Zechariah 9:12

I. SELF-RUINED. Joseph, Daniel, Jeremiah, were cast into "the pit" by wicked hands. The sinner has himself to blame. if there is gloom, chains, and misery, it is because of revolt from God. It is not the body but the soul that is "in prison," and no soul can be imprisoned save by its own deed and consent.

II. GOD-PITIED. Though we have cast off God, he has not cast off us. He is long suffering and merciful. His voice to us is fall of pity and inspires hope. "Prisoners of hope." Why? Specially:

1. As called of God.

2. Roused to a sense of danger.

3. Encouraged to seek deliverance.

III. CHRIST-RESCUED. Refuge is provided. "Stronghold."

1. Near.

2. Open to all.

3. Ample for the reception and defence of all who come.

Hence the urgent and loving appeal, "Flee" Happy they who have responded, "who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the Hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:19)! - F.







Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope
In ver. 8 is the assurance that the Divine blessing specially rests on Israel returned to Jerusalem. On this assurance is based an earnest plea, addressed to the Jews who were still remaining in Babylon, unwilling to break up their associations, and share with their countrymen in restoring the ancient nation. Zechariah pleads with them to return to the Lord's land. Jehovah has begun to bless us, come back and share with us." The prophet fixes on one of their excuses, which was a serious self-delusion. He noticed that the hope of returning "some day," was keeping them from making a present decision, and responding at once to the claims of duty. Family ties, increasing wealth, business relations, were making their return to Jerusalem only a hope — a hope with which they were deceiving themselves. Not one of these men had refused to return. They intended to return, and quite hoped to return. But they procrastinated. They believed in the "unknown morrow," in what might happen some day. Procrastination includes hope, and in that lies the subtle slavery of it. But it is a hope that imprisons: it keeps a man easy-minded while he is neglecting his duty. This is the infinite sadness of it.

I. AS REGARDS THE ETERNAL SALVATION OF OUR SOULS, WE ALL HAVE HOPE. Only in very exceptional cases, and those usually of disease, is hope quite lost.

1. None of us are without some knowledge of our spiritual state and condition.

2. None of us are without occasional impressions of the solemnity of our spiritual condition.

3. Even in calmest moments' none of us are without an anxious desire to secure the settlement of our eternal interests.

4. None of us have settled it, that we mean to be among the lost. None of us expect to perish everlastingly. All have hope.

II. AS REGARDS PERSONAL SALVATION, MANY OF US ARE IMPRISONED BY OUR HOPE. The figure of the text is taken from the peril of a country when its enemy is either passing close by it, or marching through it. Conquering Alexander was pushing his way from Phoenicia to Egypt, and Judaea lay right on his route. The people in the villages might imprison themselves by the hope that Alexander would not come their way. And this hope would keep them from seeking the shelter of the stronghold. All wise people, in such a time of peril, would flee from danger to the security of the walled city. We are saved by hope, but it must be well-grounded hope. When the ancient Israelite had accidentally slain a man, it was imprisoning and imperilling for him to hope that the Avenger of Blood had not yet heard of it, and was not yet upon his track. There was not one moment to lose. At once, delayed by no hopes, or possibilities, or excuses, he must be away, flying to the city of refuge that was nearest at hand. Men do die in their sins. We hope that we shall not be among them. But unless that hope rests on some good and sure foundations, we are imprisoning ourselves in our hopes. Look at some of these imprisoning hopes, and see if any of them can reveal ourselves to ourselves, and be a gracious means of arousing us out of false security.

1. An idea very frequently cherished is this — the next world will provide a milder estimate of our sin than is formed in this world. It is strange how we let a notion of that kind cling to us. "Things may be better in the next life. Nobody knows." It must be an imprisoning hope, for a man's life, motives, and conduct must surely look better under the earth shadows than when they are pushed out into the full sunlight of God. In the light of God, Job said, "I abhor myself."

2. Another idea is, that opportunities for repentance, for turning away from sin, and for seeking the Saviour, will one day be sure to come to us, though we may miss them now. We think God's time of mercy for us has not yet come, and there is nothing for us to do just now but wait for it, as the lame man in the "Bethesda porch" waited for the moving of the water. Only we never think of ourselves as helpless. We are quite sure that when the moving of the water does come, we shall be perfectly able to step down at once and secure our healing. But what a self-delusion that is! If we do not secure the opportunities of salvation that come to us now, on what ground do we hope that we shall seize some opportunity that may come by and by? Does the power of decision grow with the weakening years? Surely it is an imprisoning hope that keeps us from responding to the offers of Divine grace now, for "now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."

III. AS REGARDS PERSONAL SALVATION, THERE IS REALLY NO HOPE UNTIL WE HAVE GIVEN UP HOPE. This is a fact of actual and repeated experience. There is no hope for us until we have come, in the sincerity of personal conviction and humiliation, to say, "Myself I cannot save, myself I cannot help." The very first thing, and the all-essential thing is sweeping away those refuges of lies, our false, our imprisoning, hopes. In various ways God breaks down our self-confidences. There is no hope in God until hope in self is abandoned.

IV. WHEN FALSE IMPRISONING HOPES ARE GONE, WE MAY FLEE AT ONCE TO THE STRONGHOLD. Then the soul is fairly roused and set upon seeking safety at once. Then the intensest interest is felt in the message of Gospel salvation. Then, we may run at once into the safe hiding place of God's salvation, and there find a hope that will not make us ashamed. Be not then hindered by doubts, or imprisoned by hopes; there is a duty to be done now. "Flee to the mountain, lest ye be consumed."

(Robert Tuck, B. A.)

There is a change in the phraseology of the remaining chapters of this book. Not now the Word of the Lord, but the burden of the Word of the Lord. By this term we are prepared for tidings of sorrow and disaster, which are about to fall on the nations addressed. These burdens lay heavily on the soul of the prophet, who was probably already advanced in years when he announced them. When Zechariah wrote this prophecy, the early troubles of the returned remnant in the reconstruction of temple, city, and state were at an end; but they were hemmed in and pressed by Tyre on the north, and by Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron on the south. It was for their encouragement, therefore, that he foretold an approaching invasion, before which their strong and hostile neighbours would be swept away. Though Tyre had built herself a stronghold on an apparently impregnable island, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets; and though her counsellors were famous for their wisdom — the Lord would dispossess her, smiting her power in the sea, and devouring her palaces with fire. And the devastation which would befall Damascus and Hadrach (a part of Syria), would extend southwards till the worst fears of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron would be realised in their utter destruction. Philistia would be as a young lion deprived of its prey, whilst the chosen city would be defended by unseen angel forces. "I will encamp about Mine house as a garrison, that none pass through or return; and no oppressor shall pass through them any more; for now have I seen with Mine eyes." All these predictions were literally fulfilled within a few years by the invasion of the third of the great world conquerors, Alexander the Great. Syria, New Tyre, and the old seaboard, including the cities of Philistia, fell under his arms; but both in going and returning, he spared Jerusalem, being much impressed by a dream, in which he was warned not to approach the city, and by a solemn procession of priests and Levites, headed by Jaddua, the high priest. In Eastern lands, liable to long spells of drought, it is customary to hew cisterns out of the solid rock for the storage of water, that provision may be made against the failure of the rains. These abound in Palestine. "They hewed out for themselves cisterns." It seemed to the prophet as though Israel might be compared to a terrified peasantry, sheltering in some dark, dry, mountain cistern, far up from the valleys, dreading every day lest their hiding place might be discovered, and themselves dragged forth to dye with their blood the green sward.

