Jeremiah 31:28
Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear them down, to demolish, destroy, and bring disaster, so will I be attentive to build them and to plant them," declares the LORD.
Sermons
Sweet SleepD. Young
Assuming that Jeremiah is here the speaker, what a suggestion there is of restless, unrefreshing nights on other occasions! And little wonder. It may have been the case that many of his prophecies came to him at night, and if so, considering the elements of those prophecies, his nights must often have been very troubled ones. But if we look attentively at the contents of ch. 30. and 31., we find very sufficient causes for the sweetness of the prophet's sleep. Jehovah makes one long announcement of favour, restoration, and comfort. Hitherto when the prophet has had to listen to Jehovah, if there have been consolatory utterances, they have been mingled with denunciation and words of the most melancholy import. But now there is one unbroken stream of good tidings, and the effect is shown even in sleep. And if in sleep, how much more in waking hours! The whole round of the day becomes different when God looks favourably on the life. Sweetness of sleeping hours must come from all being right in waking hours. Now, with Jeremiah, as to his own personal life, all was right in waking, hours, but with his nation all was wrong; and so through the day he went about seeing sin and foreseeing suffering, and at night his vivid imagination must often have kept him awake or peopled what broken sleep he got with the most terrible dreams. Bad men may sleep better than good ones, so long as there is nothing to awaken their selfish fears and good men spend restless nights over the troubles of those in whom they are interested. Yet the restlessness must come from the failing to see the abiding goodness of God. Here, for a little, God drove every cloud from the sky of his servant, and showed him how heavenly brightness was a thing entirely above earthly confusions; and then his servant could get sweet sleep. And God will give to all that wait upon him that quiet calm of the heart which is to our higher life what sweet sleep is to the body. It is God's will that our present life, with all its varied needs, should have all the refreshment he can give. - Y.







I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.
The real turning-point in man's spiritual history is when he begins to accuse himself and to justify God. From self-accusation the soul is led on by the Spirit of God to self-condemnation. Mark, in the first place, what it is that Ephraim bemoans. It is "himself." To mourn sinful acts is one thing, and may be done by even a Judas. To mourn over a sinful nature, an evil heart dwelling within, of which the act is only an expression, is quite another. The one may be the work of the natural conscience unenlightened by the Spirit of God: the other is the genuine mark of a soul that has been under the leading of that Spirit, and has "passed from death unto life." Mark it in the case of Ephraim. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." It is no mere surface work. It is Ephraim under conviction of sin. It is Ephraim taking up the prophet's words, "Woe is me, for I am undone." Mark the three times the word "surely" occurs here. "I have surely heard Ephraim"; "surely after that I was turned, I repented"; "I will surely have mercy." These are "the sure mercies of David," given to the soul under the training of the Spirit of God. There is the sure ear of God, the sure repentance of the soul, and the sure mercy to meet it. Why is this? Because the work is God's. It is a thorough work. Observe, next, how God often brings the soul to the knowledge of itself. "Thou hast chastised me." It is through the sharp strokes of trial and discipline. Ah! these do God's work often when nothing else will. Let God draw near and lay His hand upon us, then the true character of the heart will display itself. That character is unchangeable — "enmity to God." Blessed be God when we are brought to see and feel it! Then, like Ephraim, we say, "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned." And what is the ground on which this is urged? "For Thou art the Lord my God." What a plea! What sweet assurance! What trust! What knowledge of Him these words imply! Oh, to draw near at all times with this on the lips! Then will the bow of peace span the darkest cloud, and light and peace and joy be the heritage of the soul. Observe the next clause. God "turns" the soul, then there is true repentance. Then He "instructs" that soul by His Spirit. It goes on learning deeper lessons of Him and of His wondrous grace. But mark the direction which this "instruction" takes, and the spirit it begets in the soul. "After that I was instructed," &c. How the instruction increases humility! How the soul begins with smiting, and goes on to shame and confounding! Mark, next, the Lord's language to the returning child. "Ephraim, My dear son; a pleasant child; for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My bowels are troubled for him: I will "surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." How beautifully the history of the prodigal son confirms this! "Set thee up way-marks; make thee high heaps." Make thee finger-posts to guide thee to heaven. How many a thing the believer may set before him each day to help him onward. How many a passage of Scripture stored up in memory may preserve the soul in danger's hour, and send it on its way more than conqueror! How many a secret prayer sent up to God has been a way-mark, leading the soul into a right path when all was perplexity and darkness! Yes, not only "set thee up way-marks," but "make thee high heaps." A high heap is one that can easily be seen. Oh! it is a great thing when we come to some perplexity in life, when we come to some turning-point in our history, to have something ready to hand. It is a blessed thing not to have to search about for it, not to be hindered in the course by delay, but to see the path plainly and clearly before us! And what is the last word in this passage to Ephraim? "Turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities." It is a prophetic word, bidding that exile from her long-lost home look back again in hope. It is the climax of all that has gone before. It is "that blessed hope," the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a glorious prospect awaits the despised and downtrodden nation of Israel! What a glorious prospect awaits the Church of the living God — the Bride of the Lamb!

(F. Whitfield, M. A.)

I. THE PICTURE OF A TRUE PENITENT. The piteous lamentations, — the bitter self-accusations, — the tears and prayers of the broken-hearted are delineated with a force and accuracy which transport us to the scenes described.

1. His position is solitary, "bemoaning himself." It is not an easy, but it is an indispensable process, that all sources of relief should be forsaken but those which are in God Himself, when man is seeking the pardon of sin and the salvation of the soul.

2. Self-reproach. Shame at having acted so unworthy a part, — so contrary to one s own best interests, — so ungrateful to the Heavenly Benefactor, so derogatory to His glory, — so injurious to the welfare of others, — so morally bad in its defilement, — so insufficient in its motives, — so degrading in its results.

3. The true penitent refers his state to God. If the events of life are in our esteem only the outcome of fixed laws, altogether detached from an intelligent and personal control, they yield us no profit. If, on the other hand, we trace them to God, they become luminous in the instruction which they furnish, and the whole discipline of life resolves itself into a system in which goodness and mercy, wisdom and power, are most effectively taught.

4. It is a favourable sign of this true penitent that he mingles with his self-reproaches the language of childlike interest in God. "For Thou art the Lord my God."

II. THE PROCESS OF RESTORATION. In the case of Israel it was as it is often now; by means of affliction God awakened him to spiritual things. The discipline of affliction is not, however, limited to that part of the Christian life which precedes conversion. They have a most important office to perform in the training and perfecting of the sons of God.

1. They are employed as preventive. The condition of life may be very limited, but its limitation is to a godly man a source of security. The suffering in which he is involved may be very acute, but it makes prayer exceeding real, the Bible very sweet, and the consolations of Christ abound as the sufferings of Christ abound (2 Corinthians 1:6). "It is better," says an old divine, "to be preserved in brine than to rot in honey."

2. The treatment which God adopted with Ephraim He still employs with His people, inasmuch as He makes their sorrows and trials restorative in their character. The scalpel may cause the patient to wince, but it will cut away incipient corruption and death. The sharpest winters are followed by the most fruitful summers.

3. All the trials of the present world are employed by Divine wisdom as preparatives for the future of the Christian.

(W. G. Lewis.)

I. A SINNER BEMOANING HIMSELF.

1. Bowed down with a peculiar grief. Inward sorrow. True repentance.

2. Well-founded sorrow. Over guilt, outrage on God's goodness and grace.

3. Humble sorrow. Not excusing or flattering himself, or making new resolutions; but "bemoaning."

4. A thoughtful sorrow.

5. A hopeless yet a hopeful sorrow.

II. THE LORD OBSERVING HIM.

1. God heard all Ephraim had to say. It may be but a stammering cry. Broken prayers are the best.

2. God delights in the broken and contrite spirit.

3. God is full of compassion.

III. THE LORD WORKING IN HIS EFFECTUAL GRACE.

1. The only turning in the world that is saving and Divine, is the turning of the heart.

2. The Lord's way of turning men varies in each case.

(1)A distinct sight of wrath to come stops a sinner.

