The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.The Divine Call
How wonderfully coloured is the Bible! What a mystery of light and shade, mercy and judgment, goodness and severity! We have found this all the way through the record, and now we find it on the last page of the revelation. God is the same God, and he changes not All the change has been in form, in outward relation, in merely trivial circumstance; there has been no change in God; the standard of righteousness has never been lowered; hell has always been hot and bottomless. Make of the testimony what we will, there it is; many men wrote the Book—many men who never saw one another, and who never read what the other had written, and yet when all the parts of the Book are brought together they are one. The unity of the Bible is one of the strongest arguments in exposition and defence of its inspiration. If all the men had written in the same room, in the same day, under the same pronounced inspiration, we might have had the same mechanical unity; but the circumstances are wholly different. The men wrote without knowing that others were writing; some of them wrote at various times themselves, perhaps hardly remembering what they had written; they wrote amid the rush and storm of ever-changing political circumstance: yet when all the parts are gathered together, was ever such a literary temple seen on all the field of time?
Yet down to the last God is in controversy with certain people. He has not so wrought out the Bible that at last on the final page of the Old Testament everybody is in heaven. There is the clash of arms on the last page; men are still discontented, impious, selfish, rebellious to the uttermost—yea, men who ought to have known better. The men with whom God is now in controversy are men who have had opportunities of knowing him, seeing him, reading his law, and watching his way in life and time, and yet at the very last their "words" are "stout against" God. What a school God keeps! What stubborn scholars, what dense minds, what rebellious hearts! Yet the school is not closed. How patient is God! how merciful even in anger! How restrained is he to whom even the lightnings say, Here we are; use us, and we will put an end to rebellion. Still the school goes on, still the scholars are reading and writing, and praying and thinking; now and again God visits the school and sheds tears over it, but still he will not close its doors, or withdraw his light from its windows.
The complaint of the people was from a certain point of view not unnatural. How was the complaint grounded? It was grounded upon visible and obvious facts, such as, the prosperity of the wicked, the happiness of the proud, the abundance of the prayerless. These circumstances were aggravated by the fact that in many cases those who prayed most had least, those who made virtue a study were stung through and through with keenest disappointments. Yet this is God's world. It is somebody's world, because here it is. It is not a world of dream or speculation or intellectual invention, but a real world, visible, ponderable, tragical; scarred with graves, mad with grief. Yet to charge such a world upon God brings with it a difficulty of no ordinary kind. That difficulty, indeed, would be fatal were the history of the world limited to any statable number of years, though the years might run into centuries. The time of judgment is not yet. We could stop the builder and say, pointing to his unfinished house, his unroofed edifice, Is this a home for men? Can you mock human expectation by such rudeness of outline? The builder says, Give me time, and you shall see a house, and you shall see burning in it a hospitable fire, and the walls shall be adorned with pictures, and every echo in the place shall answer musically to childish laughter and glee—give me time. It we give the builder time, shall we hasten God impiously? Our urgency may be blasphemy. Who will stop the artist and say, Do you call that the delineation of the human face? The artist says, No, I do not, but give me time. I have much to do there yet; all I want is patience on your part and patience on my own, and then when I say I have done my utmost you may pronounce your judgment, but so long as I am working, hold your tongue. That would not be unreasonable. Is it, then, reasonable to point to God's world and say, Look at the graves, the agony, the misery, the disappointment, the whole tragedy! O dost thou call thyself Father and Sovereign? The answer is, Yes; I am the Sovereign and the Father of the universe, and all creation shall be musical and beautiful; give me time.
At that period of history we read:—
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name" (Malachi 3:16).