I. THUS, IN EVERY AGE GOD'S PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED. You may have been caught in the snare of this world's evil. You have no sympathy with it, yet somehow you have become involved in the snares and toils of malign combinations. You have no desire for them — they chafe and try you — but you cannot get off. It seems as though some evil spirit has lassoed you, not indeed in your soul, but in your home and circumstances. Or perhaps you have been led captive by the devil at his will. There is no doubt about your sonship; in your better moments, God's Spirit witnesses clearly with yours that you have been born again; and yet, during long and sad periods of experience, you seem the bound slave of the great enemy of souls; swept before strong gusts of passion. Or, perhaps, you have fallen into deep despondency, partly as the result of ill-health, and partly because you have looked off the face of Christ to the winds and waves. The clear-shining of His love is obscured, and at times it is difficult to believe in anything but the pressure of your own dark thoughts.

II. ALL SUCH ARE PRISONERS, BUT THEY ARE PRISONERS OF HOPE. There is a sure and certain hope of their deliverance. The clouds might more easily succeed in imprisoning the sun than any of these dark conditions permanently hold one of God's children. They belong to the light and day; and, though they see it not, Hope, as God's angel, is standing near, only waiting His signal to open the prison door. The prisoner, on whom the sentence of capital punishment has been passed, and who has no strong, wise friends to interfere on his behalf, may well abandon hope as be passes within the massive walls of the fortress: But where justice and truth are on his side, when he has been the victim of craft and guile, if there be friends to espouse his cause, though he be incarcerated, bound with chains on the Devil's Island, and though the weary years pass over him, yet he is a prisoner of hope, and shall come forth again into the light of day. All God's children are prisoners of hope.

III. THEIR HOPE RESTS ON THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT. "Because of the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit." When God entered into covenant relationship with Abraham, the sacred compact was ratified by the mingled blood of an heifer of three years old, a she-goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And, in after years, when beneath the beetling cliffs of Sinai, Moses acted as mediator between God and the children of Israel, he sent young men, because the order of priesthood was not established, which offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord (Genesis 15:9; Exodus 24:7, 8). Similarly, when the new covenant — the provisions of which are enumerated in Hebrews 8 — was ratified, it was in the blood of Jesus. As He took the cup, He said: "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins." "And for this cause He is the Mediator of a new covenant." The shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God indicates that God has entered into a covenant relationship with Him, and all whom He represents, who are, by faith, members of His mystical body, the Church. On His side, He promises to be a God to us, and to take us to be His people; on our side, Christ promises, on our behalf, that we shall be a people for His own possession, zealous of good works. This covenant embraces all who have believed, shall believe, and do believe in Jesus. It embraces thee, if thou dost at this moment simply believe in Him as thine, and art willing to be evermore His.

IV. BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT, GOD WILL SEND FORTH EACH OF HIS IMPRISONED ONES OUT OF THE PIT. That blood binds Him to interpose on their behalf. That they might have strong consolation, He has confirmed His Word by an oath. Suppose two men were bound in the closest, tenderest friendship, not needing to exchange blood from each other's veins, as the manner of some is, because heart had already exchanged with heart; and suppose one of these, travelling in Calabria or Anatolia, was captured by brigands and carried into some mountain fastness, threatened with death unless ransomed by an immense sum of money: can you imagine his friend at home, in the enjoyment of opulence and liberty, settling down in circumstances of case, and allowing his brother to suffer his miserable fate, with no effort for his deliverance? It is impossible to imagine such a thing! With tireless perseverance he would leave no stone unturned, and the captive might rely on every possible effort being made for his deliverance. So it is with God. Whatever be the sad combination of disaster which has overtaken us, He is bound by the Holy Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, to spare no effort till our soul is escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler, until the snare is broken, and we are escaped. So, child of God, if you have made Jesus your King, He is sure to succour you. Behold thy King cometh, O prisoner of hope! Is not this the reason why some of us are not delivered? We should be glad enough to accept deliverance, but are not prepared to pay the price. We have not observed the Divine order, and crowned Jesus King of our hearts and lives. We are wishful that He should be our Saviour, but not altogether prepared to accept Him as King. He is first King of Righteousness, before He is Priest after the order of Melchizedek: and it is only when we confess with our mouths Jesus as Lord, that we shall be saved. But do not fear Him. He is lowly, and rides upon a colt, the foal of an ass. No prancing steed, no banner flaunting in the breeze, no long train of warriors. O prisoners of hope, lift up your heads! your salvation is come out of Zion. Turn you to the stronghold! Take up your abode in the stronghold of God's care and love, in the fortress of His righteousness, in the keep of His covenant.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God's children have a place of refuge, and the reason why others have not is, they flee from it instead of fleeing to it.

I. CONSIDER THE RELIEF PROVIDED. "A stronghold." Not any stronghold we may fancy, or prepare for ourselves, though the imagination of man is very fruitful in inventions of this kind. When conscience is alarmed, anything is sought to that will afford a little present ease. The physician of souls is neglected, and physicians of no value are applied to. Such has been and still is the conduct of sinful men. Some fly to the absolute and Uncovenanted mercy of God; some to their Church privileges, and others to their good works and religious performances. What refuge does Scripture provide? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe." The perfections of God, His wisdom, power, and goodness, are all engaged for the protection of His people. The covenant of grace, with its glorious provisions and extensive promises, is as a stronghold: here the righteous find safety in a time of danger, and comfort in a time of trouble. The Lord Jesus Christ especially is the refuge of poor sinners, and to Him the preceding verse evidently refers. He is both the foundation on which the believer builds, and the fortress in which he hides.

II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN OUR SEEKING THIS RELIEF?

1. It supposes that by nature we are turned another way, having not only an indifference, but a dislike to the true way of salvation. We choose to lie under the sentence of condemnation and death, rather than come to Christ for justification and life. Either we do not seek after salvation, or we do not seek it in God's way. Men by nature are without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world.

