My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you as My priests. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.
I. THE SIN OF THE PRIESTS.
1. They rejected the knowledge of God (ver. 6). They did not engage in the study of the Divine Law, and their lives were a violation of its precepts.
2. They consequently failed to teach the Law to the people (ver. 6).
3. They connived at the national idolatry, on account of the material profit which they obtained from it (ver. 8). The calf-worship brought them many sacrificial fees; so the priests, instead of rebuking the iniquity, "set their heart" upon its continuance.
II. THE SIN OF THE PEOPLE.
1. They willfully forgot the Law of God (ver. 6).
2. The more prosperous they became externally, the more grievously they sinned (ver. 7).
3. They addicted themselves to idolatrous divination, using sometimes teraphim, and sometimes divining rods (ver. 12). In worshipping wooden gods, they showed themselves to be at once wooden-headed and wooden-hearted (Psalm 115:8).
4. They practiced the sensual rites of nature-worship with the temple prostitutes of Ashtaroth, and even were so shameless as sometimes to appear with them at the altar (vers. 13, 14). Impurity in one's religion is often joined with uncleanness of body.
III. THE DOOM THREATENED UPON BOTH. (Ver. 9.)
1. The priests and their sons would be deprived of their office, and the people would lose their high prerogative of being a priestly nation (ver. 6).
2. The glory of the kingdom would be turned into shame by reason of the loss of the numbers, wealth, and power in which they gloried (ver. 7).
3. Their sin would also become its own punishment (vers. 10, 11). The Lord would cause them to "eat of the fruit of their own way." The result would be surfeit, not satisfaction. Their sin would be their torment.
4. God would "give them up to vile affections;" he weald cease to correct them for their idolatry and licentiousness, and thus visit them with reprobation (ver. 14).
CONCLUSION. Ver. 11 contains the solemn statement of a great moral truth respecting all sin, and which is specially applicable to sins of sensuality. Who can place confidence in the moral judgments of an adulterer or a fornicator? How sad when such men occupy positions of influence in Church or state!
"Beware of lust; it doth pollute and foul
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
(T. Rennell, D. D.)
1. As ignorance is a very rife and destroying sin in the visible Church, so the guilt thereof doth ofttimes lie in great part at preachers' doors.
2. Such as would be able to teach others, ought to take much pains that they may be instructed themselves from God in His Word.
3. The more familiar occasion of converse men have with holy things, wanting holiness, their contempt and dislike of them will be the greater, and their opposition to light have the more perversity and the less infirmity in it.
4. Such as do for a time reject and resist means of knowledge, may at last come to lose the light they had.
5. The more relation any pretend to God, by virtue of their general or particular calling, the Lord will make use thereof to aggravate their sin and unanswerable walking.
6. Unfaithfulness in offices will cast men out of the Church, as unsavoury salt is cast out, which is a sad judgment.
7. It is a righteous judgment on unfaithful ministers that God suffers their posterity to be neglected.
1. The rational creature is very active of itself, and will always be in motion, always working. Then, wanting knowledge, and surrounded by pits and snares, how dangerous is his situation!
2. Man's way is for eternity, and there is but one way that leads to an eternity of happiness, and that lies in the midst of a hundred crossways and bypaths. If he have not light, if he want knowledge, what is to become of him?
3. Man is not only going onward through dangers and byways, but he must go on with his own light. The soul that is ignorant no angel in heaven can help, except as an instrument of God to bring sight into his eyes.
4. The work we are to do about our souls and eternal estates is the most curious and most difficult piece of work, and we must do it by our own light.
5. Blindness in this world makes men objects of pity and compassion, but this ignorance and blindness make men to be the objects of the hatred and curse of God. God gave us light at first, we have brought ignorance upon ourselves.
