Search and read the scroll of the LORD: Not one of these will go missing, not one will lack her mate, because He has ordered it by His mouth, and He will gather them by His Spirit.
I. ANTICIPATED INCREDULITY. The prophet thinks that the solemn threatenings he has uttered will not be credited. He seems to say, "You heard these awful utterances, but you will not heed them; you will indulge the thought that they are nothing more than a fanatic's dream; you think in your hearts that they will never be fulfilled; you imagine that you can afford to disregard them; but you are mistaken, there will be the closest correspondence between what is written in 'the book of the Lord' and what shall one day be witnessed in the experiences of Edom." There is a great deal of unwarranted incredulity in the hearts of men respecting the penal purposes of God. He has spoken, has warned men, has clearly intimated what will be the consequences of crime, of vice, of ungodliness, of the rejection of the gospel of Christ, of unfaithfulness and disloyalty in the Christian life. But men's hearts are hard, their understanding is veiled so that they do not see.
1. They delude themselves with the thought that, though other men suffer the penalty of their sin or folly, they will, in some way, escape.
2. Or they deceive themselves by holding up before their minds one-half only of the truth; they dwell on the graciousness and mercy of God, and act as if he were not as righteous as he is tender, as pure as he is pitiful.
3. Or they misrepresent the character of their misdeeds to their own minds, persuading themselves that they are slight and venial, however serious they may be in the sight of God. It is a melancholy fact, calling for utmost vigilance, that the frequent repetition of sin and ultimate familiarity with it reduce its apparent guiltiness to the smallest fraction.
II. THE PROPHETIC ASSURANCE. The prophet says, "Compare what is written in the 'book of the Lord' with the facts, and they shall tally with one another - not one shall fail; for the command shall go from heaven, and these wild beasts, whose presence has been threatened as a dire scourge and as the mark of saddest degeneracy, shall possess the holy land, and 'from generation to generation shall dwell therein;' the very worst that has been foretold shall happen, and what the Divine Word has predicted shall be endured in its most grievous form." They who now speak for God have to give similar assurance: they have to warn men that the worst must be expected if they remain impenitent and disobedient; they have to insist upon it, sorrowfully but emphatically, that everything threatened in the "book of the Lord" will compare with the experiences of the persistently obdurate and disloyal. It is their duty to show:
1. That, sooner or later, men may expect the righteous retribution of God to overtake them; "the sword of heaven is not in haste to smite, nor yet doth linger;" that, though God keeps silence long, he will reprove men, and set their sins in order before their eyes (Psalm 1:21).
2. That, if not here, yet hereafter, the judgments of God will reach the guilty, and then, if not now, "every one will receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
3. That Divine retribution will take some other form if it come not in the one men have expected. There are other "wild beasts," and worse, than those which are here referred to (vers. 14, 15). There are other evils, and worse, than the poverty, the diseases, the mortality, from which sinners shrink and from which they may long escape. There are evils which haunt the heart, calamities which afflict the soul, ruin which reaches the character, death which overtakes the man himself, - judgments which God in righteousness "hath commanded," and which more than fulfill the saddest and strongest word he has instructed his spokesmen to employ. - C.
: — What is presupposed in this seeking out of the Book of the Lord?
Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord.I. THE HOLY SCRIPTURE IS THE BOOK OF THE LORD.
II. THE SCRIPTURE IS A BOOK TO BE READ; carefully and diligently searched, consulted and sought unto.
( T. Watson, D. D.)
1. This Book discovers what no mortal could ever have done, and nowise could be had but by Divine revelation.
2. The perfect holiness of the doctrine.
3. The efficacy of the doctrine in its searching and convincing the conscience (Hebrews 4:12); converting souls from their most beloved lusts, even when nothing can be expected from the world for such a change (Psalm 19:7); rejoicing the heart under the deepest distresses (ver. 8). This is not from any virtue in the letters or syllables, but from the Spirit, whose instrument it is.
4. The miracles wherewith it has been confirmed.
5. There is an inward sensation of this in the spirits of those that have their senses exercised.
( T. Watson, D. D.)
