Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GOD BEFOREHAND WITH MEN. He "allows himself to be consulted;" he "offers answers," or "is heard" by those who came not to consult him. He was "at hand to those who did not seek him." To a nation that did not call on him he cried, "Here I am!" (Isaiah 64:7; Isaiah 43:22). It is actually he who "spreads out his hands" - "in the gesture of prayer; what a condescension!" (cf. Proverbs 1:24). And this "all the day," or continuously - "as if God did beseech you." It is a thought full of deep pathos and Divine beauty, that God no less seeks men than they seek him. He in a sense prays them to be reconciled to him. While, therefore, prayer is in one aspect the going forth of active desires after God, on the other hand it is the response to his action upon us. Not a day passes but the gentle mercy and love expressed in his providence offers its silent plea to heart and conscience: "Child of man! I love thee; come to me, and be at peace."
II. THE STUBBORNNESS OF MAN. The people are described as "unruly," and as "walking in a way which is not good, after their own thoughts." In the will and its licence, falsely called liberty, lies the mischief. The carnal mind is not "subject to God, neither indeed can be." In "will-worship the indulgence of the senses and the caprices of the fancy, lies the source of idolatry. And thus they irritate Jehovah to his face continually. They sacrifice in the gardens and on the bricks, i.e. the tiles of the houses (2 Kings 23:12; Zephaniah 1:5; Jeremiah 19:13), or on altars of materials forbidden by the Law (Exodus 20:24, 25). They appear to be guilty of necromancy, of the consultation of dreams or citation of the departed. They incur ceremonial pollution by eating of swine's flesh and other animals. And, initiated into some heathen rites, they had actually assumed a superior holiness to that of the people of God, thus caricaturing the true religion.
III. THE WRATH AND VENGEANCE OF JEHOVAH. Here, again, the strongest figures arc employed. These abominations are a smoke in his nose, a fire burning all the day long." Nothing can more strongly express what is offensive and irritating. So in Deuteronomy 32:22, "A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell" (cf. Psalm 18:5; Ezekiel 38:18). And with equal force the certainty of Divine vengeance is described. Either the sin of the Jews, or the Divine decree for its punishment, is written before Jehovah. The allusion is to the custom of kings of recording decrees in a volume or on a tablet, and kept in their presence, so that they might not be forgotten. Moreover, "the fortunes of men, past, present, and future, are all noted in the heavenly registers" (ch. 4:3; Psalm 66:8; Daniel 7:10). A book of remembrance was written before Jehovah (Malachi 3:16). From this follows the justice of Divine punishment. He will not keep silence; nothing shall suppress his just edict or sentence. He will certainly recompense, and in full measure; the large and loose besom of the Oriental garment being, by a figure, viewed as the receptacle of those Divine penalties (Psalm 79:12; Jeremiah 32:18; Luke 6:38; Exodus 4:6, 7; Proverbs 6:27). The firm scriptural doctrine that the consequences of ancestral sin pass over to posterity here appears (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Job 21:19; Numbers 14:18; Luke 11:50, 51). There seems to have been a founding and an accumulation of crime which now threatens to sweep down every barrier before it.
IV. THE BEAM OF HOPE. In this extreme of denunciation and despair a transition, as ever, occurs. His mercy is not "clean gone for ever." The majority of Israel may be evil, for all that there is ever a "remnant" according to the election of grace. The vintagers, finding but a few good grapes on a cluster, say to each other - perhaps it is the snatch of a vintage-song - "Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it." We are too ready to deal with men in the lump and in the mass - they are a "bad lot," in familiar language we say. But the Divine eye marks the element of worth amidst the most corrupt and worthless mass (cf. Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 11:11-16). That which has the germinal principle, the seed-life in it, he cherishes; he will, in spite of all that is of another quality in the midst of which it may be imbedded, preserve. So here, the mountains and the whole land from east to west shall be preserved by the people (Isaiah 33:9; Joshua 7:24-26). Tillage is the very symbol of peace, plenty, prosperity (Isaiah 30:23, 24). A traveller may see in the valley of Sharon, when the sun gilds the mountain-top, and the flocks are returning to their fold, a visible expression of the future Paradise of God. "What a Paradise was here when Solomon reigned in Jerusalem, and sang of the roses of Sharon! What a heaven upon earth will be here again, when he that is greater than Solomon shall sit on the throne of David; for in his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth!" - J.
