The Biblical Illustrator
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation
The prophecy explained
Let me venture to give what I conceive to be the true rendering of the prophecy--a rendering which at least in its main particulars has the support of the best modern interpreters--and the striking beauty and force and consistency of the whole will become evident.
There is in this world mercifully a compensating balance to all Divine denunciations, a “nevertheless” to all God’s judgments, and a Gospel of grace appended to every message of doom. It is this that makes this world, amid all its tragic scenes, a world of mercy. (D. Davies.)
Clearest promises of Christ in darkest times
It is noteworthy that the clearer promises of the Messiah have been given in the darkest hour? of history. If the prophets had been silent upon the Coming One before, they always speak out in the cloudy and dark day; for well the Spirit made them know that the coming of God in human flesh is the lone star of the world’s night. It was so in the beginning, when our first parents had sinned, and were doomed to quit the paradise of delights. When Israel was in Egypt, when they were in the sorest bondage, and when many plagues had been wrought on Pharaoh, apparently without success; then Israel saw the Messiah set before her as the Paschal lamb, whose blood sprinkled on the lintel and the two side posts secured the chosen from the avenger of blood. The type is marvellously clear, and the times were marvellously dark. I will quote three cases from the prophetical books which now lie open before Isaiah 28:16, you read that glorious prophecy: “Behold, I lay inZion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” When was that given? When the foundation of society in Israel was rotten with iniquity, and when its cornerstone was oppression. Read from Isaiah 28:14 : “Wherefore hear the Word of the Lord, ye scornful men,” etc. Thus, when lies and falsehoods ruled the hour, the Lord proclaims the blessed truth that the Messiah would come sad would be a sure foundation for believers. Next, look into Jeremiah 23:5 : “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch,” etc. When was this clear testimony given! Read the former verses of the chapter, sad see that the pastors were destroying and scattering the sheep of Jehovah’s pasture. When the people of the Lord thus found their worst enemies where they ought to have met with friendly care, then they were promised happier days through the coming of the Divine Son of David. Glance at Ezekiel 34:23, where the Lord says, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, sad he shall feed them, even My servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” When came this cheering promise concerning that great Shepherd of the sheep! It came when Israel is thus described: “And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd,” etc. Thus, in each case, when things were at their worst, the Lord Jesus was the one well of consolation in a desert of sorrows. In the worst times we are to preach Christ, and to look to Christ. In Jesus there is a remedy for the direst of diseases, and s rescue from the darkest of despairs. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Phases of Divine purpose
Let us look at some of the abiding doctrines and illustrations suggested by this noblest effort of the prophet’s imagination. Isaiah’s wing never takes a higher flight than it does in this prevision of the centuries.
1. The Divine purpose has never been satisfied, if we may so say, with darkness, judgment, desolation. When God has judged a man He would seem to return to see what effect the judgment has had, if haply He may see some hope of returning feeling, of loyalty sad filial submission. God’s feeling has been always a feeling of solicitude to bless the nations. We shall do wrong if we suppose that pity comes in only with the historical Christ, that compassion was born on Christmas Day.
2. The Divine movement amongst the nations has always expressed itself under the contrast of light sad darkness (verse 2). No contrast can be more striking; therefore this is the one God has chosen whereby to represent the Divine movement. God is associated with light, and all evil with darkness. The fulfilment of Divine purpose has always been associated with incarnation, idealised Humanity.
3. Look at the Deliverer as seen by the prophet (verse 6). The Deliverer is to come as a child, a son, a governor, a name; He is to sit upon the throne of David, sad upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment sad with justice from henceforth even forever. Say there was a secondary application of the terms, there can be no objection to that; but no living man ever filled out in their uttermost spheral meaning all these names but one, and His name is Jesus.
4. Then comes rapture upon rapture. And the pledge of the fulfilment of all is, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
The remedy of the world’s misery
I. THE VIEW TAKEN BY THE PROPHET OF THE MORAL STATE OF THE WORLD PREVIOUS TO THE GLORIOUS CHANGE WHICH MAKES THE SUBJECT OF HIS PROPHECY.
1. The people are represented as walking in darkness. The prophet contemplates the world at large. Light is an emblem of knowledge; darkness of ignorance and error.
2. But darkness alone appears to the mind of the prophet only a faint emblem of the state of the heathen. He adds, therefore, “the shadow of death.” In Scripture this expression is used for death, the grave, the darkness of that subterranean mansion into which the Jews supposed the souls of men went after death. Figuratively, the expression is used for great distress; a state of danger and terror. It is an amplification, therefore, of the prophet’s thought. Experience has justified this representation of the prophet. The religion of the heathen has ever been gloomy and horrible.
II. THE BLESSED VISITATION (Isaiah 9:2).
1. As darkness is an emblem of the religious sorrows which had overcast the world, so light is an emblem of the truth of the Gospel The Gospel is “light.” This marks its origin from heaven. This notes its truth. It is “light” because of its penetrating and subtle nature. It is called “light,” “a great light,” because of the discoveries which it makes. It is life and health to the world. Where it prevails, spiritual life is inspired, and the moral disorders of the soul give place to health and vigour.
2. As in the vision light succeeds to darkness, so also joy succeeds to fear and misery.
III. SO VAST A CHANGE MUST BE PRODUCED BY CAUSES PROPORTIONABLY POWERFUL: and to the means by which this astonishing revolution is effected the prophet next directs attention (Isaiah 9:4-5). These words speak of resistance and a struggle. In the conduct of this battle two things are, however, to be remarked: the absolute weakness and insufficiency of the assailants, and their miraculous success. The weakness of the instruments used in breaking the rod and yoke of the oppressor is sufficiently marked by the allusion to the destruction of the host of Midian by Gideon and his three hundred men. But it may be said, “Is not all this a splendid vision? You speak of weak instruments effecting a miraculous success; of the display and operation of a supernatural power, touching the hearts of men, and changing the moral state of the world; but what is the ground of this expectation?” This natural and very proper question our text answers.
IV. “FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN,” etc. (Isaiah 9:6-7). (R. Watson.)
Light out of darkness
We are not left in doubt as to what the end of this great prophecy was. In Matthew 4:15-16, we have it expounded to us.
I. THE GREAT DARKNESS. The prophet first saw the people utterly overwhelmed by the ruthless hand of merciless war. It had been once a prosperous land, but now darkness dense had come over it till it was a veritable “shadow of death.” Turning from the immediate political significance of this to its spiritual import, we can easily see in it a picture of the spiritual condition of the world when Jesus came. The whole world was lying in the wicked one. The Jewish people, though they had the living Word of God, had in the darkness of their carnal ambition and lifeless formality lost all true vision of God. The Gentile world was no better. The best which they had was, on the one hand, a sensuous and godless Epicureanism, and on the other a cold and hopeless Stoicism. Turning to the condition of the unconverted people of our own day, we see also darkness and the shadow of death. What light for the soul has all our modern philosophical thinking and scientific research given?
II. THE GREAT LIGHT. The light which the prophet saw was the intervention of God for the deliverance of the people from political bondage and physical misery, with some spiritual return to God. That which it typified was the advent and work of Christ. How this light shone upon the darkened world when He came! Truly it was a “great light.” The light seen in the face of Jesus Christ is the glory of God, revealing His eternal purposes of grace to all sinful men. Christ lights the world by loving it, i.e., by revealing the love of God to sinners.
III. THE GREAT BLESSINGS. With the coming of the true light came wonderful blessings to the people. This is described in the language of the prophet under several figures of speech.
1. “Thou hast multiplied the nation.” If we look to the real fulfilment of this prophecy, what a vast increase in the people of God there has been!
2. “And increased their joy.” Of old the people of God rejoiced at their best periods in mere national prosperity. But under the spiritual reign of Jesus the people shall rejoice in better things. The joy of salvation.
3. “According to the joy in harvest.” The happiest festival of the Jews was the harvest feast, when the fruits of the earth were all gathered in, and the people blessed God and rejoiced in their riches. But now He gives us a new and better harvest, the ingathering of souls, the first fruits of which were gathered on the day of Pentecost. There is no such pure joy as that which arises in the heart when God’s salvation is being accepted by men and women, and His harvest is being gathered. What will it be in that day when the glad harvest home is accomplished?
4. “And as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” This is a figure borrowed from the triumphant joy of the victorious warrior, who, having overthrown the enemy, and taken possession of his goods, divides them as spoil among the victors. Well, so shall, and so do, God’s people rejoice over the victories which the Gospel wins over “the god of this world.”
5. “Thou hast broken the yoke . . . and the staff.” Hitherto the people had boon under the iron yoke of their oppressors, and beaten by the rod of their taskmasters, as in the old slavery times of Egypt. How happy when that yoke shall be broken, and that cruel staff or rod done away! Under Messiah’s reign the cruel bondage of Satan’s yoke is broken, and the taskmaster’s staff done away.
IV. HOW CHRIST DELIVERS. In earthly conflicts battles are fought “with confused noise and garments rolled in blood.” The captives were delivered of old by these terrible and sanguinary methods; but Christ delivers His captives by the power of the Spirit of God, “with burning and fuel of fire.” The fire is the Holy Ghost, and the fuel of fire is the Word of truth. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
The nativity of our Lord
I. LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS.
II. JOY BECAUSE OF THE LIGHT.
1. Because Jesus was born.
2. Because in His incarnation God and man were united.
3. Because through His birth “the yoke” of man’s burden has been broken (Isaiah 9:4), and the power of his oppressor destroyed.
III. THE GROUNDS OF THIS JOY (Isaiah 9:6-7). (Clergyman’s Magazine.)
Good things in the days of the great Messiah
If it be asked, What the great design of God is in the Scriptures? I answer, To bring a lost world to the knowledge of a Saviour all the prophecies, promises, histories, and doctrines of the Word, do point us to Him, as the needle in the mariner’s compass points to the pole star. “To Him bore all the prophets witness.” And when apostles under the New Testament were sent unto all nations, with the silver trumpet of the everlasting Gospel in their mouths, what was the great theme of their sermons! It was just to make Christ known among the nations All the lines of religion meet in Him as their centre. The prophet in the close of the preceding chapter, having spoken of dark and dismal days of trouble and distress, comes in the beginning of this, to comfort and encourage the hearts of true believers, with the good things which were coming in the days of the great Messiah.
I. There are THREE GREAT NEW TESTAMENT BLESSINGS he condescends upon.
1. Great light should spring up to a lost world (Isaiah 9:2).
2. Joy in the Lord (Isaiah 9:3).
3. Spiritual liberty (Isaiah 9:4-5).
II. It any should ask WHO IS HE, AND WHERE IS HE, THAT SHALL DO ALL THESE GREAT THINGS? You have an answer in the words, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder,” etc. In the words we may notice these things following.
1. The incarnation of the great Messiah; for here the prophet speaks of His birth.
2. His donation. He is the gift of God to a lost world. “Unto us a Son is given.”
3. His advancement to the supreme rule and authority. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.”
4. His character and designation, in five names here given Him, which show that He has a name above every name, “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
5. The relation He stands in to lost sinners of Adam’s family. He is born “to us,” He is given “to us,” and not to the angels which fell.
6. The application and triumph of faith upon all this; for the Church here lays claim to Him, and triumphs in her claim; for the words are uttered in a way of holy boasting. “Unto us this Child is born, unto us this Son is given.” (E. Erskine.)
Fulness of Christ
There is that in Jesus Christ alone which may and can afford sufficient comfort and relief in the worst of times and conditions.
I. WE WILL INQUIRE INTO THE TRUTH OF IT (Colossians 2:9).
1. If you look into Scripture you shall find that the promises and prophecies of Christ are calculated and given out for the worst of times.
2. If there was enough in the types of Christ to comfort and relieve the people of God under the Old Testament in the worst of their times; then there must needs be enough in Christ to comfort the people of God now in the worst of our times. In the times of the Old Testament, in ease they had sinned, what relief had they? A sacrifice to make an atonement Leviticus 4:20), and so a type of Christ the great Sacrifice Hebrews 9:26). In case they were in the wilderness and wanted bread, what relief had they? Manna, a type of Christ, “the true Bread that came down from heaven.’ In case they wanted water, what relief had they? The rock opened, and “that rock was Christ.” In ease they were stung wire the fiery serpents what relief had they? They had the brazen serpent, and that was a type of Christ (John 3:15).
3. If all the promises of good things made to us were originated in Christ, and if all the promises that were made unto Christ of good things to come, do descend upon us, then surely there is enough in Christ to succour in the worst of times. For what are the promises but Divine conveyances?
4. If all our want of comfort and satisfaction doth arise from the want of a sight of Christ’s fulness and excellency, and all our satisfaction and comfort doth arise from the sight of Christ’s fulness and excellency, then this doctrine must needs he true.
II. WHAT IS THAT IN CHRIST THAT MAY OR CAN COMFORT, SUCCOUR AND BELIEVE IN THE WORST OF TIMES AND CONDITIONS?
1. Look what that good thing is which the world can either give or take away, that is in Christ in great abundance; and if that be in Christ in great abundance which the world can neither give or take away, then there is that in Christ that may or can succour, comfort, and relieve in the worst of times. Can the world take away your estate, gold, or silver? Then read what is said in Proverbs 3:1-35, concerning wisdom, where Christ is called wisdom (verse 13). Can the world take away your liberty? Then you know what Christ says, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Can the world take away your life? You know what Christ saith, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” On the other side, what can the world give to you? Can the world give you peace, rest, quietness? Then you know what Christ saith (Matthew 11:28; John 14:27). Can the world give you happiness? I am sure Christ can.
2. There is in Jesus Christ the greatest excellency under the best propriety, “My Lord and my God.”
3. There is in Jesus Christ the greatest fulness joined with the most communicativeness.
4. The sweetest love under the greatest engagement. Is not a brother engaged to help his brother? A father his children? A husband his wife! Now, suppose there were one person that could stand under all these relations--a brother, a father, a husband; how much would that person be engaged to help? Thus Christ doth; He stands under all these relations.
6. There is that in Jesus Christ that suiteth all conditions.
III. HOW FAR THIS CONCERNS US. (W. Bridge, M. A.)
Immanuel the Light of Life
I. There is to be a light breaking in upon the sons of men who sit in darkness, and this light is to be found only in the incarnate God. Let me ILLUSTRATE THIS FACT BY THE CONTEXT.
1. I must carry you back to Isaiah 7:14. The sign of coming light is Jesus.
2. Further on we see our Lord Jesus as the hold fast of the soul in time of darkness. See in Isaiah 8:8, the whole country overwhelmed by the fierce armies of the Assyrians, as when a land is submerged beneath a flood. Then you read--And he shall pea through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of Thy land, O Immanuel.” The one hope that remained for Judah was that her country was Immanuel’s land. There would Immanuel be born, there would He labour, and there would He die. He was by eternal covenant the King of that land, and no Assyrian could keep Him from His throne. If you are a believer in Christ, you belong to Him, and you always were His by sovereign right, even when the enemy held you in possession. We might exultingly have gloried over you, “Thy soul, O Immanuel.” Herein lay your hope when all other hope was gone. Herein is your hope now.
3. Further on in the chapter we learn that Jesus is our star of hope as to the destruction of the enemy. The foes of God’s people shall be surely vanquished and destroyed because of Immanuel. Note well in Isaiah 8:9-10, how it is put twice over like an exultant taunt: “Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for Immanuel.” Our version translates the word into “God with us,” but it is “Immanuel.” In Him, even in our Lord Jesus Christ, dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and He has brought all that Godhead to bear upon the overthrow of the foes of His people.
4. Further on we find the Lord Jesus as the morning light after a night of darkness, The last verses of the eighth chapter picture a horrible state of wretchedness and despair: “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry:” etc. But see what a change awaits them! Read the fine translation of the R.V. “But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish.” What a marvellous light from the midst of a dreadful darkness! It lean astounding change, such as only God with us could work. There am some here who have traversed that terrible wilderness You are being driven as captives into the land of despair, and for the last few months you have been tromping along a painful road, “hardly bestead and hungry.” You are sorely put to it, and your soul finds no food of comfort, but is ready to faint and die. You fret yourself: your heart is wearing away with care, and grief, and hopelessness. In the bitterness of your soul you are ready to curse the day of your birth. The captive Israelites cursed their king who had led them into their defeat and bondage; the fury of their agony, they even cursed God and longed to die, It may be that your heart is in such a ferment of grief that you know not what you think, but are like a man at his wits’ end. Those who led you into sin are bitterly remembered; and as you think upon God you am troubled. This is a dreadful ease for a soul to be in, and it involves a world of sin and misery. You look up, but the heavens are as brass above your head; your prayers appear to be shut out from God’s ear; you look around you upon the earth, and behold “trouble and darkness, and dimness of anguish”; your every hope is slain, and your heart is torn asunder with remorse and dread. Every hour you seem to be hurried by an irresistible power into greater darkness. In such a case none can give you comfort save Immanuel, God with us. Only God, espousing your cause, and bearing your sin, can possibly save you. See, He comes for your salvation!