(2)Or the awakened conscience is led to see the real nature of sin.

(3)The grand turning-point is the sight of Christ on the Cross.

(4)One of the most blessed ways by which God makes a sinner turn is, He manifests His everlasting love to him.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Amidst all the confused and discordant sounds that are for ever rising from this fallen world of ours into the ears of the Most High God, there is one to which He can never be indifferent; and that is, the voice of a stricken and contrite sinner bemoaning himself. He finds that "from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in him." He is out of heart with himself altogether, and despairs of being able to improve his position. "O wretched man that I am!" he exclaims, "who will deliver me from the body of this death?" And thus by his very perplexity and helplessness he is drawn to look out of himself for assistance. Oh, you who are bemoaning yourselves, here is comfort for you. You never would have come to that point, you would have been even now either excusing or endeavouring to amend yourselves, but for the blessed influence of the Divine Spirit, who has shown you your true condition and brought you to an end of yourself, and thus put you m a position to begin with Him. Oh, thank Him for it, and since He has brought you thus far, trust Him to bring you farther. "Come, let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." But here I want you to observe one feature specially of the perplexity and distress which leads Ephraim so to bemoan himself. He makes the humiliating discovery that not only has his past life been full of sin, but that his very efforts to repent and turn to God have also been characterised by a strange and fatal perversity. His repentance itself has to be repented of. This attitude of moral perversity is illustrated in our text by a remarkable and suggestive metaphor. "Thou hast chastised me," exclaims Ephraim, bemoaning himself, "and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" — a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke — an unbroken bullock! Of all the perverse things to be found in the world, where will you find anything more unmanageable than this? Here Ephraim sees a picture of himself, and here also too many an awakened sinner finds himself represented. How often does such a one adopt a course exactly the reverse of that which God would have him take! How often does he insist on adopting the course of action least appropriate to his spiritual condition, and as a result he has to feel the chastening goad, and only by stern discipline of sorrow has he to be brought to the obedience of faith and the submission of the will, to see and acknowledge his own folly, and to yield himself to God. At last, Ephraim does the wisest thing that he could do, and what he should have done long before. Having reached the point of self-despair; having seen the folly of his own attempts to better himself, and having repented of his own perversity, he just puts the whole thing into the hands of God. "O Lord, I have tried my best, and my best has failed me: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; but still, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, I have continued to make mistakes and to do the wrong thing; now in my helplessness I must make the whole matter over to Thee. Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned: for Thou art the Lord my God." Ah, that is the only true solution of the difficulty. Here is the turning-point in our experience, here is the moment of victory for the helpless. Let a man once put himself thus unreservedly into the hands of his God, and all the devils of hell cannot keep him from the blessing. His present salvation is at once secure, because the honour and truth of the everlasting God are pledged for the safety of the man who trusts himself to God. O God, cries the penitent and self-despairing sinner, I cannot turn myself, I cannot change my own nature, but I believe that Thou canst, so I put myself completely in Thy hands to do it for me. How often have I hindered Thy work by endeavouring to do for myself what only Thou canst do; how often in my very efforts to turn myself have I, as it were, turned the wrong way. Lord, if I am to be saved at all, Thou must save me, for I cannot save myself. "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned: for Thou art the Lord my God!" And who is there that God cannot turn when he is thus submitted to Him — who so far gone, so deeply sunk, that God cannot change him? The things impossible with men are possible with God; and often when the change has been beyond all human hope, God has done it to the glory of His own great name.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

There are turning-points in most lives. We go on in a straight line for a certain distance, but suddenly we come to a place where we must make a choice of roads. All the rest of our journey may depend upon what we do at those particular points. Character often hinges on a day's resolve. An interesting book has been written upon "Turning-points in life," and it is capable of indefinite extension. According to a man's station and disposition, those turning-points take place at different periods; but whenever they are before us, they call for special prayer and trust in God. There is, however, one turning-point, and one only, which will secure salvation and eternal life; and that is what we call conversion, which is the first apparent result of regeneration, or the new birth. The man being renewed, the current of his life is turned: he is converted.

I. First, here is MAN AT THE TURNING-POINT AS GOD OBSERVES HIM. Is not that a wonderful word of the Lord, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself"? Of a certainty the Lord hears all the sorrowful voices of men. The Lord hears "surely": that is to say, He hears the sense and meaning of our wordless moans: He puts into language that which no words of ours could express. The Lord understands us better than we understand ourselves.

1. Concerning the man here described, we note that he is in a state of great sorrow about himself. The grief is within. All the water outside the ship is of small account; it is when the leak admits the water to the hold that there is danger. "Let not your heart be troubled": it matters something if your country or your house be troubled; but to you the trying matter is if your heart be troubled. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" This is what the Lord tenderly notes about the sinner at the turning-point, that he bemoans himself.

2. This bemoaning was addressed to his God. This is a very hopeful point about it: he cried to Jehovah, "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised." It is a blessed thing when a man in his distress turns to his God, and not from Him.

3. Notice how Ephraim in the text has spied out his God as having long ago dealt with him. He tells the Lord that He has chastised him. "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised." The man had not before observed the hand of God in his suffering: but he does now. I have hope of that man who sees God's hand, even though he sees only a rod in it.

4. But the mourner in our text means more than this by his bemoanings: he owns that the chastening had not set him right. "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised"; and that was all. He had smarted, but he had not submitted. He had not obeyed, but had still further rebelled.

5. Yet there is something better than this; the mourner in our text despairs of all but God. He cannot turn himself, and chastisement will not turn him; he has no hope left but for God Himself to interpose. "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned."

6. To all this confession poor bemoaning Ephraim adds another word, whereby he submits to the supreme sway of Jehovah his God, "For Thou art the Lord my God." He does as good as say, Man cannot help me. I cannot help myself. Even Thy chastenings have not availed to turn me. Lord, I appeal to Thee, Thyself! Thou art Jehovah. Thou canst do all things. Thou art my God, for Thou hast made me; and therefore Thou canst new-make me. I pray Thee, therefore, exercise Thine own power, and renew Thy poor, broken and defiled creature.

II. MAN AFTER THE TURNING-POINT. Here you have the description in the nineteenth verse. It begins with "Surely." Is it not very remarkable that each of these verses should be stamped with the hall-mark, and each one bear the word "surely"? The Lord said He had "surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself"; and here Ephraim says, Surely after that I was turned, I repented."

1. See, before us, prayer mixed with faith soon answered. Not many moments after Ephraim had said, "Thou art the Lord my God," he felt that he was turned. My friend, do you remember when you were turned? Do you know your spiritual birthday, and the spot of ground where Jesus unveiled His face to you? Some of us do, although others do not. The main point is to be turned; to know the place and time is a secondary matter.

2. Yet I say some of us know when we were turned; and here is one reason why we remember it, for repentance came with turning. "After that I was turned, I repented." He that is truly turned turns his face to the wall to weep and pray. Thou canst not make thyself repent; but when God hath changed thy heart, thou wilt repent as naturally as the brook flows adown the valley when once its bands of ice are thawed. "After that I was turned, I repented."

3. Deep sorrow followed upon further instruction. The Holy Spirit does not leave the convert, but gives him further instruction; and out of that comes a sorer regret, a more complete self-abasement. "After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh." Want of knowledge tends to make men hardened, unfeeling, self-complacent, and proud; but when they are instructed by the Divine Spirit, then they are ready to inflict wounds upon themselves as worthy of buffetings and blows. "God be merciful to me, a sinner" is a fit prayer for the instructed, and the lowliest posture well becomes such a one.

