Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ROYALTY WILL BE SYNONYMOUS WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS. The King will be seen in his beauty - not the splendor of purple robes and lofty throne and brilliant court, but that of the equity and justice which imitate Heaven. God will call him by his name, will make him rich with hidden possessions, will go before him to make the crooked ways straight (Isaiah 45:1-4). In spite of all the failings of kings, the mass of the people bear a deep reverence and affection to royalty. Even in the counterfeit they recognize some relation to the real thing. "A divinity doth hedge a king;" this is not only poetically, but religiously true, if the king in any sort answer to the truth of his position. In happier days he will so answer.
II. THE UPPER CLASSES WILL BE THE SPIRITUAL SUPERIORS OF THE PEOPLE. Aristocracy began with personal worth, and by it only can be maintained. We see from the description what the nobility ought to be in relation to the people. Patrons, protectors; "hiding-places from the wind," a "covert from the rain-storm, rivulets in a parched land, the shadow of a huge cliff in a thirsty land." Noblesse oblige. They should be looked up to; every popular cause should find in them its defenders and active advocates; every philanthropic scheme in them its leaders; every misery of the poor in them its zealous redressers. High place without high qualities is a mockery; lofty station coupled with low manners, a scandal and an abuse. Alas! too often in the history of the "ruling classes" these truths have been forgotten, these relations have been reversed. Again and again God has called them to judgment: "You have eaten up the vineyards, the plunder of the afflicted is in your houses. What mean ye that crush my people, and grind the face of the afflicted?" Notably so at the time of the great French Revolution.
III. THE RESULTS OF A SPIRITUAL CHANGE. No reformation of manners, no happy reconciliation of class with class can come about, except by a change of mind and heart. And that change itself can only come whence all changes in the realm of nature and spirit come - from the creative, the re-creative energy of God. The body is the organ of the spirit in its manifold activities. Any fresh sensibility of the physical organs is typical, therefore, of an awakened and living conscience. The closed eye is typical of the blindness of those who will not see. To shut the eye to evil, to turn the head away from what disgusts, - this may seem for a time equivalent to canceling the evil itself. Not so; and reformation sets in from that hour when men are willing to face the most painful facts, to let the light into the darkest corners of existence. Ears were made to listen, not to be stopped. Let the bitter cry be hearkened to; its tones thrill through every fiber of our sympathetic being; nor let its pleading be dismissed until the question, What can I do? has found some distinct answer. The tongue was made, not to stammer, but to flow with truthful and gracious speech. Silence may mean that we have no help to offer; stuttering accents that we are of a divided mind, of obscure habits of thought. Lucidity is what we need - the lucidity of the single eye, the sensitive organism filled through and through with light. And what does our haste and feverish precipitation signify, but want of that deliberate forethought and that circumspection which is a constant duty? "The heart of the hasty shall perceive distinctly." Although we cannot refer all sin, like Socrates, to want of insight, yet no sin but implies that want. God's deepest, most far-reaching blessings must ever be for the heart, in that large sense in which Scripture uses the word - including every mental faculty or activity. Material improvements are not to be neglected. The sanity and weal of the body have a direct bearing on the weal of mind; yet, on the other hand, there will be no material improvements until the improving mind has been awakened and truly educated.
IV. THE CONSTITUTION OF THINGS NEEDING REFORMATION. It is a confusion which needs to be removed. It is a world turned upside down which needs to be righted. The foot and the knave may designate the ruling classes of the time. Fool! how weighty the condemnation, how deep-burning the brand, which belongs to the use of the word in Scripture! The world may call him par excellence the fool who minds all business but his own; the prophet calls him the fool who thinks of self, but forgets his God. The sinner, in short, is the fool. His is the worst and least excusable ignorance. He may be called "noble" in the convention of society, he is contemptible in the judgment of God. The characteristics of the fool are that he speaks folly, and this "out of the abundance" of a wicked heart - a forge and workshop where the production of evil is ever going on; that he delights to propagate heresy and atheism as a center of religious darkness. Hungry souls look to those Nabals, and are not fed, but deprived of their sustenance; and the waters they point out prove to be as the mirage of the desert on near approach. The denunciation of such spurious leaders of the people reminds of Milton's invective -
"The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed;
theocracy, or direct rule of God over a people, as the pious Jew did. Exactly what Isaiah pictures is the theocracy fully established in a spiritual sense; and of this Hezekiah's reformed kingdom gave good suggestions. To bring the subject home to modern congregations, the leading features of a spiritual theocracy, a real and practical reign of God, in lives and in society, should be shown thus -
I. GOD'S WILL SHOULD BE THE ONE SUPREME LAW.
II. GOD'S WORD SHOULD BE THE PRACTICAL RULE OF CONDUCT.
III. GOD'S SON SHOULD BE THE GREAT MODEL OF CHARACTER.
IV. GOD-LIKENESS SHOULD BE THE ONE OBJECT OF PURSUIT. Be it heart, be it life, be it Church, or be it society, wherever this is an honest and truthful description, there is the "ideal reign;" there the words of the text are fulfilled, and a "king reigns in righteousness." It is to establish individually and universally just this kingdom, that the Lord Jesus Christ has come. He begins his work by subduing to his obedience single souls. - R.T.
