The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.1. God is not tied to places. He can in a dungeon, in a prison, in a Babylon, let down His Spirit into the heart of any servant of His, and raise him to a prophetical height.
2. No place is so wicked but God can raise up instruments to do Him and the Church service there.
3. See here a door open for the enlargement of the Church, a type of God's goodness toward the Gentiles.
4. The godly are wrapped up in the same calamity with the wicked. Ezekiel is among the captives.
5. The godly are mingled in this world with the wicked and profane.
6. God hath a special care of His Church and people, when they are in the lowest and worst condition. They shall have a prophet, though in Babylon.
7. Take heed of judging the condition of men by their outward afflictions. Those that are in great affliction may be greatly beloved, when those who are in great prosperity may be greatly hated.
8. The wicked fare the better for the godly.
(W. Green. hill, M. A.)
1. Thoughts of heaven must receive their character from views of God. If we could see into heaven and did not see signs of God there, we should remain in spiritual darkness. We must pass into the house to perceive the householder. All beliefs of our interest in the heavens will be blighted unless they are steps on our way to know we have a living, almighty, perfect Friend.
2. All true views of God are given by God. He alone opens the inward eyes and presents the aspects He wants to reveal. He may open them through some outward impulse, or by action on the heart, but in either case the ripple of sensational life is hushed by the flow of a grander life, and the reasoning faculty stands still, waiting to know what it shall receive. Then, as the light air comes to a hanging leaf and stirs it, as a father's love and wisdom come to an erring child and prompt to confession, so the subject of visions of God knows that God has affected him — that God alone could accomplish that which has happened to him.
3. Visions of God require a conscious apprehension by men. Men can look upwards or downwards, outward or inward; but they may shut their eyes, So they decide whether they will see the things of God or not — whether they will accept the fuller manifestations of God or not.
4. Various aspects of God are presented. Wonderful in number and variety are the views which God has provided for willing hearts. "They are new every morning."
(D. G. Watt, M. A.)
(G. T. Newton.)
I. THY SEER OF THE VISIONS.
1. A priest. Of all men, they who minister to others in spiritual things need first to have their own visions of God. A spiritually-blind priest can only give dead, formal, perfunctory service.
2. A prophet. The prophet must first be a seer. No one can speak for God who has not first heard the voice of God or seen the glory of His truth.
II. THE TIME OF THE VISIONS. Early maturity — thirty years old.
1. After years of preparation.
2. Before a life of work.
III. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE VISIONS.
1. Ezekiel was among the captives.(1) Banished from his native land; but not from God.(2) Surrounded by sorrowful men among the captives. Atmosphere depressing. Yet light of heaven broke through it.(3) Himself a captive. Trouble revealed the need of God, and invited His gracious help.
2. Ezekiel was by the river Chebar. In a quiet scene of nature. God is in the broad earth as surely as in any temple.
IV. THE SOURCE OF THE VISIONS.
1. From heaven. Then the prophet must look up. There is a spiritual astronomy which claims our study as much as the facts of man and earth.
2. Through the opening of heaven. God must reveal Himself. Revelation is the rolling back of the curtain, opening the gates of the unseen.
V. THE NATURE OF THE VISIONS. Seeing some rays of the Divine glory, some fringe of the robe of the Almighty. This is the highest of all visions. We can see it in the human countenance of Jesus.
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
Isaiah 6:1 and Acts 26:19): — These three incidents to which our texts refer have some significant characteristics. In the case of each man, this vision of God was his call to the prophetic or apostolic office, not to a short season of special service. Moreover, each is related with the purpose of justifying the speaker's conduct. The position of this vision in Isaiah's book is very significant. He has begun to prophesy and had spoken many things in the hearing of the people. They would not heed him but bade him be silent. He tells the story of his call, and says to them and to himself, "I must speak. I am not my own master. I have seen the Lord of hosts, and He said, 'Go.' I cannot get behind or away from that vision." Very similar are the circumstances under which the prophet Ezekiel tells his story. It is quite obvious, from the opening chapters of his book, that he shrank from the task of preaching to the exiles. But he could not help himself. Whether they hear or whether they forbear, speak he must, for he too has been told by God to go. So he relates what he saw when God appeared to him, and that must silence every qualm and query. Paul, too, is on his defence. Worldly people who recognise his genius, but pity his apparent sacrifice, and enemies who are conscience-stricken by his words are trying to silence that eloquent tongue. But he meets all their threats and entreaties with the unanswerable argument, "The risen Lord appeared to me. I had a vision, and I dare not be disobedient to that."
