Sweet Evening Hymn! I shall not sit up to watch through fear, but I will _lie down_; and then I will not lie awake listening to every rustling sound, but I will lie down _in peace and sleep_, for I have nought to fear. He that hath the wings of God above him needs no other curtain. Better than bolts or bars is the protection of the Lord. Armed men kept the bed of Solomon, but we do not believe that he slept more soundly than his father, whose bed was the hard ground, and who was haunted by blood-thirsty foes. Note the word “_only_,” which means that God alone was his keeper, and that though alone, without man’s help, he was even then in good keeping, for he was “alone with God.” A quiet conscience is a good bedfellow. How many of our sleepless hours might be traced to our untrusting and disordered minds. They slumber sweetly whom faith rocks to sleep. No pillow so soft as a promise; no coverlet so warm as an assured interest in Christ.
O Lord, give us this calm repose on thee, that like David we may lie down in peace, and sleep each night while we live; and joyfully may we lie down in the appointed season, to sleep in death, to rest in God!
Dr. Hawker’s reflection upon this Psalm is worthy to be prayed over and fed upon with sacred delight. We cannot help transcribing it.
“Reader! let us never lose sight of the Lord Jesus while reading this psalm. He is the Lord our righteousness; and therefore, in all our approaches to the mercy seat, let us go there in a language corresponding to this which calls Jesus the Lord our righteousness. While men of the world, from the world are seeking their chief good, let us desire his favour which infinitely transcends corn and wine, and all the good things which perish in the using. Yes, Lord, _thy favour is better than life itself_. Thou causest them that love thee to inherit substance, and fillest all their treasure.
Oh! thou gracious God and Father, hast thou in such a wonderful manner set apart one in our nature for thyself? Hast thou indeed chosen one out of the people? Hast thou beheld him in the purity of his nature,–as one in every point godly? Hast thou given him as the covenant of the people? And hast thou declared thyself well pleased in him? Oh! then, well may my soul be well pleased in him also. Now do I know that my God and Father will hear me when I call upon him in Jesus’ name, and when I look up to him for acceptance for Jesus’ sake? Yes, my heart is fixed, O Lord, my heart is fixed; Jesus is my hope and righteousness, the Lord will hear me when I call. And henceforth will I both lay me down in peace and sleep securely in Jesus, accepted in the Beloved; for _this is the rest wherewith the Lord causeth the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing_.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Verse 8.–It is said of the husbandman, that having cast his seed into the ground, he sleeps and riseth day and night, and the seed springs and grows he knoweth not how. #Mr 4:26,27|. So a good man having by faith and prayer cast his care upon God, he resteth night and day, and is very easy, leaving it to his God to perform all things for him according to his holy will.–^Matthew Henry.
Verse 8.–When you have walked with God from morning until night, it remaineth that you _conclude_ the day well, when you would give yourself to rest at night. Wherefore, first look back and take a strict view of your whole carriage that _day past_. Reform what you find amiss; and rejoice, or be grieved, as you find you have done well or ill, as you have advanced or declined in grace that day. Secondly, since you cannot sleep in safety if God, who is your keeper (#Ps 111:4,5|), do not _wake and watch for you_ (#Ps 127:1|); and though you have _God_ to watch when you sleep, you cannot be safe, if he that watcheth be your _enemy_. Wherefore it is very convenient that at night you renew and confirm your peace with God by faith and prayer, commending and committing yourself to God’s tuition by prayer (#Ps 3:4,5; Ps 92:2|), with thanks-giving before you go to bed. Then shall you lie _down in safety_. #Ps 4:8|. All this being done, yet while you are _putting off_ your apparel, when you are _lying down_, and when you are _in bed_, before you sleep, it is good that _you commune with your own heart_. #Ps 4:4|. If possibly you can fall asleep with _some heavenly meditation_, then will your sleep be _more sweet_ (#Pr 3:21,24,25|); and _more secure_ (#Pr 6:21,22|); your _dreams_ fewer, or more _comfortable_; your head will be fuller of good thoughts (#Pr 6:22|), and your heart will be in a _better frame_ when you _awake_, whether in the night or in the morning.–^Condensed from Henry Scudder’s Daily Walk, 1633.