Shade. In the glare of a too-garish day we become endangered; the sun of prosperity smites us. Sunlight has its penalties as well as its pleasures. So has success! The human heart cannot bear too much of brightness. We need shadows for the mind to rest under as well as for the body.
I. A MAN IS HERE DESCRIBED. The God-Man. One who, knowing our infirmities and temptations, is able to succor them that are tempted. The true King who is to reign in righteousness is prophesied of. "A man shall be." Christ has been the Refuge and the Rest of hearts wearied of the world and scorched with its radiant beams. We are led to Christ. Not to theological systems; not to human creeds; but to Christ. The shadow! Yes. Shadow of a cross, where we may find forgiveness and. peace. Shadow of brotherhood, where we may find true sympathy in our hours of loneliness and disappointment. Shadow, where we may recline and rest as the patriarch did under the oaks of Beersheba, and Moses did under the mountains of old. And Christ's Divinity is proclaimed in the words, "a great Rock" High as heaven, having its roots in God's own eternal years. So great that it offers shelter for all the weary hearts of men.
II. A PILGRIMAGE IS HERE IMPLIED. "A weary land" The pilgrims are passing on through the scorching heat, the camel-drivers walking then, as they do now, in the shadow cast by these "ships of the desert." Before them stretch miles on miles of burning sand. The blinding sun is above them. With their white cummerbunds and their light Eastern dress, they ease the heat-burden all they can. And now the great mountains come in sight. Some with gentle acclivities and some with sharp-cut rocks jutting out above the pilgrim-way. What blessed shadows they cast! Such shady places are our sabbaths and sacraments and sanctuaries, our holy moments of Divine fellowship, when God comes near and casts over us the protecting shadow of his gracious presence.
III. WEARINESS IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE WAY, "A weary land." We are often tired. How many hearts have said, "O God, I am a-weary!" and then, instead of the sad cry, "O God, that I were dead!" we hear the voices of spiritual souls crying, "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" and the blessed answer comes from the lips of the incarnate God himself, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" - weary with the load of sin; weary with the care and fret of daily life; weary with inward conflicts; weary with ceaseless watching, for our Arab enemies dash suddenly by, and point their rifle as they fly. Pain makes us weary. The loss of dear, true-hearted friends makes us weary. Doubt, with all our dark mental conflicts - doubt, which is sometimes the exquisite action of a sincere mind, makes us weary. So we come to the great Father, and rest in the gracious answer to the cry, "Lord, show us the Father," in the revelation vouchsafed unto us by our Divine Lord, who has taught us when we pray to say, "Our Father," and also has declared, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." - W.M.S.
more rather than less is there need for a hiding-place for the heart, a covert from the storm of sorrow and of sin. A man shall be for a hiding-place! One man in particular? or any man at any time in any land? In both senses the words may be taken. We may consider -
I. CHRIST THE REFUGE OF THE HUMAN SOUL.
1. Such he was in the days of his flesh, For his disciples had to share something of the enmity and opposition he encountered, and they always found an effectual shield in his protection. As evangelists they brought their success and their disappointment to him, that the one might be sanctified and the other be relieved (Luke 10:17-20). When worsted by the enemy, they felt back on his power and found defeat swallowed up in victory (Matthew 17:14-20). When imminent danger threatened their lives, they made their appeal to his all-con-trolling voice (Matthew 8:23-27).
2. Such he became, in a deeper sense, after his ascension. It was expedient that he should go away. "Before his departure he was with them, afterwards he was in them." The death and the resurrection of the Lord enlightened their minds and changed their spirits. Then they went to him as they never could have done during his presence; they trusted in him, gave themselves to him, leaned on him, were lost in him, as they would not have been: he became, in a deeper and fuller sense, the Hiding-place of their hearts.
3. Such is he now to all believing hearts.
(1) As sinners, burdened with a sense of guilt and craving mercy and reconciliation, we want some other refuge than we can find in the best and wisest of mankind; and with what glad eagerness, with what profound thankfulness, with what inexpressible relief, do we resort to him, and cry-
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
(2) As the children of sorrow, we have need of more than human help! There are depths of disappointment, extremities of loss, intensities of pain and suffering, wastes of loneliness, gulfs of darkness and woe, for which human sympathy is entirely inadequate, in which the only thing we can do is to hasten to that Son of man who is touched most keenly with the feeling of our trials, and say -
"Jesus, Lover of my soul, II. THE REFUGE WE MAY BE TO ONE ANOTHER. Any man may be, and every man should seek to be, a hiding-place, a covert. Oar domestic life shows us how this may be, and provides the first instance and best picture of human shelter. Our social life should provide us with many opportunities of succoring the needy and the tried. Our Church life should do the same; every Christian Church should be an asylum for the poor, the weak, the sad, the anxious-minded, the troubled of heart. Who would not like so to live, with such quick and ready sympathy of spirit, with such kindliness and hopefulness of word, with such friendliness of uplifting hand and sustaining arm, that his life should be suggestive of the words, "A man shall be a hiding-place?" - C.