I. THE IMPERATIVE CONSTRAINT OF A VISION OF GOD. We are all familiar with the fact that every life of successful achievement must be the result of concentration. The natural tendency is for the elements of our life to fly off at a tangent, and there must be some centripetal force which will keep them circling round the centre if any work is going to be done. We need to come under the unifying influence of a dominant purpose which shall weld the elements into a homogeneous whole; otherwise there will be discord and dissension. No man can build up a colossal business, or become a successful artist, or secure lasting fame in literature, who does not feel the spell of this purpose and walk under its constraint. Now, the most powerful constraint which can fall upon any man is that due to a vision of God. By that I do not mean just a belief in the existence of a Divine Being. A man may believe so far and be practically unaffected by his belief. It was something very far removed from a mere intellectual assent which transformed the lives of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Paul. The attempts to describe what each saw vary immensely, and show wide differences of literary ability. No one would put Isaiah's majestic chapter and Ezekiel's rather involved and labouring effort upon the same plane of literary merit. But Isaiah and Ezekiel and Paul are all attempting to describe a very real vision. Each knew that God had come into his life. For note the similarity of the immediate effects. Isaiah felt the whole building to tremble and the air seemed filled with the hissing steam which is emitted when fire and water mingle. He could only cry out in terror, "Woe is me." Ezekiel fell upon his face before the appearance of the glory of the Lord, and then went away and sat amongst the captives for seven days dazed and astonished. Paul was stunned, blinded, smitten to the ground, and was led helpless into Damascus. And the ultimate consequences were similar also. And each man explains his conduct by declaring that he is under the imperative constraint of the vision of God. He dare not be disobedient to that. Nothing but death can break its spell. The vision of God will constrain us very powerfully! It will brook no disobedience. It will be more imperious than the dictates of prudence and of propriety. It will explain all our enthusiasm which the man who has never seen God cannot understand. There is no other influence which is powerful enough to oppose the disintegrating force of self-love and self-will within us, and to unite our hearts in the service of a true religion. Mere intellectual assent to dogmas about a divinity will not constrain us to forsake sin. Ceremonials and forms of worship cannot redeem us from callousness in worship and in conduct. The forces within us smite such barriers aside or leap over them at once. How noteworthy it is that in these three cases the ritual of the Jewish religion in which they had been trained is forgotten! There is no priest in the temple in which Isaiah stands, and no sacrifice is offered. Ezekiel the priest sees the glory of God as he sits in the plains by Babylon's river. Saul, the punctilious and phylacteried Pharisee, meets Jesus face to face on the lonely road near Damascus. For years each man had been familiar with the most suggestive ritual which the world ever possessed, and it had only touched the surface: it had only succeeded in making them moral. It was the vision of God which revolutionised their life, making their nature reel to its foundations and turning the river of their energy into another channel. All devoted lives have been inspired by a vision of God, and not by the sight of a temple; by appropriation of the sacrificial offering, and not by kneeling before an altar. We shall only be blacklegs or hangers on, men called in to fill an emergency, if we depend for our inspiration upon anything less than a vivid personal experience of God. But is it possible for us to have a vision of God? According to the teaching of Jesus Christ, it is. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." It is possible for us to have an encounter with the Divine Person; to feel the contact between His Spirit and ours; to stand amidst a busy world and to be oblivious to all, whilst we gaze with entranced souls upon the flashing glory of God. But this is not to be a solitary experience casting a spell over succeeding years. Verily the time when the Lord of Glory first came to our side will be the epoch from which we reckon time. But if we see God in the face of Jesus Christ, He is with us always, even unto the end. Am I wrong in interpreting the emotions which sometimes surge in our hearts as a kind of envy of those men who received such a call to the ministry as came to these three servants of God? We urge ourselves on with a whip into which the cords of duty, of necessity, of reward, are lashed; but it is painful progress. We wish that our rapt eyes might see the Lord upon a throne high and lifted up, or a flaming glory borne by wheels full of eyes, or that some blinding light from heaven might enfold us in its passionate embrace. Is it not blessedly possible for us to have such a vision of God as never gladdened the eyes of Isaiah or Ezekiel? There is one significant difference between the apology of Paul and that of the earlier prophets. They are seeking partly to satisfy their own hearts and quiet the storm within; they fell back upon their vision as the justification to themselves. Paul has no misgivings within to hush! Why not? Because the vision of God is for him constant. It cannot fade as did that given to Isaiah! The Christian man lives in the Divine presence. There is no necessity for us to travel back along the road to some sacred spot marked by its altar. The place where we are standing now may be the place of vision. And we have to practise the presence of God!