Verse 8.–“_I will both_,” etc. We have now to retire for a moment from the strife of tongues and the open hostility of foes, into the stillness and privacy of the chamber of sleep. Here, also, we find the “I will” of trust. “_I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety_.” God is here revealed to us as exercising personal care in the still chamber. And there is something here which should be inexpressibly sweet to the believer, for this shows the minuteness of God’s care, the individuality of his love; how it condescends and stoops, and acts, not only in great, but also in little spheres; not only where glory might be procured from great results, but where nought is to be had save the gratitude and love of a poor feeble creature, whose life has been protected and preserved, in a period of helplessness and sleep. How blessed would it be if we made a larger recognition of God in the still chamber; if we thought of him as being there in all hours of illness, of weariness, and pain; if we believed that his interest and care are as much concentrated upon the feeble believer there as upon his people when in the wider battle field of the strife of tongues. There is something inexpressibly touching in this “laying down” of the Psalmist. In thus lying down he voluntarily gave up guardianship of himself; he resigned himself into the hands of another; he did so completely, for in the absence of all care he slept; there was here a perfect trust. Many a believer lies down, but it is not to sleep. Perhaps he feels safe enough so far as his body is concerned, but cares and anxieties invade the privacy of his chamber; they come to try his faith and trust; they threaten, they frighten, and alas! prove too strong for trust. Many a poor believer might say, “I will lay me down, but not to sleep.” The author met with a touching instance of this, in the case of an aged minister whom he visited in severe illness. This worthy man’s circumstances were narrow, and his family trials were great; he said, “The doctor wants me to sleep, but how can I sleep with care sitting on my pillow?” It is the experience of some of the Lord’s people, that although equal to an emergency or a continued pressure, a reaction sets in afterwards; and when they come to be alone their spirits sink, and they do not realise that strength from God, or feel that confidence in him which they felt while the pressure was exerting its force … There is a trial in stillness; and oftentimes the still chamber makes a larger demand upon loving trust than the battle field. O that we could trust God more and more with personal things! O that he were the God of our chamber, as well as of our temples and houses! O that we could bring him more and more into the minutiae of daily life! If we did thus, we should experience a measure of rest to which we are, perhaps, strangers now; we should have less dread of the sick chamber; we should have that unharassed mind which conduces most to repose, in body and soul; we should be able to say, “I will lie down and sleep, _and leave to-morrow with God_!” Ridley’s brother offered to remain with him during the night preceding his martyrdom, but the bishop declined, saying, that “he meant to go to bed, and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life.”–^Philip Bennett Power’s ‘I Wills’ of the Psalms.
Verse 8.–Due observation of Providence will both beget and secure inward tranquility in your minds amidst the vicissitudes and revolutions of things in this unstable vain world. “_I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for the Lord only maketh me dwell in safety_.” He resolves that sinful fears of events shall not rob him of his inward quiet, nor torture his thoughts with anxious presages: he will commit all his concerns into that faithful fatherly hand that had hitherto wrought all things for him; and he means not to lose the comfort of one night’s rest, nor bring the evil of to-morrow upon the day; but knowing in whose hand he was, wisely enjoys the sweet felicity of a resigned will. Now this tranquility of our minds is as much begotten and preserved by a due consideration of providence as by anything whatsoever.–^John Flavel, 1627-1691.
Verse 8.–Happy is the Christian, who having nightly with this verse, committed himself to his bed as to his grave, shall at last, with the some words, resign himself to his grave as to his bed, from which he expects in due time to arise, and sing a morning hymn with the children of the resurrection.–^George Horne, D.D., 1776.
Verse 8.–“_Sleep_.” “How blessed was that _sleep_ The sinless Saviour knew! In vain the storm-winds blew, Till he awoke to others’ woes, And hushed the billows to repose. How beautiful is _sleep_– The _sleep_ that Christians know! Ye mourners! cease your woe, While soft upon his Saviour’s breast, The righteous sinks to endless rest.”
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Verse 8.–The peace and safety of the good man.–^Joseph Lathrop, D.D., 1805.
Verse 8.–A bedchamber for believers, a vesper song to sing in it, and a guard to keep the door.
Verse 8.–The Christian’s good-night.
Verses 2-8.–The means which a believer should use to win the ungodly to Christ. (1). Expostulation, verse #2|. (2.) Instruction, verse #3|. (3.) Exhortation, verses #4,5|. (4.) Testimony to the blessedness of true religion, as in verses #6,7|. (5.) Exemplification of that testimony by the peace of faith, verse #8|.