Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE APPROACHING DESOLATION. (Vers. 1-3.) The figures of emptying, draining, are employed to denote the utter depopulation and impoverishment of the earth; also that of turning upside down, to denote disorganization and demoralization in every civil and religious institution, while the people will be driven as chaff before the wind by the scattering hand of the invader. All ranks will be alike affected and confused together in the coming calamity. "Distinction of rank is highly necessary for the economy of the world, and was never called in question but by barbarians and enthusiasts." A variety of interests and feelings is represented in the different orders of society. Each contributes an element of wealth or of culture to the commonwealth. The untutored instincts of the mass have a certain wisdom in them; but they need to be checked and guided by the intelligence of far-seeing minds. The instinct for progress only safely operates when it is met by a counter sentiment of conservatism. The minister of religion is a necessity in society, and equally necessary the free spirit of the people to check his usurpations. The theory of society is that of a complicated organism, where all the parts are mutually dependent, and each on the whole. If the servant is necessary to, the master, not less so the master to the servant; the lender to the borrower, and the reverse. One of our chief blessings is regular government and good order. How marvelous is the immense, all-teeming, yet quiet and ordered life of London! The slightest menace of disturbance to it makes us feel, or ought to make us feel, keenly the greatness of the privileges so long preserved to us. "We ought," says Calvin, "not only to acknowledge the judgment of God, but also lay it to the blame of our own sins, whenever he breaks down order and takes away instruction and courts of law; for when these fall, civilization itself fails along with them?" Again, God in his judgment is no respecter of persons. No rank is spared, not even the most sacred. On the contrary, to whom much has been given, of them much will be required. The higher the rank the deeper the fall, and the sorer the punishment where there has been ingratitude and unfaithfulness. It is secret disloyalty to the Eternal and his laws which saps the root of life, and causes in the end the mournful sight of a nation mourning, its vigor ebbing away, its great men hanging their heads like drooping flowers. The thought of many cities and Lands once flourishing, now like a flower withered down to the bare stalk, should remind us of the constancy of moral laws, of the fact that "Jehovah hath spoken the word."
II. THE REASON OF THE JUDGMENT. It closely follows upon the guilt of men. And this guilt has polluted the earth. "Blood profanes the land; The land is polluted with blood" (Numbers 35:33; Psalm 106:38). This may be taken literally or generally. Kingdoms and empires have often been "founded in blood" (cf. Isaiah 26:21). And this was a transgression of Divine commandment - the violation of a Divine statute, the breach of a standing covenant of God with men. The allusion may be to the covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:16). But if the prophecy refers to mankind in general, then we must think of the "Law written on the heart" - the Divine teaching within. "It was with the whole human race that God concluded a covenant in the person of Noah, at a time when the nations had none of them come into existence" (Delitzsch). "Therefore hath a curse devoured the earth." There is an awfulness in the logic of the Almighty; there is nothing arbitrary in his conduct, nor meaningless in his words. No curse "causeless comes." The premises of sin contain the conclusion of punishment; and from the fact of curse the fact of "blood-guilt," or of sin in general, may be certainly inferred. "All Israel have transgressed thy Law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him" (Daniel 9:11). The simple and sublime reasoning of the prophets should ever be laid to heart by us and pressed upon the conscience of others. "The land mourns;" trade is dull, taxation is heavy, wars are rife; there is murmuring and discontent. Why? The prophets are ever ready with a because - because of swearing or other falsehood, because of adultery or other impurity, because of the iniquity of statesmen, priests, or prophets, the pleasant places are dried up (cf. Jeremiah 23:10).
III. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE CAUSE. It is conceived as personal. As in Zechariah 5:3 it is said to "go forth over the face of the whole earth," or to be "poured upon" men (Daniel 9:11), so here it is so said to "devour the earth." The Divine anger burns (Isaiah 30:27), and the God of judgment is as a "consuming fire." And under this terrible doom Nature betrays her silent sympathy with the fortunes of man. The drooping grape and the languishing vine seem to reflect the sadness of the people, and visibly to mourn in response to their sighs. And that popular music which charms away the pain of excessive toil, and expresses the fund of health and mirth which lies at the heart of man and the world, ceases; timbrel and lute are hushed, and the merry shouts of the laborers no longer rise from the vineyards. "Jerusalem was uninhabited as a desert. There was none going in and coming out of her children; and the sanctuary was trodden down, and the sons of foreigners were in her high place, a place of sojourn for Gentiles. Delight was taken out of Jacob, and the flute and the lyre ceased" (1 Macc. 3:45). This passage in the prayer of Judas the Maccabee is thought by Vitringa to allude to the fulfillment of the prediction. It is the doom which follows upon the abuse of the gifts of God. Abuse consists either in excessive indulgence or in oblivion of the Giver. He knows how in chastisement to insert a bitter flavor into the most favorite pleasures. The cup will be dashed from their lips, or a want of relish will be felt for it. A mind clouded by remorse will "darken the ruby of the cup and dim the glitter of the scene." If the time comes when a man is compelled to say of even innocent social pleasures, "I have no pleasure in them," can there be a keener mark of judgment on past excess or abuse? Better the crust and the draught from the spring, with healthy appetite and clean conscience, than the repast of luxury and the brimming wine-cup turned to gall on the lips by the secret chemistry of guilt. The city is chaos and the houses are closed, and in the fields, instead of the vintage shouts, are heard the howls of those who miss the sweet wine (cf. Joel 1:5). It seems that the sun of joy has gone down, and the bright spirit of gladness has fled from the earth. The olive, as the vine, is a speaking symbol of fatness, plenty, wealth, and prosperity. But the land will be like an olive stripped and bared of its fruits - a vineyard when the gleaning is over. Still a few will be left (cf. Isaiah 17:5, 6); for never does God suffer his Church to become extinct, the spiritual life of mankind utterly to fail, or his work to come to a standstill. Dark as every cloud of judgment is, it will yet pass, and crushed hearts will be healed and voices now dumb burst forth anew into song. It is at least glimpses of such a future which sustain the prophet's heart under the "burden of the Lord."
IV. RUMORS OF BETTER THINGS. A cry is heard from the sea, from the Mediterranean; it must be from some of that sacred remnant acknowledging Jehovah, extolling loudly his majesty, Israel's God! "He follows out and increases the consolations which he had briefly sketched; for having formerly (Isaiah 10:19-22) said that out of that vast multitude a few drops would be left, which would nevertheless overflow the whole world, in like manner he now says that the small number of the godly, who shall be left out of an abundant vintage, will nevertheless rejoice and utter a voice so loud that it will be heard in the most distant lands. This was done by the preaching of the gospel; for as to the condition of Judaea, it appeared to be entirely ruined by it - the national government was taken away, and they. were broken clown by foreign and civil wars in such a manner that they could never rise above them. The rest of the world was dumb in singing the praises of God, and deaf to hear his voice; but as the Jews were the firstfruits, they are here placed in the highest rank" (Calvin).
1. God can in a moment recreate and restore his Church, as it were, out of nothing. From death he brings life, out of the solitude can cause songs of praise to resound, and converts the scene of mourning into one of joy.
2. Worshippers are fitly employed in extolling God's perfections, and not their own claims to approbation. His benefits should excite our gratitude, and we testify it by singing his praises.
3. The time is to be looked forward to when all nations will call upon the true God. To call upon the Name of Israel's God means the spread of true religion through the world. The knowledge of him merely as the wrathful and avenging God must strike man with dumbness; the knowledge of him as Redeemer must open the heart and unloose the tongue for praise.
4. True religion and human blessedness are coincident. "Honor for the righteous!" wilt be the burden of the song; "Hope to the pious!" the LXX. render. The Jews are meant in the first place, as the chosen people; then probably the elect of all nations, as typified in them. "When the prophet predicted these things, how incredible might they appear to be! for among the Jews alone was the Lord known and praised (Psalm 76:2). To them destruction is foretold, and next the publication of the words and the celebration of the praises of God; but how shall these things be done, when the people of God had been destroyed? Hence we may infer that there were few who believed these predictions. But now that these events have taken place, it is our duty to behold with admiration so great a miracle of God, because, when the Jews had been not only beaten down, but almost annihilated, still there flashed from them a spark by which the whole world was enlightened, and all who were kindled by it broke forth into a confession of the truth" (Calvin).