II. THE CONTENTS OF OUR VISION OF GOD DETERMINE THE LIMITATION OF OUR WORK. Isaiah sees God exalted upon a throne, with sweeping robes filling the temple, before whom the cherubim veil their faces and the choirs of heaven chant "Holy," and the smitten prophet cries, "I am unclean." This is a vision of God as exalted in righteousness. It is the moral supremacy of Jehovah over against the sin of Israel which fills the vision of Isaiah. It is different with the vision granted to Ezekiel. He gazes upon a blazing glory, which is supported by the cherubim, and which moves throughout the world with the swiftness of lightning upon the wheels full of eyes. Obviously this is God as sovereign in nature and history; this is God as omnipresent and omnipotent, governing the councils of the nations and ruling over all. I do not mean that Isaiah and Ezekiel saw only this. Isaiah knew of God's omnipotence, for "the whole earth is full of His glory." Ezekiel understood God's moral supremacy; but the over, powering conception of God of the two visions is different. Now see what a connection there is between the dominant idea of God in the vision, and the work which each man has to do. Isaiah is sent to a people living securely in Jerusalem, but sunk into great sin. He has to exalt the Holy One of Israel over against the impurity of the nation's life. Ezekiel is a prophet sent to a later generation, a mere handful of exiles who have been led away from despoiled Jerusalem by the armies of the mighty king of Babylon. Sitting by the river Chebar, the harps hung on the willows in a strange land, it seems as if Jehovah is not able to help them. Then Ezekiel comes to exalt the Omnipotent King in place of the boasting, hustling strength of Nebuchadnezzar. Now turn to the vision given to Paul, and consider its meaning and contents in the light of his writings and work. He saw God revealed in Jesus Christ. That meant the God whom Isaiah saw, a God exalted in righteousness, whose holiness convicted the self-righteous Pharisee as the chief of sinners, and made him preach, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." That meant also the God whom Ezekiel saw, a God who is supreme above all the machinations of men and the swift vicissitudes of human experience, so that it is a part of his work to tell men that "all things work together for good to them that love God," and therefore to "rejoice in the Lord alway." But it meant also another aspect of God of which Isaiah and Ezekiel had only faint knowledge, namely, as the Father of men, who so loved the world as to send His Son to be the propitiation for all sin, and was calling all men everywhere to enjoy His salvation and to be reconciled to Him in Jesus Christ. And therefore Paul can be sent not to the few people of one nation to meet their special needs, but to all nations, to preach a Gospel which satisfied the universal and unchanging needs of the whole human race. So do the contents of our vision of God set the limits to our work. Our service in the world is determined by our knowledge of God. That is abundantly illustrated on the wide field of history. Any monk in mediaeval England could repeat a paternoster, but it needed a man whose heart was illumined by personal intercourse with the Father to translate the Bible for the people. The last century was satisfied with a most rigid and mechanical conception of God; and it was marked by a national life as meagre in its religious attainments as it was poverty-stricken in its religious ideals. It was only when men like Wesley and Carey, who had brooded over the Word of God and had become filled with His Spirit, delivered their message, that the Church was roused from its lethargy and began to save men at home and abroad. Herbert Spencer can write learnedly about the first principles of philosophical study; but he has no message to the sinful, because God is to him the unknowable, and that vision of God makes him powerless to serve. Matthew Arnold may compose clever essays which render a service within certain narrow limits, but he cannot preach to the mass of men, because his vision of God as only a power not ourselves which makes for righteousness is too dim to touch the heart of man. Huxley and Mill can tell people a great deal about the life history of a lobster or the laws of logic, but ask them to come to the bedside of a dying man or to