Isaiah 59:2
Your iniquities have separated between you and your God. Here is the secret. We can resist God's arm. Until the "iniquities" be confessed, deplored, and forsaken, there can be no salvation. God is ready to forgive; but are we ready to be forgiven? God has provided a Saviour; but it may be true of us, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Man is not a heart only; he is a will. And here lies our condemnation, not that we are not sometimes ashamed and even sorry, but that we will not repent, return, and believe.

I. THE TERM GIVEN TO SIN. "Iniquities;" that is, "inequities." Read the fourth verse, "None calleth for justice;" and the sixth verse, "The act of violence is in their hands." Unless we are willing to forgive and love and do justice to our brother, it is idle to talk about turning to God. Such religion is a sentiment, not a salvation. Then there are "inequities" in relation to God. We have been:

1. Unjust to his government.

2. We have robbed him of ourselves.

3. We have aided the forces of rebellion.

4. We have, in one word, done iniquity.

II. THE DISTANCE CREATED BY SIN. The separation is moral. He is near to us - close, indeed, to us as the air we breathe. But we are at opposite poles of the moral universe.

1. Separated in nature. We are not renewed in his image.

2. Separated in purpose. Our will is set against his will. All separations are painful. We see them in the family and in the nation. Wars and feuds abound on every side. So' we are alienated from the life of God. Christ, and he alone, can break down the middle wall of partition, and through faith in him we may be reconciled by one Spirit unto the Father. - W.M.S.







But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,
I. A DREADFUL EVIL THAT THIS PEOPLE WAS UNDER. Separation from God.

II. THE PARTY AT WHOSE DOOR THE BLAME LIES, they who have made the breach.

III. THE PROCURING CAUSE OF THIS EVIL, "your iniquities."

(T. Boston.)

I. WHAT IS THAT SEPARATION WHICH SIN MAKES BETWIXT GOD AND SOULS? Not a local separation, for "He is not far from every one of us, for in Him we live," etc.

1. In it there is something negative; i.e. the Lord denies them the influences of His grace, countenance and fellowship.

2. There is something positive in it: sin kindles a fire against the soul.(1) There is a standing controversy God has against sinners (Amos 3:3).(2) There is a pursuing of this controversy against the sinner; some positive outgoings of God's anger against the soul.

II. THE GREATNESS OF THE EVIL OF SEPARATION FROM GOD, which many go so light under. Alas! many reign like king Saul, when God departed from him; but how sad a thing this is, will appear if we consider —

1. What God is. Everything in God speaks terror to those that are separated from Him.

(1)God is the chief good; and therefore to be separated from God is the chief evil.

(2)God is all-sufficient in Himself, and to the creatures. The enjoyment of Him makes truly happy; therefore to be separated from Him is a dreadful evil.

(3)The omnipotence of God.

(4)The absoluteness of God.

(5)God is eternal.

2. All created things are empty and unsatisfactory.

3. To be separated from God is the saddest plague out of hell.

4. It is a very hell to be separated from God.

5. Those that continue in a state of separation from God, have no quarter to which they can turn for comfort in an evil day.

III. HOW SIN MAKES THIS SEPARATION BETWIXT GOD AND A SOUL.

1. There is a guilt of sin, whereby the sinner is bound over to misery for his sin.

2. There is the stain of sin.

(T. Boston.)

Homilist.
I. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO PLACE. Of course it remains true of every inhabitant of earth, and even of hell, that God is not far from every one of us. But sin has blunted, has even destroyed the sense of His nearness, has led men to feel as though He were far distant. As a man's iniquities increase God seems farther and farther from him, until at last he feels that heaven is too distant for him to reach, and God too far off to hear his prayers.

II. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO CHARACTER.

III. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO WILL. Separation of will is the most complete of all kinds of separation. Continents and oceans may divide men, and yet they may be one in heart and aim.