V. REVULSION OF FEELING. Before this spiritual restoration can come about, an interval of misery must be passed through. A cry of intense pain escapes the prophet's heart: "Wasting away is for me! wasting away is for me!" He sees and feels, with realizing imagination and sympathy, the barbarous oppression from which his people will suffer. Wave upon wave of calamity seems to roll in from the horizon. To escape from the "terror" is to fall into the "pit," to come up from the "pit" is only to be taken in the snare. The windows of heaven will be opened, and a new deluge will cover the earth, which will tremble as with universal shock. Then Jehovah will "hold visitation upon the host of the highest in the height, and upon the kings of the earth upon the earth." They will be imprisoned and shut up in the prison of the lower world. Then there will be a visitation after many days: whether for the purpose of punishment or pardon, the prophet does not say, and commentators are divided. Amidst the obscurity of the passage, some truth that may be used for edification appears to glimmer. All that takes place on the earthly sphere has reference to a supernatural world. There are in a sense "angels" of nations and of men. The rabbinical saying runs that "God never destroys a nation without having first of all destroyed its prince; i.e. the angel who, by whatever means he first obtained possession of the nation, has exerted an ungodly influence upon it. "Just as, according to the scriptural view, both good and evil angels attach themselves to particular men, and an elevated state of mind may sometimes afford a glimpse of this encircling company and this conflict of spirits; so do the angels contend for the rule over nations and kingdoms, either to guide them in the way of God, or to lead them astray from God; therefore the judgment upon nations will be a judgment upon angels also. The kingdom of spirit has its own history running parallel to the destinies of men" (Delitzsch).
VI. FINAL APOCALYPSE OF DIVINE GLORY. The moon blushes and the sun turns pale, and Jehovah of hosts reigns royally upon Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and the elders or representatives of the people are permitted to gaze upon his glory (cf. Exodus 24:9; Exodus 34:29). The glory of nature fades before the surpassing glory of the spiritual and eternal. Our noblest sense is that of vision, and its exercise involves that of imagination. The bright heavenly bodies delight us in part because they are significant and symbolic of light in the intellectual and moral sphere, of him who set them yonder, and who is the Light of the world. We can think of nothing more glorious than the light of the sun, except the glory of the Sun of Righteousness. That must be seen in the soul, in the conscience. And to come finally to the beatific vision; in purity of heart to see God; to close with the great Object who lies behind all the finite objects of our intellectual research; to enjoy that reposeful contemplation of the eternal beauty, of which every imperfect flash and hint reminds us in this twilight of life; - this is the goal of spiritual aspiration in every time, as it was of the prophet's wishful thought, piercing through the darkness of the future. - J.
therefore, because of the sins charged against the nation (ver. 5), these multiplied sorrows would overtake and overwhelm them; "for the Lord hath spoken this word" (ver. 3).
I. GOD'S CHARGE AGAINST HIS PEOPLE. (Ver. 5.) This is threefold.
1. Disregard of his spoken Word. "They have transgressed the laws." Those plain statements of the will of God which had been revealed in "the Law" had been deliberately disobeyed - requirements unfulfilled, prohibitions set at naught.
2. Perversion of Divine truth. "Changed the ordinance." The Jews were subtle and sinful enough to appear to keep the Law when they were habitually breaking it. This they did by changing or perverting it, by making it mean something different from the Divine intention, by taking the heart out of it, by minimizing and dwarfing it (see Matthew 15:3-9).
3. Violation of his will as revealed in our common human nature. "Broken the everlasting covenant." This covenant is well summarized in Psalm 34:15, 16; it has fallen into grievous and guilty disregard. Men refrained from righteousness and "did evil," yet they shrank not from the accusing eye and the uplifted hand of God (see Romans 2:14, 15). The people of God will do well to ask themselves whether they are not in danger of being obnoxious to the same charge; whether they are not neglecting the will of God as expressly revealed in the words of Christ and his apostles; or are not changing, by radical misconstruction, the purpose of their Lord; or are not setting aside some of the first principles written in their nature by the Father of spirits.
II. THE CALAMITY WHICH ATTENDS DISOBEDIENCE. This is manifold, as indicated in the text.
1. Desolation. Emptiness, waste, dispersion (ver. 1), inaccessibility (ver. 10; see also vers. 3, 6, 12).
2. Degradation. The land "turned upside down," so that what was meant for higher ends is employed for baser ones (ver. 1); "utterly spoiled" (ver. 3); defilement (ver. 5); resort to stimulants for false courage (ver. 11).
3. Enfeeblement. The land "fadeth away," "languisheth" (ver. 4); the strength of the city is gone, for even the gate (the strong place) is "smitten with destruction" (ver. 12).
