Isaiah 38:14
Jehovah, I am hard pressed; be Surety for me (Cheyne). Life has its shadow as well as its sunshine; and in our depressed times we fancy that the shadow almost blots out the shine. There is a poem which, with the touch of genius, pictures the shadow that, since the failure of our race-parents in Eden, lies close against everything for man. Go where he may, do what he will, man cannot get away from his shadow. It tracks his feet. This side or that it is found, whichever way he may stand to the light. It lies down with him; it rises with him; it goes forth with him; it comes back with him; until he even gets to fear it, and, seeing it flung everywhere, says, "Life is dark, and life is hard." This sentence of the text is an utterance of genuine feeling. It is Old Testament feeling rather than Christian feeling; but the poetical form of it gives it largeness enough to cover and include the very best Christian thoughts. Hezekiah expresses what he felt when he lay on the "border-land." His idea is that death is his creditor, and pressing for immediate payment, and he calls on God to be Surety for him, and release him from the clutch of this death. Some, oppressed, cry against advancing death. Others, as Tennyson's "Mariana," cry for it, saying -

"I'm aweary, I'm aweary,
I would that I were dead!" Can it be profitable for us to dwell on this despairing mood of Hezekiah? Perhaps, as we meditate, the clouds may part a little, and glints of glory may break through. Our soul may take wing and fly to God, and find rest in him.

I. LIFE A BURDEN It is such

(1) in view of the responsibilities under which we come; it is

(2) as a matter of feeling and sentiment oftentimes.

No man, indeed, ever comes to use life aright until he regards it as a sacred burden. It will be heavy or light, it will crush or it will ennoble, according to the spirit in which we accept it, and deal with it. Too readily we say that life always looks bright to youth and maiden. Is it so? We could find some of the saddest poetry ever written which had been composed by the young. Every right-hearted youth loosens the home ties, stands free, and stoops to lift up his own life-burden with a great sigh of anxiety and fear. What does the man of middle age say? However brightly and bravely a man may take up his daily care, still he feels that each new child, and each lengthening year with its new claims, adds to his burden. Business life, in modern times, seems a heavier burden than it ever was - a daily bearing and struggling to win daily bread, because we, and those related to us, want so much more than bread. Ask the old men what they think of life. The very best among them will reply, "I thank God for life, but he only knows what a burden it has been to me. His grace has enabled me to carry it, but sometimes - oftentimes - it has crushed me down on my knees." Or take the faculties with which we are endowed, and the spheres in which those faculties find expression and operation. This body: what a constant care to keep it in health, and to get it fed, clothed, and wisely ruled! And sometimes it lies like a heavy log upon our souls, and from under it we can scarcely get our breath! This mind. The infinite realms of knowledge stretch out on either side, and it is our agony that life will only let us touch, with a passing foot, the mere skirts and edges of one or two of them. The soul - our very selves - what a prison-house for us this body is! Wherever we go we must carry the body. Our souls can "neither fly nor go. Quaintly, but effectively, our fathers drew an emblem. The skeleton was represented as the cage within which the living man was imprisoned. At some time in our lives we all have thanked God for the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is precisely this - a man who felt life as a burden, letting his heart out. But turn to consider -

II. GOD IS THE ONLY TRUE BURDEN-BEARER. If the three words, Undertake for me," could be put into a Christian form of speech, they would be found to express that "full surrender," that "perfect submission," that "rest of faith," which is the secret of the "higher life," the true beginning and proper foundation of Scripture holiness. But, practically, how can the man who feels life to be a burden commit that burden to the Lord? It' you do not believe in a living God, in the living Christ-God, actually present, ruling and overruling, you will never find out how. If God is away in the heavens, and Christ back in the centuries, our text has no real meaning; it is a vague sentiment. But if God is here, and Christ is with us - in us; if the Father does see in secret, and the Son abide with us always; - then it will be easy to unfold the secret of the rolled burden. One idea at least we can give. If we have a heart-sorrow we can relieve it by making a confidant. Robert Alfred Vaughan had long been ill, but one morning his wife saw signs which struck her with hopelessness. In her grief she thought of going to unbosom her trouble to her friend Mrs. George Dawson. Ere she could leave her house, that friend came in, she had come to open a new sorrow to her friend - her only girl had been seized with fits of a kind which put in peril intellect and life. Those women lifted each others' burdens by opening them in the confidences of friendship. We lose our burdens by freely telling God all about them. There is another way of rolling burdens on God, which is less easy to put into words - which is a matter of soul-feeling. We can give up the self-management of our lives. It can become a conscious ruling thought with us that we live, not for self, but for God; we can inwardly realize that God takes our life-rule into his hands; we go where he sends, we do what he bids. Come to the simplicities of life. How does a wearied child roll his burden on his mother? How does the husband lighten his life-care by rolling it upon a loving wife? Verily, the little things of man will help us to understand the great things of God. - R.T.