5. Once more, we learn from that which follows our text, that the reign of Jesus is the star of the golden future. He came to Galilee of the Gentiles, and made that country glorious, which had been brought into contempt. That corner of Palestine had very often borne the brunt of invasion, and had felt more than any other region the edge of the keen Assyrian sword. It was a wretched land, with a mixed population, despised by the purer race of Jews; but that very country became glorious with the presence of the incarnate God. That first land to be invaded by the enemy was made the headquarters of the army of salvation. Even so at this day His gracious presence is the day dawn of our joy. Here read and interpret Isaiah 9:3.Then shall your enemy be defeated, as in the day of Midian. When Jesus comes you shall have eternal peace; for His battle is the end of battles. “All the armour of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall even be for burning, for fuel of fire.” This is the rendering of the Revision; and it is good. The Prince of Peace wars against war, and destroys it. Now is it that the Lord Jesus becomes glorious in our eyes; and He whose name is Immanuel is now crowned in our heart with many crowns, and honoured with many titles. What a list of glories we have here! What a burst of song it makes when we sing of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6). Each word sounds like a salvo of artillery.
II. I want to PRESS HOME CERTAIN TRUTHS CONNECTED WITH MY THEME. Immanuel is a grand word. “God with us” means more than tongue can tell It means enmity removed on our part, and justice vindicated on God’s part. It means the whole Godhead engaged on our side, resolved to bless us.
1. Jesus is Immanuel (Matthew 1:21).
2. Perhaps you wish to know a little more of the incident in the text which exhibits Jesus as the great light. Our Lord made His home in the darkest parts. He looked about and saw no country so ignorant, no country so sorrowful, as Galilee of the Gentiles, and therefore He went there, and lifted it up to heaven by priceless privileges!
3. We will turn back to where we opened our Bibles at the first, and there we learn that, to be God with us, Jesus must be accepted by us. He cannot be with us if we will not have Him. Hear how the prophet words it: “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Be sure that you go on with the verse to the end--“and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” If Christ is your Saviour He must be your King. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Lux in tenebris
One evening last week I stood by the seashore when the storm was raging. The voice of the Lord was upon the waters; and who was I that I should tarry within doors, when my Master’s voice was heard sounding along the water? I rose and stood to behold the flash of His lightnings, and listen to the glory of His thunders. The sea and the thunders were contesting with one another; the sea with infinite clamour striving to hush the deep-throated thunder, so that His voice should not be heard; yet over and above the roar of the billows might be heard that voice of God, as He spake with flames of fire, and divided the way for the waters. It was a dark night, and the sky was covered with thick clouds, and scarce a star could be seen through the rifts of the tempest; but at one particular time, I noticed far away on the horizon, as if miles across the water, a bright shining, like gold. It was the moon hidden behind the clouds, so that she could not shine upon us; but she was able to send her rays down upon the waters, far away, where no cloud happened to intervene. I thought as I read this chapter last evening, that the prophet seemed to have stood in a like position, when he wrote the words of my text. All round about him were clouds of darkness; he heard prophetic thunders roaring, and he saw flashes of the lightning of Divine vengeance; clouds and darkness, for many a league, were scattered through history; but he saw far away a bright spot--one place where the clear shining same down from heaven. And he eat down, and he penned these words: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”; and though he looked through whole leagues of space, where he saw the battle of the warrior “with confused noise and garments rolled in blood,” yet he fixed his eye upon one bright spot in futurity, and he declared that there he saw hope of peace, prosperity, and blessedness; for said he, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light
The true Light
The prophet’s vision has been fulfilled.
I. Christ sheds light upon SIN. By His words and by His life He testifies to the reality of sin.
1. In Him was exhibited for the first and only time a life perfectly obedient to the will of God, a life the one inspiring motive of which was love to God and love to man, a life in which every thought, every word, every act was influenced only by a regard to the glory of God, a life in which was manifested in perfect union and in perfect harmony every human virtue. Thus Christ has shown us what we ought to be, and in showing us this has shown us what we are. In the presence of His awful purity how deep our impurity appears.
2. And He has tracked sin to its secret hiding place. He has discovered the fountain in the heart, the evil thought, the murderous hate, the impure desire, the covetousness, the malice, the bitterness which lurk within, and which no human law can touch. He has made us discern not only the evil done and the evil thought, but the good left undone. There is no part of our nature which He has not explored. Never had it been so profoundly, so truly judged, never had man been so discovered to us.
3. Is the light which Christ casts upon sin only a condemning light? Is it a light which shows us our misery only to leave us without hope, which shows us what we ought to be, but gives us no power to attain to the ideal set before us! No, the light which reveals to us our sin, reveals to us also the mercy of God, a love greater than our transgressions, a pardon greater than our sin. It is the light of the Cross that gives us hope. Never does God appear in more perfect holiness than when He pardons sin, and the sinner looking upon the Cross feels the malignity of that sin which nothing but the sacrifice of the Son of God could take away. All other religions, all other philosophies have failed here, all have made some compromise with sin, all have concealed its deep malignity; the Cross alone dares to reveal it, because the Cross alone takes it away.
II. And so, too, of HUMAN SUFFERING. The Cross consoles sorrow, because it manifests to us a power of sympathy in God such as man had never dared to dream of. There is no suffering for which the Cross is not a precious balm, because there is no suffering which it does not surpass and consecrate.
III. And much more Christ’s light is a light cast upon DEATH. Or rather let me say the light which He came to bestow is the light of life. He came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Beyond the Cross there is the Resurrection. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” This is the grand prerogative of the Gospel All other religions have failed here. All have spoken with stammering lips of the world beyond the grave. (Bishop Perowne.)
Experiences on a sick bed
We are accustomed to conceive of our experience of bodily affliction as a land of “the shadow of death.” Just as there was a preparation for receiving good in the moral shadow which enveloped the Galileans, so is there also good in the pain and abasement of bodily suffering. There is a breaking down of pride, and a clearer insight into our own utter weakness. There is new openness to spiritual realities, and in this, at least a preparation for being dealt with according to the light of our relation to eternity.
I. One almost invariable sight revealed to us in the shadow of death is THE IMPERISHABLENESS OF THE PAST. I remember reading some years ago an account of an exploration of one of the pyramids of Egypt. The impression of the darkness upon the explorers at first was very oppressive. On every side and overhead, piled one above another in prodigious lengths and masses, rose the polished blocks of granite which formed the walls and ceiling. There was not a window, nor open chink from top to bottom. The torches of the guides only deepened the sense of awe, blinking as they did like mere glow worms in the gloom. As the travellers crept and slid along the dismal passages, through the almost solid darkness, an undefined and painful consciousness of something like terror arose within them, from the felt want of any really satisfactory knowledge of the purpose which could be intended in such a building. At length they came to what seemed to them a coffin of stone. When they struck it, it rung like a bell. Everything else had had a baffling and perplexing effect on their minds. Here was one object they could thoroughly understand--the monument of a purpose, even if not the main purpose, which the building was intended to serve. And in the midst of that darkness they found their minds summoned by that coffin into the presence of the past. Something not very unlike this takes place when we are sent in, under some serious illness, to explore the land of the shadow. At first we are oppressed by the mere darkness--the deepening out on every side of the possibilities of the disease. Then, the ignorance of the purpose for which we are afflicted perplexes us. But at last, more or less in every case, we find our minds settling upon the past. Sometimes it is our instinctive forward looking, our attempt to penetrate the dim, unsounded future which thus leads us back into the past. The consciousness that we are passing onwards into its territory will not let sleep the question, “What sort of past am I carrying thither with me?” More frequently it is the consideration of unfinished purposes which recalls the past. Often, however, there is something in the very circumstances of the affliction, some appropriate word, perhaps, suggested and pressed upon our attention, which leads us in this direction of the past. Joseph’s brethren, e.g., in the Egyptian prison, by the simple utterance of the words, “Your youngest brother,” had the past which related to themselves and Joseph recalled to their minds. It was this which Job complained of when he cried to God: “Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” His youth was not dead as he had supposed; nor had its actions altogether passed. The threads of these were still in His hand who was afflicting him. And now, in his distress, they are drawn up and placed like network around his soul. But there is good in this revision of the past. For one thing, the very sight of the fact is good that nothing of our lives passes utterly into oblivion. It is good to know that the past as much as the present is real, that our deeds lie there, imperishable, dormant, but yet dead. For a second reason it is good. The remaining hours of our time here are more likely to be encountered and occupied with serious hearts. But, for a third and still deeper reason, it is good to have made this discovery. One of the main purposes of redemption is to deal with this imperishableness of the past, and solve the problems which arise out of that and our responsibility. Our Redeemer came to put away the guilt of our past lives, and to lift us into a position from which the consequences of our guilt would shut us out forever. But nothing more disposes us to listen to the offers of Divine mercy, than a clear unambiguous view of the actual past of our lives.
II. Another and most important sight vouchsafed to us in serious illness, is THE SIGHT OF THE WORLD WE LIVE IN DWARFED TO ITS TRUE PROPORTIONS. It is a great loss to anyone to see the world he lives in only from the side of health. The true proportions of things are almost sure to be hidden from his view. This is especially the case with respect to the common pursuits of life. It requires the discipline of a sick bed to reveal our error--to discover to us that we have transgressed the bounds of mere necessity, and have been giving them more thought than they demand. I would liken the false value which we put on our lower vocations to the shadow cast by a manor house on the lawn. The house itself may represent the actual legitimate thought, which we may put into our daily toils. The shadow of the house is the added, illegitimate thought--the burdensome, down crushing care, thrusting and pushing from their centres our higher affections and hopes. At two different moments there is no shadow. There is none when the sun is in the centre of the heavens, and pouring his light down upon the roof of the house; there is none until he bends from the centre. But then the shadow begins to lengthen out its neck. The sunlight comes forth in horizontal beams, and the shadow stretches out its arms and spreads its wings, and lies prone and black on all the colour of the neighbouring field. At last the sun goes down, and the shadow has disappeared again. Night has rolled its shadow over the land, and the greater has swallowed the less. The house is there, but not its shadow. A most true picture this of the different values we put on our pursuits in the hours of health and at the gates of the grave! For with us also there are two moments when no shadow falls. There is no false estimate so long as God is in the centre of our heavens. At last death is rolling his shadow over our earthly life. And we are enveloped in the gloom of that. And then, looking outward, we discover how all other shadows have disappeared, and have been to us but vanity and vexation of spirit.
III. A third experience in serious illness is, that AWAY FROM THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THERE IS NO LIGHT FOR THE WORLD TO COME. The lights which surround us in our daily walks, when all is well with us, forsake us in the shadow. The light of friendship, for example. It cannot pierce the blackness of the shadow of death, nor search forward into the dimness of unrevealed futurity. Next to our friends, as lights of life to us, are our books. They are our inner lights. But away from the Book which specifically tells us of the resurrection of the Son of God, the light of no book in our keeping abides with us in the shadow to give us one gleam of hope. But it is worth while being sent into the shadow, if we come out with this experience.
IV. A fourth experience is generally reached in serious illness, of which it is not so easy to see the good. This is THE LONELINESS OF SUFFERING. Our spirits are gadders about too much. Our lives spread themselves too far upon society. A serious illness carries us away from this folly. It takes us out into the solitude, and leaves us there. This loneliness of great suffering is the shadow sent forth to bring us home. Society is not our home. The dearest, innermost circle of it is not our home. God is our home--our present home.
V. TO THE CHILDREN OF GOD AFFLICTION IS IN EVERY WAY A GOOD. Its shadow is a retirement for renewed and deeper insight into the character and purposes of their Father. As much as unspiritual sufferers they feel the distress of their circumstances. The difference is, that over and through this distress they discern the loving purpose towards themselves of Him who chasteneth. Every way their condition is different. The world which death is bringing close to them is the habitation of their best and most beloved Brother. Sustaining promises are suggested to them by the Spirit, which have new and unthought of appropriateness to their case. Light from heaven, in inexpressible fulness, comes down into familiar passages of the Bible, revealing unimagined depths of Divine love for human souls. There is a nearer, sweeter, more experimental view of the Cross of Christ. Sin is felt to be the evil thing on which God cannot look, in a way to deepen the abhorrence of it, and to excite a more cleaving love to Him who is making all things work together to deliver us from its marks and power. And glimpses of the sinless land, holy, beautiful as morning light, come glowing and reddening through the clouds. And the hour of weakness is changed into an hour of strength. (A. Macleod, D. D.)
Christ as light
I. HOW THIS LIGHT MAY BE APPROPRIATED TO CHRIST.
1. Light is an all-necessary thing.
2. It separates--divides the night from the day.
3. It cheers.
4. Christ stands preeminently glorious as a great light. There is a fulness in Him commensurate with His Divinity; there is a brightness in Him that knows neither change nor diminution.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF PERSONS TO WHOM THIS LIGHT HAS BEEN, OR SHALL BE, REVEALED.
1. In darkness.
2. Walking in darkness.
3. In the shadow of death. (F. G. Crossman.)
Christ the true Light
I. THE DARKNESS reigning in the world beforehand was to be traced even in the land of Judaea itself. At the period of Christ’s nativity, there was the darkness of types, the shadows and mere secondary images of Divine truth. Some few only were partially enlightened to believe and understand the truth, and these exulted in the coming light, e.g., Simeon and Anna. But if some few in Jerusalem looked for redemption, what was the state of the heathen world! They, indeed, by all their wisdom, knew not God; they were immersed in the darkest idolatries and most cruel superstitions. There was, in all this mass of external darkness, something congenial to the inner corruption, the shadow of death, resting on our common sinful nature: never could the one have existed or taken effect without the other. We must look within our own hearts for that guilty ignorance, that wilful blindness and hardened indifference to God and His truth, which was the source Mike of Jewish perversions and heathen abominations.
II. Christ was THE LIGHT spoken of by the prophet. To the Jews, how well calculated was His appearance to clear up the obscurities of their own Mosaic ritual and prophetic declarations! To the Gentiles, no less did the coming of Christ present a religion able, for the first time, to resolve all their doubts, to satisfy all their wants, and unite the whole family of man under one great Head of all.
1. It was a sudden light; unexpected by most, and undeserved by all, the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, rose upon a benighted world.
2. It was a great light.
3. This was verily the true light. “It shines with a ray which,” saith St. John, “lighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” It is that which is adapted to man as man, beaming with an evidence only to be resisted by wilful blindness, and convincing all with a force which leaves the wanderer without excuse, who perishes in his sin.
4. It is a Divine light; one shining as if from the very throne of God Himself. (C. J. Hoare, M. A.)
Darkness and the shadow of death
Picture to yourselves a traveller fallen into a defile, the heavens concealed from his view by clouds and darkness; and as he turns in his passage he hears the ravening beasts of night yelling around him, and ready to devour him; conceive his heart sinking within him, and seeking a refuge in vain! If to this man’s glimmering light was raised from a distant cottage where he might find security, oh, what joy, what hope of escape would burst across his mind! But yet this will but faintly represent the scene, for the light here spoken of is not a transitory light which may soon be extinguished, but it is a bright light that arises in the land; a light that is raised in heaven to shine on benighted man. (J. Burnett, LL. B.)
Walking in darkness
Concerning the people it is affirmed--
I. That they walked IN DARKNESS. Darkness must he understood in the figurative sense in which it is often used in Scripture to signify a state of ignorance, sin, and misery. Ignorance, like a veil, continues upon their hearts until the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shines into their minds. In this uncomfortable state they act under the influence of corrupt principles, committing those enormous transgressions which are justly denominated the works of darkness. From hence arise distresses and miseries of various kinds, which terminate in utter darkness and everlasting woe, unless prevented by the illumination of the true light.
II. In this condition the people are described as WALKING, which, in the Word of God, frequently denotes the whole course of man’s life, in which every action makes a step towards that everlasting state to which we are journeying.
1. Walking is a voluntary motion, the consequence of preceding choice and deliberate resolution
2. Walking is a continued motion, in which one step regularly follows another, until the ground intended is gone over.
3. Walking is a progressive motion, by which a traveller still goes forward until he arrives at the end of his journey. (R. Macculloch.)
The Light of the world
In the Arctic regions, after the long dark night of winter, the rising of the sun is especially welcome. So should Christ be to us.
