Isaiah 61
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. THE ANOINTING OF THE MESSENGER. Under the Law, the priests were anointed (Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 7:36), and also the kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13). It was the sign of appointment to a high office or commission from God. Hence, by a figure, it is applied to the appointment of Elisha to the prophetic office (1 Kings 19:16), and to the designation of Cyrus as the instrument of the purpose of Jehovah. Similarly, in 1 John 2:20, the use is figurative. The idea is that of consecrated dedication (cf. Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9).


1. That he may evangelize, or preach the gospel. To whom? To those who need good tidings - the afflicted, the distressed and needy, the poor (Luke 4:18), or those borne down by long captivity or other calamity (cf. Matthew 11:5).

2. To bind up the broken-hearted. In temporal or spiritual reference, "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3). And this by the proclamation of liberty. The sound of the words would remind of the great "year of jubilee" (Leviticus 25:10; cf. Ezekiel 46:17; Jeremiah 34:8). If nothing is said in the law of jubilee about the release of prisoners or the remission of debts, all the associations of the time led to its being spoken of as a symbol of manumission, emancipation, and so of universal joy.

3. To proclaim a time of grace and of retribution. A "year" of mercy, a "day" only of vengeance. Punishment descends to the third and fourth generation, but mercy to the thousandth (Exodus 20:5, 6; cf. Deuteronomy 7:9). But the coming or deliverance must ever mean also the coming in destruction (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

4. To comfort mourners. Especially those of Zion. But an application of evangelical promises must be equally larger with human need, human receptivity, human willingness, human power to receive, i.e. faith. Upon such the "coronet" is to be placed instead of ashes; the associations of the wedding (ver. 10) are to replace those of the funeral (2 Samuel 13:19), the nuptial song the former lamentation. Instead of the failing spirit," described under the image of a wick burning out, or of dimness, or faintness (Isaiah 42:3; 1 Samuel 3:2; Leviticus 13:39), there will be the "mantle of renown." In the Orient, especially, the apparel expresses the mood of the mind. See an illustration in Judges 10:3, 4: she "put on her garments of gladness, wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband."

5. To produce a vigorous and beautiful life. Men shall call them "oaks of righteousness, the plantation of Jehovah for showing himself glorious" (cf. on the simile, Psalm 92:12-14, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree," etc.; Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8). A mystic plantation under the care of the Divine Gardener (cf. Matthew 15:13). The exiles will return, will "build up the ruins of antiquity, and raise up the desolations of the forefathers, and renew the ruined cities. As ruins suggest all the pathos of the decay of families and nations, so does the act of rebuilding remind of that ever-recreative energy which lies in the religious heart of mankind, and which breaks forth afresh after every epoch of calamity. Strangers are to feed their flocks, aliens are to be their ploughmen and vinedressers, and all classes are to partake in the Messianic blessings. The people of Israel themselves will be called the "priests of Jehovah." For the priests, as a class only, represented the idea of Israel, as a nation consecrated to the service of the Eternal, destined to perform a holy ministry to the rest of mankind. Men will take hold of the skirts of the Jew (Zechariah 8:23). There will be compensation, double compensation, in the possession of the land in increased fertility and. with enlarged boundaries.


1. The principle of justice and compensation. He "hates things torn away unjustly," and will compensate his people for their past sufferings. How grand and all-consoling that truth of compensation! "All things are moral. That soul which within us is a sentiment, outside of us is a law. We feel its inspiration; yonder in history we can see its fatal strength." "It is in the world, and the world was made by it. Justice is not postponed. A perfect equity adjusts its balance in all parts of life. The dice of God are always loaded. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. What we call retribution is the universal necessity by which the whole appears wherever a part appears" (Emerson).

2. The everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 55:3.) Part of the condition of that covenant is the securing of an illustrious position for Israel among the nations; to be "known" is to be honoured, as in Psalm 67:2; Psalm 76:1; Psalm 79:10. The time shall come in a larger sense, when the friends of the lowly and despised Nazarene shall be regarded as the favoured of the Lord; instead of being persecuted and despised, the whole earth shall regard them with confidence and esteem. Providence throws a veil of obscurity over its deepest designs, and the seed of glorious futures lies slumbering in the rough husk until the appointed time for its germination and growth. - J.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, etc. These words are specially memorable as being those which the Saviour read in the synagogue at Nazareth. We have had it described to us "with its pillared portico of Grecian architecture, with its scats on one side for the men; on the other, behind a lattice, are seated the women, shrouded in their long veils." When the lesson from the Pentateuch was over, Jesus ascended the steps of the desk, and the chazzan, or clerk, "drew aside the silk curtain of the painted ark, which contained the sacred manuscripts," and from the roll of the Prophet Isaiah, either read the lesson for the day, or chose the portion himself. We can scarcely read these words here without thinking of him there, the whole congregation standing up to listen to him. The words contain -

