I. THERE IS AN ELEMENT OF AUTHORITY IN EVERY WORD OF THE LORD. Whether God addresses to men language of rebuke or reproach, of entreaty or of threatening, he speaks with authority. His invitation is that of a King; it is a command When our Lord Christ spoke in the course of his ministry, he spoke with authority. The Divine judgment is always correct, the Divine will is always obligatory.
II. ALL AGENCIES AND INSTRUMENTALITIES ARE OBEDIENT TO THE LORD'S BEHESTS. It is so with the forces of nature. "The stormy wind fulfilleth his word;" "His ministers are a flaming fire." It is so with the institutions of human society, with the purposes and the activities of men. The hand which is visible in a work may be that of a creature; the power that directs that hand may, nevertheless, be creative wisdom and creative might. God gives the word; it is executed by ten thousand ministers of his holy will. He maketh even the wrath of man to praise him.
III. THE POWER OF THE GREATEST AMONG MEN IS INCAPABLE OF RESISTING THE DIVINE COMMANDS. The "great house" and the "little house" alike are smitten when the Lord makes bare his arm. Israel and Judah, the prince and the husbandman, may know that nothing can protect them from the might of the Eternal when his decree of judgment has gone out against them. Well may the people that rebel against God tremble and fear, and remember that they are but men. - T.
I. THE STATE OF MIND THAT IS REPROVED IN THIS PASSAGE.
Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.
I. SOME ARE AT EASE IN ZION FROM SELFISH INSENSIBILITY. Such there were in the days of Amos. In a similar way to Amos, Isaiah upbraids the Jews. There are still many whose attention to their own indulgences regulates all their actions. Our dispositions ought always to correspond with the providence of God, and the purposes for which He placed us in the world. For the unfeeling wretch conscience has no kind office to perform. For him no orphan prays, no widow sings. For him the evil day comes on charged with every horror. He has no asylum in the feelings of the community, the happiness of whose members he never sought.
II. SOME FROM INFIDEL PRESUMPTION. If there be any truth in the Scriptures, the dispositions of the generality of mankind are very unsuitable to their state and their destiny. What is this ease which flows from infidel persuasion?
1. It is obtained with difficulty.
2. It is partial, and liable to interruption.
3. The less liable it is to be disturbed, the more awful; for it is penal.
4. This ease is fatal. Its duration is momentary; it must end, and end in anguish and despair.
III. SOME FROM VAIN CONFIDENCE; relying on the goodness of their present state, and on the certainty of their future happiness. There is such a thing as spiritual self-flattery; there is such a thing as a delusive dependence on religion.
1. This confidence keeps them from looking after salvation. They are too good to be saved.
2. This course will terminate in woeful surprise and disappointment.
IV. SOME PROM PRACTICAL INDIFFERENCE. You would much offend persons of this class, were you to inquire whether they believed the Scripture. These persons are not to be charged sentimentally with anti-nomianism or any other error. They know the Gospel in theory; but they are strangers to its Divine efficacy. Of all the various characters we have to deal with in our ministry, these are the most unlikely to insure success. We preach; you acknowledge, and admire, — but you discover no more concern to obtain the one thing needful we propose, than if you were persuaded we called you "to follow a cunningly devised fable." Your life is a perpetual contradiction to your creed: you are not happy, and contrive not to be miserable. Inferences.
1. They are highly criminal, who countenance and promote a state of carnal ease.
2. Let none be troubled when they find their connections distressed and alarmed with a sense of their sin and danger.
3. Nothing is so much to be dreaded as false security in religion.
4. There is consolation for those who are distressed. We do not applaud all their doubts and dejections, but these painful scruples are easily accounted for, and they lie on the safe side.
1. It includes carnal security (ver. 1).
2. It includes presumptuous unbelief (vers. 2, 3).
3. It includes sensual indulgence (vers. 4, 5, 6, first clause).
4. It includes selfish indifference (ver. 6, last clause).
II. THE JUSTICE OF THE WOE DENOUNCED AGAINST IT.
1. Such a state of mind indicates a lurking enmity against God.
2. Indicates insensibility to the claims of Jesus.
3. Indicates a deep-seated unbelief of coming judgments.
Essex Remembrancer.I. THE STATE CONDEMNED. God's threatenings had been declared against the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, but the people confided in their fortifications and external advantages, or in their profession of being the people of God; thus they carelessly indulged themselves, and were heedless about consequences, though destruction impended over them. The application of the passage to the conduct of many under the means of grace is natural and easy. The state of mind condemned is —
1. Expressive of careless indifference.
2. It is expressive of false security.The persons warned in the text were regarding themselves as secure on false and uncertain grounds. So many are now found perverting the doctrines of the Gospel, and promising to themselves security in such per version. Or they pretend that they arc waiting for God's time, when He will afford them necessary help. They make their moral inability, or in other words, their unwillingness to receive Christ and His Gospel an excuse for their continued disobedience, and attribute their rebellion and unbelief to the want of God's help, rather than to the state of their own hearts, to the love of sin, and to their unwillingness to yield submission to the Saviour's authority. Others make their moral conduct a ground of hope. Their honesty, their kindness to their neighbours, and the propriety of their general deportment are substituted for faith in Christ, and a cordial reception of His Gospel.