4. To this deep sorrow there followed shame. Ephraim says, "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded." This man knew everything before; now he knows nothing, but is confounded. Once he could dispute, and dispute, and dispute; but now he stands silent before his Judge. He stands like a convicted felon, who, when he is asked by the judge if he has anything to say in stay of sentence, lays his hand on his mouth, and, blushing scarlet, confesses by his silence that he deserves to die. This is the man with whom mercy can work her will.

5. Lastly on this point, memory now comes in, and revives the reproach of youth Memory is a very terrible torture to a guilty heart. "Son, remember!" is one of the voices heard in hell. "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." I can only compare the sinner with a quickened memory to one who is travelling across the plains of Russia dreaming in his carriage, and on a sudden he is aroused by the sharp bark of a wolf behind him; and this is followed up by a thousand cruel voices of brutes, hungry, and gaunt, and grim, all eager for his blood. Hearken to the patter of those eager feet I the howls of those hungry demons! Whence came they? You thought that your .sins were dead long ago, and quite forgotten. See, they have left their tombs! They are on your track. Like wolves, your old sins are pursuing you. They rest not day nor night. They prepare their teeth to tear you. Whither will you flee? How can you escape the consequences of the past? They are upon you, these monsters, their hot breath is in your face; who can now save you? Only a miracle can rescue you from the reproach of your youth; will that miracle be wrought? May we dare to look for it? We have something better than a mere hope to set before you. Jesus meets these packs of wolfish sins. He interposes between us and them! He drives them back! He scatters them! There is not one of them left!

III. Now we will turn, and HEAR GOD AT THIS TURNING-POINT. "Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child?" Does this look like a question? The answer has been already given in the ninth verse: "I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn." The gracious Lord sees Ephraim sore with chastisement, spent with weeping, pale with shame, and moaning with agony, and then his sonship is acknowledged. He bends over the crushed one, and cries, "This is My son. This is My dear child." How gracious on God's part to acknowledge the guilty rebel as a son! See here is love acknowledging the object of its choice, love confessing its near relationship to one most unworthy and most sorrowful. Then behold the same love well pleased. The Lord does not merely say, "Ephraim is My son; yea, he is My child"; but He calls him "My dear son, a pleasant child." A pleasant child! Why, he has been full of rebellion from his birth! Yes; but he confesses it, and mourns it; and he is a pleasant child when so much holy sorrow is seen in him. Love takes delight in repenting sinners. Notice, in this case, love in earnest. The Lord says, "Since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still" God in earnest — that is a great conception! God in earnest over one moaning sinner! God earnest in thoughts of love, even when He bids the preacher tell the offender of the wrath to come. Notice, next, love in sympathy. Ephraim is bemoaning himself, and what is the Lord doing? He says, "My bowels are troubled for him." God's heart is wounded when our hearts are broken. Then comes love in action: "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." I am so glad to think that the "surely" is found again in this place. "Surely" God heard Ephraim bemoaning; "Surely" he said that he was turned, and now God says, "Surely I will have mercy upon him." The Lord God puts His hand and seal to it.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The will of man is a sour and stubborn piece of clay, that will not frame to any serviceable use without much working. A soft and tender heart, indeed, is soon rent in pieces, like a silken garment if it do but catch upon any little nail; but a heart hardened with a long custom of sinning, especially if it be with one of these presumptuous sins, is like the knotty root end of an old oak that has lain long a-drying in the sun. It must be a hard wedge that will enter, and it must be handled with some skill too to make it do that; and when the wedge is entered, it will endure many a hard knock before it will yield to the cleaver, and fail in sunder. And indeed it is a blessed thing, and to be acknowledged a gracious evidence of God's unspeakable mercy to those that have wilfully suffered such an unclean spirit to enter in and to take possession of their souls, if they shall ever be enabled to out him again, though with never so much fasting and prayer.

(Bp. Sanderson.)

Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised.
I. AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

1. Inefficacy of former corrections.

2. Though corrections are calculated to produce amendment, it is evident, from observation and experience, they often fail in accomplishing the effect.

3. Ephraim is here represented as reflecting upon it. (Proximate causes of the inefficacy of correction by itself.)

4. Inattention to the hand of God, and, as a natural consequence, their neglecting to pass from the contemplation of their sufferings to their sins. Religion begins with consideration.

5. In the serious purpose of a religious life, formed under afflictive dispensations, too many depend entirely upon resolutions formed in their own strength. To such purposes may be applied the beautiful image of Nahum: "And as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known."

II. THE PRAYER.

1. The plea of necessity. There is no other resource.

2. To entreat God to turn is not to ask an impossibility. The residue of the Spirit is with Him.

3. It is worthy of His interposition. The turning of the heart is a fit occasion on which Omnipotence may act.

4. The plea may be enforced by precedents. It implies no departure from His known methods.

5. We may force it by a reference to the Divine mercy.

(Robert Hall, M. A.)

I. THE SOLILOQUY OF THE PENITENT.

1. He reflects on his misimprovement of the dealings of God with him.

2. He prays for converting grace.

3. He describes the working of his mind.

4. He assigns special prominence to his youthful sins.

II. THE ADDRESS OF GOD TO HIM.

1. He owns him as a son.

2. He declares that he has a place in His memory.

3. He expresses His sympathy with him.

4. He promises him mercy.

(G. Brooks.)

I. GOD IS TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE AUTHOR AND DISPENSER OF ALL AFFLICTIONS. He consented to all those disarrangements of the creation that inflict numberless ills and distresses, that He might have materials ever at hand for the affliction of the children of men for sin, in a state of probation, and for urging them to use the means provided for their recovery. He dispenses all the particular causes of affliction, in their movements and operations: they are all His servants, and obey His orders, however complicated their movements, however long or short the series in which they are connected with each other, and made dependent the one upon the other: they are all a large army, whose movements, individually and collectively, are according to His plans and His will.

1. This truth approves itself to our reason. It follows from the fact of His sustaining care over the world, as necessary for its provision: for all created things depend on Him; they could do nothing without His permission.

2. This truth is further confirmed by the consideration of the meritorious cause of affliction, which is sin. For sin is originally committed against God: it violates His law, contemns His authority, and despises alike His favour and HIS frown. Who, then, is to dispense affliction as the punishment of sin, but He who is its supreme avenger?

3. This is a truth, which when once confirmed by our reason, is recognised throughout Scripture. There you find that the afflictions of the children of men are dispensed to them in number and in measure.

II. THE DESIGNS OF GOD IN AFFLICTIONS ARE VERY MERCIFUL AND BENEFICENT. Afflictions never sow the seed of religion in the soul; they cannot do this: but they may soften the soil to receive it, and subserve the growth and the expansion of the seed when sown. They are lessons of instruction to the mind through the senses; corroborating those lessons of truth from revelation to the mind alone; and which are responded to by the conscience.

1. Afflictions are to bring men to become the people of God.(1) That this is their design will appear from their nature. For what is the obvious drift of that disappointment through the whole course of life, in finding happiness from the world — what is the drift of it but to cure us of that mistake, to direct our attention from that object, and to lead us to Him in whose favour is life? What is the apparent design of certain miserable effects to certain sins, but to breed in us remorse for those sins, and wean us from them? Again, what is the obvious design of those particular evils that belong to our individual condition? What are they, what can they be, but a thorn planted in our earthly nest, to make us arise and go out of it, and seek for happiness in some higher quarter?(2) That such is their design, is evident from the result of them in many cases.

2. When men become the people of God, afflictions do not cease; on the contrary, there are new reasons for the continuance of the former ones, and even for the addition of others to them. But these reasons are all wise and good, and the ends they have in view are so benign and gracious, as far more than to reconcile us to them.(1) They are to prevent them from degenerating, so as to settle in a state of declension and backsliding from God. And this they do by bringing their sins to their remembrance in a timely way, before they can make head against them.(2) They are employed to recover man from a state of backsliding.

