Give glory to the LORD your God before He brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the dusky mountains. You wait for light, but He turns it into deep gloom and thick darkness.
I. THE PRESENT IS TO BE REGARDED AS A GRACIOUS OPPORTUNITY FOR REPENTANCE AND SPIRITUAL SERVICE. The element of time in these, as in other prophecies, is left for the most part indefinite. Exact dates would defeat the purpose the message of the prophet has in view. It was sufficient for him to impress upon them that there would be but a short time between the present and the fate he had described. It was a sign of God's grace that he had been sent to warn them. They were to listen to his voice as to the voice of Jehovah. And in the event of repentance, that which was near at hand might be indefinitely postponed or altogether averted. But in any case the really essential work of repentance ought to be done whilst they had clear views of the nature of their sin and the requirements of God's Law. From Joshua 7:19 it is evident that the phrase, "Give glory to the Lord," meant nothing else than to repeat. It suggests the honor of God, which is acknowledged and felt by the humbled sinner as he bows before the footstool of grace and tells out the dark history of his sin. The lower he is in his own estimation the higher is that throne of glory before which he lies prostrate. And at such a time the grandest conceptions are given of the greatness, the power, and the love of God. His forgiveness shines forth in new, unspeakable splendor. And the restored sinner is eager to declare to others the grace which he himself has received. But all this is necessarily a work of time, and demands for its adequate fulfillment the full possession of our faculties and the clearest perceptions of truth.
II. THE RISKS INCURRED BY DELAY IN THESE DUTIES ARE THEN DESCRIBED. The figure is that of a traveler in a mountainous region who loses his way amongst the dark rocks until eventually the deepening gloom leaves him in despair and death. The picture is very vivid, and appeals to the deepest human feeling. It suggested the mental and spiritual confusion which were likely to arise from unlooked-for reverses, from captivity in a heathen land, and from forgetfulness of the traditions of Israel. But it is even more truly correspondent with the condition of those who have delayed making their peace with God until they have suffered mental eclipse, or been overtaken by the terror, the weakness, etc., of a death-bed. The worth of "a death-bed repentance" has been rightly discounted by every preacher and writer of the Church. There is but one instance of such a thing in Scripture. It is but seldom that resolutions formed under such circumstances, in the event of restoration to health, avail against the temptations and lifelong habits of the sinner. ? M.
I. THE COMMAND. One way in which we may obey this command is by confession of sin, the humbling of self before God on account of general unworthiness, and also on account of particular acts of sin. Our natural hearts think but little of sin in this light, as dishonouring to God; they are accustomed and inured to sin; and hence it excites no feeling of aversion, unless exhibited in its grosser forms. By the confession of sin, therefore, God is to be glorified, and how full the promises which God has connected with it! (Proverbs 28:13; Psalm 32:5; 2 Samuel 12:13.) Closely connected with this confession of sin there is a way in which we are called upon to "give glory to the Lord our God," and that is, by receiving God's offered salvation. The public means of grace have been afforded this year as usual. And yet the fact forces itself upon us, as painful as it is obvious, that there may be an outward participation in these privileges, and at the same time no glory given to God. There is nothing so dishonouring to God as unbelief, for in the solemn words of inspiration, "He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar," etc. We may observe, also, that when there is this exercise of faith, receiving God's offered salvation, its tendency is not to exalt the pride of man, but to ascribe all the glory to God: see, for example, Ephesians 1, where the grace of God is so fully set forth, and three times in that one chapter the expression occurs that every step of that salvation is "to the praise of His glory." But again, we may obey the command to give glory to the Lord our God by aiming to live according to His will. This can be effected by those only who are obeying the invitations of the Gospel; others have various aims in life, but if Christ is not received into the heart, they cannot live according to God's will. The Lord has a right to look for obedience in His professing people. We give glory to God, by simple childlike confidence in Him and in His providential care and love, by the discharge of the ordinary duties of life, conscientiously as in His sight, and by thus acting up to the spirit of that command, "Whether therefore ye eat or drink," etc. So, also, by submission to His will we are to give glory to God, that which is so easy when God's will runs parallel, so to speak, with our own — so hard when it runs counter to our natural desires. Then to glorify God in the fires, amid the various trials which every year brings in its course, trials which have to do with health, or circumstances, or bereavements; to sin not, nor charge God foolishly; like Aaron to hold our peace in mute submission when the heart is too full for utterance; to receive the gracious assurance given by the lips of our Divine Master, "Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" to know the loving sympathy of Him who has said, "I am He that comforteth you"; one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort thee." The various other ways in which we are to give glory to God, and live according to His will, may be summed up in the one expression, fruitfulness in good works.
