"In the Beginning, God."—Genesis 1:1.
I. What four words are these to begin the Inspired Revelation! Of all Holy Scripture He is the Beginning. From Him it proceeds as waters from a fountain, or thoughts from a living Intelligence. Whoever may be the human speaker, He alone is the Revealer, Legislator, Inspirer. Whoever may be the human writer, He alone is the Divine Author.
II. What four words are these to begin the Story of Creation! There was a beginning to all but God alone. He had no beginning because He was to all else the beginning, the starting point of matter, form, force and life. Here is a denial of Pantheism and Polytheism, materialism and atheism, and every other false system of Religion.
III. What four words are these to begin the disclosure of God's Nature! "He is before all things and by Him all things consist"; He is in all things and by Him all things subsist. He is after all things, and to Him all things move as final end and goal, Himself alike without end as without beginning, source from which, sea into which, all being pours!
IV. What four words are these to begin a Consecrated Life! In Him the new creation has its beginning. He, as the Spirit of Life, brooding over our moral chaos, brings order out of confusion, light out of darkness, life out of death. A Holy Walk begins with Him: it has no other starting point, and each step forward and upward is a fresh beginning with Him.
V. What four words are these to begin a New Year, nay, each new day! "I have set the Lord always before me," said the devout David. If He is before us as the object of Faith, we shall endure as seeing Him who is invisible; if as the centre of Love, the carnal will cease to control; if as the End of Hope, Eternity will set the measure to Time, not Time to Eternity.
VI. What four words are these to begin every new enterprise and endeavour! Performance and purpose starting with Him. If He is first in thought, love, choice, that is piety. If first in reverence and homage, that is worship. If first in activity and obedience, that is service. When He is first in supremacy and glory, that will be Heaven.
Well may Jacobi say: "My watchword, and that of my reason, is not I, but one who is more and better than I: One who is entirely different from what I am: I mean God! I neither am nor care to be, if He is not!"
"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: To whom be glory, for ever and Ever. Amen!"
"My soul followeth hard after Thee."—Psalm 63:8.
Literally "cleaveth hard," involving three things: diligence in effort, nearness of contact, and tenacity of grip—a fast hold. These six words express a habit of godliness, an ever present and close following after God. The emphasis is upon the present tense—the continuous present. But a careful search into the structure of this devout lyric shows the past, present and future tenses of the believer's life, and hints their mutual relation.
For example, the Present: "My soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for Thee; I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches." "Thou art my God."
The Past: "I have seen Thee in the Sanctuary. Thou hast been my help."
The Future: "Early will I seek Thee. My lips shall praise Thee. I will bless Thee while I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee. In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice. The King shall rejoice in God."
These tenses have obviously a mutual relation.
I. The past, recalled by reflection and remembrance, inspires to present gratitude and duty, love and joy. Past visions and interpositions of God quicken longing for other visions, and stimulate faith to a new following of God. What a hint of the hallowed office of the powers of Reflection and Memory!
II. Note the peculiar emphasis upon the present. Four present tenses are prominent, and how inclusive! There is such longing as only finds expression in intense thirst, the most agonising form of desire. There is reflection and remembrance, and the result is a close following.
III. And all this is the prophecy of a future. Here is the inspiration of Hope, and hope kindles prayer and praise, and assures of complete satisfaction and joy. The soul that looks back with holy memories looks forward with confident expectation.
The Present is, however, always the Crisis. It is the To-day of Action. Without it Memory is but a dream, and Hope but an illusion. my soul followeth hard after thee. The nearest New Testament passage to this is 1 Peter 2:21. "Leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps." And four particulars are given there which delineate that matchless example:
1. A sinless conduct. "Who did no sin."
2. A guileless mouth. "In whose mouth guile was not found."
3. A surrendered will. "Committed himself to Him," &c.
4. A vicarious passion. "Who bare our sins."
Are not these to be also the features of our following?—a life without blame, a tongue without guile, a surrender of will and a spirit of unselfishness?