So even at that period society was not given up wholly to impiety. Whilst some men were speaking against God, some were speaking for him. The Lord knew who were gathered together in his name. Even Christian critics are often too much given to noting the noise and the tumult, the riot and the success of wickedness, to catch the whisper of prayer on the part of others. Once a good man said he was left alone; he was the only man that prayed. Surely the Lord might have smiled upon such innocent ignorance as he said, No, poor rejected prophet—"Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." It is an infirmity on the part of Christians that they do not recognise the real, active, solid good that is in the world. Yet that infirmity is in some degree excusable. Christians do not want to see any darkness or iniquity or wrongdoing, and so long as they see aught of that kind they cannot open their eyes to the beauty that lies close at hand. Blessed be God, he is the registrar himself; he keeps the books, he marks the statistics; God takes the census.
A beautiful picture is this, containing men that "feared the Lord." Mark the reverence of their attitude, the benignity of their countenance; listen to the tender music of their voices: men that are speaking to one another, with one another, for one another; they may all be speaking together without disorder; in that holy tumult there is distinctness of articulation. Nor is that enough: not only have we God-fearing men, and men speaking to one another, but we have such men "often" speaking to one another. Not once a week, not a Sabbatic interview, not an occasional fellowship, but an "often" brotherhood. Men should seek opportunities for talking and praying together. We should have a thousand prayer-meetings in the week if we would only enter into the real genius of religious communion. When two men meet together why should they not hold each other's hand, and in a moment pray; look one another in the face, and take a solemn pledge? Why this mechanical arrangement of praying at a certain hour on a certain evening? That may have its uses, but there ought to be an "often" meeting, roadside interviews, words few in number, but pregnant in meaning, uttered sometimes hastily, sometimes more by sign than by articulate speech; and thus the fraternal relationship should be kept up, and be turned into an instrument of religious inspiration, comfort, and progress. We may be cautioned against formality, and the caution is not without its uses; let us take care lest in denouncing formality we lose the whole fellowship.
No man can estimate the practical uses of religious intercourse. Take it that some men, say seven in number, pray in the city every day, they keep the city alive; yet the heads of the city, not being of the number, smile at the thought; but which is larger, the thing seen, or the thing not seen? Which is really mightier, the hammer that an arm can swing, or the gravitation that even mathematical genius cannot calculate or express in number and figure? Which is the more important, the man's body that must die, or the man's soul, the immortal unquenchable fire that makes him a man? We ourselves are driven along certain directions to confess that the spiritual is greater and mightier and more valuable in every sense than the material; we have only to carry our own admission to its highest consequences to ascertain and establish as a practical factor in life the holy doctrine that religious inspiration is the salvation of society. Is the air empty? Why, there is more vacancy than aught else in the universe if such be the fact. What does God want with all this unmeasured vacancy? We are told even by cold science that there is life in the air: we know by experience that without air this life could not live. What is air? What is its magnitude, its colour, its composition other than chemical? If the air itself is vital and vitalising, who shall say that the air is not a sanctuary, a temple of spirits? Who knows who goes forth on the wings of the wind? They must not speak who are always angry with religious dogmatism; they have by anticipation shut their own mouths on that subject. They will have no dogmatism; then let them be consistent with themselves, and refrain from being dogmatic Let it be a question at all events that may tempt the fancy, and inflame with holy excitement the imagination. Who knows what presences are in the temple of the air? There are many things more unthinkable, to use a cant and grotesque expression, than things distinctively religious. If you have any kind of eternity you have something just as unknowable and unthinkable as God. We are all in the same condemnation, if it be a condemnation to be associated with that which is infinitely greater than ourselves. Where did this so-called matter come from? Has it always been here? "Always" is as indefinable a term as "God." Who knows the meaning of the term "always"? It is a debased form of the word "eternity." It is either always, or it is not always: if it is not always, when did it begin? If it is always, who can stretch his mind over dateless duration? We prefer, therefore, seeing that we must at some point be associated with so-called unthinkableness, to associate ourselves with the idea of living sovereignty, tender fatherhood, merciful, gracious, and mighty providence. Accepting that theory, we often talk one to another about it; each man writes his own prophecy or psalm or history, and when a hundred of these are all brought together they make a beautiful Bible, one in thought, one in music, one in love. We should compare notes frequently; men should not be ashamed of talking about their soul's progress. Because certain men can degrade religious intercourse into fanaticism and hypocrisy, that is no reason why other men should not elevate it into a daily means of grace.
