopeless need and wretchedness!
But the humble and poor here stands for those whom Christ describes more fully as the poor in spirit; in Matthew 5:3. And this character implies the following ingredients:
1. First, The poor man, to whom God looks is deeply aware of his own state of need, and that nothing but the enjoyment of God can make him happy.
The poor man feels that he is not self-sufficient but dependent on God. He is aware of his natural weakness and poverty, and that he is incapable, as he is, to support himself through the endless eternity for which he was formed, or even for a single day. He knows that in the same way that his body cannot exist without air, or without food and water, his soul cannot survive without his God, and the enjoyment of his love. In short, he takes his proper place in the system of the universe: low and mean in comparison with angels, and especially in comparison with the great Creator and support of nature.
He feels himself to be, what he really is: a poor, powerless, dependent creature, who can neither live, nor move, nor exist without God. He is aware that all his needs are supplied by God, (2 Corinthians 3:5,) and that the source of all of his happiness are in him. This sense of his dependence on God is accompanied with a sense of how all earthly things cannot make him happy, and fill the deep needs of his soul, which were formed for the enjoyment of an infinite good.
He enjoys the blessings of this life but also feels their poorness, and does not put aside a stronger desire for the better pleasures of true religion. He is not a strict hermit, or a sour ascetic, on the one hand; and, on the other, he is not a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God. If he is not one who enjoys a great share of the comforts of this life, he does not work, nor so much as wish for them as his supreme happiness: he is well assured that they can never provide supreme happiness, even in their fullest extent.
It is for God, it is for the living God, that his soul most eagerly thirsts! In the end, he is aware that the enjoyment of God's love is more necessary to his happiness, than to have all earthly blessings. More than that, he is aware that if he is miserable in the absence of these earthly blessings, the main reason is the absence of his God. If only he were blessed with the perfect enjoyment of God, he could say, with Habakkuk: "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, (18) yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation!" (Hab. 3:17, 18)
If he enjoys an abundance of earthly blessings, he still retains a sense of his need of the enjoyment of God. To be discontented and dissatisfied is the common fate of the rich, as well as the poor; they are still craving, craving an unknown something to complete their happiness. The soul, having been created for the enjoyment of God, secretly languishes and sighs in the middle of other enjoyments, without knowing why. It is the enjoyment of God alone which can satisfy its unbounded desires! But, alas! it has no desire for him, no thirst after him; it is still crying, "More, more of the delights of the world!, delights which can never satisfy,
But the poor in spirit know where their cure lies. As in Psalm 4, they do not ask with uncertainty, "Who will show us some good?" But their petitions center in this as the grand element of their happiness, "lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!" and this puts more gladness into their hearts, than any abundance of grain and wine; (Psalm 4:6, 7)
This was the language of the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (Psalm 73:25, 26) And as this attitude applies to all earthly things, so it does also to all created enjoyments whatever they may be, even to those of the heavenly world! The poor man is aware that he could not be happy even in heaven without the enjoyment of God. His language is, Whom have I in heaven but you? “I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness" Psalm 17:15.
2. Secondly, This spiritual poverty implies deep humility and self-abasement.
The poor man, the humble man, on whom the God of heaven condescends to look is lowly in his own eyes; he considers himself as not being of great importance. He has no high esteem of his own good qualities, but is little in his own eyes. He is not apt to put himself before others, but is ready to give way to them as his superiors. He has a generous wisdom to notice their good qualities, and commendable blindness towards their imperfections. But he is not quick to discern his own qualities, nor does he overlook his own failings. Instead of being dazzled with the splendour of his own abilities or acquisitions, he is apt to overlook them with a noble neglect, and is aware of his weakness and defects.
And as to his own gracious qualities, they appear small, exceeding small to him! When he considers how much they fall short of what they should be, they as it were vanish and shrink into nothing! How cold his love appears to him even in its greatest expression! How weak his faith in its greatest confidence! How superficial his repentance in its greatest depth! How proud his lowest humility! And as for the good actions he has performed, sadly, how few, how poorly done, how far short they fall compared to his duty! After he has done all, he counts himself an “unworthy servant!' (Luke 17:20) After he has done everything, he is more apt to take on the language of the tax collector rather than the Pharisee, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13)
In his highest achievements he is not prone to admire himself; so far is he from it, that it is much more natural to him to fall into the opposite extreme, and to account himself as the least, indeed, less than the least of all other saints on the face of the earth! And if he argues for anything, it is for the lowest place in the list of Christians.