2. It implies a principle of grace implanted in us, by which the mind is renewed and directed to the Saviour. This removes the darkness of the understanding, the perverseness of the will, and the carnality of the affections; so that we are led to form different sentiments, and pursue a different path from what we trod before. A wounded conscience wants ease and rest.

3. It implies the total renunciation of all other refuges as insufficient and vain. The things in which we formerly trusted, and in which we gloried, are now darkened, withered, and consumed.

4. There is now a joining ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten. Being turned to the Saviour, there is a cleaving unto Him with full purpose of heart. The soul that has fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us, will keep his hold, and never wish to turn back any more. Where there is a real closing with Christ, there will also be a cleaving unto Him.

III. THE CHARACTERS ADDRESSED. "Prisoners of hope."

1. They are considered as prisoners. Satan's prisoners. Enslaved by their own corruptions and lusts.

2. They are prisoners of hope. All men are so in some sense, while life continues, and the sentence is not executed upon them. Vessels of wrath, till they are filled with wrath, may be made vessels of mercy. Let not the young presume, nor the aged despair. Some are more especially prisoners of hope.(1) Those who enjoy the means of grace, and to whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and power.(2) There is hope of such as have frequent convictions of sin, some desires after God, and whose consciences retain a degree of tenderness, so that they neither neglect private duties nor are wholly unaffected by the preaching of the Word.(3) Those also are prisoners of hope whose chains have been broken, but who, through unwatchfulness, have been led captive by the enemy. Suffer the word of exhortation. O ye distressed sinners and afflicted, deserted saints, suppress your rising fears and your despondent thoughts. An open and effectual door is set before you.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I. A COMMAND. "Turn you." When God calls a sinner to turn, he must turn. Being born again refers to the first turn, but there are the after-turns in the experience of the called Christian, and when grace begins a work in the soul, grace never stops.

II. THE THING COMMANDED. "Turn you to the stronghold." "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe."

III. THE UNCTION OF THE GOSPEL. "Ye prisoners of hope."

(J. J. West, M. A.)

There are three classes of prisoners in the moral universe without hope, and there are three classes of prisoners with hope.

1. The angels which kept not their first estate.

2. Men and women who have lived amid Gospel privileges.

3. The men and women in this city who are just as certain to be damned as they live and walk on the face of the earth today.There are prisoners with hope.

1. The men and women of earth who have taken up "their cross to follow Christ. Prisoners of hope, now hemmed in by the environments of earth, but soon to be God's freemen in heaven.

2. The man who says, "God knows my heart, I wish I were a better man." There is hope at the Cross for the weakest man in the world. Then do not be a prisoner without hope, be a prisoner with hope.

(Sara. P. Jones.)

This passage unquestionably has to do with our Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation. If you begin to read at the ninth verse you will see that we have, from that place on to our text, much prophetic information concerning our Lord and His kingdom. We read, first, something about His own manner of triumph, — His way of conducting Himself in His kingdom: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." The King of the kingdom of grace is not high and lofty, haughty or proud, but condescends to men of low estate. We have not to set before you a Pharaoh or a Nebuchadnezzar; Jesus of Nazareth is a King of quite another kind. The next verse goes on to describe the weapons by which He wins His victories; or rather, it tells us what they are not. Not by carnal weapons will Christ ever force His way amongst the sons of men, for He says, "I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off." Mohammed may conquer by the sword, but Christ conquers by the sword which cometh out of His mouth, that is, the Word of the Lord. His empire is one of love, not of force and oppression. The same verse reveals to us more concerning the nature of Christ's kingdom: "He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and HIS dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth." There have been universal monarchies in the past, but there shall never be another till Christ shall come again. Four times has God foiled those who have attempted to assume the sovereignty of the world; but in due time there shall come One who shall reign over all mankind.

I. A DIVINE DELIVERANCE. This must be a matter of personal experience; and therefore I should like that everyone whom I am now addressing should say to himself or herself, "Do I know anything about this Divine deliverance in my own heart and life? If I do not, I have grave cause to fear as to my condition in the sight of God; but if I do, let me be full of praise to God for this great mercy, that I have a share in this Divine deliverance: 'As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.'" Do all of you know anything about the pit wherein is no water?

1. Regarding it as a state of spiritual distress, do you understand what it means to be in such a comfortless condition? It was a common custom, in the East, to put prisoners into deep pits which had been dug in the earth. The sides were usually steep and perpendicular, and the prisoner who was dropped down into such a pit must remain there without any hope of escape. According to our text, there was no water there, and apparently no food of any kind. The object of the captors was to leave the prisoner there to be forgotten as a dead man out of mind. Have you ever, in your experience, realised anything like that? There was a time, with some of us, when we suddenly woke up to find that all our fancied goodness had vanished, that all our hopes had perished, and that we ourselves were in the comfortless condition of men in a pit, without even a single drop of water to mitigate our burning thirst. You need to know it, for this is the condition into which God usually brings His children before He reveals Himself to them.

2. The condition of being shut up in a pit wherein is no water is not only comfortless, but it is also hopeless. How can such a prisoner escape? He looks up out of the pit, and sees far above him a little circle of light; but he knows that it is impossible for him to climb up there. Perhaps he attempts it; but, if so, he falls back and injures himself. He lies fallen as a helpless, hopeless prisoner.

3. A man, in such a pit as that, is not only comfortless and hopeless, but he is also in a fatal condition. Without water, at the bottom of a deep pit, he must die. Many of God's children have known this experience to the fullest possible extent; and all of them have been, in some measure, brought into the pit wherein is no water. But concerning those who have believed in Jesus, our text is true, and God can say, "I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." Are you out of the pit? Then it is certain that you came out of it not by your own energy and strength, but because the Lord delivered you. Divine power, and nothing hut Divine power, can deliver a poor law-condemned conscience from the bondage under which it groans. There is this further comfort, that if He has set us free we are free indeed. It is only God who can deliver a bondaged conscience; but when it is delivered by Him, it need not be afraid of being dragged back to prison any more. But how has He done this great work? This is one of the principal clauses of our text: "As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." The people of God are set free from their bondage by the blood of the covenant. I trust that you will never be weary of listening to the doctrine of substitution. If you ever are, it will be all the more necessary that you keep on hearing it until you cease to be weary of it. That doctrine is the very core and essence of the Gospel. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all With His stripes we are healed." Nothing can give the soul repose when it is about to meet its God, except the knowledge that Christ was made a curse for us that we might be blessed in Him. No prisoners are set free except by the blood of Jesus; and, as the blood of the covenant is Godward, the means of our coming out of the pit wherein is no water, so it is the knowledge of Christ as suffering in our stead that sets the captive free. I hope I am not addressing any who will remain for a long time in the pit wherein is no water. I did so myself, but I blame myself now for having done so.