Give glory to the Lord your God.I. AN EXHORTATION. What is meant by giving glory to God? To ascribe glory to His name, to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to show forth His glory, to confess Him before men, not only with our lips but in our lives, to believe on Him, to fear Him, to put our whole trust in Him, to call upon Him, to honour His holy Name and His Word, and to serve Him truly all the days of our life. But all these can be traced to two fountains.
1. By faith in Christ we glorify God.(1) It is His gift, and God is glorified in His gifts.(2) It is "the substance of things hoped for," brought home to the believer's mind; and these being things of glory beyond the veil, God is glorified by their manifestation.(3) It is "the evidence of things not seen, and thus brings glory to God, because it takes God at His word, and "sets to its seal that God is true," and glorifies Him in His truth.(4) Through it we are saved; it opens a window in the soul's dark dungeon, and lets in the glories of a crucified and an exalted Saviour; it opens a fountain of newborn hope in the mind, and that fountain is "Christ in us the hope of glory"; it brings back God's image, and restores in Christ what we lost in Adam. It is a lowly faith, and thus brings glory to God. It is a living faith; it comes from a living root, even the "root and the offspring of David." It is a loving faith. It is a working faith. It is a watching and a waiting faith — it watches for the coming of the Lord — it watches and "waits more than they that watch for the morning."
2. By repentance we glorify, or bring glory to God. The evidence or characteristic mark of this true repentance is holiness; we give glory to God by a holy spirit, — "Glorify Him," says the apostle, "in your bodies and spirits, which are His." We give glory to God by a holy life — "Let your light so shine before men," etc. We give glory to God by holy lips, for the Spirit, speaking by the Psalmist, says, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me."
II. THE MOTIVE. God never positively causes darkness, for He is not the author of evil — He does so negatively. The clouds and mists ascending from the earth obscure the light of the sun's beams from our sight, nevertheless, far above those mists and shadows, though invisible to us, that glorious orb is shining as undimmed and unbroken as before. Thus it is with God and His sinful people — our iniquities go up as a thick mist from the face of the earth, and our transgressions as a thick cloud, and separate between us and our God. What then is this darkness?
1. There is a spiritual darkness in man's soul — of despair.
2. There is a mental darkness caused by disease of the body affecting and effacing the mind.
3. There is a mortal darkness — the darkness of death. To a believer death has no sting, for Christ has plucked it away — to a believer death has no gloom, for Christ has passed through its dark vaults and left a track of light behind Him; but who can paint the darkness that settles round the deathbed of an ignorant or unbelieving sinner, who dies knowing nothing, fearing nothing, hoping nothing!
4. There is an immortal darkness — the darkness of hell.
(R. S. Brooke, M. A.)
1. Repentance implies a deep sorrow, as the beginning and introduction of this duty: not a superficial sigh or tear, not a calling ourselves sinners and miserable persons: this is far from that "godly sorrow that worketh repentance": and yet I wish there were none in the world, or none amongst us, who cannot remember that ever they have done this little towards the abolition of their multitudes of sins: but yet, if it were not a hearty, pungent sorrow, a sorrow that shall break the heart in pieces, a sorrow that shall so irreconcile us to sin, as to make us rather choose to die than to sin, it is not so much as the beginning of repentance. But I desire that it be observed that sorrow for sins is not repentance; not that duty which gives glory to God, so as to obtain of Him that He will glorify us. Repentance is a great volume of duty; and godly sorrow is but the frontispiece or title page; it is the harbinger or first introduction to it: or, if you will consider it in the words of St. Paul, "Godly sorrow worketh repentance": — sorrow is the parent, and repentance is the product. Let us, therefore, beg of God, as Caleb's daughter did of her father: "Thou hast given me a dry land, give me also a land of waters," a dwelling place in tears, rivers of tears; "that," as St. Austin's expression is, "because we are not worthy to lift up our eyes to heaven in prayer, yet we may be worthy to weep ourselves blind for sin." We can only be sure that our sorrow is a godly sorrow, when it worketh repentance; that is, when it makes us hate and leave all our sin, and take up the cross of patience or penance; that is, confess our sin, accuse ourselves, condemn the action by hearty sentence: and then, if it hath no other emanation but fasting and prayer for its pardon, and hearty industry towards its abolition, our sorrow is not reprovable.
