and the idols will vanish completely.
I. THE DAY OF JEHOVAH. This stands for any and every epoch of clearer light which reveals the relative worth of things. False estimates of life and its objects have become by custom fixed. The imagination has been under a delusion. A false idea of greatness and goodness has become so fixed that nothing but a revolution will subvert it. The criticism of words may be defied; but the criticism of facts, of results, - against this there is no appeal. There is no reversal of the judgment of events. A great day of judgment was, for example, the French Revolution of a century ago. The falsehood of generations was then expiated in blood. Social institutions which were bad, inhuman, yet which those who had grown up in them regarded as impossible to alter, were effaced in that terrible outpouring of the wrath of God. The sense amidst great wrong that the judgment of God cannot long be delayed, is expressed in the common saying, "Things must take a turn before long." In the life of the individual, every stopping-point or turning-point at which a false way of life terminates, may be viewed as a day of judgment and a day of Jehovah.
II. THE DAY BRINGS WITH IT A SHOCK TO HUMAN IMAGINATION. The prophet piles up images to represent the reversal of all human ideals of greatness and loftiness. The gigantic trees of Lebanon and Bashan, the mountains and hills, the towers and the high ramparts, the tall ships sailing Tarshish-wards (Psalm 48:8), the turrets of villas and houses of pleasure, draw down upon them the violence of the storm. The vast and lofty in nature and in works of art are not of more value in the eyes of God than the small and lowly. They are hints of the greatness of the spirit, and if we give such objects an independent greatness, we are suffering from an illusion. The greatness and the beauty are in the seeing mind. There is not so much to be seen of the work of God in a mountain as in a moth. "Life apparent in the smallest midge is marvelous beyond dead Atlas' self." The palaces, the streets of a great city, are signs of the human soul and its greatness, but not the truest signs. It is a common error to look for the tokens of a people's greatness in their buildings and mechanical achievements. But from what source does material creation and production come? That is the ultimate question. Our works of art are works of the flesh and of pride, or works of the spirit wrought in humility and the love of truth. A few such works in plastic stuff of stone, or on canvas, or in poetic words, endure through all change. That which is untrue must fall sooner or later beneath the criticism of God and be exposed. And in the downfall of human works the eternal God is again manifested in his supreme greatness and glory. It is our own false imaginations which hide him from us.
III. THE ABANDONMENT OF THE IDOLS. For the idols cannot help their worshippers, who must run to hide themselves. Yet at first they cling to them. But soon in alarm they cast them away into any corner, any refuse-heap, any filthy haunt of bats and moles. "To cast to the bats" is as proverbial an expression in the East for throwing clean away as rejected rubbish, as "throwing to the dogs" with us. There comes a time when men will be willing to get rid of their most precious objects so that they may but save themselves. A secret terror haunts the false conscience, which in moments of clear revelation of truth rises to an acme and becomes a panic. The true heart longs for more of God's light, the false can only exist behind an artificial veil or screen. In every time larger light is appearing, truths for the conduct of life are coming into currency; in short, the Divine Critic of our life is making his censure felt. Alas for those who rush into any cave at hand, plunge into obscurantism rather than face the worst, which thus faced will prove the best!
IV. THE MORAL. "Cease ye from man." If in any such day of revelation all the proud ideals of human society may be discovered false, and cast aside as worthless; if the time of revelation shows that we have been resting upon rotten shams; if we have an uneasy consciousness that it is always so; - how vain is all confidence in human wit and work! The bitter words seem to cast contempt upon every species of beast and satisfaction. A poet of our time has written a great work to show that "our human speech is naught, our human testimony false, our fame and human estimation words and wind" (Browning,' Ring and Book'). But how can we cease from man? We can only know the true and the eternal through some form of human experience. The answer is - Man merely as man, an independent fact, is naught; he and all his pass away. In living for himself as if there were no truth, no good, beyond, he becomes a lie. If we see man only we see the false; if God working in and through man and his history, we find the true in the false. Working through the false shows of sense, we may reach the spirit of things, the mind of God. We leave our hold on the fugitive human fact, false if we try to stereotype it, that we may plant our foot on the constant. The Divine
"Truth is forced
And the idols He shall utterly abolish.