I. WHAT IS THE KNOWLEDGE, THE LACK OF WHICH DESTROYS A PEOPLE? The question is analogous to another, What is education? Are we agreed among ourselves as to what is to be understood by this expression? There is a class of men whose ideas of knowledge and education are almost confined to the acquisition and communication of the facts and principles of physical and general science. Education, in their estimation, is training up the young to be in mature life well-informed and philosophical men: men who can keep pace with and help on the forward movements of an inquiring and intellectual age. But this is not knowledge, in the true and full sense of the term, neither is this education. We are still short of the truth if we define knowledge to be acquaintance with duties as well as facts, with the world within a man, as well as the world without him; and education to be a process of training for the moral as well as the intellectual part of man, the discipline of the will as well as that of the mind. This is well as far as it goes; but it is not the whole truth. It is indeed based upon a false principle, that the inculcation of moral truths, and cultivation of moral habits will suffice to regulate and control the heart and will of man. It dreams of a moral regeneration without an adequate regenerating principle, of moral obedience without a sufficiently constraining motive. It assumes that a man may be lifted up above the influence of evil by presenting to his mind the cold abstraction of goodness. The advocates of these moral systems are ignorant of the materials upon which they would work. They do not know the nature of man. They forget that he is corrupt and depraved. The moral sense of man is so beclouded by sin that to behold the beauty of virtue is neither to love nor to embrace it. Education, in its primary idea, is the knowledge of God in His relation to man: the communication of this knowledge to the heart, through the medium of the understanding. Education is training as well as teaching. It teaches moral duties based upon the knowledge of God as a reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. Education is worthless when severed from religion. Lay the foundation deeply in the principles of true religion, and you may then proceed to build up a goodly superstructure of all that is worthy of the name of useful knowledge.
II. THE ANXIOUS CONDITIONS OF SOCIETY ARE EXPLAINED BY THE LACK OF THIS KNOWLEDGE. Reflecting minds have serious thoughts upon the present aspect of our domestic national affairs. We have been appalled by the frightful statistics of ignorance and vice, of the mass of corruption fermenting amidst our overgrown population. While the prodigious multiplication of human beings has been advancing, there has been no corresponding multiplication cf appliances for the moral and religious training of their souls, either as children or adults. Can it be wondered at that irreligion and infidelity, and principles of anarchy and insubordination, and vice in some of its most revolting forms have overspread these densely peopled districts? We cannot shut our eyes to what is going on around us. A population has grown up unlearned in true knowledge. The demoralising process is going on. It is a self-propagating evil. One uneducated generation begets another, and probably a worse. Our fathers did much for national education, according to the exigencies of their own times. We must follow along their line in this, that religion entered, as a component element, into all their foundations.
(W. Nicholson, M. A.)I. THE PERSONS. "My people." A frequent designation of the Israelitish people. Jehovah was emphatically to them a God, and they were emphatically to Him a people. But is God's greatest goodness to Israel to be compared with the civil and religious privileges with which He has distinguished this favoured country? There is a tendency in nations as well as in individuals to be rendered careless and secure by the long possession of privileges and advantages. And the history of Israel is intended to teach a lesson of national warning.
II. THEIR CONDITION. "My people are destroyed." Notwithstanding all God's favour towards them, yet He abandoned them to desolation, He gave them over to destruction. And what ground of security has Britain any more than Israel, except in the favour and protection of God? It is impossible for any reflecting person to consider the internal state of our country without feeling that we have within ourselves the elements of destruction, the materials for a wide-wasting desolation.
III. THE CAUSE OF THAT CONDITION. "For lack of knowledge." Lack of the knowledge of God and religion. This was God's ground of complaint, and for this He entered into judgment with them. This lack of knowledge was accompanied and followed by a general corruption of morals, as the next words to our text show. When the corruption became general, and the fruit, of this religious ignorance were ripe, God thrust in the sharp sickle of His judgments, and reaped the harvest in His wrath. Observe then the bearing which the state of the collective body of the people as to religious knowledge must have upon the question of national safety and national ruin. If there be a lack of the knowledge of God and His truth in the bulk of the people, the destruction of the nation will be inevitable. And if ruin come upon any land, who are the sufferers? If the body be crushed by a fall, which of the members will escape the anguish? Hence the state of the people is the concern of all. God has bound all classes in one common bond of interest: all must rejoice, or all must suffer together. What then is the state of our population with respect to religious knowledge? And what must be the end of these things?
(Thomas Best, M. A.)