I. THE OFFENSIVENESS OF SIN.
1. Assumption. "Walking after their own thoughts" instead of reverently inquiring God's will (ver. 2).
2. Positive disobedience in the manner of Divine worship (ver. 3).
3. Superstitious practices, implying discontent with the disclosures God had made in his holy Word (ver. 4).
4. Irreligious self-indulgence (ver. 4).
5. Spiritual pride. "I am holier than thou" (ver. 5) All these things were hateful to the Holy One of Israel; they constituted "rebellion" in his sight (ver. 2); they amounted to a defiant provocation of his wrath (ver. 3); they were as a continual smoke in the nostrils (ver. 5). All sin, whatever be its form or name, is "an abominable thing which God hates:" it is to his pure eyes unutterably loathsome; it is as the leprous skin to the eyes of man - he "cannot look upon" it. It draws down his righteous condemnation.
II. ITS INEVITABLE DOOM.
1. We must not argue non-observance or indifference from temporary silence. "Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence" (ver. 6; Psalm 1:21).
2. Guilt accumulates with time (ver. 7). God mercifully postpones punishment, thus giving opportunity for repentance and escape. But if there be impenitence and continuance in sin, there is an awful "treasuring up of wrath," an accumulation of guilt against a day of account. Nations, families, Churches, individual souls, may well take earnest heed to this solemn truth.
3. There is an absolute certainty and fulness of penalty to the obdurate. "I will recompense, even recompense," etc.; "I will measure their work," etc.
4. Those who have abused their trust must look for a humiliating displacement (ver. 1). God will remove the chosen instrument of his truth and grace, and he will find another to do his work. Let the too-confident "children of the kingdom" beware lest they have to make room for those whom they have been accustomed to despise. - C.
I. DIVINE REPROACHES OF THE NEGLIGENT. There are always among us those who give no heed to God, whether he speaks in thunder-voice, or with the still small voice; in judgments or in mercies; from Sinai or from Zion. This is the most perplexing difficulty with which God's ministers have to deal. Men hear, but give no heed. They even recognize the truth and importance of what is declared, but fail to see any relation in which it stands to them. No harder work is set before the servants of God than to break down pride and self-satisfaction, and awaken personal concern. Indifference to heavenly and Divine things keeps men away even from God's "feast of fat things, and wines on the lees well refined." Ministers have constantly to be the arousing trumpet-blast, which cries, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
II. DIVINE REPROACHES OF THE WILFUL. The secret of wilfulness is over-confidence in self. A man persuades himself that it "is in man that walketh to direct his steps." Or, as Isaiah puts it, a man is quite comfortable, walketh "after his own thoughts," even though he goes in a way that is not good. Such a man opposes all Divine voices and messages, because he finds the beginning of every one of them is this, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God." Wilful people will have their way, but they will not have God's way.
III. DIVINE REPROACHES OF THE INSOLENT. (Ver. 3.) "Provoketh me to anger continually to my face." It is strange that we must recognize a more hopeful condition in active opposition to God, than in dogged and sullen resistance, or in weak indifference. The man who can oppose has strength of character, and Divine reproach may be convincing to him. - R.T.
I. THE APPEARANCE OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. The Church is so degenerate, that the teaching of Divine truth is found to be ineffectual; the nation so corrupt, that the statesman and the magistrate and the teacher are powerless; the family so depraved, that it is a pest to the community; the child so wayward, that parental authority is no restraint. Then is entertained -
II. THE POLICY OF ABANDONMENT. Those who are pure, reverent, loyal; they to whom iniquity is found to be hateful; men that are anxious to use their opportunities, so as to get some spiritual returns: - these say, or are inclined to say," Let us leave these souls so fast imbedded in sin whom we cannot extricate, and let us seek and save those who can be reached and rescued." Then comes -
III. THE PLEA OF FAITH AND PITY. "Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it." "Let it alone this year" (Luke 13:6-9). That root that looks dead is not dead, and under careful nourishment it will revive. That soul that seems dead is not dead; there is a seed of life in it still; beneath all its folly, its waywardness, its vice, its guilt, there is a possibility of true repentance; there is a sensibility which will respond to patient, human love; there is a spiritual capacity which the truth of God, made mighty by the Spirit of God, will touch with renewing power, and from which unsuspected beauties and graces will arise. Within the ugliest and most worthless souls there may lie concealed germs of real nobility. Wait long, very long, before you abandon to destruction. Over them, and of them, the Divine voice may be whispering, "There is a blessing in them for the loving, patient, prayerful workman." - C.