(J. Leifchild.)

There are chastisements in life which cannot be classed amongst great afflictions. There are little checks, daily disappointments, irritations, defeats, and annoyances — shadows which cherquer what else would be a sunny way — things which themselves cannot be treated with dignity, yet they tease and wear the heart.

I. HUMAN LIFE IS ESTABLISHED UPON A DISCIPLINARY BASIS. There is a "yoke" everywhere — in sin, in repentance, in grace. No one can have everything just as he wants it. Man is made to feel that there is somebody in the world besides himself. We are made to feel that our very life is a vapour, and that every respiration is but a compromise with death. We should ask ourselves the meaning of these things. Discipline touches the whole scheme: boy at school, going from home, bodily affliction, oversights and miscalculations, losses, &c.

II. THE VALUE OF DISCIPLINE DEPENDS UPON ITS RIGHT ACCEPTANCE.

1. We may become desperate under it: "as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." Men may mourn, complain, rebel; they start arguments against God; they justify themselves; they become lost in secondary, agencies and incomplete details.

2. Then there is a better way. "Ephraim bemoaned himself," repented before God, and said, "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned." In this state of mind see —

(1)Self-renunciation.

(2)Devout and joyful confidence in God's sovereignty and graciousness.Application —

1. There is a yoke in sin. "The way of transgressors is hard."

2. There is a yoke in goodness. It is often difficult to be upright, noble, holy.

3. God helps the true yoke-bearer. We must bear a yoke; say, shall it be the bad yoke, or the yoke of Jesus Christ?

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT MADE BY THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.

1. That the affliction is from the Lord.(1) It is this circumstance — this perception of God, as connected with affliction — which imparts to the afflicted an air of something more than solemnity and seriousness, as if the man had sustained a loss — were deprived of what was agreeable to him. It invests him, in some measure, with a character which inspires awe. He knows that God has been dealing with him. And yet, on this part of my subject, let me offer a word of counsel to the people of God. It is true that you believe that all afflictions come from the Lord.(2) Beware of resting satisfied with this as a part of your creed. Take care lest you do no more than in words acknowledge that the Lord is the author of your trouble.

2. That there is a necessity for improvement. This is the direction which the gracious soul takes, when its afflictions are in the way of being sanctified. It is submissive: it cannot question the act of the Lord: it is solemnised. But it is more than all this. There is a disposition and desire to make the dispensation an instrument of spiritual benefit and glory to God. To this spirit and exercise believers are brought by several considerations.(1) That the Lord does nothing in vain.(2) That this is the declared purpose of the Lord in the visitations of trouble. He calls His afflictions chastenings.(3) That improvement and reformation have been the effects produced by chastisement upon many.(4) There is a felt necessity for improvement, as well as experience derived from affliction in the past.

II. SOME OF THE USES OF SANCTIFIED AFFLICTION.

1. Thus do believers become intimately acquainted with their God. God is then set before them in various aspects.

(1)In the character of a Sovereign.

(2)In the character of a Comforter.

2. Believers, when in affliction, know experimentally the value of their Saviour.

3. By affliction believers are weaned from the world. This is the result of their consideration of the Lord's dealings with them, and the work of His Spirit in them. Affliction of itself will not wean us from the world. Some it only glues more closely to that which is left. But when the solemn question upon a trial or a bereavement is, "What meaneth the Lord by this?" the effect is necessarily happy and useful. The meditation leads to the conclusion, that these objects we have lost are but creatures — that as creatures they must be regarded — and that God must have the first place in our affections and hearts.

4. By affliction believers are quickened in the performance of duties.(1) They are quickened in the duties which they owe peculiarly to God.(a) They are quickened so as to be more serious and frequent in their thoughts of God.(b) They are quickened so as to inquire after Him in His Word.(c) They are quickened in prayer. They pray after another fashion. They pray as the needy to the God who hears.(2) They are quickened in their duties to others. Sanctified affliction creates a tender feeling for others.

(J. Thorburn.)

Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God.
I. A CONFESSION OF MORAL INABILITY. God's words and man's thoughts both declare this: the difference lies here that God does not let it be any reason for our despair. Comp. Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 17:1, 4, with the saying of George Eliot, "The world does not believe in conversion, and the world is mostly right"; and with this of Cotter Morrison, "The sooner it is perceived that bad men will be bad, do what we will (though, of course, they may be made less bad), the sooner shall we come to the conclusion that the welfare of society demands the suppression or elimination of bad men and the careful cultivation of the good only There is no remedy for a bad heart, and no substitute for a good one."

II. A PRAYER FOR DIVINE HELP. There is no hope for the sinner but in God. The more absolute seems our own helplessness the more earnestly must we cry to Him. God requireth that "we do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with Him"; but He must give what He asks.

III. AN ALL-PREVAILING PLEA. "For Thou art the Lord my God." Our confident appeal is to God's own nature as revealed by His Word, and with so much the more assurance as His revelation is now more perfect (Hebrews 1:1-4). In Christ crucified and risen is the supreme unfolding of God's heart. As we look at Him we learn godly sorrow for sin, and heart-trust in the abundance of the Divine pardon, while we are quickened with His life given for us, and kindled by the flame of His love.

(C. M. Hardy, B. A.)

I. THE FEELINGS AND CONDUCT OF AN OBSTINATE IMPENITENT SINNER, WHILE SMARTING UNDER THE ROD OF AFFLICTION. In this situation he is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; wild, unmanageable, and perverse. That such is the natural temper of man, must be evident to parents and all others who are concerned in the education of children. How soon do they begin to discover s perverse and stubborn temper, a fondness for independence, and a desire to gratify their own will in everything! and what severe punishments will they often bear, rather than submit to the authority of their parents and instructors! This disposition, so strong in us by nature, grows with our growth and strengthens with our strength; and to subdue it, is the principal design of all the calamities with which we are in this world afflicted by our Heavenly Father. Sometimes He afflicts sinners by taking away their property and sending poverty, as an armed man, to attack them. At other times He corrects us by depriving us of our relatives, who rendered life pleasant, by sharing with us its joys, or helping to bear its sorrows. If these afflictions do not avail, He brings the rod yet nearer, and touches our bone and our flesh. Then the sinner is chastened with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones are filled with strong pain; so that his life abhorreth bread and his soul dainty meat. All these outward afflictions are also frequently accompanied with inward trials and sorrows, still more severe. Conscience is awakened to perform its office, and fills the soul with terror, anxiety, and remorse. Now when God visits impenitent sinners with these afflictions, they usually murmur, struggle, and reluctate, like a stubborn bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, or a wild bull entangled in a net. This perverse and rebellious temper manifests itself in a great variety of ways, as persons' circumstances, situation, and dispositions vary. Sometimes it displays itself merely in a refusal to submit, and sullen, obstinate perseverance in those sins which caused the affliction. At other times, impenitent sinners manifest their rebellious dispositions under the rod by flying to the world for comfort, and plunging with increased eagerness into its pleasures and pursuits, instead of calling upon God agreeably to His command, and repenting of their sins. With others this disposition displays itself in a settled formal endeavour to frustrate the will of God by sinning against Him with a high hand, in open contempt of all His inflictions and threatenings. But the perverse, unreconciled disposition of impenitent sinners most frequently appears in the increase of hard thoughts of God, and proud, angry feelings towards Him, as if He were severe, unmerciful, or unjust.