II. THE REFUGE WE MAY BE TO ONE ANOTHER. Any man may be, and every man should seek to be, a hiding-place, a covert. Oar domestic life shows us how this may be, and provides the first instance and best picture of human shelter. Our social life should provide us with many opportunities of succoring the needy and the tried. Our Church life should do the same; every Christian Church should be an asylum for the poor, the weak, the sad, the anxious-minded, the troubled of heart. Who would not like so to live, with such quick and ready sympathy of spirit, with such kindliness and hopefulness of word, with such friendliness of uplifting hand and sustaining arm, that his life should be suggestive of the words, "A man shall be a hiding-place?" - C.
Ezekiel 12:2), and of the recovery which, in better days, they were to experience.
I. MAN DISABLED BY SIN. There are four directions in which we suffer sad deterioration and incapacity as the consequence of our sin.
1. Spiritual perception. After some transgressions, after continued disobedience and estrangement from God, we fail to "see light in his light;" our vision of his truth is less clear and full; sacred truths lose their true proportions in our view. Then come positive error, actual misconception, moral blindness; and finally comes that terrible mental distortion of which the Master spoke so sorrowfully and the prophet wrote so strongly (Matthew 6:22, 23; Isaiah 5:20).
2. Recognition of the Divine voice. The commission of sin ends in, first, a partial, and ultimately a complete, spiritual deafness. At first the quieter and more habitual tones in which God is speaking to us (daily loving-kindnesses, sabbath privileges, etc.) become inaudible to us, convey no message to us from God; then more distinct and unmistakable voices from heaven are unheeded and unheard; at last, the loudest demands which God ever makes fail to produce any impression on the ear of the soul.
3. The choice of that which is wise. The rash heart (of the text) is the heart which chooses precipitately, and therefore foolishly. Under the dominion of sin we come to choose the visible in preference to the invisible, the material to the spiritual, the transient to the abiding, the human to the Divine.
4. The utterance of Divine truth. The clouded vision naturally leads to the "stammering tongue." As man becomes more affected by the sin which dwells within and works upon him, he utters God's truth less plainly, less faithfully, more partially, with ever-widening divergence from the mind of the Eternal.
II. THE TOUCH OF DIVINE POWER. When man has become disabled there is no hope for him but in God. Human teaching is valuable enough, but it dues not avail. Only the awakening, reviving touch of the Divine power, brought into immediate contact with the soul, can call back these slumbering powers. But it can and does; God's renewing Spirit breaks upon the disabled mind, upon the degenerate nature, and that which was lost is regained; the faculties of the soul revive. Then we have -
III. SPIRITUAL RESTORATION. Revived by the power of God:
1. We see clearly. We apprehend the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning us, the excellency of his service, the beauties of holiness, the luxury of usefulness.
2. We hear distinctly the voice of God as he speaks to us in his Word, in his providence, in the privileges of the Christian Church.
3. We choose wisely. We become thoughtful, reflective, studious of the Divine desire, obedient, and therefore wise; we "understand knowledge."
4. We speak plainly. Discerning that which is acceptable in the sight of the Lord, we speak simply, faithfully, fearlessly, "with all boldness as we ought to speak," "the everlasting gospel" - both the elementary truths which make wise unto salvation, and those "deeper things of God," which enrich the mind and sanctify the spirit. - C.
lines of thought are here laid down. We have -
I. A MARK OF GOOD GOVERNMENT. The displacement of the unworthy and the elevation of the good and wise. Under the reign of the righteous King (ver. 1) the "fool will no longer be called a nobleman," the man of mean character but lofty rank will be made to know his true place in the commonwealth; on the other hand, the man who has in him the qualities of nobility (ver. 8) shall have the opportunity of dealing graciously and bountifully. There is no surer sign of demoralization, no more certain indication of approaching ruin in any community, than the promotion of the unfit and the unworthy; and there is no healthier symptom than the advancement of the upright and the capable. Let nations, societies, Churches, look to it.
II. A HINT AS TO SIN'S LARGE DIMENSIONS.
1. Its tenacity of purpose. "The vile person will [continue to] speak villany, and his heart [to] work iniquity" (ver. 6). You may put him in a position in which you might hope that the commonest self-respect would ensure propriety of conduct, but you will be mistaken; the corrupt tree will bear evil fruit on any soil.
2. Its guilefulness. "To practice hypocrisy;" professing justice and purity, it enacts all that is unfair and evil.
3. Its falsity. "To utter error," etc. Sin, especially when found in high places, is most mischievous in that it scatters everywhere the fruitful seeds of error; it poisons the mind with misleading fancies, with shallow notions which may sound well but are essentially false and which conduct to wrong and ruin. Thus it leads men to act "against the Lord," for they pursue a path which he has forbidden, and they diffuse principles which are hostile to his reign.
