Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye!
How lovable the God who speaks thus! He allures us irresistibly. He commands our hearts. And the quality of the consolation He enjoins is so rich. Comfort, in the Bible, means strengthening. The word has deteriorated of late. It now too often signifies soothing, lulling to rest. But when God says 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,' He calls His prophets to strengthen them, to arouse them, to nerve them. It is a great and enduring empowerment which God desires for the people of His choice.
I. Comfort is commanded of God. Sweet is this 'saith your God '. There is a God-given charter of consolation. Is not this very characteristic of God? In this as in all things God is very consistent.
Every congregation, whatever else it wants, wants comfort God enjoins it because God knows the deep and enduring need of it. 'I was greatly comforted at Church,' says John Wesley in his Journals.
II. God's people have special need of comfort.
III. Verbal comfort is to be administered. 'Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.'
IV. Trouble survived is a comforting consideration.
V. The forgiveness of sins is a source of powerful comfort.
VI. The exaction of retribution is a ground of comfort.
VII. Relationship with God is the most solid comfort.
—Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 193.
References.—XL. 1.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 85. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 145. T. Allen, ibid. vol. lxx. 1901, p. 72. C. Stanford, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 197. W. J. Knox-Little, The Light of Life, p. 159. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 221. B. J. Snell, The All-Enfolding Love, p. 81. XL. 1, 2.—J. E. Vernon, Plain Preaching to Poor People (8th Series), p. 75. J. K. Popham, Sermons, p. 232. XL. 1-10.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 244. XL. 2.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 167.
The Message of Palm Sunday
That humble pageant from which Palm Sunday derives its name—that procession, so poor yet so royal, so fatal yet so victorious, whereby the Prophet of Nazareth claimed the allegiance of His people and challenged the power of their rulers—finds a picturesque memorial in the rites of the Eastern Church. The morning service is heralded by a procession from the western door of the church to the altar. First marches one who bears a burning torch; next a deacon, holding aloft a copy of the Gospels; then the priests and the bishop, with sacred images; and last, so long as the Eastern Empire endured, followed the Emperor in his most royal robes. All alike bear palm branches in their hands and chant the ancient hymn: 'Come forth ye nations, come forth also ye people; look upon the kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel comes as a figure of the Christ' Those venerable words have a message for us Today; for they recall an aspect of Palm Sunday which is too little remembered. Year by year, when the day comes round, we give it a personal colour. Each one remembers a day, perhaps long ago, when the Saviour first made entry into his own heart; when first he consciously welcomed the King of Love. We do well so to remember, so to give thanks, and to renew the fervour of our loyalty. But personal faith is not the whole of religion. A Christian is concerned not only with his own soul, but with all humanity. He is pledged by the words of his daily prayer to extend the kingdom of God. He is bound on such a day to commemorate those eras of grace, landmarks in the history of mankind, when Christ has made entry into new realms, or brought new generations into His kingdom. He is encouraged to watch, as he prays, for the signs of a new visitation. He is impelled, as he looks upon some spiritual wilderness, to prepare the way of the Lord.
I. Preparing the Way.—Prepare the way! Does that mean lay out the Christian system before men's eyes? Surely not. For the Gospel is neither a code of laws to be obeyed nor a set of principles to be learned: it is, first of all, the presentation of a Person and a Life, both human and Divine, which wins love and commands adoration. For that reason it can never grow obsolete so long as there are living men; for that reason, too, it needs ever fresh interpretation in speech and action—for only life can be the herald of life. As St. Paul says, 'How shall men call on Him Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?' True! And the preacher must speak their language; he must understand the modes of their thought. Then he can go before as a herald; he can gain their ear by his sympathy, he can draw such a picture of his Lord as will appeal to them; and so they will open their gates to the peaceful Conqueror, so they will strew their palm branches and cry Hosanna in the highest!