I. HOLINESS OF RITUAL. Religion may be a doing or a being. The religion of doing is the minute and careful observance of ritual. It may be ritual as appointed by God, or it may be ritual as arranged by man. A certain goodness, righteousness, bringing with it much self-satisfaction, and a great disposition to despise others, may come out of a religion of doing. Thousands have been fascinated by it in every age. And yet it is but an external matter, of the senses and of the mind; and it has always been found possible to keep it up along with heart-impurities and life-immoralities. The ritualist is not at all bound to be a clean-living man. Pharisees thought themselves holy, on the ground of their precise obediences; and it was a Pharisaic commonplace to live in self-indulgence and sin. Matthew Arnold, writing of such mere ritual holiness, says,:' Doing all this out of superstition, and out of the vain notion that it will be of religious avail to them, they insolently repel their unsuperstitious and faithful brethren as less holy than themselves." In a thousand ways, and constantly, it is needful to press on attention that ritual is an aid to holiness, not holiness, and the danger of ritual is
(1) that it may blind us to the goodness of those who are not holy in the same way; and
(2) it may make us indifferent to the claims of spiritual holiness.
II. HOLINESS OF HEART. (See the kind of holiness acceptable to God, shown in former homily on Isaiah 66:1, 2.) - R.T.
I. THAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD MAY FALL INTO A STATE OF SAD DEPRESSION. "Jacob" and "Judah," at the time of this prophecy, were reduced to a very low estate. It seemed as if they would produce nothing.
II. THAT COMFORT MAY THEN BE FOUND IN GOD'S RELATION TO THEM. They are still "mine elect;" still those whom the Divine Father pities and purposes to bless, for whom the Divine Saviour died, with whom the Divine Spirit pleads.
III. THAT THEY SHOULD SPEND THEIR STRENGTH IN SEEKING AND IN SERVING. "My servants shall dwell there... for my people that have sought me." In the time of difficulty and distress let good men be earnest and constant in prayer; let them be consistent in life and active in holy labour. Then they will find -
IV. THAT THEY MAY LOOK FOR A RENEWED AND A NOBLE HERITAGE. From end to end of the land (from Sharon to Achor) the scenes of pastoral industry shall be witnessed, and God's servants shall dwell in the land; there shall be fulness and permanence of blessing. - C.
I. THE SINS. On the one hand it is the forsaking of Jehovah, the forgetting of his holy mountain. It is the keeping aloof from the true worship celebrated on Mount Moriah. But the heart of man knows no deeper need than that of worship; and the setting of the tables before the images of heathen deities (lectisternia) witnesses, even as an aberration and a caricature, to that yearning for communion with the Divine which true religion and revelation recognize and offer to satisfy. Here Gad, a Canaanitish god, is named; and M'ni, a Syrian deity. Similar rites prevailed among the Greeks and Romans, and other peoples of antiquity. In the first ' Iliad,' at the sacrificial feast, the god is supposed to be present, himself a partaker, and a listener to the people's song of praise. Between such worship and that of the Eternal, the sole and incomparable Holy One of Israel, there could be no compromise.
II. THE CAUSE. The sword. There may be an extreme of human obstinacy and perversity for which there is no cure but the sword. And thus we may even see in war a Divine purgative, and allow some truth in the stern saying of one of our poets, "Yea! carnage is thy daughter." So the invasion of the Chaldeans was recognized as a scourge sent to chastise the abominations of the priests and the people (2 Chronicles 36:14, 16, 17). Want and poverty, and all the associated sufferings. And here again it must be admitted the "curse does not causeless come." There is a general connection at least between poverty, famine, and some neglect of Divine commands; and it may be seen in the lore of ancient nations in general. The time of drought was ever recognized as a time for special prayers and sacrifices. The name of the unfaithful ones shall become as a byword in formulas of imprecation.