comfort a sorrowing heart, and they are dumb, and must give place to the humble saint who has looked into the eyes of the Risen Christ. And so in all our work, its limitations are determined by the contents of our vision of God. A man who has never seen a holy God will not care much about holiness. Why is a man content to amass a fortune by a policy of greed and grab, though he leave the world worse than he found it? Because he has never been into a holy place and seen God giving up in love! And the other part of the truth is that the Christian's vision of God is the only satisfying one. It is no disparagement of the work of Isaiah and Ezekiel to point out that it was limited. This was the necessary result of the imperfection of all pre-Christian knowledge of God. The jewel has many facets; and one man gazed upon one flashing surface, and another in different circumstances upon a second. But Paul saw God in Christ, who is the express image of His person; and we all may see the glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. This does not lift the veil from the secret nature of God. Nothing is more magnificent in these visions than their reverent reticence. No one can see God; only the appearance of His glory. But we see all that glory in Jesus Christ. Failure to interpret God through Jesus Christ only has always spelled disaster. The vision of God in Jesus Christ crucified and risen again is the only vision which can satisfy all the needs of our own heart and fit us to render permanent service to men in all circumstances. And this is the vision of God upon which we may gaze today. We shall not stand in any smoke-filled temple and gaze upon a throne high and lifted up. We shall not watch the whirling wheels full of eyes which carry the burning glory. But we may see Jesus. He is no dim, fading figure upon time's canvas. He stands before us a living Person, clear cut against the horizon of eternity. We know the life He lived, the death He died, and that He rose from the dead. The supreme business of every man in this life is to see God in Jesus Christ himself, and then to help others to have the vision. Deep down in the heart of every man is the longing which cries with the badgered patriarch, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat!" "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me!" "It is the voice of Jesus that I hear." Jesus brings us to our Father, and puts our hand in His strong grasp.
(J. E. Roberts, M. A.)
(A. J. Southouse.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
A whirlwind came out of the north.
1. The idea of mobility is the foremost which the image involves. The vision of Ezekiel provokes a comparison with the vision of Isaiah. Isaiah saw the Lord enthroned on high, there above the mercy seat, there between the cherubim, there in the same local sanctuary, where for centuries He had received the adoration of an elect and special people. The awe of the vision is enhanced by its localisation. But with Ezekiel this is changed. The vision is in a heathen land. The throne is a chariot now. It is placed on wheels arranged transversely, so that it can move easily to all the four quarters of the heavens. Its motion is direct, immediate, rapid, darting like the lightning flash, whithersoever it is sped. Not, indeed, that the element of fixity is lost. Though a chariot, it remains still a throne. It is supported by the four living creatures whose wings as they beat fill the air with their whirring, but whose feet are planted straight and firm. They have four faces looking four ways, but these are immovable. "They turned not when they went." However we may interpret them, they are the firm supports of the chariot, moving rapidly, yet never turning, unchangeable in themselves, yet. capable of infinite adaptation in their processes.
2. The counterpart to the mobility in the larger dispensation of the future thus implied in the vision is its spirituality. It is mobile just because it is spiritual. The letter is fixed; the form is rigid and motionless as death. The spirit only is instinct with life. "Whither the spirit was to go they went." Everywhere the presence of the Spirit is emphasised; and this emphatic reiteration is the more remarkable because it is found in the midst of accurate dates, precise measurements, topographical descriptions, minute external details of all kinds.
