You have deceived me, O LORD, and I was deceived. You have overcome me and prevailed. I am a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.
I. THE SPIRITUAL NECESSITY OF HIS POSITION IS ALTERNATELY COMPLAINED OF AND ACQUIESCED IN. The saint cannot always continue amidst his highest experiences. There are ups and downs, not only of our actual outward circumstances, but of our inward spiritual states. Do not condemn Jeremiah until you are able to acquit yourself. The heavenly mind is not formed easily or at once. There is an inward cross m every true heart, upon which it must needs "die daily." But "the powers of the world to come" ever tend to increase their hold upon the believer. This alternation of mood and feeling is a necessary accompaniment of spiritual growth. Some day the heart will be fixed. "The reproach of Christ" will then be esteemed "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." This is what we should strive after - inward oneness of heart and purpose with our Master.
II. HIS EXPERIENCE IS TRANSITIONAL.
1. From doubt to faith. (Vers. 11, 12.)
2. From sorrow to joy. (Ver. 13.)
3. One day the struggle will end in triumph. - M.
have to support faith. On the other hand, we must beware of the temperament which ever occupies itself with life's disappointments, and fails to see its progress and success. Now, I admit that if there were that complete breach between the real and ideal which appears to be, the problem would be utterly insoluble. But it is not so. In the first place, it is not correct to speak of the world of fact and the world of aspiration as separate and distinct, for the aspiration is one of the facts. It is a part of that unto which it aspires. The aspiration after goodness is itself good, and all prayer for spiritual excellence is part of its own answer. There is no clear line between the ideal and the real, for the ideal is a part of man as he is, and he is a part of the world as it is. When we ask whether we shall learn God's character from that which He has accomplished in the world, or from the ideal which stirs the soul, we forget that that soul with its ideal is a part of what He has done. Man, with his sense of duty, with all his yearnings for purer and diviner being, is a part of the world as it is; the ideal is partly actual; prophecy is history at its highest range. If only one man desired that society should be righteous and pure, society could not be judged without that man. The power of an ideal may culminate in a great person, find in him an exceptionally brilliant expression, and reach the point at which it commands the world; but he is always a sharer in the conditions he condemns, and the men he condemns have helped to make him what he is. He may be as different from the average society as the blossom is from the stem on which it grows, but that society conditions him as the stem conditions the blossom. This is the fact which the prophet is liable to forget. It was as true of Jeremiah as of Thomas Carlyle, that he made the blackness blacker than it was. Jeremiah was not as lonely as he himself thought he was. If that nation had been utterly faithless, such faith as his could not have been born in it. So, though the prophet must condemn the actual, because he is swayed by the ideal, and is a divinely discontented man, working for progress, yet his very existence proves that that progress has already been the order of God, and has produced him. That there is a contradiction between what is and what ought to be is true, but it is not the whole truth. Strictly speaking, nothing is, but everything is becoming. We are in the process of a Divine evolution in which the ideal is forever actualising itself. The contradiction is not ultimate, nor the breach complete. What cannot we hope, for instance, of a race that counts one Jesus among its members? He is, then, an example of what we may become, and our representative before God. In like manner, surely, when God judges the human race, He does not judge it with its best specimens left out; He takes its highest points into consideration. He does with the race what you and I do with the individual — takes its best as its real self, as that to which it shall one day fully attain. And when we think that Jesus, and all that He was, is a part of the actual history of the world, then we say that the richest ideals that ever sway our souls are justified by the history of our race — God is not deceiving us. Let us try to remember this when we come to bitter disappointments in life's work. When the prophet finds, as find he will, that multitudes do not listen, but mock and deride, let him nevertheless be sure that the good and the true must prevail. Some disappointments are inevitable. It is of the very nature of an ideal to make life unsatisfactory; a spirit so possessed can never rest in what is, but will forever press forward to that which is before. To be content with all things as they are is to obliterate the distinction between good and bad, between right and wrong. No high-souled man will settle matters so. But some of our bitterest disappointments come from the fact that the form in which the ideal shapes itself in our mind is necessarily defective, and that our scheme of work is consequently partial and one-sided. This was a constant source of trouble to the prophets of Israel. We get many of our disappointments in a similar way. Here are two men, for instance, whose souls are stirred by the ideal of a renovated world in which righteousness and love shall reign. Each think of bringing it about chiefly in one particular way, the former, perhaps by some scheme of social reform, the latter by a certain type of gospel preaching. Both will be very disappointed; the world will not come round to them as they wish. And yet while these two men are groaning under their disappointments, the fact is that the world is all the time advancing, though not in their way. The man who thinks that his particular gospel is the only thing that can possibly save the world finds the world very indifferent to that gospel, and thinks that it is going to perdition, while all the time it is going onward and upward to higher and better things. But the truth is, that the world's progress is far too great to be squeezed into any one creed, or scheme, or ordinance, and you cannot measure it by any of these. Attempt that, and while you bemoan your discouragements and think ill of the world, humanity will sweep onward, receiving its marching orders from the throne of the universe. For practical purposes we must confine our energies chiefly to one or two ways of doing good, but if we only remember that when we have selected our way it is but a small fragment of what has to be done, that other ways and methods are quite as necessary, we shall save ourselves from much personal trouble, and from much ill-judgment of others. But even when we have done our best, there will still be some adverse results. These must not dishearten us. If there be in our heart "as it were a burning fire," and we become weary of silence and cannot contain, then let the fiery speech flow, however cold the world. We must obey the highest necessities of our nature. Our best impulses and purest desires are the word of God to us, which we have to preach. With this conviction we can go on with our work, disappointments notwithstanding. Nothing is more evident in reviewing history than the continuity of Divine purpose. It is the unfolding of a plan. It is full enough of evil and of sorrow, and yet "out of evil cometh good," and "joy is born of sorrow." It is full enough of error, and yet, somehow, even error has been used to preserve truth. Out of mistakes and superstitions have come some of the greatest truths. The greatest tragedy of history was the crucifixion of Jesus, yet Calvary has become the mount of our highest ascensions, and the altar of our best thanksgivings. So often, indeed, has the best come out of the worst, so often has the morning broken when the night was darkest, so often has peace come through war, that no discouragements of today shall weaken our faith, or bedim our hope, or mar the splendour of our expectation. We believe in God. There are dark places in history, tunnels through which we are not able to follow the train of the Divine purpose, but we saw it first on the one side, and then on the other, and conclude it must have gone through — the tunnel, too, was on the line of progress. The history of the world is an upward history. And those who know God are ever looking up; men with a Divine outlook are ever on the march. And, friends, whatever you do, cling to the ideal. Let no discouragement release your hold. Be active and practical; yes, but do not be bound within the limits of any one scheme. Climb the mount of vision, and have converse with God, and you will carry down with you a faith that can stand any disappointment, and hold itself erect amid the rush of the maddest torrent.
O Lord, Thou hast deceived me.
(Fausset.)He deals with them as brave Garibaldi did with his recruits. When Garibaldi was going out to battle, he told his troops what he wanted them to do. When he had described what he wanted them to do, they said: "Well, General, what are you going to give us for all this? "Well," he replied, "I don't know what else you will get; but you will get hunger and cold, and wounds and death." How do you like that? (Revelation 2:10.)
(T. R. Williams.)
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