1. That man has lost his way, and needs direction to find it.
2. That man is in hazard of being led further and further wrong.
3. That men are slow of heart to understand the mind of God in His Word.
4. That the Book of the Lord has its difficulties which are not to be easily solved.
5. That we need highly to understand it; otherwise we would not be bidden search into it.
6. That we may gain from it by diligent inquiry.
( T. Watson, D. D.)
1. Because the way of salvation is to be found only therein (John 5:39).
2. It is the only rule of our faith and lives (Isaiah 8:20). The lawyer studies his law books, the physician his medical books; and shall not a Christian study the Book of the Lord?
4. We must be judged by the Scriptures at the great day (John 12:48).
( T. Watson, D. D.): —
I. UNLESS THE GOSPEL BE MADE THE SUBJECT OF MUCH REFLECTION AND EARNEST INVESTIGATION IT CANNOT BE RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD. Are those truths which have a reference to the grandest objects in existence so very easily to be comprehended as to require less attention than the ordinary facts and principles which are connected with business or literature?
II. Universally human nature is in a state of moral disorder and rebellion against God; and AS CHRISTIANITY HAS BEEN SENT FROM HEAVEN WITH THE EXPRESS DESIGN OF REMOVING THAT DISORDER AND EFFECTING A RECONCILIATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, IT IS INDISPENSABLY REQUISITE THAT ALL SHOULD KNOW IN WHAT IT CONSISTS.
I. The Scriptures should be read with A SERIOUS MIND. The argument by which Moses urged the Jews to attend to the laws of God may be applied to Scripture at large — "It is not a vain thing: it is your life." When we read our Bible we stand in the presence of God: we are receiving His communications.
II. The Scriptures should be read with EARNEST PRAYER. Divine influence is needful to impress them upon our understandings and hearts.
III. Scripture should be read with PURE INTENTIONS. "If any man will do His will," &c. Nothing resists the evidence or dislikes the principles of the Bible but sin.
IV. The Bible should be read with EXPECTATIONS AND DESIRES. We cannot place too much confidence in its authority, or anticipate too much comfort from its influence. All that may be expected from God may be expected from His Word. There He opens His resources and declares His will; there we read what He is, and what He can do, and what He intends to do. To read the Bible and expect nothing from its influence is to reflect dishonour upon it.
V. The Bible should be read with RETENTIVE MEMORIES. It is intended not so much for present entertainment, as for future wisdom and holiness: its contents, therefore, should be stored and classed in the memory, to be drawn forth and applied as the different circumstances of life require. This study of the Scriptures produces incalculable advantages; it will afford —
1. The most valuable instruction.
2. The best impressions. There is an energy in the Bible which no man of feeling can withstand. The words which it contains are "spirit and life." Under Divine influence it has counteracted carnal affections and vicious propensities; it has raised men's minds to God: it has filled them with love to mankind. So as Scripture makes men holy it makes them happy. In the midst of trouble they have an unfailing refuge.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them.Matthew 24:27-31; Luke 21:25-28.)
I. THE REJOICING CREATION. It is almost impossible not to associate the magnificent opening words of this chapter with the hope held out to the "whole creation which groaneth and travalleth in pain together until now, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, when it shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-23). "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them." This is a beautiful picture of the sympathy of the earth with man. Not only do the beautiful parts of the earth rejoice with the home-coming of man from his wanderings from God, but the very wilderness and solitary places rejoice and are glad for them, because also in man's redemption the creation which was cursed for man's sake is set free from that curse. The gladness which is here ascribed to the inanimate creation corresponds with the songs and everlasting joy which crown the redeemed of the Lord on their return. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto them and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Two other things are ascribed to the creation. They are represented as consciously participating in the great goodness of God to man. They rejoice even with joy and singing; and they see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God. It is the habit of our prophet thus to invest nature with consciousness and intelligence. It is the habit of-all scriptural writers to put man and nature into close sympathy with each other, declaring that God is the maker of both. There is a great spiritual as well as poetic truth in this. How powerfully are we affected by plastic nature! How responsive the soil, the fruits of earth, and trees of the forest to the loving touch and sympathy of man! Who does not know how wonderfully different all nature seemed to us when we were first converted to God. What a world of beauty this will be when the curse is removed and man and nature, so manifestly made for each other, shall rejoice and be glad together!
II. THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION. The outline of blessing which the prophet sets before us is not complete, but simply consists of a few bold strokes, serving to fill us with the hope of perfect and complete recovery to God.
1. Men shall see God. The vision of God has already been ascribed in a metaphorical sense to the inanimate creation. It is certainly true that, among the chiefest blessings of salvation, is the vision of God When Jesus came into the world, we are told that in Him we beheld the glory of God, full of grace and truth We are also told that the first effect of the new birth is the ability of the sinner to see God. The purification of the heart which comes with the new life of God in the soul, carries with it the promise of seeing God (John 1:14; John 3:3; Matthew 5:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But there is manifestly something more than this meant. "They shall see the glory of Jehovah and the excellency of our God." This can refer to nothing else than that beatific vision of God spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12; by John in the Revelation 22:4. Yet again, if we are to include the saints of the Church in this prophecy, then we shall also have to look for a more literal fulfilment still. When the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven in power and great glory (Matthew 26:64; Daniel 7:13; John 1:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7), then the scattered Jews shall see their long-rejected Lord, as Saul of Tarsus saw Him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3), and be instantly converted, and start on their homeward way, greeted by all the smiling and rejoicing flowers and trees and pools and newly fertilised wildernesses and waste places of the earth. During all these dark centuries the veil has been over the eyes of the Jews, but in this time the veil shall be taken away and they shall see the face, the glory, the excellency of Jehovah-God.
2. They shall strengthen and encourage each other. This is most probably a retrospective exhortation. In view of this promise and the certain coming of Jehovah and their restoration, they are exhorted to strengthen and encourage each other. There are those whose hands are weak, whose knees are feeble. They cannot fight the good fight of faith with courage, they cannot run with patience the race that is set before them. The long delays and afflictions experienced during the time of waiting has taken not only the courage out of many, but has filled them with despair. Therefore they were to say to those of a fearful heart or of a hasty tendency to unbelief: "Be strong, fear not; behold your God will come with vengeance; even God with a recompense; He will come and save you. Thus the prophet calls upon the strong to impart theft strength to the weak and their faith and courage to the faint-hearted. The new Testament writers transfer the spirit, and in part, the very words of this exhortation to the saints of the Church of God. "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (Romans 15:1).
3. Infirmities shall be removed. Not only shall the earth be restored to primitive beauty, clothed with redemption glory, and tided with an almost conscious sympathy and joy, but all the infirmities which sin has entailed on our poor sinful human nature shall be removed. In view of this entire deliverance from all the consequences of sin, along with the people of Jehovah, the sore spots of earth shad be healed too. Waters in the wilderness, streams in the desert, pools covering the parched sand, and springs bursting out of thirsty lands; no longer a mirage thrown up from a few turfs of dried herbage, but veritable grass with reeds and rushes shall greet the returning and healed pilgrims. The beginning of this marvel of redemption came when Jesus was first here, opening blind eyes, healing lame limbs, unlocking deaf ears, and loosing silent tongues. Surely, if we have the will to do the will of God, we shall know of this doctrine whether it be of God.
III. THE WAY HOME. Now follows a wondrous picture of the way of the return for the long absent wanderer. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the world away from God is a barren and thirsty land; but so soon as the face is set toward God and heaven, heaven's God makes the way of return easy and sure. The dispersion of the Jews was a way of misery. In the return of the Jews to God and their own land we behold the truth of the spiritual way which God has prepared for every sinner to return to Him, and by Him to heaven.
1. It is a highway. "An highway shall be there." A broad and open way, cast up and distinguished from all ether roads and tracks. It has both breadth and narrowness. Broad enough for all the world to travel over, — and He will have all men to be saved, — and yet m the highway there is a "narrow way," in which every man must walk for himself, alone and yet not alone — alone in that he must believe for himself; not alone, in that others are walking with him on the same terms and surrounded by the same conditions.