4. Abject misery. (Vers. 7, 8.) Even that which usually excites with pleasure has lost its charm (ver. 9).
5. Completeness and commonness of the scourge (ver. 2). Such, in various manifestations, according to the nature of the subject and the character of the guilt, is the calamitous issue of disobedience; so heavy is the devouring curse (ver. 6) when Divine laws are disobeyed and the Divine claims denied. The land, the Church, the family, the individual life, is desolate, is degraded, is enfeebled, is rendered joyless. The best companions are dispersed, and life is lonely; the loftier and worthier ends of existence are surrendered for those less worthy, and ultimately for those which are positively base; the strength of righteousness and virtue gives place to the feebleness of folly and to the degeneracy of vice; song dies into silence and then into a wail.
(1) Beware of spiritual and then moral decline.
(2) Seek and find, in repentance and faith, a way up even from the dark depths of ruin. - C.
I. THE BURDENS THAT PRESS ON EACH ONE. The text suggests such as are special to times of calamity and distress, but we may treat our topic in a comprehensive way, so as to get direct practical applications. Each one of us has burdens as directly related to his sins and sinfulness as the woes of Jerusalem were to the national transgressions. The histories of cities and nations do but picture in the large the story of individuals. The cursory reader of the Pilgrims Progress will tell you that the pilgrim lost his burden from his shoulders when he gazed so trustfully upon the cross. But the more careful reader, who notes Christian's infirmities, and frailties, and stumblings, and falls, will tell you that the pilgrim bore his burdens right through to the end, and that they weighed him down even when crossing the stream. We have our burdens in our frail bodies - frail in the nerves, the head, the bones, the lungs, or yet more secret organs. Each one has a real "thorn in the flesh," which has influences far wider and more serious than he thinks. We have our burdens in our dispositions and characters - burdens of despondency, or of impulsiveness, or of carnality, or of masterfulness, or of vanity, giving a bad appearance to all our work and relationship. And the problem of our life is just this: "How true, how beautiful can we become, with that burden, under the pressures and hindrances of that burden?" There is divinely arranged a great variety and wide distribution of burdens and disabilities, both in the sense of infirmities and calamities, so that we might come very near to one another, and really help one another. As we meet and feel "I am a man with a burden," we look into the face of our fellows, and he is a poor face-reader who does not say, "And my brother, too, is evidently a man with a burden." Perhaps a suspicion even crosses our mind that our brother's burden is heavier than our own. Burdens, when rightly borne, never separate men from each other. The sanctified bearing of our own makes us so simple, so gentle, so tender-hearted, that we can bear the burdens of others, in the spirit of our meekness and sympathy, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
II. THE BURDENS THAT WE MAY BEAR WITH OTHERS. There are common burdens in the home life; common burdens in the business life; common burdens in the social life; and common burdens in the national life; and we properly think ill things of the individuals or the classes that isolate themselves, and refuse to share the common burden. But it will be well to ask how practically we can take up the common burden so as to really help our brethren who are in the common trouble? Our great power is our power of sympathy. We can come so near to our brother in his weakness, his disability, even in his sin, that he shall feel as if another shoulder were put under his burden, and it felt to him a little lighter. We all yearn for sympathy; we all want some other human heart to feel in our trouble-times;
"Oh what a joy on earth to find
I. THE FUTURE IS AGAINST THE HAUGHTY NATURALLY. Fortune tells upon precisely those things in which they pride themselves. The picture of trembling, suffering old age, given in the Book of Ecclesiastes, is designed as a warning to the proud. See what you are certainly coming to who admired your fine persons, made so much of your independence, and pampered your appetites and passions. The picture of old age is not that of the ordinary man, but of the haughty, masterful sensualist, the sinner of the high places of society, whose iniquity comes back upon him. It is enough for haughty folk to live; life becomes their humbling and their chastisement.
II. THE FUTURE IS AGAINST THE HAUGHTY PROVIDENTIALLY. For they cannot win love. Everybody serves them in fear or for pay; and so, oftentimes, their very grandeur is undermined by those about them, their riches takes wings and fly away, their dependents take advantage of their times of weakness, and all are glad to see the haughty humbled. Striking illustration may be found in the career of Squire Beckford, of Fonthill. An insufferably austere and haughty man, the providences were against him. His mansion fell with a crash. His projects failed. He was humbled to the dust, and died almost a beggar.
III. THE FUTURE IS AGAINST THE HAUGHTY JUDICIALLY. For God must punish pride. It cannot be allowed to lift up its bead. The Lord hath a controversy with it. Nebuchadnezzar eats grass like an ox. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen" - Babylon, the type of the haughty. Belshazzar sees the recording finger write the judgment of the proud. God will bring into contempt all the proud of the earth. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." Time is on the side of the meek. Time is against the haughty. The judgments of God gather, like black thunder-clouds, against those whose hearts are lifted up. The storm will burst in the ever-nearing future. The haughty man's prosperity may blossom as a garden of delights; but God will breathe his blight upon it, and behold, as in our text, "the haughty people of the earth do languish." Then, with a true fear, let us "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God." - R.T.