II. THE NEW VIEWS AND FEELINGS WHICH, THROUGH DIVINE GRACE, HIS AFFLICTIONS WERE INSTRUMENTAL IT PRODUCING.

1. We here find the once stubborn and rebellious, but now awakened sinner deeply convinced of his guilt and sinfulness, and deploring his unhappy situation. He still complains indeed, but it is of himself and not of God. He acknowledges the goodness, condescension, and justice of God in correcting him. Perhaps more are convinced of sin, and brought to repentance, by reflecting on their impious, unreconciled feelings under affliction, than by reflecting on any other part of their sinful exercises.

2. We find this awakened, afflicted sinner praying. Convinced of his wretched situation, and feeling his need of Divine aid, he humbly seeks it from his offended God.

3. We find this corrected, mourning, praying sinner reflecting upon the effects of Divine grace in his conversion. Surely, says he, after I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. It is worthy of remark, my friends, how soon the answer followed the prayer. In one verse, we find Ephraim calling God to turn or convert him. In the very next, we find him reflecting upon his conversion and rejoicing in it. And what were the effects of this change, thus suddenly produced by Divine grace? The first was repentance. The second was self-loathing and abhorrence.

III. A CORRECTING, BUT PASSIONATE AND PARDONING GOD, watching the result of His corrections, and noticing the first symptoms of repentance, and expressing His gracious purposes of mercy respecting the chastened, penitent sinner. In this description God represents Himself —

1. As a tender father solicitously mindful of his penitent, afflicted child.

2. As listening to his complaints, confessions, and petitions. Certainly nothing in heaven or earth is so wonderful as this; and if this language does not affect us and break our hearts, nothing can do it.

3. God declares His determination to pardon him: I will surely have mercy upon him.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

Surely after that I was turned, I repented.
I. THE CONSTANT WAY AND MANNER WHEREIN TRUE GRACE DISCOVERS ITSELF, WHEN ONCE IT IS IMPLANTED IN THE HEART. "I repented, surely I repented." Agreeable to this is the language of the prodigal (Luke 15:18). Old things are passed away with the man that is born of the Spirit; his face is turned Zionward, and his eager steps show how desirable and delightful are wisdom's ways to his renewed soul.

II. THE ONLY SPRING FROM WHENCE THIS AMAZING CHANGE DOTH ALWAYS PROCEED. "Surely after that I was turned, I repented." Grace first enters the heart, before it can be discovered in the life and conversation. The God of all grace first of all draws us, or else we shall never move towards Him (John 6:44). Had not the same mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, been exerted toward us, we should still have continued in the same conversation which we had in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. But quickening grace opens the way to godly sorrow, and this always issues in evangelical repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

III. AN ACCOUNT OF THE PROGRESS OF THIS GREAT WORK IN THE HAND CF THE SPIRIT; WHEREIN THE TRUE NATURE OF REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE IS CLEARLY DESCRIBED.

I. What are the things in which the soul is instructed by the Spirit, when a principle of grace is wrought in the heart?(1) The Spirit begins His work, with leading the soul to the knowledge of sin.(a) The Spirit shows us the nature of sin, as attended with guilt, whereby we are obnoxious to the curse of the law.(b) The Spirit shows the sinner the defiling nature of sin, as opposed to the holiness of that God with whom he hath to do.(c) The Spirit shows the sinner the many heinous aggravations wherewith his sins in particular have been attended.(2) The Spirit instructs the soul in the nature of pardoning grace and mercy, which is the sweetest sound that an awakened conscience can ever hear; the most agreeable message a self-condemning sinner can ever receive.(a) The Spirit instructs the sinner that the privilege is attainable; that there is forgiveness with God, that He may be feared.(b) The Spirit instructs the sinner in the only way through which His grace and mercy is to be attained; lets him know that an absolute God is a consuming fire; and directs him to Christ Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life.(c) The Spirit instructs the sinner into the way through which pardon is communicated to him. That it was obtained by Christ; that it is received by faith; and that whosoever will, may take of the water of life freely.(d) The Spirit further instructs the sinner who the persons are to whom this pardoning grace and mercy are applied. This He teaches, by the absolute promises of the Word, which reach the case of the most rebellious criminals.

2. What are the various actings of the soul in consequence of these instructions?(1) The soul thus instructed "sorrows after a godly sort." This is the first thing in which Gospel-repentance discovers itself to be genuine and of the right kind; of which "smiting upon the thigh" is very expressive.(2) The soul thus instructed is filled with shame and confusion of face, attended with an utter hatred of the sins he hath been guilty of. "was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth."(3) The soul thus instructed hath an abiding sense of these things. He is not weary of his rags to-day, and pleased with them again to-morrow; humbled for sin now, and wallowing in the same mire and dirt anon: No, "I did bear (saith Ephraim) the reproach of my youth."(4) The soul thus instructed is most sensibly affected with those sins to which he hath been most addicted. Heart sins are bewailed by the sincere Christian, and youthful transgressions are never forgotten by him.(5) The soul thus instructed always applieth to the blood of Christ for pardon.

(J. Hill.)

1. We notice this about the cry of the wanderer of the Old Covenant, resembling herein the prodigal son of the New Testament — it is not like the utterance of the heathen who had never known God. The powerlessness of man is indeed brought out; for the words are, "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned"; but there is the remembrance still of a Father, of a Divine promise, a heavenly home though long despised.

2. The text goes on to speak of the effect of this conversion, of the result of this homeward journey: "Surely after that I was turned, I repented." It is not a sign of the truly converted heart, to spring at a bound from the rebelliousness of a sinner to the rejoicing of a saint. Those who go most frequently to the Holy Communion know best the gulf which separates the two — they know in that nearness to Jesus Christ how far off they have been, how unworthy they are.

3. It takes much teaching, much fatherly correction and chastisement, many humble approaches to that altar which reveals the greatness of our burden, ere the soul can thus fully and heartily repent. Most of us, like Ephraim, are so unaccustomed to the yoke, through the easy, careless life we lead, that we need much application of doctrine to ourselves, much reproof of our personal faults, much instruction in righteousness.

4. It often happens that contrition of heart is granted long after maturity is reached — so that much recollection is needed ere the whole life can be reviewed before God. What is it which then disturbs us most? The remembrance probably of those precious years wherein the character was being formed — those priceless years, which might have witnessed the moulding of our yet pliant will into the thorough obedience of Christ, but which have been marked, instead, by a growing hardness and indifference and selfishness, scarcely to be altered afterwards. "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth."

5. God means us to feel the weight of these old chains: He speaks against us in our wonderfully responsive conscience, writes the most painful truths concerning us in His heart-piercing Word — and why? Exactly for the opposite reason to that which makes Satan stand at our right hand to resist and accuse us. God smites on purpose that He may Himself be troubled for us, Himself have mercy upon us, Himself create a new thing in the earth, the Incarnation of His own Eternal Son, to be the propitiation for our sins, the renewer of our wasted youth and misused talents, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

(Canon Jelf.)

I. REPENTANCE IS AN ABIDING CHARACTERISTIC, OR PRINCIPLE OF THE NEW HEART. The heart itself is, by nature, impenitent. It has a natural fitness to sin, without shame or ingenuous sorrow. The heart itself, by grace, is penitent, broken, contrite. It has a fitness to repent, an aptitude to mourn ingenuously over sin. This is a permanent principle, or source of sorrow for sin, and of turning from it unto holiness.

