Isaiah 44:20
He feedeth on ashes. Man does not understand himself. Feed he must: the question is, on what? There are cravings of heart which cannot be repressed. Men are hungry for fame, applause, wealth, honour. Full many a time they taste this fruit; but each apple has ashes at the heart of it. What a picture of contrast is given us by Christ! He tells us of the true bread - the living bread, the bread which cometh down from heaven.

I. THE TABLE OF THE MEN OF THIS WORLD. Ashes! Is that all? In other words, dust! Yes; everything that does not feed the immortal nature within us is dust. Wealth is dust, and is scattered like dust. Beauty, however fascinating, turns to dust. And so far as the pursuits of man are concerned, how unsatisfying these are! The post of honour is no sooner secured than others are eager to fling the victor down. The famous "garter" is laid on the coffin and the pall. We are told the reason of this sad mistake. "A deceived heart hath turned him aside."

II. THE TABLE OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. They feed on the Bread of God; and this Bread is the Son of God, who said, "I am the Bread of life."

1. Christ must be taken and eaten. Not in the hands. That is impossible. We are to feed on the living Christ. His mind is to be our mind. The soul can only feed on kindred elements. The spiritual nature cannot be satisfied through the senses. Christ must be "in us," the Hope of glory.

2. Christ was the broken bread for us. It is the Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary on which we are to feed. "My body was broken for yon." So we take into our spiritual being, not only Christ the Example, Christ the Teacher, but Christ the Saviour. And as we eat this bread we live by him, and become like him. He died for us, that we who live should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again; for Christ came, not merely to save by teaching, but to teach by saving! - W.M.S.







He feedeth on ashes.
: — One of the most extraordinary examples of depraved or perverted appetite is the use of earth for food. This propensity is not an occasional freak, but a common custom, and is found among so large a number and variety of tribes that it may be regarded as co-extensive with the human race. From time immemorial the Chinese have been in the habit of using various kinds of edible earth as substitutes for bread in times of scarcity; and their imperial annals have always religiously noticed the discovery of such bread-stones, or stone-meal, as they are called. On the western coast of Africa a yellowish kind of earth, called "caouac," is so highly relished, and so constantly consumed by them, that it has become to them a necessary of life. In the island of Java, and in various parts of the hill-country of India, a reddish earth is baked into cakes and sold in the village markets for food; while on the banks of the Orinoco, in South America, Humboldt mentions that the native Indians find a species of unctuous clay, which they knead into balls, and store up in heaps in their huts as a provision for the winter or rainy season. They are not compelled by famine to have recourse to this clay; for even when fish, game, and fruit are plentiful they still eat it after their food as a luxury. This practice of eating earth is not confined solely to the inhabitants of the Tropics. In the north of Norway and in Swedish Lapland a kind of white powdery earth, called mountain-meal, found under beds of decayed moss, is consumed in immense quantities every year. It is mixed by the people with their bread in times of scarcity; and even in Germany it has been frequently used as a means of allaying hunger. All these examples of the use of earth as food are so contrary to our experience that they might seem incredible were it not that they are thoroughly authenticated. Such an unnatural custom must, in the long run, prove injurious to the constitution of those who indulge in it, although it is wonderful how long it can be carried on by some individuals apparently with impunity.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

In the spiritual world there are many who feed upon ashes. The prophet is speaking of the idolater.