We have a remarkable example of this attitude in the apostle Paul, who probably had made greater progress in holiness than any other saint that was ever received into heaven from this guilty world.
3. Thirdly, the one who is poor in spirit, also has a humbling sense of his own sinfulness.
His memory is quick to recall his past sins, and he is very sharp-sighted to discover the corruptions of his heart that remain, and the imperfections of his best duties. He is not quick to excuse them, but views them impartially in all their ugliness and aggravating circumstances. He sincerely doubts whether there is a saint on earth who is as corrupt as himself! And though he may be convinced that the Lord has begun a work of grace in him, and therefore, that he is in a better state than those who are still under the slavery of sin, yet he really wonders whether there is such a depraved person in the world, as he sees himself to be. He is prone to count himself the chief of sinners, and more indebted to free grace than any others.
He is intimately acquainted with himself; but he sees only the outside of others, and so he concludes himself so much worse than others; therefore he loathes himself for his iniquities and abominations. (Ezekiel 36:31)
Self-abasement is agreeable to him. His humility is not forced; he does not view it a great thing to take a low place. He plainly sees himself to be a vile, sinful, exceeding sinful creature, and therefore is sure that it is no false humility, but the most reasonable thing in the world, for him to think lowly of himself, and to humble and abase himself.
It is unnatural for one who esteems himself to be a person of great importance, to stoop; but it is easy, and appears no self-denial for a poor lowly creature to do so, who looks upon himself, and feels himself, to be such.
4. Fourthly, that man who is poor in spirit, is deeply sensible of his own unworthiness.
He sees that in himself he deserves no favour from God for all the good he has ever done, but that he may after all, justly reject him. He makes no proud boasts of his good heart, or good life, but falls in the dust before God, and casts all his dependence upon his free grace!
5. Fifthly, that man who is poor in spirit, is aware of his need of the influences of the Holy Spirit.
He is aware of his need of the Holy Spirit to sanctify him, and enrich him with the graces of the Spirit. He feels his lack of holiness; this necessarily flows from his sense of his corruption, and the imperfection of all his graces. Holiness is the one thing needful with him, which he desires and longs for above all others; and he is deeply aware that he cannot work it in his own heart by his own strength. He feels that without Christ he can do nothing, and that it is God who must work in him both to will and to do. Therefore like a poor man that cannot survive on his own, he depends entirely upon the grace of God to work all his works in him, and to enable him to work out his salvation with fear and trembling.
6. Sixthly, he is deeply aware of the absolute necessity of the righteousness of Christ for his justification.
He does not think himself to be rich in good works so as to bribe his judge, and obtain an acquittal, but, like a poor criminal who, having nothing to purchase a pardon, nothing to plead in his own defence, casts himself upon the mercy of the court, he places his whole dependence upon the free grace of God through Jesus Christ. He pleads Christ's righteousness only, and trusts in it alone. The rich disdain receiving this help, but those who cannot survive on their own, will gladly receive it.
7. And lastly, in the seventh place, the man that is poor in spirit is a persistent beggar at the throne of grace.
He lives on charity; he lives on the riches of heaven; and, as these are not to be obtained without begging, he is frequently lifting up his prayers to the Father of all his mercies for them. He applies himself to the ordinances of God, as Bartimaeus by the road-side, asked for the charity of passers-by. Prayer is the natural language of spiritual poverty. "The poor," says Solomon in Proverbs 18:23, "uses entreaties," ; whereas those who are rich in their own eyes, can live without prayer, or content themselves with a formal, careless form of it.
This is the usual character of that poor man to whom God grants the looks of his love. At times indeed he feels these things very little; but then he is uneasy, and he works to get them back, and sometimes is actually blessed with it. And is there no such poor man or woman in this gathering? I hope there is. Such as these can take great comfort in these words of their Redeemer! "Blessed are the poor in spirit—for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven!" He who has his throne in the height of heaven, and to whom this vast earth is but a footstool—looks upon you with eyes of love!
This spiritual poverty is greater riches than all the treasures of the universe! Do not be ashamed, therefore, to view and hold yourselves as poor men, if such you are. May God thus impoverish us all; may he strip us of all our imaginary greatness and riches, and reduce us to poor beggars at his door! But it is time to consider the other character of the happy man upon whom the Lord of heaven will graciously look; and that is, in the second place:
II. Contrition of spirit. This is the one to whom I will look: he who is contrite in spirit.
The word translated, contrite has the meaning of one that is beaten or bruised with hard blows, or with a heavy object. And it belongs to the mourning penitent whose heart is broken and wounded for sin. Sin is an intolerable burden that crushes and bruises him, and he feels himself injured and burdened under it. His old stony heart, which could not be impressed—but rather repelled the blow, is taken away; and now he has a new heart of flesh, easily bruised and wounded. His heart is not always hard and senseless, light and trivial; but it has tender feelings; he is easily susceptible to the sorrow for sin, is humbled under a sense of his failures, and is really pained and distressed because he can serve his God no better—but sins every day against him.
