Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE FIGHT WITH THE MONSTER OR MONSTERS. We cannot enter into the subject of this symbolism, in reference to which, in the absence of definite information, so much of fanciful interpretation has gathered. We cannot refer the serpent or the dragon to the storm-cloud, or lightning, as some have done; nor historically to Egypt and Assyria. Something much deeper seems to be meant, as in the legends of the combat of Apollo, the greatest god of the Greeks, with the Python at Delphi. The dragon is symbolic, in ancient thought generally, of the power of death, of the under-world, into which humanity in its sinfulness and weakness is prone to fall. Jehovah will overcome this fiendish power; such seems to be the meaning of the prophecy.
II. RESTORATION OF ISRAEL TO FAVOR. Here the prophecy passes into song. The Church appears under the favorite image of the vineyard. Jehovah is its Keeper, who waters and watches it by night and by day. His feelings are those of pure love, and his wrath is reserved for those who would injure the sacred enclosure. Were such thorns and thistles before him, he would set them on fire. These are figures of the enemies of the Church (see 2 Samuel 23:6, 7). Yet if ever these yield themselves, they may find mercy. "A truly evangelical belief that God is willing to be reconciled, even to his enemies. Its presence has given the prophecy a spiritual superiority over the other prophetic descriptions of the judgment upon the hostile nations, e.g. Isaiah 66:16. Even according to Isaiah 19:22, Egypt must be first smitten in order that it may be healed" (Cheyne). As the proverb says, "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10). So here the meaning is, "Let the unrighteous man take sanctuary with Jehovah, and become by penitence and obedience a servant of his." And the elect nation will take root, and throw its sheltering foliage over the nations - a tree of healing (Revelation 22:2); and the blessings of salvation shall be diffused over the world (cf. Isaiah 37:31; Hosea 14:6). The union of Jew and Gentile seems foreshadowed, and the removal of the distinction between them. Salvation was of them and for the world (John 4:22; Ephesians 2:14).
III. THE MITIGATION OF DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS. The punishment of the people has not been so severe as that of their enemies. There was and ever is "measure" in the afflictions of God; they do not exceed the bounds of justice nor the limits of man's enduring power. "He never smites with both hands;" he sifts, but does not destroy. (For the threshing-floor, cf. Isaiah 21:10.) He was wroth, but not without love; has banished, but not put an end to, his people. And now, as ever, he would "reason together" with them, and proclaim the terms upon which he will mercifully accept their repentance as an atonement for guilt. They must destroy the emblems of idolatry, and put an utter end to it; and thus, purged from its filth, be prepared for salvation. Punishment will cease when sin ceases, but not before. And when the sin is honestly put away, it may ever be said to the sinner, "Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; with them, forgive yourself."
IV. THE FATE OF THE WORLD'S METROPOLIS. For it seems better so to understand the allusion than to Jerusalem. Its fortifications will be razed, its population be dismissed, and the cattle will browse upon the deserted scene. In contrast to the magnificent parks and gardens of the great cities, there will be but stunted bushes, affording firewood to the poor women who come to pick it up (Cheyne). Others, however, understand the prophecy to refer to Jerusalem itself. The reason assigned for the doom is ignorance, as so often in Scripture - guilty ignorance. As the "beginning of wisdom 'is not prudence, policy, science, or philosophy, but the "fear of God," so irreverence and contempt of Divine laws, leading to sensuality and vice, are identical with ignorance and folly. "Such ignorance does not excuse men or lessen the guilt of their wickedness; for they who sin are conscious of their sinfulness, though they are blinded by their lust. Wickedness and ignorance are therefore closely connected, but the connection is of such a nature that ignorance proceeds from the sinful disposition of the mind" (Calvin). Oh "to be wise and to understand" (Deuteronomy 32:29)! How dark and dreadful the ignorance which seems to shut out the favor and compassion of the all-compassionate God!