I. THE MESSIANIC GRANDEUR OF CHRIST. Anointed of the Father. No mere prophet or teacher, but the Holy One of Israel. This prophecy, written some seven hundred years before, and thus attested by the Saviour as written concerning himself, gives Divine testimony to the ancient inspiration.


1. It was a proclamation. "Good tidings." Think of the iron power of Rome; the selfishness of the rich; the pride of the patrician; the helplessness of the slave; the hopelessness of the philosopher. Christ came to the meek, not the mighty.

2. It was a consolation. "To bind up the brokenhearted." To heal by the touch of his sympathy, and to save by the power of his cross.

3. It was a deliverance. "To proclaim liberty to the captives," etc. Sin had woven its silken cords into iron bands. Men were slaves of lust and habit. The prison was opened; and the fetters which they could not shake off Christ struck from their souls. - W.M.S.

These words are undeniably Messianic; that is their secondary, if not their primary, import. Of the mission of Christ they remind us -

I. THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS SENT OF GOD. Our Lord not only stated but insisted that he came forth from God. He constantly took up the position here asserted, "the Lord hath anointed me" (John 4:34; John 5:19, 30; John 8:28; John 9:4; John 12:49).

II. THAT HE WAS FILLED WITH THE STRAIT OF GOD. "The Spirit of the Lord God" was upon him, and dwelt in him as in no other child of man. God gave not the Spirit "by measure" unto him (John 3:34; John 14:10, etc.).

III. THAT HE WAS CHARGED WITH A MISSION OF DIVINE BENEFICENCE. "Anointed to preach good tidings." Well might the human world have expected that a special messenger from heaven would come with ill tidings on his lips; would come to announce wrath, penalty, destruction; would pass through town and village with such a "burden" as that of Jonah to the thousands of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). But the coming of Christ was the advent of grace; he came to promise peace, to publish salvation. The thoughts and ways of the Supreme are not as ours; they are immeasurably magnanimous.

IV. THAT THE BENEFICENCE OF CHRIST WAS SPIRITUAL AND PROFOUND. He came to effect something more and better than the overthrow of a tyrannical government and the establishment of an earthly kingdom, than the removal of abounding poverty and the supply of material prosperity, than the introduction of any visible and transient good. He came:

1. To confer spiritual freedom on those who were in bondage. "To proclaim liberty to the captives;" to open the prison-doors and emancipate human souls from the thraldom of sin, of vice, of error, of folly, and to lead them into the glorious liberty of the children of God - the liberty of truth and righteousness.

2. To convey comfort to the sorrowful. "To bind up the broken-hearted:" to comfort all that mourn. He came to furnish us with those facts and principles which can light up the dark shadows of deepest affliction with rays of peace and hope. (See next homily.)

V. THAT EVEN THE LIGHT OF DIVINE BENEFICENCE CASTS A SHADOW OF CONDEMNATION. The day of deliverance to the righteous is a "day of vengeance" or retribution to the guilty. The brightest light of truth must fling the darkest shadow of responsibility and condemnation. The corner-stone of salvation to the penitent and believing must prove a stumbling-block to the impenitent and the unbelieving. - C.

Those more especially addressed by Messiah are called the "meek," the "broken-hearted," the "captives," and the "bound." It at once comes to mind that precisely such persons were addressed in the sermon on the mount: and it may be remarked, as distinguishing Christ from all ordinary human teachers, who have their own personal gain and success to consider, that he never sought out the great, the rich, or the learned, but gave his best to the heart-sore, the body-smitten, and the life-humbled. Our Lord makes a very striking reference to this passage in his sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:18). Before entering on the proper subject of this homily, it may be well to note that the only credentials which our Lord cared to present were the manifest signs and proofs that the Spirit of God was upon him. And what better credentials would any true-hearted man wish to offer.'? Material figures of moral conditions may be found in the depressed, afflicted, almost despairing state of the captives in Babylon.