This character may also correspond to the poor anxious soul that is broken with cruel fears of its state. The hard hearted can venture their eternal all upon uncertainty; and indulge pleasing hopes without anxiously examining their foundation. But he who is of a contrite spirit is keenly aware of the importance of the matter, and cannot be easy without some good evidence of safety.
Such shocking questions as these frequently startle him, and pierce his very heart; "What if I should be deceived at last? What if after all, I should be banished from that God in whom lies all my happiness?" These are questions that are full of intolerable terror, when they appear but barely possible; and much more when there seems to be reason for them.
Such a frequent pious concern as this, is a good sign; and to your happy surprise, you doubtful Christians, I may tell you that that God, who you are afraid disregards you—looks down on you with pity! Therefore lift up your eyes to him in wonder and joyful confidence. You are not neglected as you so imagine. The God of heaven does not think it beneath him to look down through all the glorious orders of angels, and through interposing worlds, down, down even upon you in the depth of your self-abhorrence!
Let us, in the third place,
III. Consider the remaining character of the happy man to whom the Lord will look: he who trembles at my Word.
This character implies a love of the great things of the Word, and a heart easily impressed with them as the most important realities. This was remarkably exemplified in tender-hearted Josiah. We read in 2 Chron. 34
“Then Shaphan the secretary told (the) king Josiah , “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. (19) And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.” And God replied to him ”because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, … I also have heard you, declares the LORD.” (2 Chron 34:18-27)
To one who trembles at the divine Word, its threatenings are not empty threats, nor great rhetorical embellishments —but the most tremendous realities! Such a person cannot carry on under them—but would tremble, and fall, and die away—if he was not encouraged by some happy promise of deliverance.
He who trembles at the Word of God is not an unmoved hearer or reader of it. It reaches and pierces his heart as a sharp two-edged sword; it carries power along with it, and he feels that it is the Word of God, and not of men, even when it is spoken by feeble mortals. Thus he not only trembles at the terror—but at the authority of the Word.
He trembles with the reverence of the majesty of God speaking in his Word. He considers it as his voice, who spoke all things into being, and whose glory is such that a deep solemnity must seize those that are allowed to hear him speak.
How opposite is this, to the attitude of multitudes who have no more regard for the Word of God than for the word of a child or a fool! They will have their own way—let God say what he will. They persist in sin—in defiance of his threatenings. They sit dazed and careless under the preaching of his Word, as though it were some old, dull, trivial story! It seldom makes any impressions on their stony hearts. These are the brave, undaunted men and women and children of the world, who harden themselves against the fear of the future. But, unhappy creatures! The God of heaven disdains to give them a gracious look, while he fixes his eyes upon the man who is "contrite in spirit and trembles at his (my) word."
And where is that happy person? Where among us, where is the contrite spirit? Where is the person who trembles at the Word? You are all ready to see this character in yourselves—but do not be presumptuous on the one hand, nor excessively timid on the other. Ask yourselves whether this is your prevailing character. If so, then claim it, and rejoice in it, though you do not have it in perfection. But if you do not have it prevailingly, that is, if it is not your customary, dominant attitude, do not seize it as your own. Though you have been at times distressed with a sense of sin and danger, and the Word strikes a terror to your hearts—yet, unless you are usually, regularly, of a humble and a contrite spirit—you are not to claim the character.
But let such of you as are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at the Word of the Lord, enter deeply into the meaning of this expression: that the Lord looks upon you. He does not look on you as a careless spectator, not concerning himself with you, or caring what will become of you—but he looks upon you as a father, a friend, a benefactor: and all for your good.
He looks upon you with acceptance. He is pleased with the sight. He loves to see you striving towards him. He looks on you as the objects of his everlasting love, and purchased by the blood of his Son, and he is well pleased with you—for his righteousness' sake. And so his looking upon the humble and contrite is opposed to his hating the wicked and their sacrifices. (v3) And is he whom you have so grievously offended, he whose wrath you fear above all other things—is he indeed reconciled to you, and does he delight in you? What cause is there here of joy, and praise, and wonder!