2. It is a way of holiness. That is, it is a way clean in itself, and only for the clean to traverse. "The unclean shall not pass over it." Drunkards, liars, adulterers, fornicators, covetous, idolaters, and extortioners may not walk in that way. For none of these sins shall see or enter into the kingdom of heaven. When the scoffer points to such characters in the "visible" Church, the sufficient answer is that the Church is not the way, but Jesus Himself is the Way, and all that are in Christ Jesus are new creatures, old things having passed away .and all things having become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
3. God is with them in the way. For such is the meaning of the expression. "It shall be for those." God's children have in a sense to walk alone, and entering this way, they have to break with many who in the days of their flesh were their companions, but the presence and companionship of God with them in the way will more than compensate. No man who knows the fellowship of God and the saints ever misses the company of the world.
4. It is a way of perfect plainness. No one need fear getting lost in this way. It is so simple and straightforward, so guarded and marked, that the simple and unlearned need not err therein. "He that followeth Me," said Jesus, "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Besides, God has promised to hold us by our right hand, and to keep us from falling (Isaiah 41:13; Jude 1:24).
5. It is a safe way. No lion or any ravenous beast shall be there, nor be permitted to go up thereon. God has cleared the way of enemies, so far as their ability to harm us is concerned. It was only when" Christian" turned out of the way that he met the devil and had to fight him, and even when the lions fiercely growled at him, he discovered that, by keeping in the middle of the path, they could not approach him, being chained.
IV. SAFE AT HOME. What a picture is here presented to the poor outcasts of Israel! There had been a dispersion and a home-coming from Babylon. There was to be yet another far wider and more prolonged dispersion, and then at last a final homecoming. In view of this the prophet bursts out with a triumphant exclamation of victory, in which he sets all the redeemed singing for joy. He sees the wanderers and outcasts gathering from every quarter of the earth (Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 51:3). They come with songs of everlasting joy on their lips, bursting from their glad and happy hearts. It has been a long night to them, but joy has at last come with this thriceblessed morning. Is not this a blessed picture, too, of the triumphant entrance into the presence of God of those who have fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished their course?
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
I. THE SAD CONDITION OF THE LOCALITIES ON WHICH THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS INTENDED TO OPERATE. Let us gather into one cluster all that is said of them. "A wilderness," "a solitary place," "parched ground," "thirsty laud," "a habitation of dragons." With the exception of the last-mentioned, all the desolation seems to turn upon the absence of one element — water. What simile could so vividly depict the moral barrenness and desolation, whether of the individual, or of the world at large, apart from the glorious Gospel of the blessed God? What a wilderness the heart is, that has not God dwelling in it! The idea of "solitariness" may seem to disappear when this word "habitation" comes into view. But what a habitation it is! "A habitation of dragons." That, and that only, was wanting to complete the picture — the foul serpent brood, with their huge encircling folds, prepared to crush the life out of every creature that may cross their dreaded path. To a heart which has within it that "well of water springing up into everlasting life," there is no sadder scene than the unutterable desolateness of these moral wastes presented by hearts that are unchanged. What is true of the individual is equally true of the aspect presented by the world at large. It may, perhaps, be imagined that the one element which is wanting to turn all this desolation into smiling fertility is Civilisation. That has been already weighed in the balances and found wanting. What the wilderness, and the solitary place, and the desert, and the parched ground, and the thirsty land require is — the Water of Life, gushing from the smitten rock, Christ Jesus.
II. THE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE KINGDOM OF JESUS. Even to us, in a country where water is plentiful, the beauty and appropriateness of the image are at once apparent. What a charm it adds to the landscape, whether in the form of the great ocean, bearing on its bosom the treasures of the world, or of the river winding through the pleasant meadows, which drink in fertility and beauty from the living stream! The like with its mirror-like surface basking in the sun, suggests, too, the theme of the prophet's song. But it was with an appreciation more intense that the inhabitants of these Eastern lands regarded this emblem of the life that is in Jesus Christ. Water spoke to them of deliverance from death. Hence, wherever this glad Gospel is spoken of, we find this emblem employed to bring before the mind the joy-giving results of the kingdom of Christ. Note the results as these are brought before us in our text.
1. Gladness. It requires no great effort of imagination to realise the glad aspect of nature refreshed by copious rains, after a heat that has scorched the grass, and dwarfed the corn. Fitting emblem, this, of the great joy which the Gospel of Jesus brings with it to human hearts.
