Jeremiah 3:4


We need not hesitate so far to turn these words aside from their original meaning as to regard them as a Divine appeal to the young; especially if we understand that the prophet is here calling on Judah to return to the freshness of her "youth;" that "at this time," this hopeful reign of the good King Josiah, she should renew her covenant with Jehovah and the "love of her espousals" (Jeremiah 2:2). In the days of youth the heart is most freely open to Divine influences, and it may be expected to respond readily to such an appeal as this. Note -

I. THE DEEPEST TRUTH OF RELIGION IS THE FATHRHOOD OF GOD. That he is the Father of our spirits is the basis of his claims upon us. The quality of our religious thought, the drift of our religious opinions, the tone of our religious life, depend very greatly on our faith in this truth. Fatherhood is our highest conception of God, and includes within it all aspects of his being, and all the relations he sustains towards us. This crowns them all, embraces all. We cannot rise above and beyond it. Our ideas are essentially defective if we fall short of it. Not that the actual human fatherhood worthily represents it; that, at its best, is but a marred and broken copy - a feeble, distant reflection - of the Divine. And yet the essential elements remain in spite of accidental faults. Power, wisdom, love, judicial authority, kingly rule, protective tenderness, - these are the attributes of its ideal. And from the human, with all its imperfections and perversions, we rise to the Divine.

II. THE APPREHENSION OF THIS SACRED RELATIONSHIP IS SPECIALLY BEFITTING THE SEASON OF YOUTH. What more natural than that young people should think of God as their Father; that this idea of him should give shape and coloring to all their other religious ideas, and blend with all their views of life, and all their impressions of personal duty? Those who have grown old - old in the habit of frivolous thought, in the carnalizing ways of the world, in the debasing service of sin, are often dead to the impression of it. Their hearts are too much estranged to feel its charm. But shall not they who still have the dew of their youth upon them, the bloom of its quick sensibility and pure affection, love to hear a Father's voice?

III. Nevertheless, THE FULL DISCOVERY OF THIS RELATION MARKS A CRISIS IN THE HISTORY OF ANY SOUL. It is generally connected with the painful discovery of sin and need. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his Name's sake.... because ye have known the Father" (1 John 2:12, 13). How suggestive is this of the bidden causes, the secret springs, the earliest realizations of Divine life in the soul! One of its first evidences is the recognition of the Father. The cry, "Abba, Father!" is the first that it breathes forth. But this comes with and through the recognition of Christ, the Son, the Savior. "No man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son shall reveal him "(Matthew 11:27). And it is a revelation that brings the assurance of "forgiveness for his Name's sake." The sense of dreary distance from God - guilt, shame, hunger, degradation, - this is the prelude to the sweet satisfactions of the life of sonship. It is the prodigal "coming to himself." When we are thus painfully feeling our way back to him, God comes forth in Christ to meet us, embracing us in the arms of his great love, breathing, weeping out upon us the infinite tenderness of his fatherly heart. Then we feel that we can dare to take that sacred name "Father" on our lips. It has a deep and blessed meaning in it never known before. And fear and shame and sorrow give place to the joy of eternal reconciliation.

IV. THE NATURAL RESULT OF THIS DISCOVERY WILL BE FULL PERSONAL SURRENDER TO THE FATHER'S GUIDANCE AND CONTROL. "Guide," literally, Husband; and them word "husband "is suggestive of all thoughtful and kindly guardianship, the wisdom that directs, and the strength that sustains. Youth needs such guardianship:

1. Because of its special moral dangers, worldly fascinations, Satanic temptations, acting on quick natural susceptibility.

2. Because of its inexperience. Experience is the growth of years. It is not of itself always the parent of the highest practical wisdom, but the want of it calls for the help of a superior power.

3. Because of its weakness of moral principle. There may be excellent natural dispositions, germs of Christian virtue in the soul, but they are not yet developed. They are but latent possibilities of good. When put to the test, they may be found wanting. God's grace alone can ripen them into mature and steadfast principles.