2. No confession can be of any use, but as it is an instrument of shame to the person, of humiliation to the man, and dereliction of the sin; and receives its recompense but as it adds to these purposes: all other is like "the bleating of the calves and the lowing of the oxen," which Saul reserved after the spoil of Agag; they proclaim the sin, but do nothing towards its cure; they serve God's end to make us justly to be condemned out of our own mouths, but nothing at all towards our absolution. Our sin must be brought to judgment, and, like Antinous in Homer, laid in the midst, as the sacrifice and the cause of all the mischief.
3. Well, let us suppose our penitent advanced thus far, as that he decrees against all sin, and in his hearty purposes resolves to decline it, as in a severe sentence he hath condemned it as his betrayer and his murderer; yet we must be curious that it be not only like the springings of the thorny or the highway ground, soon up and soon down: for some men, when a sadness or an unhand. some accident surprises them, then they resolve against their sin; but as soon as the thorns are removed, return to their first hardness, and resolve then to act their first temptation. They that have their fits of a quartan, well and ill forever, and think themselves in perfect health when the ague is retired, till its period returns, are dangerously mistaken. Those intervals of imperfect and fallacious resolution are nothing but states of death: and if a man should depart this world in one of those godly fits, as he thinks them, he is no nearer to obtain his blessed hope than a man in the stone-colic is to health, when his pain is eased for the present, his disease still remaining, and threatening an unwelcome return. That resolution only is the beginning of a holy repentance, which goes forth into act, and whose acts enlarge into habits, and whose habits are productive of the fruits of a holy life.
4. Suppose all this be done, and that by a long course of strictness and severity, mortification and circumspection, we have overcome all our vicious and baser habits; suppose that we have wept and fasted, prayed and vowed to excellent purposes; yet all this is but the one half of repentance, so infinitely mistaken is the world, to think anything to be enough to make up repentance. But to renew us, and restore us to the favour of God, there is required far more than what hath yet been accounted for (2 Peter 1:4, 5). We must not only have overcome sin, but we must, after great diligence, have acquired the habits of all those Christian graces, which are necessary in the transaction of our affairs, in all relations to God and our neighbour, and our own persons. It is not an easy thing to cure a long-contracted habit of sin. Let any intemperate person but try in his own instance of drunkenness; or the swearer, in the sweetening his unwholesome language: but then so to command his tongue that he never swear, but that his speech be prudent, pious, and apt to edify the hearer, or in some sense to glorify God; or to become temperate, to have got a habit of sobriety, or chastity, or humility, is the work of a life.
(Bishop Jeremy Taylor.)
II. THE TIME FOR YIELDING THIS OBEDIENCE IS LIMITED. "Before He cause darkness," etc. In this figure the present time is compared to the day — the time for work, and for obedience, and for giving glory to God, — the time for guiding us safe through the narrow path that leads to heaven and home. Oh, how solemn is the thought of the uncertainty of life. How fearful that darkness must be when it overtakes the sinner groping about in life's byways, instead of being at the gates of the heavenly city, where all is light forever; life's work undone, and no more the call heard to glorify God, but the cry which excludes hope, "He that is unjust," etc.
(J. H. Holford, M. A.)