2. Fertility. "It shall blossom abundantly." This fertility not only stands connected with life, it is the outcome of its existence. The desert is always barren. But the mighty power of the Gospel of Jesus converts this moral wilderness into a fruit-bearing garden of the Lord.
3. Beauty. "It shall blossom as the rose." One has only to picture to himself a part of this earth's surface, parched, desert, and barren, and to think of the marvellous change which would be produced upon it were he, on revisiting the scene, to find it covered with the fairest flowers that our gardens know. The first and most striking impression made upon the mind would be that of surpassing beauty. Even so is it with the marvellous moral transformation which the prophecy before us contemplates. The glorious annals of missionary effort render it unnecessary to draw on the imagination. What a beauty is unfolded in a Christ-like life!
4. Glory and majesty. "The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel." To live under the power of Jesus is the true secret of a noble life. Whatever the sphere of life which the man occupies, he is in closest alliance with the majesty of heaven, and in virtue of that alliance is raised to regal dignity.
5. A vision that extends into the Holy of holies. "They shall see the glory of Jehovah, and the excellency of our God.
Homilist.I. THE SPHERE IN WINCH THE GOSPEL OPERATES.
1. The condition of depraved humanity is that of solitude. It is in a state of awful isolation. It is away from God and from fellowship with all holy spirits. Between corrupt souls there is no true fellowship, and there cannot be.
2. The condition of depraved humanity is that of wildness. It is a wilderness. Depraved souls are productive, but it is the productiveness of the wilderness.
II. THE TRANSFORMATION WHICH THE GOSPEL EFFECTS.
1. The Gospel makes the sphere joyous. "The wilderness shall be glad," &c. What gladness the Gospel brings into the soul when received in full faith, the gladness of gratitude, love, hope, communion with infinite goodness.
2. The Gospel makes this sphere beautiful. "It shall blossom as the rose." The Gospel imparts to the soul beauty of the highest kind — moral beauty, the beauty of the Lord.
3. The Gospel makes the sphere grand. "The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it." As Carmel and Lebanon tower above the plains of Palestine, so the soul into which the Gospel enters is raised above its unconverted contemporaries. Christliness makes man great in moral strength, elevation, and majesty.
4. The Gospel makes the sphere glorious. "They shall see the glory of the Lord."
(Homilist.)I. THE CERTAINTY THAT THE NEEDED DIFFUSION OF TRUE RELIGION WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED. Man is always animated to the performance of duty by the hope of success; and in the onerous duties to which Christians are summoned, we must be animated by the assurance, proceeding from the highest authority, that our efforts shall be crowned with success. Before stating the grounds upon which the certainty as to the diffusion of our religion is founded, we shall notice some matters which have appeared to render it equivocal, but which do not really interfere with it.
1. The certainty of this diffusion is not interfered with by the obstacles against which religion in its advancing progress has to contend. The obstacles are numerous and formidable; arising from the long-indulged defects of its own disciples; the varieties existing amongst men, of language, of national character, and of social habits; the public jealousies and antipathies which so often bar intercourse, and which have sometimes been kindled into desolating wars; the inveterate depravity of the human heart, nursed into rancorous maturity by the impostures, whether barbarous or refined, which have so long prevailed, and by the malignant influence of the god of this world. To many agencies such obstacles as these would be undoubtedly fatal. But our religion possesses resources which elevate it far above and beyond them.
2. The certainty of which we speak is not interfered with by the differences existing in the professing Church as to the mode in which the anticipated diffusion shall come. Some aver that the diffusion is to take place in consequence of the personal appearance of the Saviour upon the earth; others hold that it is to come by the ordinary instrumentalities already existing in the Christian system, rendered effectual by the abundant outpouring of the Spirit. How can the ignorance of a private soldier in an immense army, as to the plan of the great chieftain, argue against the fact that that plan when developed and carried out shall secure a final and glorious victory?
3. The certainty is not interfered with by obscurity as to the time at which the anticipated diffusion shall be effected. Obscurity resting over the time when the desires of the Church shall be fulfilled and when the wants of the world shall be supplied, is a direct appointment of God, not to be the object of curiosity on the one hand, nor the source of scepticism on the other.