"A book of remembrance was written before him." All books are not made of paper. God has a book, and "another" book, which is the Book of Life. What we call book is a sign or hint of that larger writing inscribed by the finger of God, or immediately under his inspiration. There is a book of names. Men are often asked to inscribe their names in books that there may be some remembrance of them in the family when they are no longer present. The idea is pathetic: why not lift up the thought to its best religious applications, and think of God writing our name? He seems to take a delight in names; saith he, I have known thee by name, I have called thee by name. "Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you," said Christ: take no pleasure in mere miracles and wonders and signs, "but rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven."
Then comes the holy consequence:—
"And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Malachi 3:17).
"That day." What does the Bible mean by this constant reference to another or special kind of day? Always in the Bible there has been a coming day, and always there has been a promised prophet; everywhere there has been the sound of One who was coming. This is the largeness of the Book, its sensitiveness to the whole action of evolution. Poor soul, to have thy name written everywhere but in God's Book! Is that fame? Reject it, resent it, avoid it! When the day does come, it "shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Here, on the one side, you have what mistaken people said, namely, "It is vain to serve God: the proud are happy, yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." That is our complaint against Providence. On the other hand, we have:—
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1)
He comes slowly, but he comes surely. The proud man has a short day to work in. The candle of the wicked shall be blown out: the memory of the wicked shall rot. "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." Who will fight against God? "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Here is providence brought before us focally. We see somewhat of it in its intense unity: man's complaint, God's judgment; man not understanding the mystery of human education, and God explaining it. God will not heat this fire so long as he can help it; mercy prevails against judgment. An opportunity is given for the very last offender to lay down his arms and return to his Lord: but if there be aught left of wickedness it shall be burned in the oven. When God has consumed a man, who can find him?
We might exegetically end here, but evangelically we cannot. There is a call to men to return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon them; to confess their sins, and he will forgive them; to meet God at the Cross, that eternal reconciliation may be effected there. Blind are they who do not see God in providence; lost are they who take the world as meaning nothing but dust. Jesus Christ came to give us a new view, to set us in a right relation to God and to himself and to the coming eternity. He found himself thirsting, and he said, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." He shall have trial, tribulation, difficulty; but all these are part of a process, the Lord will lead through all this disintegration and temporary ruin into reconstruction and ineffable blessedness.
This is the Christian doctrine which we have espoused. We love it. It covers the whole space and the whole necessity of life. There be some curiously-headed men who want to be God themselves. We cannot explain them; that they can be explained we will not doubt; but they are men fruitful in the suggestion of difficulty, skilful in the barren process of cross-examination; they are difficult to satisfy, because they want with a blind eye to see God's glory, and it cannot be done. Be modest, be calm, be trustful. Try the Christian Cross, the Christian truth, in daily life; see how it goes with a man in all the action of life's tragedy; listen how it talks; observe how it soothes; note how it inspires; behold how it makes man a new creature.
Almighty God, we bless thee for boys and girls; they are thy children; of such is the kingdom of heaven. Thou wilt not rest until Jerusalem is filled with boys and girls; this is in thy counsels, this is written in thy Book, this thou wilt surely do, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. There are no orphans; thou art our Father in heaven; thou dost never change, thy love never cools, thine eye is never withdrawn from any of us: thou dost guide us by thine eye. If we could trust in thee more we should have no fear; if we could live in God we should live for ever: they are immortal who are in God. Now and again we feel the cold wind, and we say, The hill we travel is very high, and the darkness comes down upon us suddenly; but if we had faith in the living Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the wind would be a summer air, the hills would be a slope up towards heaven, and the darkness would be the background of the stars. Lord, increase our faith. Look upon us in all the relations of life; look upon us in the house, and make the house a home, and the home a church, because the living Christ is there; look in upon the wedding feast, and grace it with thy presence, thou Son of man, Maker of the only wine that can make glad the heart of man; be present in the death-chamber, and Death shall see thee and flee away, for thou art the Resurrection and the Life; be with all thy servants in business, and help them to understand that there is no business worth doing compared with the business of the Father's house; be with us in all straits, difficulties, afflictions, and burden-bearings, and at last, through the Cross, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, bring us fully home. Bless all the lands, far-away countries in the east and in the west, in the north and in the south; may the whole earth rejoice in the impartial glory of the Sun of Righteousness. Amen.