III. THE FAITHFUL AND TRUE GOD. Ever, against the background of human infidelity and fickleness, he shines out in the splendour of self-consistency, the "God of the Amen," the "Faithful and True Witness." The "Amen" seems to refer to the solemn associations of the oath and the covenant (Deuteronomy 27:15). He stands in a sacramental mutual relation to his people. "They my people, I their God." If they be true to him, he will be certain to bless them. Religion has a deep mystical root - a conscience toward God, which in purity is the fount of all blessing, the defilement of which is the origin of all curse. - J.
Luke 6:20-26. "The blessedness of those that serve God, and the woeful condition of those that rebel against him, are here set, the one over against the other, that they may serve as a foil to each other."
I. CONTRAST THE TWO KINDS OF LIFE. The man who fears God and sets his heart upon serving him, finds the promises fulfilled - "Verily thou shalt be filled;" "None of them that trust in him shall be desolate." He may take his place in anxious and troublous times, but since he is God's servant, he shall be even as Elijah, fed by ravens, or by poor widows, if need be. The man who fears not God is left to ordinary human devices, and may be left hungry and thirsty and desolate. He holds no guarantee. The Giver of all good is under no covenant-pledge to see that he wants no good thing. "God's servants shall eat and drink; they shall have the bread of life to feed, to feast upon continually, and shall want nothing that is good for them. But those who set their hearts upon the world, and place their happiness in it, shall be hungry and thirsty, always empty, always craving. In communion with God and dependence upon him there is full satisfaction; but in sinful pursuits there is nothing but dissatisfaction and disappointment."
II. CONTRAST THE TWO KINDS OF DISPOSITIONS. Trust in God brings peace and heart-rest. Those who know what soul-rest is, find it easy to sing and give thanks. "The joy of the Lord is their strength." There is good cheer and high hope in their souls. "God's servants shall rejoice and sing for joy of heart; they have constant cause for joy, and there is nothing that may be an occasion of grief to them but may have an allay sufficient for it. But, on the other hand, they that forsake the Lord shut themselves out from all true joy, for they shall be ashamed of their vain confidence in themselves, and their own righteousness, and the hopes they had built thereon. When the expectations of bliss, wherewith they had flattered themselves, are frustrated, oh, what confusion will fill their faces!" (Matthew Henry). "The joy of the world resembles a torrent. As upon a glut of rain, you shall have a torrent come rolling along with noise and violence, overflowing its banks, and bearing all before it; yet it is but muddy and impure water, and it is soon gone and dried up: such is all the joy this world can give. It makes a great noise, it is commonly immoderate, and swells beyond its due bounds; yet it is but a muddy and impure joy; it soon roils away, and leaves nothing behind but a drought in the soul. Now, since the world's joy is but such a poor empty thing as this, it is most gross folly for us to lay out our best love upon that which cannot repay us with the best joy" (Bishop Hopkins). - R.T.
Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 51:16). Upon the difficult interpretation of such language much difference of opinion naturally arises; but it is open to all to catch the inspiration of the thoughts.
I. THE DIVINE EXULTATION ON THE NEW CREATION. It Was said of the Creator at the beginning that he looked with complacent joy upon his works. All was very good. It was the "joy of God to see a happy world." How much deeper the Divine complacency in moral renewal! Note the emphasis and iteration of the thought. Rejoicing, exultation, is the very key-note of the passage; weeping and the sound of crying is to be as unheard as at the gayest scene of festival. And may we not feel that beneath all the sadness, the discord, the gloom of this enigmatic world, the prophetic pulse of the Divine creation, love, is ever exultantly beating? May we not believe that there is ever before his eye the picture, rising to clearness of outline and brilliancy of colour out of Erebos and Chaos, of eternal day, of the new heavens and earth wherein dwell righteousness? There should be in every heart a prophetic sympathy, which should vibrate in unison with these oracles of God.