I. THE WORLD WITHOUT CHRIST SITS IN DARKNESS.
1. The minds of the heathen are dark.
2. Their religion is dark and gloomy.
3. Their conduct is dark.
4. Their prospects after death are dark.
II. JESUS CHRIST IS A “GREAT LIGHT.” He is--
1. Great in Himself, for He is God.
2. He is a perfect light.
3. He shines into the heart (2 Corinthians 4:6).
4. He gives happiness and healing as well as light (Malachi 2:2; John 15:11).
5. This light cannot be put out (Isaiah 55:20).
6. It is the light of heaven as well as of earth (Rev
III. IT IS THE WILL OF GOD THAT THE HEATHEN AS WELL AS OURSELVES SHOULD SEE THIS GREAT LIGHT (1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15). (R. Brewin.)
The land of darkness and the great light
I. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHOM THE PROPHET SAW WALKING IN DARKNESS? By darkness, Scripture means spiritual alteration. Our normal condition is light; for God is light and we were made in His image. But this primitive state no longer exists; an astounding fact has overthrown Divine order; sin has changed all things. The alteration produced by sin is--
I. An alteration of truth Our intellect is darkened “through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our heart.” The knowledge of God and of ourselves, which in the origin was pure, has been perverted by a spirit of error and replaced by a veil of darkness. Man has ceased to know God and to know himself. What light would you kindle to dispel these shadows of death!
2. An alteration of life. A false life has invaded the soul and driven away the light of life. The source of life is in God, but it is no longer God who holds dominion over the soul; it is self, the world, and sin
3. An alteration of joy. Light and joy are synonymous, in Scripture: “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” But what becomes of joy if it is deprived of truth and life! It is turned into sorrow. Our earthly joys are but disguised sorrows.
II. WHAT IS THE LIGHT SPOKEN OF BY THE PROPHET? Revert to the fall of the first man and woman in Eden; a promise shines. This promise henceforth accompanies humanity. (Homiletic Magazine.)
Darkness exchanged for light
The North American Indians used to hold a New Year’s feast with revolting ceremonies, the sick and aged being neglected, or even killed, to avoid trouble. But missionaries have taught them the Gospel They are Christians, and their New Year’s feast is kept in a different way. Before it begins a list is read of aged and sick unable to come. Bundles of good things are packed up and sent to each by the fleetest runners, who think it a joy and not a burden. Surely these people “have seen a great light.” (Egerton Young.)
Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the Joy
National power and national character
The difference between national power and national character, between the success and the worthiness of a State, is suggested by these words.
They Joy before Thee according to the Joy in harvest
Joy in harvest
We may look upon the words of our text as a kind of double picture set in a single frame, so that its component parts may be contrasted as well as compared together. On one side is placed before us a merry harvest scene--just like what you might see going on in many a smiling cornfield of this happy English land. On the other side is depicted the confused noise of battle, and warriors with garments rolled in blood, exulting in that fierce joy which foemen feel in prospect of hard earned victory. Gradually the tumult passes on, and the ground is strewn with the dead and dying, with here and there a broken chariot and many a shivered spear. And then the camp followers issue forth to strip the slain, and to carry off the spoil to their tents until the pursuers shall return, when it shall be divided share and share to every man with boisterous mirth and songs of revelry. You will see, therefore, that our attention is directed first of all to the joy of harvest--man’s triumph in the labours of the field. And then we can almost fancy that we hear the ringing shout of victory as the battle sweeps across the plain. Dissimilar though such things may be, yet there is more than one connecting link between them. For “peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.” We might even say that they are more real, more complete, more generally shared in. The rejoicing after some successful campaign is often loud and great; the news comes in, the cities are illuminated, the joy bells are rung, the excitement is intense, and outwardly there is every appearance of extreme delight; but it is only a one-sided gratification after all. For many feel, alas! how keenly, that the victory has been purchased at the cost of many a valued life, and that warfare is always accompanied by desolation, and mourning, and woe. But in harvest joy this is not the case. Here we have an unmingled glad mess; especially in a year when the crops are reported from all quarters to be unusually good--the triumphant result of toil and industry rewarded by the fruits of the ground. (E. Bell.)
Harvest joy among the Jews
To a commercial people the expression is not so significant as it would be to a Jew. The Jews were essentially an agricultural people. God did not encourage them to trade with surrounding nations, lest they should fall into idolatry; and so we find that they were not a manufacturing community, and, except in the time of Solomon, they made no pretensions to a navy. The arts and sciences were but little cultivated; but the fields and vineyards gave them abundant occupation, and the soil and climate were favourable to the growth of the corn and the vine. God took special interest in their agricultural pursuits. He laid down minute laws respecting sowing and gleaning, and He reminded the people in the feasts which He appointed that they were dependent on Him for the gift of food, and should receive it with a devout and thankful heart. It has been well observed respecting the three chief Jewish festivals that one opened the harvest, the second marked a stage in it, and the third closed it.
Joy occupied an important place in the religion of the Jews; and never, I suppose, was it so loud in its expression as at the Feast of Tabernacles, when they looked upon their full granaries, and brought in the last clusters of their fruitful vines. (F. J. Austin.)
Christian people should be characterised by joy. While rejoicing on account of our spiritual blessings, we ought not to be indifferent to our daily temporal blessings.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS JOY. Joy in harvest is--
1. A reasonable joy. The prosperity of a nation depends very largely upon the character of its harvests; and, therefore, it is most natural that when the harvest is plenteous, our praise should ascend to God the Father, from whom this, even more directly than many blessings, has surely come. We have been taught to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” If we thus recognise our dependence on God, is it not fitting that we should thank Him when He answers our prayer? Consider what would be the result of a complete failure of our crops for one year, notwithstanding that the balance might be restored, to some extent, from foreign lands. Or, consider what would be the result if there were failure in those countries from which we could draw our supplies.
2. A universal joy--a joy in which all sections of the Christian Church, all classes of the community, all nations and races may unite together. There are some occasions for joy which only affect small and select circles. But a good harvest hurts no one, and brings blessings to all. And surely anything that tends to soften prejudices, annihilate differences, break down the barriers of caste and sect is a national boon.
3. A holy joy. “They joy before Thee,” says the prophet, “according to the joy in harvest.” Among the Jews, joy in harvest was an act of worship. The first fruits were presented before the Lord with thanksgiving. And the joy of harvest should be regarded by us as a religious festival. Agriculture, more than any other branch of human industry, is seen to be under the superintendence of God. To rejoice in a good harvest, therefore, and to forget the Being to whom we owe it, would be an act of impiety.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THIS JOY. A bountiful harvest is--
1. A sign of God’s activity. Very beautiful is the harvest festival hymn which David wrote and sang. Everything is there attributed to Divine agency (Psalms 65:9-13). Now, we are apt to forget sometimes how much we really owe to God. We talk of the laws of nature until we seem to lose sight of the Law maker. It is easy to say that the corn grows. But what is growth? It is, as one has described it, “the increase of a living body according to a fixed pattern, and by materials derived from without--materials changed into its own substance or substances. Here, then, are three wonders--the power of absorbing fresh materials from the earth and air; the power of changing them into living and vegetable substance, and the power of arranging these new materials according to a fixed pattern. But how does all this come to pass? Has the plant a mind? The more we reflect, the stronger is the conviction that there is some intelligent, powerful agent at work, to whom all nature is subject, and whose will it readily obeys. And for whom does God make this yearly provision of golden grain? For us who so constantly forget Him, and who, at best, serve Him in a half-hearted way.
2. A proof of God’s fidelity. Once, long ago, God gave a promise Genesis 8:21-22). On the strength of that promise the farmer sows his seed. He may not always think of the promise. But it is, nevertheless, in accordance with this promise that his crops arrive at maturity. He must sow in faith, whether it be a blind faith or an intelligent faith. He can only fulfil certain rules and conditions. And when he has done this he must wait. If the rain does not fall he cannot bring it down. If the sun shines too powerfully he cannot ward off its scorching rays. But he is in the hands of a faithful God; and though here and there the fields may not look very promising, and in some districts there may be occasional scarcity, the harvest is always plentiful in some regions, and we are thus able to assist each other and ward offer mitigate human suffering and distress. Let us remember--
The analogy between the joy of harvest and spiritual joy
I. THE HARVEST.
1. Its import. Seasonable gathering of fruits yielded by the earth, according to established natural laws--fruits of the field, orchard, vineyard, or the garden.
2. Its antiquity. It began with the dawn of created life. It is older than any human form of government, and it has the charm of having existed anterior to the division of humanity into tribes and nations, and before the formation of any landed estates. It is one of nature’s first bonds to assure every living creature the right of existence.
3. Its universality. It is the heritage of all countries, according to their climates.
4. Its constancy. It is as firm from age to age as the Word of God, and an infallible witness to His faithfulness, as well as to the plenitude of His goodness.
II. THE JOY OF CHRIST. The harvest songs are no pretence without reality.
1. Its intensity. Joy of harvest signifies great joy.
2. Its reasonableness. It is grounded on realised goodness.
3. It is grounded on realised goodness in abundance.
III. THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE JOY OF HARVEST AND THE JOY WHICH SPRINGS FROM FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
1. Both are God’s gifts.
2. Both are sequels of human industry.
3. Both are teachers of impressive moral lessons.
4. They differ in that one is temporal and the other eternal in its duration. Joy centred in God will never end. (Homilist.)
The joy in harvest
The joy in harvest is the joy of the reward, the joy of victory.
I. THE REWARD OF LABOUR. God gives us comparatively few things ready for use. The world is much more like a manufactory than a storehouse of ready made goods. God gives us the raw material, but we must work it up into the manifold forms in which we require it for the purposes of life. God does not give us bread, but the possibility of bread. Even so God gives His Word, not as life, but as the possibility of life. The seed stored in a cellar, though it has in it the possibility of life for a city, is valueless until it is sown broadcast in the fields; and the Word of God, though it has in it the promise of life eternal for the whole world, may be concealed in a convent cell or buried in a dead language, whilst all around the souls of men are perishing for lack of knowledge. Man lives by bread, but not by bread alone. As there is a life which bread sustains, so there is a life which truth sustains. To sow the truth, to prepare for its harvest, is as truly to save spiritual life as the sowing of corn in its season is the saving of natural life. Every man is a sower, and every man in due season shall be a reaper. “Whatsoever a man soweth,” etc. Is not this the solemn lesson of the harvest time, that he who would reap hereafter must sow now, that he who would rest hereafter must work now?
II. THE REWARD OF PATIENCE. If the earthly husbandman has need of long patience, how mush longer patience does he need who seeks a spiritual harvest! The corn of wheat grows slowly, but God’s truth grows more slowly still. What are the uncertainties of the changeful skies compared with the uncertainties of the changeful human life! Yet if he will let patience have her perfect work he shall have no need to complain of his harvest.
III. THE REWARD OF FAITH. Faith and patience always go together. The man who believes can wait. When a child puts seed into the ground, he does so without any of that strong conviction of its vital power which experience has given to his father, and so from want of faith in the seed he appeals to sight, and digs it up to see how it is getting on. There are many older children who make a similar mistake as to spiritual sowing. The Gospel sower must have faith in his seed. We cannot feel too strongly the truth that the power lies in the seed, not in the sower. This is as true in the Church as it is in the cornfield. (A. E. Gregory.)
I. THE FACT OF THEIR JOY. “They joy.” Who? Those who, embracing the light of the Gospel, and renouncing the hidden works of darkness, are made the children of the light and of the day.
1. It is Divine in its nature. The joy of the men of the world, however diversified it may be, has its spring and source in the world. The joy of the ambitious has its rise in the pride of the world. The joy of the miser has its spring in the riches of the world. The joy of the sensualist is derived from the pleasures of the world. But believers are taught better.
2. It is extensive in its grounds. God--their Christian privileges--their Christian principles--their Christian prospects,
3. Salutary in its effects. Its tendency is good.
II. THE PECULIARITY OF THEIR JOY. “Before Thee.” This is an expressive term and intimates several things.
1. It is spiritual It is a joyful state of mind, connected with that Divine Being who is a Spirit. Every exercise of the mind that unites us to Him must be spiritual.
2. It is sincere. The Christian’s joy is real, not imaginary. It will bear inspection.
3. It is secret. As the world knows not the extent of our sorrows, so it is unacquainted with the abundance of our joys.
III. THE RESEMBLANCE OF THEIR JOY. To what may it be likened? The sacred writers have used various similitudes. It may be compared to the joy of the captive, released from bondage; to the joy of a patient, after his recovery from a severe illness; to the joy of a mariner, after a storm. Two figures are here employed to set forth the Christian’s joy--
1. The husbandman in the field of harvest. “According to the joy of harvest.”
2. The soldier in the field of battle.
Conclusion--This subject gives as a view of two things with regard to Christianity.
1. Its requirements. It is no easy thing. There is much to be done and suffered.
2. Its rewards. These are inestimable. Present and future--exceeding description and baffling conception. (E. Temple.)
To some minds, and to all of us, perhaps, in some moods, autumn brings gloom, harvest sadness; but to others autumn brings rest--harvest, joy.
I. WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF THE JOY IN HARVEST? Is not the cause of joy the same in all these instances? For there is--
1. Joyful retrospect.
2. Joyful anticipation.
II. WHAT IS THE MEASURE OF THE JOY IN HARVEST? Do not two things regulate the measure of the joy that any feel, in any harvest?
1. The amount of its cost. The wheat field on which the farmer has expended most will be the one whose yield will the most interest him. So is it in every kind of harvesting, and so especially in what are distinctively the harvests of religion. In our own personal experience we value most in reaping that which has cost us most. The creed that we have fought out against doubts and difficulties, is inestimably more precious to us than that which has been handed down and adopted as a matter of course. The character which is pure after battle with impurity, sacrificial after contact with selfishness, peaceful after provocations to revenge and anger, is of far greater moral worth than that which has been seldom or feebly assailed. In our work for others, those results on which we have spent most time and thought and prayer are dearest to us. Harvest is valuable according to--
2. Its intrinsic value. In our English harvest homes there is rejoicing because of the intrinsic value of the wheat that is reaped and garnered. This is so because of--
Two conclusions arise--
1. We ought to have some of “the joy in harvest” now. With souls it is not in every respect as with the soil For in them some sowing and reaping, dropping in of seed, and quickening of germ, springing of one blade of promise, and reaping of another harvest of result, go on contemporaneously.
2. We must have joy or sorrow in harvest by and by. There will be unmistakable, unavoidable harvest with us all soon. “The harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels.” In solemn expectation of that harvest let us remember--
The joy of harvest
This joy is used as a picture of the joy God designs for His Church.
I. OBSERVE A GREAT PRINCIPLE IN THE WORDS “BEFORE THEE.” All true joy is “before God”--in His presence--with conscious reference to Him.
1. One use of harvest thanksgivings is to bring out this principle, to connect the gift of the harvest with the Giver.
2. All the joy of life is to be sanctified in the same way. Make it be “joy before God.” Let it be deepened, purified, ennobled by the thought of the love that gave it, and the presence and sympathy of the Giver.
3. We learn from the same principle the limit of innocent joy. It must be “before God.” Can you connect your pleasure with Him? Use this as a test.
II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IS THAT HIS PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE JOY, DEEP, FULL, SATISFYING. You wish to be happy. God wishes it infinitely more than you do.
1. Are you happy? Yes? Because you have health, comforts, etc.? Is this all! Poor joy! Enough for animals, but not for immortal spirits. Not like the joy of harvest; no rest in it, no noble achievement, no permanence. God is not satisfied with this JOY for you.
2. Are you happy? No? Wishes unfulfilled, cares, bereavements, dissatisfaction with self, yam endeavours after goodness, sense of guilt, etc.? Your Saviour knows your sorrows, offers you joy.
3. Purpose accomplished in the final harvest. “Joy before Him”; the “rest”; the “well done”; the “evermore.” (F. Wynne, M. A.)
The joy of spiritual ingathering
I. It is the JOY OF REALISATION. Harvest is the realisation of faith, of hope, and of labour. So with the conversion of souls.
II. It is the JOY OF CONGRATULATION. Let us congratulate one another that the Spirit of God is with us. Let us congratulate one another that our prayers, notwithstanding all the faults that mar them, and the infirmities that cleave to them, are being heard.
III. It is the JOY OF GRATITUDE. I envy not the man who can see the Church increased and yet not feel a sacred home felt joy.