V. ORACLE OF COMFORT. The hand that smites and brings low is also the hand that raises up; it scatters in judgment, but recalls and gathers together again in mercy. From the great river of Assyria to that of Egypt the children of Israel will be gathered one by one. A great trumpet, signaling the Divine interposition, will be blown (cf. Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 11:12; Matthew 24:31), and the scattered abroad will be seen throning to the holy mount in Jerusalem. Thus again there rises upon us that glorious vision of a united and redeemed Church, gathered out of all nations, for which change and suffering, conflict and sifting, prepare. All Christian prayer, activity, waiting, and watching point toward the coming of the Christ, the Deliverer, to the spiritual Zion, to turn away ungodliness and to found the new and enduring empire of righteousness. - J.
I. HIS TREATMENT OF THE WICKED.
1. The sharpness of his instruments. He punishes with "a sore and great and strong sword" (ver 1) He "whets his glitter-nag sword (Deuteronomy 32:41). Out of the mouth of the Son of God "goeth a sharp sword" (Revelation 19:15). The various miseries, visitations, calamities, which come to us as the sad consequences of sin are God's sword - pain, sickness, separation, bereavement, famine, war, death, etc.; sore and sharp and strong are these.
2. The thoroughness of his judgments. It is not only that the blows he sends are severe, but his judgments are continued and are multiplied till all their punitive or corrective work is done. He will "go through the briars and thorns" which are spoiling his vineyard, and will burn them together (ver. 4). "The defended city shall be desolate," so abandoned of man that the calf shall feed there and lie down and browse upon the branches, and these shall be so withered that the women shall come and "set them on fire" (vers. 10, 11). When headstrong and rebellious men defy the power and despise the Word of God, they find that they are contending with One whose correction is not confined to one or two blows. God pursues such men with his holy and righteous punishment, until the briars are consumed, until the city is desolate, until the haughty heart is humbled to the very dust.
3. The opening which he offers them. "Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me," etc. (ver. 5). The most rebellious may return unto him: Ahab may humble his heart, Manasseh may repent, Saul the persecutor may become his most active servant, taking hold of his Divine magnanimity, which is the strength of the Divine character.
II. HIS TREATMENT OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. The care which he takes of them. He turns the neglected wilderness into a cultivated vineyard (ver. 2); he, the Lord, does keep it night and day; he waters it every moment; he guards it against the despoiling enemy (ver. 3). God distinguishes his people by granting them peculiar privileges; he expends on them his watchful love; he guards them against their spiritual adversaries: they have to bless him for attention, for enrichment, for defense.
2. The fact that he moderates his corrections of them. (Vers. 7, 8.) He does not visit them with the severity he shows toward those who are defiant of his will; there is measure, limitation, in the day when the "east wind" of his chastisement is made to blow. God restrains his hand when it is his own children whom he is correcting (Psalm 103:8-10).
3. The parental purpose of his chastisement. (Ver. 9.) It is that iniquity may be purged, that the dark consequences and the evil stain of sin may be "taken away," that the degrading idolatries of the heart as well as of the life may be demolished; it is that those whom he loves may be cleansed from their impurities and may be his children indeed, not only enjoying his favor and dwelling beneath his roof, but bearing his likeness and fulfilling his will.
4. The prosperity which he promises them. (Ver. 6.) The prosperity which is inward, in "taking root," in laying hold of the regard and the affections of men; that also which is outward, in blossom and bud and widespread fruit, in commanding the honor and enjoying the blessings of the world. - C.
Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7. We note that vineyard-keeping includes -
I. TENDING. This is called to mind by the very strong assurance, "I will water it every moment," which is evidently meant to impress on us the constancy, the care, the gracious wisdom, the prompt helpfulness, of the Divine dealings with the Church. To our minds it has a somewhat exaggerated sound, but that is only because we have no associations with a parched, hilly, hot, and almost rainless country, such as Pales-fine or Egypt. Constant and abundant irrigation is the essential condition of vegetable life in such lands, and to it the science and practical skill of the people are devoted. Channels are made in which the water may run to the vineyards, and much of the gardener's skill is devoted to this regular and efficient watering. The Eastern idea of a fruitful tree is one "planted by the rivers of water;" "its leaf shall not wither." They who are thus careful about the watering of their vines will be sure to do everything else for them that is necessary for their well-being. They will gather out the stones, enrich the soil, clean the blue, prune luxurious growths, guide the trailing branches, and thin the crowded bunches. And so does the Lord of that vineyard, the Church, meet her needs at every point. That he should "water it every moment" suggests that his supreme care is for the renewal of her vitality, and assures us of his further care of all the forms and expressions of that vitality. We may be sure, in New Testament language, that with "his dear Son, God will freely give us all things." He will feed, he will correct, he will encourage, he will check. Whatsoever is needful for the wise tending of the Church, we may fully trust him that he will do, for he is a Master-gardener. In following out this thought, precise practical applications may be made to the conditions and necessities of the particular Church addressed.