II. REPENTANCE IS THE GIFT OF GOD.

1. The mind, to which God has granted repentance unto life, has a just sense of its sins.

2. Another trait of the mind to which God has granted repentance, is an appreciation of His mercy through Christ.

3. Another characteristic of the penitent man is, that he turns from sin.

4. Another particular in this state of the penitent man, is a constant endeavour to obey God.

III. WHAT ARE THE EVIDENCES OF REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE? There are individuals who seem to suppose that a serious attendance on the duties of private and public prayer — a diligent reading of the Scriptures — a reverent hearing of the Word — and a celebration of the ordinances appointed by God — are an evidence that they are born of the Spirit. This is ample evidence of their love to the forms of religion, but no proof of its power. It has dwelt in thousands whose hearts were not right with God. There are others who seem to suppose that the abandonment of some external vice is to be regarded as evidence of repentance unto life. Repentance unto life is, indeed, attended by a reformation of morals, in all those who spiritually mourn over their sins. But this reformation is the effect of an internal change. The soul of the penitent man is careful to discriminate between good and evil — between light and darkness. It struggles against every unholy propensity, and every sinful habit, and toils through grace to extirpate them from the bosom. He exercises himself to have a conscience void of offence, both towards God and man. These powerful principles in the penitent heart diffuse their odour through the whole man, and cause him to be widely different from what he was previously. Nor is this a temporary change in his life. The whole course of an individual who is brought into the kingdom of God, is a course of repentance. So permanent is it in this life, as not to be completed till the saints are made perfect in glory.

(J. Foot, D. D.)

T.
I. The favoured OBJECTS of Divine mercy. True penitents; men whose hearts are humbled under a deep sense of sin; and who, by the Spirit and grace of God, are brought to their right minds.

II. The abundant EXERCISE of Divine mercy.

1. In bestowing pardon.

2. In promoting peace; that rest of conscience which is the close attendant of pardon, and accompanies the scriptural hope and evidence of it.

3. In affording preservation.

III. The absolute CERTAINTY Of Divine mercy.

1. The greatness of God secures it.

2. The goodness of God secures it.

3. The faithfulness of God secures it.(1) He is faithful to His covenant; to His own solemn and voluntary engagement to save guilty man, according to a prescribed method; and this method is all of mercy, of abundant mercy, especially to the broken-hearted penitent.(2) He is faithful to His Word. This is the revelation of His covenant; its statement to us in direct promises and positive assurances.(3) He is faithful to His Son.(4) He is faithful to Himself. The whole scheme of Divine mercy is adapted and intended to display the glory of the Divine perfections; and can we suppose that this end will be frustrated?From the whole —

1. Let the impenitent tremble.

2. Let the humble hope.

3. Let the believer rejoice.

(T. Kidd.)

Set thee up way-marks.
Here is an invitation —

I. TO FOLLOW AN ANCIENT CUSTOM. Not all old customs bad, the good filtrates through all time. It is a holy duty to follow in the good, tried paths of the "just men made perfect."

II. TO KEEP ALIVE OUR SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES.

1. While faith obeys implicitly, aids are not rejected.

2. To recount becomingly our experiences serves two ends: we put God in remembrance; we keep Him in remembrance.

3. Our experiences may be such as —

(1)Past grace received.
(a) The grace to know,
(b) And the grace to love.

(2)Past strength renewed.

(3)Wonderful deliverance from fears.

(4)Help in trouble.

(5)Times of sweet communion. Thus we put in practice the word, " forget not all His benefits."

III. TO PUT UP LASTING MEMORIALS.

1. All our spiritual privileges may be as way-marks set up.

2. Blessed hours of devotion and times of sweet communion.

3. The Gospel of a holy life in the common lot for ever.

IV. TO HAVE A REGARD FOR POSTERITY. Sinners will need directing, saints will require comforting, workers with flagging energies must be stimulated. Then set up your "way-marks." The records of our experience will stand out like milestones, and all shall be as inspiring testimony to the faithfulness of Him who has promised neither to "leave us" nor "forsake us."

(John Jones.)

I did bear the reproach of my
I. SIN IS OF A REPROACHFUL NATURE.

1. It flings an unrighteous reproach on God and others.(1) Let us begin with others. Friends and families are often disgraced by the sinners that belong to their houses: They are frequently ashamed of them, and reproached for them; they are ashamed to think, speak, or hear of them, to see or own them; and many are apt to reflect, sometimes indeed with too much reason, but at others without cause, as if their parents, their masters, or their other relations and friends, who have been most conversant with them, and might have had the greatest influence over them, have not taken proper care to counsel, caution, and restrain them.(2) But what is still infinitely worse, is that their iniquities throw the most vile and unrighteous reproach upon the holy and blessed God Himself, as if He were not what He is, and were not to be treated with the reverence and honour that are His due. Sin reproaches God's perfections, His name and His image, as if they were not worthy to be maintained with honour; it reproaches His workmanship in man, as if a creature had come out of His hand unworthy of Himself to be the author of; and it furnishes occasions to other sinners to reproach and blaspheme His blessed majesty.

2. It is a just reproach upon sinners themselves. It is the disgrace of their nature, it disrobes it of all its glory, defaces the beauteous image of God in which it was at first created, and debases it into the odious likeness and deformity of the devil, and of the brute.

II. THE SINS OF YOUNG PERSONS MUST NEEDS BE THE REPROACH OF THEIR YOUTH. Youth is indeed the most amiable age of life. It is the time for beauty and ornament, for activity and vigour, for gathering and improving in all that is excellent and desirable, and for pursuing after everything that is honourable and glorious. It is the time of expectation and hope, and the time of their own chief delight, and of others delighting in them. But sin stains all this glory of their youth, it sweeps away their lovely bloom, it depraves and perverts their vigorous powers, and makes them only so much the more capable of becoming despicable and vile; they are thereby daily heaping to themselves infamous and destructive things; they glory in their own shame; sport themselves in their own vain and foolish deceivings; and give melancholy prospects of growing up, the shame and torment of their friends, and the pests, instead of the blessings, of the rising generation; and they arc in the direct way of entailing all misery, for this world and the next, upon themselves.

III. A TIME IS COMING, WHEN, ONE WAY OR OTHER, THEY WILL BEAR THIS REPROACH.

1. There is a bearing it, in the fruits and effects of their sins. They are the source of many sorrows; they often bring great and numerous distresses upon sinners in the way of God's righteous judgment, and by the natural operation of their iniquities themselves.

2. There is a bearing the reproach of youth, in being reproached by others for their sins. Some sins bring such a reproach upon young men and women, as they can never get rid of all their days (2 Samuel 13:12, 13; Proverbs 6:32, 33).

3. There is a bearing the reproach of youth, in the reflections of their own consciences upon their sins.

IV. WHEN THEY COME TO BEAR THE REPROACH OF THEIR YOUTH, THEY WILL BE ASHAMED, YEA, EVEN CONFOUNDED AT IT.

1. Young people will be ashamed, yea, even confounded at the reproach of their youth, when they come to bear it in the way of God's mercy to them.

2. Young people will be ashamed, and even confounded at the reproach of their youth, when they come to bear it in the way of God's wrath against them.Reflections —

1. Let young and old think seriously with themselves, which of these is, or is like to be their condition.

2. How should Christ and His Gospel be prized and improved, to take away the reproach of your youth!

(John Guyse, D. D.)

Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since
Within one circle, one limited circle, a pleasant child is always a centre of the most engrossing interest and delight. Nor is the blessing of such a child confined exclusively to the home circle. The neighbourhood, the community, the Church of God are sharers in it. Along the street, in all the modest duties and interchanges of daily life, in the hour of play, and wild exuberance of youthful feeling, in the Sunday School and sanctuary — everywhere and in all places, s pleasant child is a perpetual comfort. "Heaven lies about him."

I. CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE IS A CONSPICUOUS TRAIT IN A PLEASANT CHILD. Cheerful, in distinction from compulsory obedience. It will not be a sacrifice, forced out of him by overstrained prerogative, or rigorous compulsion, but rather the spontaneity of a loving, loyal heart. It will be a high sense of what is due from the offspring to the progenitor — a willing and cheerful consent to the known precepts and principles established at home. It not only yields readily to each expressed and absolute command, but goes beyond and acts continually upon what is implied, and expected, under the parental rule. It anticipates the audible prohibition: it waits not for the check or caution, for the law once revealed is thenceforth written on the mind and heart. Knowing that to do right, is the measure of that law, the constant aim will be to do right, whether it is expressly required or not. What a contrast there is — what a vital and tremendous difference — between such a child and his opposites son whose nature revolts at all the proper constraints of home, and puts scorn upon its holiest claims of honour and duty; a petulant, self-willed, wrongheaded son, who lives in his father s house, like a wild beast in a cage; who files in the face of authority, and bursts into uncontrollable fits of rage at the slightest reproof, and dares to turn upon those who support and cherish him, with words of abuse and malediction; a son who can look into the pleading face of the mother that bare him and laugh at her counsels, or the father that begat him with open contempt and loud dispute, and oh, the difference, who can measure it? Often have agonized parents been known to declare, that to have laid the child in his grave, would have been far easier than to have borne the daily inflictions of his wilfulness and evil behaviour (Proverbs 22:25). Nor is this without an impressive lesson for parents. Remember this solemn truth — the obedience due to you is enshrined in a universal and unqualified law. What is your example — what is your course of life? Your children are commanded to honour you, and they will usually do so, by adopting your practice. What is it?

II. REVERENCE IS A PRINCIPAL FEATURE IN THE CHARACTER AND DEPORTMENT OF A PLEASANT CHILD. It is not servility of which I speak, or an abject, self-distrusting spirit, which shrinks and cringes in the presence of authority or age. I would rather define it to be a due and noble appreciation of what belongs to parents and all superiors, including also a chastened respect for whatever is sacred or august. The true filial sentiment, as an excellent writer has said, will show itself in the tone of manners. You may detect the grace of this living sentiment, in the unnumbered offices that diminish a father's or a mother's care, or relieve their troubles. What exceeding beauty is there in the gentle, modest kindnesses that childhood and youth may throw around the hearthstone — the refined address — the unobtrusive attentions — the willing proffers of service! Do you ask if this be reverence? Yes — and but one rivulet from the fountain-head, for children have it in their power, if they have it in their hearts, not only to sweeten home with their courteous demeanour and ready will, but to be like attending angels there, in all that contributes to household peace and order: and when amidst the uncertainties of this mortal life, adversity or sickness invade their circle, and a shadow falls, what a blessing may arise from their hushed solicitude and consideration — what relief, more potential than all the arts of medicine, may they bring to the aching pillow, or the chamber of convalescence, by their tender assiduities. But more than this, a truly reverent child will ever be glad to adapt himself to all the varying circumstances and conditions of his father's house. If the sun of prosperity cease to shine upon it, or a necessity for frugal expenditures suddenly arise, he will not deepen the trial by a murmuring reluctance. The habit of obeisance and affectionate respect thus cultivated at home, will be displayed abroad and upon all occasions. Reverence will beautify all the ways of a pleasant child, and become his characteristic mark.

III. EARLY PIETY. Hitherto your attention has been drawn only to the branches and specimens of the fruit — this is the root of the tree. If the trunk is vigorous, if the boughs are luxuriant and well laden, hanging over the wall of the domestic garden, so that even the wayfarer may delight in their shade, it is altogether traceable to a spring of fatness, a hidden life beneath the ground. In like manner, the mind and affections of childhood, nurtured by godly counsels, quickened and enlightened beneath home culture, pleased and persuaded by the gentle tones of a mother's voice, and freshened by the ever-descending dews of heavenly grace, will steal forth upon the outward life in visible forms of fruit and flowers, and manifold attractiveness. We shall see that conscientiousness — that sense of the Divine presence — that shrinking from sin, because it is offensive to God — that love of purity and truth, which is so much to be admired — that interest in whatsoever things are lovely and honest, and of good report — that trusting, prayerful, guileless temper, which looks upward for help, and would not willingly go astray. Who can express the comeliness and beauty which rest upon such a child?

(W. F. Morgan, D. D.)

The text naturally resolves itself into three parts. First, we find the careless, resolute, impenitent, reduced by chastisement to a sense of his danger, and the necessity of turning to God; and yet sensible of his utter inability, and therefore crying for the attractive influences of Divine grace. The attractive influences of Divine grace are granted, and he is enabled to return; which introduces the second branch of the text, in which the new convert is represented as reflecting upon the efficacy of converting grace, and the glorious change wrought in him by it. While the returning prodigal is venting himself in these plaintive strains in some solitary corner, his Heavenly Father's bowels are moving over him. The third part of the text represents the blessed God listening to the cries of His mourning child.

I. THE RETURNING SINNER UNDER HIS FIRST SPIRITUAL CONCERN, WHICH IS GENERALLY PREPARATORY TO EVANGELICAL REPENTANCE. Where shall we find him? What is he doing? He is not congratulating himself upon the imaginary goodness of his heart or life, or priding himself with secret wonder in a rich conceit of his excellences; but you will hear him, in his sorrowful retirement, bemoaning, condoling himself. He sees his case to be really awful and sad, and he, as it were, takes up a lamentation over himself. He is no more senseless, hard-hearted, and self-applauding, as he was wont to be; but, like a mourning turtle, he bewails himself. "Thou hast chastised me." This, as spoken by Ephraim, had a particular reference to the Babylonish captivity; but we may naturally take occasion from it to speak of those calamities in general, whether outward or inward, that are made the means of alarming the secure sinner. There are many ways which our Heavenly Father takes to correct His undutiful children until they return to Him. Sometimes He kindly takes away their health, the abused occasion of their wantonness and security, and restrains them from their lusts with fetters of affliction (Job 33:19, &c.). Sometimes God awakens the sinner to bethink himself, by stripping him of his earthly supports and comforts, his estate, or his relatives, which drew away his heart from eternal things, and thus brings him to see the necessity of turning to God, the fountain of bliss, upon the failure of the streams (2 Chronicles 33:11, 12). Thus also God promises to do with His chosen (Ezekiel 20:37; Psalm 89:32; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 29:15). But the principal means of correction which God uses for the end of return to Him is that of conscience; and indeed without this, all the rest are in vain. It is conscience that makes the sinner sensible of his misery and scourges him till he return to his duty. Conscience is a serpent in his breast, which bites and gnaws his heart; and he can no more avoid it, than he can fly from himself. Its force is so great and universal that even the heathen poet Juvenal, not famous for the delicacy of his morals, taught by experience, could speak feelingly of its secret blows, and of agonising sweats under its tortures. Let not such of you as have never been tortured with its remorse, congratulate yourselves upon your happiness, for you are not innocents; and therefore conscience will not always sleep; it will not always lie torpid and inactive, like a snake benumbed with cold, in your breast. It will awaken you either to your conversion or condemnation. Therefore now submit to its wholesome severities, now yield to its chastisements. Such of you as have submitted to its authority, and obeyed its faithful admonitions, find it your best friend; and you may bless the day in which you complied with its demands, though before Divine grace renewed your heart, your wills were stubborn and reluctant; and you might say with Ephraim, "I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." You see the obstinate reluctance of an awakened sinner to return to God. Like a wild young bullock, he would range at large, and is impatient of the yoke of the law, and the restraints of conscience. He loves his sin and cannot bear to part with it. He has no relish for the exercises of devotion and ascetic mortification; and therefore will not submit to them. The way of holiness is disagreeable to his depraved heart, and he will not turn his feet to it. But the happy soul, on whom Divine grace is determined to finish its work in spite of all opposition, is suffered to weary itself out in a vain resistance of the chastisements of conscience, till it is obliged to yield, and submit to the yoke. And then with Ephraim it will cry, "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned." This is the mourning sinner's language, when convinced that he must submit and turn to God, and in the meantime finds himself utterly unable to turn. Never did a drowning man call for help, or a condemned malefactor plead for pardon with more sincerity and ardour. If the sinner had neglected prayer all his life before now, he flies to it as the only expedient left, or if he formerly ran it over in a careless unthinking manner, as an insignificant form, now he exerts all the importunity of his soul; now he prays as for his life, and cannot rest till his desires are answered. The sinner ventures to enforce his petition by pleading his relation to God, "Turn me; for Thou art the Lord my God." The awakened sinner is obliged to take all his encouragement from God, and not from himself. All his trust is in the Divine mercy, and he is brought to a happy self-despair.