I. WHO IS THE IDOLATER — who is the "he" that is said to feed on ashes? The prophet had a definite audience before him. He was prophesying to the children of Israel. Notwithstanding the purity and sublimity of their own monotheistic creed, and the awful threatenings and sanctions with which it was guarded, we can trace throughout their entire history, as a marked feature of their character, a propensity to blend a theoretical belief in the true God with an accommodating reverence to the idols of the heathen Pantheon. Except when under the immediate spell of some special revelation of Jehovah, they craved for some visible shape or outward sign of the divinity — a craving which was satisfied for a time by the erection of the tabernacle and temple, and the establishment of the worship connected with them, but which soon overleaped barriers thus imposed upon it, and sought for novel sensations in the tabernacle of Moloch and in the star of the god Remphan — figures which they made to worship them. The very priests and Levites, who were most concerned in keeping the worship of Jehovah pure, were the leaders of the various national apostasies. Isaiah deeply deplored this national fickleness and spiritual inconstancy. In the passage under consideration he seeks to overwhelm it with contempt. Were Isaiah addressing us in these days his ideas would be the same, though the form in which he would present them would be different. Material idolatry, in its literal import, has passed away among civilised nations. But the essence of the temptation remains the same. Human society is changed, but human nature is unchanged. The impulse which led to idolatry is therefore as strong at the present day as it was in the time of Isaiah; and images are set up and worshipped now as fantastic as any pagan fetich or joss. The New Testament form of the Second Commandment, "Be not conformed to this world," requires to be frequently and urgently enforced. If I were to sum up all spiritual idolatry in these days in one form, I should call it worldliness, for everything else is but a phase of this. And this worldly conformity leads speedily, in most instances, to a low moral standard, and to a weak and corrupt form of religion, and produces the same humiliating results which flowed from the idolatry of ancient times.

II. WHAT IS IDOLATRY? It is a perverted spiritual appetite. In certain diseased states of the brain there is an unnatural craving for the most extraordinary and unwholesome substances. Men and women under such morbid influences have been known to eat cinders and sand with apparent relish, and even to prefer them to the richest dainties. In such cases it is not the appetite that is at fault. The controlling power of the brain, which chooses the proper food, is impaired, and this healthy appetite is set to work upon substances which are altogether unsuitable. In like manner idolatry arises from a natural craving of the soul, which was made for God, for His worship and enjoyment. It finds that it must go out of itself for the blessedness it needs. This spiritual appetite is a God-given instinct of our nature. It is the soul seeking its highest good. It is healthy and natural. But when, under the guidance and power of a deceived heart, it seeks its gratification in earthly things to the exclusion altogether of God, it affords a most melancholy example of a perverted spiritual appetite.

III. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF IDOLATRY? How does idolatry affect the man guilty of it? There is a very striking and beautiful relation between the food of man and his digestive organs. He is omnivorous. He is the ruler of the world, and therefore the varied life of the world must throb in his veins. But all the varied food which she presents to him must be organic food. "Phosphorus literally flames in the brain, that thoughts may breathe and words may burn; lime gives solidity to the bones; the alkaline salts promote the oxidation and removal of the effete materials of the body. Common minerals — iron, sulphur, soda, potash, and others — circulate in the blood, or are garnered in the various tissues. But all these inorganic materials are furnished, not from the earth directly, but in the food; the various vegetable and animal products containing them in varying quantities." Such being the law of man's nutrition, it will be seen at once that if he feeds directly upon ashes, he is feeding upon substances that are altogether incongruous, and unfitted to nourish him. His organs cannot digest or assimilate ashes. And is not the analogy between spiritual and natural things here very clear? If man's spiritual appetite can feed only on God, then if man seeks his portion only in the things of the world, what can you expect but spiritual indigestion and misery? It is true, indeed, that just as the body requires inorganic elements — salt, lime, and iron — as well as organic, for its proper nourishment, so man requires the things of the world as well as the things of faith for his spiritual welfare. But then we are to seek these temporal things, not directly from the world, but through the channel of communion with God. There are natures that, by a long course of feeding upon ashes, have become accustomed to this unnatural diet. Like the clay-eaters of South America, their digestive organs become assimilated to their food, and they are put to little inconvenience by it. We meet with persons who are satisfied with their portion in this world, who mind earthly things, and are contented with the nourishment for their souls which they find in them. But are such persons the truly great and noble ones of our race? How can an infinite hunger be appeased by a finite good? The soul wants organised food; food that has spiritual life in it; food that is redolent of the sunshine and permeated with the light of heaven; food that has drunk in all the impalpable virtues and forces of the things unseen and eternal; food that can gather up in itself these vitalising influences, and transfer them to us to glow within our veins and animate our nerves; and, instead of that, we get ashes out of which all the glow and the virtue have departed. Our sin will become our punishment; our idols our scourges. I have remarked that there are some who are satisfied with their worldly portion — who, though feeding upon clay, are not put to inconvenience by it. Such individuals, in the midst of their contentment, are in reality, if they only knew it, more to be pitied than those whose truer instincts are tortured by the unsuitable food by which they endeavour to appease their spiritual cravings.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

