So they read from the Book of the Law of God, explaining it and giving insight, so that the people could understand what was being read.
I. ALL TRUE REJOICING MUST BE FOUNDED ON RECONCILIATION WITH GOD.
1. The righteousness of God in his law, while it condemns man, and makes the people to weep when they see their sin in its light, is yet declared not for condemnation, but for reconciliation.
2. The true ministers of God will proclaim mercy, not judgment, as the substance of their message. "This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep." There is a time to weep, but there is a time to turn tears to praise.
3. The joy of the Lord which is our strength will be expressed in no mere selfish forgetfulness of him and of our neighbour, but in cheerfulness and beneficence; our own portions will be the sweeter when we send help to those for whom nothing is prepared.
II. THE CONVERSION AND REFORMATION OF A PEOPLE MUST BE EFFECTED THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD. They "understood the words which were declared unto them." A ministry which leaves the people either without the word or without understanding the word is no ministry of God. - R.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense.
(T. Campbell Finlayson.)
1. It is the duty of the pulpit to give the sense of Scripture. It is no part of that duty to make nonsense of it, to wrest it, to handle it deceitfully. This has too often been done. Even by learned men — e.g., insisted that the Psalms ascribed in their titles to Korah are descriptions of the Passion, and that the sons of Korah are Christians because Korah in Hebrew and Calvary in Latin may be translated "baldhead," and because Elisha was derided under that name. saw the twelve apostles, and therefore the clergy in the seven sons of Job, and the lay worshippers of the Trinity in his three daughters. Scripture is not to be played with in that style. "We must give the sense."
2. Not only was the sense given, but it was given in the language of the people, their common, every-day speech. It is our duty to set forth God's law in language that will be intelligible to the people. It is possible to put it into English and yet be unintelligible. If the law be made known in the technical language of theology, or even of literature, it may utterly fail of its purpose. The law of God may be spoken in speech understood of the people, and yet not adapted to their needs. It must be spoken not only in the language of our time, but suited to its present wants. In his Aids to Reflection, S. T. Coleridge says "that there is one sure way of giving freshness and importance to the most commonplace maxims, that of reflecting on them in direct reference to our own state and conduct, to our own past and future being." When you think of those whose high functions are discharged in the pulpit there is no prayer more necessary to be offered than this, that they may be" men having understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do."
3. It may be still further worthy of remark that Ezra and his disciples spoke to the people the law of God. Printed will never take the place of spoken words. Christ said to the disciples, "Go and preach the gospel to every creature." The word "preach" means to make known as a herald. The herald's voice is more powerful than a printed proclamation. The voice carries feeling better than the printed page. Life expresses itself more fully through the voice than by paper or book. The world has caught its highest inspiration through spoken words. Great changes, political, social, moral, religious, have been brought about by the speech of mighty men. The Corn Laws would never have been repealed by books on the subject. Slavery would never have been abolished by anti-slavery literature.
(W. Garrett Horder.)
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