I. BY GIVING HIM BACK HIS OWN GLORY. There are three mirrors in which God's glory is seen. Now, of these mirrors, some are broken and some stained. The first mirror was stained by the sin of man — creation was stained and lost its glory and its beauty by the first stain on it. Oh! the breath of Adam's corruption comes as a thick fog on the face of the glass, and until that thick fog is removed, we shall not see God's glory in the creation. The second mirror is the Word. The Word is stained, the steam of our own corruption goes forth, our darkened understandings, our stubborn will, our adulterous affections, our perverse imaginations send forth a filthy effluvia, and the filthy effluvia gathers into a thick and impenetrable mist, and that covers the glass. Besides that, there is the darkness of hell. But when the Holy Spirit removes the cloud and enables you to look into the mirror — into the cleansed and polished mirror, — then you behold the glory of God. Again, there is a third glass, the glass of the Church. This glass is broken, the visible Church now is not presenting the glory of God; the visible Church now is as a mirror shattered into a thousand fragments, and until the Holy Ghost comes and joins together these shattered fragments of the mirror, we never shall see God in the Church. The principal glory of the Church is holiness — there is no glory like that! but there is another glory which the Church has lost — and she ought not to have lost it — she has lost it, however, through unbelief — I mean the glory of power from God. We ought to have the gifts of the Spirit among us now as well as His graces; and I do believe, when you shall be brought to pray for the same — when you shall be brought to expect the promise of the Father, the Lord will respond to your prayer, and all creation shall testify in a moment that He is a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God.
1. Now, to come more closely, we give glory to God when we see Him as He is — when we see Him as a Father — when we do not see the doctrine about Him as a Father, but see Himself as a Father.
2. We give glory to God when we behold His love in Christ, and are delighted with that love.
3. We give glory to God in a third particular, when we yield ourselves to His Spirit.
II. We give glory to God WHEN WE GIVE GOD CREATED GLORY. The first thing is to catch His own glory and send it back, and the second, to give Him created glory. In giving God created glory, begin with your own heart — that is the centre nearest to you, begin with the hearts of your brethren, the heart of your wife, the heart of your child, the heart of your father, the heart of your servant, the heart of your neighbour, the heart of your landlord, the heart of your tenant, endeavour to get all their hearts given to God, as His throne and dwelling place, and then have the hearts of all you can speak an affectionate word unto, given unto God. Then go out over all creation, and endeavour to give all creation to God; endeavour to take the gold of the world, endeavour to take the fruits and the flowers of the world, and give them to God. You behold the religion of God like the famed river of Grecian song which cannot come to any land without irrigating that laud with golden sands, and you desire to send the stream of God's religion, which restrains evil and cherishes virtue, which rescues man from sin, and enstamps on him holiness, you endeavour to mend that over the length and breadth of the moral world, that it may go as a stream of richness, a stream of fertilisation, a stream of refreshing and beauty over every part of the wide world.
(N. Armstrong.)I. THE REPENTANCE DEMANDED OF US IN SCRIPTURE differs widely from a mere transient regret at having done wrong, and a passing resolve, that we will abstain for the future from certain grosser misdoings. The repentance which conducts to salvation is a thorough change of the whole man, commencing with new views of the nature of sin, and of its character as committed against a God of unbounded loving kindness, and gradually overspreading the life and conversation, till all around recognise that fresh creation which undeniably attests Divine interference.
1. Take the sense which a true penitent has of the nature of sin, and the confession, as well by action as by word, which that sense will dictate. There is nothing which more strikingly distinguishes man in his natural state from man in his renewed state, than the difference in the estimates which the two form of sin. The wonder with the natural man is, why sin should be everlastingly punished; the wonder with the renewed man is, how a thing so heinous can ever find pardon. Then if from the present we pass to the future, and observe the alleged consequences of transgression extending themselves like lines of fire through all the spreadings of man's after existence, why, more than ever the stranger to repentance will be sensible of that recoil and jar of feeling which indicates suspicion that God is not just in thus taking vengeance. But how different is it with the renewed — that is, with the penitent man! God appears righteous in taking vengeance; this is the discovery, this the unhesitating conviction of the individual in whose mind are the workings of genuine repentance. But if it be true, according to these showings, that to exhort a man to repent is to exhort him to pass from the condition in which his notions of sin obscure all God's dealings, to one in which they illustrate and vindicate those dealings — from the entertainment of the suspicion that the Creator may do wrong, to entertaining the assurance that the Creator does right in exacting everlasting penalties; if this be true, then surely repentance, as including a right sense of sin, may be identified with glorifying God.