I. SIN COMES FIRST. God always begins with Eden. The Eden of bright happy youth in every man's life. There is no suffering where there is no sin. Thorns and briers come when man has acted in willfulness. Suffering has no mission save as the corrective of sin and sin's consequences. Our first parents disobey, and then suffering comes. Man follows the "devices and desires of his own heart," and then the corrective Divine judgments come. And suffering has always this justification, that sin has come first. Illustrate in the case of King Saul.
II. SIN MAY HAVE A LONG TETHER. This often creates confusion in men's minds. They think the sin cannot be evil because the punishment is so long delayed. So the uncleanness of cities goes on for years, and seems to be no serious evil; but presently the plague comes and sweeps its thousands away. Israel presumed on the holding over of its national judgments, but presently overwhelming destruction came. We can often sin on for years with apparent impunity, never with real impunity. Storms are gathering, though they wait their time for bursting.
III. SUFFERING KEEPS SIN COMPANY ON ITS WAY. It is always present; always ready to give signs of its presence; always making monitions. It is held back only in the long-suffering of God's mercy, the "goodness of God thus leading men to repentance."
IV. SUFFERING PLAINLY STAMPS THE EVIL OF SIN IN THE END. AS in the case of the drunkard, the sensualist, the dishonest. You can tell the value of a thing by its wage, and the "wages of sin is death." You can estimate a thing by its issues, and "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." This lesson the history of individuals and of nations, ancient and modern, teaches, but teaches in vain to the sons of men. We say, "Ah, yes! It may be true of sin, but it is not true of our sin." - R.T.
takes the song out of it. This must ever be the distress of mere appetite - it can excite, it can make ever-increasing demands, but it cannot satisfy. To indulge mere appetite and passion is to "spend money for that which is not bread, and... labor for that which satisfieth not." The young do not believe this; the old man knows it, and he says, Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment!" and that judgment comes either in early death, or in bitterness and woe if life, is long spared. Sir W. Raleigh on this ground solemnly warns his son: "Take special care that thou delight not in wine; for there never was any man that came to honor and preferment that loved it; for it transformeth a man into a beast, decayeth health, poisoneth the breath, destroyeth natural heat, brings a man's stomach to an artificial heat, deformeth the face, rotteth the teeth, and, to conclude, maketh a man contemptible, soon old, and despised of all wise and worthy men." And Matthew Henry says, "God has many ways to embitter wine and strong drink to those that love them and have the highest gust of them - distemper of body, anguish of mind; the ruin of the estate or country will make the strong drink bitter, and all the delights of sense tasteless and insipid." The distress of the men of pampered appetites comes in one or the other of the two following forms.
I. ABUNDANCE IS PRESENTED, BUT THE POWER TO ENJOY IS GONE. For appetite and passion wear out, after they have fixed in the soul a dull and dreadful craving that gives a man no rest. Late in life circumstances often give the money, the time, the positions which are essential to self-indulgence, and the man is in the midst of this unspeakable misery - that he is physically unable to enjoy. This is God's bitter punishment of sensuality in this life.
II., APPETITE BECOMES RAVENOUS, AND THERE IS NOTHING TO FEED IT ON. Or it slips away, always just out of reach, as the water to Tantalus. Every act of self-indulgence has a tendency to repeat itself. You cannot stop with once. But as the act is repeated it becomes more intense, it wants more force. The desire grows until it gets beyond a man, and nothing on earth can satisfy. Then Providence places a man in some captivity, like these pampered Jews, where there is the unspeakable misery of immense passion for sensual enjoyment and nothing to enjoy. These are the two features of God's hell upon earth. - R.T.
I. THAT GOD TEMPERS JUDGMENT WITH MERCY. (Ver. 13.) There will be some fruit spared, though the olive tree be terribly shaken, though the grapes have been gathered. All will not be taken from the holy land; a remnant shall be left. Though God strip a man or a nation of his (its) resources, yet will he leave him (it) a remainder, something to console him, something with which he may start anew. A starry night succeeds a stormy day; a calm and quiet age closes a life of struggle and of sorrow;, "the old familiar faces" have disappeared, but a few faithful souls still linger who can go back with us in thought and sympathy to early days.