4. Its heartlessness. (Ver. 6.) What though the issue of those evil actions be that men's hearts are hungry and their souls athirst; what though they bring about impoverishment, destitution - bodily or spiritual, or both together, - let the cup be drained, let the game be played out!
5. Its unscrupulousness. Its "instruments are evil" (ver. 7).
6. Its effrontery. (Ver. 7.) They whom it is wronging may be the poor, and therefore the appropriate objects of compassion; they may be the innocent, those who are in the right, and therefore the proper objects of regard; nothing but downright falsehood may suffice to prevail against them (Ahab and Naboth). No matter; let the case be established, let sentence be executed!
III. A COMMENDATION OF GENEROSITY. "The liberal deviseth liberal things," etc. (ver. 8).
1. A man of a noble nature will find opportunities for doing generous things. How well a man serves the Church or the world is not a question of circumstance half so much as a matter of character. Given a free, generous, open-hearted man, and you may confidently reckon on repeated and continuous acts of unselfish usefulness. 'Jesus "went about doing good, for God was with him," and because God was in him; because, in him, as in a perennial fountain, dwelt Divine love, pity, self-sacrifice. We need care comparatively little about arranging opportunities of service, though that is not a matter of indifference; what is of supreme consequence is that those we teach and train should have planted within them the sacred seeds of holy, Christian generosity.
2. Generous measures will give a noble heart stability: by them "he shall stand."
(1) They will commend him to the affection and the support of the direct recipients of his goodness (Job 29:11-13).
Malachi 3:18; Matthew 23:13-33; Ephesians 5:5)" (Henderson). "The differences between good and evil, virtue and vice, shall be kept up, and no more confounded by those who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Matthew Henry). These sentences show that the subject introduced is the influence of a righteous reign in helping men to see things as they really are, and to estimate persons according to their true worth, and not according to the mere show they may make. We deal specially with those confusions which come by false judgments of persons, and these take the following, among other forms.
I. ADMIRATION OF TALENTS BLINDS US TO BADNESS OF CHARACTER. What is thought to be "genius" is too often allowed to excuse all sorts of laxity. The men who can astonish and amuse us may be unclean, untruthful, injurious; but we readily pass all this by. When righteousness reigns, talent will have to go with character, or men will count it to be Satanic agency. What a man can do must never be separated from what the man is.
II. THE COMMAND OF WEALTH BRINGS FLATTERERS TO BAD MEN. There is no more painful sign of the moral deterioration of a race, than its worship of the rich because they are rich. Money can never make goodness. Wealth is not the stability of a nation. Its hope lies wholly in its good men. Yet the rich man may be violent, rude, masterful, cruel; nevertheless, multitudes will fawn on him, and call the "Vile person liberal." When righteousness reigns, that confusion will be rectified, and the rich man shall have worship only if he deserves it for what he is.
III. THE RANK AND SOCIAL POSITION OF MEN NOW BEWILDER THEIR FELLOWS, AND MAKE TRUE ESTIMATES NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE. Well does Robert Burns remind us that
"The rank is but the guinea-stamp,
2 Chronicles 30:22-26. Passing away to Messianic times, we are to see that the true subjects of Messiah, the ideal Prince, the King who reigns in righteousness, will be distinguished by a noble-minded benevolence, contriving and persevering in the execution of enlarged schemes of charity. In Psalm 110:3 they are very strikingly described as "a people of voluntarinesses." The term here used, "liberal," is a comprehensive one and may fairly include -
I. THE NOBLE-MINDED MAN. That is the man who takes high, generous views; who does not make himself, and his own small interests, the measure of all his opinions and judgments. The man who is, everywhere and in everything, ruled by what is right, and not by what will pay. That man may often seem to be at disadvantage. Keenly self-interested men push him aside and push before him. It is not really so. God will give him the only true and eternal prosperities. He deviseth liberal things; in liberal things he perseveres; and by liberal things he shall stand.
II. THE BROAD-MINDED MAN. Who is not limited in his views by the sect or school to which he belongs, the class in society of which he forms part, or even by the bias which follows his own preferences in reading. The man who knows the "world is wide," and has room for all kinds of men and all varieties of opinion. The man who is quite sure there is a "soul of good somewhere, even in things evil." That man makes the best of life, gets honey everywhere. He is a "liberal soul, that shall be made fat."
III. THE CHARITABLY MINDED MAN. One who accepts cheerfully the great "law of service," and recognizes that all he has is for the use and benefit of others. It is all for spending, none for hoarding. "Even Christ pleased not himself." He could say, "I am among you as one that serveth." One who is sensitive to the wants and woes of his fellows, and has in him the soul of the Samaritan, who pities and hefts, rather than the soul of priest or of Levite, who pity and pass on. Such a man puts contrivance, care, and serf-denial into his service. And such a man "shall stand." "The providence of God will reward him for his liberality with a settled prosperity and an established reputation. The grace of God will give him abundance of satisfaction and confirmed peace in his own bosom" (comp. Psalm 112:5, 6). - R.T.