I. THE VAIN OBJECTS TO WHICH MAN DIRECTS HIS ENERGIES. "He feedeth on ashes."

II. THE REASON OF THIS PERVERTED CHOICE. "A deceived heart hath turned him aside." Sin, in its very nature, has a tendency to harden the heart. When it first begins to make advances, there is resistance offered to it. Conscience speaks, expostulates, reproaches; but sin gets the mastery. Conscience becomes by degrees blunted; the heart at length gets callous, that it cannot feel; the eye is altogether darkened, that it cannot see; the ear heavy, that it cannot hear the instruction of wisdom. Thus the heart is in due time thoroughly deceived. It rejoices in evil, instead of in good; it has an exclusive appetite for the bitter instead of the sweet. But there is a diseased state of the heart where the fatal results do not appear so manifest to the eye of man. When the world is keenly loved and followed, when self is worshipped, when God is not supreme in the affection, the root must be looked for in the heart. The heart is deceived. How dangerous is this state of heart! How much does it need of watchfulness in the case of every one of us, so that we may not be ensnared by it.

III. THE DANGER OF THIS STATE, AND THE DIFFICULTY OF ITS REMEDY. "He cannot deliver himself." When the heart has been once beguiled by the deceitfulness of sin, and its affections have been riveted and firmly fixed upon earthly things, it is not in man to deliver himself. God, indeed, has provided means whereby those who have banished themselves from Him may be brought home to His fold. In Him there resides power to cut asunder the chain, however firmly it may bind us down to the earth.

IV. SOME PRACTICAL QUESTIONS FOR OUR EXAMINATION. "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

(H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

I propose to show —

I. WHAT THE SOUL PROPERLY REQUIRES. We cannot find food for the body in ourselves; we have to look for it in the animal or vegetable world. Our spiritual part — our intellect, conscience, affections — is every whit as dependent on extraneous supplies as our bodies are.

II. HOW PERILOUSLY FAR SOME ARE FROM GIVING TO THEIR SOULS WHAT THEY REQUIRE. You see this magnificent provision; it is spread before your eyes. But the question is, are you feeding on it? Feeding implies taking it to yourself, appropriating it, masticating it with pleasure, receiving it into your digestion. It then becomes a part of you, and goes into your bones, your blood, your flesh, your marrow. We admit that you come to the feast, that you admire it, and that you intend to eat; but we cannot admit that you are feeding on it thus far. We cannot say you have the Word of God dwelling in you richly in all wisdom.

(J. Bolton, B. A.)

Two lessons were learnt by Israel in captivity — the all-sufficiency of God, and the absurdity of idols. It is on the latter of these that we are now to dwell. Why do men act with such inconceivable folly? The prophet knows nothing of the modern theory that men do not worship the stone or wood, but accept the effigy as a help to fixedness of thought and prayer; he would affirm that with the mass of men this is a fiction, and that the worship of the devotee stops short with what he can see and touch. The cause of idolatry lies deeper. "He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside," &c.

I. THERE IS A HUNGER FOR THE DIVINE IN MAN.

1. It is universal.

2. It is significant. We can tell something of the composition of the human body by the materials which it needs for its sustenance. Similarly the true dignity of man betrays itself in the hunger which perpetually preys upon him. If man is only matter, if thought is only the movement of the grey matter of the brain, if there is no spirit and no beyond, how is it that the material world cannot supply the supreme good?