I. MESSIAH'S MISSION TO THE MEEK. This term is used in several senses in Scripture. Sometimes it stands for the humble, who think lowly things concerning themselves. Sometimes it stands for the disinterested, who are willing to give up their own things for the sake of others. Here it stands for crushed and hopeless ones, who have lost all spirit, and think there is no light, no cheer, in this life for them. The battle with sin sometimes leaves men hard, and then it is of little use to bring "good tidings." But sometimes it makes men meek, sort, impressible, and to them Messiah comes with "good tidings:" for them is born a Saviour.

II. MESSIAH'S MISSION TO THE BROKEN-HEARTED. This term best expresses the state of conviction and penitence. It is the sign of that supreme grief which a man knows when he sees himself as he is, and as God regards him. To such a man Messiah comes with the message of a free and full forgiveness, which is a binding up, a healing; the joy of acceptance and welcome of love.

III. MESSIAH'S MISSION TO THE CAPTIVES. Those between whose circumstances and whose souls there is constant conflict. Sin gets power to enslave through the body. "Whoso committeth sin is the slave of' sin." Messiah comes to energize souls for victory over enslaving bodies and enslaving circumstances. Giving life to souls, he gives liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

IV. MESSIAH'S MISSION TO THE BOUND. The moral suggestion is of those who are mastered by old evil habits, easily besetting sins. These become the distress of souls that have been forgiven and accepted. And Messiah comes to give "more grace," so that they may "resist unto blood, striving against sin." So Messiah meets all our gravest human troubles. He is Burden-bearer and Burden-lifter. - R.T.

Very striking is the frequency with which this, and other prophets, set together the two sides of Messiah's work. Deliverance of those who trust him goes together with judgment on those who reject him. In a most impressive way the Old Testament canon closes with this dual aspect of Divine dealings, "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble But unto you that fear my Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:1, 2). And the New Testament opens with the prophetic exclamation of Simeon, as he held the infant Saviour in his arms, "This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." Some make a distinction between the long year of acceptance and the short day of vengeance. No doubt the first reference of the text is to the Divine indignation against those faithless or selfish Jews who would not respond to the Lord's call to return to their ancient land. So it may stand for the Divine indignation against those who are "condemned already, because they have not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God." This subject is so frequently and variously treated, that we here confine ourselves to two points.

I. ACCEPTANCE FOLLOWS FORGIVENESS. Messiah proclaims acceptance because he brings forgiveness. It is of the utmost importance that there should be no uncertain sound as to the necessity for "forgiveness." Vague sentiments prevail concerning the Divine acceptance; and there is a notion that all we can need is a sort of educating into goodness. Man, every man, needs to be forgiven. No man can be accepted until he is forgiven. This may lead to a full consideration of that work of Messiah which bears on the ensuring of forgiveness. It is a mediatorial work, which has relations of propitiation towards God and relations of conviction towards man. The acceptancetime is proclaimed to guilty rebels who lay down their arms and ask for mercy.

II. REJECTION FOLLOWS THE HARDNESS THAT WILL NOT SEEK FORGIVENESS. That is the "day of vengeance of our God." If put into a word, that word may be this - they are left to their fate. If put into a figure, it may be this - they are outside the lighted halls, in the "outer darkness." If fashioned in human images, the offended king must put to death those who rebelliously refuse to touch his offered golden sceptre. There is a mystery of profound and awful meaning in the expression, "the wrath of the Lamb." - R.T.

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, etc. There is a triple exchange spoken of in these words, which ought to quicken thought.

I. CHARACTER. "Beauty for ashes." The penitent is uplifted from the dust. Instead of standing before God in sad confession, with all the stains of sin upon his heart and the liturgy of woe upon his lips, he has new life. The beauty of the Lord is given to him - there is transformation.

II. EMOTION. "The oil of joy for mourning." No longer looking at the dark side of personal history and personal prospect. The very countenance is anointed with fresh oil - a type of what has taken place within the man. Because you cannot force joy, nor can yon pretend it. Nature sets herself against all forgeries. Such joy as a godly man experiences can only come from the good treasure of his heart.

III. EXPRESSION. "The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The outward life is all so different. As God is said to clothe himself with light as with a garment, so the Easterns understood the garment of light to be the expression of the man himself, even as we now look to the habiliments of the mourner as testifying to his grief. The spirit of heaviness is distressing. It is not a thankful spirit, nor a hopeful spirit, nor an inspiring spirit. But the garment of praise is like the melody of the temple choir; like the music of the river; like the "lark that sings at heaven's gate." "Awake, psaltery and harp; I myself will awake right early." - W.M.S.