IV. It is the JOY OF SYMPATHY.
V. And may I not ask you to REJOICE BECAUSE THERE IS ONE WHO LOVES SOULS better than I do, better than you do, who rejoices more than any of us? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The joy of harvest
I. WHAT IS THE JOY OF HARVEST, which is here taken as the simile of the joy of the saints before God?
1. Sometimes the farmer only rejoices because he sees the reward of his toils, and is so much the richer man.
2. The joy of harvest has another element in it, namely, that of gratitude to God for favours bestowed.
3. To the Christian it should be great joy, by means of the harvest, to receive an assurance of God’s faithfulness.
4. To the Christian, in the joy of harvest, there will always be the joy of expectation. As there is a harvest to the husbandman for which he waiteth patiently, so there is a harvest for all faithful waiters who are looking for the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our joy of harvest is the hope of being at rest with all the saints, and forever with the Lord.
II. WHAT JOYS ARE THOSE WHICH TO THE BELIEVER ARE AS THE JOY OF HARVEST?
1. One of the first seasons in which we knew a joy equal to the joy of harvest,--a season which has continued with us ever since it commenced--was, when we found the Saviour, and so obtained salvation. Nohusbandman ever shouted for joy as our hearts should when a precious Christ was ours, and we could grasp Him with full assurance of salvation in Him. The joy of harvest generally shows itself by the farmer giving a feast to his friends and neighbours; and, usually, those who find Christ express their joy by telling their friends and neighbours how great things the Lord hath done for them.
2. It is the joy of answered prayer.
3. We have another joy of harvest in ourselves when we conquer a temptation. Those know deep joy who have felt bitter sorrow. As the man feels that he is the stronger for the conflict, as he feels that he has gathered experience and stronger faith from having passed through the trial, he lifts up his heart, and rejoices, not in himself, but before his God, with the joy of harvest.
4. Again, there is such a thing as the joy of harvest when we have been rendered useful.
5. Another delight which is as the joy of harvest is, fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Our condition matters nothing to us if Christ be with us. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The joy in harvest
Is a joy--
I. FOR HOPES FULFILLED. In the midst of all his anxieties the farmer had never abandoned hope. His fears were ended and his hopes realised, when the last sheaf was gathered into his garner. Thus the Christian, who has throughout his pilgrimage gone on through fears and doubts and infirmities, yet still cheered by hope, shall stand before his Saviour at the great morning of the resurrection.
II. FOR LABOUR REPAID. No matter how abundant the crop may be, so long as it stands in the field it is unprofitable to the farmer. But, when he looks at his well-filled barns, he feels that his labour has not been in vain. If this be true respecting the things of time, how much more with respect to those of eternity. The Christian’s labour here is a labour of self-denial in hope of future glory. It is true that he has not the same uncertainty with respect to futurity which characterises the labours of the husband man. But, when the conflict is at last over, and he receives that for the sake of which he had renounced all earthly objects and lusts, and finds that his labour has not been in vain in the Lord, he “joys before Him with the joy of harvest.”
III. FOR REST OBTAINED. The farmer’s year had been a year of labour, and often of very severe labour too; and when the period of harvest had commenced, his exertions were necessarily redoubled. At length, however, his heavy toil was for a season ended, and in that rest which is doubly sweet after labour, he “joys according to the joy in harvest.” The rest of the husbandman is but for a time, and a short time, but the rest of the Christian shall be eternal. He has had his time of labour, such as far to exceed in its constancy and its steadfastness that of the husbandman.
IV. FOR PROVIDENCES COMPLETED. Notwithstanding all the care of the husbandman, he is constrained, from time to time, to acknowledge that the entire process of the growth and ripening of the corn has depended on circumstances over which he has had no control Had he been left to dispose of the seasons as he might have thought right, he would, in all probability, have destroyed his crop. Many a time had he complained that the frosts were too severe, the rain too heavy, the wind too strong, the sun too hot--measuring the goodness of the all-wise God by his own limited understanding. But now he admits that his fears were groundless, and that all things have worked together for good. May we not in this picture see the progress of the Christian whilst he is the object of Divine Providence here on earth; whilst, now sorrowing and now rejoicing, he is ready to murmur at every salutary check which he receives from the head of a Heavenly Father? But at the harvest time the “God who hideth Himself” shall he made manifest as having caused all these things to work for His own glory in the good of His people.
V. FOR PROMISES FULFILLED. The husbandman has one promise whose fulfilment gladdens him, the Christian has thousands.
VI. FOR MEETING WITH FRIENDS. Now the harvest home is proclaimed, and friends long absent meet together. We go to meet the friends whom we have known and loved in the Lord. And in this meeting with the dearest objects of the affections of the Christian’s soul, there is One “whom having not seen, we love”; Him, we shall then meet and “know, even as we are known.” If then these be the joys in harvest, how desirable it is that we should examine whether we are such as shall partake of them. Let me briefly call your attention to the character of those who shall partake of this joy.
1. The ignorant, self-conceited husbandman, who neither knows how or what to sow nor when to reap, shall not have “the joy in harvest.”
2. Nor is there joy in harvest to the slothful.
3. And should we see anyone who laboured as though it were his design to make his land barren and unproductive we should at once declare him mad, and predict that beggary and starvation must be the inevitable lot of himself and his family.
4. Those who are indeed preparing for that great harvest are those who are applying to heavenly things the same diligence, the same care, the same watchfulness, and the same energy which the husbandman applies to this earthly tillage. (R. M. Kyle, B. A.)
Harvest joy, and how we may share in it
The idea of national prosperity being dependent on agricultural prosperity, true as applied to Israel, is really universally true. There may be many an industry that brings more wealth to a nation in the shape of money--as the coal industry, the iron industry, the shipping industry--but the primal industry is the agricultural industry. “Moreover, the profit of the earth is for all; the king himself is served by the field,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes, thereby giving expression to the eternal truth that all wealth comes ultimately from the soil; even the king himself is not independent of it. One cannot help rejoicing over the ingathering of the harvest, for nature itself seems musical with joy. “The valleys are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.” This joy is--
I. THE JOY OF PROVISION SECURED. We can joy before the Lord--not before the world, for that would mean pride; nor before ourselves, for that would mean selfishness; but before the Lord, for that means thankfulness over provision secured. There is nothing meaner than to boast of one’s prosperity before the world, or before one’s own heart; but we can derive joy from it before the Lord, for the Lord means us to rejoice in all His gifts--material as well as spiritual.
II. THE JOY OF PATIENCE REWARDED.
III. THE JOY OF LABOUR REQUITED. What kind of harvest is your life to have? (J. Mackie, B. D.)
The joy of harvest
Harvest crowns the year with God’s goodness. When the harvest is abundant there is universal joy. Everybody rejoices. The owner of the land is glad, because he sees the recompense of reward; the labourers are glad, for they see the fruit of their toil; even those to whom not a single ear may belong nevertheless sympathise in the common joy, because a rich harvest is a boon to all the nation. It is a joyous sight to see the last loaded wain come creaking down the village road, to note the youngsters who shout so loudly, yet know so little what they are shouting about, to mark the peasant on the top of the wain as he waves his hat and gives vent to some gleeful exclamation, and to see them taking it all into the stack or barn. There is joy throughout the village, there is joy throughout the land, when the harvest time is come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Harvest rejoicing among the Jews
It was a common saying of the Rabbis that he who had not seen the rejoicing of the people at that glad time had yet to learn what true joy was. (J. Mackie, B. D.)
The joy of finding the Saviour
My heart was fallow, and covered with weeds; but on a certain day the great Husbandman came and began to plough my soul. Ten black horses were His team, and it was a sharp ploughshare that He used, and the ploughers made deep furrows. The Ten Commandments were those black horses, and the justice of God, like a ploughshare, tore my spirit. I was condemned, undone, destroyed, lost, helpless, hopeless,--I thought hell was before me. Then there came a cross ploughing, for when I went to hear the Gospel it did not comfort me; it made me wish I had a part in it, but I feared that such a boon was out of the question. The choicest promises of God frowned at me, and His threatenings thundered at me. I prayed, but found no answer of peace. It was long with me thus. After the ploughing came the sowing. God who ploughed the heart made it conscious that it needed the Gospel, and the Gospel seed was joyfully received. Do you recollect that auspicious day when at last you began to have some little hope? It was very little--like a green blade that peeps up from the soil: you scarce knew whether it was grass or corn, whether it was presumption or true faith. It was a little hope, but it grew very pleasantly. Alas, a frost of doubt came; snow of fear fell; cold winds of despondency blew on you, and you said, “There can be no hope for me.” But what a glorious day was that when at last the wheat which God had sown ripened, and you could say, “I have looked unto Him and have been lightened: I have laid my sins on Jesus, where God laid them of old, and they are taken away, and I am saved.” I remember well that day. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The icy of spiritual ingathering
I cannot help being egotistical enough to mention the joy I felt when first I heard that a soul had found peace through my youthful ministry. I had been preaching in a village some few Sabbaths with an increasing congregation, but I had not heard of a conversion, and I thought, “Perhaps I am not called of God. He does not mean me to preach, for if He did He would give me spiritual children.” One Sabbath my good deacon said, “Don’t be discouraged. A poor woman was savingly impressed last Sabbath.” How long do you suppose it was before I saw that woman? It was just as long as it took me to reach her cottage. I was eager to hear from her own lips whether it was a work of God’s grace or not. I always looked upon her with interest, though only a poor labourer’s wife, till she was taken away to heaven, after having lived a holy life. Many since then have I rejoiced over in the Lord, but that first seal to my ministry was peculiarly dear to me. It gave me a sip of the joy of harvest. If somebody had left me a fortune it would not have caused me one hundredth part of the delight I had in discovering that a soul had been led to the Saviour. I am sure Christian people who have not this joy have missed one of the choicest delights that a believer can know this side heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Joy of realisation
Dickens describes how he dropped his first published paper stealthily one evening at twilight, with fear and trembling, into a dark letter box up a dark court in Fleet Street: and his agitation when it appeared in all the glory of print. “On which occasion I walked down to Westminster Hall, and turned into it for half an hour, because my eyes were so dimmed with joy and pride, that they could not bear the street, and were not fit to be seen there.” (H. O. Mackey.)
For Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden
Deliverance from the burden of sin
II. THE CEREMONIAL LAW IS THE YOKE OF THIS BURDEN (Acts 15:10).
III. IMMANUEL HAS BROKEN THE YOKE (Colossians 2:14). (R. Macculloch.)
The Gospel a liberating power
1. The design of the Gospel, and the grace of it, is to break the yoke of sin and Satan, to remove the burthen of guilt and corruption, and to free us from the rod of those oppressors, that we might be brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
2. This is done by the Spirit working like fire (Isaiah 9:5). It is done as in the day of Midian, by a work of God upon the hearts of men. Christ is our Gideon. (M. Henry.)
Encouragement from the past
If God makes former deliverances His patterns in working for us, we ought to make them our encouragements to hope in Him.
For every battle of the warrior
Significance of Isaiah 9:5
The verse is more noteworthy for its connection than for its contents.
Destroying weapons of war
After the suppression of the Sepoy revolt, the British Government spent a week in melting down the vast array of weapons of all sorts accumulated by the disarming of a large portion of the people of Northern India. (T. W. Chambers, D. D.)
Burning implements of war
The prophet foretells a time when out of these wars and tumults there should come a period of deep peace, when these warlike implements should be burnt to ashes, according to the practice of ancient times which heaped sword, spear and armour as on a huge funeral pile, when the victory was won, to proclaim that the strife was over, that the chariots were burnt with fire, and the spears broken asunder.
And he saw that this peace would come, because within his own time or hereafter--he knew not clearly which--a Son, a King, should be born, who would be the Prince of Peace, the founder of a new and eternal kingdom, clothed with a majesty which should put to silence the contentions of men, and with a power which should compress and unite the most divergent elements. (Dean Stanley.)
The accoutrements of the warrior only fuel for the fire
It has been submitted that a better rendering is this: “Every boot of the warrior that tramps noisily and the cloak rolled in blood shall be for burning as fuel for fire.” The soldier wears his tall boot, and as his foot comes down on the earth he makes it ring again: and hearing an army pass by who could suppose that the earth will survive the cruel tramp? Religious inspiration lifts men so high as to enable them to despise the pomp and circumstance of war: every boot of the warrior that tramps noisily, and the cloak rolled in blood which men would gather up and preserve in museums, and show to admiring ages, shall be gathered up by the hand of time and thrust into the middle of the hottest fire. All such relics were made for burning. In our patriotic folly, our exuberant and intoxicated zeal, we gather the boots of warriors and the cloaks of conquerors, and the tattered banners of famous fields, and all but worship them: underneath the whole pile should be written, “These are for burning as fuel for fire.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given
The “child” Hezekiah--yet someone else
I am unable to form any distinct notion of Isaiah as a man and a Hebrew, and as a prophet of Jehovah in contrast with those muttering wizards he denounces, without supposing that, at this period of his life and ministry, he must have connected the thought of “the child” with Hezekiah, on whom the name of the Mighty God had been actually named (“Hezekiah” means “Jehovah strengthens”), and who (being now a boy nine or ten years old) may already have given promise of the piety which afterwards distinguished him: and that he would not, at this time, have considered that his prediction would be quite inadequately realised if the youthful prince should, on his accession to the throne of David and Solomon, renew the glories of their reigns, in which peace and justice were established at home and abroad, through trust in Jehovah and His covenant:--reigns of which the historical facts must be studied in the light which the Book of Psalms and such passages as 2 Chronicles 9:1-8 throw on them.
A prediction of an ideal king
Such language speaks of an ideal king, even a Divine ruler, and only in a very poor degree found its fulfilment in Hezekiah or any Jewish king. (B. Blake, B. D.)
The way that led to Christ
In the crooked alleys of Venice, there is a thin thread of red stone inlaid in the pavement or wail, which guides through all the devious turnings to the Piazza in the centre, where the great church stands. So in reading the Old Testament we see in the life of many a personage, illustrious or obscure, and in many a far off event, the red line of promise and prophecy which stretches on unbroken until the Son of Man came. (Sunday School Chronicle.)
The Messianic prophesies
Dr. Gordon, of Boston, had a large dissected “puzzle map,” which he gave to his children, saying, “Don’t press the parts into their places; you will soon know when they fit.” Coming again into the room, very soon after, he was surprised to find the map complete. He felt like saying, as Isaac to Jacob, when the latter returned with the venison, “How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son?” “Why, father,” was the reply, “there was a man printed on the back; we saw where the feet, the eyes, the arms, and the rest of the body came, and so it was easy to watch it and fit all in.” So, if we know the Bible, we see “the Man on the back”; we put together the prophecies of the Old Testament by “the Man Christ Jesus.” (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
The prophet’s supernatural prevision
It is not necessary to suppose that the prophet knew the literal meaning of his own words. He is but a poor preacher who knows all that he has said in his sermon. Had the prophet done so, he would be no longer the contemporary of his own epoch. It is the glory of prophecy to feel after. It is the glory of science to say long before the planet is discovered--there is another world there: no telescope has seen it, no message of light has been received from it consciously, but keep your telescope in that direction, there must be a starry pulse just there. The botanist knows that if he finds a certain plant in a given locality there will be another plant of another name not a mile away. He judges from one plant to another; he submits himself to inferential logic: he has not seen that other plant, but he tells you in the morning that because yesternight he found this leaf growing not far from the house in which he resides no will find another leaf of a similar pattern, or a diverse pattern, not far away; and at night he comes home, radiant as the evening star, and says, Behold, I told you this morning what would be the case, and there it is. So with the larger astronomy, and the larger botany: there is another planet somewhere yonder; when it is discovered call it the Morning Star, and inasmuch as there is triacle, treacle, in Gilead--a balm there--there shall be found another plant not far away; whenyou find it call it by some sweet name, such as the Rose of Sharon, or the Lily of the valley. It is the glory of the prophet to see signs which have infinite meanings--to see the harvest in the seed, the noonday in the faintest tint of dawn, the mighty man in the helpless infant, the Socrates in the embryo. This prevision made the prophets seemingly mad. Their knowledge was to them but a prison, so small, so dark, yet now and again almost alive with a glory all but revealed. The horizon was loaded with gloom, yet here and there a rent showed that heaven was immediately behind, and might at any moment make the dark cold earth bright and warm with eternal summer. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The great Deliverer
Look at the Deliverer as seen by the prophet--“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called--.” Now, the English punctuation seems to fritter away the dignity of the appellation The compound name really falls into this classification: first, Wonderful-Counsellor, as one word, as if, indeed, it were but one syllable; second, God-the-Mighty-One, not four words, but hyphened together; third, Father-of-Eternity, also hyphened and consolidated; fourth, Prince-of-Peace, that likewise an instance of the words run into one another, and in this four-fold classification we have the mysterious name of the Deliverer. This is no evidence that Isaiah saw the birth of Christ as we understand that term, but what he did see was that the only deliverer who could accomplish the necessary work must fill out the whole measure of these terms; if he failed to fill out that outline, he was not the predicted Messiah. Let us see.
