to say to the prisoners, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Show yourselves.' They will feed along the pathways, and find pasture on every barren hill.
I. ITS MOST STRIKING CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Spiritual restoration. "To establish the earth," or rather to restore the land, and to bring about the repossession by their true owners of the "desolate heritages." In the kingdom of Christ humanity, that had "lain waste" and had produced all kinds of noxious and ugly growths, should be recultivated, bear its own true feints of peace and righteousness, and be a land restored.
2. Spiritual freedom. To the prisoners of sin, of folly, and of vice, the commanding word will be addressed, "Go forth" (ver. 9); and they will walk in the atmosphere of sacred freedom.
3. Abundance of truth. The disciples of Christ are "the children of light;" they walk in the light of his holy truth (ver. 9).
4. The sheltering and providing power of the sovereign Saviour. The present Lord shall satisfy their hungering hearts, shall slake their spirits' thirst, shall shelter them from the heats of strong temptation, shall supply them with all-sufficient grace for their recurring need (ver. 10). All its swings are in him and he is near to minister to all their wants.
II. THE OPENNESS OF THE WAY TO ITS FULL ESTABLISHMENT. (Vers. 11, 12.) In the arrangements of Divine providence, when Jesus Christ came and introduced his gospel to the world, there were ready three things that were wanted to carry it over the world.
1. A missionary people - supplied by the Jewish nation, in whom were all the elements of moral worth and religious enthusiasm.
2. A suitable language - supplied by the Greeks.
3. A highway to distant lands - supplied by Roman roads and Roman laws. And the new faith, which seemed certain to perish as soon as it was born, grew and spread on every hand. It was as if the very obstructions were "away." Difficulties disappeared; a "great door and effectual was opened." And in our time the way is being further opened. Exploration, human science, international treaties, even war itself, is levelling the separating hills and bridging the dividing gulfs; and even into the very heart of China (Sinim?) the missionary is penetrating with the truth of Christ.
III. ITS ACCEPTABLE HOUR. The era in which we live is one in which the Father of all is disposed to bless and save. It is "a day of salvation." The atoning work is wrought; the Divine Spirit is ready to regenerate and renew; the Word of truth and grace is multiplied; great is the company of the preachers.; the Churches of Christ are fast awaking to a sense of their obligation and their opportunity. It is a time to pray, to work, and to look for God's favouring presence and redeeming power. - C.
That thou mayest say to the prisoners, go forth.
I. I have to try to FIND OUT THE CHARACTERS mentioned in the text: "Them that are in darkness."
1. They were not always in darkness. She was a bright young spirit once, after a fashion; and he, — I know him very well, — seemed to be everything that mirth could make youth to be. But, on a sudden, there came a cloud in the sky, both to her and to him. It may be that a death happened in the family, or sickness came, or if it was neither of these things, at any rate, the mind suddenly grew strangely quiet, and a stillness came down upon the spirit, and with that stillness there fell a gloom over the whole being. What were those thoughts that brought such a sobering influence into the life? I can tell you about them from my own experience. I thought, "I have not lived as I ought to have lived. God made me, yet I have never truly served Him. He is my mother's God, but I have forgotten Him; my father's God, yet I have never sought Him. What shall I do? God must punish me," &c. I seemed plastic as wax towards evil, yet hard as cast-iron or steel towards anything that was good. Then I grew sad in soul. I read my Bible a great deal, and the more I read it the more the darkness thickened about me, &c. This is the gateway into a joy that will be worth your having.
2. Besides this, a sense of sin has settled upon you.
3. The soul I am describing is in the dark, and the darkness settles down in conviction of sin. You have no hope.
4. You fear future and eternal night. It is to people in such a state that the Gospel of Christ is sent.
II. I am going to REPEAT THE EXHORTATION of the text: "Show yourselves."
1. It means that you are running away from Divine justice, and that your wisest course will be to go and deliver yourself up. Do you not know that you are not really hidden? God sees you wherever you are; there is no hiding away from Him That is the very first thing for you to do; to submit yourself to God, to lie at His feet pleading for mercy.
2. The next way of showing yourselves is somewhat different: "Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves"; that is, you are very lonely, and you have been avoiding your best friends. Come out of your retirement. If you cannot speak to any mortal man, yet speak to the Immortal Man; go and tell out all your sorrow to the best of friends.
3. This passage may be applied to you who are sick, who are concealing your disease. I want every man who is troubled about the state of his heart, and every woman too, to come and show themselves to Christ, just as they are, in all their sire
4. The next thing you have to do is to show yourselves As healed ones, bound to confess Him who has cured them.
5. But I am going to carry the text a little farther yet. There are some young men, perhaps some young women also, who have been saved; they are no longer in the dark, and God has given them grace, and talents, yet still they are hiding themselves away. They are chosen ones loth to take their place of service. If the Lord has saved you, and if He is pleading for you in heaven, it is time you began to plead for Him on earth.
6. Our text applies also to persecuted ones who shall be owned and honoured of God. There will come a day when God's people, who have long been in the dark through persecution, slander, and misrepresentation, shall hear the Lord speaking to them out of heaven, and saying, "Gather My saints together unto Me; those that nave made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." "Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves." What a change will come for God's poor despised people in that day!
7. These words also relate to dead ones called to resurrection.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
They shall feed in the ways.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. They who follow Him shall find in the dusty paths of common life, and in all the smallnesses and distractions of daily duty, nourishment for their spirits. Do you remember what Jesus said? "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." We, too, may have the same meat to eat which the world knows not of. That is a great promise, and it is a great duty.(1) It is a promise, the fulfilment of which is plainly guaranteed by the very nature of the case. Religion is meant to direct conduct, and the smallest affairs of life are to come under its imperial control, and the only way by which a man can get any good out of his Christianity is by living it.(2) But this is a great duty as well as a great promise. How many of us Christian people have but little experience of getting nearer to God because of our daily occupations! Therefore we need times of special prayer and remoteness from daily work; and there will be very little realisation of the nourishing power of common duties unless there is familiar to us also the entrance into the "secret place of the Most High," where He feeds His children on the bread of life.
2. Further, my text suggests that for those who follow the Lamb there shall be greenness and pasture on the bare heights. Strip that part of our text of its metaphor, and it just comes to the blessed old thought, that the times of sorrow are the times when a Christian may have the most of the presence and strength of God. "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied." Our prophet puts the same thought, under a kindred though somewhat different metaphor, in another place in this book where he says: "I will open rivers in high places." That is clean contrary to nature. The rivers do not run on the mountain-tops, but down in the low ground.
3. May I turn these latter words of our text a somewhat different way, attaching to them a meaning which does not belong to them, but by way of accommodation? If Christian people want to have the bread of God abundantly, they must climb.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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