4. Because beneath its fairest promise there may be hidden seeds of evil, which only need the outward incentive to bring forth deadly fruit.

5. Because the after-destiny depends so much on how the steps of youth are guided. Let the young give heed to the Father's voice, and yield themselves to his loving control, if they would tread the path of honor and safety and blessedness. - W.







Writ thou not from this time cry unto Me, My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth?
Homilist.
We are all travellers, but are not all travelling in the tame direction. We need a guide. There is only One to be relied upon.

I. WHY WE NEED A GUIDE.

1. Because of our ignorance of the way.

2. Because of our liability to take the wrong path.

3. Because of our liability to leave the right path after we have chosen it.

II. WE SHOULD TAKE GOD AS OUR GUIDE.

1. Because He knows the way.

2. Because He knows the trials that will befall us.

3. Because He knows the perils that we shall encounter.

4. Because He is our Father, and therefore kind and considerate.

III. WE SHOULD ASK GOD TO GUIDE US NOW.

1. Because the present time is the best.

2. Because the present time is the safest.

3. Because the present may be the only time.

(Homilist.)

I. IT IS DUE TO GOD.

1. He is your Maker, who gives you all things; therefore He has a supreme and sole right to you.

2. He has bought you at a vast expense, that you might be delivered from the curse of sin and the wrath to come. If an artist pays a large sum of money to get back his own painting from some one into whose hands it has fallen, and then labours to improve it, would you not say that he has a good title to such painting? Thus with the ransomed children of God.

II. IT WILL BE GOOD FOR YOURSELVES.

1. You need a guide.(1) Consider your character. Ignorance of the future, and without experience, should you not tremble to go alone?(2) Consider your situation. The road is beset with dangers, infested with robbers, filled with bypaths!(3) Consider the importance of your steps. Begin to wander, and who shall tell the issue? Worn out with fatigue, benighted in that trackless wilderness, you fall a prey to the forest beast, or are dashed in pieces over a hidden precipice. One evil habit may lead you to ruin, must cause you pain and trouble. One false step in youth may mar you forever.

2. God is infinitely the best Guide. That He is a sure and safe Guide, none can doubt. He is wise, knows all things, and can proportion trials to your strength. He never fails. You live in a world of changes; but He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But He is also a pleasant Guide. He is powerful to bring you out of trouble; He is gracious in it. In the day of the east wind He stays His rough wind, and "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."

(J. C. Herdman, M. A.)

I. THE PARTICULARS OF THE PROPOSAL.

1. That you should make God your Father; to love honour, and obey.

2. To choose God for the Guide of your youth; to regard His authority, follow His will, and comply with His directions.

(1)By His Word.

(2)By His Spirit.

3. To do these things instantly, without delay.

II. MOTIVES FOR CO-RELIANCE.

1. The grace and condescension of the proposal.

2. The reasonableness of such a proceeding. Refuse the offer of His heavenly guidance, and you will be like a vessel in a boisterous sea without a pilot to direct your course.

3. The seasonableness of the proposal. "From this time." The time past cannot be recalled. You may deeply regret that you have hitherto neglected to make God your Father, and to choose Him for the Guide of your youth. But regret will not recover the time which is past. Opportunities lost are gone forever. Your business is to improve those which remain. The present time is still your own.

(E. Cooper, M. A.)

I. THE PROPOSAL.

1. It requires penitence. You must feel your depravity and lament your guilt.

2. It includes prayer. A life of communion with God.

3. It implies yielding yourself up to God, to walk in His ways, be guided by His counsel, and glorify His name.

II. YOUR OBLIGATIONS. To whom will you give your affections if you withhold them from Him?

III. ADVANTAGES TO BE GAINED BY COMPLIANCE.

1. Safety. While leaning on your own wisdom, and walking in your own strength, you are liable to stray, stumble, fall.

2. Happiness. "In His favour is life." "No peace to the wicked."

3. Honour. Associated with the servants of God, angels, archangels, etc. Yes, and with Christ Himself, whose meat was to do God's will.