I. UNTIL THEN - WHAT? The women are addressed, the daughters of Zion. The manners of the women must be a sure index of the state of a nation. New religious feeling kindles quickly in their hearts; they welcome and further revivals. Their indifference to spiritual things seems to belie their nature; atheism in woman is monstrous. The Jewish women are in a state of careless unconcern. This attitude of "ease," of apathetic nonchalance, arouses the indignation and the alarm of the prophets, perhaps more than vivacity in sin. It is an ominous symptom in the bodily life, not less so in the soul. It offers a dull prosaic resistance to enthusiasm of any kind, which it holds in smiling, sensuous contempt. A psalmist's soul is "exceedingly filled" with perturbation at this attitude (Psalm 123:4); Amos denounces woe (Amos 6:1), and Zechariah the great displeasure of Jehovah against them that "are at ease." Perhaps the vintage-harvest was over when the prophet spoke. The time would come when a shudder would pass through those luxurious frames; the outer garment would be torn off, the sackcloth assumed, the breasts that once heaved only with the sigh of pleasure be beaten in wild lament for the "days that are no more," for the pleasant fields and the fruitful vine. Those fields will be thorn and briar overgrown; the houses of the city deserted, its mirth quelled. The wild cattle will sport around the temple hill, the palaces be forsaken. Impossible to dissociate in our minds the desolation of once populous scenes from the sin of man and the withdrawal of the gracious Spirit of God. Take these descriptions as figures of the state of the soul; then power and beauty remain. The well-kept garden, the sweet fields in the harvest-time, the mirth of reapers and in-gatherers; these sights, these sounds, provide unsought expression for the soul that feels itself "at ease." The untilled fields, the signs of wild nature creeping to old ascendency over the works of man, - such sights carry symbolic meaning which depresses the most cheerful heart. "Until the Spirit be outpoured from on high" - that is our state, and that it must remain.
II. AFTER THEN - WHAT?
1. "Justice shall inhabit the pasture-country, and righteousness shall dwell in the garden-land." "Men ought not to be like cattle, which seek nothing but plenty of food and abundance of outward things. We should not, like hogs in a sty, judge of the happiness of life by abundance of bread and wine (Calvin). Righteousness alone exalts, righteousness alone can uplift a fallen nation.
2. "The fruit of righteousness shall be peace." This is inwardly and outwardly, subjectively and objectively, true. Peace in the heart is the companion of rectitude; it flows from right order in the home and family, and from just administration in the state. Peace, quietness, confidence: a triple blooming in one; a threefold band of prosperity and condition of all welfare. "Homes of peace, dwellings of confidence, easeful resting-places, - these are the pictures that all men draw in fancy; this the life for which they dream they were made. Such a state depends upon piety, upon personal and social morality. "It is as true now as it was in the time of Isaiah. True religion would put an end to strifes and litigations; to riots and mobs; to oppressions and tumults; to alarms and robbery; to battle and murder and conflict among the nations."
3. These blessings cannot come without suffering. The hail of judgment will fall upon forest and upon city. The refuge of lies and the hiding-place of falsehood must be swept away. Renewing and reforming forces work destructively on one side, as creatively on the other. Upon whom these judgments will fall is not evident from the text. Hail is an image of Divine judgment (Isaiah 28:2, 17; Isaiah 30:30).
4. The happiness of the tiller. He sows beside all waters - a reference to the Oriental custom of casting the seed upon the waters of overflowing streams and rivers, so that, when the waters subside, it will be found again in the springing crop and the abundant harvest. The ox and the ass are employed to tread the moistened earth and prepare for the sowing (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:1, 6). In a figurative sense - happy those who go steadily on with useful work, the work that lies nearest them, the sowing which looks for a "far-off interest of good," amidst the most troubled times. No troubles of the lime should divert us from our daily task, or unsettle us from the habit of continuous useful labor. - J.
ennui of life.
I. MEN AND WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE AT EASE. There is work to be done. Work for all. It is put close to our hand. There are evils to fight - evils so gigantic that every man and woman may have a place in the soldier-ranks. God worketh hitherto; Christ works; and woe to all who, in negligence or in rebelliousness, refuse to bear the yoke!
II. MANY MEN AND WOMEN MUST MASTER THEMSELVES AND THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES IF THEY ARE TO CEASE TO RE AT EASE. For careless ways may have become fixed habits. We may have deceived ourselves into the idea that our "doing nothing," our busy idleness, is really doing something. We begin to take life into our hands for ordering, when we face the question, "What is life given me for? '
"Life is real, life is earnest." III. GOD'S WOE SURELY COMES ON ALL WHO KEEP AT EASE, Our Lord pictured this in his parable of the "rich man and Lazarus." That rich man, living at ease, is not to be envied while he lived, for the woe of God lay on him, making bitterness for his many idle hours. Much less is he to be envied when his life is done, for the woe of God is on him there. "In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." "Tremble, ye women that are at ease!" - R.T.