( John Calvin.)I. THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT IS NO EXAGGERATION. Look at the Jewish nation. The whole nation was a school, and the law was their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. But it failed — utterly failed — to accomplish this. The enmity of the human heart came out amongst the Jewish people.
II. SOME OF THE ENDEAVOURS MEN MAKE TO RECTIFY EXISTING EVILS. Emphatically this is an age of progress; of progress in many things that have rendered man wiser, and the world happier. Philosophy takes a higher range of thought. Literature is nobler and healthier in its tone. Art is purer than Grecian art. Science is not atheistic. Many run to and fro, and knowledge is multiplied. We recognise this progress thankfully; it is all good, though not the highest good. It is all capable of being turned to spiritual advantage. But by it society is not regenerated: there arc social questions of the deepest importance that are not yet settled. There are forms of ignorance most appalling, developments of ignorance most deplorable, and a general spirit of scepticism widely spread. Man has done, and is doing, his very utmost to set the world right, and yet the world continues wrong.
III. THE GOSPEL ANNOUNCES ITSELF AS SUFFICIENT TO MEET AND TO REMOVE ALL THE MISERIES OF HUMANITY.
1. It is this which distinguishes the Gospel from all other schemes. Many things are palliatives, but you can find nothing that pretends to do all the work that man requires to have done for him but the Gospel. Then indifference to the Gospel is the most fearful proof that could be presented to the mind of my voluntary ignorance and sin.
2. We may with confidence say that the Gospel not only professes to do this but has done all this. It has proved itself the great salvation.
(W. G. Barrett.)
Homilist.I. IT IS DESTRUCTIVE. It is not the mother of devotion, it is the mother of destruction.
1. What does it destroy? The growth of the soul in power, beauty, and fruitfulness.
2. How does it destroy? How can the lack of a thing destroy? The lack of heat and moisture will kill the vegetable kingdom; the lack of air will cause the extinction of all animal life. The soul without knowledge of God is like a plant without heat or moisture, an animal without the salubrious breeze.
II. IT IS WILFUL. No culpability in a man being ignorant of some things. The knowledge of God comes to him whether he will or not. In nature, in reason, in intuitions of his moral being. Ignorance of God is a criminal ignorance.
III. IT IS GOD-OFFENDING. He deals out retribution —
1. To themselves.
2. To their children.It is a Divine law springing from the constitution of society, that the iniquities of the fathers shall be visited on their children.
Skeletons of Sermons.Ignorance disqualifies a man for those situations in life that require the exercise of wisdom and discretion: it degrades him in society below the rank of those who would otherwise be deemed his equals or inferiors; and it not unfrequently leads to idleness, dissipation, and vice. But ignorance of religion is of infinitely worse consequence, because it ensures the everlasting destruction of the soul.
I. THE IGNORANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD. Among nominal Christians there is a great lack of knowledge: an ignorance —
1. Of themselves. Of their blindness, guilt, depravity, helplessness.
2. Of God. Of His holiness, justice, truth.
3. Of Christ. They may confess His Godhead, and acknowledge Him as a Saviour. But what do they know of Him as He is in Himself, or as He is to us?
II. THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF THIS IGNORANCE. Lack of spiritual knowledge —
1. Tends to men's destruction.
2. Will issue in their destruction.Infer —
1. How carefully should we improve the means of grace,
2. How earnestly should we pray for the teachings of God's Spirit.
3. How thankful we should be for any measure of Divine knowledge.
(Skeletons of Sermons.)
(F. T. Swinbourne.)
I. THE TITLE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE EXPOSED TO THIS DESTRUCTION. Still, spite of their sin, they are called "My people." This title may be applied to mankind in general, and in a strict manner to those who are known as the "elect." Here it is applied to the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, under the name Ephraim. Though they had revolted from Him, God still condescends to own His relation to them. And this relation materially aggravates their crimes.
II. WHAT IS THIS KNOWLEDGE WHICH IS OF SUCH IMPORTANCE? Men may be great strangers to philosophy, to human arts, and carnal wisdom, and yet not be involved in that destruction which is certainly connected with the ignorance mentioned in the text. As true religion is the only effectual security of private persons from this ruin, so it is with respect to society. Religious knowledge must be intended in this text.