II. PARADISAIC PICTURES. Under imagery, partly endeared to the Hebrew heart and fancy, partly of Oriental tinge in general, the heart of man resents the doom of an "untimely" death - it seems contrary to the intention of nature; and aspires to length of days as a good. Here it is predicated that no death in infancy shall occur; that one who dies at the age of a hundred shall be regarded as early lost, and even the wicked shall not be cut off before their hundredth year. "The number of their days shall they complete, and they shall grow old in peace, and the years of their happiness shall be many" (Book of Enoch, 5:9). Similar is the picture of the silver race in the 'Works and Days' of Hesiod, ver. 130. The human race shall attain the longevity of the oak, the terebinth, the cedar, or the cypress. The proverbial sic vos non vobis will have lost its applicability. One will not build, and another enter the finished habitation; one will not sow, and another reap; but each man will "see the fruit of his labour;" the work of their hands the elect shall use to the full. The rising hope of parents shall not be nipped in the bud; nor shall the travail of body or of mind be mocked, as it too often seems now, by an empty result. That element of contradiction or seeming contradiction to the benevolent scheme of the world, which has perplexed the thought of sages in every time, shall disappear even from the animal world. The wild animals shall lose their ferocity, and the malignant infernal serpent, as it would seem, shall be banished to his subterranean domain. Here, again, we find parallel pictures in Oriental poets, and in the Romans Virgil and Horace. Perhaps few would be disposed to take these descriptions literally. It is, perhaps, impossible to conceive of the animal world remaining what it is in other respects, yet with its native instincts changed. Yet how great a marvel is the conversion of a single human soul! If the savage passions which rage there can be subdued and brought under the obedience of Christ, why need we despair of a nation, of a race? At any rate, all things assume a changed aspect to the renewed soul, which means the purged eyes, the deeper insight into the perfect wisdom and love which preside over the universe. The discontent we feel with the present scheme of things is a hint that the soul is secretly acquainted with their other, their ideal or Divine side. - J.
I. NOT IN THE SENSE OF A CHANGED WORLD OF THINGS. It is not possible for us to conceive of anything better, more restful, more satisfying, than this paradise of earth, which God has made and decked for us, with its hills, and vales, and streams, and seas, and flowers, and trees, and hoar-frost, and harvest-fields, and spring-time greenery, and autumn tinting. We love our earth, fair earth, and do not want it changed.
"'Twas a fair scene - a land more bright
Those groups of lovely date trees bending
Those virgin lilies, all the night
"There, on a green and flowery mound, II. BUT IN THE SENSE OF A CHANGED WORLD OF BEINGS. There are lands where "... every prospect pleases, and it is just that "vileness of man" which has made earth so sad, life so bitter, and death so terrible. Could we clear the human race away, as with another flood or fire, and start again the cleansed earth with a race in whom righteousness should dwell, then, verily, we should want no other heaven - earth would be heaven. Illustrate these points: 1. The good man makes a new earth of his sphere. 2. The good parents make a new earth of their home. 3. The holy Church helps to make a new earth of social life. 4. The well-principled statesman tries to make a new earth of the nation. 5. Those who believe in God and know his redemption strive to make a new earth of the sorely smitten heathen lands. We all want that new earth in which holiness shall be every-where-holiness the glorifying sunshine that makes earth to be summer-time always; holiness shall jingle from the very bells of the horses. Call that new earth what you may please, it will be heaven. - R.T.
II. BUT IN THE SENSE OF A CHANGED WORLD OF BEINGS. There are lands where
"... every prospect pleases, and it is just that "vileness of man" which has made earth so sad, life so bitter, and death so terrible. Could we clear the human race away, as with another flood or fire, and start again the cleansed earth with a race in whom righteousness should dwell, then, verily, we should want no other heaven - earth would be heaven. Illustrate these points: 1. The good man makes a new earth of his sphere. 2. The good parents make a new earth of their home. 3. The holy Church helps to make a new earth of social life. 4. The well-principled statesman tries to make a new earth of the nation. 5. Those who believe in God and know his redemption strive to make a new earth of the sorely smitten heathen lands. We all want that new earth in which holiness shall be every-where-holiness the glorifying sunshine that makes earth to be summer-time always; holiness shall jingle from the very bells of the horses. Call that new earth what you may please, it will be heaven. - R.T.
and it is just that "vileness of man" which has made earth so sad, life so bitter, and death so terrible. Could we clear the human race away, as with another flood or fire, and start again the cleansed earth with a race in whom righteousness should dwell, then, verily, we should want no other heaven - earth would be heaven. Illustrate these points:
1. The good man makes a new earth of his sphere.
2. The good parents make a new earth of their home.
3. The holy Church helps to make a new earth of social life.
4. The well-principled statesman tries to make a new earth of the nation.
5. Those who believe in God and know his redemption strive to make a new earth of the sorely smitten heathen lands. We all want that new earth in which holiness shall be every-where-holiness the glorifying sunshine that makes earth to be summer-time always; holiness shall jingle from the very bells of the horses. Call that new earth what you may please, it will be heaven. - R.T.