Again, he looks to you so as to take particular notice of you. He sees all the workings of your hearts towards him. He sees and pities you in your honest, though weak conflicts with indwelling sin. He observes all your faithful though weak endeavours to serve him. His eyes pierce your very hearts, and the least motion there cannot escape his notice. This indeed might make you tremble, if he looked upon you with the eyes of a judge, for surely, how many abominations must he see in you! But be of good cheer, he looks upon you with the eyes of a friend—and with that love which covers a multitude of sins. He looks upon you with the eyes of compassion in all your troubles. He looks upon you to see that you are not overborne and crushed.
David, who passed through as many hardships and afflictions as any of you, could say from happy experience, "The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry!" Psalm 34:15.
Finally, he looks upon you—so as to look after you, as we do after the sick and weak. He looks to you so as to provide for you. He will give you grace and glory, and no good thing will be withheld from you. (Psalm 84:11) And are you not safe and happy under the examination of a father and a friend? Let a little humble courage then fill you amid your many discouragements, and commit yourself in that care of which you feel yourself to be so unworthy.
Here it may good to observe, what must give some support and encouragement, that those very people who, according to the estimate of men, are the most likely to be overlooked—are those whom God graciously notices. The people themselves are apt to cry, "I would be happy—could I believe that the God of heaven thus graciously notices me; but, I feel myself a poor unworthy creature; I am trembling, broken-hearted, beneath the notice of so great a Majesty!"
And are you so indeed? Then I may convert your objection into an encouragement. You are the very person upon whom God looks! His eyes are running up and down throughout the whole earth searching for such as you are; and he will find you out among the innumerable multitude of mankind! Were you surrounded with crowds of kings and nobles, his eyes would pass by them all—to fix upon you! What a glorious perspective! It should interrupt and convert such a person's discouragement—into a ground of courage! To realize that, far from being signs of his neglect of them, their character shows them to be the favourites of heaven!
"Alas!" says the poor person, "if God took notice of me, he would not allow me to continue poor and broken-hearted." But you may come to exactly the opposite conclusion; he makes you thus poor in spirit, aware of your sinfulness and imperfections, because he graciously notices you. He will not allow you to be puffed up with your imaginary goodness, like the rest of the world, because he loves you more than he loves them!
However perplexing this procedure seems to us, there is very good reason for it. The poor are the only people who would delight in the enjoyment of God, and prize his love; they alone are capable of the happiness of heaven, which consists in the perfection of holiness.
Let us consider the perfection and condescension of God, as highlighted by this subject. Consider, you who are poor in spirit, who he is, who stoops way down to look upon such little things as you! His throne is in the highest heaven, surrounded with myriads of angels and archangels! The earth is his footstool and the very heavens declare his glory. It is he who looks down upon such poor worms as you!
And what a stoop down this is! He who looks over all of creation looks upon you in particular. He manages all the affairs of the universe; he takes care of every individual in his vast family; he provides for all his creatures—and yet he is pleased to take particular notice of you - as if you were his only creature! What excellence is this! What an infinite reach of thought! What unbounded power!
And what condescension too! Consider for a moment how small you are in this vast universe. In relation to all the multitude of creatures, you are like one grain of sand among the sands of countless sea shores. And yet, he who looks over the whole universe, takes particular notice of you—you who are so small compared with all of creation; and who, if you were to completely disappear, would hardly leave a mark in the universe! Consider this, and wonder at the condescension of God; consider this, and acknowledge your own smallness; you are but nothing, not only compared with God—but you are as nothing in the system of creation!
I will add but this one natural observation: If it is so great a happiness to have the great God for our support—then what is it to be out of his favour? To be disregarded by him? I think fear should grip this little gathering at the very thought. And is there even one person in the universe in this wretched condition? I think all the rest of creation must pity him. Where is such a wretched person to be found? Must we go down to hell to find him? No, sadly! There are many in this state on this earth today! And I must come nearer to you still, there are very likely to be some in this very gathering! All among you are such, who are not poor and contrite in spirit, and do not tremble at the Word of the Lord.
And are you one of the miserable number? In this sad state you are disregarded by the God who made you! Not favoured with one look of love by the author of all happiness! He looks on you indeed—but it is with eyes of righteous anger, marking you out for vengeance! And can you be easy in such a state? Will you not endeavour to impoverish yourself, and have your heart broken, that you may become the object of his gracious attention?
There is yet time. It is still the day of grace. Take to heart the words of our text: "this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Isaiah 66:2