1. Men might learn much by seriously observing what is presented to their view all round about them; and much more if they would examine their own frame, and reflect on the various warnings of that monitor which is in every breast.
2. It is the knowledge which God has been pleased to reveal, which is chiefly intended here. This was, in Hosea's time, to be found in the books of Moses and the prophets. This is, for us, the knowledge that is conveyed by the Gospel.
III. THE SAD OCCASIONS OF THE WANT OF THIS KNOWLEDGE, ESPECIALLY IN WHAT IS CALLED A LAND OF LIGHT.
1. A thoughtless neglect of those sober reflections to which we are led even by that measure of natural light, which, in the midst of all our depravity, is mercifully continued to us. Observation teaches us what effect negligence will have on our temporal affairs. When men come to divide precious time principally between the cares about the enlargement of their worldly substance, and the various methods their own corruptions will dictate, very little will be left for nobler improvements.
2. The want of the written revelation must Deeds be attended with the most deplorable ignorance. As may be seen in the history of those nations which have wanted this glorious advantage.
3. Ignorance of religion must needs prevail where there is the want of a skilful, faithful, and laborious ministry.
4. A pious education of our youth is another method of cultivating religious knowledge. This foundation must be chiefly laid in family instruction. We have lived to see the day when the impression of religious sentiments on young minds is not only by many laid aside, but such a neglect is defended. It is said to prevent any bar being put to what is called "free thinking." The great neglect of family religion, and the pious example which superiors by the laws of reason are indispensably obliged to set before those under their care, as it has long been complained of, if not soon reformed must bring peril on our Churches and on our land.
5. The growth of ignorance among the poorer sort is a matter of peculiar consequence.
6. Among good men there is too great a neglect of application to Heaven for a blessing on such attempts as are made to promote useful knowledge, and of a dependence on the Spirit of God, who is only able to make them successful.
IV. THE DESTRUCTION WHICH IS THE NATURAL AND SAD CONSEQUENCE OF THIS IGNORANCE. Reference is first to those temporal calamities which befell these people for their sins; or it relates to future temporal calamities which Hosea predicted. But ignorance persisted in exposes public communities to almost every criminal anal dangerous disorder, and in the end brings on national ruin; and it is big with every spiritual as well as temporal mischief to private persons where it prevails. Ignorance of Divine things keeps the conscience under a fatal stupidity, it exposes men to the devices of the old serpent, and to the crafty attempts of every seducer; it exposes us to every kind of error in conduct, and obstructs our usefulness both in public and in private life.
V. THE REMEDIES WHICH SHOULD BE APPLIED TO SO DANGEROUS A DISEASE.
1. We should cheerfully and constantly attend on those advantages Heaven has bestowed on us, that we read and hear, that we inquire and meditate, and watch and pray, as those who are convinced that ignorance has been their ruin, and that happiness in this life is absolutely connected with religious knowledge, and that the lives of our souls depend upon it.
2. We should do all we can to promote the influence of religious knowledge on the minds of others, by the careful instruction of our families, and the support of a well-qualified ministry.
VI. SOME APPLICATIONS CF WHAT HAS BEEN SAID.
1. How deplorable is the state of multitudes among us, who lie under the grossest ignorance.
2. We ought to rejoice in our civil constitution, and to encourage and defend our religious advantages.
(Joseph Stennett, D. D.)
I. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE MISERY OF IGNORANCE OF GOD. No real earthly happiness can be enjoyed where there is ignorance of God. The pleasures of sin are not happiness, though they often pass for it. Nor is the pursuit of happiness, or the acquisition of wealth. Happiness must be sought in a knowledge of, and obedience to, the will and ways of God. Where there is the true knowledge of God, there is no real wretchedness, though there may be much tribulation
II. THAT WHICH AGGRAVATES THE MISERY IS OUR RELATION TO GOD AS HIS PEOPLE.
1. It aggravates their sin, because it is the bounden duty of every man to seek the knowledge of God as the "one thing needful." We are not to wait to have this knowledge forced upon us, we are bound to seek it. If the guilt of God's people who remain in ignorance of Him be aggravated by their relation to Him, so likewise is the guilt of those aggravated who are bound to teach God's people. Civil government stands upon religious grounds, and has religious obligations. The Church is the bulwark of every Christian State.