I. THAT CHRISTIAN LIFE TENDS TO LENGTH OF DAYS, Health, and therefore life, depends most on habit. What shortens life is folly, irregularity, excess, anxiety, sorrow; Christian principles guard against these, or materially modify them. What lengthens life is purity, temperance, serenity, and cheerfulness of spirit; Christian principles are a security for these.
II. THAT CHRISTIAN LIFE TENDS TO PRESERVE THE CHILD-HEART IN THE AGED MAN. A beautiful object is a "green old age;" an excellent thing it is when "he that is a hundred years old dies a youth." The best preservative of freshness of spirit, openness of mind, youthfulness of heart, is an unselfish habit. Disinterestedness of soul, broad and generous sympathies, active participation in all onward movements, - this will keep the heart of youth in the form of age.
III. THAT THE CHRISTIAN PROMISE POINTS TO THE LONG FUTURE. "The shorter life, the earlier immortality."
IV. THAT WE MAY DIE YOUNG, AND YET FILL UP THE MEASURE OF OUR DAYS. Our Lord died a young man, and yet he "finished the work which the Father gave him to do." Many martyrs, many devoted labourers in the field of usefulness, have failed to reach extreme old age, but they have not failed to accomplish the task which the great Leader had set them. The excellency of life depends on its quality, not on its quantity. "One day in thy courts is better than a thousand," etc. "Though the sinner die a hundred years old, he shall be accursed," and his life will be a bane and a blot. A very few years (or months) of holy service may be of inestimable service to the cause of Christ and of man. - C.
A hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness." Yet old age has its special evils. Temptations to those sins which the Bible gathers up into the word "uncleanness." Often uncleanness of word and conversation; often, alas! of life and conduct also. It would appear that bodily lust and passion gathers itself in old age for one last struggle to gain the mastery. The flame flares up in the socket, and old men need to keep very near to God, very much in the power of the sanctifying Spirit, if, having withstood all the perils of youth and manhood, they do not fall under the temptations of old age. What an awful sight is the foul-mouthed, leering-eyed, depraved old man, tottering on the very edge of the eternal, where "he that is filthy shall be filthy still"! The prophet tells of the time when there shall be no confusions about the state of aged sinners, because they are in great state, or are spared long. "The sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed."
I. THE WOE OF AGED SINNERS COMES IN BITTERNESS OF SUFFERING. The self-indulgent life ensures an unusually suffering old age. There are natural and necessary penalties, which are first smitings of Divine judgment.
II. THE WOE OF AGED SINNERS COMES IN THE ESTIMATE OF THOSE WHO TEND THEM. The aged sinner outlives his so-called friends, who shared his self-willed doings, and might have sympathized with him. He is put, for tending, into the hands of a new generation, who only see the wreck and ruin of body and character which the life has led to. He feels despised; he feels the misery of being despised. He knows well enough that they wish him gone.
III. THE WOE OF AGED SINNERS COMES IN FEARS OF THE FUTURE. It comes on a man sooner or later that he will have to "give an account of his stewardship." His body was not his own; his time was not his own; his talents were not his own; his possessions were not his own; his relations were not his own. Presently he asks himself - What have I done with God's property, which was entrusted for a while to my care? Conscious of having diverted God's property to his own uses, he may well fear to meet his offended God. - R.T.
I. HARVESTS ARE SOMETIMES LONG DELAYED. It has been so in our foreign mission fields, and it is so often here at home in our Christian Churches, and it is so in our families. But the Divine seed only "slumbers;" it does not "perish." Harvests often sprout in greenness and wave in golden glory over men's graves.
