The remaining trees of its forests will be so few that a child could count them.
I. FIGURES OF JUDGMENT. The Assyrian is viewed under the image of a stout, well-fed body, into which a wasting disease comes by. Divine judgment. Again, that judgment is depicted as a flaming fire, kindling and devouring thorns and making a swift end to the towering beauty of the forest trees, the smiling pleasantness of the fruitful field. The remnant of the host will soon be counted "on one's fingers," as a boy might count the still standing stems in a wood devastated by the fiery element. The decline of a sick man, lastly, may represent the falling away of a nation's power. At best, what is humanity but a flower fading in its pride? As we read in the 'Prometheus' of AEschylus, "Its strength, is it strong; its beauty, is it fair? What hope have they, these dying briers, living one day long? How like a dream they go, this poor blind manhood, drifted from its end!" And in the light of moral disapproval, of Divine judgment, a declining nation seems to be under a blight, whose ravages cannot be checked. Where are the ancient civilizations, Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome? Their root was long ago cankered, and their blossom went up as dust. The explorer, digging out a statue here, or there deciphering an inscription, helps us to construct the picture of cities that were magnificent poems in stone, of a life to which no secret of pleasure or of power was denied. Were such heights in vain reached for mankind? Were yonder works of mighty kings the efforts of giants who fought against God? Rather let us say that it is he who both raises up and sets down - raises up to illustrate the greatness of the spirit of man, his breath; casts down to show the bitterness of human pride and the vanity of human ambitions. As we survey the remains of the "cloud-capp'd towers and gorgeous palaces" of Nineveh and Persepolis, we are reminded that all earth's splendor is but a dream, from which we must again and again awake anew, to find in the spiritual the only eternal; in the right the only enduring throne of potentates; in the sweet happiness of millions, not in the multitude of armed men, the mirror of God's will on earth.
II. CONVERSION THROUGH JUDGMENT. It was false reliances that corrupted Judah and Israel As faith in the true objects of faith is nothing but strength, so the illusion which tempts us to trust where there is nothing in reality to lean on, must betray us. Men under such illusions will confide in their deadly enemy as a bosom friend; will invite the point of the weapon aimed at the heart; will "stay themselves upon them that smite them." We are limp, drooping creatures. Rare is he who walks with head quite erect, with eye undauntedly fixed on the unseen, with heart bound up in principle alone. If we crave countenance in our foibles, much more in our serious projects. And never was there craze, weakness, silliness, or sin, for which abettors may not be found. Never have we so sought confirmation in views that should never have been entertained, but the hour of disenchantment has come, soon or late. The reed breaks, the cistern leaks; the soft foundation gives, and the ominous crack appears in our dwelling. And then we return to "stay ourselves on the Holy One of Israel with faithfulness." Or so the prophet forecasts the effect of his people's disenchantment. "The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob to the Hero-God." He the only Head, the only Battle-leader, as the only Prince of Peace, will be found again in the day of adversity, at least by a few. As in the olden time but a few were saved in the ark from the great flood, so from these overflowing judgments which are to descend, a few, though only a few, will be able to escape. A public end and decision of these controversies between Jehovah and his people is to be made, and it cannot be delayed nor averted.
1. To the prophetic consciousness it seems, at any epoch, that "the whole world lies in wickedness," and that the righteous are but a very small remnant.
2. Historically, such a view seems to hold good. At critical epochs, England has probably been saved by the virtuous, the Christian, the self-denying few.
3. But history is too profound for any mortal reading or rendering. If nations have passed away notwithstanding that they had a core of true hearts among them; if Israel still remains, though her lamp has been removed from its stand, there is, doubtless, a deeper meaning in the prophet's words. It is the "remnant" which has given us our Hebrew Scriptures. From the caldron of suffering, exile, external sorrow, came forth the fine gold of the great prophet of the Captivity, and of many of the psalmists. Every nation that leaves noble and Divine thoughts for the possession of mankind forever; every individual who, out of the wreck of life's mistakes, bequeaths some legacy of truth to posterity, fulfils in a way the prophecies of the recovery of the remnant. - J.
They shall be as when a standard bearer fainteth.
(Talbot W. Chambers, D. D.)
I. THERE MUST BE FIXED AND STRONG PRINCIPLE. The man who is to bear the standard in any army must be devotedly attached to the cause for which the army is contending. The man who is to be a guide and leader in the Christian Church ought certainly to have very definite convictions as to what Christianity is, and as to what the Church is. There are other qualities which may be of eminent service to him — a capacity to take a broad view of all questions, a ready sympathy with all who are struggling after truth, though they may be at present in darkness.
II. THE SECOND QUALIFICATION OF A STANDARD BEARER IS COURAGE. A true standard bearer may be described in a single epithet, taken from one of the prophets, as "valiant for the truth." That means that truth is his law. Truth is not with him a thing to be toyed with. It is not so much his possession, but rather he is possessed by the truth; it has laid hold of his reason, enthralled his affections, quickened and inspired his conscience.
III. THERE IS A STILL HIGHER ELEMENT, A STILL NOBLER, MIGHTIER FORCE BY WHICH THE STANDARD BEARER IN THE CHRISTIAN ARMY IS DIRECTED AND GOVERNED, AND THAT IS PERSONAL DEVOTION TO CHRIST. Christ is to him the truth, and Christ only is his law. The most illustrious of the standard bearers of the Christian army, I suppose it would be universally confessed, was the apostle of the Gentiles; and if we study his life and character, we shall perhaps arrive at the best and truest conception of an ideal leader in the Christian army.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
Christian World Pulpit.In a sermon on the death of the Rev. G.M. Murphy preached by the Rev. P.J. Turquand, Mr. Turquand said: He carried —
1. The standard of the Cross.
2. The standard of temperance.
3. The standard of education.
4. The standard of justice.
(Christian World Pulpit.)
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