We think of our Lord as of our Divine Friend; and there is no way in which any one can show himself so true a friend as in the time of trouble. Well says the old adage, "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

I. OUR URGENT NEED OF HIS DIVINE SUCCOUR. "Them that mourn in Zion." In virtue of his relation to us as our Saviour, Jesus Christ delivers's from the power and bondage of sin, and so from the remorse which attends its presence and constitutes a principal part of its penalty. But there are other things from which he does not profess to save his people in this world; these are suffering and sorrow. His very best disciples may inherit a bodily constitution which has in it the seeds of feebleness and pain, and which may develop these evils in their acutest form; or they may be the victims of some terrible accident or of human cruelty; or they may be called on to pass through trying straits, or to bear bitter disappointment, or to endure grievous losses and long-continued loneliness. There is no mark on the lintel of their doors to tell the angel of sorrow to pass by. He enters every home; he has a message for every heart, and the children of the kingdom hear his voice, and feel the touch of his hand, even as do the citizens of the worldly kingdom.

II. THE SUFFICIENCY OF OUR SAVIOUR'S SUCCOUR. Christ saves us in suffering and sorrow, though he does not here deliver us from it. Such is the transforming power of his mighty touch, that he converts it into another thing; under his hand it changes its aspect and is something else; the disfiguring ashes become a diadem of beauty; instead of the signs of mourning there is seen the anointing with the oil of joy; divested of the spirit of heaviness, the soul is clothed in the blessed garment of praise. The power of the wonderful Worker (Isaiah 9:6) has transfigured everything - has turned the curse into a blessing. And how?

1. By a sense of his gracious presence. The sorrowing spirit rejoices to feel that its Lord is near - is nearer than closest relative, than dearest friend.

2. By a consciousness of his tender pity. The known and felt compassion, the assured sympathy of the Lord of love, fills the heart with peace.

3. By the direct, sustaining influences of his Holy Spirit.

4. By the assurance that he is seeking our highest good; that things are not happening by accident or mistake; that the gracious and wise Lord of all hearts and lives is working out an issue, dark and afar off, perhaps, but kind and good, righteous and beneficent; that he is planting and nourishing "trees of righteousness," and that these can only be grown with drenching rains and searching winds as well as with sweet sunshine and balmy airs.

5. By the promise of unshadowed blessedness a little further on. - C.

A garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness... that he might be glorified. The figures used arc drawn from Eastern customs and sentiments. The afflicted clothe themselves in sackcloth, sit in ashes, and throw dust on their heads. In gladness and feast-time men crown themselves with garlands or wreaths. In sickness men do not use oil at toilet; when restored to health they resume the oil which "makes the face to shine." Festal days call forth bright-coloured garments; troublous seasons find men crouched on the ground heedless of the robes that cover them. But God is not honoured with ashes; he wants garlands. Nor is he honoured with neglected toilets; he wants the oil of joy. He asks for songs by the way from all who are journeying to Zion. His call ever is, "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh."

I. GOD'S MESSIAH FINDS MEN SAD. And they had abundant reason for being sad. Illustrate from the state of the Jewish nation when deliverance from captivity came; also from the state of the world when Jesus the Saviour came. "Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." Dr. Kane and His shipwrecked crew might well be sad when, in the polar regions, they never saw the sun for one hundred and forty long and weary days. Those out of Christ have good reason to be sad. It is even a hopeful sign that they are. Philosophers and scientific teachers who do not "like to retain God in their thoughts" are always sad - affectingly, impressively sad. The saddest hook ever written is John Stuart Mill's autobiography.

II. GOD'S MESSIAH MAKES MEN GLAD. Jesus Christ cannot do with people who, in moral senses, stay in the ashes, neglect their toilet, and keep up miserable groans. He wants to get a song into men's set, is - even praise unto a redeeming God - which shall compel them to put garlands and festal garments on, and make their faces shine. We cannot keep Jesus and sadness both with us, any more than the world can keep both sunshine and mists. This homily should be used for pleading against a long-faced, dreary religion, and in behalf of the smiles and song that should characterize all who know the grace in Christ Jesus unto life eternal.