II. THE GROUNDS OR EVIDENCE UPON WHICH WE MUST CONSIDER THAT CERTAINTY AS RESTING. It is to be deduced —
1. From general principles as to the character and government of God. Let it be admitted that God exists, that He is the moral Governor and Sovereign of the universe, that He is supremely concerned for the maintenance of His own honour, and that while powerful, and just, and holy, He is also kind and benevolent, desiring and resolved upon the well-being of His creatures, and then the conclusion which we now advocate appears to us reasonable and unavoidable. If our religion be the instrument by which He will act upon the hearts of men, so as to turn them "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," then, that religion will advance and proceed until every purpose of the Divine majesty and love shall have been conducted to delightful accomplishment.
2. From the constitution and progress of our religion itself. The religion of the Gospel is formed with capacities for, and with a direct view to, universal diffusion. It does not admit of any ceremonial restrictions; it takes no note of national preferences or peculiarities; it owns no distinction of rank, clime, or co]our; it addresses men on grand, comprehensive principles, dealing with them in the common wants and properties of their nature; it is founded on a redeeming provision of boundless sufficiency — a propitiation for the sins of the world; and its commission is universal as mankind. If, from the constitution of our religion you pass to its history, you find that history always bearing us onward to precisely the same conclusion. There is no class of obstacles over which it has not achieved triumphs, no order of beings among whom it has not acquired converts.
3. From the expressed testimony of the Sacred Volume.
III. THE RESULTS WHICH FROM THE NEEDED DIFFUSION OF OUR RELIGION WILL ARISE.
1. Happiness in the world. "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them," &c. By the disciples of scepticism Christianity has often been slandered as the cause of sorrow. But the true spiritual religion of the Gospel can produce nothing but what is accordant with its sublime and munificent nature. Christianity never spake a word but to utter a promise, never took a step but to bring a boon, never struck a blow but to emancipate a captive, never exerted an agency but to elevate and redeem a soul. As Christianity advances, there will be the full development of results, of which now we have instances. There will be happiness to individuals, to families, and to communities or nations. Yet, what is this to the happiness of the life which is to come?
2. Supreme honour to God. "They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." In connection with the diffusion of our religion God will display and magnify the majestic attributes of His nature. In connection with the display and magnifying of the Divine perfections, God will receive the homage and the highest praise of all created beings. The happiness is the happiness of gratitude. Earth, with ten thousand times ten thousand voices, will celebrate His praise; the angels of heaven and "the spirits of the just made perfect" will join in the long and loud acclaim, and redemption will constitute the noble theme of their noblest songs.
(J. Parsons.)I. THE WORLD WITHOUT THE GOSPEL IS A WILDERNESS, a "desert," a "solitary place." What though the bright promise of the spring, the warm glow of summer, the rich maturity of autumn, the quiet rest of winter, are full of beauty! What though Nature's broad plains are watered by noble rivers, though her mountains rise with majesty and grandeur, though her valleys "stand so thick with corn that they laugh and sing," and though a teeming population give animation to every habitable spot; yet, to the spiritual eye and apart from the Gospel, all is but a desert and a solitary place! And if it be so in our own fair land, which is the glory of all lands, what of the heathen nations? Men have broken loose from God. Sin has overspread the world. There is nothing to sustain the Divine life, nothing to insure spiritual health, nothing to promote the soul's eternal welfare.
II. WHAT, THEN, IS THE CHANGE WHICH THE GOSPEL PRODUCES? It is the same in one and all when it comes with "demonstration of the Spirit and of power." All things become new. The "fruits of the Spirit" spring up, the solitary place is made glad, the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose. Conclusion —
1. Has my heart been made glad by the Gospel?
2. What am I doing to make the hearts of others glad? These are questions which demand prompt answers, because —
3. The time is short.
(Josiah Batsman, M. A.)I. A DESERT MAY BE CONSIDERED AS BARREN AND UNCIVILISED. So, in general, are heathen countries. But, instead of unfruitfulness and barbarism, Christianity would introduce culture, civilisation, and everything which, in connection with these, tends to promote the substantial comforts of life. The Bible and the plough go together.