3. It is expressive of a state of sloth. Many professors are thus at ease. Once they were anxious, inquiring, full of apparent desire after the favour of God and the blessings of salvation, and of activity 'in the Saviour's cause. But their zeal, activity, and ardour have passed away. They are slumbering and sleeping.
II. MARK THE PLACE WHERE THIS STATE OF MIND IS EXERCISED. If slothfulness and indifference are unseemly in other spheres, are they less so in Zion, in the house, in the Church of God? If they are injurious to our temporal concerns... are they less so to our spiritual and eternal interests? Restricting the term "in Zion" to the place where God is worshipped, to His sanctuary, we remark —
1. That in Zion the law of God is declared. Its purity, its justice, its spiritual character and extensive requirements are set forth. In Zion we are shown the harmony of the law with the Gospel, while it becomes the means of preparing us to receive salvation.
2. In Zion the Gospel is proclaimed. Here the most constant theme is salvation through the Saviour s blood. Here Jesus is evidently set forth as crucified among us. Can you be at ease in Zion, cold and insensible, with the Cross in view, and indifferent to the Saviour's voice addressing us therefrom?
3. Zion is the special residence of Christ. Jesus is now represented as King in Zion, as the Ruler and Head of His Church.
III. THE DANGER TO WHICH THIS STATE OF MIND EXPOSES.
1. How opposed to all spiritual improvement.
2. How expressive of contempt for spiritual blessings.
3. How ruinous to our eternal interests.
1. Those who deny that any punishment will be inflicted on sinners. This includes infidels of every description; those who deny God's government of the world; those who contemn God; and the scoffers. In this class must also be placed those who believe that all men will be saved. False prophets who cry "peace, peace," when there is no peace.
2. Those who allow that sinners will be punished, but who deny, or do not appear to believe, that they are sinners. They find, or fancy that they find none better than themselves, few so good, and very many worse. Hence they conclude that they arc in no danger, that they have nothing to fear, and of course feel easy and secure. Such persons are without the law. They know nothing of its spirituality, strictness, and extent. They have never tried themselves by this rule. They are like a man buried in sleep, totally unconscious of their true character and situation, insensible of their sins, and of the danger to which their sins expose them.
3. Those who acknowledge that they are sinners, and that sinners will be punished; and yet they are at ease, for they contrive in various ways to persuade themselves that though other sinners will be punished, they shall themselves escape. Such persons, though habitually, are not always at ease. They have times of anxiety and alarm. It is their way by promises and resolutions to put off the evil day. They trust to a future convenient season. There is perhaps no class of sinners whose situation is more dangerous. This class also includes all who entertain a false and groundless persuasion that they have already become pious, obtained the" pardon of their sins, and secured the favour of God. The reasons why persons feel such a persuasion are various.
II. THE WOE WHICH IS DENOUNCED AGAINST THEM IN OUR TEXT. The doom is expressed in general terms; in terms which may include curses and threatenings of every kind. Why are such characters thought worthy of a punishment so severe?
1. Because the ease which they feel proves that they belong to the number of the wicked. All who are habitually at ease in Zion know nothing of true religion. They are either careless sinners or self-deluded hypocrites.
2. They are not only sinners, but sinners of no common stamp, sinners whose guilt and sinfulness are peculiarly aggravated, and whose punishment will therefore be peculiarly severe. He who is at ease in Zion must be deaf to God's voice, blind to God's glories, insensible to every spiritual object; he sins against light and against love.
3. There is little reason to hope that they will ever repent. On what grounds can we hope for the salvation of those who are at ease? If they cannot be roused, if their false peace cannot be disturbed, they must inevitably perish; and to rouse them, humanly speaking, seems impossible.
(E. Payson, D. D.): — While Amos unveils the transgressions of Israel, he does not spare the sins of Judah.