1. He must fill the imagination--“Wonderful.” Imagination cannot be safely left out of any religion; it is that wondrous faculty that flies to great heights, and is not afraid of infinite breadths; the faculty, so to say, that lies at the back of all other faculties, sums them up, and then adds an element of its own, using the consolidated mind for the highest purposes of vision and understanding. Is this name given for the first time? Where do we find the word “Wonderful” in the Scriptures? We may not, perhaps, find it in the English tongue, but it is really to be found in 13:18 : The angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing, it is secret?”--the same Hebrew word that is rendered in the text “Wonderful”; so we might read, “The angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after My name, seeing it is Wonderful?”
2. He must satisfy the judgment. His name, therefore, is not only Wonderful, but “Counsellor,” the fountain of wisdom and understanding, the mind that rules over all things with perfectness of mastery, that attests everything by the eternal meridian, and that looks for righteousness.
3. He must also satisfy the religious instinct, so He is called “The Mighty God.” It is not enough to describe God without epithetic terms. Sometimes we say, Why utter such words as, Thou infinite, eternal, ever-blessed God? Because we are so constituted in this infantile state of being that we need a ladder of adjectives to get up to our little conception of that which is inconceivable.
4. Not only so, there must be in this man a sense of brotherhood, so He is called “The-Prince-of-Peace.” He will bring man to man, nation to nation; He will arbitrate amongst the empires of the earth and rule by the Sabbatic spirit. Christianity is peace.
5. He is to be more still. He is to be “The Everlasting Father,” otherwise translated, The Father of Eternity; otherwise, and better translated, The Father of the age to come. Therein we have misinterpreted Christianity. We have been too anxious to understand the past. The pulpit has had a backward aspect--most careful about what happened in the second century, dying to know what Tertullian thought and what Constantine did. Christ is the Father of the age to come. If He lived now He would handle the question of poverty; He would discuss the great uses of Parliament; He would address Himself to every church, chapel, and sanctuary in the kingdom; He would come into our various sanctuaries and turn us out to a man. Christianity is the prophetic religion. It deals with the science that is to be, with the politics yet to be developed, with the commerce that is yet to be the bread-producing action of civilised life. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The birth of Christ
I. LET US EXPLAIN THE PREDICTION. The grandeur of the titles sufficiently determines the meaning of the prophet; for to whom, except to the Messiah, can these appellations belong This natural sense of the text is supported by the authority of an inspired writer, and what is, if not of any great weight in point of argument, at least very singular as a historical fact, it is supported by the authority of an angel (Matthew 4:12, etc.; Luke 1:31, etc.). To remove the present fears of the Jews, God reminds them of the wonders of His love, which He had promised to display in favour of His Church in ages to come: and commands His prophet to say to them: Ye trembling leaves of the wood, shaken with every wind, peace be to you! Ye timorous Jews, cease your fears! let not the greatness of this temporal deliverance, which I now promise you, excite your doubts! God hath favours incomparably greater in store for you, they shall be your guarantees for those which ye are afraid to expect. Ye are in covenant with God. Ye have a right to expect those displays of His love in your favour, which are least credible. Remember the blessed seed, which He promised to your ancestors (Genesis 22:18). “Behold! a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The spirit of prophecy that animates me, enables me to penetrate through all the ages that separate the present moment from that in which the promise shall be fulfilled. I dare speak of a miracle, which will be wrought eight hundred years hence, as if it had been wrought today, “Unto us a Child is born,” etc.
II. LET US SHOW ITS ACCOMPLISHMENT. Who is a king? What is a throne? Why have we masters! Why is sovereign power lodged in a few hands? And what determines mankind to lay aside their independence, and to lose their beloved liberty? The whole implies some mortifying truths. We have not knowledge sufficient to guide ourselves, and we need minds wiser than our own to inspect and to direct our conduct. We are indigent, and superior beings must supply our wants. We have enemies, and we must have guardians to protect us. Miserable men! how have you been deceived in your expectations? what disorders could anarchy have produced greater than those which have sometimes proceeded from sovereign authority? You sought guides to direct you: but you have sometimes fallen under the tuition of men who, far from being able to conduct a whole people, knew not how to guide themselves. You sought nursing fathers, to succour you in your indigence: but you have fallen sometimes into the hands of men, who had no other designs than to impoverish their people, to enrich themselves with the substance, and to fatten themselves with the blood of their subjects. You sought guardians to protect you from your enemies: but you have sometimes found executioners, who have used you with greater barbarity than your most bloody enemies would have done. Show me a king who will conduct me to the felicity to which I aspire; such a king! long to obey. Such a king is the King Messiah. You want knowledge: He is the Counsellor. You want reconciliation with God: He is the Prince of Peace. You need support under the calamities of this life: He is the Mighty God. You have need of one to comfort you under the fears of death, by opening the gates of eternal felicity to you: He is the Father of Eternity. (J. Saurin.)
Titles of Christ
I. THE NAMES AND TITLES OF THIS WONDERFUL CHILD.
II. FOR WHOM HE WAS BORN.
III. THE PREROGATIVE, WHICH IS PREDICTED IN OUR TEXT RESPECTING THIS CHILD, namely, that the government shall be upon His shoulder.
1. In the Revelation the Church is figuratively represented under the similitude of a woman, and this woman is represented as bringing forth a man-child, who should rule all nations with a rod of from The same may be said of the Child whose birth is foretold in our text. All power is committed to Him in heaven and on earth; and God’s language respecting Him is, I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion. This kingdom, which is usually styled Christ’s mediatorial kingdom, includes all beings in heaven and hell, who will all, either willingly or by constraint, finally submit to Christ; for God has sworn by Himself that to Christ every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in the earth and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess Him Lord. He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. Agreeably, our text informs us, that of the increase of His government there will be no end. He will go on conquering and to conquer.
2. But in addition to this mediatorial kingdom of Christ, which is set up in the world, He has another kingdom, the kingdom of His grace, which is set up in the hearts of His people. This kingdom consists in righteousness and peace and holy joy, and of the increase of this kingdom also and of the peace which accompanies it, there shall be no end. This kingdom is compared to leaven hid in meal till the whole be leavened. Even in heaven there shall be no end to the increase of His people’s happiness. Thus of the increase of His government and peace, there shall be no end. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Christ presented to mankind sinners
It is “to us,” the sons and daughters of Adam; we are His poor relations; and to us as His poor relations on earth, sons of Adam’s family, whereof He is the top branch, this Child is presented born, for our comfort in our low state.
I. WHAT IS PRESUPPOSED IN THIS PRESENTING OF CHRIST AS A BORN CHILD.
1. His birth was expected and looked for.
2. Christ is now born. He was really born; a little Child, though the Mighty God; an Infant, not one day old, though the Everlasting Father.
3. Some have been employed to present this Child to the friends and relations; and they are still about the work.
4. This Child is actually presented to us on His birth.
II. TO WHOM IS CHRIST PRESENTED?
1. Not to the fallen angels.
2. To mankind sinners, those of the house of His father Adam.
III. HOW IS CHRIST PRESENTED?
1. In the preaching of the Gospel.
2. In the administration of the sacraments.
3. In the internal work of saving illumination.
IV. WHAT IS THE IMPORT OF HIS BEING PRESENTED TO US?
1. Our special concern in His birth--as the birth of a Saviour to us.
2. Our relation to Him. Sinners of mankind have a common relation to Christ.
3. An owning of our relation to Him. “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).
4. The comfortableness of His birth to us. Children are presented on their birth to their relations, for their comfort; and so is Christ to sinners of mankind.
V. WHEREFORE IS CHRIST PRESENTED TO US ON HIS BIRTH?
1. That we may see the faithfulness of God in the fulfilling of His promise.
2. That we may rejoice in Him.
3. That we may look on Him, see His glory, and be taken with Him John 1:14).
4. That we may acknowledge Him in the character in which He appears as the Saviour of the world and our Saviour. (T. Boston.)
A prophecy of Christ
I. WE SHALL VIEW THESE PROPHETIC APPELLATIONS, IN THEIR APPLICATION TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AS EXPOUNDING TO US HIS NATURE AND WORK, AND RECEIVING THEIR FULLEST REALISATION IN HIM. They are not mere empty names, assumed for the purposes of pomp and impression, but appropriate descriptions of living realities. When it is said, “His name shall be called,” the meaning is that He shall be such, for in the Hebrew language “to be called” and “to be” frequently mean the same thing. Every name He bears is the Divine exponent of a corresponding attribute, or office, or work, and so it is here.
1. He is the Wonderful. The proper idea conveyed by this appellation is something miraculous, and it means that the great Personage to whom it is here applied, in His nature and works, would be distinguished by supernatural qualities and deeds, would be raised above the ordinary course and laws of nature, and would stand out before angels and men as a unique and splendid miracle. In this sense, it applies with great force and accuracy to the Redeemer, and to Him alone.
2. He is the Counsellor.
3. He is “the Mighty God”; an appellation impressively sublime, which no serious mind can approach without feeling the most profound reverence and awe. It naturally and obviously denotes a person possessing a Divine nature.
4. He is “the Everlasting Father,” or, “the Father of Eternity.” The emphasis of this appellation is not on the word “father,” but on the word “eternity.” It was customary among those who spoke and wrote the Hebrew language, to call a person who possessed a thing, the “father” of it: hence, a strong man was called “the father of strength”; a wise man, “the father of wisdom’”; a wealthy man, “the father of riches”; and so on. Now, the phrase, “the Father of Eternity,” seems to be here applied to Christ in a similar way--He possessed eternity, and, therefore, He is called the Father of it. It is a Hebraism of great poetic strength and beauty, employed to express duration--the duration of His being--the essential eternity of His existence past and future--and, perhaps, there could not be a more emphatic declaration of His right to this wonderful attribute of the Deity, strict, proper, and independent eternity of being.
5. He is the “Prince of Peace.” This appellation seems intended to teach us, that the Messiah would be invested with the prerogatives and honours of royalty, and that His kingdom, in its essential laws and principles, would differ from all the kingdoms of men, past, ,present, and future. While other kings were despots and warriors, He would be peaceable Prince. While other kingdoms were acquired by physical violence and force, and were cemented with human tears and blood, His would consist in righteousness, peace, and joy, and would win its way among men by the inherent power of its own excellence, would gradually terminate war and conflict, and restore love and order to the whole earth. But His reign was to achieve higher ends still, for it was to establish peace between man and his own conscience, between man and all good beings, between man and all the physical and moral laws of the universe, and between man and his insulted and offended Maker. Hence, prophecy foretold that, in His days there should be abundance of peace; that, in His reign, justice and mercy should meet together, righteousness and peace Should embrace each other; that the chastisement of our peace should be on Him; that He should be the peace; and that, of the increase of His peace there should be no end.
II. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. Hold fast the divinity of Christ.
2. How great is the sin and how fearful is the condition of those who reject the Saviour. He is “the Wonderful”--the admired of God, of angels, and of saints; and yet He has no attractions for you. He is “the Counsellor”; and yet you never “wait for His counsel,” but follow your own vain imaginations. He is “the Mighty God”; and yet you trample on His authority, defy His power, and risk His awful displeasure. He is “the Father of Eternity”; and yet you seek no place in His heavenly family, and are in imminent danger of being forever banished from His presence, and the glory of His power. He is “the Prince of Peace”; and yet you voluntarily live in a state of hostility to Him and His kingdom, and refuse to be reconciled by the blood of His Cross.
3. How secure and happy is the state of believers. (W. Gregory.)
The nurses and titles of the Messiah
I. The first description that is here given of the Redeemer is in these words--UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN. This may denote either the infancy of His state, when He appeared in our world, or the reality of His human nature.
1. With regard to the infancy of His state, the apostle says, it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren.
2. With regard to the reality of His human nature, the Scripture assures us, that it was of the same kind with ours, consisting of a human body and a human soul.
II. The next description of our Redeemer is in these words--UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN. is spoken of His Divine nature. He is often called in Scripture the Son of God, His own Son, His only-begotten and well-beloved Son, and as such is said to be given to us. A son always means one, not of an inferior, but of the same nature as his father.
III. It is added, THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER. Taken in its most extensive sense, the government of our Lord extends over all The whole universe is under His dominion. But what we are chiefly to understand here is the kingdom of grace, the administration of mercy, the government of which in a peculiar manner is intrusted to Him. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven were phrases familiar to the Jews, by which they always understood the Messiah’s kingdom. The immediate design of erecting this kingdom on earth is the salvation of believers, of the guilty race of men. All parts of the universe are concerned in this glorious design. The angels of heaven rejoice in it, and are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. The powers of darkness unite their force to disappoint the hopes of the heirs of this kingdom, but in vain; the King of Zion has bound them in chains of darkness, and will turn their malicious designs to their greater condemnation. All men do not indeed submit to the laws of this government, but all are nevertheless the lawful subjects of it. But the Redeemer has also many voluntary subjects. The right of Jesus to His mediatorial kingdom is founded upon promise, conquest, and purchase, even the price of His own precious blood; and we have the utmost assurances in His Word, which cannot fail, that He will one day take to Himself His great power and reign in a more illustrious and extensive manner than He has yet done.
IV. The next thing asserted of the Redeemer is, HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL. And the Redeemer is indeed Wonderful.
1. In the constitution of His person, as Immanuel, God in our nature.
2. The preparations for His birth, and the manner and circumstances of it, were also wonderful.
3. Jesus was also wonderful in His life.
4. And in His death.
5. And in His rising from the grave, and in His ascension to heaven.
V. The next title which the Redeemer has, is that of COUNSELLOR. He is fully instructed in the counsels of God the Father, for He lay in His bosom from eternity; and as the execution of the plans of the Divine administration is committed to Him, He cannot but be well acquainted with them. Besides, our Lord, by His office and appointment, is the great Counsellor or Prophet of the Church.
VI. He is also THE MIGHTY God. The same expression is used in chap.
10:21 concerning Jehovah, the God of Israel. All the perfections of theMighty God are ascribed to the Redeemer in Scripture. And worship, which only belongs to the Mighty God, is given to Christ.
VII. The next thing asserted of our Redeemer is, that He is THE EVERLASTING FATHER. The LXX renders these words, the Father of the world to come, or final dispensation of mercy and grace, as the Gospel is often called. And Christ may be called so--
1. As He has chosen His people, in His eternal purpose, that they might be sharers in His bliss and glory.
2. Christ is the Father of all true believers, in a spiritual sense. They are all His spiritual seed. The great outlines of His features are drawn upon them, and when they arrive at heaven, they shall attain to the likeness of Jesus in an eminent degree.
VIII. The last thing asserted of the Redeemer is, that He is THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Melchisedec was an eminent type of the Son of God, in this respect. He was King of Salem, which is by interpretation, King of Peace. And peace is the disposition for which the Saviour was renowned; the blessing which He died to purchase, and lives to bestow. Conclusion:
1. What an honour did the great and mighty God, our Saviour, put upon our nature by taking it into a personal union with His own Divine nature!
2. We may see from hence, how well the Redeemer was qualified for His office. What arm so powerful to save as that of the Mighty God?
3. What a fund of consolation does this passage of Scripture exhibit!
4. This subject speaks terror to the wicked.
5. We ought to entertain adoring and admiring thoughts of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. (J. Ross, D. D.)
I. We are led to inquire, HOW OUR SAVIOUR BECAME INCARNATE AND TOOK OUR MORTAL NATURE UPON HIM. Before Christ could become incarnate, He would have to lay aside His glory--the glory, Christ took a human soul, took our humanity upon Him, together with our form, and was made in the likeness of man. Nevertheless, Christ is not, and was not, two persons, but one.
II. We have now to inquire WHY CHRIST BECAME INCARNATE. To say that Christ died to save sinners is true enough, but it is not the whole truth. The question we have to answer is this: Why Christ became a man? He came to nave, but why not in another form?
1. To take away the consequences of the fall, to raise man to a higher estate even than he originally possessed, to save him from eternal ruin, and vindicate the love and wisdom which made man originally righteous, but not immaculate or impeccable, it was necessary for the Son of God to become the Son of Man, and to acknowledge a human parent; to “bear our griefs and carry our sorrows” (Hebrews 2:9-18). For only as a man could He undo the evil which man had brought upon himself; only as one of those He came to save, could Christ perform what man had left undone.