II. WATCHING. "Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." Van Lennep tells us that "vineyards which are at a distance from a village require a constant watch and guard during the fruit season, or they are completely devoured by the jackals." Some of the very earliest Egyptian paintings are vivid-hued representations of trellised and festooned "vines," while, peering through the bough-twisted fences, is seen the sharp and mobile nose of the "fox," stealthily stealing towards his favorite repast. It is usual to dig a ditch all round the vineyard, into which stone posts are driven, branches are twisted in and out of these posts, and, as wild plants and briars soon grow up among them, a thick and solid fence or hedge is made. But the bus-bandman is obliged from time to time to examine all parts of the hedge, and close up any gap or breach made by the foxes, jackals, badgers, hares, hedgehogs, and perhaps even wild bears which, by trampling, destroy more than they eat. A frail shed raised on poles a good height is prepared for the defense of the vineyard, in it a watcher remains day and night while the fruit is ripening. From his elevated position he can see all over the vineyard, and arrangement is sometimes made for his signaling to the neighboring village in case of emergency. He is provided with weapons suitable for dealing with the precise foes which he may have to encounter. These points will suggest the gracious forms in which God has ever defended his ancient Church. Historical illustrations may be given. What he has ever been, that he still is; and the individual Christian, as well as the Christian Church, may rest secure in his keeping. No foes can come nigh us that he will not see. None can prove stronger in attack than he in defense. Sometimes the Christian may, in his despairings, say after over-worn David, "I shall now Perish one day by the hand of Saul;" but, with God's watching and keeping, he shall no more perish than David did. The Church, overestimating the force of evil at any given time, may cry that it "is in danger." It is always an untrustful cry, raised when men fail to look to the "Watcher in the booth," who keeps the vineyard night and day. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his People from henceforth even forever." - R.T.
I. THE EYE THAT SEES. This is all-important. For we are blind to our worst enemies. Evil puts on the garb of good. And evil hides itself. The serpent is coiled up at the bottom of the cup. The adder lurks in the grass. By the river-side the alligator lurks; his skin the very color of the stones. God's eye can search all. His vision sweeps all space. His vigilance never sleeps. "He that keepeth thee will not slumber."
II. THE HEART THAT LOVES. This is our truest defense. It is affection that keeps alive this vigilance. There is no eye like the eye of love. We know this in a measure from our observation of the human spheres. How quick a mother's eye is to detect first departures from the holy and the true - first dalliances with evil! The tutor is not so sure a guardian as the parent. All Divine revelation tells us that God is love. Why warn, rebuke, exhort? Why send the prophet to the guilty cities, and the only begotten Son, the Savior, to the lost race? This is the explanation of all: "God so loved the world."
III. THE GUARDIANSHIP THAT IS COMPLETE. Lest "any." That includes all the' forms and forces of evil. We may be awake to special dangers, just as we pay honor to special virtues. There are dangers which are so pronounced, where the penalties are so marked, that our consciousness is awake to the dread results. But when we remember the vast and varied sources of peril, we rejoice to know that there may be immunity from all disaster. "Deliver us from evil" is the prayer taught us by the Savior; and God will hear that prayer, for "thine is the power."
IV. THE WATCHFULNESS THAT NEVER SLEEPS. "By night and by day." In the darkness and in the night. For the darkness is no darkness to God. As Sentinel he never sleeps. Our watch-fires die out, and the beasts of the forest break into the camp in the silent hours of darkness. We cannot "keep." But the soul is too precious to be left to finite watchfulness. The Tower of London contains no jeweled crowns so rich in value as the nature that contains the pearl of great price. The temple of Jerusalem had costly vessels and sacred altars; but the temple of the soul has in it the true Shechinah. This is God's promise. This is his own testimony to himself; and it is g promise to wear as an amulet on the heart in such a world as this. - W.M.S.
