The bellows blow fiercely, blasting away the lead with fire. The refining proceeds in vain, for the wicked are not purged.
I. IT IS THE PURPOSE OF GOD SO TO MELT AND SUBDUE THE HEART OF MAN THAT HE MAY MOULD IT AFRESH, AND ACCORDING TO HIS OWN GRACIOUS WILL. NOW to this end there are needed:
1. A Divine fire which shall bear upon the heart of man. But the Holy Spirit is such a fire, which, if it be quenched, woe is unto us!
2. That that fire shall glow with fervent heat.
II. To SECURE THIS HE MAKES USE OF MANY AND VARIED APPLIANCES WHICH THE PROPHET HERE LIKENS TO "BELLOWS."
1. The prophets own ministry in the case of Judah and Jerusalem at that time.
2. The faithful ministry of his truth by his prophets now.
3. His Law, his Word, the varied means of grace.
4. His mercies, especially the mercy of God in Christ.
5. His chastisements and judgments. These more especially referred to here. Such are some of these appliances.
III. Now, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ALL THESE TO BECOME UTTERLY INEFFECTUAL. This is what is here meant. God's messengers, Law, faeries, chastisements, - all in vain. And such things happen now. There are those whom naught can move. What is the cause? Not that the Divine heat did not bear upon the heart that was to be melted. Not that those appliances were left unused whereby the understanding, the conscience, the affections, and the win might be rendered more susceptible of the Divine influences. But the obduracy of the heart. The perversity and evil of that baffled all the earnest endeavors of God's grace in regard to that heart.
IV. NOW, WHEN "THE BELLOWS ARE BURNED," WHEN ALL MEANS HAVE BEEN TRIED AND FAILED TO WIN THE HEART FOR GOD, NO CONDITION CAN BE MORE AWFUL OR DEPLORABLE.
1. It is sad for God's ministers. Jeremiah, Paul, Christ, and thousands of his ministers since have prayed and wept over obdurate hearts.
2. But it is far more sad for these hard-hearted ones themselves.
(1) They are without excuse.
(2) There is no hope of their repentance.
(3) They are in danger of eternal sin.
1. Christ's ministers must expect that, so far as they can see, they will, at times, labor in vain in regard to the salvation of souls. The bellows will be burned, and the ore remain unmelted still.
2. They are to be sustained by the thought that God will deal with them, not according to the results of their work, but according to its fidelity.
3. Let the impenitent be warned. - C.
The bellows are burnt.
I. THE PROPHET HIMSELF. The prophet was exhausted before the people were impressed. So also with Noah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Jesus Himself. Nor since, by apostles, confessors, zeal-consuming preachers, has the iron-hearted world become melted; but they themselves have suffered and perished amid their work.
1. It is the preacher's business to continue labouring till he is worn out.
2. The Gospel he preaches is the infallible test between the precious and the vile.
II. THE AFFLICTIONS WHICH GOD SENDS UPON UNGODLY MEN. Sent to see if they will melt in the furnace or not. But where there is no grace in affliction the afflictions are sooner exhausted than the sinner's heart is made to melt under the heat caused thereby — e.g., Pharaoh, not softened by all the plagues. Ahaz, "when he was afflicted, he sinned yet more and more." Jerusalem, often chastised, yet incorrigible. Sinners, upon whom God's judgments exert no melting power.
III. THE CHASTISEMENTS WHICH GOD SENDS UPON HIS OWN PEOPLE. The great Refiner will have His gold pure, and will utterly remove our tin. Do not let it be said that the bellows are used till they are worn out before our afflictions melt us to repentance and cause us to let go our sins.
IV. THE TIME IS COMING WHEN THE EXCITEMENT OF UNGODLY MEN WILL FAIL THEM. Many activities are kept up by outward energies inciting men.
1. Excitement in pursuit of wealth. Yet how little will the joys of wealth stimulate you in your last moments!
2. Excitement in pursuing fame. Alas! men burn away their lives for the approbation of fellow creatures; and these fires will die down into darkness.
3. Living for pleasure; but satiety follows, and the flame of joy goes out.
4. Hypocrisy is with some their "bellows"; but this feigned zeal and pretended piety will end in black despair.
V. THOSE EXCITEMENTS WHICH KEEP ALIVE THE CHRISTIAN'S ZEAL. In certain Churches we have seen great blazings of enthusiasm, misnamed "revivals," mere agitations. Genuine revivals I love, but these spurious things are fanaticism. Why was it the fire soon went out? The man who blew the bellows left the scene of excitement, and darkness ensued. Our earnestness is worthless which depends on such special ministrations. Is the fire in our soul burning less vehemently than in years past? Our obligations to live for Christ are the same; our Master's claims on our love are as strong; the objects for which we served God in the past are as important. Should we grow less heavenly the nearer we come to the New Jerusalem?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The lead is consumed of the fire.
1. First, there is the refining fire of glory, which is so abundant in the outward world. It is for us to answer it by what is known as reverence. We have not the pure metal which is sought, if we are not so refined by the wonders of the world as to kneel in worship, and uplift our souls in awe. "This world is not for him who does not worship," said an ancient Persian sage; and our kindred souls give back the truth across the centuries, "This world is not for him who does not worship."
2. Again, there is the burning fact of law. All things around us are done with persistency. Everything is regular. The smallest function is precise. Surely the knowledge of such constancy should have its influence on us. It should take what is pure within us. It should appeal to the clear metal of our better selves, and make us trust.
3. Finally, the fire of utter impartiality surrounds us. The world is laid at each one's feet. The Divine bounty is not given to this person, and denied to that one; but all of us receive. And the answering refinement which should come from receptive human beings, who may doubt its nature or its need? A suggestive legend comes to us from Mohammedan writings. Abraham, it is said, once received an old man in his tent, who, in sitting down to eat, neglected to repeat a "grace." "My custom," he said, in explanation, "is that of the fire worshipper." — Whereupon the Jewish patriarch in wrath undertook to drive him from his door. But suddenly God appeared to him, and, restraining the churlish impulse, cried: "Abraham, for one hundred years the Divine bounty has flowed out to you in sunshine and in rain; and is it for you to deny shelter to this man because his worship is not thine?" Even thus does nature speak a silent yet severe rebuke to our narrowness, our lack of sympathy, our petty distinctions and rivalries in social life. "Be broad," she cries. "Let love control your acts; to those who need, extend a helping hand."
(P. R. Frothingham.).
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