II. THAT FROM THE LIPS OF THE CHASTENED THERE OFTEN COME SWEET AND EVEN TRIUMPHANT STRAINS. (Ver. 14.) Those who have been visited in Divine wrath, and have seen their compatriots carried away into captivity, shall not give way to despondency; they shall learn to honor and to rejoice in the majesty of Jehovah; they "shall lift up the voice," "shall sing," "shall shout" (exult). Something (it does not appear what) in the Divine character will appear to them so majestic, so glorious, so beneficent, that their sweetest and strongest accents will be called forth. To those who stand outside it often seems wonderful and incomprehensible that those who are inside a great affliction should find such occasion for thanksgiving. But it is certainly true that the sick in their sickness, the poor in their poverty, the bereaved in their loneliness, often find more reason for thankful song than do the strong in their strength and the wealthy in their riches. And the song they sing is not one in which submission struggles with complaint, but rather, as here, the happy outpouring of perfect acquiescence in the Divine will, - the voice of sacred joy.
III. THAT GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED BY THOSE FURTHEST OFF AS BY THOSE NEAR TO HIS SANCTUARY. (Ver. 15.) "Glorify ye the Lord" in the east ("in the fires"); in the west ("the isles of the sea "); "from the uttermost part of the earth," etc. (ver. 16). Under the chastening hand of the Lord Israel went into exile; in exile the truth of God was made known as it otherwise would not have been. In other ways the judgments of God led, and still lead, to the circulation of his truth and to the magnifying of his Name. A cleansed and purified Church will be a missionary Church, through whose instrumentality the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be known and sung on every hand.
IV. THAT THE RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL RELIGIOUS SERVICE. "Glory to the Righteous One" (ver. 16). Ill indeed would it be for the land in which the piety of the people lost its hold on the righteousness of God. In the absence of righteousness from his character, there would be nothing worth calling goodness or mercy on his part and nothing worth calling reverence or devotion on ours. All religion worthy of the name rests on the righteousness of God. The wave of sentiment that would weaken our sense of it is one that washes against our deepest and highest interests, and should be steadfastly opposed. Above and beneath all other things God is the Righteous One, at the remembrance of whose holiness we do well to give thanks (Psalm 30:4), in whose purity and perfection we do well to glory. - C.
witness to make and their work to do.
I. REMNANTS WITNESS OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS. They compel us to ask - Why are they thus but remnants? and so the Divine dealings are recalled to mind. There was punishment because there was sin; there was overwhelming punishment because the cup of iniquity had become full. The nation is destroyed as a nation because the world must be taught, over and over again, that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a rebuke to any people."
II. REMNANTS WITNESS TO GOD'S MERCY IN JUDGMENT. They say God's judgments are never absolutely destructive. God cuts down the tree, but leaves the stock in the ground. God removes the nation, but leaves a few to keep up possession and rights. Self-vindication is only a part of God's meaning in his judgments. Correction is his chief purpose, and his mercifulness calls for repentance.
III. REMNANTS WITNESS TO GOD'S RESTORING MERCY THROUGH JUDGMENT. For they only keep possession till better days, though their possession declares that the better days will come. The "election of grace" has this to say: "All Israel shall be saved." These points may be applied to the few that are kept faithful in times of worldliness and spiritual decay in connection with Christ's Church. - R.T.
I. WHEN THE SUFFERING IS RECOGNIZED AS CHASTISEMENT. Suffering is often spoken of as if it were accident, hereditary taint, or the fault of other people; but God is not glorified until we see and admit that it is fatherly chastisement. The burden of woe resting on humanity is overwhelming, unless we can see that God is in it, and thereby is but chastening his children betimes. The world is God's erring child. It glorifies the Father to see that he will not let him go on in sin. "What son is he whom the lather chasteneth not?"
II. WHEN WE ADMIT THE SIN FOR WHICH THE CHASTISEMENT IS SENT. God always sends chastisements that can have a revealing power, and bear evident relation to particular sins. National sins are shown up by national calamities, bodily sins by bodily sufferings. This point may gain large and various illustration, as in Saul, David, Ahab, Jonah, etc. We glorify God when we let the chastisement show us the sin - act as the revealer to reveal the bad self.
III. WHEN WE DETERMINE TO PUT THE SIN AWAY. For chastisement then is shown to be effective; it reaches its end: God is seen not to have wrought in vain. Correction is "for our profit, that we may be partakers of his righteousness."