III. GOD'S WOE SURELY COMES ON ALL WHO KEEP AT EASE, Our Lord pictured this in his parable of the "rich man and Lazarus." That rich man, living at ease, is not to be envied while he lived, for the woe of God lay on him, making bitterness for his many idle hours. Much less is he to be envied when his life is done, for the woe of God is on him there. "In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." "Tremble, ye women that are at ease!" - R.T.
pouring forth," or "pouring out," needs, however, to be very carefully used in relation to God's Spirit. It is only suited to the one aspect of the Spirit as an influence. It may be misconceived if applied to God the Spirit regarded, as a Person. When we use this term "pouring" nowadays, we should carefully keep in mind the figure of the rains, with which it is properly associated. The Jewish Church thought of the Spirit as an influence. The Christian Church has received the larger revelation, and knows of the Holy Ghost as a Divine Person, "dwelling with us, and being in us." He comes to us. We may grieve him. He may depart. But only as a figure can we now speak of him as being "poured on us." The figure of "pouring" is also given in Joel 3:1.
I. CHRIST'S CHURCH IS TOO OFTEN AS A DEAD THING. Illustrate from a parched field. Only noxious weeds can get vitality out of such a soil. Fields are dead because God withholds his rains. Souls are dead, Churches are dead, because God withholds his Spirit. Such withholding is done in judgment. The deadness of a Church is always begun in neglect of God, and self-indulgence. The first love fades out; and then spiritual death waits, "crouching at the door." Dead, for there are no expressions indicating the life of trust and love.
II. ONLY GOD CAN QUICKEN THE DEAD. This one thing is always and altogether out of human reach. Man can do much; but he cannot make anything live. God quickens dead souls, and dead Churches, by the gift of his Spirit. Life wakens life. The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, and brought forth life. That Spirit of God comes down, like refreshing rains, upon the thirsty fields. That Spirit of God enters the temple of a human soul, and the response is life, finding all due expression in activity: "The wilderness becomes a fruitful field." "The kingdom of Messiah was brought in, and set up, by the pouring out of the Spirit; and so it is still kept up, and will be to the end." Then, with unceasing constancy and earnestness it becomes us to pray for the quickening, reviving grace of God the Holy Ghost. - R.T.
I. THOSE WHO ARE INCAPABLE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE UNRECEPTIVE OF PEACE. To them peace is simply incommunicable; it does not come within the range of their faculties. The horse, the swallow, the salmon, the unintelligent and irresponsible animal, may have quietude and comfort, but it cannot enjoy peace, in the fullest and truest sense in which we use that word. It is only capable of that sense of satisfaction which attends a perfect adjustment of its circumstances to its bodily nature; but that is not peace. Peace is that spiritual contentment which results from inward as well as outward harmony - from a sense of rectitude, a consciousness that everything is right in its most important, most sacred relationships. They who are beneath the sense of responsibility, and are therefore incapable of righteousness, can never possibly attain to the possession of peace; they are constitutionally below it.
II. THEY WHO HAVE LOST RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST REGAIN IT BEFORE THEY CAN HAVE THE HERITAGE OF PEACE.
1. This is so with the comer, unity. When the country, or the company, or the Church has fallen into disorder because it has fallen into error and the commission of wrong, there is but one way to regain the harmony which has been lost. Absolutism will never yield it. Force will not secure it. Compromise will not permanently restore it. Nothing will avail until righteousness is re-established. Justice must be done to those to whom it has been denied. Rights must be conceded to those who have fairly won them. Relations must be adjusted to changed conditions; every one and everything must make way for rectitude. In no other way whatever will the path of peace be found.
2. It is thus with the human soul. We have all wandered from the way of wisdom and of righteousness; we have refused to God the love, the reverence, the service which is his due and which it is our highest interest to render. We have thereby become disordered, disquieted, confused; instead of dwelling in "a peaceable habitation," in "quiet resting-places," we have become inhabitants of a realm of condemnation, reproach, peril, , agitation, misery. There is no way back to the home of rest which we have left behind us but by a return to righteousness; that is to say, by repentance, the turning our back on the sinful selfishness in which we have been living, and becoming right with God, accepting the gracious offer of his Son our Savior (Matthew 11:28, 29).
(1) Rejection of truth may give a false security;
(2) absorption in worldly pursuits or in pleasurable excitements may provide temporary indifference; but only righteousness, only the restoration of the soul to its true relation to God, by repentance and faith, will give peace.
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL ENSURE PEACE BOTH IN POSSESSION AND IS PROSPECT. It will effect:
1. Reconciliation with God, and the consequent "peace which passes understanding" - a blissful, satisfying "rest unto the soul," which is incomparably more precious than any earthly satisfaction to the body or the spirit.
2. The inward and abiding rest which belongs to spiritual harmony; this is the invariable consequence of the soul being in a right relation with the Supreme, and with its fellows, and of all its faculties being rightly related to one another.