I. IN WISDOM, and the effectuating power which results therefrom. It is in virtue of his wisdom that the elements of nature have their various attributes, and the processes of nature their constant laws - that seeds sprout, and shrubs and trees bear flower and fruit; that living bodies grow, and minds advance, and souls mature. We take hold of God's strength of wisdom when we do our human, instrumental part in these his workings - when we plough and sow and weed; when we observe and study; when we use the privileges of devotion.
II. IN MAGNANIMITY. God is strong indeed in this grace. Provoked by everything in man that is fitted to arouse his anger, he has withheld his retributive hand (Psalm 103:10). He has not sentenced us to eternal exile; he has continued his loving-kindnesses even to the most obdurate and rebellious (Matthew 5:45). He has shown himself willing to receive again the sons and daughters that have wandered farthest away from his home. We take hold of this his strength when we avail ourselves of his merciful overtures, and hasten in penitence and faith to his feet.
III. IN COMPASSION. God is strong in pity. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so he pitieth," etc. His commiseration, his tenderness, his parental responsiveness to our various sorrows, is quick, is immediate, is perfect; there is great strength of loving sympathy in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15). We take hold of his strength when, in our dark days, in our heavier sorrows, we unburden our hearts to him, realize the fullness of his compassion, make our earnest, confident appeal for his sympathy and succor.
IV. IN UPHOLDING POWER. In such a world as this with all its allurements and its dangers, with such a nature as is ours with all its frailty, there is required great power to preserve us in our integrity and to build us up on the foundation of our faith. But God is able to do this; he is able to "make us stand" (Romans 14:4), to "keep us from falling, and present us faultless," etc. (Jude 1:24). We take hold of his strength when we act with such obedience and wisdom that we place ourselves in the path where that power is acting - the path of reflection, of moral safety, of Christian fellowship, of worship, of holy activity.
V. IN TRANSFORMING POWER. It is impossible for us to make even Divine truth effectual to the regeneration of a sinful soul. But God is mightier than we; the things which are impossible to us are possible to him (Matthew 19:26). His strength is not unequal even to the softening of the hard heart, the bending of the proud and stubborn will, even of the hardest and haughtiest of souls. We take hold of this his strength when we faithfully plead with our fellow-men that they should return to God, and when we earnestly plead with God that he should put into exercise that renewing and transforming energy. - C.
simple gospel sermon," and the main lines may be as follows: -
I. PEACE IS BROKEN BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. Right and comfortable relations depend on man's submission and obedience. Self-will and rebelliousness break up those relations. Man is God's child; peace depends on obedience. Man is God's servant; peace depends on doing the Master's will. The essence of sin is willfulness.
II. GOD IS ABLE TO RESTORE THE BROKEN PEACE. He may be able as a matter of sovereignty; but it is more interesting to us to know that he is able through a scheme of peace-making which he has himself devised and carried out in the Person of his Son. "His own arm has brought salvation." Such aspects of the great atoning work may be here dwelt upon as most commend themselves to the preacher.
III. GOD ACTUALLY OFFERS RESTORATION OF THE BROKEN PEACE. He asks us to "lay hold of his strength;" he invites us to "come and reason with him;" he even grieves, over our hesitancy, saying, Why Will ye die, O house of Israel? why will ye die? God hath offered to us - given to us - "eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
IV. THEY MUST BE RIGHT-HEARTED WHO SEEK TO MAKE PEACE WITH GOD. What is included in right-heartedness?
2. Sense of sin.
4. Sign of earnestness in putting away sin.
5. Forsaking of self-trusts.
6. Fervent desire.
7. Whole-heartedness of purpose. Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye seek for me with your whole heart. - R.T.