IV. WHEN WE COME OUT OF THE CHASTISEMENT PURIFIED, HUMBLED, SUBMISSIVE, AND OBEDIENT. Our Father is glorified when we are made children indeed. Beautifully is it said of the Lord Jesus that, "though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." Glorifying God by the spirit of sonship, which he kept all through the burning of the dreadful refining fires of Calvary. Trust, submission, clinging love, patient waiting, - these still glorify God in the fires. - R.T.
I. THE SUBJECT OF THE SONGS. "Glory to the righteous." How could this otherwise end, than in glory to God? For he is the righteous God, and there is no word by which the Psalms oftener describe him. Thus in praising the righteous we are led onward to praise the righteous God, as the God who inspires righteousness in the hearts of others. Thus we read that "in every nation he that worketh righteousness is accepted of God." No word reaches deeper. We may sing songs to the valiant, and the heroic, and the patriotic, and the brave; but righteousness speaks, not only of courage, but of conscience too.
II. THE DISTANCE FROM WHICH THEY COME. "From the uttermost parts of the earth." Prophecy of the time when all nations shall call Christ blessed, and when his praise shall be heard from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. We have this sound from the distant places, because in the end all true lovers of righteousness will hail Christ, when he is revealed to them, as containing all the fullness of God.
III. THE GLORY OF WHICH THEY BREATHE. There are divers kinds of glory. But God's glory is the glory of the cross! There is an empty glory of self-righteousness, but that is not the glory of the righteous. Far from it. The glory of strength is to help the weak. The glory of wisdom is to enlighten the, ignorant. The glory of righteousness is to shape into order that which is wrong or wrung," from which idea of being twisted and bent from the straight course the word "wrung" comes. Yes. Glory to the righteous! For they are the salt of the earth, the safety of the nation. The Lord our Righteousness is revealed in Christ, whose holy life was not for our admiration only, or for our honor and worship, but was "lived" for us and "laid down" for us, that we might be filled with his strength, and become holy as God is holy. - W.M.S.
I. IT IMPOVERISHES. The prophet, speaking not only for himself, but for his country, exclaims, "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" (ver. 16). The violation of Divine Law not only
(1) reduces a man's bodily strength, causing him to waste away, and bringing the pale cheek and the trembling nerve; but it
(2) outs down a man's resources, changing the princely revenue into a beggar's dole; moreover, it
(3) impoverishes the mind, causing it to starve on empty folly while it might be nourished with heavenly truth; and
(4) it despoils the soul, making it barren of those noble virtues and those exquisite graces which elevate and beautify human character.
II. IT DELUDES. It is full of treachery (ver. 16); its victims delude themselves with the notion that they are escaping, but they only flee from the noise to fall into the pit, or escape from the pit to be entangled in the net (vers. 17, 18). This is "the deceitfulness of sin." Men think they will shake themselves free from their iniquity a little further on, but they find that temptation awaits them at every point, that one sin paves the way for another: indulgence leads down to dishonesty, and dishonesty conducts to falsehood; superstition ends in skepticism, and skepticism in utter unbelief. There is no escape from the consequences of folly but by entering the path of wisdom, from the penalty of sin but by penitence and purity. They who look to time and chance for deliverance are only deluding themselves with a hope which will certainly "make ashamed" those that cherish it.
III. IT AGITATES. "The foundations of the earth do shake... the earth is moved exceedingly... (it) shall reel to and fro"(vers. 18-20). There often comes a time in the history of folly, or of crime, or of transgression, when the subject of it - individual or collective - finds everything unsettled, shaking beneath his (its) feet; it is to him as if the very ground were rocking; friends fall away, kindred disown, confidence is lost, obligations are pressed against him, the last measures are taken, liberty itself is threatened, the blackest clouds overhang; behind is folly and before is ruin, while within are agitation and alarm.
IV. IT OPPRESSES AND EVEN CRUSHES. "The transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again" (ver. 20). Sin lies with a heavy weight upon the soul. The sense of guilt, the Wearing weight of wrong-doing, oppresses the spirit, takes away its elasticity, its freshness, its vigor. Sometimes it does much more than that - it crushes the soul; it makes it incapable of attempting anything better; it gives way to a fatal despondency, and pursues the evil path even to the bitter end. One of the very worst penalties of sin is the dead weight which it lays on the spirit of the sinner, killing his hope and dooming him to despair and death.