I did mourn as a dove.
The possessions of the world are often the means of lightening life's sorrows, and of increasing its enjoyments. What experience teaches us in this respect the Word of God allows. Prosperity is recognised by it as a subject for gratitude. But that riches in themselves are insufficient to make us happy is undeniable. At all seasons the limitation of their power is obvious; but at no time does it appear more strikingly than when the king of terrors gives challenge to an earthly potentate, and he finds that "there is no discharge in that war." The history connected with our text will furnish us with an instance.

I. THE CAUSES OF MOURNING. This image of mourning as a dove is not confined to this one passage (Isaiah 59:11; Ezekiel 7:16; Nahum 2:7). Now the plaintive mourning notes of the dove we will suppose to be descriptive of various classes of men of sorrow.

1. We will begin with those mourning from the same cause as the author of our text. It was pining sickness which wounded the monarch's spirit, and the prospect which it presented to him of certain dissolution. If, while as a dove you mourn plaintively, your mourning be dove-like because it is meek and submissive, still your mourning will be real.

2. Another source of mourning is the untowardness of worldly circumstances

3. Other sources of sorrow are to be found in the coldness of former friends, the treachery of those whom you trusted, or persecution from those who should encourage and support.

4. Another common cause of mourning like a dove is the departure of endeared ones.

5. A further source of mourning is remembrance of iniquity.

II. THEIR REMEDIES OR RELIEFS.

1. To the afflicted in body there is an obvious consolation — the possibility of their cure. The ease before us is thus encouraging. Another support in bodily affliction is the conformity which it gives us to our Lord. Again, Jesus Christ hath "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel."

2. What, next, is our relief in case of the wreck of worldly circumstances? The possession of wealth is no sure criterion of God's approval. If your earthly losses have brought you to reflection, and led you to a right judgment of worldly goods; if the changes and chances of this mortal life have induced you to set your affection on things above; if they have broken your proud spirit, brought you to Christ, and ensured you an interest in His "unsearchable riches," then mourn not as a dove, but sing as a lark.

3. We touch next on the grief which springs from dishonour done to us by familiar friends. We account this a curse: God may turn it into a blessing. We were wont to trust in man; we loved the creature with too ardent an attachment. Henceforth we think more of that Friend "who sticketh closer than a brother"; "who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever"; concerning whom it is our privilege to exclaim, ' Whom have I in heaven but Thee? "&c. If the ill-treatment of which we complain consists in persecution for righteousness' sake, our Lord's words in the beatitude supply all necessary consolation: "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you," &c. "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

4. Separation from those we love was the fourth cause of mourning for which we were to seek for a relief. Though in lands remote, they tread the same earth. The rough ocean is kind to each of us: he bears on his bosom the swift messengers carrying the interchange of tokens that many waters cannot quench our love. The weeds of widowhood may be twined with flowers of cheerfulness; for "a defender of the widow is God in His holy habitation." The orphan's lamentation may be hushed; for God is "a Father of the fatherless." God can give "a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters." And is it a small thing that "the righteous are taken away from the evil to come"; that "they rest from their labours"; that they are "present with the Lord"?

5. The last source of mourning which we noticed was the remembrance of iniquity. Is the wound incurable? "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?"

(T. W. Thomson, M. A.)

"Like a crane," &c.

I. AFFLICTIONS OFTEN LEAD TO RASH AND FOOLISH MURMURINGS. They often —

1. Obscure God's goodness.

2. Lead us to forget past mercies.

3. Darken our future.

II. AFFLICTIONS LEADING TO RASH AND FOOLISH MURMURINGS EXPOSE US TO GREAT MORAL DANGERS. We may, then —

1. Wrongly interpret God's providence.

2. Lose the benefit which God intended.

3. Dishonour Him.

4. Bring discredit upon our religious profession.

III. AFFLICTIONS HAVING LED TO RASH AND FOOLISH MURMURINGS, SUCH MURMURINGS SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED. This will —

1. Show our sense of the evil of our conduct.

2. Tend to repair the injury we may have done.

3. Obtain pardon from God.

(W. O. Lilley.)

O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
If language was ever uttered by man, which all men ought to adopt; if a petition was ever presented by man, which all men ought to present before the mercy-seat, it is this.

I. YOU ALL NEED SOME ONE TO UNDERTAKE FOR YOU. Some one to make your cause his own, and to assist you in performing that work on the performance of which your everlasting happiness depends. You need some one to undertake —

1. To support and comfort under the trials of life, and carry you safely through them.

2. To be your guide through life. You need a guide, a counsellor, who knows not only what is in man, but what every man will prove to be in future life. But if you need such a guide as it respects this world, how much more as it respects the world to come I

3. Still more do you need some one who will undertake to afford you effectual assistance in subduing your spiritual enemies, the enemies which oppose your salvation.