2. Consider the confession, as well by action as by word, which a true penitent will make of his sin, and see whether such confession will not give glory to God. "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him." Making confession, you observe, is associated, or rather identified, with the giving God glory. When Achan owned that he had taken of the accursed thing, he publicly proclaimed that God had shown Himself omniscient as having brought to light what no eye but his own had observed. The acknowledgment, moreover, was proof to the nation, that God had not smitten without cause, and that His threatenings always take effect; thus witnessing, so that the whole congregation would understand the testimony, to the justice, authority, and holiness of Jehovah. For he who, moved by the workings of a righteous contrition, falls before his Maker, and confesses himself a sinner, owns to the having forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewn out to himself cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. When he uses the tongue which is emphatically described as the best member which we have, in testifying to the evil of departure from God, in asserting the truth of what God hath uttered in regard of man's fallen estate, and the necessity that we return unto holiness if we would attain unto happiness, this confession of sin carries with it an announcement to all who here try the Word by the test of experience, as it would hereafter to the breathless onlookers as the strange work of judgment goes forward, that there is an ascertained righteousness in God's dealings with unrenewed men as with traitors to that government which extends wheresoever there is moral accountableness. In acknowledging myself a sinner, I acknowledge myself a rebel against the Almighty, and thus out of my own mouth the eternal justice would be vindicated if there were pronounced upon me that sentence of banishment which is yet to be heard by an impenitent multitude; and certainly if that confession of sin which is a fruit or element of repentance can in any degree cause God to be justified when He speaks, and clear when He judges, there can be no debate that in this very degree it brings honour to God; in other words, it explains what is done in the text, where, summoning men to repent, the prophet summons them to give glory to God. And oh! there is a confession which is far stronger, and more productive of glory than that of the lip, even that of the life. Repentance, whatever its internal workings, amounts in its outward demonstration, which is known and read of all men, to a complete change of conduct.
II. THE PROPHET LAYS DOWN A LIMITATION AS TO TIME. "Before." There is a whole volume of intelligence, and that, too, startling and touching intelligence, in this one word. It is as much as to say, You cannot avoid giving it at one time or another; you must give it after if you refuse to give it before. Give it, therefore, while it may be accepted as an offering, and defer it not until it be exacted as a penalty. And certainly it is a truth which but little reasoning would suffice to establish, that glory will finally be won to God from every section of the universe, and from every member of that intelligent family with which its spreadings are peopled. The power of refusing to give God glory will expire with death, when the day of probation has been followed by the day of condemnation; and beyond all doubt, in the punishment of the reprobate as in the happiness of the righteous, there shall be a perpetual harvest of honour unto God. Hell, as well as heaven, must be the scene for the display of the Divine attributes; and wherever these attributes have place of development, there undoubtedly the Almighty is glorified. And therefore, I do not say of the dying sinner, going hence in his ungodliness, that he has outlived all opportunity of giving glory to God; we rather say of him that he has just reached the necessity of giving glory to God. A moment more — oh! even in that moment he might grasp the Cross; but let that moment be another and the last of dishonour done to God, and infinity is before him, paved with the burning tribute which has here been withheld, so that to die in rebellion is only to transfer to eternity arrears which eternity cannot exhaust. We leave the combination in its inexplicable awfulness: we have no language for a state where the fire is unquenchable, and yet the darkness is impenetrable. We thank God we may yet all give glory before our feet stumble, and before the day closes. We are not yet on the dark mountains; it may be, we are approaching them. The old must be approaching them — the young may be approaching them; but if we seem to behold them on the horizon — the gloomy, frowning masses — still the Sun of Righteousness hath not yet gone down on our firmament; still there needs nothing but the looking in faith unto Jesus, "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification," and the beams of that Sun shall edge, as with a line of gold, the dark and dreaded rampart, or rather throw a transparency into the stern barrier, so that it shall seem to us to melt into the garden of hope, the land where the river of life is ever flowing, and the tree of life is ever waving.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(R. A. Bertram.)