V. IT IMPRISONS. The "high ones" were to be "shut up in the prison" (vers. 21, 22). There is no dungeon, however dark and strong, in which the bodies of men have been confined that is so dark and so deplorable as "the pit" or "prison in which sin shuts up its victims. The children of iniquity are slaves; they wear bends which are more firmly riveted than the closest iron fetters on human limbs; they are bondmen indeed; their pitiable thraldom is slavery itself, of which the imprisonment of the body is only the type and picture. In Jesus Christ and in his service is:
2. Truth and disillusion.
3. The calm of conscientiousness and a well-grounded hope.
4. Expectation founded on a wise and holy trustfulness.
5. Spiritual freedom. Whom the Son makes free, they are free indeed;" "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." - C.
I. The BURDEN THAT CRUSHES MEN. It is transgression, which is precisely this - willful sin. "Sin is a burden to the whole creation; it is a heavy burden, a burden under which it groans now and will sink at last. Sin is the ruin of states and kingdoms and families; they fall under the weight of that talent of lead" (Zechariah 5:7, 8). Illustrative cases may be given of the crushing of health, position, success, friendship, family, by the burden of willful sin. Pressed down by it, humanity cries as did St. Paul, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
II. DELIVERANCE FROM THIS BURDEN IS BEYOND MAN'S POWER. All kinds of purely human forces have been tried - self-struggles, strong will, education, philosophy, religious systems, legal enactments, watching of one another, refinements of art, etc.; but none have succeeded yet in doing away with the sin of the individual, and so none have even reached the fringe of the world's misery. Have we any better reason to hope for the success of the modern panacea of scientific knowledge, than our fathers had of the nostrums they tried? Before God intervened, there was "no eye to pity, and no arm to save." For "sin" man has never been able to find "balm in Gilead;" there is no adequate "physician" there.
III. MAN'S HELPLESSNESS SHOULD MAKE HIM CRY MIGHTILY UNTO GOD. "Thou canst save, and thou alone." Yet precisely in this men fail. They will die rather than turn to God for pardon and life. And why? Because they do not "know and believe the love which God hath unto them." False and unworthy notions of the God of love, and Father of Jesus: have long prevailed, and they keep men away from God. So our work is to preach the gospel of the grace of God, which alone can lift the burden of transgression that now presses so heavily, so crushingly, on men's shoulders, that they "fall, and cannot rise again." - R.T.
I. A KINGDOM IS SIMPLY THE REIGN AND RULE OF A WILL. That is the proper meaning of the word "kingdom;" it is the "dom" or rule of a king. There are several ways in which men may be gathered together into ordered communities. The form of the kingdom is the most common. We only in part realize what a kingdom is in our own land and times, because the relation between the will of our sovereign and the people is not direct, but is maintained through a constitution, which involves representative and responsible government. For the scriptural idea of a kingdom we must refer to the kingdoms established in those Eastern climes, where Bible heroes lived and the Bible itself was written. There a kingdom is the rule of one man's will. The judgments, wishes, and commands of one man influence the spirit, conduct, and even choices of a whole people. Properly a kingdom is a number of persons agreeing to accept the will of one of their number as their rule and guide. The kingdom grows out of the family idea; and the family rule is the fatherly will. So the kingdom of God is no merely outward thing; it is the reign of God's will. The subjects of it are precisely those who choose his will, obey him, recognize his kingly rights.
II. IF WE KNOW THE WILL OF GOD, WE KNOW THE SPIRIT OF HIS KINGDOM. We can judge of any kingdom fairly if we can gain a fair knowledge of its king. Of God we know this - his will is that of a Father, a heavenly Father, a Holy Father. God might have put forth his power and forced the obedience of his creatures. He does not. He appeals to our motives and feelings as reasonable moral beings. He wants no kingdom of slaves; he wants the love and allegiance of free men. His is a spiritual kingdom. To accept the will of some men is hard; but God touches our feelings, wakens our confidence, commands our reverence, and so to us his will seems most beautiful, ever right, ever wise, ever gracious. And we know the spirit of his kingdom - it is the obedience which love renders.
III. IF WE CHEERFULLY ACCEPT THE WILL OF GOD, WE REALIZE THE COMING OF HIS KINGDOM. Prophecy indeed makes pictures of the setting up of a king in Jerusalem in the latter days; but prophecy is fulfilled, over and over again, when hearts yield to God; when families, communities, and nations accept his will and reign. God wants to secure the voluntary choice of his will as the rule of life. Wherever that is gained his kingdom is set up. - R.T.