3. A peaceful departure from the present life.
4. A home in the quiet resting-place of the heavenly land. - C.
I abominate war as unchristian. I hold it the greatest of human crimes. I deem it to include all others - violence, blood, rapine, fraud, everything that can deform the character, alter the nature, and debase the name of man." John Howe wrote in this way, "Very plain it is that war is a mark of the apostasy, and stigmatizes man as fallen from God, in a degenerated, revolted state; it is the horrid issue of men's having forsaken God, and of their being abandoned by him to the hurry of their own furious lusts and passions."
I. CHRISTIANITY IS, DISTINCTIVELY, RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is its essential characteristic, and its necessary work. In this it stands alone, differing from all other religions. Matthew Arnold finds an expression for God which, though it has been well scorned, is really suggestive and helpful. He speaks of him as "the Eternal which makes for righteousness," which is always working towards this end, and regards this as the highest of all attaiments. Other religions propose methods for propitiating God; in Christianity God proposes to make men good. Jesus Christ is the first, the model Christian, and he is good - "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." His requirement, of all his disciples, is personal character - righteousness. Apostles say of this religion, "Herein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith." Christ's personal call is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." Christian growth is "changing into his image from glory to glory." We must "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which none can see the Lord." Prophets pictured the Christian ages, and saw holiness so pervading that it was even engraven on the bells of the horses. Let the Christian faith come to our hearts, and it will work out into righteousness. Let it go forth into society, and it will establish right principles, show right ways, give right impulses, tone with a right spirit, and work on until righteousness flows over all the land, like the waves of the sea.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS LINKED CLOSELY WITH PEACE. "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace." These two things can never be separated. Find the one, and you will soon find also the other. Unrighteousness, uncharity, selfish passions, and war go naturally together, hand-in-hand. Begin "righteousness" anywhere, and you have started on its working an active power that makes for peace. Every soldier that walks our streets, every cannon forged in our arsenals, is a testimony that the sin-curse yet hangs over us. We are not yet "all righteous," or the sight and the sound of war would be heard no more. When, as individuals, we are set right with God, peace comes at once into our hearts, and peaceableness gives tone and character to all our relations. The inner conflicts are stayed; the struggles between the flesh and the spirit are checked; the fever-heat of ambition is soothed; charity and brotherhood bring us into peace with all men. The gospel comes, "preaching pence by Jesus Christ." Righteousness, thus getting round it the one small circle of a life, soon begins to widen its sphere. It rays out on every side. It flows forth, like a sweet scent, purifying the atmospheres wherever a man goes. Families would have a "peace passing understanding" if their members were "all righteous." Our Churches would cease to be the scenes of dissension, if the members were "all righteous." Social life would no longer witness the bitter antagonism of classes, if the people were "all righteous." Nations would soon turn wasteful war expenditure on armies and weapons into the fruitful channels of commerce, and gracious schemes of education and philanthropy, if righteousness did but pluck up ambitions, envyings, and rivalries, and plant in charity, brotherhood, and peace. Envy, hatred, malice, pride, ambition, - these unrighteous things bring forth war. Charity, meekness, self-denial, - these righteous things keep happy fellowship with gentle peace. "First pure, then peaceable." Alas that the prophetic picture should still seem to be but a vision of the distant future! But what a vision it is! and how our hearts spring towards it! Prophets paint it. Saints pray for it. God is working towards it. And it shall surely come. "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness." "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ [the Prince of Peace], and he shall reign forever and ever." - R.T.
consequent retirement of Sennacherib to Assyria. Before the invaders all persons living in the country had to flee to the shelter of the walled cities, abandoning the property which they could not readily carry with them. On the removal of the invaders, the sense of security would return, and such persons would go home and find "quiet resting-places." We see in this passage an on-looking to the times when the Holy Ghost should be given, and. he, ruling in hearts and lives, would make for all trustful souls "quiet resting-places." Treating the text meditatively, we dwell on times when, for us, this promise is realized.
I. THE QUIET RESTING OF EVENING-TIME. Such it is for wearied bodies and worn minds. Soothing is the calmness of natural evening, when the winds fail, the sun throws level yellow beams and long shadows, and the thousand noises of earth are subdued. Evening has a gracious influence on our spirits. It is the time for meditation, with Isaac. Very precious to Christian hearts are the quiet places for meditation, when holy feeling can be nourished.
II. THE QUIET RESTING OF THE SABBATH. Its first idea is "rest." We feel quiet; as if a spell had been breathed over us. The strain of life is relaxed. The world is away. We belong to the eternal world. Life-bustle is stilled. We can give room to other thoughts, and so we rest, body, mind, and soul.
III. THE QUIET RESTING OF TIMES OF AFFLICTION. Such times come into all lives. Times when we must be still. In illness, and in convalescence, there are many quiet, lonely hours. These are the scenes to which Christ invites us when he says, "Come ye into a desert place, and rest awhile."