2. Moreover, Christ came to fulfil God’s law, and that for us, though not to supersede our obedience. That law was designed for man, and alone in the form of man could Christ obey it. And having fulfilled His own broken law on their behalf to whom He had given it, He is enabled to help them to observe and do it. By His perfect obedience He has become our Pattern, and has procured and purchased for us the strength to enable us to walk in the steps of His most holy life.
3. In the next place, by assuming our nature, Christ is enabled to sympathise with us.
4. Again, it was necessary for Christ to become man in order to reveal His Father to us. Men, untaught by the Spirit of God, are apt to think that God is altogether such as themselves. Such we find was the case with the heathen philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome; if they taught otherwise, they taught in vain.
5. Christ also became man to make us love God, for to know Him is to love Him.
6. Christ became man to unite man to God. (G. E. Watkins.)
The Child born: the Son given
I. THE PROMISED SAVIOUR IS DESCRIBED IN HIS HUMAN NATURE. “Unto us a Child is born.” Having respect to the connection of the passage, and to the object for which the announcement is made, we feel that it is impossible to look on at the birth of this Child that was predicted, without seeing that a greater than one born of woman is there.
1. Still the main object of the first clause of the verse is, undoubtedly, to show forth that human nature in which He was to be manifested in order that He might do the work of salvation for His people. To be born is as truly the evidence and characteristic of humanity as to die. Not less in the simple but impressive fact of His birth of a human mother, than in the fact of His dying a human death, do we recognise the proof of our oneness with the Son of God in the same nature.
2. And why was it necessary for the hope and consolation of those whom He came to redeem, that they should be taught by the prophet that the Redeemer must be one with them in their very nature; and that the Eternal Son of God should be born of a woman?
II. We find the prophet in the second clause making reference to THE DIVINE NATURE OF CHRIST. “Unto us a Son is given.” And this view of the Person of Christ, as the Son of God as well as the Son of man, is not less necessary than the truth of His proper humanity to furnish a ground of hope and consolation to the Church of God in coming to Hun as a suitable and all-sufficient Redeemer.
III. But passing from the description of Christ’s Person, the prophet next proceeds to give an account of the OFFICE WHICH BELONGS TO HIM, and which He executes as the Saviour. “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Borrowing its language from ancient customs, it is quite plain that the statement of the prophet contains in substance a declaration that the predicted Deliverer, whose advent was to shed light and blessedness on those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, was to exercise a supreme and unlimited authority, and to employ this authority for accomplishing the great purpose for which He was born as a Child and given as a Son.
1. In the case of believers--i.e., of those who are already subjects of Christ’s kingdom--it is a blessed privilege for them to be assured that He reigns, alone and supreme, in the world and the Church.
2. On the other hand, in the case of mere nominal professors, such a truth, if in any degree realised, is fitted to fill them with anxiety and dispeace. (J. Bannerman, D. D.)
The predicted names of Christ
In interpreting the peculiar language employed, it is impossible to enter into its true significance without remembering that in ancient times, and more especially in the practice of the Jews, names had oftentimes, when applied to individuals, a significance which they have not when given, as among ourselves, upon no principle except family custom or personal preference. Among the Jews especially, they were often selected and given on the ground of some peculiarity in the circumstances or character of the person named; so that they ceased to be empty and arbitrary signs of the parties thus designated, and became truly descriptive of something in their history or condition. It is in this way that the name of God Himself is used as a synonym for the character of God Exodus 23:21; Exodus 34:5-7; Proverbs 18:10). And it is in this way, undoubtedly, that we are to understand the language of the prophet when he tells us, in refer once to the coming Deliverer, that “His name shall be called, Wonderful,” etc. (J. Bannerman, D. D.)
The great Deliverer
I. THE DIGNITY OF CHRIST’S PERSON. He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God.
II. THE DEPTH OF HIS LOVE. He is born unto us a Child--given unto us a Son.
III. THE SUCCESS OF HIS UNDERTAKING. He is become the Father of the everlasting age--the Prince of Peace.
IV. HIS TITLE TO OUR OBEDIENCE. The government is on His shoulder. (G. Innes.)
The nativity of Christ
I. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF MESSIAH’S BIRTH by the prophet.
1. The Person announced.
2. The terms of the announcement. Not for angel, nor for archangel, was the mighty scheme devised; it is for the human race--for man though rebel of his God; for man ruined and desolated by sin.
3. The confidence with which this announcement is made, as immediately taking place. “To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.” Faith pierces the vista of time, and beholds events, anticipated hundreds of years before, the birth of that glorious Redeemer who was slain from the foundation of the world; which had been promised by the word and oath of Jehovah Himself; and who, therefore, in the fulness of time should assuredly be granted.
II. THE OFFICE AND THE TITLES WHICH THE SAVIOUR SHOULD ASSUME. (D. Wilson, M. A.)
The child Jesus
I. HIS INCARNATION.
II. HIS EMPIRE.
III. HIS NAMES. (W. Jay.)
The message of hope
To us, as we begin to wonder whether the entire movement of human life is not by some evil inspiration gone after a false scent, taken some terrible misdirection, shut itself up in a blind path that arrives at no goal and has no out way; to us, so heavily laden and so entangled, so fondly hoping; to us, as we walk on still in darkness and seem entering the very shadow of death; to us this Child is born, to us a Son is given,--a Child who shall be the issue, the justification, the consummation of all the long and weary story; a Son who is Himself the goal of our pilgrimage, the fulfilment of our imperfections, the crown of our endurance, the honour of our service, the glory of our building. There, in this Son of God, is an offer made by God, by which He will justify all suffering, retrieve all failure, redeem all fault; He gives us, in Him, an end for which to live. Here is His mind; here is His plan for us--for us, not only in our simple individual troubles and worries, but for us in the mass, as a race, as a society, as a civilisation. God has a scheme, an issue prepared for which He worketh hitherto, and that issue is His Son. In Him all will be gathered in and fulfilled, and “the government shall be upon His shoulder,” “of His kingdom there shall he no end, His name shall be called Wonderful, the Mighty Counsellor, the Prince of Peace.” And in the power of this message we are told not to faint or fail. (Canon H. Scott-Holland.)
A Christmas question
The principal object is to bring out the force of those two little words, “unto us.”
I. IS IT SO?
1. If this Child is born to you, then you are born again. “But,” saith one, “how am I to know whether I am born again or not?”
2. If this Child is born to you, you are a child; and the question arises, are you so? Man grows from childhood up to manhood naturally; in grace men grow from manhood down to childhood, and the nearer we come to true childhood, the nearer we come to the image of Christ.
3. If this Son is given to you, you are a son yourself.
4. If unto us a Son is given, then we are given to the Son. Are you given up to Christ?
II. IF IT IS SO, WHAT THEN? If it is so, why am I doubtful today? Why are we sad! Why are our hearts so cold?
III. IF IT IS NOT SO, WHAT THEN?
1. Confess thy sins.
2. Renounce thyself.
3. Go to the place where Jesus died in agony. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ the Revealer of God and the Asserter of man
I. Christ took to Himself human flesh to furnish us with AN EXHIBITION OF THE MORAL CHARACTER OF GOD.
II. The incarnation of Jesus is also A STUPENDOUS DISCOVERY OF WHAT MAN IS IN HIS HEAVENLY IDEAL AND HIS MORAL DESTINY. (A. Maclennan, M. A.)
As if Heaven would underline the words to catch the eye, as if it were the keynote of its love, and should be the keynote of our song of praise, the words are twice repeated--“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” (A. Maclennan, M. A.)
I. THE SUBJECT OR MATTER OF THE BLESSING. “A Child,” “a Son.”
II. THE MANNER OF ITS CONVEYANCE. “Born, given.”
III. OUR INTEREST IN IT. “Unto us,” in our behalf all this, and to our benefit and advantage. (A. Littleton, D. D.)
Redemption from within humanity
This promise of a Deliverer has lit up the march of all human generations; it has been the fountain of the fairest gleams which have crossed the darkness of the heathen world. And it is out of the bosom of Humanity that the Redeemer must be born--the Christ must be the human Child. The essential point lies here--redemption is not a process wrought by the right hand of power, so to speak, from without; the act of a Being of almighty power, who, seeing man in desperate extremity through sin and frustrating utterly the purposes and preparations of Heaven, stooped to lay hold on him, to lift him out of the abyss in which he was sinking, sad to place him by a sovereign act on a foundation where he might rest in safety, and work and grow. It is from within the bosom of humanity that the redemption is to be wrought which is to save humanity. It is by the outward sad upward pressure of a life which is truly and fully human, which has buried its Divine force in the very heart’s core of our nature, and is “bone of our bones, and flesh of our flesh,” that man is to be lifted to the levels which are above the sphere of tears and death forever. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Christ’s birthday has been a day through all ages so solemn and sacred, that Justin Martyr, a father and saint of the second century, calls it ἡ βασίλισσα ἡμερα, the Queen day in the calendar. We do not owe this solemnity then to the rubric of the Roman Church. (A. Littleton, D. D.)
The need for the incarnation
Man can suffer, but he cannot satisfy; God can satisfy, but He cannot suffer; but Christ, being both God and man, can both suffer and satisfy too; and so is perfectly fit both to suffer for man and to make satisfaction unto God--to reconcile God to man, and man to God. (Bishop Beveridge.)
Human redemption by the Divine man
The humanisation of God is the divinisation of man. (Novalis.)
The preparation of the world for Christ
A few generations before the Advent the word would have been meaningless. Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, freeman and slave, were terms full of meaning; but “man,” what could that mean? Even Aristotle found it hard to discover a common term which would cover the life of the freeman and the slave. But as the hour of the Advent, “the fulness of the time,” approached, through a very wonderful chain of agencies and influences, in the linking together of which the Hand which guided the culture of the Jewish people to the fulfilment of the primal promise is very palpably manifest, the idea of a common human nature, with common attributes, common sympathies, needs, and interests, and capable of a common life, the life of the universal human society, began to haunt the minds of men. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
The world into which Christ was born
Here are two very distinct features of human development during the ages which preceded the Advent of the Lord. Men were feeling after the ground and the conditions of a universal human society; and they were searching for the bask and the law of personal conduct, as beings endowed with moral and intellectual faculties which might be a rich blessing or a terrible curse to them and to man kind. To this point humanity had progressed, moved from within, led from on High. Was the higher progress possible to heathen society! Was there power in heathenism to lift man into this sphere of universal brotherhood, and, to expound the mystery of his being and destiny! None, absolutely none. Heathen society, with all its brilliant civilisation, was utterly, hopelessly exhausted. The Lord was born into a world of wreck. But for Christ all must have perished. The world which the Lord came to save was groaning beneath the wrecks of most of the most hopeful political, philosophical, and religious efforts and achievements of mankind. And yet there had been splendid progress. Man’s life was enlarged in every direction but the highest. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Christ the Revealer of God
“Seek fellowship with Zeus,” cried Epictetus, in a last, eager, desperate appeal Alas! it was the Zeus that was wanting; and to find Him Epictetus must pass on his disciples to a higher school. There was a yearning for God, for personal fellowship with God, for personal likeness to God, unknown to the older ages; marking a grand advance in the aspiration and effort of the noblest and most far-seeing spirits. “But who is the Zeus, the god of whom you talk, that may believe on Him,” was the cry which grew more hopeless and agonising generation by generation; to which tradition had no answer, to which philosophy had no answer, to which religion had no answer; to which no answer was possible until One stood on the earth and said, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” Then man began to look up and live. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Christ the new life of humanity
When that Child was born to humanity, when that Son took His place by its hearth fire, a new life entered into the world. That age of the Advent is very manifestly the age in which some transcendently stimulating, quickening influence penetrated the life of men, and began to make all things new; than the old civilisation decayed, the new power reorganised and restored. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Now and then a birth occurs of such momentous portent to man, that men are constrained by the influences which proceed from it to fix it in memory, and give to its anniversary fitting commemoration. There are births which are like the introduction of new forces and energies into human society, which pour the current of their power down through the ages with ever-widening and deepening volume. When Confucius was born, half of the human race had a father and a teacher given them. When Moses was born, not only a few millions of slaves found a deliverer, but the great underlying, eternal principles of morality and piety found a spokesman. With Socrates, Greece had given to her the opportunity of goodness. With Caesar came into human history the embodiment of ambition. The birth of Wilberforce was the beginning of a philanthropic education to Christendom. Howard demonstrated that the extremest feelings of a kindly humanity were practical and serviceable to society. With Washington came to mankind the ideal of unselfish patriotism; while Lincoln embodied the first century of the American Republic. These were noted men, extraordinary beings; and the names of these are all memorable. Their names have passed into history, and remain as certainly fixed as the stars beaming in the sky; and, like the stars, their glory is abundant to attract unto them the observation of men. When the date of their birth, or the supposed date of their birth, is reached, as with the movement of time we swing round the circuit of the year, men instinctively pause; thought is quickened; the depths of gratitude are stirred with benign remembrance; and thanksgiving naturally ascends unto God, who has given unto men, unto them and theirs, such a beneficent gift. (W. H. Murray.)
Christmas celebrates a personality
Wherever you find love, you find a personal being connected with it as its object, We do not love motherhood, we love mother. We do not love family government, we love the persons who compose the family. We do not love theology, we love God of whom it treats. We commemorate today, therefore--not the birth of a system, but the birth of a man. It is a sweet and innocent babe, and not a collection of doctrines, in praise of whom our songs are sung today, and unto whom our hearts are lifted in holy gladness. (W. H. Murray.)
Jesus had universal connections
We celebrate the birth of a man with universal connections; you and I were born connected with but a few. A little group absorbed us, and a little spot bounded us within its limits. Other men, of larger mould than we, were born with larger connections. The chief is connected with his tribe at his birth; the king with his kingdom; the patriot and leader with his country or party; the priest with his Church. Around all these walls are builded, over which they never pass until death lifts them above the local, and multiplies their associations. But Christ was born with universal connections. His little family did not absorb Him. He was not the son of Mary and Joseph, He was the son of humanity; He was the Son of Man the world over. (W. H. Murray.)
Jesus meets universal wants
The reason that Christ had these universal connections was because He came to assist men in reference to those conditions of want that are universal. In Him the perfect constitution had organisation. In feeling, in thinking, in suffering and gladness, in mourning and joy, in every capacity which men have, in every condition in which men stand, He was akin to them. From every bosom a sympathetic chord ran up into His, and He could, therefore, sense the needs of every bosom. He sympathised with every phase of humanity, because His humanity was perfect enough in its sensitiveness to be intelligent with every phase. (W. H. Murray.)
An infant’s birth a great event
The birth of any infant is a far greater event than the production of the sun. The sun is only a lump of senseless matter: it sees not its own light; it feels not its own heat; and, with all its grandeur, it will cease to be: but that infant beginning only to breathe yesterday, is possessed of reason--claims a principle infinitely superior to all matter--and will live through the ages of eternity! (W. Jay.)
A Christmas day sketch
I. GOD CAME TO US IN THAT CHILD. His parents were instructed to call Him “Immanuel”--“God with us.” Such a fact is big with meaning; pregnant with vital, jubilant truth. Why did God come to us thus in a babe? He must have had some wise and loving purpose that He wished to secure thereby. What For ages men had been taught to fear God, their thoughts of Him filled them with dismay; hence the gods of the heathen nations. The large body of the Jewish nation was not much in advance of the heathen. This dread of God was universal. To correct all such ideas, and remove all such feelings from the minds and hearts of men forever, God came to us as a child. Are you afraid of a babe?
II. GOD CAN COME TO US IN THE SMALLEST THINGS. We generally look for God in the great, vast, mighty, terrible. We expect something to strike the eye, etc. Will you remember that God came to us in that quiet, loving, unpretending babe, that lay in that, manager and nestled in His mother’s bosom? And so God comes to us in the little, simple, humble, noiseless, common things of life, if we only look for Him. Especially He comes to us in our children. They bring love with them, and “love is of God,” etc. We might in a far higher sense than we think for call every child “Immanuel.” In our child God comes to us, God is with us. Do we believe this? If so, should we not oftener look for and educate the God in them? We should do far better with them if from the beginning we sought to bring out, nourish, educate, develop the good, the God that is in them, instead of making it our chief concern to correct the wrong, to restrain the evil.
III. THE WHOLE OF LIFE IS SACRED AND SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO GOD. God came to us in that Child. The whole of life is sacred, open for the operations, possession, enjoyment of God. God was in that Child notwithstanding all its infantile wants, weaknesses, complaints. And so God was in that boy, notwithstanding all His playfulness and vivacity. Indeed, that was the boyish, outward manifestation of God; the boyish way of declaring God’s glory If God was in that Child, “God manifest in the flesh,” His whole life, from His birth to His death, was God life.