3. It is inevitable. The functions which food performs in our system are threefold. It is needed to replace the perpetual waste which is always wearing down the natural tissues; to maintain the temperature at some 98°; and to provide materials for growth. And each of these has a spiritual analogy. We need God, for the same three reasons as the body needs food.

(1)To replace the perpetual waste of our spiritual forces.

(2)For warmth and heat.

(3)For growth.

II. THIS APPETITE MAY BE PERVERTED. "He feedeth on ashes." Men tamper with their natural appetite. But there is a close similarity in their treatment with that wonderful yearning after the unseen and eternal which is part of the very constitution of our being — a hunger after the ideal Food, the ideal Beauty, the ideal Truth, which may be resisted and ignored, but still claims satisfaction; and if it does not get it in God, it will seek it in the ashes of idolatry. Men worship idols yet. The man of the world worships money, rank, high office. The child of fashion worships in the temple of human opinion, and feeds on the ashes of human applause an appetite which was meant to satisfy itself on the "Well done!" of the Almighty. The student who questions or denies the Being of God, worships in the temple of learning; and feeds with the ashes of human opinion an appetite which was intended to be nourished by eternal truth. And in every case these substitutes for God, with which men try to satisfy themselves, are as incapable of satisfying the heart, as ashes of supporting the physical life.

III. THE TRUE BREAD.

1. It is the gift of God. "My Father giveth the true Bread from heaven." God who made thee hunger for bread, made bread to grow for its appeasement. Other vegetables have their peculiar habitat. But the cornplant will make its home in every land, and grow on every soil. He has also provided beauty for our taste, truth for our thought, love for our heart; and has gathered all these and much more into His one Gift, Jesus Christ.

2. Nature yields her provision to man through death. So it is through death that Jesus has become the Food of men. We must assimilate our food. We must receive Jesus into our hearts by an act of spiritual apprehension.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I shall speak of three classes of young men who are "feeding on ashes."

I. Those who are giving themselves up to SENSUAL PLEASURE. There is no one on earth who has so much right to the pleasures of the world as the believer. I do not believe in asceticism. I do not believe in pious melancholy. But this innocent hilarity, which leaves no ill results behind, is good and healthful, and a very different thing from the emmaddening gaieties of the world.

II. I have a word to say to you who are setting up another idol for your worship. It is neither Venus nor Bacchus, but it is Plutus; it is WORLDLY SUBSTANCE; it is money. There is no sin in desiring to be rich, if your money comes to you honourably, and goes from you usefully. But what is all that, if that is all? Can you feed the immortal soul within you with bank cheques and good investments? Will all the gold in the Bank of England appease the hunger of your deathless spirit? No! But many seem to think it will. Such men are the most hopeless cases to deal with. I should be more sanguine of bringing to the feet of Jesus a poor bloated debauchee, than of doing any good to one of these hardened, wizened, shrivelled-up money-scrapers, who for twenty, thirty, or forty years have no other thought but this — to lay up gain.

III. There is a third class of men who are daily "feeding on ashes," because "a deceived heart has turned them aside." They have got hold of a lot of INFIDEL LITERATURE, and they are stuffing their souls with as weak and poisonous rubbish as it is possible to meet with. With the prophet, I invite you to something more palatable and nourishing; I bid you to a feast of "milk and honey"; "hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

(J. T. Davidson, D. D.)

Many to-day feed on the kind of ashes Isaiah has in mind.

1. False conceptions of God.

2. False conceptions of Christ.

3. False conceptions of religion.

4. False conceptions of the Church.

5. False conceptions of morality, life, and happiness.Application: —

1. Upon the true or false conception of God and His relations to men conduct depends. The Christian's conception of God is revealed in the incarnation, life, and atonement of His Son. He only is a true Christian who obeys Christ's words, imitates His life, and becomes conformed to His image. He must be our ideal.

2. Again, we ask how comes it that men thus feed on ashes? "A deceived heart hath turned him aside."

(J. B. Nies, Ph. D.)