II. A DIVINE INVITATION GIVEN. Do you catch the thought that is intended to be conveyed by these words? Yon have been taken out of the pit, and there, close beside you, is the castle of refuge; so, the moment you are drawn up out of the pit, run to the castle for shelter. The parallel to this experience is to be found in the 40th Psalm, where David says that the Lord had brought him up out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set his feet upon a rock, and established his goings; and now that you are delivered from your prison pit, you are to go and dwell in the fortress, the high tower, which the Lord has so graciously prepared for you. The promises of God in Christ Jesus are the stronghold to which all believing men ought to turn in every time of trouble, and Jesus Christ Himself is still more their Stronghold in every hour of need. Sheltered in Him, you are indeed surrounded with protecting walls and bulwarks, for who is he that can successfully assail the man who is shielded and guarded by the great atoning sacrifice of Christ? Yet you will often feel as if you were still in danger. When you do so feel, turn to the Stronghold directly. Do you mourn your slackness in prayer, and does the devil tell you that you cannot be a Christian, or you would not feel as you do? Then, run to Christ directly. Has there been, during this day, some slip in language, or has there even been some sin in overt act? Then, run to Christ directly; turn you to the Stronghold. So, again, I say to you, never try to combat sin and Satan by yourselves, but always flee away to Christ. Inside that Stronghold, the most powerful guns of the enemy will not be able to injure you. They who have gone the furthest in the Divine life yet do well to walk in Christ just as they received Him at the first.

III. THE DIVINE PROMISE. "Even today do I declare that I will render double unto thee."

1. First, if you, who have been delivered from the pit wherein is no water, continually turn to Christ, you shall have twice as much joy as ever you had sorrow. The grief that we had before we found Christ was a very mountain of sorrow, but how has it been with you since you came to Jesus? Have you not, after all, had twice as much joy as you have had sorrow? Oh, the unspeakable delight of the soul that has found peace in Jesus after having been long in bondage to sin and Satan! I think I have told you before that I heard Dr. Alexander Fletcher once say, when he was preaching, that on one occasion, passing down the Old Bailey, he saw two boys, or young men, jumping and leaping and standing on their heads, and going through all sorts of antics on the pavement. He said to them, "Whatever are you at?" But they only clapped their hands, and danced more joyously than before; so he said, "Boys, what has happened to you that you are so glad?" Then one of them replied, "If you had been locked up for three months inside that prison, you would jump for joy when you came out." "A very natural expression," said the good old man, and bade them jump away as long as they liked. Ay, and when a soul has once been delivered from the pit wherein is no water it has a foretaste of the joy of heaven. The possession of Christ is, indeed, not only double bliss for all its sin, but much more than double.

2. More than that, God gives His servants the double of all that they expect. When we come to our Lord, it is as it was when the queen of Sheba came to Solomon. She said that the half had not been told her; and if you raise your expectations to the highest point that you can reach, you who come to Christ will find them far exceeded in the blessed realisation. He is indeed a precious Christ to all who believe in Him; but He is a hundred times more precious than you can ever imagine.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Homilist.
"Prisoners of hope."

I. ALL SINNERS ARE PRISONERS. A prisoner implies —

1. Criminality.

2. Deprivation: society, light, etc.

3. Bondage. A sinner is a slave. His soul himself is enslaved, death cannot free him. Some of the prisoners have —

II. HOPE. Some, not all. None in hell. But some on earth.

1. Provision has been made for their deliverance.

2. The vilest of men have obtained deliverance.

3. Deliverance is freely offered to all.

(Homilist.)

Fear and hope have two things in common. They are both prospective. They regard the future as possible. We neither hope nor fear that which cannot conceivably affect us. With these two points of resemblance, Hope and Fear are in all else opposite and contradictory to each other. Fear is the apprehension of a future possible evil. Hope is the anticipation of a future possible good. Human life is largely indebted to hope: almost all that redeems it from gloom and misery is, if you look into it, hope more than happiness. Hope, not fruition, is the happiness, while we are in the body, of man that must die. This hope has degrees. One man is full of it. He puts his hand to nothing without intending, expecting, resolving to succeed. And the hope which cheers also strengthens. Expectation is success — unless the calculation has been utterly fanciful, and the sum wrongly added. Certainly the absence of hope is a bar to success. Depression is always weakness. A man is not entirely responsible for it; health, temperament, nature, may alone be to blame. More often there is blame; a man has not braced himself by early discipline: he has let the fibre of character become loose and feeble; he has admitted into the memory, into the conscience, into the life, something of that which is utter weakness — sin. Great things are never done, even small successes are never achieved, where there is no hope. Not to hope is not to have. The Gospel will have a place for hope. We are to ask what it is. How does Christ use this powerful principle? He makes it everything. St. Paul even says, "We are saved by hope." Of Christ it is said, "For the joy which was set before Him, He endured the Cross." The anticipation of a blessed future, which is the definition of hope, supported our Lord in working out our redemption. You will find that every thing ever done bravely and effectively in the strength of Christ by His people, has been done in the power of hope. Fear may teach watchfulness. Fear may keep a man to his duty. Fear may constrain a man to combat a sin, or shake off a bad companion, or to resolve to make his life less purposeless, and more decided; but fear, if it stood alone, could make no man a hero, nor a martyr, nor a saint. That is left for hope. We see in education the stimulus of hope. How largely do we use it in every school system that is worth the name! But there is a use of hope which is fallacious and mischievous. Hope is not irrational because it is sanguine. There is no encouragement in man's life, or in God's Word, for that kind of hope which either dreams of reaping without sowing, or looks for sudden counteractions of influences wantonly indulged. There are men whose whole life is spent in reckoning upon results to which they have contributed nothing but hindrance. There are men who may call themselves waiters upon providence, but whom God would rather describe as gamblers in chances. It is so in reference to the things of this life; it is so in reference to a more serious thing — the condition of the soul, and the destinies of eternity. Gospel hope has for its object Gospel promise. See some of those future good things which God has promised, and therefore the Christian hopes for. One of these is growth, progress, at last perfection, in holiness. To a Christian person the prospect of becoming holy is the most blessed, most glorious revelation. If it be a revelation, certainly it is a hope. Holiness is sometimes preached as a duty, not preached as a promise. That is not God's method. Scripture sets holiness before us rather as a gift than as a toil. I have called this one of the objects of a Christian hope, but it is the sum of all. I knit into one the hope of holiness and the hope of heaven. I know indeed that many talk of heaven who have no thought for the way to it. Scum hope to meet there lost friends; some dream pleasantly of the trouble of conflict ended, and the repose of the everlasting unbroken. But all this is vague and unsatisfactory: there is nothing of it in the Bible....Then love too well Him who is your hope to count anything too difficult to do, or too precious to sacrifice for Him! Saved by hope, hope to the end. Where He went before, follow after!