3. But lastly, if spirituality characterises the motive power, if mobility is the leading feature in the intermediate energies and processes, universality is the final result. The chariot of God moves freely to all the four quarters of the heavens. The prophet sees it first in the plains of Babylonia. He is then carried in his vision to the Temple at Jerusalem. There he beholds the glory filling the holy place, the throne of God supported on the cherubim: and there, too — an unwonted surprise — are the four faces, the wings, the hands, the wheels full of eyes, just the same forms and the same motions which he had seen in the land of his exile. Ay, he understands it now. The living creatures of Babylonia are none other than the sacred cherubim of the sanctuary. Three times, as if he would assure himself or convince others by reiteration, he repeats the words, "The same which I saw by the river Chebar." So, then, God works with power, God is enthroned in glory, not less in that far-off heathen land than in His own cherished sanctuary among His own elect people. The vision of Ezekiel is not a dead or dying story, which has served its turn and now may pass out of mind. It lives still as the very charter of the Church of the future. If in this nineteenth century we Englishmen would do any work for Christ's Church, which shall be real, shall be solid, shall be lasting, we must follow in the lines here marked out for us. Mobility, spirituality, universality, these three ideas must inspire our efforts. Other methods may seem more efficacious for the moment, but this only will resist the stress of time. Not to cling obstinately to the decayed anachronisms of the past, not to linger wistfully over the death-stricken forms of the past, not to narrow our intellectual horizon, not to stunt our moral sympathies; but to adapt and to enlarge, to absorb new truths, to gather new ideas, to develop new institutions, to follow always the teaching of the Spirit — the Spirit, which will not be bound and imprisoned — the Spirit, which is like the breath of wind, and whose very name speaks of elasticity and expansion, passing through every crevice, filling every interstice, conforming itself to every modification of size and shape; this is our duty as Christians, as Churchmen, as Anglicans, remembering meanwhile that there is one fixed centre from which all our thoughts must radiate, and to which all our hopes must converge — Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.
The likeness of four living creatures.1. God employs not ignorant, silly ones in His service, but those that are intelligent, angels that are wise and very knowing.
2. The angels are in all quarters of the world, taking notice of men's words, works, and ways.
3. Men should be ashamed to be ignorant, seeing angels are likened unto them for knowledge and understanding.
4. God doth interest angels and use their service in the government of the world.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(10) (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(10) (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
The likeness of a man.I. THERE ARE HUMAN FEATURES IN HEAVEN.
1. There is a resemblance between spirits in heavenly regions and men.
2. There is a human likeness in God. Christ is its manifestation.
3. The human Christ is in heaven.
4. There are men in heaven.
II. THERE ARE HUMAN FEATURES IN REVELATION.
1. Revelation comes to us through human channels. The thought of heaven is translated into the language of earth.
2. Revelation makes known to us the true glory of humanity.
3. In all religion it is important not to lose sight of human nature. We have to see —
(1) (2) (3) (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
(2) (3) (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
(3) (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
The hands of a man under their wings.Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works," etc.; He doth not say, that they may see you, but see your good works, and glorify your Father, not you.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
I. AS A SYMBOL OF THE IDEAL LIFE OF MAN. Perfect blending of serving and soaring. Man is a child of the skies as well as of the soft.
II. AS A SYMBOL OF SUPERHUMAN ENERGY AND FORCE IN CONNECTION WITH THE HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY. Human skill, tact, and eloquence are powerless unless winged by superhuman might.
III. THE RIGHT PLACE FOR THE HAND OF SERVICE IS UNDER THE WING OF FAITH. "Whether ye eat or drink," etc.
IV. IN THE NOBLEST SERVICE THERE IS NEED FOR SWIFTNESS AND GRACE. If there were more delight in service there would be no need to repeat appeals and resort to contrivances and schemes to get work done.
V. THE HAND OF SERVICE PARTLY HIDDEN BY THAT WHICH GIVES IT SPEED. Often those whose days are filled with business find time for Christian labour of most varied kinds.
And they went everyone straight forward.
Sunday Circle.If you look at a map of Russia, you will find that the railroad between the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg is a straight line. It happened in this way. When the engineers were about to survey for making the railway, they asked the Czar which way he wished the line to take. He asked for a map, and, without a moment's hesitation, he took a ruler and drew a straight line between the two cities, and said, "That is the way I wish the line to be made." And has not God in the same manner drawn a straight line from the soul to Himself, its true goal, and is not Conscience the bright and shining light that signals the way clear between earth and heaven?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Whither the Spirit was to go, they went.
1. Angels, although exceeding wise, full of knowledge, active, and able to do great service, yet are not at their own disposal, they move not at their own pleasure, they went not where they listed. Let the abilities of the creature be never so excellent, they must be under the power of a superior, they must be ordered and directed by a higher cause.