IV. COMBAT OBJECTIONS.

1. Sins too great for pardon. Christ's grace sufficient.

2. So weak. He takes by the hand, helps, upholds.

3. What need for being so religious? But you have no religion at all, if not wholly in earnest.

4. Not yet. This is impious as well as foolish. Every day and hour you are on the brink of death.

V. YOUR REPLY. Only two answers: will, or will not. Turn not away.

(J. Wooldridge.)

I. THE ASSUMPTION. That the person is in a state of unregeneracy. Multitudes are thus. Refusing to listen to God. In the neglect of the claims of God there is an amount of daring of which we can hardly form a conception, especially in the case of the child of many prayers.

II. THE IMITATION. Why should you from this time say, "Thou art the Guide of my youth?"

1. The claims of Him who asks it.

2. The dangers of delay.

3. The final consequences of refusal.

(D. E. Ford.)

Evangelist.
I. HAS NOT GOD ALREADY ACTED A MOST WISE AND FRIENDLY PART?

1. Review your general privileges. Who formed you from nothing into being? who assigned you a rank among human creatures? who prepared in a parent's heart the affections which welcomed and nourished the helpless stranger? who reared you up to youth? who kindled the dawn of mason? whose hand opened for you the warm and widening circle of friendship?

2. You are bound by peculiar obligations. It is no small thing that an heritage has been found for you in Britain. You are not the children of savages, mingling in their barbarous manners.

II. IS NOT GOD ABLE TO FILL UP, THROUGH ALL FUTURE PERIODS, THE RELATIONS TO WHICH HE INVITES YOUR NOTICE? He offers Himself as a Father and as a Guide. His power, His wisdom, and His goodness will support the titles.

III. DOES NOT THE SEASON OF YOUTH NEED SUCH A FATHER AND SUCH A GUIDE? What can preserve the morals of youth? Shall the frail bark live in the tempest? Shall flames surround a military magazine, and not produce an explosion? Can a lamb make its way through a herd of wolves?

IV. MAY NOT THE SEASON OF YOUTH BE THE ONLY ONE THAT SHALL DISPLAY SUCH ADVANTAGES AS ARE ATTACHED TO IT? You know not that you shall survive this age; that you are under sentence is felt by yourselves, and sometimes lamented. Can you charm death away? Can you obtain a momentary respite?

(Evangelist.)

I. YOUTH NEEDS A GUIDE.

1. We are expressly assured by the prophet, "That the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." And if this be true of old travellers who have long been moving Zion-ward, how much more of those who are only beginning to start!

2. There is one kind of knowledge in which the young must be deficient — that which is derived from trial, and which we call experience.

3. Now, too, the passions and appetites begin to rage in their violence. These becloud the understanding, and prevent reflection; and rendering them averse to reproof and impatient of control, urge them on, and plunge them into a thousand improprieties and embarrassments.

II. GOD IS READY TO BECOME YOUR LEADER, and it is your duty and privilege to place yourselves under His direction. He is infinitely wise, and cannot lead you astray. He has conducted millions; and "the wayfaring man, though a fool, has not erred" under His direction. He is infinitely powerful. He can support you under the heaviest burdens, deliver you from every adversary, and "make all things work together for your good." He is infinitely kind. He will bear with your infirmities, and sympathise with you in all your troubles. And He is infinitely faithful: not a word shall fail of all that He has spoken.

III. HOW YOU ARE TO ENGAGE HIS ATTENTION. "Cry unto" Him. This familiar expression intends prayer and supplication; and it prevents you from using as an excuse for the omission of the duty — that you are not masters of words, and cannot deliver yourselves in proper language. For what is prayer? Is it not the desire of the heart towards God? If you cannot pray — cannot you cry unto Him?

IV. THERE ARE PARTICULAR SEASONS IN WHICH HE EXPECTS TO BE SOUGHT AFTER BY THE YOUNG, and from which He dates the expostulation — "Wilt thou not from this time," etc.