IV. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD AS TO INTEREST. It is to the interest of the sinner that there should be opportunity for indulgence in sin, that the punishment of sin should be removed, that the restraints of virtue should be broken down. We may well rejoice that God's interest is with all that is the opposite of this. It is God's aim that sin should be destroyed. Hence by fearful sufferings He brands it with disgrace. But God in His wonderful love has taken means to destroy this separation, and to draw us back to Him.

(Homilist.)

When separation comes to pass, the force of disseverment and alienation can only be that of sin.

1. He who is the spring of life can know neither impoverishment nor limitation, and the changes and fluctuations of the universe can no more project themselves into His being than the casting of a leaf or the shedding of a blossom from the tree can impair the vital force entrenched in its roots. The heathen man will sometimes say, "The gods are growing old; they are not so ready in helping their worshippers as when we were young.' An eternal Spirit is secure against such an innuendo. "His arm is not shortened that it cannot save."

2. And there can be no failure of care for our welfare or slackening off in His inclination to help us. Unless God be a fiction of the brain He must be predisposed to save and succour the people He has formed for Himself. The age-long impulse by which He draws men to religion is a sufficient proof of that. When we take into account what God really is, the chief mystery of the world is that any prayer in it should go unanswered, and the mystery is one with the mystery of iniquity itself. It was no wonder that He whose everlasting home had been in the bosom of infinite love should marvel at that which is so commonplace to us — unbelief. What a side-light does this cast upon the terrible significance of sin! It is the one thing which keeps God and His creatures apart.

3. The conditions of modern business life are sometimes adduced as an excuse for the waning spirit of prayer and the outfading consciousness of Divine help. If business does unfit its votaries for realizing God's presence and power, it can only be for one of three reasons, all alike bearing the taint of sin and justifying the declaration of the prophet. You seek unlawful ends in business, or you seek lawful ends by unlawful means, or the methods of conducting business tend to kindle within you unlawful passions.

4. We are sometimes ready to put down this tragic schism to the progress of scientific thought. Men's hearts are petrified by the new dogma that the order of the universe is unalterable, along with its godless corollary, that to pray is to fritter away time, strength, and vital force, and to vex one's own soul. Let the difficulties raised by the new science be freely allowed. Upon even devout minds these views of the uniformity of Nature and her methods, be they proven or unproven, may so act as to check the temper of prayerfulness. Temptation does take on intellectual forms as it addresses itself to thinking people. If a child were to find out that his father's estate had been signed over to trustees, and that for a certain term of years that father could not be altogether a free agent in providing for the wants of his household, all immediate expenditure being determined by some outside authority, and if on that ground the child were to break off relations with his father, would not that be the mark of a mean, depraved, repulsive character? Supposing that God had made Nature His plenipotentiary, or trustee, and for the time being had surrendered His own power of answering supplication for temporal benefits, it would surely be base in us to use that as a plea whereby to justify ourselves in restraining prayer before Him.

5. The problems of temperament are sometimes brought in to explain this tragic schism. Men palliate their callousness to prayer and their misgivings concerning its benefits by putting them down to deficiency of sentiment or imagination, matter-of-factness, poverty of the religious instinct, congenital disability answering to colour blindness in the physical realm. It is assumed, upon very slender proof, that a peculiar poise of the faculties disqualifies for enthusiastic spiritual beliefs. It may be allowed that from the intellectual standpoint people are variously endowed and equipped; but a man's religious history is not determined by the quality, condition, or specialized habits of the brain. It is simply impossible for a man to have capacity for common truth, practical righteousness, philanthropy, family life and friendship and yet to have no capacity for converse, with God, whose nature is the spring and animating principle of all these qualities. Man is religious by constitution and irreligious only by errancy of habit and practical life. Does prayer seem barren and God unresponsive and heaven very far off? It can only be explained by our lack of oneness with the Divine will and law.