IV. GREAT ENDINGS HAVE LITTLE BEGINNINGS. Who shall measure the magnitude, height, depth, length, breadth of the work which Christ accomplished as Saviour of the world? Yet it has all to be traced back to the birth of that Child. God’s method is evolution from the small to the great. (B. Preece.)
The Child Divine
Pure Christianity owes its power to the fact that it comes to us as a little child, beautiful in innocence and simplicity. The pure spirit of Christianity is the essence of kindness. Christianity owes its power to its spirit of gentleness. Christianity is forgiving like a little child. Christianity, however, like a little child, is often misunderstood. Alas! that Christianity should be hated, by some people. Not only did Herod seek its life eighteen hundred years ago, but there are men today who, Herod-like, seek to strangle the infant Christ. (W. Birch.)
Unto us a Son is given
Christ, the Son of God, gifted to sinners
I. THE GIFT ITSELF. Many precious gifts have come from heaven to earth, yea, all we have is Heaven’s gift (James 1:17). But this is the great gift.
1. What this gift is.
2. Wherein this gift appears and comes to us. Those who send precious gifts to others, wrap them up in something that is less precious. And a treasure sent in earthen vessels is the method of conveyance of the best gifts from heaven to earth. The Son of God, being the gift, was sent veiled and wrapped up in our nature. This veil laid over the gift sent to poor sinners was
(a) that it might be capable of the treatment it behoved to undergo for our relief--to suffer and die;
(b) that it might be suited to the weakness of the capacity of the receivers. The Son of God in His unveiled glory would have no more been an object for our eyes to have looked on, than the shining sun to the eyes of an owl. A few rays of His glory, breaking out from under me veil, made His enemies fall to the ground.
3. What a gift this is. Singular for
(a) Beware of slighting this gift.
(b) Take heed ye miss not to perceive this gift. Most men see no further into the mystery of Christ than the outward appearance it makes in the world, as administered in the Word, sacraments, etc.; and they despise it.
(c) Admire the wisdom of God, and His infinite condescension, in the manner of the conveyance of this gift.
(d) See here how you may be enriched for time and eternity.
II. THE GIVER.
1. Who is the Giver? God. And to exalt the Giver’s free love and grace herein, observe from the Word three things there marked about it.
2. What has He given sinners, gifting His Son to them? The tongues of men and angels cannot fully express this.
III. THE PARTY TO WHOM HE IS GIVEN.
1. To whom He is given. To mankind sinners indefinitely.
2. In what respects Christ is given to them.
3. In what character Christ is given to sinners, A Saviour; a surety; a physician; a light; an atoning sacrifice; a crowned King, mighty to destroy the kingdom of Satan and to rescue mankind sinners, his captives and prisoners.
1. Believe that to us poor sinners the Son of God in man’s nature is given.
2. Receive the gift of Christ, at His Father’s hand.
The Son given
I. WHO IS THE SON GIVEN AND WHAT IS HIS PURPOSE? It is our Lord Jesus Christ. The verse begins with His humanity; and, mounting upwards, it rises to the height of His Divinity. The prophet conducts us to Bethlehem and its stable, to the desert and its hunger, to the well and its thirst, to the workshop and its daily toil, to the sea and its midnight storm, to Gethsemane and its bloody sweat, to Calvary and its ignominious death, and all along that thorny path that stretched from the manger to the Cross; for in announcing the birth and coming of this Son and Child, he included in that announcement the noble purposes for which He was horn--His work, His sufferings, His life, His death, all the grand ends for which the Son was given and the Child was born.
II. BY WHOM WAS THIS SON GIVEN? By His Father. Man has his remedies, but they are always behindhand. The disease antedates the cure. But before the occasion came God was ready. Redemption was planned in the councils of eternity, and Satan’s defeat secured before his first victory was won. The Son gave Himself, but the Father gave Him; and there is no greater mistake than to regard God as looking on at redemption as a mere spectator, to approve the sacrifice and applaud the actor. God’s love was the root, Christ’s death the fruit.
III. TO WHOM WAS HE GIVEN? He was given “to us.” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The advent of Jesus joy producing
A poor little street girl was taken sick one Christmas and carried to a hospital. While there she heard the story of Jesus’ coming into the world to save us. It was all new to her, but very precious. She could appreciate such a wonderful Saviour, and the knowledge made her very happy as she lay upon her little cot. One day the nurse came around at the usual hour, and “Little Broomstick” (that was her street name) held her by the hand, and whispered: “I’m having real good times here--ever such good times! S’pose I shall have to go away from here just as soon as I get well; but I’ll take the good time along--some of it, anyhow. Did you know ‘bout Jesus bein’ born!” “Yes,” replied the nurse, “I know. Sh-sh-sh! Don’t talk any more.” “You did? I thought you looked as if you didn’t and I was goin’ to tell you.” “Why, how did I look?” asked the nurse, forgetting her own orders in curiosity. “Oh, just like most o’ folks--kind o’ glum. I shouldn’t think you’d ever look gloomy if you knowed ‘bout Jesus bein’ born.” (Faithful Witness.)
“The joyful quarter”
Part of the city of Florence was called “The Joyful Quarter.” It was through a picture painted by Cimbrie of Jesus as a baby seated on His mother’s knee. When finished, the grand old painter did not make a charge for people to see it, but had it carried into the poor quarters, and through the streets slowly, in the sight of all the people. Before this, they had thought of Jesus as far too grand for them to love. In this picture He looked so sweet and good that people broke into surprised thankfulness and joy. (Sunday Magazine.)
A son and a brother
A respectable family becomes very reduced in its circumstances; the mother finds it difficult to make the meagre provision suffice for her hungry little ones; their clothes get more ragged; the father’s threadbare coat makes it less and less possible for him to obtain the situation which his qualifications deserve. But a child is born into that home, quite unlike the rest of the children--beautiful in feature, quick in intelligence, winsome, gifted, spirituelle. As he grows up, he manifests unusual powers; rapidly distances his compeers; passes from the elementary school to the college, and thence to the university. Presently tidings begin to come back of his success, his growing fame, his prizes, the assured certainty of his becoming a great man; and as they arrive in letter, and rumour, and newspaper, the mother’s eye gets brighter; the father no longer evades the associates of earlier days; the home becomes better furnished and the table better spread; the other children are better clothed and educated and put forward in life; and the one glad explanation of it all is found in the words, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” And as the years go on, whilst money pours in as a golden tide to the successful student, it will find its way increasingly to the family in the old home; and each member of it will reap the benefit of association with its child and son, all that is needed being to prove a distinct need, and to put in an appropriate claim. What a mine of wealth would be opened up in the counsel, strength, resources, influence, and position, of that beloved and trusted son and brother! This will illustrate the prophet’s thought. As the oppressed Jews, groaning in their brick kilns, were glad for Moses, given to lead them forth from the house of bondage; as England, travailing under the cruel exactions of the Danes, was glad for our great Alfred; as the Netherlands were glad when William the Silent arose to arrest the bloodthirsty rule of Alva; as Italy was glad when her Victor Emmanuel overthrew the dark misrule of the Papacy--so may we be glad because God has given Himself to us in Jesus. Why should living men complain? Granted that Adam was our father, the second Adam is the Son of Man. If tears and toil and pain and death have come by one, glory and honour and immortality are ours by the other. If we are sons, and therefore younger brothers of the Son; if we have the right to call His Father our Father, we gain from our association with Him more than enough to compensate us for our association with the gardener who stole his Master’s fruit in the garden of Paradise. Christian people do not enough appreciate this connection, or avail themselves of its benefits. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
And the government shall be upon His shoulder
Christ the universal Governor
I. JESUS CHRIST HAS THE GOVERNMENT OF HEAVEN. After He had triumphantly risen from the dead, and the time of His glorious ascension to heaven was at hand, He said unto His disciples, “All power is given unto Me in heaven,” meaning, that to Him, as the gracious and glorious Mediator between us sinners and God our heavenly Sovereign, all power in heaven was given. And hence the following great and gracious truths--
1. Jesus Christ is the only person who, principally and above all others, has power with God for us. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
2. He is the only person by whom we can hope to obtain an entrance into heaven.
3. He has power in heaven to exclude, as well as to admit, whom He will.
4. He has power in heaven to provide mansions for His friends.
5. He has power in heaven over all the angels; He is their Lord, whom they worship and obey; He is exalted above all principalities and powers: the angels are His ministering spirits, whom He sends forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:6-14).
II. JESUS CHRIST HAS THE GOVERNMENT OF EARTH (Matthew 28:18).
1. He has power on earth to form and establish a Church to the glory and praise of God.
2. He has power on earth to keep His Church, through faith, unto final and full salvation.
3. He has power on earth over the wicked.
III. JESUS CHRIST HAS THE GOVERNMENT OF HELL. Satan, therefore, and the whole host of evil spirits, are under His command; and therefore their malice, their subtilty, and power, shall never prevail to the ruin of the weakest of His flock. Conclusion--
1. And first, we infer--What a glorious person is Jesus Christ! In defiance of all His enemies, He it is of whom the Father declares, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion” (Psalms 2:6).
2. How dignified, and secure, and happy, must they be who have Jesus Christ as their Governor, to whom they willingly yield themselves in all humble and affectionate submission and obedience.
3. The tremendous case of those who are strangers to Jesus Christ, and without God in the world. (E. Phillips.)
The government on Christ’s shoulder
As a people whose affairs are ruined have great need of an active and expert governor; so the government of such a people is a great burden Such a people are lost sinners, and with respect to them these words speak, two things--
1. The burden and weight of taking the management of their affairs.
2. Jesus Christ the person on whom this burden was laid. This is part of the glad tidings of the Gospel. (T. Boston.)
The government on Christ’s shoulder
I. THE OCCASION OF SETTING UP THIS PRINCE AND GOVERNOR. It was sinners’ absolute need.
1. Their first prince was gone, to manage their affairs no more. Adam their natural head mismanaged the government quite.
2. They were left in confusion, in the hand of the enemy Satan.
3. Their affairs were desperate. When the whole earth could not afford one, heaven gave sinners a Prince, of shoulders sufficient for the burden.
II. THE IMPORT OF THIS PRINCIPALITY AND GOVERNMENT LAID ON JESUS CHRIST FOR THE BENEFIT OF MANKIND-SINNERS. It speaks--
1. His near relation to them.
2. His eminency among them.
3. His honourable office over them.
4. His sovereign power and authority over them.
5. The burden of the care and duty belonging to the office and station.
III. THE HONOUR, POWER, AND AUTHORITY BELONGING TO THIS PRINCIPALITY AND GOVERNMENT OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. The legislative power belongs to Him solely.
2. The supreme executive power is lodged with Him (John 5:22-23).
3. The power of granting remissions, receiving into peace with Heaven, pardoning and indemnifying criminals and rebels (Acts 5:31).
4. A large and vast dominion, reaching to earth, heaven, and hell, and the passage between the two worlds, namely, death (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:18). In His hand is--
IV. THE BURDEN OF THIS PRINCIPALITY AND GOVERNMENT LAID ON CHRIST JESUS. It is seven fold.
1. The burden of the purchase of it.
2. The burden of a war with the devil for the recovering of it.
3. The burden of subduing sinners.
4. The burden of their reconciliation with Heave.
5. The burden of their defence and protection.
6. The burden of their provision in all things necessary for life and godliness.
7. The burden of the whole management and conduct of them through the wilderness, till they come to the heavenly Canaan.
V. IMPROVE THE DOCTRINE.
(a) Let His Spirit be your Guide and Leader.
(b) Let His Word be your rule.
(c) Let His will be the determining point to you.
And receive Him as Governor--
(a) Of your hearts and spirits. Let the proud heart be made to stoop to Him, let the covetous heart be purged by Him, and the vain foolish heart be made to find the weight of His awful authority. While Christ has not the government of thy heart, thou hast not given Him the throne.
(b) Of your tongues.
(c) Of your practice.
(a) Be content with the lot carved out for you.
(b) Never go out of God’s way to mend your condition.
(c) In all changes of your lot, acknowledge Him for direction and guidance. Take Him for your only Governor; your absolute Governor; your perpetual Governor. Take Him without delay; take Him heartily and willingly.
The hope of Israel
I. THE HOPE OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE CONCERNING THEMSELVES AND THEIR RACE CENTERED IN A CHILD. As a general fact, how many of the world’s hopes and expectations have in all ages focussed in cradles. The children represent the hope of all generations.
II. Now the paradox of Jewish faith consisted in this--THAT IT FOCUSSED AT ONCE IN A CRADLE AND A THRONE a Child and a King. Hence the birth in which that ancient hope found fulfilment was the birth of a King. The question of the wise men was grandly expressive. It centred alike in a Child and a King. “Where is He that is born King?”
1. At the very centre of the Jewish religion was the belief in kingship--a Divine kingdom or a theocracy. This great spiritual fact was symbolised by “the outward visible sign” of human kingship. But all human symbols are imperfect. Their kings died like other men. But their true King did not die. They sought to make the outward symbol of government as complete as possible; hence they adopted hereditary kingship. The human, and in this case, the Jewish heart is impatient of an interregnum. There is a feeling in man that the throne should at no period be empty. This feeling ever tends toward hereditary rule. The prophet points to a King to the increase of “whose government and peace there shall be no end.” It is a kingdom which knows of no interregnum. In contrast to all other kings and royal personages, who soon die and pass away, He ever lives.
2. It is such a king that the Jewish people yearned and looked for. Hence, when the wise men came with the question, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” it not only moved Herod, but all Jerusalem with him. The Jews looked eagerly for a king who should bear upon his shoulder the burden of perpetual government. This yearning for a king is one of the deepest in the heart of nations.
3. Alas! that when He came men did not recognise Him in the humble garb He wore. They placed a Cross upon the shoulder that was to bear the ensign of rule, and a crown of thorns upon His royal brow. Yet, all was well, for what could be a better ensign of His kingship than the Cross, since His is “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” and He is a “Prince and a Saviour.”
4. His sacred brow, too, bore the only crown which man could place there and He accept--a crown of thorns, symbol alike of our sin and misery and of His royalty who has overcome us by the might of His compassion, and become our King by the shedding of His blood. What becomes the brow of the Man of Sorrows and King of sorrowing humanity like crown of thorns? Our Lord exclaimed some time before His hour had come, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.” He based His Kingly claim upon that two-fold power. It is from His Cross that He sways His sceptre over us.
5. The cradle predicts the Cross. Once God has condescended to touch the manger and the crib, we are prepared to see Him even touch the Cross and bearing it. There is no depth of condescension which He will not fathom, no height of self-sacrifice which He will not reach. The story of Divine love is harmonious throughout. We are not surprised that the great God who submitted himself to the humblest conditions of human birth should also, in the same spirit, endure the Cross, despising the shame.
6. This cradle, too, is prophetic of the Gospel, in which so much that is weak and human is linked to so much that is strong and Divine, namely, man’s voice uttering God’s message, earthly forms and ordinances conveying heavenly energies, human swaddling clothes enveloping a Divine life. (D. Davies.)
The government upon Christ’s shoulder
I. I would offer a few thoughts concerning THE CHURCH OR KINGDOM OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD.
1. By the Church I understand that remnant of Adam’s family who, being determined to break their covenant with hell, and their agreement with death, join themselves to Christ, as their Prophet, Priest, and King, either in reality, or by a visible and credible profession of their faith in Him.
2. The Church or kingdom of Christ, during the Old Testament dispensation, was peculiarly confined to the posterity of Abraham, to the nation of the Jews, excepting a few Gentile proselytes; but now, since the coming of Christ in the flesh and His resurrection from the dead, is extended also to the Gentile nations.
3. All the subjects of Christ’s kingdom and government, are originally brought out of the territories of hell, being “children of wrath, even as others.”
4. The great engine whereby Christ rears up a kingdom to Himself in the world, is the preaching of the everlasting Gospel, accompanied with the power and efficacy of His Spirit.
5. The Church and kingdom of Christ being founded and governed by Him, “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid,” cannot miss of being one of the best regulated societies in the world as under His management, whatever irregularities may be found in her through the corruptions of men intermingling with the concerns of the kingdom. Everything necessary to render any kingdom or society regular is to be found in the Church or kingdom of Christ.
II. I would speak a little of THE GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE KINGDOM.
1. Christ Himself is the great and glorious Governor.
2. All things in heaven, earth, and hell are put under the power of Christ, for the more advantageous government of His Church (Ephesians 1:22, Philippians 2:9-11).