Before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains
I. The darkness of AFFLICTION.
1. You are now happy, let us suppose, beyond many around you in the world. Your health is unimpaired, and your strength fails not. But where is your security that this state of things shall continue? May not the pestilence that walks in darkness creep silently into your midnight bed? Give now, then, glory to God ere health is taken from you, and you wander on the dark mountains of disease.
2. Or, it may be, your friendships and connections are all blessed of heaven. Now, then, give glory to God; for, sooner than you apprehend, the days of darkness may fall, and your happiness vanish as a dream. Those little ones who now cheer your dwelling may soon go to swell the congregation of the dead; or, worse even than that, some of them, fair as is now their early promise, may fall in temptation's hour into follies, or crimes, which shall make you wish rather that they had never been born.
3. Or, once more, your worldly circumstances are fair and flourishing. You have, if not great wealth, what is better, a competent portion of good things; and, while many cry for bread when there is none to give them, you have enough and to spare. But soon, perhaps, your substance shall be dissolved as snow, and your riches take to themselves wings as eagles. Now, then, "give glory to God," ere your feet stumble on the mountains of destitution.
II. The darkness of INSANITY. Ye whose reason is now sober, whose judgments are now clear, whose understandings are now acute and comprehensive, — are you sure that so they shall continue to the end? Did you never know any instance of a human creature, once as calm and rational as you, hurried as by a whirlwind into the vortex of insanity? Did you never know a case, where neither hereditary transmission, nor constitutional temperament, nor evil habits, could have made way for reason's loss? And where, then, is the security that yours shall not be the lot of those who call truth error, and error truth? That would be darkness indeed, yea, gross darkness, and the very shadow of death. Is it not wise, then, now to give glory to God, lest haply your feet should stumble on that dark mountain?
III. The darkness of DESPAIR. It is an awful condition that of a human creature at once apprehensive of judgment and incredulous of mercy. Sometimes this mental depression is a constitutional infirmity, and results more from a finely sensitive nature than a habitually depraved heart. Sometimes, too, it is owing to a gloomy system of theology, which would ordain those to be sorry whom God has not commanded to make sad. And sometimes it is the fruit of educational seeds, growing up at length even as the grapes of Sidon. But in the great majority of instances, the cause of the distemper is previous impenitence. The soul, having at length become alive to a sense of its guiltiness and danger, sinks into the depths of despair, says of itself, "No hope, no hope"; and to those who would administer comfort if they could, replies only, "Miserable comforters are ye all!" That which a philosopher has remarked concerning the earthquake, is eminently true of such a state as this. One may escape from pestilence, from famine, and from sword. The storm and tempest may be run from. The cloud that is as yet no bigger than the hand of a man may be seen afar off, and, when discerned, a refuge may be sought from it. The inundation of waters may be escaped by a timely flight; and even the lightning of heaven may be conducted by a safe passage from our dwellings. But the motions of the earthquake arise in a moment, and surprise one into an agony of alarm. Even thus it is with despair, "that worst enemy of the sinner's soul." The desponding spirit sits down at the gate of death, and refuses to be comforted. "Give glory then to God, before your feet stumble on the dark mountains."
IV. The darkness of DEATH and the GRAVE. Between that darkness and you there may be only a single step. The eleventh hour may be about to sound its solemn knell, and the sentence may go forth, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee." The lamp of life may be well supplied with oil, and yet it may burn only for a brief season. An unexpected breath of wind may extinguish it in a moment; and you know that, in the grave, that cannot be done which has been left undone. Now, therefore, give glory unto God before your feet stumble on the dark mountains. Do bug think how unworthy an offering to Him would be the "relies and refuse" of a wicked life; and consider that, even although the night of death may, in your case, be preceded by an evening of sickness, it is most perilous to delay commencing the work of religion to a season when the memory may have become treacherous, the moral feelings blunted, and the conscience seared. Think, too, even should you retain the use of all your mental faculties to the last, how difficult it will be for you to assure yourselves that your repentance is of the right sort, — that which is unto salvation, and needeth not to be repented of.