A Gallery of Pictures
We have some pictures in the prophecy that are very vivid, and some of them very humiliating. For example, we have a picture of the utterest selfishness in Malachi 1:10 :—
"Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought."
Yet they sang how good a thing it was to be but a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord. Men do not come to this kind of selfishness all at once. For some degrees of wickedness we must patiently and skilfully graduate. We do not attain the highest quality of iniquity at a bound; we cannot, speaking generally, extemporise the supremest kind of devilishness. We begin carefully, we proceed slowly, we take pains with the details of our action, and not until we have become inured to certain practices and usages do we take the final step that lands us in the very refinement and subtlety of evildoing. Nothing is so soon lost as spiritual apprehension, the power of taking hold upon the invisible, the eternal, the spiritual. There is so much against it We unhappily have eyes that can only see what we describe as the material, and in our folly we describe it as the real. That is the very lowest kind of philosophy. There is a metaphysic that denies the existence of everything we see; I would rather belong to that school of negation than to the school which affirms that there is nothing but what we can see with the eyes of the body. We are always tempted away from the higher lines. Who would shut his eyes and talk to nothing, and call it prayer? Who would have so many of his own aspirations dropping back upon his heart like dead birds, and still believe in an answering, benignant, loving God? Who would refuse the great bribe? There it is, visibly, tangibly, immediately; you can lay your hand upon it, and secure it, and if there is any need by-and-by to pray yourselves back again from the felony, and still retain its produce, then see the man of God and take his ghostly counsel. The distinction of Christianity is its spirituality. Christianity lives amongst the spirits. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth." When we make Christianity a mere argument or a mere philosophy, we lose its whole genius and meaning. Christianity comes to kill the visible by putting it into its right perspective, and investing it with its right value, which is nothing beyond a mere convenience. Christianity comes to lift up the soul to God, and to fix the heart upon things unseen and eternal. Christianity comes to make a man blind to everything but God, and therefore to see everything aright because to see it in its relation to God. How far are we to blame for degrading Christianity from its proper level, and making it stand amongst so-called other religions to take its chance with the general mob? We can be attacked with some success, not to say with desperate savageness, if we fight the battle on wrong lines; but not when we stand upon Christ's lines, of direct living fellowship with God, doing everything for Christ's sake, glorifying God in our body, which is so-called matter, our soul, which plays a part in the psychical philosophies, and our spirit, the touch that makes us one with God. If we pray ourselves into higher prayers, ever-ascending until speech must be displaced by music, then we are upon a way where we shall find no lion, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon, it shall not be found there. And as for dying, we shall not die—"he was not, for God took him," shall be the rhythmic ending of a noble, beautiful, spiritual life. Losing this spiritual apprehension, what do we come to?—to men-service; we come to be men-pleasers, time-servers, investors, hirelings. When the true spirituality reigns in us we shall have no fear of man, we shall see the richest patron of all going out of the sanctuary, not because he is wounded in the back, but because he is wounded in the heart by the Spirit of God, on account of his unrighteousness, unfaithfulness, vanity, and worldliness; the Church will be the richer for his absence. Never let the spirituality of the Church go down, for then you open the door to every kind of invader; you make devastating encroachment possible; but laying hold of God, you shall be safe even from the insidious assaults and invasions of selfishness.