unity and spirituality of God. Israel is a tree whose branches overspread the earth; these are its leaves, and these leaves are for the healing of the nations that are diseased and dying of idolatries and sensuousness. As we think of Israel after the flesh, we should remember that we are the true Israel, the spiritual Israel, who hold fast and testify for the old Mosaic truths, "God is One" and "God is a Spirit." The world-mission of Israel is -
I. To PRESERVE THE WORLD'S TRUTH. That is, "In the beginning God." This truth was given to man as man. It is man's birthright. When man became mentally and emotionally biased by yielding to self-will and sin, this first truth was imperiled. If man, as God created him, had thought, he would only have thought of God, one God. When sinful man thinks, he runs along one or other of two lines - he either conceives of two gods, one presiding over pleasant things, and the other over disasters; or else he thinks of many gods, each one occupying a more or less limited sphere. So "monotheism" was put in peril, and had to be preserved through all the ages during which God left man to a free experiment of that self-willedness which he had chosen. In his infinite wisdom God preserved the essential and foundation-truths of religion for long ages in a direct Adamic line, giving to men length of life sufficient to permit of tradition covering the long generations up to the Flood. After the Flood, God preserved the world's truth in the one Abrahamic family; and when that family grew into a nation, he made it, in a very solemn way, the depositary of the world's truth, and set it in a central land, where it might be but slightly influenced by the notions of surrounding nations. "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way, chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." It is true that Israel did not prove faithful to its duty of preserving the world's truth; but after the chastisement of the Babylonian exile (and to that the prophet is referring in our text) they never fell into idolatry, and they exist to-day, scattered everywhere, but holding fast their trust of monotheistic truth.
II. To EXHIBIT THE WORKING OF THAT TRUTH. "Example is better than precept." The world might fairly ask to see a national life raised on the foundation of belief in one unseen, spiritual God. Israel is that nation. It is in many respects a striking example. It failed only when it shifted from its foundation. A glance at the old world, which grouped round the eastern end of the Mediterranean, will show how central "little Palestine" was, so as to be in view of all the nations, as a "city set on a hill." The practical applications of this part of the subject are that we hold the trust of these truths, and of the yet further revelations that have been given; and the question of supreme interest to all around us is - Do they make us better men and women? Are others won to accept our truths because of the illustrations which we find for them in our lives and relations? Do we "walk worthy of our calling?"
III. To WITNESS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD FOR THAT TRUTH. The presence of a Jew anywhere is a plea for belief in one God. The exaggerated stubbornness with which Jews plead for this truth prevents their being willing to receive the further revelation concerning the one God, that he has been manifest in the flesh. We who are the spiritual Jews have it as our work to proclaim "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" to all the nations. Jews have but half a mission now; but the time is coming when their veil shall be taken away; they shall see in Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God, and join with us in going out through all the world, and preaching the old truth and the new gospel to every creature. - R.T.
I. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN JUDGMENTS AND CHASTISEMENTS. In a sense we may say that judgments are ends in themselves, and chastisements are means to a higher end. Then has God two ways of dealing with men? Thoughtlessly, and misled by appearances, many of us answer, "Yes," and suppose that we can account for some difficult and perplexing things by the help of this supposition. But this answer will not bear the test of either patient thought or Holy Scripture. Thought says, "God is One; truth and right are one; men are one; and, if there be two principles of dealing with the same creatures, both cannot be right." What God does may to us look different; it must really be the same, for the "God of the whole earth shall he be called." Scripture assures us of the Divine unchangeableness. It says, "One event happeneth to the righteous and to the wicked." It expresses the conviction that the "Judge of all the earth will do right." It bids us see that God makes his "sun to rise on the evil and on the good." There is no modification of ordinary natural conditions for the sake of the elect few. Health, accident, disease, death, affect alike the righteous and the wicked. Then comes in another question - Can all judgments be regarded as remedial in their design and tendency? There is a disposition toward the general acceptance of this theory nowadays; in dealing with crime, the reformation of the criminal is put in a first place. We may venture to say that God's final end is always recovery. But he works over indefinitely long periods; and his immediate ends - necessary as stages - may not always be remedial. As a part of the work towards securing the final end, God may stamp by suffering the quality of sin; he may demonstrate his indignations, as in the case of Babylon. It may even be necessary to make us fear lest the consequences of sin may prove irremediable; and this may explain such things as everlasting punishment, the sin against the Holy Ghost that bath never forgiveness, and the day of grace that may be lost. Whether Divine dealings be judgment or chastisement may depend on three things:
(1) the point from which they are viewed;
(2) the moral condition of those who suffer; and
(3) the relations of God being regarded as governmental or as paternal.