I. THE PERSONS HERE REFERRED TO. Those who are "in Zion." The class of persons spoken of are the members of the visible Church, the professing people of God. Regard the professing Church —
1. As solemnly devoted to holiness and God.(1) They are so by the immediate and express purpose of God Himself. He has created them anew in Christ Jesus. And He has done this for His own glory.(2) They are so by the intention of their Divine Redeemer. He has done and suffered much for them. To redeem and raise up a holy Church is the object which is the solace of all the Redeemer's labours, the mead of all His sufferings.(3) They are devoted to holiness in baptism. The ordinance of baptism is the expressive type and sign of the sprinkling of the efficacious blood.(4) They are thus devoted by voluntary covenant. Every Christian is such by his free choice.
2. As the appointed instrument in the evangelisation of the world. The Church of Christ is designed to be a benevolent institution. They are appointed "witnesses" for God to an unbelieving and perishing world.(1) They are eminently fitted for this. They are themselves awakened and alive to the dangerous condition of every unconverted man. They know too the way of deliverance. And(2) they have the command.
3. As a mediator with God on behalf of a perishing world.(1) The renovation of the moral world depends upon the agency and operation of the Holy Ghost. The Word of God itself con tains no inherent or independent efficacy to convert mankind.(2) The bestow meat of the Spirit is frequently and distinctly promised, but always in answer to prayer.(3) Hence prayer is made the Christian's primary duty. Jesus both by precept and by example urged it upon His followers.
II. THE SIN CHARGED UPON THEM. "They are at ease." Consider —
1. Their spiritual condition. They are devoted to holiness; are they holy? The spiritual state of Christians generally is not such as to warrant their being at ease. Every scriptural view of their character and duty involves the obligation of strenuous exertion.
2. The state of the world. The Gospel has now been preached over eighteen hundred years, and what is the result? Look at your own family and domestic circle. Look at the inhabitants of your town and neighbourhood. To how small a proportion of our race have even the tidings of the Gospel yet been conveyed.
3. Another reason for uneasiness is that the success of the Word must always arise from the agency of the Holy Spirit.
III. THE JUDGMENT DENOUNCED. Under stand —
1. In the sense of a simple prophecy, as the prediction of a calamity likely and even certain to ensue.
2. It is the language of righteous retribution. That there is an equitable correspondence between sin and its consequences is testified by all experience.
3. It is the language of Divine denunciation. God is a just God, and a terrible. The sceptre of His mercy may become the rod of His wrath. If by our supineness, our unfaithfulness, our inconsistency, our sin, we have caused to be shed the blood of souls, shall we escape, think you, the just judgment of God?
(John G. Avery.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THOSE WHO ARE AT EASE IN ZION? Lazy Christians. Christianity is more than profession, it is even something more than faith. It is carrying into practice the truths we profess. The soul that is at ease sits down very contentedly on his mere profession, and mistakes earth for heaven.
II. WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF BEING AT EASE IN ZION?
1. There is ignorance of the nature of Christian life. Christianity is not ease, but labour. It is a daily struggle against unbelief and sin. The man at ease does his religion by deputy, or trusts entirely to the "mercy" of God, or relies on outward service and participation in form and ceremonies.
2. There is a dislike of the duties to be undertaken. Self-denial is not congenial to the natural heart. Labour is hateful, conflict repulsive, and therefore men sit down and dream away their opportunities.
3. Self-confidence. Disaster seems so unlikely. We fancy we are so secure that nothing can move us. Our prosperity, our privileges, our apparent tranquillity deceive the heart and lure the soul to sleep.
III. THE RESULT OF BEING AT EASE IN ZION.
1. It generates sin.
2. It merits the displeasure of God.
3. It will end in entire destruction.
(G. Wood, M. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.): — It is not the increase of the outer man and his surroundings and possessions, but the renewal of the inner life and spirit which makes the net profit and abiding wealth. It is the inner life of a nation that determines all things, not the visible, but the more or less invisible, not what can be arrayed in figures and statistics, but what no figures can express — not the show and splendour of prosperous times, the glare of wealth, the blaze of knowledge, the surfeit of luxuries, the pomp of pride, the flaunting of power, but the hidden qualities of patience, faith, self-mastery, courage, righteousness, and purity which lie underneath all this external display. It is the soul of a nation that makes a nation, not its body. If the soul is not sound, the body soon becomes a mass of weakness and decay. France is wealthier than it ever was before. It has more splendid cities, larger armies, greater intellectual resources and material resources than ever before; the outward man was never so fair and strong as now. What of all that if the heart has ceased to beat with honest purpose, if its ideals are lost, if the inner life has become diseased, defiled, corrupt? The outward show slowly rots away, when the inspiring force within degenerates and disappears. It is the continued renewal of the inner man that saves all.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
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