We have also a picture of the true priest:—
"The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 2:6-7).
What was said of Levi should be said of every man in the varied ministry of the Church; he ought to be as beautiful as this. Yet not only beautiful, but massive, strong, pure, dominating; not asking permission to live and to preach, but granting permission to millionaires to chink their gold. It is quite true that here we have an ideal picture. It satisfies the imagination to have a word like "ideal" in its vocabulary. But may we not so use the word "ideal" as to find in it a temptation to a continual lowering of the spiritual stature, and a continual cooling of the spiritual temperature? Certainly these words are ideal; this is God making another Adam, this time out of marble, breathing into him the breath of life, and making him majestic and noble: this is God's conception of the true priest. Yet we call it ideal, and then go away to our commonplace. The minister of Christ cannot rise to perfection. If any man were to assume himself to be perfect he would justly discredit himself by that very assumption. What is it that is required of the true priest, preacher, minister, or pastor? It is required of him first that he be found faithful to his light, to his immediate inspiration; he is not to live for tomorrow, he is to live for this present day, with all its clamour and all its importunate necessity. But should not a man study consistency? Yes—No. Is it possible for an answer to be both in the affirmative and in the negative? Certainly. Wherein is to be the consistency of the preacher? In his spiritual sincerity. There he must never fail. As to his words and views, do we not live in an atmosphere? Are we not environed? Do not ten thousand ministries continually play upon every line and fibre of our nature? There may be inconsistency in words, phrases, terms, and statements, and yet there may be consistency of the finest quality and fibre in the moral purpose, the spiritual intent, the unchangeable loyalty to the Cross of God the Son. A preacher's perfectness should be found in the continuance of his aspiration, and the continuance of all practical endeavour to overtake his own prayers. Do not mock a man because his life is not equal to his prayer; when a man has no higher prayer to offer than he can live he may pass on into some other world in the Father's universe. Meanwhile, no man can pray sincerely, profoundly, continually, and want to be like Christ without growing,—not always upwards; there is a growth in refinement, in susceptibility, in moral tenderness, in sympathy of the soul for others, as well as a growth in knowledge, and stature in intellectual majesty. It is well to have an ideal before us. One of two things must happen in the case of the priest. "... Did turn many away from iniquity." That is a beautiful work for you, my preaching brother, to have done. You may never have been heard of beyond your own sphere, and yet within that sphere you may have been working miracles which have astounded the angels. You have kept or turned many away from iniquity. I have a brother who had great influence over one of his leading men, and that brother, though his name was never heard of beyond his own circle of ministerial exertion, laid himself out to save that man. That man's temptation was drink. The minister followed him, turned swiftly upon him at the public-house door, and said, No, not here! It was not much of a sermon to preach from a public point of view, but the poor tempted soul quailed under the interdict, and went home. Why, to have been the means of giving him one night's release from the devil was to have done a work worthy of the Cross! You cannot tell what your negative work amounts to—how many you have kept from going wrong, doing wrong, or speaking unwisely, untruly, or impurely; you do not know what your example has done. Be cheered, be encouraged; you do not always live in the miracle of Pentecost; sometimes you live in the quietness that can only do a negative work, but blessed be God, when he comes to judge our work there will be nothing negative about it He who has turned away a man from iniquity shall be accounted as one who has turned a soul to righteousness; he is a great judge, and he gives great heavens to those who serve him.
There is another line of thought—
"Ye have caused many to stumble" (Malachi 2:8).