II. THE PURPOSE OF JUDGMENT APPREHENDED AS CHASTISEMENT. (Ver. 9.) Apprehended as only judgment, our mind is overborne by our calamity. Apprehended as chastisement, the mind is started with new and trustful thoughts. The trouble may at first crush, but soon we learn to accept it calmly. That we are under fatherly chastisements puts the deepest solemnity into life and into sin; it helps us to lift our hearts away from the present and the seen to the future and the unseen. All deaths become gates of life when this sunlight streams on them. (For this figure see Noel Paton's picture, 'Mors Janua Vita.') Prophecy then keeps before us this cheering fact - all anxieties and sufferings are fatherly. Their "fruit is to take away our sin." And as we so little know the subtleties of our sin, we need not wonder that we cannot understand either the subtleties or the severities necessary for taking it away. Our wonder ought to be that "refining fires," so graciously tempered for us, are made to accomplish so great a cleansing. - R.T.
signs of reformation - the actual destruction of idols and all idol-associations, as the proof and manifestation of the declared heart-surrender of idolatry. The child's verse is correct theology and practical godliness-
"Repentance is to leave I. GOOD SENTIMENTS ARE GOOD BEGINNINGS. Therefore in preachings and teachings appeal is properly made to feeling; effort is made to arouse emotions and to persuade. By the way of the heart access can often be gained to a man; and Scripture provides material for emotional appeals. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." To move feeling, and to awaken good sentiment, is at least to make a breach in the walls. It is a beginning, and there is hope of what may be further accomplished when such a beginning is made. But we should be alive to the constant disposition of men to rest in sentiment. There is a subtle pleasure in feeling deeply. We easily get a kind of satisfaction in our good sentiments; and so Scripture roughly shakes down the satisfaction by calling such things "refuges of lies," or staffs that pierce the hand that leans on them. II. GOOD SENTIMENTS MAY SOON FADE. They always do when they remain as sentiments, and do not become motives to action. Our minds are constantly passing on to fresh things, and the older ones grow dim in the distance. If things are to keep up their interest, we must put continuous thought to them, and make them bear on daily conduct. We weep over a pathetic story-book, but in a little while all is forgotten as a dream when one awaketh. It would be a most humbling sight for us all if God were to show us the great heap of beautiful sentiments we once had and enjoyed. III. GOOD SENTIMENTS HAVE NO VOICE THAT GOD CAN HEED. If we offer such things to him, he will entirely withdraw and hide himself within a cloud, and wait and see how long the good sentiment will last. Penitence that is only a sensational sigh or tear he will not regard. It means nothing. It is but a passing ripple on a pool. Why should he turn aside to notice that? This thought will unfold into a practical dealing with the danger of forced emotions in revivalistic services; or the straining of religious feeling in children and young people. Mere emotion is too light a thing to ascend as prayer to the throne of God. IV. GOOD SENTIMENTS MUST SPEAK TO GOD THROUGH DEEDS. YOU say you repent. But the supreme question is - What has your repentance made you do? You repent of that sin: then have you put it away? You repent of that wrong to your neighbor: then have you, as far as possible, put the wrong right? You repent of your idolatry: then have you broken up your idol-altars? Corresponding actions, "works meet for repentance," - these are the terms of "purging;" this is the "fruit to take away all the sin." - R.T.
I. GOOD SENTIMENTS ARE GOOD BEGINNINGS. Therefore in preachings and teachings appeal is properly made to feeling; effort is made to arouse emotions and to persuade. By the way of the heart access can often be gained to a man; and Scripture provides material for emotional appeals. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." To move feeling, and to awaken good sentiment, is at least to make a breach in the walls. It is a beginning, and there is hope of what may be further accomplished when such a beginning is made. But we should be alive to the constant disposition of men to rest in sentiment. There is a subtle pleasure in feeling deeply. We easily get a kind of satisfaction in our good sentiments; and so Scripture roughly shakes down the satisfaction by calling such things "refuges of lies," or staffs that pierce the hand that leans on them.