To-day we are told by a hundred voices that all religion begins at the bottom, and slowly struggles up to the top. Isaiah says the very opposite. The pure form is the primitive; the secondary form is the gross, which is a corruption. They tell us, too, that all religion pursues a process of evolution, and gradually clears itself of its more imperfect and carnal elements. Isaiah says "He cannot deliver his soul," and no religion ever worked itself up, unless under the impulse of a revelation from without. That is Isaiah's philosophy of idolatry, and I expect it will be accepted as the true one some day.

I. A LIFE THAT SUBSTANTIALLY IGNORES GOD IS EMPTY OF ALL TRUE SATISFACTION. "He feedeth on ashes." Very little imagination will realise the force of that picture. The gritty cinders will irritate the lips and tongue, will dry up the moisture of the mouth, will interfere with the breathing; and there will be no nourishment in a sackful of them. The underlying truth is this — God only is the food of a man's soul. You pick up the skeleton of a bird upon a moor; and if you know anything about osteology, you will see in the very make of its breast-bone and its wing-bones the declaration that its destiny is to soar into the blue. And written on you, as distinctly as flight on the bird, or swimming on the fish, is this, that you are meant, by your very make, to soar up into the heights of the glory of God, and to plunge deep into the abysses of His infinite love and wisdom. What does your heart want? A perfect, changeless, all-powerful love. And what does your mind want? Reliable, guiding, inexhaustible yet accessible truth. And what does your will want? Commandments which have an authoritative ring in their very utterance, and which will serve for infallible guides for your lives. And what do our weak, sinful natures want? Something that shall free our consciences, and deliver us from the burden of our transgressions, and calm our fears, and quicken and warrant our lofty hopes. And what do men whoso nature is to live for ever want but something that shall go with them through all changes of condition? We want a person to be everything to us. No accumulation of things will satisfy a man. God has not so blundered in making the world that He has surrounded us with things that are all lies, but He has so made it that whosoever flies in the face of the gracious commandment which is also an invitation, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," has not only no security that the "other things" shall be "added unto" him, but has the certainty that though they were added to him, in degree beyond his dreams and highest hopes, they would avail nothing to satisfy the hunger of his heart.

II. A LIFE WHICH THUS IGNORES GOD IS TRAGICALLY UNAWARE OF ITS OWN EMPTINESS. "A deceived heart hath turned him aside." That explains how the man comes to fancy that ashes are food. His whole nature is perverted, his vision distorted, his power of judgment marred. That explains, too, why men persist in this feeding on ashes after all experience. You will see a dog chasing a sparrow. It has chased hundreds before and never caught one. Yet, when the creature rises from the ground, away it goes after it once more, with eager yelp and rush, to meet the old experience. That is like what a great many of you are doing, and you have not the same excuse that the dog has. And that deceived heart, stronger than experience, is also stronger than conscience. How is it that this hallucination that you have fed full and been satisfied, when all the while your hunger has not been appeased, can continue to act on us? For the very plain reason that every one of us has in himself a higher and a lower self, a set of desires of the grosser, more earthly, and, using the word in its proper sense, worldly sort — that is to say, directed towards material things, and a higher set which look right up to God if they are allowed fair play. And of these two sets — which really are one at bottom, if a man would only see it — the lower gets the upper hand, and suppresses the higher and the nobler. And so in many a man and woman the longing for God is crushed out by the gross delights of sense.

III. A LIFE THUS IGNORING GOD NEEDS A POWER FROM WITHOUT TO SET IT FREE. "He cannot deliver his soul." There is nothing more awful in life than the influence of habit. There is something more wanted than yourselves to break this chain. It is the Christ who is "the Bread of God that came down from heaven"; who can deliver any soul from the most obstinate and long. continued grovelling amongst the transitory things of this limited world, and the superficial delights of sense and gratified bodily life; who can bring the forgiveness which is essential, the deliverance from the power of evil which is not less essential, and who can fill our hearts with Himself, the food of the world.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE ENTIRELY DECEIVED IN THEIR RELIGION.