II. HARVESTS ARE NOT TO BE MEASURED BY THEIR FIRSTFRUITS. There, in a school or a church, some Henry Martyn, some Wilberforce, some Heber, some Livingstone, is brought into Christ's fold. Perhaps that soul is the only one soul we can make estimate of in a whole year's toil. We may, perhaps, feel disappointed - only one; but that one soul may be, under God, the means of giving spiritual life to a new continent. We must wait and work, and never weary, for Christ must reign. And the sower shall in due season reap, if he faint not. - W.M.S.
1. His limited intelligence makes him slow to apprehend what is needed.
2. His imperfect sensibility makes him slow to feel the urgency of the need.
3. His feebleness of execution makes him slow to inter.pose and to effect. God is not under these limitations. His perfect readiness is seen in -
I. HIS ANTICIPATION OF OUR NECESSITIES. Providing this world for our habitation; preparing its soil and its seed; storing its coal and its metals, etc.; providing for our wants in sunshine and in rain, etc., which come without our asking for them; having all kinds of truth and knowledge ready for our inquiry; etc.
II. HIS ANSWERS TO OUR PRAYERS.
1. Sometimes literally granting our requests at the very time of our asking (Daniel 9:20, 21).
2. Always virtually meeting us with an immediate response; for when he does not grant us all we ask instantly, as he could not do with any regard to our real and spiritual interests, he does hear us and heed us, and determine in what way he will bless us.
III. HIS RESPONSE TO OUR APPEAL IN SORROW AND IN PENITENCE. There are two things in regard to which the words of our text are emphatically true.
1. When in sorrow we ask for his sympathy. When the cares, anxieties, disappointments, losses, separations of life, overtake us, then the stricken heart of man turns and looks for the healing hand of God, then the troubled child goes to his heavenly Father; and never vainly. For in the very act of an appeal, while we are yet upon our knees, before we have left the sanctuary, God has laid his kind hand upon us, Jesus Christ has spoken "peace" to our agitated spirit.
2. When in penitence we ask for his pardon. When, away in the far country of unbelief, or of wrong-doing, or of irreligion, or of unfaithfulness and Backsliding, or of indecision and procrastination, we hear the summons from the Father's home, and when we say, "I will arise and return," what happens then? A Divine readiness to receive us, even as the great Teacher has shown us. Then the Father of souls does not wait to be convinced, and to be induced to pardon and reinstate us. He comes forth to meet us; he anticipates our action; he breaks in upon our confession with his words of forgiving and accepting love (Luke 15:21, 22); he overwhelms us with the proofs of his Divine affection. - C.
"Prayer is the burden of a sigh, I. WHAT IS IT IN US THAT MAKES ANSWER TO PRAYER SLOW AND EVEN UNCERTAIN. It is certain that God is more willing to hear than we are to pray. He has made large and firm promises of answer if we pray; and yet sometimes his answer is a refusal, and at other times it is a delay, and at yet other times the gift of something which we did not desire. The explanation is in us; we either ask for wrong things, or else we ask in. a wrong spirit. We need rebuff, or we need correction. Art unanswered prayer should always set us upon "examining ourselves." II. WHAT IS IT IN US THAT MAKES ANSWER TO PRAYER. COME SWIFTLY? The conformity of our desires with God's will, and the offering of ourselves in the spirit of submission, dependence, and trustful love, which becomes obedient children. "Lord, teach us how to pray aright." ? R.T.
I. WHAT IS IT IN US THAT MAKES ANSWER TO PRAYER SLOW AND EVEN UNCERTAIN. It is certain that God is more willing to hear than we are to pray. He has made large and firm promises of answer if we pray; and yet sometimes his answer is a refusal, and at other times it is a delay, and at yet other times the gift of something which we did not desire. The explanation is in us; we either ask for wrong things, or else we ask in. a wrong spirit. We need rebuff, or we need correction. Art unanswered prayer should always set us upon "examining ourselves."
II. WHAT IS IT IN US THAT MAKES ANSWER TO PRAYER. COME SWIFTLY? The conformity of our desires with God's will, and the offering of ourselves in the spirit of submission, dependence, and trustful love, which becomes obedient children.
"Lord, teach us how to pray aright." ? R.T.