II. AS REFLECTING UPON THE SURPRISING EFFICACY OF GRACE HE HAD SOUGHT, AND WHICH WAS BESTOWED UPON HIM IN ANSWER TO HIS PRAYER. When the Lord exerts His power to subdue the stubbornness of the sinner, and sweetly to allure him to Himself, then the sinner repents; then his heart dissolves in ingenuous disinterested relentings. we learn from this passage, that the true penitent is sensible of a mighty turn in his temper and inclinations "Surely after that I was turned, I repented." His whole soul Is turned from what he formerly delighted in, and turned to what he had no relish for before. Particularly his thoughts, his will, and affections are turned to God; there is a heavenly bias communicated to them which draws them to holiness, like the law of gravitation in the material world. The penitent proceeds, After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh." The same grace that turns him does also instruct him; nay, it is by discovering to him the beauty of holiness, and the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that it draws him. And when instructed in these, "He smites upon his thigh." This gesture denotes consternation and amazement. He is struck with horror to think what an ungrateful, ignorant, stupid wretch he has been all his life till this happy moment. The pardoned penitent proceeds, "I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." We are ashamed when we are caught in a mean, base, and scandalous action; we blush, and are confounded, and know not where to look, or what to say. Thus the penitent is heartily ashamed of himself, when he reflects upon the sordid dispositions he has indulged, and the base and scandalous actions he has committed. He blushes at his own inspection; he is confounded at his own tribunal.

III. THE TENDER COMPASSION OF GOD TOWARDS MOURNING PENITENTS. While they are bemoaning their case, and conscious that they do not deserve one look of love from God, He is represented as attentively listening to catch the first penitential groan that breaks from their hearts. What strong consolation may this give to desponding mourners, who think themselves neglected by that God to whom they are pouring out their weeping supplications! He hears your secret groans, He counts your sighs, and puts your tears into His bottle. His eyes penetrate all the secrets of your heart, and He observes all your feeble struggles to turn to Himself; and He beholds you not as an unconcerned spectator, but with all the tender emotions of fatherly compassion: for, while He is listening to Ephraim's mournful complaints, He abruptly breaks in upon him, and sweetly surprises him with the warmest declarations of pity and grace. "Is this Ephraim?" &c. This passage contains a most encouraging truth, that, however vile and abandoned a sinner has been, yet, upon his repentance, he becomes God's dear son, His favourite child. He will, from that moment, regard him, provide for him, protect him, and bring him to His heavenly inheritance, as His son and heir (Romans 8:38).

(President Davies.)

What is it that wins back the heart to God? It is God's free, full, everlasting mercy. This attracts the sinner, melts, transforms, comforts, saves him.

I. A BROKEN HEART. Such was Ephraim's; he had departed far from God, he had fretted against the Lord, he had refused for a time to submit, but chastisement after chastisement in mercy came, and at length he received instruction.

1. His froward course is strikingly set forth. "A bullock unaccustomed to the yoke," Ephraim had spurned the hand that would have guided him.

2. There was insight into, and confession of his guilt. Nothing so fit to describe his state, am it was seen by his now enlightened eye, as the untamed bullock; like Asaph, "his heart is grieved, he is pricked in his reins"; like him he is ready to exclaim, "So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before Thee."

3. There were the true breathings of prayer. "Turn Thou me."(1) The source is acknowledged whence this godly sorrow flows. "After that I was turned."(2) There is application for mercy. "Turn Thou me."(3) Faith was in exercise in this prayer of Ephraim. "Thou art the Lord my God."

II. HEALING MERCY. The mercy that God gives is Godlike mercy; yea, He giveth Himself to the believing soul in and by Jesus Christ.

1. God makes no mention of his sins.

2. He transcribes a fair copy of his confessions.

3. He treasures up his groans.

4. He addresses by the titles of affection the once wayward but now bemoaning Ephraim.

5. God answers the one desire of the contrite heart.

(F. Storr, M. A.)

We have in this passage two speakers, two personalities. It is so everywhere. All religion which is worthy the name is the meeting, the intercourse, the converse and conversation of two spirits; till they come into communication and contact there is no religion, no possibility of religion in any but a barren and lifeless sense — the spirit of the man, and the Spirit of his God. Ephraim is bemoaning himself, but it is in God's presence. "I have surely heard him," God says, and that, not only because He who made the ear must hear all things, but because the self-bemoaning is addressed to God, as concerned, and interested, and acting in all. "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; turn Thou me, and I shall be turned." Oh, let Ephraim never bemoan himself in solitude. Let him shut the world out, but not shut self in. Let God hear him. Let him lay bare the sins and the sorrows which follow the sins, in the presence, consciously, discerningly — in the presence of the God against whom the sins are committed, and from whom the consequent sorrows come. We know not how it is, yet we do know that the whole character of the self-bemoaning is changed at once by the thought that God hears it. Oh, when I bemoan myself upon my knees, for the darkness in which sin has wrapped me round and round, for the chain which binds me, for the misery which chills me, for the weakness which bathes, and the experience of evil which paralyses me — when I do this upon my knees, there is a glimmering at once, and peradventure at least, at once of hope that I am so made as to feel that there is light in heaven, and that He before whom I kneel is already, in virtue of creation, Himself what Ephraim here called Him, the Lord my God. We pass from the one speaker of the text, and the one personality to the other, and, having listened to the self-bemoaning of Ephraim in God's presence, have yet to give audience to the most pathetic words in all the Bible: "Is Ephraim My dear son?" God is the speaker. "Is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: My heart is troubled for him: I must surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." You will not easily persuade us that the words were spoken of Ephraim the tribe, or of even the ten tribes, and not of Ephraim the individual and the man. It is because God feels thus towards man, that He feels thus towards the nation. Never let us lose the collective life in the individual; never let us rob the collective life. whether of Israel or of England, of the precious promises written of it in the Word. On the other hand, let us see an argument, as it were a fortiori, of the love of God to the responsible sin-suffering soul in all that He speaks in the Bible of that aggregate of souls which is the corporate being. We cannot err in taking the words home. We honour God when we clasp to our bosom any one of His utterances. It was for us if we can make it our own — and we can make this our own. There is something unspeakably affecting in that thought, that the very heart of God is, as He here says, troubled for the sinner that He has been obliged to speak against. He would not have been true, He would not have been righteous, He would not have been gracious, He would not have been God, if He had not spoken against him whilst he was going astray. He must speak against him while he is bent upon his own ruin; but oh! to hear Him saying that He earnestly remembers him still, even while He speaks. Earnestly remembers him! What about him? We can answer that question. He remembers that He made him in His own image; He remembers what He made him for — holiness, happiness, a delightful life, full of love and joy, and growing, maturing, expanding beauty, one day to shine as the sun in the kingdom of his Father. But more, and much more than this. He remembers the man himself, just as a parent remembers a son far away serving his country in India or Egypt; or a son gone into the unseen country, oh! how to be missed and mourned; or a son — for this is more appropriate — a son who has given him trouble, for whom he has had endless anxiety, for whom his own pillow has been wet, night after night, with tears. Yes, Ephraim has given God trouble. For Ephraim God left heaven, went after him into his exile, shed His life's blood for him. St. Paul said so at Miletus. What more could He have done for him that He has not done! and, though it has been for a long time in vain, though neither gentleness nor severity has succeeded with him, though He might, if He had been a human parent, long ago have given him up, yet, being God and not man, He earnestly remembers him still

(Dean Vaughan.)

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