V. The darkness of HELL. The future torments of the wicked, as well as the felicities of the just, it is far beyond the power of imagination to comprehend. The most calamitous condition in which a human being may be placed on earth admits of some relief: let a man be ever so much afflicted, desolate, or forsaken, there is commonly some comfort to be had. The sympathy of others at least may be extended to him; or, if even this be wanting, he has the prospect of getting his sufferings terminated by death. But in regard to the torments of the wicked in a future life, it is not so. There the misery is unmingled, and the pain undiverted by any soothing application. The fountains of sympathy are there dried up; compassion is unknown; nor can even death itself be looked forward to. Add to this, that all the tormenting passions will then be let loose upon the guilty soul And if even one of these passions, when brought into full action, is maddening here, what shall not the effect be there, when all that is fierce and malignant in its own nature shall war against the soul? Only think what shame does — what sorrow, what despair, what hatred do — in the present life; and then conceive, if you can, what all of them together will do for a condemned spirit in the future state. If this be the end of the ungodly (and that it is so the God who cannot lie has solemnly assured us), give glory to God before your feet stumble on the dark mountains.
(J. L. Adamson.)I. CONTEMPLATE THE WANDERERS. Darkness is used in Holy Scripture to denote that repugnance to God and spiritual things which sin produces in the mind (Isaiah 9:2; Romans 1:21). Talk to them of these things, and their sealed lips and cold indifference will prove that they have not been taught the way of righteousness by the Spirit of truth. And no wonder (1 Corinthians 2:14). But this condition is not forced upon men by any irresistible power. It is true that they are all born in sin and "shapen in iniquity" (Psalm 51:5); but the remedy for their blindness is ever at hand, if they would but receive it. Here, then, we see the culpability of their state; it is willing ignorance; they refuse to be enlightened (John 3:20). No wonder, therefore, that they prefer the dark mountains of sin in order that they may pursue, as they list, the forbidden works of darkness (Job 24:13). And this rebellion against the light may be traced up to the depravity of their hearts. They are not only willingly ignorant, and therefore criminally guilty, but their affections are corrupted. Here, again, we have another idea suggested by the term darkness, It implies the moral pollution of human nature, which is opposed to that inward purity which the light of the Holy Spirit communicates. The heart of the wicked is actually depraved and vitiated; and from that source, as from a contaminated fountain, flow the copious streams of ungodliness and worldly lust.
II. EXPOSE THEIR DANGER.
1. As we dwell attentively on the scene thus brought before us, we discover that these mountains are overspread with many rough places and pitfalls. No wonder, then, that, encompassed as they are with darkness, without a light or a truthful guide, we see many of those wanderers continually falling. We picture to ourselves that young man, just released from the parental restraints of home, wandering up the side of yonder dark mountain in the depth of night. He does not mean to wander far, and he thinks he can easily retrace his steps at will. But although to those whose eyes are spiritually opened it is dark and sterile ground, it possesses for him a secret and seductive attraction, which leads him on and farther still he goes.
2. They were not happy when they began the dismal journey, and they have never been happy since; but we see them stumbling into greater miseries at every step they take.
3. As we gaze upon these wanderers, we see by the light of the text a thicker darkness overspreading the mountains, and some are rapidly lost to our sight in the impenetrable gloom. At first we see but a comparatively light cloud, the cloud of affliction. That poor wanderer has squandered his health in the service of sin; and now he is brought low, he can enjoy sin no longer. As our vision is still resting on the dark mountains, another cloud arises; see it shooting forth the forked lightnings of God's judgments, and many are the victims it brings low.
III. ENFORCE THE EXPOSTULATION OF THE TEXT. To give glory to God is to honour Him, and God is honoured when we turn to Him with hearty repentance, and submit ourselves in obedience to His authority.