Homiletic Review.In heathen systems of religion, God and nature are not kept distinct. His personality, also, is confounded. The fears and hopes of idolaters are projected into deities. Two things are necessary to destroy idolatry in this its grossest form.
I. THE PREVALENCE OF THE WORD OF GOD.
1. Within its pages God and nature are carefully distinguished and separated.
2. Here His personality is clearly presented.
3. Here commands against idolatry are fully and solemnly promulgated.
4. Here the true God is set forth in all the glorious attributes that constitute His character, allegiance is commanded, service demanded, and every soul held to a strict accountability.
II. THE PREVALENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CIVILISATION.
1. The Bible is indispensable. Heathen science is insufficient to deliver men from idolatry, as witness Rome and Greece.
2. Mere science is in danger of becoming materialistic or agnostic.
3. Science needs to be vitalised by the Bible, the moral law, and conscience.Reflections —
1. Science is the handmaid of the Bible.
2. There can be no contradiction between the work of God and the Word of God.
3. It is the duty of every Christian to assist in the circulation of the Bible, to the end that every idol on the face of the earth may be speedily destroyed.
I. THE EVIL TO BE ABOLISHED. Idolatry. It has been commonly and very properly distinguished as of two kinds, literal and spiritual. Spiritual idolatry is an evil which, by the apostasy of our nature, attaches to all mankind, whether inhabiting Christian or pagan regions, except those individuals whose hearts have experienced a renovation by the Spirit of God. It is to literal idolatry that the prophet refers in the text — this the connection shows, where mention is made of those idols of silver and gold which the converted idolaters would cast away. The progress of Christianity was, from the first, marked by the cessation of idol worship. There are two principal points of view in which we may regard the evil nature and effects of idolatry — its aspect toward God and its aspect toward man. In the former aspect, it appears as a crime; in the latter as a calamity: thus contemplated, it appears as an evil destructive equally to the Divine glory and to human happiness. Man naturally tends to this evil; and one generation after another gradually accumulated the follies of superstition, till it reached the monstrous extreme of gross idolatry.
1. The Word of God everywhere reprobates idolatry as an abominable thing which the soul of God abhors. To provide against it was the principal object in the political and municipal department of the Mosaic law. It is expressly prohibited by the first and second commandments of the moral law. The golden calf was intended as a representative of the God of Israel; and the calves set up by Jeroboam were the same: yet the worship of the golden calf occasioned the slaughter, by the Divine command, of three thousand persons; and the executioners of Divine vengeance were extolled for having forgotten the feelings of nature toward their nearest kindred: every man was commanded to slay his brother or his son, and so to consecrate himself to the Lord. Where the honour of God was so deeply concerned, men were to lose sight of common humanity. When the Israelites were tempted by the artifices of Balaam to commit idolatry at Baal Peer, twenty-four thousand were slain at once; the memory of Phinehas was immortalised on account of the holy zeal he displayed in the destruction of certain conspicuous offenders; and the Moabites were devoted to extermination, because, in this respect, they had proved a snare to Israel. Idolatry is, with respect to the government of God, what treason or rebellion is with respect to civil government. It is the setting up of an idol in the place of the supreme Power; an affront offered to that Majesty, in which all order and authority is combined and concentred, and which is the fountain of all social blessings. Idolatry is an evil which taints every apparent virtue; because it destroys the soul of duty, which is conformity to the Divine command.
2. But we turn to contemplate idolatry on another side; in its aspect toward man, its influence on society. The apostle Paul informs us (Romans 1:19-25) that God hath shown to men what may be known concerning Himself; that His invisible Being, His eternal power and Godhead, may be clearly seen and understood by the works of creation; so that those are without excuse who have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image in the likeness of corruptible man, of birds and beasts and reptiles. They are without excuse; their conduct admits of no apology. The origin of all the atrocities they committed is to be found in aversion to God; dislike of the spirituality and purity of His character; a desire, like Cain, to retire from the presence of their Maker; a wish to forget a Being whose character they knew to be utterly uncongenial with their own. This disposition originally led men to substitute idols for God. Those idols would, of course, be conceived of a character unlike that of God.