2. It is the Spirit of God who is the great agent that sets angels to work; they perform nothing by their own virtue and strength, but at the command and impulse of the Spirit they act, they set out, proceed, finish, and return. As in a ship at sea, there are the winds without to drive it, and the pilot within to guide it to what place he pleaseth; so here is the command of the Spirit ab extra, externally, and the impetus intra, the inward influence, to carry out and order these. The great things angels have done, have been done by the Spirit of God: if they suggest good thoughts; if an angel strengthen Christ in His agony; if they reveal mysteries and things to come to Daniel and others; if they contend against princes, and agitate the great affairs of the kingdom, it is by virtue of the Spirit of God, that works efficaciously in them, and in good men, that are employed for the glory of God and the public good of Church or State.
3. Angels are led. and easily led. by the Spirit. "They went" — without dispute or delay — "whither the Spirit would have them go." Offer up yourselves, freely and fully, to the conduct of the Spirit, and that will lead you into all truth and into the land of uprightness.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
Christian Age.The poets tell us of a firefly in southern climates, said to be the most brilliant of all fireflies, which has this peculiarity, that it never shines at all except when going rapidly upon the wing, and then its brilliancy, can be seen afar. So it is with our immortal souls. When we are upon the wing, active and advancing, going forward in the Christian race toward God and toward heaven, our light shines out and all men see it; but when we stand still, it dies.
One wheel upon the earth by the living creatures.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
A wheel in the middle of a wheel.
1. The Scriptures affirm this truth. They are as full of evidences of it as the daily press is full of the records of man's workings in individual and national life. Eyes see clearer, washed with tears. Paul could glory in his infirmities, for he saw even in them that the power of Christ was made glorious. In all the pains and penalties, the joys and griefs, the thoughts and imaginations of life, God is busy, out of evil still educing good.
2. History proves this. Never did men meet behind closed doors without God seeing them. Every plot and conspiracy is known to Him. The Jews were persecuted and peeled, they were ever an easy prey to the spoiler, now they are the bankers and traders of the world; many hold seats of power among the nations. The thing you intend to accomplish carries with it a score of things you did not intend to do. Luther and Columbus accomplished more than they ever dreamed of doing, because God was in their movements.
3. The laws of nature illustrate this. The thunderstorm is His scavenger, driving off malaria and noxious vapour. The earthquake is a safety valve by which imprisoned gases are set free. Weeds, thistles, insects, are made to work out some good.Conclusion —
1. We cannot get along without God. If we choose to rebel against His working, He will curb and overthrow us. If we lead selfish, prayerless, cruel lives, He will thwart and destroy.
2. Nothing happens which does not help him who loves God. Losses, crosses, abuse, and injury lead to the growth of patience, watchfulness, and the silent bearing of sorrow. Burn your own smoke and go on. Trials help to build up character.
3. The love of God is emphasised by the truth before us. He reigns — not sin.
(H. M. Gallaher, D. D.)
I. Your troubles, difficulties, losses, whatever they may be and whatever may be the instruments of them, are ALL FROM GOD. Your times are in His hands. Your ways are ordered by Him. Your breath depends upon His will. All your sorrows and all your joys are parts of His one great plan of education for you to make you meet to be His own forever.
II. SUCCEEDING EVENTS EXPLAIN THE PROVIDENCE AND PURPOSES OF GOD. We learn what He intended to do, by what He has done. If we study the Lord's providence, remembering that all its events come from God, and that God alone can teach us what is their meaning and design; if we wait upon God with patient faith in His Divine teaching, to see what He means to do with us, all the flames will unfold them. selves in due time. The whirlwind will pass by. The clouds will scatter, and light alone, the purest light, will remain to shine around us, "clear as amber."