(W. D. Brock, B. A.)I. IN THE ONWARD WAY OF YOUR LIFE DARK MOUNTAINS LIE BEFORE YOU, WHICH YOU MUST CROSS FOR YOUR FURTHER PROGRESS. We may travel for a time along the pleasant greensward of youth, but as we advance to our middle life and ripest years, we must expect to ascend acclivities, and clamber up steeps unknown to our earlier career. By and by, if we have not before met with them, we shall espy mountainous heights right across our road, and there will be no avoidance of them. These we must traverse, and they will tax all our strength to the utmost. "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards." One of these mountains may be that of worldly adversity, an obscure position in society, the want of a suitable opening, and the toil and sadness connected with insufficient means. Or it may be, whilst you are happily exempt from this, you have a more mountainous obstacle in your delicate and precarious health. Disappointments, too, reverses, losses, may trouble you as they trouble others, and make your life way uphill, stony, and rugged. You may find yourself, moreover, ere you are aware, clambering up to the top of a long and toilsome height, and when you gain the summit there yawns beneath you, on the other side, a terrific precipice, down which, if you fall, your destruction is inevitable. This is the hilltop of temptation, and to each of us there comes at intervals an evil day, when a solitary false step on our part will ruin us for this life and the future. We climb, too, a sharp mountain of sorrow when we stand by the bedside of those whom, though we love, we shall see them here no more, and presently follow the form that embodied them in its passage to the grave that shall hide it. Some, and it may be many, of these mountainous acclivities you will have to traverse. Look, and you will see them; then make ready for the steep ascent. There is one mountain height to which I have not referred, up which, if you have not yet crossed it, sooner or later you must travel. You are a stoner. Sin involves punishment. As surely as you have sinned, so surely you must reap the consequences. There will come a time to you, if it has not yet come, when your sin will cause you grief. This mountain, whether of repentance or remorse, may likely prove a steep and high one. It will be hard work for your soul to get up over it. It is these mountain ranges of our way that invest our life here with such awful solemnity and grandeur. The big sorrows that beset us, give a solid reality to our existence, and stamp it with dignity and worth. God's will is, that each of us shall he equal and superior to the life obstacles He has adapted to us. You must climb them; you can't help yourself; you must move onward.
II. THE NATURAL DARKNESS OF THESE MOUNTAINS WILL BE ALLEVIATED OR INTENSIFIED BY OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. If you are right with God, and are giving Him glory in your life, God will be a light to you as you ascend your difficult way. And that light, too, will give you strength. You will see where you are, and whither you are going; the hilltop will not be so far off, the path thitherward, though meandering and tortuous, will be discernible, and the track of footsteps before you will give you cheer. Ay, and with the light of heaven around you, there will be the strength of heaven within you; and as the natural darkness of the mountain will be swallowed up in the light of heaven, so the weakness of your heart will be forgotten in the strength that is imparted. The Holy Spirit will testify that you are a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, for what son is he a father chasteneth not? And if, for a moment, you should fail, you will feel a hand helping you upward, and hear a voice cheering you onwards; and should it come almost to the worst, as with Jesus in Gethsemane, there will be an express angel from heaven to strengthen you. Should you, I say, when you come to these mountain troubles of your way, be in close relationship to God, giving glory to Him in your life, you will prove His presence and His help; you will see His light and His favour, and will find needful strength to enable you to prosecute your course. But should this not be so; should you, apart from God and alienate from His love, be pursuing your life career merely by the natural force which is derived from your animal and mental vigour; should you unexpectedly find yourself at the base of a mountainous trouble, whose steep sides ascend with a frightful incline, on whose summit, overhangs a portentous cloud, casting its deep shadows all along your appointed way — your situation will be deplorable indeed.
III. HOW MAY THESE, EVILS BE AVOIDED? "Give glory to the Lord your God." The Lord is your God, your Creator, your Proprietor, your Sustainer, your Provider, your Defender, your Helper, your Governor, your Guide. On Him you depend, and in Him you live. Without Him you are nothing; in Him you are complete and full. You are so constituted by Him, and have such capacities given you, that you can know Him, admire Him, love Him, and serve Him. He expressly made you that you should do this. It is the design of His creation, the intent of your existence. If you achieve this, you answer His purpose and satisfy His mind. If you fail in this, you thwart His intention and disappoint His expectation.
(W. T. Bull, B. A.)
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