6. The inscrutable methods of God's sovereignty are sometimes adduced to explain away this ominous separation referred to by the prophet. Now and again occasions arise when the Lord does seem to withdraw Himself from HIS people. There are inexplicable factors in God's dealings with us, but those factors belong chiefly to the sphere of providence rather than to that of grace. More often than not, it is sin which veils God and His goodness from the sad, breaking, woe-begone heart, and we shall not get out of the gloom by closing our eyes to the explanation and assuming that this terrible silence of the Most High, this apparent indisposition to help, at the mere thought of which the heart sickens and faints, is one of the decrees of His unsearchable sovereignty.

7. This separation is often veiled from us by the illusions of the senses and the pomps of this present evil world. It needs much courage and sobriety of mind to realize the perils with which it is fraught. The form assumed by our personal sin may be so secret and subtle that it is easy for us to think that, in our case at least, this is not the malign force which separates from God and makes His presence fleeting as a dream. We have not been guilty perchance of glaring, flagitious, anti-social transgressions which provoke the reproaches of those who watch our behaviour. Yet spiritual sins may cleave to us which work portentous mischief in the religious life.

(T. G. Selby.)

Near the source of one of the great rivers of the East there stands a Buddhist monastery of widespread fame, built on the edge of a beetling cliff. In the chasm beneath clouds are often seen floating, upon which the pilgrims who have climbed to the shrine look down. Under certain conditions of the sun and atmosphere a magnificent phenomenon appears. The sun, greatly enlarged and begirt with coruscations of prismatic splendour, is reflected upon the screen of vapours. From the central disc shafts of gold and purple and violet pulse and throb. The devotees call the sight "the glory of Buddha," and when the prismatic marvel appears, half mad with religious frenzy, they cast themselves into the palpitating mass of colour, falling unconscious suicides into the grim gulf below, to which only vultures and jackals can approach. And the separating chasm between ourselves and God is often filled up with a meretricious pomp that disguises its tragedies, and men are again and again betrayed into self-destruction. Perhaps it is a vision of the world with its wealth and power that scintillates there, the gorgeous phantoms which passed before the eye on the mount of the temptation. All the hues of Vanity Fair shimmer beneath our feet, and we think surely we may plunge into the iridescence that seems to beckon us. Or it may be the glory of Nature spreads itself athwart the yawning gulf. She interposes the magic of her shows, entices with the glory of her stately order, usurps the nimbus of a factitious sovereignty, and takes the very place of God Himself. The gulf dividing from God is hidden by her enchantments. Or, the rainbow glories of an aesthetic religion veil the deep moral separation. Men sometimes commit ethical suicide under the cover of an ornate worship. We cultivate art, music, the devices that enthral the senses, and call the product piety, forgetting that we are in no sense at one with God. Pageants superimpose themselves upon unwelcome facts, and underneath the circles of deceitful splendour there gape gulfs of deep and irretrievable perdition. If sin is ignored, unconfessed, unforsaken, if unflattering truths are obstinately disguised, we shall find at last that our capacity for communion with God is lost and our doom is an abyss from which there can be no uplifting.

(T. G. Selby.)

Pathologists found difficulty in identifying the bacillus of an epidemic that has become sorrowfully familiar to us; not only because it was one of the tiniest of all microscopic organisms, but chiefly because it could not be stained with the dyes used in studying other minute forms of life. Yet what a messenger of sorrow and death it was! This hideous trifle brought swift and cruel separation to husband and wife, ]parent and child, lover and friend, and put the silence and deep gloom of the grave between thousands of victims and the sweet sunny homes in which they would fain have tarried. Now some sins have a criminal dye .put upon them by statutory, law, are branded by the damnatory force of public opinion, or show red like crimson because of the disintegrating influence they begin to exert at once upon the individual and the society to which he belongs. Other sins do not stand out in conspicuous colours. Men have no apparent interest in describing them as atrocities. Unless we are watchful and cultivate keen spiritual perceptions, these more obscure forms of sin are apt to elude our consciousness. And yet they may separate between us and our God.

(T. G. Selby)

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