(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

The years of the history of the Church which have as yet resisted most successfully the efforts of scientific research are the earliest years. The first century is the most obscure. With or without a history satisfying to modern canons, the Church accomplished in that time a spiritual work which, for present moral effects, for power to attract and subjugate souls of every nation and degree of culture, for inspiring new motives of action to a languid and despairing world, has far surpassed any other change known to us in the history of man. If the question is asked, as it often is, on what does our faith in God and Christ depend, we ought perhaps to reply, on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, and that His resurrection restored Him as a living leader to His disciples, so that His presence welded them together as one community, zealous of good works, abhorring sin, sure of eternal life. "Never," says Ewald, "in the whole world has a whole community, through a course of many years, lived so exclusively with all its thoughts in heaven, as that primitive community of Christianity without a visible Christ did actually live." With this belief we must stand or fall. Christian exclusiveness rests upon a belief in the central doctrine of the resurrection. The firm and sturdy belief that Christ is risen, and that we are risen, will not be replaced by Leibnitz's immortality of unlimited progress, or by the impersonal immortality of Spinoza, which to the individual soul is hardly more than a promise of nothingness. "The impossibility of a future life is not yet proved. With modern science immortality remains still a problem; and if the problem has not yet received a positive solution, neither has it received a negative one, as is sometimes maintained."

(Archbishop Thomson.)

The prophet exhorts both those who had returned from Babylon and those who continued in Babylon to direct their eyes to the Messiah, to shelter themselves in Him as their stronghold.

I. THE CHARACTERS DESCRIBED. "Prisoners of hope." Such is the condition of man in general. Still, even these are prisoners of hope. They have not yet crossed the portal on which justice hath graven, "There is no hope." Still more emphatically are they "prisoners of hope" who feel their bondage and pant for liberty.

II. THE DIRECTION HERE GIVEN. "Turn ye to the stronghold." The soul is invited to trust in Christ as the only refute and hope of the guilty.

III. THE PROMISE WITH WHICH THE TEXT CLOSES. I will render double unto thee. This expression is used in Scripture to describe a blessedness exceeding all that we can ask or think. Not according to our former sufferings, but double; not according to the punishment we have deserved for our sins, but double; not even the like blessings as were enjoyed by saints of old, but double.

(Stephen Bridge, M. A.)

I. THE IMAGE UNDER WHICH WE ARE ADDRESSED. "Prisoners of hope." Man, in more senses than one, is a prisoner. This earthly body is, in one sense, his prison. He is also a prisoner of sin. We are captives of Satan. But we are prisoners of hope. With the prospect of release and encouragement. Such was the case with Israel's captives. In this life we are all prisoners of hope. And those who by Divine grace have been brought back to God are in a still more distinct and peculiar manner the prisoners of hope.

II. THE ADMONITION GIVEN IN THE TEXT. The language is that of earnest solicitation. Imminent peril is threatened. The flying captives who have escaped their prison are in danger of being seized and retaken by the enemy; and here is an impregnable fortress opened, into which they are invited to turn. We have no hesitation in applying this language to Christ.

(D. Wilson, M. A.)

Homiletic Review.
God is not content with merely promising some refuge for stricken souls, but fascinates our faith with the wealth of imagery by which He declares it. In this verse He calls, "Turn you to the stronghold." Fortified places were provided generally on the top of some steep mountain, or approached only by a narrow defile where one could withstand a multitude of assailants, and into which the people ran from the villages and fields when the land was invaded. In other passages God is represented as a "hiding place," where evil cannot even find and attack the soul (Psalm 32:7); a pavilion, where safety is supplemented with comfort and delight (Psalm 27:5); the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, the caves and overhanging cliffs (Isaiah 32:2), beneath which travellers and cattle escape the intense heat. How He assures us that our refuge is not through human expediencies, but Divine interposition in the "Rock that is higher than I"! Indeed, our refuge is something better than even a Divine expediency; it is in God Himself (Psalm 62:7, 8: "My refuge is in God." Psalm 57:1: "In the shadow of Thy wings"). Emphasise the personality of the Divine comfort.

I. THE COMPLETENESS OF THIS REFUGE. From the guilt of sin through the Cross — from the power of sinfulness in us through the Holy Spirit; from fears of all sorts — His promises so many and so varied between us and anticipated evil, like the many stones of the fortress facing outward in every direction; from depression, the cup He gives us "running over" —the spiritual overplus as opposed to the depressive occasion in the flesh or in the circumstances; from the ennui of secular pleasures and business, His revelation lifting our minds to the contemplation of the vast and glorious truths of both His earthly and heavenly kingdom; from unrest — He will keep in perfect peace the mind that is stayed on Him; from the weariness of all selfism, imparting the spirit of love and unselfish devotion, etc.

II. HOW SHALL WE FIND THIS REFUGE? It is not far away; need not go to Rome for it (Popish pilgrims), nor to Jerusalem (Crusaders' expectation of finding relief at the Holy Sepulchre): "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart," etc.

1. It is not a mysterious refuge, or one hard to understand. There is no Esoterism of Christian experience, no favoured few, no especial soul light in theological refinements; Grotius prayed for the faith of his serving man.

2. It is not difficult to attain. "Knock," "Ask," "All things are ready." The great heart of the Eternal is close about us; no whispering gallery so quickly catches sounds as God's quick intent to bless catches the soul's desire.

(Homiletic Review.)

The Gospel of Christ is a true friend to the penitent sinner. It is a refuge for the destitute, a shelter for the oppressed, and a defence in all "times of trouble." It is a "stronghold," and all that flee into it are safe. The words of the text apply —

1. To the unawakened sinner. You are a prisoner, though unconscious of your captivity. You are the prisoner of Satan, and in bondage to sin. But God, who is a God of mercy, hath provided a great deliverer to interpose in your behalf. He hath opened the doors of the prison house. At His command the chains of bondage fall off.

2. To the awakened sinner. When we perceive a concern for the soul in any one we thank God for His mercies, and pray that the work may be abiding and prosper.

3. To the weak believer. Unbelief hides from your view and from your enjoyment the truths and promises of the glorious Gospel, and keeps your soul still the prisoner of doubt, lest you should not hold out to the end of the journey, and reach in safety the kingdom of heaven. You need the exercise of a more lively faith in the free and finished salvation of the Cross, and a more simple reliance on the redeeming love and power of Christ. Hear, then, the voice of your Lord and Saviour, "Turn to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope." Look more simply to Jesus. He is a complete and almighty Saviour.