IV. THE QUIET RESTING-PLACE OF DEATH. The grave is spoken of as the "place where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." And the place where there are memorials of the dead is often a most "quiet resting-place" for the living. This may be illustrated by the soothing, silencing, solemnizing influence exerted on us by a visit to Westminster Abbey. On earth there can hardly be found a more "quiet resting-place." Sometimes the chamber where we watch the dying of a saint of God is such a place. Beautiful to see the pain-worn face at last go into the repose of death. "When sinks the weary soul to rest." We may add that those who have found rest in God prove how graciously he gives restful moments in the very midst of the hurry and worry of life. - R.T.
There will he widespread desolation," says the prophet; "the fields will be untilled, the land will he covered with briars and thorns; but a glorious change shall come over the scene' - the 'wilderness shall become a fruitful field' (ver. 15), the happy scenes of industry will again be witnessed, the arts and industries of agriculture will revive and flourish in all their former fullness. Happy will be the land that shall put forth its whole strength in the field; 'blessed are they that sow beside all waters.' 'Two general truths spring from this passage.
I. THAT THEY ARE BLESSED WHO PUT FORTH ALL THE POWERS WITH WHICH THEY ARE ENDOWED. It should be the happiness of Israel in its time of restoration to leave no soil uncultivated that would yield produce; they would sow beside all waters. All its inhabitants, with all their agricultural implements, would be busy in the open fields; no strength left unexercised in the homes; no weapons left unused in the storehouses. Unhappy indeed is
(1) the country whose population is doomed to enforced idleness, whose looms are still, whose ploughs are rusting in the homestead;
(2) the family where sons and daughters are letting their various faculties lie idle, when they might be put forth to their own great advantage and for the good of others;
(3) the man whose individual powers are slumbering in his soul, unspent and undeveloped. Blessed are they who expend all the resources they possess, who cultivate all their skill of hand, who develop all their strength of mind, who so put out all their talents that the whole energies of their spiritual nature will be employed, increased, perfected. By sowing beside all waters is meant sowing seed in well-watered, and therefore fruitful, soil. The expression consequently contains the idea -
II. THAT THEY ABE BLESSED WHO ARE ENGAGED IN REMUNERATIVE LABOR. This is peculiarly true of the Christian workman.
1. He had the very best seed to sow: truth, which God took centuries to prepare, which is the purchase of a Savior's tears and blood, which is exquisitely adapted to the soil for which it is intended.
2. He has well-watered, i.e. fertile, responsive soil in which to place it. He has, amongst others:
(1) The virgin soil of youth. Youth may often be inattentive, frivolous, unstable; nevertheless it is docile, affectionate, trustful, tender-hearted.
(2) The prepared soil of affliction. When God has chastened the soul with his fatherly hand, there is a softness of spirit, an impressionableness of heart which makes words of comfort, of exhortation, of warning peculiarly welcome.
(3) The productive soil of poverty. From the days when "the common people heard Jesus gladly," and when it was said "to the poor the gospel is preached," to these times in which we live, the poor have been comparatively rich in faith and hope. By those to whom the riches and enjoyments of earth are denied, the treasures of truth and the blessedness of the kingdom of God are likely to be prized and gained (see 1 or i 26 28 Blessed are the who sow such fertile soils, for theirs is not only the blessing which comes to all faithful laborers - the approval of Christ and their own spiritual advancement - but the great "joy of harvest," the joy which fills the husbandman's heart when he "comes again" from the "heavy-fruited" fields, "bringing his sheaves with him." - C.
I. THE SOWER IS A MAN IN TRUST. He has the seed-corn for next year's harvest. The food of the people depends, in measure, on each one's faithfulness to his trust. The Christian is a man put in trust. He has what is for the blessing of men. Truth, more precious than seeds. Powers of sympathy and love that bring bountiful harvests. Wealth, and knowledge, and position, and opportunities, that may all prove life-giving to men. Above all, he has the trust of the gospel.
II. THE SOWER IS REQUIRED TO SOW ALL HE HAS IN TRUST. He is not to live on the seed. He is not to store it up safely. He is not to use it for any objects of his own. He must not delay in fulfilling his master's will with the seed. It was given to him that he might sow it all in the soil. So God would have the Christian put to use every talent, every trust, he has committed to him. In this our Lord is our example. Everything God gave him he gave away: love, truth, comfort, healing, pity, time, strength, character, life, - all, he gave away. In him there was no getting to keep; only getting to give.
III. THE SOWER IS REQUIRED TO SOW FREELY. "Beside all waters." Not too nicely examining the conditions of the soil; not selecting just the deep and prepared earth, but scattering freely, and scattering wide. The Christian never knows where, in God's fields, the richest harvests will be reaped. So he sows all over the field, sows in perseverance, and sows in faith. In conclusion, it may be shown that the true sower is much more concerned with the excellence of his sowing than with the results that may attend it. These he must leave altogether in the hands of him who surely will not "let his work return unto him void." - R.T.