II. A WILDERNESS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS A PLACE OF DREARY SOLITUDE. But the Gospel would introduce the endearments of society; or, at all events, sweeten solitude itself. Among even the more numerous tribes of savages, social enjoyment is but small. They have, indeed, their feasts; but these are seasons of diabolical, rather than of human mirth. Their habitual character, undoubtedly, is retiredness, melancholy, and taciturnity. On the other hand, true religion gives birth to those feelings which prompt man with confidence to seek man; while, at the same time, it enlarges the mind, and furnishes many rational and enlivening topics on which men delight to speak out of the abundance of the heart.
III. A WILDERNESS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS A PLACE OF INHUMANITY AND CRUELTY. And such are heathen countries (Psalm 74:20).
IV. When we hear of a wilderness we think of A PLACE OF COMFORTLESS SORROW. The heathen world contains not within itself the means of soothing the sad distress with which it is filled. But such a wilderness would be gladdened by the Gospel, which would bring home to the afflicted and dying "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."
V. LIKE A WILDERNESS, THE HEATHEN WORLD IS A PLACE OF AWFUL DANGER. "I was in perils," said the apostle Paul, "in the wilderness" (2 Corinthians 11:26). "Where there, is no vision the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18). Improvement —
1. Let us improve the subject as furnishing ourselves with ground of gratitude and admonition. How thankful ought we to be when we contrast our own happy situation with the state of those who "sit in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death"!
2. It becomes us to consider whether we have personally embraced the Gospel.
3. Let us improve the subject in reference to the heathen.
4. According to God's wise determination human instruments are necessary (Romans 10:14, 15).
5. The means of support must be furnished.
6. Already, He who is to be crowned Lord of all has gained some of His most signal triumphs in modern times, through this instrumentality.
(James Foote, M. A.)
I. THE WILDERNESS ITSELF. The world before the appearance of the Gospel was dry as a wilderness, being destitute of God's holy Spirit, which is the water of life, and the immediate cause of all righteousness. The heathen were without the good Spirit, they were exposed to the assaults of evil spirits, whose employment it is to go "to and fro in the earth" as wild beasts in a wilderness, seeking whom they may devour. And it has ever been the way of wicked men, agitated by those furious passions implanted in their nature, to become beasts of prey to one another, biting and devouring one another. But the beast which is noxious and cursed above all others is the serpent, in which we have the most perfect representation of the devil himself, and of all his children, who are called the seed of the serpent. In a place infested with such inhabitants there could be no real comfort; but on the contrary vexation, misery, disappointment, and despair. The evil that prevails among men who live without God renders this world a miserable place.
II. THE CHANGE THAT WAS TO BE WROUGHT UPON IT. The knowledge of Christ engrafted in the hearts of men, soon made them green and fruitful in righteousness, and they abounded in good works, even to the astonishment of their enemies.
III. THE CAUSE OF THIS BLESSED CHANGE. "They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." The glory of the natural world is the sun, whose presence it is that makes the day so superior to the night. But above all, the change of the winter into the spring, shows the power and excellency of this marvellous instrument. Therefore Christ, who performs the same things in the kingdom of grace as the sun doth in nature, is all respects the Sun of Righteousness.
(W. Jones, M. A.)
1. There is a desert of separation from ordinary means of grace. I may be deprived, in God's providence, of my Christian surroundings. I may have to travel far from the homeland and the sound of the Sabbath bells. But Jesus may dwell in my heart by faith. And then the wilderness will be a garden.
2. There is a desert of trial. Perhaps I lose my substance. Perhaps I lose my health. Perhaps I lose my friend, the half of my own soul. How desolating the affliction is! But Jesus can bless me through it. He makes the sweetening tree grow beside Marsh.
3. There is a desert of apparent disaster to the cause of God. The Church has its periods of adversity when all things seem to be against it. But Jesus teaches it to be more serious then, more patient, more devout, stronger in faith, richer in feeling, purer in aim.
4. There is a desert of death. To go out from the world which I know so well into the world which is mysterious and strange — how my heart shrinks from it v But Jesus shows me by His Word and His Spirit and His own experience, that death is the road to glory and the path to fruitfulness and the gate into life. The solitary place shall be glad.
(A. Smellie, M. A.)intended.
(W. Houghton, M. A.)
(P. Delitzsch, D. D.)
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
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