4. Most of all do you need some one who can and will undertake to plead your cause in heaven, and effect a reconciliation between you and Four justly offended God.

II. THERE IS NO ONE ON EARTH OR IN HEAVEN WHO IS BOTH ABLE AND WILLING TO UNDERTAKE FOR YOU, EXCEPT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

There is scarcely any feeling more painful than that of desolation. The Scriptures frequently refer to it. (Micah 7:1, 2.) When this feeling first comes upon us, there is as it were a total prostration of strength. Consider —

I. THE CHRISTIAN UNDER TRIAL. The text is applicable —

1. To the young Christian just entering upon the duties of life.

2. To the young man entering upon his religious course.

3. To the Christian perplexed in the path of duty.

4. To the Christian under conviction of sin.

5. To the Christian in a state of grief for the loss of one near and dear to him.

6. To the Christian on his dying bed.

7. To the Christian as he stands before the Lord at His second advent.

II. THE CHRISTIAN'S RESOURCE. The world has many resources. The Christian has but one. But that one is of infinitely greater worth than all those possessed by an unconverted and ungodly world.

(M. Villiers, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF YOUR OPPRESSION?

1. Is it some burden of sadness that has fallen upon you — some loss, or cross, or disappointment, that has shown you the fleeting uncertainty of all earthly treasures?

2. Is it some persecution of the ungodly?

3. Or do you stand perplexed by the foiling of some well-laid plan; or the unsuccessful issue of your efforts to remove the prejudices and enlighten the ignorance and improve the hearts of men?

4. Or do temptations beset you, almost too strong for flesh and blood to bear?

5. Is it not merely at the deceitfulness of your heart, but at its "desperate wickedness" that your heart sinks within you?

II. WILL YOU NOT GO ON TO SAY, "O LORD, UNDERTAKE FOR ME"?

1. How doth God undertake for us? Is it by removing from the sinner all temptation to sin? Is it by taking from the afflicted and mourner the immediate cause of his affliction, and restoring all things according to his shortsighted wish? No, it is by a far different process. He will suggest to his heart good resolutions, and holy impulses; and if he cherish these, the spirit of Jesus will afford him measures of special grace. And as to him that is bowed down with sorrow — it is not God's way to reverse His sentence, and at once remove the cause. But He gives us such faith in Him, that we believe that "the thoughts which He thinketh towards us, are thoughts of peace, and not of evil." And in proportion as faith makes herself heard, the voice of fretting dies away.

2. What ground of confidence we have that God will undertake for us.(1) Have we not His own most sure promise?(2) Have we not the experience of all the servants of the most High?(3) But besides and beyond the Word of God and the experience of the saints — both of which the Israelites shared of old — we have the knowledge of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all the fruits and consequences which grow out of that blessed doctrine.

(D. A. Beaufort, M. A.)

There is such a vast disproportion between a man and some of his own feelings — between the inner and the outer life of a man — that the wonder is. not that we should sometimes feel the burden of existence, but that there should be any man who should not be always saying, "I am oppressed."

I. THERE ARE FEW MINDS WHO DO NOT LOOK OUT FOR SYMPATHY. It is an instinct of our nature, that we must lean somewhere. Almost all error, all superstition, all worldliness, resolves at last into the feeling that a man must lean; but he is leaning on a wrong base. It is upon this great principle in the man's breast that the Gospel lays hold and points it to Christ. It sets Him forth as the one great Undertaker for all His people's wants.

II. WHAT ARE CHRIST'S UNDERTAKINGS FOR US?

1. He has undertaken to pay all our debts: they are very great.

2. He has undertaken that we shall never be alone. "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

3. He has undertaken that you shall never be really overcome. "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

4. He has undertaken to place you on the sunny side of everything all life through; for "He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

5. He has undertaken that you shall always have a place of refuge. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," &c.

6. He has undertaken that death shall be to you only a name, not a reality. "He that believeth on Me shall never die."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Hezekiah here represents his disease as a bailiff that had arrested him and was carrying him to the prison of the grave, and therefore prays that the Lord would bail him or rescue him out of his hands.

(J. Gill, D. D.)

Ten days before the late Dean Burgon died he said, "Nothing but the Everlasting Arms can support me now."

(F. Harper, M. A.)

Our individuality is strong in suffering. The ego rises to throw off the chains that bind it.

I. A CRY OF AN OPPRESSED SPIRIT. The human spirit is oppressed with —

1. Sin.

2. Circumstance.

3. Trouble.

4. Mysteries of life.

II. A CRY ADDRESSED TO THE TRUE HELPER.

1. God alone can undertake the cause of the soul.

2. He alone can bring true deliverance.

3. He will deliver those who seek Him.

4. His deliverances are eternal

(W. O. Lilley.)

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