"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance." Psa. 42:5.
The inspired Psalmist and sweet singer of Israel, like all the children of God, was subject to seasons of great depression of spirit. There were times with him, as with us, when he could attune his harp to strains of joy and gladness - when he could sing, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." His mountain stood so firmly at times that he felt assured that he should never be moved. But when the presence of his God was withheld he was in trouble. Then in the plaintive notes of this Psalm he was reduced to great distress, and many tears. Though elevated to the regal honors of a throne, with thousands of waiting attendants to execute his orders, with wealth at his command, he could not be happy without the manifest presence of the Lord. His case was like the panting hart in the desert, panting for the water brooks - and famishing with thirst; so did his soul pant after God. Observe the striking figure. The panting hart has but one object in view; he must drink or die. Nothing but water will meet the necessity of his case. And it is even thus with the Christian. He says, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire beside thee." How intense must be the desire of the child of God, when constrained to cry out, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God. My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" As though to aggravate the woe of the disconsolate saints, the enemy seems ever ready to tauntingly sneer at them. And how keenly is the tempter's malice felt when he suggests to the troubled soul that his confidence in God is misplaced; that God will not deliver, that he will not listen to their prayer - is unmoved by their supplications - that his mercy is clean gone for ever more, and he will no more be gracious. A saint in this condition cannot refrain from praying, though he may not be able to express in words the groanings of his spirit; yet the language of his heart is, When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy days. The remembrance of former joys, of social seasons of worship at the house of God, the privileges of the sanctuary, cause the tears to flow the more freely.
"We wept when we remembered Zion."
"Where my best friends, my kindred dwell,
Where God, my Savior reigns."
But Satan avaunt! My faith revives; a ray of light breaks in; my fainting heart lays hold of hope, and listens to the words of faith. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Perhaps the soul responds, How can I be cheerful under such trying circumstances. My Savior's face is hidden from my view. I am thirsting, panting, fainting to behold the light of his countenance. I am sorely tempted and fear that I shall enjoy his presence no more; I have sought him, but I could not find him. I called him, but he gave me no answer. Oh that I knew where I might find him; but I am driven almost to despair. I have poured out my soul in me, in vain supplication and prayer; my tears have been my food. My days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. "My heart is smitten and withered as grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness; and like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop. Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me: for I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping; because of thine indignation and thy wrath; for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down." In whom can I now trust; who shall now bear up my hope? "Hope thou in God," says faith, for I shall yet praise him. Notwithstanding all my fears, my doubts, my unbelief, and bitter lamentations I shall yet praise him; but not as the result of any effort of my own, or any help which can come from any other source but God. Hope thou in God, not in man; not in thy self, nor in thy cries, or tears, or prayers, but in God, for he is the Hope of Israel, and the Savior thereof in the time of trouble. He hears thy mourning voice, he knows the sorrows of thy troubled soul, and he has pledged his word that he will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
"If through the deep waters he calls thee to go,
The rivers of wo shall not thee overflow;
For he will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
His grace all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not bum thee, his only design--
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
I shall yet praise him. Well, that is a most blessed assurance; for I had feared that I should no more enjoy that blessed privilege. Surely I can ask no more. I shall yet praise him, not only for his electing love, his boundless goodness, and his saving grace, for the unspeakable gift of his dear Son; for my redemption from sin, death, and hell; for a Savior's righteousness; for my complete justification in his sight; my calling, my new birth - my translation from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son; but I shall also praise him for the help of his countenance. O what an efficient help to me is his blessed countenance.
"In darkest shades, if he appear,
My dawning is begun;
He is my soul's sweet Morning Star,
And he's my rising Sun."
When his countenance is hidden from my view I sink down in sadness, sorrow, and grief, and there is nothing else can cheer me. But whatever trial, or tribulation I may be involved in, if his beaming countenance be revealed to me, I can rush through a troop, or leap over a wall; yea, though I walk through the valley and shadow of death, if he be with me, and I can see his countenance. I will fear no evil, for his rod and his staff, they comfort me. His countenance is as the sun shineth in his strength. And his brightness is as the light. And God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in the hearts of his children to give the light of the glory of God in the face, or countenance of our Lord Jesus Christ. What floods of living light and joy and comfort flow from his as the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings. In his presence, or in the light of his countenance, is fulness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures forevermore. Then let me praise him for the help of his countenance, by which I am delivered from the power of darkness, and ushered into his marvelous light.
"I shall yet praise him." O what a change, from the deeps of affliction, from distress, temptation, sorrow, grief, and pain, raised up by the help of his countenance, to mingle my joyful notes of praise, with glorified spirits round his throne.
"He will arise and plead my cause,
Nor will my Lord delay,
Beyond th' appointed hour of grace.
That long expected day."
I shall yet praise him, with the congregation of his saints within the walls of his sanctuary here; but when my voice shall falter in death, and my spirit wing its way up to the paradise of God, I shall see him as he is, and behold his countenance without a veil between--in more heavenly strains shall I praise him, forever.
"There we shall see his face,
And never, never sin;
There from the rivers of his grace,
Drink endless pleasures in."
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N.Y:, November 1, 1861.