III. ALL THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD HAVE A FIXED PURPOSE, AND ARE WISELY ARRANGED IN THEIR OPERATION. There is no blind chance in the government of God or in the affairs of men. When one asked Dr. Payson if he could discern any reason for his great personal sufferings, he answered, "No; but I am as well satisfied as if I saw ten thousand reasons. The will of God is the perfection of all reason." The ways and thoughts of God are not like ours. He does not give to us a previous account of His plans and purposes. But He knows the thoughts which He thinks concerning us. And He makes us to see and acknowledge at last how wire and how perfect they all were. Thus every providence appears to us with the face of a man, open, intelligent, and clear, having a manifest design, and perfectly adapted to accomplish it. It has also the eye of an eagle, which seeth afar off. It is watchful over the least of the affairs which it includes. The very hairs of our head, the stones in our path, the moments of our unconscious sleep, are all the subjects of its provision and control. These providences are also perfectly steady and uniform in their operation. The Lord is of one mind, and changeth not; the same yesterday, today, and forever.
IV. THE SAME PROVIDENCES ARE OFTEN DESIGNED TO PRODUCE SEPARATE AND SOMETIMES APPARENTLY OPPOSITE RESULTS. These various results of Providence, and the instruments by which they are completed, are not generally wonderful or strange things. They are perfectly natural and common things, but brought about by ways which we had not anticipated. They are things which occur just as naturally as a wheel revolves, or as wings support in flight. But they come and go in their particular occurrence as God directs, and they bring to pass the designs which God has formed.
V. IN THIS GRACIOUS AND WONDERFUL SCHEME ALL PROVIDENCES HAVE A SECRET PURPOSE OF BLESSING FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD. This is a very precious lesson. The plans of Divine providence are always subservient to the plans of Divine grace. They are designed as blessings for the chosen people of God. Whom He loves, He protects and prospers. There can be no one to harm those who are followers after that which is good. However God may try His people on the way, and however dark, unintelligible, and hard to bear these trials may appear, the triumphant and happy result is always the same, perfectly sure, and entirely compensating. He refines His chosen ones like gold and silver, and they glorify Him in the fires.
VI. ALL THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD ARE UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE GREAT REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. The government of the world is on His shoulder, and He upholdeth all things by the word of His power.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Christian Age.1. He rules in the world of physical nature. The "whirlwind" which the prophet saw was under the throne. All forces of nature, however strange and irresistible they may appear, are subject to God. What science reveals as laws, are no more than means and methods of Divine operation. God was seen in Jacob's dream above the ladder; so above all secondary causes is the great First Cause who originated them, and who still inspires them with energy and guides their courses.
2. He rules in the world of spirit. The cherubim which the prophet saw, with their mysterious forms and motions, were also under the throne. Freedom appears inseparable from spirit, but all creaturely freedom moves and acts within the will of God. "He doth according to His will in the army of heaven" (Daniel 4:35). Holy beings ever obey lovingly. His will is not only their law, but the ground and means of their blessedness. Devils are compelled to obey. This is the cause of their constant rage and misery. Inspired by hatred to God and goodness, they are obliged to see that not only are their plots defeated, but they are eventually made to promote the very ends they sought to destroy. It is so also with men in this way: the renewed are "workers together with God"; the unrenewed, though unwilling and rebellious, must subserve Divine purposes (Romans 9:17).
3. He rules in the order of history. The wheels the prophet saw symbolised the government of the world in its entirety. There was an appearance "as of a wheel within a wheel" — the multiform agencies and complications employed by Providence. The wheels "went straight on" — the direct course of Providence, which never halts, and is never turned aside from its purposes. The "rings were high and dreadful" — the vastness of the Divine purposes, awful in their sweep and grandeur. The "rings were full of eyes" — the omniscience of God, so appalling to the wicked, so comforting to saints. The "noise" of the moving wheels and of the accompanying cherubim was as "the voice of the Almighty" — all nature, and life, and the course of history, a revelation of the living, omnipotent Deity.
I. GOD CARRIES ON ALL THINGS BY A SECRET AND AN INVISIBLE VIRTUE, THAT THOUGH YOU SEE THE HAND WITHOUT, YET YOU SEE NOT THE SPRING WITHIN.
II. MEN'S SPIRITS ARE MANY TIMES RAISED UNTO AN EXTRAORDINARY PITCH BEYOND THE SPIRITS OF MEN. Drawn out to higher resolutions, they pitch upon higher thoughts and purposes than ever the times require: why now, mark, here is a mystery in this, that at one time a man should rise higher than at another time, and their resolutions and courages rise higher, and they should dare to encounter with those difficulties that even formerly they did tremble to think of. What is the reason of it? Oh, here is the mystery of Providence (Zechariah 12:8).