1. When they leave the house of their friends, and the wing of their relations.

2. When bereaved of their parents.

3. At the commencement of a new period of life.

4. When the young see friends or companions carried off by a premature death.

5. At times of peculiar convictions and impressions.

(W. Jay.)

I. THE IMPORT OF THIS LANGUAGE.

1. Gratitude.

2. Confidence.

3. Prayer.

4. A determined compliance with God's will.

II. THE FORCE OF THE APPEAL MADE BY GOD.

1. Tender expostulation.

2. Seasonable admonition.

3. As arising from events which point out most clearly your need of an interest in the Divine favour.

(R. Winter, D. D.)

I. YOU GREATLY NEED SOME FAITHFUL AND EFFECTIVE GUIDANCE IN THE SHAPING OF YOUR LIVES.

1. Because the path of duty and of safety is often exceedingly difficult to find. Often, when determining what you are bound to accept as duty or to receive as truth, you have many circumstances to consider, many probabilities to estimate, many opposing arguments to weigh. While the general direction in which you are to move, if you intend to live wisely, is obvious enough, you may still find perplexities at every point, to extricate yourself from which will try, perhaps baffle, your utmost wisdom, who is sufficient for these things?

2. Because your own strong impulses are likely to mislead you. It is easy to believe that to be right or useful which accords with inclination. It is hard to think that to be obligatory, or best, to which the feelings are averse, and which involves the necessity of self-denial.

3. Because there are many who will studiously seek your ruin.(1) There are found even in the best conditions of society, the openly debased and vicious.(2) Besides these, there are many — corrupt in heart — who will seek to reach you with influences fitted to destroy your virtuous sentiments, and principles, and ultimate well-being.

4. Because so many are continually ruined. Where many fall, there is reason that all should fear.

II. THE REASONABLENESS, THE WISDOM, OF MAKING GOD YOUR GUIDE.

1. You owe it to God Himself thus to honour Him with your confidence. It is His right.

2. God alone can afford you a sufficient guidance. Where can you find another to whose care and leading you can safely and without anxiety, commit the infinitely precious interests of your being?

III. WHEN SHOULD GOD'S OFFERED GUIDANCE BE ACCEPTED? "From this time."

1. The present is a practicable time — a time in which without hindrance God may be intelligently" and cordially accepted as a guide.

2. The present is the very time that God Himself proposes. Remember now thy Creator."

3. It is at the present time that your need of the blessing in question is becoming manifest and urgent.

4. The present may not improbably be the only time in which you will have it in your power to secure the Divine guidance (Proverbs 1:24-29).

(Ray Palmer, D. D.)

Rev. Mark Guy Pearse says: "I have read somewhere of one of our naval officers who sailed from Mexico round the Cape Horn to Rio, a distance of eight thousand miles, and for ninety days neither touched land nor scarcely saw a sail. At last he judged himself to be some twenty miles from Rio, and lay-to for the night. The next morning it was a dense fog, and he came on very cautiously, and when the fog suddenly lifted there in front of them rose the well-known Sugar-loaf Rock at the entrance of Rio Harbour. Thus it is that in spite of the great and wide sea where no landmarks or guide marks are, where are restless tides and currents and changeful winds, yet heaven stoops to teach men if they will be taught. The sun in the heavens gives every day its unerring counsel, the stars come out at night to whisper their cheery assurance. So He bringeth men to their desired haven. Now, if men can believe that, and so believe it as to trust themselves to it, I do not wonder that any can doubt that heaven bends over us to teach us where we are and whither we are going. If it is scientific to believe that heaven can grade us over the great sea, it does seem to be just simple common sense to think that heaven can lead us safe.

The sailor, out on the restless sea, has one unfailing star to which he can always look with confidence, knowing that it will always be found at the same place. He may perhaps admire the brilliancy of Venus, or look with wonder at the ever-changing moon, but when he wants to take his bearings he looks at the unfailing, unchangeable polar star. Thank God that we have an unfailing Guide that will remain the same when the heavens have passed away. He, our Lord and Master, is the one absolutely unfailing star of hope to which we can look with implicit confidence.

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