(W. J. Brodrick, M. A.)I. THE NECESSARY CONNECTION BETWEEN RELIGION AND EDUCATION. The word "education" suggests the idea of preparing the young for the great duties incumbent on them in the various relations of life; and with a view to this object, includes the communication of knowledge, the inculcation of right principles, and the formation of corresponding habits in those who are thus to be the subjects of it. But what are we to understand by the great duties incumbent upon us in the different relations of life? Some think that the end and purpose of their existence have been met when they have fairly performed their present duties, and honourably met their obligations. But these are practical atheists, for they completely exclude God from any right to the homage of His rational creatures, and reduce man to the degradation and wretchedness of a being who, whatever other heights he may attain, is incapable of rising to the knowledge, the love, the service, and the everlasting enjoyment of his Maker. In opposition to such views, we say, that even reason and conscience, above all the Word of God, declare that man is endowed with a nature that renders him capable of communion with the great, eternal, glorious God; nay, that the advancement of the praise of this God is the very end of his existence; and in pursuing this end he secures present and everlasting happiness. This duty may, however, be acknowledged, and yet the proper principles and conduct attending it may be repudiated. If the former view was practical atheism, this is practical infidelity. Milton says. "The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents, by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him as we may the nearest, by possessing our souls of true virtue, which, being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection." Can Christian training be efficiently, and ought it to be exclusively discharged by parents?
II. THE IMPORTANCE AND ADVANTAGES OF A UNION BETWEEN RELIGION AND EDUCATION. Man was originally framed so as to derive happiness from the knowledge, love, and service of God. It is when the love of God is shed abroad on the heart of fallen man that the different parts of his moral constitution will resume, as it were, their proper place and connection, and that he himself will be enabled to act as he was designed for the glory of God, in all the varied relations in which he stands. When religious knowledge is communicated and made effectual for the conversion of the soul to God, man is under the influence of that principle which will most certainly and with increasing strength constrain him to the discharge of every obligation in regard to God, to himself, and to his fellow-creatures, and thus fit him for the attainment of the great end of his being. Put forth this knowledge in all its bearings, and you will do that which, with the Divine blessing, will enable him to discharge with consistency and perseverance, with honour, comfort, and usefulness, the great duties of life. But how sad, and morally helpless, is the condition of those who are allowed to grow up, not only without a religious education, but without an education of any kind!
(Abercromby L. Gordon.)
1. The multiplication of outward helps and facilities for learning has a direct tendency to counteract true knowledge. It seems to be a condition of knowledge that it shall not come too easily. Knowledge must be fetched by exertions of our own.
2. A misuse of stimulus in the pursuit of knowledge is an impediment. One reason why many of us do not know mere is that we have made knowledge a means instead of an end — a means of getting distinction. The use of emulation as a stimulus to knowledge is a perilous, though it may be a necessary expedient. Be on your guard, too, against a misuse of a temporary stimulus acting upon parts of your nature which are, by comparison, the lower rather than the higher. Emulation is higher than appetite, but it is lower than that to which manly principle and Christian motive appeal.
3. The effect of light reading upon the acquisition of knowledge truly so called. In the days of our fathers, any one who could read at all would scarcely fail to read with a view to knowledge. The supply of amusement by literature, the command of books as a mere pastime, was then scarcely thought of. Now young people greedily devour fictitious tales till indulgence produces a surfeit. Sometimes an absolute vacancy follows upon excess of such reading. Fiction has two legitimate provinces. It is a salutary relaxation for an overwrought brain. And it may be employed as a study of life. But the knowledge, the lack of which destroys, is the knowledge not of things but of per-sons. It is the acquaintance of soul with soul, and spirit with spirit; the contact of the unseen inmost self of man with the unseen inmost essence of another, even of Him in whom man lives, and whom truly to know is eternal life. What we need is to know God. It is no metaphysical, scarcely even a theological, knowledge you need. It is the knowledge as of a friend.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)I. IGNORANCE IS DESTRUCTIVE.