II. We must now advert to a brighter scene, presented by the prophet, when he assures us that JESUS CHRIST (of whom he is speaking) WILL UTTERLY ABOLISH IDOLATRY, and sweep it from the face of the earth with the "besom of destruction" In sending the Gospel to the heathen, you offer, as it were, the holy incense, like Moses, when he interposed between God and the perishing Israelites: you stand, like him, between the dead and the living, — the dead and the living for eternity! — and you stay the plague! No sooner did Christianity appear, than its formidable power, as the opponent of idolatry, was felt and manifested. Preaching, an instrument so unpromising in. the view of carnal reason, has been the chief instrument employed in producing these moral revolutions.
I. Consider, in the first place, THE LIGHT IN WHICH IDOLATRY IS REGARDED BY GOD. I am sometimes asked, "Why do you unsettle the religious convictions of a highly. civilised people like the Chinese? Is not the Supreme Governor of the universe pleased with the homage of His rational creatures when proceeding from sincere devotion, whether according to the one mede or the other, of the various religions which He has permitted to be published?" Lord Macartney, the first ambassador to China, in writing to the Chinese emperor, gave this as a reason why the English never attempted to dispute or disturb the worship of others. But in whatever light idolatry is regarded by man, we know that it is a thing on which God cannot look with indifference. When we see idolatry associated with immorality and inhumanity, our instincts are naturally shocked, but where such is not the case, even the missionary finds it difficult to think and feel rightly in regard to it. The spiritual idolatry within us has so distorted our intellectual vision and perverted our spiritual taste that it requires an effort to see the literal idolatry in all its hideous deformity and feel towards it as we ought. The whole of heathendom is under the dominion of the prince of this world, and he and his angels are the powers worshipped by the heathen, however little they themselves may be aware of the fact. The whole fabric of heathenism has been reared under the inspiration of the spirit of darkness, and it is he that sits as God in that vast temple, calling himself God, and receiving oblations, sacrifice, and adoration from his deluded votaries. God sees in idolatry not weakness only, but also sin, positive sin, in its nature God-opposing and soul-destroying. It is an attempt to rob Him of that glory, which is peculiarly His own, and to confer it on the creature. But if this is the light in which God regards idolatry, we may rationally infer that the abomination will not be permitted to pollute the world forever.
II. My faith in THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF TRUTH in the progress of the race tends to produce this conviction in my mind. At the commencement of the Christian era the Sun of Righteousness began to scatter the thick darkness with His beams. For some time it rose higher and higher, and thousands were rejoicing in the Divine light which promised speedily to fill the whole earth with life and gladness. But these hopes were no sooner raised than dashed to the ground. Two dark clouds rose between the nations and the sun, which, lowering and spreading, enveloped them in more than Egyptian darkness. These were the Papacy and Mohammedanism. It is estimated that more than eight hundred millions, or about two-thirds of the human family, are idolaters today. But matters shall not remain in this state forever. The light is greater than the darkness; the truth of heaven is mightier than the falsehood of hell, and God is infinitely stronger than the devil. There may be occasionally something like a retrograde movement; the retrogression is only in appearance. The onward course of the race has been compared to that of a ship making way against the breeze; it consists of a series of movements, each of which seems to bear her away from the true direction, yet, in fact, brings her nearer and nearer to the destined haven. But if the race is progressing, and is ultimately to realise the object of its existence, idolatry must pass away. You cannot conceive of such a thing as the progress of the race along with the existence of idolatry.
Sunday School Chronicle.After the sinking of the well by Paten on Aniwa, and the discovery of water in answer to prayer, the chief, Namakei, in a striking address, declared for Jehovah. That very afternoon he and several others brought their idols to the mission house. Intense excitement followed. For weeks, company after company came, and, with tears, sobs, or shouts, laid down their cherished idols in heaps, again and again repeating, "Jehovah!"
(Sunday School Chronicle.)
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