II. A Divine Discontent.—The Church of Christ is irrevocably committed to a Divine discontent with the social order so long as it involves grave evils. But many of us have been infected with that facile optimism, born of material progress, which taught the middle nineteenth century to regard social evils as mere regrettable incidents in a victorious campaign. To the sufferers at least we have seemed to be apologists for intolerable wrongs. We must purge ourselves of this, one and all. We must reiterate the Church's ancient war-cry—Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Secondly, we must show that our discontent is practical. We must demonstrate that the brotherhood of man, in the eyes of Christians, is no abstract belief, but a living truth which is to be realized in the concrete. We must prove our conviction that the kingdom of God includes the organization of social life. If the Socialist programme, fallacious as it is, inspired by a pathetic ignorance of history and of human nature, appeals to men's hearts because it provides a simple cure for monstrous evils, how much greater and more permanent would be the power of a Christian ideal, towards which all were consciously working? Oh that we had such an ideal clearly before us Today! How it would shine in our eyes, how it would sound in the very tones of our voices, how it would lend grace to our daily deeds! There would be little need of argument or exposition; the Christian's life would prepare the way of his Lord into men's hearts, for they would recognize that in our age, as in the age of St. Francis and of Luther, He comes to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
—Canon Glazebrook, The Guardian, 24 March, 1910.
References.—XL. 3.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 25. J. Service, Sermons, p. 1. W. J. Rutherford, The Key of Knowledge, p. 63. H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, 1860-89, p. 117. XL. 3, 4.—W. L. Williams, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1904, p. 74.
The Way to Heaven
There is a great work, a most difficult journey set before us all. We are at one end, and heaven at the other. Now Isaiah tells us that there are five things which we have to do in this matter: and they are set down in the order in which we have to do them. I. 'Every valley shall be exalted.' What does that mean? When a man begins in earnest to serve God, he finds so many difficulties, such different kinds of hindrances, so many defeats, that he is tempted to give all up as impossible. What does that man want, then, in the first place? Certainly comfort And therefore the same Isaiah, beginning his prophecies of the great things that God was about to do for His Church, opens them thus: 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.' Therefore it was that our Lord, coming to His Disciples after His Resurrection, began by saying, 'Peace' (and peace is the same thing as comfort) 'be unto you!' Half this discouragement arises from our own idleness.
And this—'every valley shall be exalted'—is set first, not only because it must really come first, but because also it is the most difficult. 'Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak,' can be said in six words, but what a world of difficulty there is in them! And so it is in earthly matters: the filling up the valley is generally speaking a more difficult work than the cutting down of hills.
II. 'And every mountain and hill shall be made low.' For when Satan sees that a man cannot be discouraged from serving God, then he turns round and persuades him that he is serving God very well indeed; that he may well be proud to think how often he has resisted temptation, how often he has overcome difficulties, how often he has done great things for the sake of Christ. And so, except for God's grace, that man is puffed up in his own conceit, thinks that he need no longer take any care to himself, and so falls back again into some grievous sin, and it may be that his last state is worse than the first.
III. 'The crooked shall be made straight' That is, when a man is really serving God, he will go straight on in his duty, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, not caring what this or that person may think, or what the world may say; but what God will say, how God will approve, how at last God will reward.
IV. 'And the rough places plain.' That part of the promise can hardly be altogether fulfilled in this world. Rough places there always are and must be: sorrow and trouble we shall have up to the very end. But the text tells us that it will not always be so. As surely as we have them here, so surely they can none of them enter in there.
V. 'And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.' So it shall indeed be to those that are counted worthy to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. But what that glory is—or how it shall be made manifest—who shall tell? St. John could not: 'Beloved,' says he, 'now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.'
—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, p. 57.
References.—XL. 4.—T. C. Fry, Christian World Pulpit. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 381; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 21. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 385; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 37. C. W. Stubbs, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 8; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 59; see also ibid. p. 78.
I would like to see the Church, all the Churches of Christ, holding their tongues until they had been shut up with the Lord, asking Him, 'What shall we cry?' What did the voice say? It said, 'Cry!' But that would be startling. Certainly. That would be fatal to slumber. No doubt; I never knew the Lord approve much sleeping; He does assign a few hours to rest, but it is a cluster of hours in which perhaps little else could be done. He is covetous of the daylight, He is miserly of the opportunity; He says: 'Buy it up, buy it, seize it, have it, work while it is called day, even if it be so called by a stretch of imagination; make the light go as long and as far as you can'.