1. The idolater.

2. The Romanist.

3. Freethinkers.

4. False professors.

II. ALTHOUGH THERE ARE MANY PERSONS THUS DECEIVED IN RELIGION, WE ARE NOT TO SUPPOSE THAT ANY OF THEM ARE REALLY CONTENTED IN HEART WITH THEIR RELIGION.

III. IT IS A STRANGE THING THAT ALL THESE PEOPLE SEEM VERY WELL CONTENTED WITH THEIR FALSE RELIGIONS.

IV. I WANT TO SPEAK TO THOSE WHO ARE PROFESSORS OF RELIGION BUT WHO DO NOT POSSESS IT.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

nces: — The heart discovers its deceitfulness —

I. BY ITS STRONG PROPENSITY TO RECEIVE ANY ERROR MORE READILY THAN TRUTH.

II. BY ITS EXTREME RELUCTANCE TO THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION, AND BY ITS VIOLENT PROPENSITY TO EVERY LYING REFUGE. More particularly we observe —

1. That multitudes betake themselves to the general mercy of God.

2. The heart often disposes one to look into itself for something good.

3. Others found their hope on resolutions of reformation.

4. Partial and outward reformation is the confidence of many.

5. Many confide in a bare profession of religion and observation of the form of duties.

6. Others deceive themselves into a reliance on their Church privileges.

7. Some confide in their gifts, or in their usefulness by means of them.

8. Some may trust to a work of the law, as if it were in itself saving.

9. This principle of deceit is discovered by the sinner's endeavours to obtain justification by moral duties.

10. Many trust to their sincerity in religion. But what is this sincerity in which you make your boast before God? Do you not confide in it as the ground of your justification? If so, it must be the sincerity of a person who is not yet justified; that is, of one still under the curse of the law.

11. Another false confidence, which many fly to, is the observance of superstitious rites.

12. Some may rest on their sufferings in the cause of Christ.

13. Others may depend on a notional faith. Some are persuaded of the truth of the Gospel. But they prove that their faith is not Divine, because it is unfruitful.

14. The deceitfulness of the heart operates in others, by making them rest upon supposed attainments in holiness. There is a question the solution of which materially affects every one of us before God. If false professors may have so eminent attainments, and so remarkable a resemblance to true holiness, how may we distinguish between such attainments as are the fruit of the Spirit's saving work and those which only flow from natural affections or from a common operation?

(1)These attainments, which are saving, have always a humbling tendency.

(2)Saving attainments are consistent with a godly jealousy.

(3)The fruit of solid Christian attainments is thankfulness to God.

(4)The Christian disclaims all his attainments with respect to justification.

(5)Saving attainments leave a lasting impression on the heart.

(6)The real believer loses not his confidence in God, even under severe afflictions.

(7)The real Christian does not wish to stop short in his attainments.

(8)The believer is equal, or at least consistent, in his attainments. While he makes progress in duty, in the exercise of grace, in liveliness and spirituality of affections, he at the same time advances in the mortification of sin.

(9)All true Christians have a real love to holiness,

(J. Jamieson, M. A.)

Drunkenness is a perverted spiritual appetite, a seeking in the creature what God alone can give, the longing of the soul for higher and purer happiness than the hard round of daily life and the weary sorrowful circle of the world can give. So, too, covetousness, if analysed in the same way, will be found to be a perverted spiritual appetite, a misdirected worship. Covetousness is identified in Scripture with idolatry: "Covetousness which is idolatry," says St. Paul. "No covetous man, who is an idolater, hath an inheritance in the kingdom of God." The love of money, as it has been well said, is the love of God run wild, the diseased action of a spiritual appetite, the aberration of a nature that was made for God. Wealth is the mystic shadow of God, which the soul is unconsciously groping after and craving for. It presents some faint features of resemblance to Him. It seems omnipotent, able to do all things; omnipresent, showing signs of itself everywhere; beneficent, supplying our present wants, providing for our future, procuring for us an endless variety of blessings, and giving us almost all that our hearts can desire. And because it presents these superficial resemblances to God, it becomes a religion to many, a worship loud in praise and aspiration as any that ever filled a church. And so is it with every form of idolatry of which man in these enlightened days can be guilty. It is the soul, in its restless pursuit of happiness, mistaking the true object of which it is in quest.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