How acute, how penetrating, how ruthless is the criticism of God! Here again we may not have been wanton in our irreligion, we may not have been irreligious at all in the ordinary sense of the term, but for lack of zeal, for lack of honesty, for lack of character, we may have caused the citizens of Gath to mock, and the daughters of Philistia to sneer at the Lord. "Caused many to stumble": how could they help it? They looked to the priests, pastors, guides, and teachers of the community for example, and they saw nothing but warning. They said, The speech of these men will be pure, gentle, courteous, gracious; they will especially speak of one another in terms of appreciation and brotherly regard. Hark! Why, this is talk we might have heard at the tavern; this is criticism we might have heard at hell's gate; this is censoriousness that would shame an infidel. What if they have gone away to mock the God whose name his own professors had forgotten? "Caused many to stumble"—by little-mindedness, by narrowness of soul, by lack of sympathy, by idolatry instead of worship, by pointing at a church-roof and calling it God's own sky. Here we should daily pray that we give offence to no man needlessly; here we should do many things that the Gospel be not hindered; here we may work miracles in the name and power of the Cross.
Another picture is that of a terrible judgment:—
"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:5).
O God, send some man to testify against us, and we can contradict him; send the oldest and purest of thy prophets to charge us, and we can recriminate, and remind him of his human nature, and tell him to take care of himself lest he fall, rather than waste his criticism upon us who have fallen. Send Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel; send all the minstrels of Israel, let them mass themselves into a cloud of witnesses, and we can laugh them to scorn, and tell them not to mock our fallibility by an assumption of infallibility of their own; but thou wilt not do this, thou dost come thyself. Who can answer thunder? Who can reason with lightning? Who can avert the oncoming of eternity? "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." He will be not only a witness, but a "swift witness"; he will break upon us suddenly, he will come upon us from unexpected points; where we say, All is safe here, there shall the fire leap up, and there through a hedge, where we thought to make a resting-place, shall a serpent break through to bite us. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." Yea, I call mine a man's hand, but to thee it is the hand of a little child; take hold of it, for the way is slippery, the crags are here and there very sharp, and the steep is infinite, and the enemy is already breathing upon my neck. O God, save me, or I perish! In that modesty we have strength; in that reliance upon God we have a pavilion that the thunder cannot shake, that the lightning cannot penetrate. I would hide me in the house of my Saviour's heart.
Then we have a picture of a perfect restoration:—
"And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:11-12).
One nation cannot be good without another nation feeling it. When England is noble the whole world is aware of the transformation; when America has responded to the appeal of righteousness the whole globe feels as if a Sabbath were dawning upon the shores of time; when any nation does a noble deed it is as if all the world had prayed. Let us remember the might, the immeasurable might, of spiritual influence. Convert England, and you convert the world; convert London, and you convert England, speaking after the manner of men. Leave God to look after the results which you call material. Is there a devourer? God will rebuke him for our sakes. Does the vine cast her fruit before her time? Angels shall keep that fruit on the stem until it be purple with hospitality, yea, with the very love of God's heart; and as for the fields, their hedges will become fruit trees, and all the fences shall bloom and blossom because the Lord's blessing has fallen upon the earth. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." God will take care of the vine if we take care of the altar.
Then, lastly, we have a picture of a sun-lighted world:—
"But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2).
The last verse of the Old Testament is terrible; it reads"—"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers"—that is good, but the last words—"lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." The Rabbi would never end with that; the Rabbi said, "No, I will go back and read the last verse but one." The Rabbi could not end with a curse. There are several books in the Bible that end with doleful words: "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." The Rabbi could not defile the synagogue with making "evil" the climacteric word, so he read the verse before. Isaiah ends: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." And the Rabbi said, We cannot end with that, we must end with the verse before. And the Lamentation,—"But thou hast utterly rejected us: thou art very wroth against us." And the Rabbi said, Read the verse before that; we cannot end with storm and darkness, and tempests of imprecation. Oh let us close with some word of comfort! So must it ever be with the true messenger of God. He will have to deliver his tremendous message; but blessed be the Cross of Christ, every sermon may end with music and light and joy. There is no text in the Bible that lies half a mile from Calvary. I do not care what the text is, there is a road from it right into Golgotha. Malachi has for his last word curse; but we may have for our last word blessing, we may have for our closing word peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." If we added to that we should be attempting to paint the lily and gild refined gold. There is but one word that can be added to it, and that is not our own: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.