I. I wonder if Christ would have said, 'I would take a draught of water from you, but I don't like the vessel; I can only drink out of gold, or silver certainly, not out of that rude thing of yours; I will go back to the city and bring up a proper vessel; I would not mind refreshing My thirst and cooling this hot summer that burns Me'. Did He talk so? What did He want? He wanted the water, not the vessel. When the Church wants the water, the substance, the gift of God, the Lord will not disregard the supplication of His people. 'What shall I cry?' The Lord says, Do not ask that question first; I have told you to cry; now you can ask the question, second, What shall I cry? But we must have the cry, the shout, the prayer that is so terribly alive that it will take the kingdom of heaven by violence. We must have these fever cries, these hot pulses, these shoutings without prompting. We may not have lost the message, and yet we may have lost the right way of delivering it. It would be possible so to read or speak even a great or true doctrine that not a soul would believe a word you said. The first business is in the cry—poignant, piercing, thrilling cry.
II. This inquiry for authority is well known by those who read the Scripture. There was a time when the Lord said unto a shepherd man, 'Go to Egypt'. Why? 'I have heard the cry of My people, the cry of pain, the cry of outraged humanity, the cry of instinctive justice: come, I will send thee, go thou to Egypt.' And Moses said what the Prophet said, 'Who sends me? What shall I say or cry if the people ask for my authority, if they ask my name? Shall I say that I am sent anonymously, or shall I be qualified, quiet, and empowered in every sense and degree by the possession of a name?' And the Lord said, 'Certainly, certainly I will be with thee; if they ask the name, say I AM THAT I AM'—a nameless name, an ocean pool, an Atlantic dewdrop. 'If they say again, "Who sent thee?" say I AM sent thee'—the verb, the one verb, the only verb, the seed verb, irregularly conjugated, but coming out in all its moods and tenses with terrible and expressive emphasis. Still, the point is Moses had his authority.
III. Now what was this man told to cry? It was a curious message, and yet it contained everything. He was to proclaim evanescence and eternity, he was to proclaim a universal message and give a particular application. 'The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth'—that is the evanescence. The clock strikes, eternity never strikes; time must chatter, eternity must be silent. He was then told to complete his message respecting evanescence by delivering a message respecting permanence—'but the word of our God shall stand for ever'. The withering grass—the standing word; these two things abide Today; they represent time, space; the measurable, the immeasurable; the fading and the amaranthine. If all flesh is grass, we had better fall to praying, because the praying time is very limited, the grass does not take a long time to wither. 'The grass withereth'—if it be so let us be up and doing, with a heart for everything, because the time is short, the opportunity lingers but for a moment, and every wise man says, 'I am a stranger, I am a pilgrim, I can tarry but a night; wake me before the sun is waked'.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi p. 62.
Ruskin says: 'We find the grass and flowers are types, in their passing, of the passing of human life, and, in their excellence, of the excellence of human life; and this in twofold way; first, by their Beneficence, and then, by their Endurance; the grass of the earth, in giving the seed of corn, and in its beauty under tread of foot and stroke of scythe; and the grass of the waters, in giving its freshness to our rest, and in its bending before the wave.'
References.—XL. 6.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 381. XL. 6-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 999. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 197. XL. 7.—G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 64. XL. 8.—W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 1. H. P. Liddon, Christmastide in St. Paul's, p. 224; see also Penny Pulpit, vol. xii. No. 706, p. 317. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 201. XL. 9.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 251. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 182. XL. 10.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp. 175, 186. XL. 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 540; vol. xi. No. 652; vol. xiv. No. 794; vol. xxiii. No. 1381. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 340. F. B. Cowl, Straight Tracks, p. 94. XL. 12.—G. Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 274. XL. 14.—E. A. French, God's Message Through Modern Doubt, p. 103.