The peasant women of Styria are in the habit of constantly eating a certain quantity of arsenic, in order to enhance their personal charms. It imparts a beautiful bloom to the complexion, and gives a full and rounded appearance to the face and body. For years they persevere in this dangerous practice; but if they intermit it for a single day, they experience all the symptoms of arsenical poisoning. The complexion fades, the features become worn and haggard, and the body loses its plumpness and becomes angular and emaciated. Having once begun, therefore, to use this cosmetic, they must in self-defence go on, constantly increasing the dose in order to keep up the effect. At last the constitution is undermined; the limit of safety is overpassed; and the victim of foolish vanity perishes miserably in the very prime of life. And is it not so with those who feed upon the poison of the world's idolatries? They may seem to thrive upon this insidious and dangerous diet, but all the time it is permanently impairing their spiritual health, and rendering them unfit for spiritual communion. The more they indulge in it, the more they must surrender themselves to it; and the jaded appetite is stimulated on to greater excesses, until at last every lingering vestige of spiritual vitality is destroyed, and the soul becomes a loathsome moral wreck, poisoned by its own food.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

There is such a thing as a wasting of the body from insufficient nutrition, even when the appetite is satisfied and the stomach content. A strange plant, called the nardoo, with clover-like leaves, closely allied to the fern tribe, grows in the deserts of Central Australia. A melancholy interest is connected with it, owing to the fact that its seeds formed for several months almost the sole food of the party of explorers who a few years ago crossed the continent. This nardoo satisfied their hunger; it produced a pleasant feeling of comfort and repletion. The natives were accustomed to eat it in the absence of their usual roots and fruits, not only without injury, but apparently with positive benefit to their health. And yet, day after day, Burke and Wills became weaker and more emaciated upon this diet. Their flesh wasted from their bones, their strength was reduced to an infant's feebleness, and they could only crawl painfully a mile or two in a day. At last, when nearing the bourne of their hopes, the explorers perished one by one of starvation; a solitary survivor being found in the last extremity under a tree, where he had laid him down to die, by a party sent out in search of the missing expedition. When analysed, the nardoo bread was ascertained to be destitute of certain nutritious elements indispensable to the support of a European, though an Australian savage might for a while find it beneficial as an alternative. And thus it happened that these poor unfortunate Englishmen perished of starvation, even while feeding fully day by day upon food that seemed to satisfy their hunger. Now, is it not precisely so in the experience of those who are seeking and finding their portion in earthly things? They are contented with it, and yet their hunger is in reality unappeased. Their desires are crowned, and yet they are actually perishing of want. God gives them their request, but sends leanness to their souls. Is it not far more dreadful to perish by slow degrees of this spiritual atrophy, under the delusive belief that all is well, and therefore seeking no change of food, than to be tortured by the indigestion of feeding on ashes, if by this misery the poor victim can be urged to seek for food convenient for him?