"I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in him a Resting-place,
And he has made me glad."
- R.T.

They shall build the old wastes. All waste is wicked. It is so in war. Even taken at its lowest estimate, think of the ruin of glorious temples, and exquisite sculptures, and works of art, - all ground to dust, as Mr. Ruskin says, by mere human rage. Florence, and many of the Southern cities, have been the war-fields of Europe. What waste! There genius toiled; there multitudes, in sweat of brow, built the aqueduct and decorated the capitol; and there, from time to time, the rude hand of the despoiler has come. History has made record of victories and glorified conquerors, and some minstrel has caught the infection and sung the lay of the wasters. What a satire on man! Why smile at the child who builds houses for the sea to smite down? Man builds, and then with the waves of maddened war-lust dashes to pieces his own best works. So it is. The history of Europe has been, in this sense, a history of waste, and instead of the glorious works of Phidias to gaze upon, we have broken arms, fractured columns. In devastated districts we dig for relics. This is only the material side of the waste of war. I say all waste is wicked. And I have to speak of human hearts and lives. Much more precious these than sculptured column or lofty fane. Yes; do not let us forget that the words of Christ refer to life present as well as life to come. "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own life?"

I. ALL LIVES WERE DESIGNED TO HAVE A DIVINE IDEAL IN THEM. We cannot understand the "why" of creation at all apart from that. "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). They have, in fact, invented many ideals for themselves, and have wasted in these inventions the fine God-created faculties of their souls. If the end is missed all is missed. If the column does not stand erect and uphold the building, it is nothing to me that you decorate it when on the ground. That is not its place, its use; it is a pillar or nothing. So man was made in this highest end to glorify God; and his life is blighted - if it is rich in cultivation, elevated in taste, artistic in style, comprehensive in erudition, useful in applied mechanics - if he does not glorify God. Our Saviour said, "My meat and my drink is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."

1. Lives are blighted, if certain seasons of spring and seed-time, which cannot return, pass idly by. Men may be saved; for the precious blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin, even in old age. But they cannot bear the fruit of a spiritual manhood, or of a Christian childhood.

2. Lives are blighted, if not filled with the power of immortality. However noble and glorious they may appear, their fruits wither; there is no deep soil; the roots do not strike into the eternal life.

3. Lives are blighted, if not influential as good soil to be used for harvests. Man does not live for the mere enjoyment and admiration of spiritual beauty in hours of meditation. There must be fruit in the tree for others to gather. It is disappointing in the autumn to lift the leaves and find no rich bloom of purple fruit, "Abide in me." "So," says Christ, "shall ye bear much fruit."

II. ALL WASTING OF LIFE IS TRACEABLE. What to? Well, you can trace the blight to something in the atmosphere, something at the root, or some confinement from the free breath of heaven. So you can trace human waste and moral waste.

1. Sometimes it comes from absence of faith. There has been energy or heroic determination to conquer evil, to pursue the good, but this has been mere doing, not being; men need faith to win Christ; to have him in them, the Hope of glory. "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered."

2. Sometimes it comes from absence of love. It is love that makes the other graces grow and bring forth fruit. Love is warmth and life when inspired by Christ. Let me say also that I wanted to speak of lives in a human sense blighted, and there are some such. Why? Because love is absent; they are treated coldly, contemptuously, cruelly; the fire of love, at first damped, has now died out in their hearts; they know, they feel it is. Mated to coarseness and rudeness, with the first thin superficial refinement and tenderness all worn away, they find life worse than a blank - it is a bitter, bitter bondage to the selfishness and tyranny of others. Poor heart! God help thee wherever thou art. Love can bear much and hope on. But when love's ashes are white, life is blighted indeed.

3. Sometimes it comes from indifference. Let it alone. That is enough. Leave religion to take care of itself. Then, like the best garden, it soon becomes desolate.

III. WASTED LIVES ARE REPARABLE ONLY BY REDEMPTION. In the body there is a kind of self-healing after sickness. Not so with the soul; that requires a Divine Physician.

1. Christ does more than forgive. He renews and restores. Perhaps you desire now that God should restore unto you the joy of salvation. You are sad about your own fruitlessness. So little peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Then, just as spring - sweet spring - comes in time, and the tender herb appears, and Nature puts on her new garment of beauty, rejoicing to have her incense-cup filled again by the hand of the Most High, so you desire that new graces should spring forth. Christ can make you abound with life through the abundant grace which he is waiting to bestow.