(C. Davy.)

I. THE PERSONS WHOM HE COMES TO REDEEM. The description is of a mixed nature: it represents a state in the main bad, yet not so wholly bad as to be past recovery. Though this "pit" doth not yield any water, yet water may be brought to it. The description points at those who feel their misery, and earnestly look and long for deliverance. By "prisoners of hope" we understand all sinners who are within reach of Divine mercy, and more especially those who are suing for mercy, under the felt burden of sin and misery. And even they who have obtained mercy may come under this description. The present condition of believers upon earth is neither a state of perfect liberty nor of uninterrupted peace. These are the blessed ingredients which constitute the happiness of the Zion above, but whilst they sojourn in this strange land they are liable to various and painful distresses. There are other prisons besides the pit of an unconverted state; prisons where those who are dear to God may suffer a temporary confinement. There they are "prisoners of hope."

II. THE ADVICE OR COMMAND ADDRESSED TO THEM. By the "stronghold" is meant "the blood of the covenant," or rather the new covenant itself, ratified and sealed by the blood of Christ. It is an impregnable defence to all who flee to it for refuge. How are we to turn to this stronghold?

1. We must turn our back upon everything else, and abandon all other means of deliverance, as refuges of lies, which will miserably disappoint those who expect relief from them.

2. That we turn our eyes to this stronghold, and narrowly examine the security it affords.

3. That we actually flee to it, and improve it for all the purposes for which it was intended.

III. A GRACIOUS AND ENCOURAGING PROMISE.

1. The promise itself is most gracious. "I will render double unto you."

2. The comfort of this promise is greatly heightened by the manner of publishing it. "Even today do I declare."

(R. Walker.)

The multitudes in this fallen world need some other place of refuge than that which they have already discovered. If they had already found peace and security, there could be no necessity for directing them to "turn" to any new stronghold or place of defence.

I. THE FIGURE UNDER WHICH THE TEXT DESCRIBES THE GREAT MASS OF MANKIND.

1. "Prisoners." Even the real servant of God finds much to remind him that he has not yet reached the region of perfect liberty. As to the man of the world, he is altogether a prisoner.

2. They are "prisoners of hope." All who have fallen from God are to be considered as "prisoners of hope." To whom shall we deny the privileges of hope? While there is life there is hope.

II. THE COUNSEL GIVEN IN THE TEXT.

1. A stronghold is here pointed out to you. By stronghold is meant every refuge which the mercy of God has provided for His guilty creatures. But especially the love, the merits, and the righteousness of the Saviour of sinners, the Son of God, the Redeemer of a lost world.

2. We are directed to turn to the stronghold.

(1)We must be persuaded of the inefficiency of every other.

(2)We must be persuaded of its sufficiency for our safety.

(3)It is essential that we actually take possession of it. Inferences —

1. What a confirmation do topics such as this lend to the authenticity of that faith into which we are baptized.

2. If the provision made in the Gospel for the wants and distresses of human nature be one mark of its Divine origin, let us take care to apply it to the use for which it is so emphatically designed.

(J. W. Cunningham.)

The text primarily alludes to the Jews in captivity.

I. THE PRISONERS OF HOPE. We have in our country at the least three kinds of prisoners.

1. Those upon whom sentence is passed, and they are therefore consigned to further imprisonment, punishment, banishment, or death.

2. Those who are guilty of felony or misdemeanour, but who have not yet appeared before the judge to have their trial; and —

3. Debtors who, in consequence of adversity or prodigality, have been brought into distress and prison.There are also three kinds of prisoners in a moral or spiritual sense.

1. Those who have died impenitent, and have received sentence of eternal death. These are not prisoners of hope, their state is eternally fixed. They must be banished forever from God. Thanks be to God! this is not our state.

2. All who are living in sin are prisoners. Compare a man shut up in prison until the assizes when he must appear before the judge, and a sinner shut up in the prison of sin until death introduces him into the presence of the Judge of all the earth. The sinner is the bond slave of Satan. A prisoner is liable at any moment to be brought to justice; and so is a wicked man. He is yet a prisoner of hope.

3. There are debtors who often, in consequence of carelessness or prodigality, have brought themselves into sorrow and confinement. This is the case with backsliders. Their case is pitiable, but not desperate. They are prisoners of hope.

II. THE STRONGHOLD TO WHICH THESE PRISONERS ARE EXHORTED TO TURN.

1. A stronghold signifies literally a place of safety or defence; figuratively, it is put for the Church of God, and sometimes for the Lord Himself.

2. He is a place of safety and defence to His people. They are shielded from the curse attached to a breach of the holy and righteous law of God.

3. This stronghold is accessible by all kinds of sinners. As soon as ever they come to themselves, and are sensible of their situation, they may find shelter in the love of the Saviour.

III. ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION. "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope."

1. Confess and forsake all your sins.

2. It is the will of God that you should thus turn from prison to liberty, from sin to holiness.

3. To return from your prison will be your highest interest, both in this world and in that which is to come.

4. If you refuse to turn to the strong hold you will be destroyed, and that without remedy.

5. Turn now! Delays are dangerous!

(B. Bailey.)

In these words are to be noticed —

I. THE PERSONS. "Prisoners of hope." Though all men are prisoners by nature, yet all men are not "prisoners of hope." Every natural man is a prisoner to sin and Satan, and shut up in unbelief; sin has dominion over him, he lies in the arms of the wicked one. The persons spoken to in the words of the text are the same persons who are mentioned in the verse which precedes the text. The people addressed are a people who were sent forth out of the pit wherein is no water, by which a state of nature doubtless is intended; which is a filthy, dark, wretched, and uncomfortable state, wherein no refreshment can be had. These are called in the text "prisoners of hope," which they are, not only because they possess hope as a grace of the Spirit in their hearts, but also because it causes its professors to hope for the enjoyment of those things which are promised to the people of God in the Word of God, and which they are not yet put in the possession of. Though these people are sent forth out of the pit of nature, yet they may be called "prisoners," because their consciences are not yet acquitted of guilt. They are prisoners, but prisoners of hope.

II. THE EXHORTATION. "Turn ye to the stronghold." Christ undoubtedly is intended. It is by turning to Christ, in a way of believing, that guilty consciences can be liberated, and joy and peace experienced. Believing in Christ is also called coming to Him, looking to Him, turning to Him. Those who do this find themselves screened from the curse of the law; the charge of sin; the punishment of it; from Satan's rage; and from every other enemy.