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Is not the very term most significant? What are ashes? They are the last solid products of matter that has been used up — the relics that remain after all that is useful and nutritious has been consumed. You burn a piece of wood or a handful of corn, and its grosser particles fall to the ground, while all its ethereal parts — its carbon and hydrogen — mount to the skies and disappear. It is a sad thing to gaze upon the ashes of the commonest fire; for in them there is an image of utter death and ruin — of something that has been bright and beautiful, and is now but dull, cold, barren dust. And what are earthly, created things, upon which so many are feeding the hunger of their immortal souls, but ashes? They were once bright and beautiful. God's blessing was upon them, and they were very good. But sin has consumed all their goodness and beauty, has burned up all in them that was capable of ministering to the spiritual wants of men, and left nothing behind but dust and ashes. We can apply this truth to all the world, so far as it is made the portion of the soul. In a moral sense, the whole world, which was once capable of ministering to man's spiritual wants, is now a mere heap of cinders. Its beauty has gone with its goodness, and its sufficing power with its holiness. It has become spiritually oxidised by combination with the all-devouring element of sin. The man that loves the world now feeds on ashes; not upon earth, for there is a degree of nourishment in soil, owing to the remains of former life, and the worm and the plant feed upon it; not upon clay, for the clay which the American-Indians eat is found to consist of microscopic plants with silicious envelopes, called diatoms, containing a small portion of organic matter sufficient to sustain existence; — no, but on dry, white, dusty ashes, utterly destitute of any nutritious element whatever, upon which no creature can live, and upon which almost no plant can grow — the refuse of everything that is good.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Some time ago, I read in the papers of a little boy who for months had been gathering up prune-stones, being fond of the kernel; so, wishing to prepare for himself a great treat, he laid up quite a large store: at last came the day of anticipated enjoyment; he ate them all, and, after hours of agony, died! So I have seen men who have given up their whole life to one aim, to amass wealth; preparing a banquet of enjoyment for the evening of their days; and, when they sat down to the feast, lo! on the table only ashes, ashes!

(J. T. Davidson, D. D.)

A deceived heart hath turned him aside.
: —

1. Consider seriously, what was the real origin of your unbelief. A father's house forsaken, and a father's instructions soon to be forgotten, you entered on the world. Passions rose within you. Companions encouraged them; religion checked them. Your belief became irksome to your indulgence; and your faith descended to doubts. It was natural and necessary that it should do so, if you meant to continue in your sins.

2. You have had times, no doubt, when you thought your course somewhat wrong; and, partly sated with such enjoyments, had some idea of turning from them. What, then, was the obstacle? Was it the difficulty which you had in accounting for the truth of revelation? Was it not the voice of pleasure whispering, Will you then renounce the joys which were once so dear to you? Here was the fatal obstacle. Not in the difficulties of revelation, but in the timidity and weakness of the heart.

3. If this be not true, go one step farther. Many have met with calamity; a death unexpected among your friends, some great and sudden change of fortune, which showed you the uncertainty of human happiness. In these cases, what was your resource? Did you go to the tables, whither before you had gone for pleasure? Was it in the society of those who "make a mock at sin "that you expected the gleam of comfort in the hour of sorrow? Your heart will own that, when you were in heaviness, you could think upon God. But religion's truth all the time remained the same. If, therefore, you doubted on it under the former situation, why not under the latter? Your heart deceived you. You did not disbelieve. You wished to do so; and passion blinded you. Affliction removed the veil from your heart.

4. But, living as we do in an age of boasted light, this reasoning will probably be considered as carried too far; and it will be urged by many a young man, that, although the passions may have had some influence in biassing his opinions, yet his doubts of the Gospel have arisen, in some measure, from his judgment. Let us, then, meet him on this ground. We expect, therefore, from you some striking argument that is to set aside at once the authority of ages and destroy the best hopes and resources of the human heart. And what do we find? A few common-place phrases and objections — doubts, not created by yourselves, but only received from others, and kept up by you, to preserve a kind of watchword of a party against believers.

5. But if you have not searched very deeply into these things yourself, they with whom you are in the habit of associating are adequate to give you sufficient religious instruction, and you have taken, you say, your creed chiefly from them. Let us, then, repair a moment to them. You profess yourselves general believers in a God, and possessed of some amiable virtues. How often in the assemblies of your friends and instructors is the name of God mentioned without irreverence? How seldom have you heard rigid virtue made the subject of discussion except to be ridiculed? Have you often heard beauty and innocence mentioned without some sentiment of an abandoned passion?

(G. Mathew, M. A.)

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