2. Christ does wore than teach. He will live in you. The fruit is not yours, but Christ's. He is the Vine, we are the branches. A closer union with him is what we need. If we seek to be grafted into the true Vine, then, and then only, shall we bring forth fruit in our season. Christ is sometimes tailed the great Teacher. So he is! All his teaching is that of the infinite mind. "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." What, then, is his first teaching? Believe on me! Then we become one with him, and our character has life in it.

3. Christ does more even than commence this life. He completes it. He carries it on to perfection. So that we, sinful and weak as we are, are made perfect in every good work. Waste, then, is not to be mourned over only; it is to be restored. The satirist speaks scornfully of evil when seen and lived out. The optimist says all is the best possible in the best of worlds, could we but understand all. The Christian says, "No; evil is here, and evil is not of God." And then by the aid of the Holy Ghost he seeks to have the old man crucified with Christ, and to live unto God. May renewal come to us all! May blight and waste give place to life and fruit! - W.M.S.

We have here -

I. AN OPEN PRIVILEGE to be eagerly employed. "Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord." Under the Law the priesthood was limited to one family of one tribe; the rest of the nation had rights and duties outside and inferior. There stand, indeed, the ancient words, "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests," but this promise finds no complete fulfilment in the history of Israel. It is realized only in the kingdom of Christ. Under him the whole community is a "holy priesthood," a "royal priesthood." Christ "has made us (all) kings and priests unto God." It is open to every one of us to draw nigh unto God in closest spiritual communion; to intercede with him in earnest, believing prayer; to present unto him "spiritual sacrifices" of obedience, of resignation, of consecration. The way is open now into the holiest of all, and they please God most who approach him most frequently, and offer to him most continually the sacrifice which comes from clean hands and a pure and loving heart.

II. AN ENVIABLE REPUTATION to be greatly coveted. "Men shall call you the Ministers [servants] of our God." What is it that we would have men say about us? By what do we most desire to be distinguished and remembered? By our bodily strength or muscular skill? By our intellectual powers? By our possessions? These things "profit a little;" they "have their reward" in momentary satisfaction, in pleasure that lives awhile and dies. But they are not significant of the best and worthiest, of that which endures amid the wreck and passage of the things which perish. The one reputation worth possessing is that of being a true "servant of God." It is worth while doing much and endeavouring much, if need be, that the thing which our contemporaries shall associate with our name, and by which those who survive us shall distinguish us from others, is our faithful and devoted service of the Divine Master. So let us live that the first thought which will arise in men's minds concerning us is that we are servants of our God.

III. AN INVALUABLE HOPE to be devoutly cherished. "All that see them [their offspring] shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." What are our deepest solicitudes concerning our children? That they will rise, will be enriched, will be honoured of men? These might prove curses rather than blessings. The wise parent will hope, will live and strive, will pray that his children may be such in spirit, in character, in behaviour, that all who see them will feel about them that the blessing of God is in their heart and upon their head. - C.

Men shall call you the Ministers of our God. Dean Plumptre says of this verse, "This had been the original ideal of the nation's life (Exodus 19:6), forfeited for a time through the sins of the people (Exodus 28:1), to be fulfilled at last in the citizens of the New Jerusalem" (comp. 1 Peter 2:9). Matthew Arnold says, "The Jews, a nation of God's servants appointed to initiate the rest of the world into his service, are to give themselves to this sacred and priestly labour, while the rest of the world do their secular labour for them." Matthew Henry says, "All believers are made to our God kings and priests; and they ought to conduct themselves as such in their devotions, and in their whole conversation, with 'holiness to the Lord' written upon their foreheads, that men may call them the "priests of the Lord.'" We learn from this passage what are the views we may rightly take of our "priests and preachers."

I. THEY BELONG TO OUR GOD. Importance attaches to the personal appropriation indicated in the expression" our God." Only those who are themselves in right relations with God will ever put ministers into their right place, or keep them in their right place. A man who does not know God for himself will want his minister to become a priest, and do too much for him. The man who, in covenant relations, can say "my God," will thankfully accept, and wisely use, all that God's servants can do for him.