1. Destructive of the dignity of man. The faculties of knowledge, reason, judgment, and voluntary determination distinguish us from the beasts that perish, and constitute the true dignity of our nature. But faculties and powers are of little value until they are brought into exercise and directed to their proper objects. Instruction is to man What culture is to the plant. Without it, life is spent in a vacant stupidity, or distracted by irregular imagination and heated passions.
2. Destructive of the usefulness of man. Knowledge constitutes the whole difference betwixt savage and civilised society. To the improvement of the mind all nations have owed the improvement of their condition. Ignorance is the negative of everything good and useful. It not only renders the members of a community useless to each other, it opposes, and frequently triumphs over, all the endeavours of humane and enlightened individuals. The despotism of ignorance is of the most imperious nature. Minds wholly uncultivated are averse to serious thought., and are only conversant with sensible objects. From this springs their aversion to the Gospel; for whoever receives it must become serious and thoughtful.
3. Destructive of virtue. Virtue can no more exist without knowledge, than an animal can exist without life. In proportion as ignorance prevails in society, virtue is destroyed. Ignorant men may possibly be made enthusiasts; they may be made superstitious; but before they can be made rational, steady, and consistent Christians, they must be enlightened. That ignorance is destructive of virtue is proved by facts as well as arguments. Illustration may be taken from the records of heathen nations, and from the history of the Christian Church.
4. Destructive of happiness. There is pleasure in knowledge of a kind more pure and elevated than can possibly be found in any of the gratifications of sense, and for which the latter are but unworthy substitutes. Of the pleasures which spring from knowledge, and especially sacred knowledge, we cannot conceive too highly. To know God, to contemplate the perfections of His nature and the wonders of His hand, to observe His providential regard, to behold the mystery of redemption, the character and undertaking of Jesus, — such subjects, when opened to the mind, not only give pleasure as speculative discoveries and the solutions of distressing doubts, but by awakening virtuous sentiments, kindling an ardent and elevated devotion, producing the present possession of the peace of the Gospel, and the prospect of fulness of joy.
II. TO COUNTERACT THE DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS OF IGNORANCE IS THE WORK OF HUMANITY. None oppose the communication of knowledge to the lower ranks of society save those who are altogether unreasonable. Special importance attaches to Sunday school. The dissemination of knowledge may be treated as —
1. A work of humanity;
2. Of patriotism;
3. Of virtue.Christianity exhibits a Founder who went about doing good; and His disciples in every age have devoted their time, their talents, their property, their influence to the instruction and blessing of mankind.
I. THE IGNORANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD.
1. An ignorance of themselves. They know little of their blindness, guilt, depravity, helplessness.
2. Ignorance of God. His holiness, justice, truth.
3. Ignorance of Christ. As He is in Himself. As He is to us.
II. THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF IT. The degrees of criminality attached to ignorance vary according to the opportunities men have enjoyed of obtaining knowledge. A lack of spiritual knowledge —
1. Tends to destruction.
2. Will issue in destruction.Then —
(1) (2) (3) (C. Simeon, M. A.) 1. When the means of knowledge are rejected, then knowledge is rejected. 2. When the directions of our knowledge are rejected, when we refuse to be guided by it, upon this our knowledge decays, and eventually is contemned. (Jeremiah Burroughs.) (H. W. Bailey.) (A. J. Gordon, D. D.) (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(2) (3) (C. Simeon, M. A.) 1. When the means of knowledge are rejected, then knowledge is rejected. 2. When the directions of our knowledge are rejected, when we refuse to be guided by it, upon this our knowledge decays, and eventually is contemned. (Jeremiah Burroughs.) (H. W. Bailey.) (A. J. Gordon, D. D.) (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(3) (C. Simeon, M. A.) 1. When the means of knowledge are rejected, then knowledge is rejected. 2. When the directions of our knowledge are rejected, when we refuse to be guided by it, upon this our knowledge decays, and eventually is contemned. (Jeremiah Burroughs.) (H. W. Bailey.) (A. J. Gordon, D. D.) (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
1. When the means of knowledge are rejected, then knowledge is rejected.
(H. W. Bailey.)
(A. J. Gordon, D. D.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)