III. GOD PUTS IMPRESSIONS AND APPREHENSIONS UPON MEN MANY TIMES, THAT THEY RUN TO THEIR OWN RUINS.
1. Sometimes impressions of discouragement (Judges 7:13, 14).
2. Sometimes impressions of encouragements (2 Kings 3:22, 23).
IV. GOD MANY TIMES RAISETH UP INSTRUMENTS, AND HE QUALIFIES THEM FOR HIS WORK. Girding up their loins and strengthening their hands, that they shall go through that at one time that you would have thought ten thousand instruments could not have. done it at another (Isaiah 45:1, 2). God lays the same instrument aside again at another time. Many times the Lord will make a combination, and there shall be a conjunction of instruments, and afterwards the Lord will make use of these, even to destroy one another. Abimelech and the men of Shechem.
V. GOD MANY TIMES DESTROYS MEN BY THOSE MEANS BY WHICH IN ALL HUMAN JUDGMENT THEY THINK THEY SHALL BE PRESERVED. The people of Israel, when they were in any necessity, then by and by unto King Jareb, which some expound to be a helping king: sometimes in the way of Assyria, sometimes in the way of Egypt; yet, notwithstanding, they were destroyed by those that they brought in to their help. They bound Paul that he should not preach: "My bonds tend to the furtherance of the Gospel." They banished the Church out of Jerusalem, on purpose that so they might have destroyed it: but that is the Church's preservation, when Jerusalem is destroyed. These are the strange actings of Providence.
VI. WHEN THINGS ARE BROUGHT TO THE LOWEST EBB, THE MEANS WEAKEST, AND THE CONFIDENCE OF THE ENEMY AND THEIR EXPECTATIONS HIGHEST, THEN MANY TIMES GOD IS PLEASED TO DESTROY THE POWER OF THE MIGHTY. When Gideon hath but three hundred men, he is fit to fight God's battles; yea, Sisera must fall by the hand of a woman. Uses —
1. In all actings of Providence subscribe to His wisdom.
2. In all actings of Providence submit to His will.
And they turned not when they went.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Whithersoever the Spirit was to go, they went.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.together. They assimilate, repel, interpenetrate, change each other; and then leave as resultant one grand influence in the main for each character, for each man. "All things work together," not in an aimless and capricious manner, for this end and for that, now in one way and now in another, as though a stream should one day flow seaward, and the next back toward its fountain among the hills, but in one volume, along one channel, in one direction, toward one end.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
As the appearance of a man.Ezekiel 10:4, 18; Ezekiel 43:5, 6), is that which is manifested to men.
(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Anthropos, because, as it has been supposed, he is the only being whose look is upward — man is a part of nature, and no artificial definitions can separate him from it. And yet in another sense it is true that man is above nature — outside of it; and in this aspect he is the very type and image of the "supernatural."
(Duke of Argyll.)
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain
(J. H. Titcomb.)
I fell upon my face.
1. See what mischief sin hath done unto us: it hath disabled us from partaking of our greatest good. The sight of glory is the happiness of the creature.
2. The sight of glory is an humbling thing. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it" (Isaiah 40:5); and then follows, "All flesh is grass." Glory will convince us that we are but grass. It is not hearing will do it — at least, not so effectually; seeing, and seeing of glory, doth humble mightily. Seeing of misery causeth grief, "Mine eye affecteth mine heart"; but seeing of glory causeth godly sorrow (Job 42:5, 6; Isaiah 6:5). Those that are thoroughly humbled with the sense of their own vileness and weakness are fittest to hear Divine truths and to receive Divine mysteries. Ezekiel falls on his face, and then hears a voice; so was it with Daniel. Flesh and blood is apt to be lifted up, to trust in something of its own; men look at, and like their own parts, their graces; some confidence or other we are apt to catch hold of; but we must let all go, be low in our own eyes, if we will be fit auditors of Christ; we must fall down at the feet of His throne, if we will hear Him speak from His throne. He giveth grace to the humble, they find the choicest favours at His hands (James 4:6).
(W. Greenhill, M. A.).