II. THEY MINISTER FOR OUR GOD. And they can do nothing but minister. They are, like their Lord and Master Jesus Christ, among us "as he that serveth." "We preach Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Ministers bring to us messages from God, but we must never let them stand before God. There is peril for our souls whenever officiating priest or popular preacher takes all our attention, and keeps us from direct dealing with God. We must never let even apostles have "dominion over our faith;" they are only "helpers of our joy." Very possibly some of our souls are hindered from attaining the best in Christian life, because our outlook is stopped by the figure of a man, and we cannot see God.

III. THEY SERVE US IN THE NAME OF OUR GOD. Emphasis is put on the word "us." It is peculiar to all faithful and wise ministers that they have a "passion for souls," the "enthusiasm of humanity:" and are ever seeking to gain adaptation to us. Some men are more interested in truth than in persons; but the real priests and preachers and pastors of our God follow after the great apostle and say, "We seek not yours, but you." ? R.T.

All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. "Let the children of godly parents live in such a manner that they may be known to be such, that all who observe them may see in them the fruits of a good education, and an answer to the prayers that were put up for them." "Easterns value highly the retention of blessings through succeeding generations." Abraham, as the first father of the race, may be taken as the type of all fathers and mothers. Then the course of thought may be this -

I. THE PIOUS PATERNAL CHARACTER. As seen in Abraham, it includes:

1. Reverence. A due sense of the "unseen" is the secret of the sense of duty which lies at the basis of all real authority.

2. Uprightness. Which gives a certain firmness, almost sternness, which ensures a blended fear and confidence.

3. Obedience. A man's own response to his sonship with God is the secret of his power to command the obedience of his children.

II. THE SECURITY PATERNAL CHARACTER AFFORDS THAT FAMILIES WILL BE RULED. There is a strange idea entertained, that there is no strong rule in fatherhood. But every home must have its laws. The mightiest men of earth are not the giants with the big fists. The Davids of intellectual, moral, and emotional force are grander than all Sauls who stand heads above their fellows. The highest power of influence attends on character. Put a man of good character anywhere, and he proves to be a king; he rules. There is a natural authority belonging to parentage. This is not enough. It can he kept into the manhood of the children only as parents gain the higher power of moral character.

III. THE RESULT OF GOOD RULING IS THAT THE CHILDREN TURN OUT WELL. How we dream over the future of our children! We may leave it all with God, if we are culturing ourselves into Christ-likeness, and watchfully anxious that this our Christ-likeness should shine well on them. But what do we mean by "our children turning out well'? Does that mean "proving talented," "marrying prudently," "winning business successes? Or do we mean keeping well in the ways of the Lord, whatever may be their circumstances, and whatever may be their relations?

IV. THROUGH GOOD PARENTS AND GOOD FAMILIES GOD'S PURPOSES IN THE WORLD ARE ACCOMPLISHED. Compare Dr. Horace Bushnell's very striking expression, "The out-populating of the Christian stock." As are the families so will be the nation. We trust in virtuous homes, well-ruled families, godly fathers, and pious mothers. Blessed indeed are those children who grow up constrained to goodness by the example, influence, and authority of godly parents! - R.T.

We may regard the city as the speaker, and the city may typify the Church.

I. HER CLOTHING. As garments are for protection and ornament, so it may stand as a figure of a community arrayed in the strength and righteousness of Jehovah. And so the Church still sings -

"Jesus, thy robe of righteousness
My beauty is, my glorious dress." There is an allusion to the dress of the bridegroom and of the priest; for at one time the bridegroom wore a crown, and the priest wore a mitre, with the plate or crown of gold in front of it (Exodus 29:6). Such portions of the dress mark out the wearer in his sacred character and in his solemn functions. They are not for mere ornament. The Church, the saints in general, are designated as a" royal priesthood," to offer praise and prayer continually.

II. NATURE'S PARABLE OF SPIRITUAL JOY. (cf. Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 55:10, 11; Isaiah 58:11.) The joy with which we see the earth becoming all "one emerald" with the new verdure of spring; the burgeoning of the trees, the disclosure of the rudiments of future leaves and flowers, is in a sense prophetic of some analogous process in the spiritual world. For self-fulfilling is the power of the Divine Word. And even when the aspect of Church and state is most dark and depressing, life is stirring, seeds of better development are germinating, and events are being set in motion which shall stir men up to praise Israel and the God of Israel. - J.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God. This does not certainly seem like the ease with the anchorite and the ascetic and the hermit. A religion that fails in the direction of felicity would seem to lose claim, at all events, to be considered a true ideal of the gospel. Mediaevalism rejoiced in pictures of the saints, who could not fairly be said to have an aureole, of gladness about their heads.