II. GOOD SENTIMENTS MAY SOON FADE. They always do when they remain as sentiments, and do not become motives to action. Our minds are constantly passing on to fresh things, and the older ones grow dim in the distance. If things are to keep up their interest, we must put continuous thought to them, and make them bear on daily conduct. We weep over a pathetic story-book, but in a little while all is forgotten as a dream when one awaketh. It would be a most humbling sight for us all if God were to show us the great heap of beautiful sentiments we once had and enjoyed.
III. GOOD SENTIMENTS HAVE NO VOICE THAT GOD CAN HEED. If we offer such things to him, he will entirely withdraw and hide himself within a cloud, and wait and see how long the good sentiment will last. Penitence that is only a sensational sigh or tear he will not regard. It means nothing. It is but a passing ripple on a pool. Why should he turn aside to notice that? This thought will unfold into a practical dealing with the danger of forced emotions in revivalistic services; or the straining of religious feeling in children and young people. Mere emotion is too light a thing to ascend as prayer to the throne of God.
IV. GOOD SENTIMENTS MUST SPEAK TO GOD THROUGH DEEDS. YOU say you repent. But the supreme question is - What has your repentance made you do? You repent of that sin: then have you put it away? You repent of that wrong to your neighbor: then have you, as far as possible, put the wrong right? You repent of your idolatry: then have you broken up your idol-altars? Corresponding actions, "works meet for repentance," - these are the terms of "purging;" this is the "fruit to take away all the sin." - R.T.
I. THE BREADTH OF HIS KINGDOM: the broad fields of the husbandman, in which he might "beat off" fruit, from the far river in the East to the far river in the West - from end to end of the known earth. God's rights and claims extend to all peoples, to all classes, to men of every character and every temperament and every tongue, to both sexes; his empire, like his commandment, is "exceeding broad." He looks everywhere for fruit to be beaten off, to be gathered in, at the time of harvest.
II. THE NEED OF HIS INTERPOSITION. This fruit which God is seeking is spiritual; it is the reverence, the love, the worship, the obedience, of his own children. But these his sons and daughters are:
1. Afar off. They are outcasts, a long way from home. It is not geographical, but moral and spiritual distance which has to be deplored. They are in the "strange land" of doubt, of denial, of disobedience, of indifference and forgetfulness, of utter unlikeness to the heavenly Father.
2. Or they are at the point of extinction. "Ready to perish." Those who have not "bowed the knee to Baal, "who have not been fascinated and won by ruinous seductions, are a mere remnant, and even their life, like Elijah's, is at stake. Everything cries for God's merciful interposition.'
III. HIS SUMMONS TO RETURN. The "great trumpet" is being blown; its notes are sounding far and wide. "The voice of Jesus sounds o'er land and sea," saying, "Return unto thy Rest;" "Come unto me, all ye that labor." From the "far country" of sin, of folly, of selfishness, of unrest, the summons calls all human hearts to leave behind them their sin, their misery, their bondage, and to cast themselves at the feet of the Divine Father, and beg to be taken back into that holy service which is perfect freedom.
IV. HIS DISTINGUISHING KINDNESS. "Ye shall be gathered one by one." God does not content himself with issuing a general proclamation which each man may interpret and apply. He comes to every human soul himself. In the Person, and by the direct influence, of his Holy Spirit, he makes his appeal to the individual heart and conscience. He says, "Come thou, my child." "Return thou, my daughter." "My son, give me thy heart."
V. THE GATHERING-PLACE OF HIS RETURNED ONES. "Ye shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." All they who return unto God
(1) gather at his house on earth for worship there; and
(2) meet in the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, for "nobler worship there." - C.
woman a sinner," who bathes the feet of Jesus with penitential tears. The apostle makes an almost overwhelming demand on us when he says, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." How souls yearn for this sealing of forgiveness is seen in David's prayer, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." The subject may be treated under two divisions.
I. DIVINE RESTORATION ASSURED IN EXAMPLES AND PROMISES. These assure us that it is God's way of dealing, and so they become a persuasion to hope even in our penitence, and in our prayer for forgiveness.
II. DIVINE RESTORATION REALIZED IN ACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES. Not always outward circumstances; only so far as these may have been affected by the sin. Always in inward circumstances of mind and feeling. - R.T.