There are so many things in life upon which we have to write the legend, Not sufficient
I. We write this upon Time; we have told off its centuries and have said at the close, Not room enough, not breathing space enough, not sufficient. We have received satisfactions and have been pleased with them for the moment and have said, Now we have entered into rest, and lo! our satisfactions have perished in the using, satisfaction has become satiety, nausea, and utterest disappointment. Who will show us the sufficient? who will lead us to the land of Enough? We have written this same legend upon the parcel or estate which we call by the great and promising name of Life, and we have lived long enough to know that life is only a variety of death, if there be not something beyond it, something explanatory, comforting, and crowning.
II. 'Lebanon is not sufficient to burn' if we are trying to make up to God for our wrongdoing and most unfilial and horrible wickedness alike of sin and of ingratitude and of everything that belongs to ingratitude and sin. Let us cut down the forest on the hill and burn it, and of what avail will be the white ashes? can they touch the mystery of sin? is there any equivalent in matter to the great claim of wounded law, righteousness, and truth? When we talk of Lebanon and sin we talk of terms that have no relation to one another; they belong to different spheres, we are speaking about two different worlds and categories of things. Sin has no material equivalent; it is not an account that has a debtor and creditor side, and that we can settle by giving so much in return; the sinner cannot touch his own sin, it is within him, he has hurt the universe, he has pained God. What will Lebanon do for him? he is no longer master of the situation, he has parted with his strength, with his individuality, with every faculty and power he had that lay in any moral and spiritual direction, and he is left with nothing but the crushing sense of his own responsibility. Truly, in the most spiritual sense, what he has done cannot be undone.
No forest can make up for a broken heart. If you have wounded some spirit, if you owned the bank of your nation you could not pay in gold for that wound. You could mock the wound, you could say, I have come to pay you, there is your gold, now be quiet. Gold can never touch such misery; the trees of the forest, the beasts of the mountains, the cattle on all the hills, do not touch the sore that is in the grieved, the bruised, and the broken heart.
III. 'Lebanon is not sufficient to burn.' This is true not only in reference to sin but in reference to gratitude. We never can pay for spiritual service; between the gold and the service there is no relation. What shall I render? is a bigger question than it seems. You never can repay a spiritual favour. You can repay gold with gold, you can take a receipt, but not for spiritual ministry.
Herein we come upon the innermost truths of the Gospel. We cannot repay Christ, we cannot give God an equivalent of our sin, we cannot give God an equivalent for His mercies; we can ask, What shall we render? what can we do? then we are upon the right ground and we have started the right line of inquiry. But you can only repay love with love; along that line lies a great possibility. God seeks not mine, but me, the man; He cannot be paid with what I have in my hand, but He is willing to accept as part payment as it were—yet He would discourage the use of that word in its mercantile sense—the love in my heart, the temple I would build Him if I could: ana who knows but that many a poor man may be credited with having built the Lord many a temple? Renounce Lebanon if you want to pay God even in the matter of sin or even in the matter of gratitude; rend your hearts, not your garments; bring your hearts, but not your Lebanons.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 99.
Reference.—XL. 21 and 28.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 263.
Upward and Onward
I. The upward look corrects the ever-present tendency to which all of us are more or less prone, to absorption in the things of this life. Only the light of the eternal falling upon the things of time can keep us in constant remembrance of their uncertain value and continuance. To become absorbed by them, being possessed where we should possess and being ruled where we should ourselves rule, is but a misusing of life and a misspending of strength for that which profits not. The upward look assures us that life is ordered both in general scope and in intimate detail by Him Whose love is not merely universal but individual in its concern for men. Whose care is not only for the vine but for 'every branch that beareth fruit'. Life's facts are seen to be His purposes, and this alone explains and interprets those untoward experiences from which all men naturally shrink, and produces a calm trust and gladness amid all that tends to disconcert and dishearten.