III. THE DECLARATION, "I will render double unto thee." Either by this the abundance of grace and mercy in Christ is intended; or by the term "double" is meant the pardon of their sins, and acceptance of their persons; or it is a promise of God's removing guilt from their consciences, and of His restoring peace, which also is a double blessing. The whole of this passage is a display of God's love and care, which He exercises towards all those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, in virtue of which it is that God sends them forth out of the pit of nature, and then directs them as prisoners of hope to burn to the stronghold (Christ), and promises to render unto them the double blessings above mentioned.

(S. Barnard.)

Turning to the Jews who still remained in Babylon, Zechariah invites them to quit the land of their captivity and hasten to Jerusalem, "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope." They were in captivity, but that not an interminable captivity; they were prisoners of hope; and were now invited to a place of refuge and security. This is the primary meaning of the passage before us, but the language is suitable in the universal Church of God. The invitation of the Gospel is here addressed to "prisoners." "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin." Many who would justly spurn at the thought of being the slaves of any man are yet in bondage to a master of whose service they have more reason to be ashamed. All men are, by nature, servants of sin and children of wrath, exposed by their past transgressions of the law of God, and by the contrariety of their hearts to it, to His just displeasure I speak to those whose conscience tells them that they have never yet earnestly sought the deliverance that is provided for them. You are indeed prisoners, but you are prisoners of hope. To you the door of mercy is still open. There is an offer of deliverance, an invitation to a refuge, a place of safety. Are there some of you sensible of the danger of your state before God, convinced of sin, and tremblingly alive to its fearful consequences? Turn, then, to the stronghold. Turn to the covenant made by God with believers in Christ Jesus, the sure promise that He will pardon, justify, and deliver from condemnation, sanctify, and keep unto eternal life, those who cast themselves upon His mercy through Jesus Christ as their only hope. Are some of you desirous of turning to the stronghold, and yet know not how to set about your return? See the promise in Isaiah 42:16. You who have fled to the hope set before you in the Gospel may have strong consolation.

(M. M. Preston, M. A.)

The words of this text may be considered as justly applicable to the great Messiah, as highly expressive of the happiness which those shall enjoy who have recourse to Him for salvation.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE TO WHOM THE EXHORTATION IS ADDRESSED. They are "prisoners." Enter into the feelings of the ordinary criminal prisoner. Consider the tumults of soul which he experiences from the review of his iniquitous deeds. When reviewing the wretched state of a prisoner of this description the reflection irresistibly strikes us, — how happy this man might have been had his conduct been uniformly influenced by the laws of righteousness. All men, by nature, are prisoners. They have all become obnoxious to those fearful judgments which this law hath denounced against its transgressors. The situation of the prisoner is a faint emblem of the wretchedness of the natural man. The prisoner was confined in a dark dungeon; so do clouds and darkness encompass the soul. The prisoner is loaded with fetters. Every man, in his natural state, is shackled by the galling fetters of sin. The prisoner must expect to end his guilty career by a disgraceful death. But these prisoners are called "prisoners of hope." Dangerous is the state of sinful man, but not desperate. The stroke of death may yet be averted, and they may become heirs of eternal life. Loaded as men may be with iniquities, Omnipotence can easily release them from the oppressive burden. By the term "prisoners of hope" may also be meant those who have felt a deep sense of their misery and danger, who earnestly look for deliverance from the power and guilt of sin. Men of this description are in a most hopeful way. Those also may be included in the term who have already tasted that the Lord is merciful and gracious, but are subject to depression of mind. In the best of men there remains some portion of natural corruption.

II. THE IMPORT OF THE EXHORTATION. By the stronghold is here meant the blood of the atonement, or the "blood of the covenant." Through this blood those spiritual consolations are imparted to men which are so necessary to their happiness. This stronghold is a most impregnable defence to all who flee to it for refuge. The covenant of grace is adequate to all the wants and necessities of sinful men. It is there is to be found unlimited pardon of sin; through it the Divine acceptance has been assured; through it grace is communicated to purify the soul from every stain of corruption; through it that wisdom is conferred which is profitable to direct in all things, and that power which shall enable man to surmount every difficulty. The fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in the Mediator of this covenant, and He becometh to all who believe, "wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and complete redemption." What is implied by turning to this stronghold, the perfect righteousness and complete atonement of the Redeemer? It means that we renounce every mean or false security. Many are the grounds of false dependence on which unthinking, ignorant men rely. Let all who have hitherto relied on these grounds of false dependence henceforth renounce them forever; and let them betake themselves to the finished work of Jesus, who is the tried precious cornerstone, the sure foundation which God hath laid in Zion.

(M. Gait, M. A.)

I. IN WHAT SENSE, OR ON WHAT ACCOUNT, ARE MANKIND REPRESENTED AS PRISONERS? The prison is of a spiritual description. It is not so much a place as a state of confinement. All men, by nature, are under the curse of God, and the power of sin and Satan. The law, the justice, the truth, the power of God; these are the walls and bolts and bars that confine you. The evil dispositions and passions of men answer all the purposes of chains and bolts, to disable their souls from rising towards heaven, or moving a step in the way of holiness.

II. WHY ARE SOME CALLED PRISONERS OF HOPE, AND WHO ARE THEY THAT MAY BE SO CALLED? It implies that there are some without hope. The devil and his angels are such. Such also are all those among men who have died without repentance and pardon; and they are a multitude, we fear, greater than any man can number. Who are prisoners of hope?

1. All who are alive upon the earth.

2. Those who possess the means of grace are more particularly to be considered as prisoners of hope.

3. Those who feel religious impressions.

III. WHAT IS THIS STRONGHOLD? It is Christ.

1. He secures us from the wrath of God.

2. From the assaults of sin and Satan.

3. From worldly confusion and calamities.

IV. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN TURNING TO THIS STRONGHOLD?

1. You must be thoroughly convinced of Christ's ability to defend you.

2. You must forsake all other refuges.

3. In order to obtain safety in Christ there must be an actual acceptance of Him, and a steady reliance upon Him for protection.

V. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT CHRIST IS SUCH A STRONGHOLD?

1. Consider His Divine perfections.

2. His Divine appointment.Have you turned to this stronghold? Some have. Some are still secure in Satan's confinement. Some feel the fetters begin to gall them, and they are sighing for liberty. Be often looking back to your former imprisonment. Adore the grace that provided such a stronghold. And beware of dishonoring this stronghold. This is done when men think it a confinement, and are uneasy under its restraints.

(S. Lavington.)

I. HOW THE SAVIOUR MAY BE CALLED A STRONGHOLD. A stronghold implies a place of safety or security, and can only allude to Christ. The Psalmist called Him his castle, his fortress, his tower of defence, the rock of his might — doubtless impressed with the security afforded to the weak who can cleave unto Him. Few terms can be more forcible than the one contained in our text, but we must feel our weakness to appreciate the force of the term, We must feel the necessity of our having a stronghold to turn unto.