1. God has forgiven and forgotten our sin. He has blotted it out of his book of remembrance. "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation."

2. God has made us one with himself. The highest pleasures are those of fellowship with mind. To know the author is more than to read the book; to know the heart of a beautiful nature is to discover a greater world than Columbus did. What, then, is it to walk as Enoch did with God, and to know him whom to know is life eternal! Here we have introduced the relation of bride and bridegroom - so condescending is the love of Christ.

II. THERE ARE GREAT DEPTHS OF REJOICING. "My soul." Joy may be superficial. It is idle to deny the fact that there are pleasures which have their root in the passions, or in the imagination, or in the accumulative faculty. But all these joys have their reactions, their limitations, their exhaustions. But spiritual joy is connected with the soul, and as such it is

(1) ever capable of increase;

(2) never liable to exhaustion;

(3) and immortal in its sphere of development.

At God's right hand there are pleasures for evermore. - W.M.S.

I. OUR CAPACITY OF EXULTATION. Our human spirit is capable of great emotion. Our feeling may sink to great depths of sorrow, or may rise to great heights of joy. We have no language which will express the degrees of spiritual distress and agony which are possible to the stricken and despairing, or which will measure the degrees of joy and ecstasy possible to the blessed and the victorious.

II. OUR TEMPTATION in this matter. The warning of the prophet of the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24) proves that in other lands and other times than ours the wise (learned) man has been tempted to glory in his wisdom, the rich man in his wealth, the mighty man in his power and prowess. But such glorification is our weakness and our folly; it is not built on truth; it conducts to complacency; it ends in disappointment, if not in shame.

III. OUR WISDOM. This is to rejoice in God, to ';glory in this, that we understand and know him," and are ranked among his people. We cannot go too far in our delight in him.

1. His character provides a source of spiritual satisfaction absolutely inexhaustible. We say everything in one word as to his sufficiency when we say that he is "our God."

2. He has done greatest things for us. He has

(1) wrought for us the greatest of all deliverances - salvation; and

(2) bestowed on us the greatest of all blessings - righteousness, inward and spiritual rectitude.

3. He stands pledged to accomplish that in which we shall greatly triumph (ver. 11). As the well-cultivated garden has in it living forces which will show themselves in fairest flowers and richest fruits, so has the Lord our God in himself all the wisdom, grace, and power which will be manifest in righteousness and praise, springing forth in the sight of all the nations. - C.

Richard Weaver gives an effective and pleasing illustration. "A lady once took me into her garden, and I found there beds filled with all kinds of beautiful flowers; but at the end of the garden I came to the edge of a steep precipice, and as I stood looking down at the great black rock beneath, I thought what a dreadful place that would be to fall down. ' Come with me,' said the lady, 'and I will show you something beautiful.' She led me round to the foot of the rock and desired me to look up, and when I did I could see no rock, it was completely covered with beautiful white roses. Oh, thought I, that is just a picture of a poor sinner; he is a black, unsightly thing like that rock, but the 'Rose of Sharon' comes and covers him; and when God looks, he cannot see the sinner, for between is Christ, and he covers him with the spotless robe of his own righteousness."

I. CHRIST'S GIFT OF ADORNMENTS. Urge that a sinner, even a saved sinner, cannot be called beautiful, and cannot be fit for a place at the feast. Fetch the poor beggar in from the street, give him free invitation, and let him respond to it with all his heart; and still he will want something before he can sit down with the guests. It is something he cannot win, something he cannot buy, something of the king's own, which the king himself must give. It is a royal robe from the king's treasure. It is robe and ornaments and jewels, as the bridegroom's gift. So in the New Testament we are bidden to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," and the graces of Christian character are treated as a Divine investiture. They who have such adornings will be sure to try and be worthy of them, and so graces given and graces sought for will graciously blend.

II. CHRIST'S JOY IN THOSE WHOM HE HAS ADORNED. Figured in the joy of a bride-groom over the bride when beautiful with garments and jewels which he has himself provided, and every one of which is an expression of personal affection. The joy of every faithful pastor is found in those whom he has led to rest in God. "Ye are our glory and our joy." The joy of Jesus, the Saviour and Bridegroom, is found in the multitude whom no man can number, arrayed in white garments, his gift, because they are white-souled at last, through his grace. - R.T.

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