II. The upward look ennobles our conception of duty—that stern necessity of which such a large part of life is made up. In its light alone we recognize that all work is worship, and that there is a glory in doing earthly things with heavenly aims which nothing equals. Duty no longer is regarded as irksome compulsion by the one who lives with uplifted eye—it is rather his opportunity for voicing the devotion of his heart.
III. The upward look enlarges our conception of service. For our Lord Himself bids us lift up our eyes and look upon fields that are already 'white unto the harvest'. The uplifted eye sees the world's need as a dark background to the Saviour's brightness, and with expanding consciousness of the gloom of sin comes a quickened impulse to service and sacrifice. The upward look has been in all ages the inspiration to onward effort, and those whose lives are to us as stimulating examples and supplementary inspirations laboured and died to save men just because they had first seen the Lord 'high and lifted up'. This is the secret of the lives of Carey and Martyn, of Chalmers and Keith-Falconer, of Mackay and Hudson Taylor, of Moody and Shaftesbury. They were one and all men whose eyes were lifted up on high, far beyond considerations of self-advantage and gain, so that they saw something of the need which compelled their Lord to the Cross.
IV. The upward look brings also into life a power for the bearing of the strain which Christian service inevitably imposes. The pathway of the disciple is the same as that trodden by the Master, Whose service meant suffering and anguish as well as the bitterness of ingratitude and hostility. And few, if any, of those who seek to follow in His steps escape similar experience. But he whose heart's attention is directed on high 'where Christ sitteth' learns to endure 'as seeing Him who is invisible'. To his gaze there does not only appear an open heaven, but he sees the angels of God also 'ascending and descending upon the Son of Man'—present help in his need.
—J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-eminent Lord, p. 19.
References.—XL. 26.—R. Harley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 197. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 61. XL. 26, 29.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 268. XL. 27, 29.—E. L. Hull, Sermons, p. 83. XL. 27, 31.—A. B. Davidson, Waiting Upon God, p. 3. XL. 28.—C. Silvester Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 155. XL. 29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2812.
The Secret of Immortal Youth
I. Look at the first fact here, that of the dreary certainty of weariness and decay.
1. Of course the words of my text point to the plain fact that all created and physical life, by the very law of its being, in the act of living tends to death; and by the very operation of its strength tends to exhaustion. There are three stages in every creature's life—that of growth, that of equilibrium, that of decay.
2. And the text points also to another fact, that, long before your natural life shall have begun t;o tend towards decay, hard work and occasional sorrows and responsibilities and burdens of all sorts will very often make you wearied and ready to faint.
3. My text points to another fact, as certain us gravitation, that the faintness and weariness and decay of the bodily strength will be accompanied with a parallel change in your feelings. We are drawn onward by hopes, and when we get them fulfilled we find that they are disappointing.
II. Now turn to the blessed opposite possibility of inexhaustible and immortal strength. 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.'
The life of nature tends inevitably downward, but there may be another life within the life of nature which shall have the opposite motion, and tend as certainly upwards.
The condition of the inflow of this unwearied and immortal life into our poor, fainting, dying humanity is simply the trust in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of our souls.
Here is the promise. God will give Himself to you, and in the very heart of your decaying nature will plant the seed of an immortal being which shall, like His own, shake off fatigue from the limbs, and never tend to dissolution or an end. The life of nature dies by living; the life of grace, which may belong to us all, lives by living, and lives evermore thereby.
III. The manner in which this immortal strength is exercised. 'They shall lift up their wings as the eagle,' implying, of course, the steady, upward flight towards the light of heaven.
1. There is strength to soar. Strength to soar means the gracious power of bringing all heaven into our grasp, and setting our affections on things above.
2. Again, you may have strength to run—that is to say, there is power waiting for you for all the great crises of your lives which call for special, though it may be brief, exertion.
3. Strength to walk may be yours—that is to say, patient power for persistent pursuit of weary, monotonous duty. Only one thing will conquer the disgust at the wearisome round of mill-horse tasks which, sooner or later, seizes all godless men, and that is to bring the great principles of the Gospel into them, and to do them in the might and for the sake of the dear Lord.