2. TO WHOM THE TERM "PRISONERS OF HOPE" MAY REFER. This evidently applies to the whole world. When Adam sinned he became a prisoner — a slave to sin and evil passions. This slavery he entailed upon all his children. It is the evil nature of man that holds him bound — it withers the germ of life; it destroys all the energies and Divine flowings of the soul; it throws a chain upon the creature that holds him down, so that he cannot get free. We are prisoners in the flesh. The heart of stone rests within. But although a prisoner, still in hope. Prisoners by sin hope in Christ, because Christ gave Himself a ransom for sinners. The penitent sinner has hope because he is awakened by a consciousness of his sin, and by the apprehension of his danger.

III. THE PROMISE CONTAINED IN THE TEXT. The exhortation contains a promise of infinite magnitude: "I will render double unto thee." You shall receive amends for the trouble you have endured, for the miseries of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.

(G. Thompson, M. A.)

In one of the great battles of history the General of the French was approached by an excited officer, who cried, "The battle is lost! Yes," was the cool reply; "but there is time to win another." And so it proved, for the retreating troops rallied, and pressed forward in a still fiercer attack because of their temporary repulse, and at night all victory rested on the French banners. No defeat is final, unless you choose to make it so. There is always time to win a victory. Suppose your temper gets the better of you instead of your conquering it. Suppose you yield to the temptation you meant to rout so gloriously. Is that a reason for giving up and throwing down your arms? Not a bit of it. The end has not come yet. There is still time to win another battle. Make your next onset all the fiercer because of that temporary defeat.

There is a bird that mariners call the "frigate bird," of strange habits and of stranger power. Men see him in all climes; but never yet has human eye seen him near the earth. With wings of mighty stretch, high borne, he sails along. Men of the far north see him at midnight moving on amid auroral fires, sailing along with set wings amid those awful flames, taking the colour of the waves of light which swell and heave around him. Men in the tropics see him at hottest noon, his plumage all incarnadined by the fierce rays that smite innocuous upon him. Amid their ardent fever he bears along, majestic, tireless. Never was he known to stoop from his lofty line of flight, never to swerve. To many he is a myth; to all a mystery. Where is his perch? Where does he rest? Where was he brooded? None know. They only, know that above the cloud, above the reach of tempest, above the tumult of transverse currents, this bird of heaven, so let us call him, on self-supporting wings that disdain to beat the air on which they rest, moves grandly on. So shall my hope be. At either pole of life, above the clouds of sorrow, superior to the tempests that beat upon me, on lofty and tireless wing, scorning the earth, it shall move along. Never shall it stoop, never swerve from its sublime line of flight. Men shall see it in the morning of my life; they shall see it in its hot noonday; and when the shadows fall, my sun having set, the last they shall see of me shall be this hope of gain in dying, as it sails out on steady wing, and disappears amid the everlasting light.

(W. H. Murray.)

Homiletic Magazine.
This title is not a fanciful one. To the Jew it had a triple significance.

1. He was under the yoke of a foreign despot, and longed to regain his freedom.

2. He was under the yoke of an unfulfilled promise of a coming Messiah, and yearned for the "day star to arise."

3. He was under the yoke of the unrealised prophecies concerning the glory of the Messiah's kingdom, and the eternal felicity of His followers. Rightly apprehended, the words of the text are the true designation of every real Christian. In two senses out of the three, however, they are not applicable to us. We are not under an alien yoke. The incarnation is not a hope, but a historic fact. In the third sense only are saints today "prisoners of hope."

I. WE ARE PRISONERS TO AN UNREDEEMED BODY. In St. Paul's sense, "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). Observe, then —

1. There is a sense in which the body is already redeemed. Christ by His contact with human flesh has sanctified it, and separated it from the service of sin; so that now we are exhorted to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God."

2. There is another sense in which our bodies are not redeemed.(1) They are not yet free from manifold infirmities, — nervousness, drowsiness, debility, defects in the organs of sensation.(2) They are not yet redeemed from sensuous appetites. How soon the sensuous becomes sensual!

3. Hope anticipates the possession of an immortal body —

(1)From which every element of weakness and infirmity is excluded.

(2)In which carnal appetites shall have no place.

(3)Which shall be no more subject to death.

II. WE ARE PRISONERS TO A LIMITED AND SUPERFICIAL KNOWLEDGE. "Now I know in part," — there is the bondage. "Then shall I know even as I am known," — there is the freedom.

1. Our knowledge touches not the essence, but only the phenomena of things. What they really are Omniscience only knows. Names are but disguises by which we hide our ignorance. The more we learn, the less we seem to know. "There are two sorts of ignorance. We philosophise to escape ignorance, and the consummation of our philosophy is ignorance. We start from the one, we repose in the other."

2. Our knowledge reaches men, not as they are, only as they appear. All men are better or worse than they seem to be. The invisible part is the true man.

3. Even this knowledge is limited by the brevity of life and the conditions of its existence. The most profound thinker and the most extensive traveller must lay aside their work at the summons of death.

4. Since human knowledge is so limited, how irrational for human beings to impugn the Divine economy. As wise for the mole to criticise and condemn the landscape under which he burrows. Man's work is to trust and wait.

5. Hope anticipates the solution of the dark enigma of human life. "Then I shall know even as I am known." Things will appear as they really are.

6. Even this knowledge is progressive. The finite can never comprehend the infinite. Progress is heaven's law as well as earth's.

III. WE ARE PRISONERS TO A CIRCUMSCRIBED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. The great family of our Father is sadly dismembered. Whilst one in spirit and faith, our fellowship is ruptured by —

1. Doctrinal divergence. The Jews of bigoted ritualism still have no dealings with the Samaritans of a broader faith

2. Suspicion, the offspring of imperfect knowledge, is another cause of circumscribed fellowship.

3. Social status is a barrier to universal Christian fellowship.

4. Distance and death contribute to the limited measure of fellowship enjoyed by Christians.

5. Hope anticipates the universal and perfect fellowship of saints.

(1)This will include all ages;

(2)and all climes;

(3)and all classes and creeds.

IV. WE ARE PRISONERS TO AN IMPERFECT VISION OF CHRIST. "Now we see through a glass darkly." There is the bondage. "Then face to face." There is the substance of our hope. Yet note —

1. Christ is really apprehended by faith even here. This faith is a spiritual sense, akin to the eye of the body. It invests the invisible Saviour with a real personality.

2. This vision is at best a dim one. A reflected view, as when one beholds a face in a mirror.

3. Human nature in its present state is not capable of a more open vision.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

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