—A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 12.
References.—XL. 30, 31.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 276. J. H. Blunt, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 288. H. Varley, Spiritual Light and Life, p. 81. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 84.
Walking Without Fainting
God as the Source and Giver of strength is the Prophet's theme in the text. 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.' Man by himself is weak and helpless and impotent, but succoured by God he is equal to any task. 'With five shillings,' said Teresa the mystic, when her friends laughed at her proposal to build an orphanage—'with five shillings Teresa can do nothing; but with five shillings and God there is nothing Teresa cannot do.' And in that bold and daring claim the saint had Scripture for her warrant. 'Ye shall remove mountains,' said our Lord, 'and nothing shall be impossible to you.' And the Apostle Paul, as if writing a confirmatory comment on that promise of the Master, says, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me'.
To the supreme feat of enabling men to walk without fainting the grace of God is equal. 'They that wait upon the Lord... shall walk, and not faint.' Life's disillusionments and disappointments cannot make them swerve from their purpose. When life has lost its zest, its glamour, its radiance, and has become dull and hard and grey, they still remain steadfast and unmovable—faithful unto death. God's grace is sufficient even in face of the stern, bitter facts of experience. Some of the ardour and enthusiasm and eagerness may disappear, perhaps, but still it enables men to walk, and not faint.
I. Let me give two or three illustrations of this truth. I will take first the history of the Christian Church. If you will look up the book of the Acts of the Apostles when you go home, and read what is there said, I think you will find that there was about the primitive Church a spontaneity and enthusiasm, a buoyancy that are wanting in the Church Today.
But the belief and the hope were both doomed to disappointment Men did not receive the Gospel as they expected they would. Instead of having their message welcomed, Christians found themselves brought to the stake and the block and the arena. Instead of coming back within the lifetime of the early Christians, nineteen centuries have passed, and still the Lord delays His coming. The dreams and hopes of the early Christian Church have been disappointed.
With the loss of the early belief in the speedy and easy triumph of the Gospel the Church has lost her lightheartedness and gaiety. She no longer soars and runs.
And yet she 'walks without fainting' and without any wavering, but with dogged resolution has set herself to the task of bringing the whole world into subjection to the rule of Jesus. And beautiful though the soaring enthusiasm of the early Church was, I will venture to say that the fact that the Church of Today—awake to the difficulties and dangers of her high enterprise—still walks without fainting towards her goal is a still more wondrous illustration of the sustaining and strengthening power of the grace of God.
II. What is illustrated in the history of the Christian Church on the large scale is illustrated within smaller compass in the experience of every Christian minister and Christian worker.
III. The truth is still further illustrated by the contrast between youth and age—Christian youth, I mean, and Christian age.
There is one thing more beautiful than an enthusiastic young Christian, and that is a faithful old Christian. It is a glad sight to see the young pilgrim entering with enthusiasm upon his course, stripping with eager hopefulness for the race. But it is a still more beautiful sight to see an old man, who has borne the burden and heat of the day, still pressing toward the mark, marching boldly and bravely, even though his step be slow—'walking without fainting'. Paul the aged is a finer and more beautiful sight than young Timothy.
—J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 140.
This was a favourite text with Père Gratry, but he preferred the Latin rendering: mutabunt fortitudinem—they shall change their strength or courage. He liked to think that the courage of the soldier on the battlefield is changed into a higher form by those who accept the vocation to the ministry and become the prophets of peace to men.
References.—XL. 31.—A. Murray, Waiting on God, p. 101; see also Eagle Wings, p. 58. T. Vincent Tymms, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 276. R. J. Campbell, ibid. vol. lvii. 1900, p. 129. E. A. Draper, The Gift of Strength, p. 12. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 257 J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 126. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 876; vol. xxix. No. 1756. XLI. 1.—J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 81. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1215. XLI. 6.—W. H. Stephenson, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 191. XLI. 7.—C. Leach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 290. XLI. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1962. XLI. 8-20.—Ibid. vol. xliv. No. 2583.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?
With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.