3. Christ the King of Zion is wonderfully fitted by, His Father for the government and administration (Isaiah 11:2-4).
4. Christ’s government and administration are very wonderful. The name of the Governor is Wonderful.
5. Christ’s government and administration in and about His Church and people are exceeding wise. So much is imported in His being called the “Counsellor.”
6. Also irresistible. The Governor is “The Mighty God,” who will go through with His designs.
7. He is exceeding tender and compassionate; for His name is “The Everlasting Father” from whom compassions flow.
8. Christ’s government and administration of His Church are very peaceable; for His name is “The Prince of Peace,” and “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”
9. This government is everlasting.
III. Inquire HOW THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH IS COMMITTED TO CHRIST. The government is laid upon Christ’s shoulder with a three-fold solemnity.
1. The solemnity of an unalterable decree (Psalms 2:6-8).
2. The solemnity of a covenant transacted betwixt Him and His Eternal Father, when the council of peace was between them both.
3. The solemnity of an oath, ratifying the determination of the council of peace in this matter (Psalms 89:3-4; Psalms 89:35).
IV. GIVE THE REASONS OF THE DOCTRINE. Why is the government laid upon His shoulder?
1. Because His shoulder alone was able to bear the weight of the administration and government of the Church.
2. That He might be in better capacity for accomplishing the salvation of His people, and bringing many sons and daughters unto glory. Hence we find His kingdom and salvation frequently joined; “Thou art my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth”; and Zechariah 9:9.
3. That He may “still the enemy and the avenger,” that He may resent His Father’s quarrel against Satan, and entirely bruise his head, for his defacing and striking at His and His Father’s image in our first parents, and disturbing His government, which He had established in innocence.
4. Because He hath a just title to it.
2. Consolation to the poor people of God; particularly to those who are spoiled of their liberties and privileges as Christians,
Christ the “Kinsman” of the race
The King must be the Son of Man. The real root of king and queen is “kin.” The king is not the “able” man but the “kinsman” of the race. All our fundamental, social, and political ideas have their root in the patriarchal home, as the researches of Sir H. Maine and other able scholars have established; and in the king the whole “kindred” is represented “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The King who rules in righteousness, mighty to save, is the Son of Man, the Divine Kinsman of our race. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Jesus Christ the King of all creation
I. CHRIST THE KING OF ALL THINGS GREAT. There is nothing so great as to be above the government of Jesus. Things great belong to each of the two great provinces into which the universe is divided, namely, the province of matter and the province of mind; yet, Christ is King of all.
1. Greatness in the physical creation. The earth is very great, as we count greatness. The sun is greater than the earth, and many a star which appears only as a glittering point of diamond, is greater than the sun: yet, Jesus makes the earth bring forth, commands the sun to shine, and moves the stars in silent harmony. Jesus can rule the sea. Its billows rise and fall according to His will; and when they leap along, then, amid the roar of tempest and the cries of men for aid, the gentle voice of Jesus speaks “Peace be still, and winds and waves obey Him, for there is a great calm. The government is upon His shoulder.”
2. The greatness of death. Of all the forces of nature, none is feared more than death. Even death is in the hand of Jesus; it never comes without asking His permission, and in every case He could forbid its coming, and no doubt He would forbid it, if that were for the best, for He has the keys of death and of Hades.
3. Greatness in the spirit world. Material forces, however, form but an insignificant part of the forces of creation. There is a world of spirit within, as well as above and beyond the world of matter, and yet, of this nearest world of matter we know but little. The spirit world is under the rule of Jesus; He is its only King; His word its only law; His presence its only bliss. He reveals to the eye of faith the home of heaven. He brings “life and immortality to light.”
4. Greatness in moral government. God has promised for us--and thereby has guaranteed--results which can never be effected by any mere force, though that force should be even infinite. The difficulty in the Saviour’s government of moral beings lies here,--that He has guaranteed and foretold the final issues of that government; that He has foreseen the course of life pursued by every moral agent, though that life is in many points independent of all external forces Neither Scripture nor reason may explain the difficulty, but it is pleasing to think of my text,--“The government shall he upon His shoulder,--for Jesus is “Kings of kings, and Lord of lords.”
II. CHRIST THE KING OF ALL THINGS SMALL. There is nothing so small as to escape the notice of Jesus. When on earth He observed the poor as well as the rich, and commended each according to his fidelity. Think not that you are forgotten by the Saviour, or that your work or suffering is overlooked because you are poor, obscure, and feeble, and therefore, forgotten and overlooked by men. What men despise through ignorance may be most highly prized in another form. Filthy soot and the brilliant diamond are formed of the same material. The Saviour sees, not merely what we are, but what we may become, and as fidelity is the highest element of moral worth, He estimates the value of men, not by what they do, but by their fidelity--by the proportion which exists between their power and their performance. The lisping prayer of a little child may thus be of greater value in God’s estimation, than the highest song which ever rose from an angel’s heart.
III. CHRIST THE KING OF ALL THINGS GOOD. There is nothing so good that it can exist apart from the rule of Jesus. The day is no more dependent on the sun, the rain upon the clouds, the stream upon the fountain, than happiness is dependent upon Christ.
IV. CHRIST THE KING CONTROLLING EVIL. There is nothing so bad but Jesus can make it the means of good. In all we suffer, as well as in all we enjoy; in the dark and dreary night of trouble, as well as in the bright day of prosperous life, it is equally true that Jesus Christ is King of all. (Evan Lewis, B. A.)
Christ our life’s Ruler
Fifteen miles from Sandy Hook the pilot comes on board the English steamer to navigate it into New York harbour. I remember his climbing on board, on the last occasion that I made the passage. The great steamer slowed, and as we looked down from the deck into the dark night we could see a lantern on the surface of the ocean, where his boat was lying. Presently he emerged from the pitchy darkness and reached the deck. From that moment the anxieties of the captain were at an end, and he might refresh himself in deep, long slumbers. So when Christ is on board our life, the government is upon His shoulders, and of the increase of His government and of our peace there is no end. (F. B.Meyer, B. A.)
And His name shall be called Wonderful
As Jacob conferred the birthright and blessing of his race upon the sons of Joseph by saying, “Let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac” (Genesis 43:16); or as the children of Israel in the wilderness were warned to obey the angel who went before them, because the “name of Jehovah was in him”; so the name of God, wonderful in counsel, mighty in work, the Father of their fathers and of their children for a thousand generations, the Eternal Upholder of their race and their nation and of its prosperity and peace, shall be named upon, shall be in, this anointed Saviour, on whose shoulder the government shall rest. (Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
The Prince of the four names
Wonderful Counsellor; God-Hero; Father-Everlasting; Prince-of-Peace. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Christ’s name above every name
I. WHO CALLS HIM BY THIS NAME?
1. His Father (Philippians 2:9).
2. All His people, flying to Him, in their first believing, as such an one, and depending on Him all along their course of life as such an one.
II. WHAT DOES HIS BEING CALLED BY THIS NAME IMPORT?
1. That He really is what this name bears.
2. What He is called He is found to be in the experience of saints.
III. APPLICATION. Study the name of Christ, as represented in the Word, so that your souls may be enamoured of Him. (T. Boston.)
God’s namings always mean character. They are always revelations. They tell us what the person is or what he does. (Mrs. H. W. Smith.)
“Ah! that’s the name!”
Some Hindus who had read Christian tracts travelled a long way to hear more about Jesus from a missionary. As soon as he mentioned the name of Jesus, they all exclaimed, “Ah! that’s the name!” (Gates of Imagery.)
Christ’s name Wonderful
Our Lord Christ is beyond the creature’s comprehension. So that this is fitly made the first syllable of His name, that men may know that whatever they know of His excellencies, there is still more behind; and though they may apprehend, they cannot comprehend what He is. I shall inquire--
I. UNDER WHAT NOTION CHRIST IS HELD FORTH AS A MIRACLE, a miraculous person.
1. Not in respect of His being a miracle worker. It is Himself, and not His work, that is here called a miracle.
2. Nor in respect of His Divine nature simply.
3. Nor in respect of His human nature simply.
4. Christ is held forth as a miraculous personage as God-man in one person.
II. WHAT IS THE IMPORT OF CHRIST AS GOD-MAN BEING AND APPEARING TO BE A MIRACULOUS, MOST WONDERFUL ONE?
1. The excellency of His person as God-man.
2. The fulness of excellencies in Him, our incarnate Redeemer. Some excel in one thing, some in another., but none but Christ in all (Colossians 1:19).
3. The uncommonness and singularity of His excellencies. Every excellency in Christ is beyond that excellency in another.
4. The absolute matchlessness of His person, for excellency and glory.
5. The shining forth of His excellencies, fit to draw all eyes upon Him.
6. The incomprehensibleness of Him to any creature.
III. IN WHAT RESPECTS IS OUR INCARNATE REDEEMER A MIRACULOUS ONE? He is wonderful--
1. In His person and natures.
2. In His perfections and qualifications.
3. All along His duration. Some are wonderful in one part of their life, some in another; but He is miracle all over His duration.
(10) In His continuing forever to be the eternal baud of union and means of communion, between God and the saints (Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:23).
4. In His offices.
(1) Prophetical. The Spirit came at times on the prophets, but He rested on Him. They had their foreknowledge of future events at secondhand; but it is His privilege to look with His own eyes into the sealed book.
5. In His relations.
6. In His love (Ephesians 3:19). Consider--
Who was Jesus Christ?
That is a question to which no man dares to be indifferent save at the peril of his soul. The great Unitarian minister, W.E. Channing, said, “Love to Jesus Christ depends very little on our conception of His rank in the scale of being.” I believe that remark to he profoundly wrong. On our views of the Person of Christ depend not only our love to Christ, but also our conception of Christianity. Christ is Christianity, and without clear views of His character and person our religious and moral he must be vague, unstable, like a house that is built upon the sand. Consider--
I. HIS WISDOM AS A TEACHER.
1. His originality. He never went to college. He had no learned tutors to instruct Him. Yet at the early age of thirty He taught the world the sublimest truths that man has ever heard. He belonged to none of the sects of His day. He had no great intellectual friends from whom He might gain flashes of suggestive thought. From the depths of mental and social obscurity, He went forth to proclaim a worldwide kingdom, and today, in the most cultivated nations, Christ ranks first of all the world. He did not teach by human methods. All others have had to prove the words they spoke. Christ simply and directly uttered truths, and His hearers saw that there was no contradicting Him. He did not speculate about God. He simply revealed the Father, and men felt that His words were true. Others had taught virtue before Christ. But how different was their teaching! Note especially Christ’s dealings with the poor. Christ was the first poor man’s philosopher. And now, after eighteen centuries of weary strife and struggle, we are just beginning to see the transcendent wisdom of such a course of action.
2. His boldness in teaching. His mission was worldwide. Having never seen a map of this earth, He comes forth from the carpenter’s shop to inaugurate a kingdom more extensive than the sway of Alexander, more lasting than the firmament itself. And history is showing its success. He was the greatest reformer that ever lived. But He never started wild theories for facts to make sad havoc with. He laid down those principles of love, of doing to others as we would have them do to us, of righteousness, purity, truth, and justice, the same for rich and poor, those principles which alone can heal the wounds of society in the future as alone they have healed them in the past. Observe, too, the calmness of Jesus, under all circumstances. He was always calm, because He knew that in the long run He would succeed.
3. The consistency of His life with His doctrine. To preach a low standard of morality and live up to it is easy. But Christ’s standard is the very highest. Yet He lived up to it. All other teachers confess their shortcomings. Christ never does. Observe, too, the harmony of His character. All virtues unite in Him, and none in excess. Is not His name wonderful?
II. HIS INNOCENCE AND SINFULNESS. Most marvellous is His character in this respect. All our goodness begins with repentance. Not so His. He puts before us the highest form of morality, “Be ye therefore perfect.” But He never hints that He has need of penitence for shortcomings. Further, Jesus claims to be sinless, though He is full of sincerity and meekness. Now, no man could sham perfect holiness. No faulty man could claim to be faultless without soon displaying faults that would cover him with derision. Piety without an ounce of repentance, without any confession of sin, without one tear! Let any man try that sort of piety, and see how soon his assumed righteousness will appear most impudent conceit. When we think of His sinlessness, we must say, “His name is Wonderful.”
III. HIS INFLUENCE OVER OTHER MEN.
1. His influence as a Teacher is wonderful. We see in ethics far more than Socrates did. We see further in theology than Luther. Mathematicians have gone far beyond Euclid. Our children will see further than we do. But eighteen centuries have passed since the sun of humanity rose to its zenith in Jesus Christ; and what man, or what body of men, has mastered His thought and come up to His teachings, far less gone in advance of Him?
2. Observe the total change in the moral life of those who have accepted this Teacher. And His influence came from Himself. He was not supported by the authority of the Rabbis. He was in opposition to all the religious prejudices of His day. From a most sectarian nation, He was most unsectarian, proposing to found a universal kingdom embracing all nations, a religion for all the earth.
3. The influence of His Church. Villainous misdeeds have been done in the name of His Church. But the true Church never did these things, and her influence has been most beautiful. The world has never been the same since the holy steps of Jesus trod the soil of Palestine, and His sacred tears bedewed Mount Olivet. The hospital is an invention of Christian philanthropy. The degradation of woman, of which the pagan world was full, has been exchanged for a position of peculiar honour. The sensualism which paganism mistook for love has been put under the ban of true Christian feeling, and the chivalrous respect which all good men have for pure women, and the poetry of holy love, have come from the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. The old and universal sentiment of bitter hostility between races and nations is denounced in the severest terms, and has been largely toned down by Christianity. Look again at the enthusiasm which this wonderful Teacher instilled into the early Christians. Jesus Christ Himself is a greater miracle than the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We have not yet assumed the truth of His miracles. Yet is it not idle to deny these? How can we separate Christ from His miracles? And this Divine Jesus, whose name is Wonderful, who has been the support of our fathers in the days of old, is with us still. We need this marvellous Being in the strife of Christian duty. (F. W. Aveling, M. A. , B. Sc.)
Christ wonderful in His victories
1. Over the forces of nature.
2. Behold His victory over the grave. Here comes the Conqueror of death. He enters that realm, and says, “Daughter of Jairus, sit up!” and she sat up. To Lazarus, “Come forth!” and he came forth. To the widow’s son He said, “Get up from that bier!” and he goes home with his mother. Then Jesus snatched up the keys of death, and hung them to His girdle, and cried, until all the graveyards of the earth heard Him: “O death, I will be thy plagues! O grave, I will be thy destruction!”
3. But Christ’s victories have only just begun. The world is His, and He must have it. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
The wonderful name
I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE MOST WONDERFUL BEING THIS WORLD EVER SAW.
1. Because of the number and character of the prophecies announcing His advent and mission.
2. Because of what He said of Himself. He distinctly declared that He existed before He was born. “Before Abraham was I am.” Now, in the matter of natural birth, man is utterly without choice or control, nor is he consulted as to his coming, whether it shall be now or in the future, this place or that. But Jesus Christ declared that He had perfect control in all these matters,--control in coming, and control in going,--“No man taketh away My life. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” He actually said He was God. He invited all to come to Him for pardon and eternal life, and declared that, if they did not so come, they should all die in their sins. He said He had power to call to His aid “twelve legions of angels,” who would gladly tender Him celestial protection, if required.
3. Because of what He did. His life was filled with deeds of sympathy and self-sacrificing benevolence. He assumed and exerted perfect control, both in the physical and moral world.
4. Because of what He was. “Great is the mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh.” Omnipotence clothed in frailty.
II. JESUS CHRIST IS THE MOST WONDERFUL BEING IN HEAVEN. Not that He is an intruder, or a newcomer. He was at home in heaven, and dwelt amid the underived glory of His Godhead before man or angel was created. He is the most “wonderful” Being in heaven because of--
1. His history. He has a history of honour and glory in heaven, and a history of unspeakable sorrow and suffering on earth.
2. His relationship. He appears in heaven in the unique relationship of Brother and Redeemer of our race, and Son of God.
3. His work. Through the glorified human lips of Jesus Christ the Divine mandates for the control of the universe are now uttered. The feet once spiked to the Cross now rest upon the throne. Through the Person and work of this wonderful Being, redeemed humanity is elevated to the very Person and throne of the Deity. (T. Kelly.)
Christ wonderful in the magnetism of His person
After the battle of Antietam, when a general rode along the lines, although the soldiers were lying down exhausted, they rose with great enthusiasm and huzzaed. As Napoleon returned from his captivity, his first step on the wharf shook all the kingdoms, and two hundred and fifty thousand men joined his standard. It took three thousand troops to watch him in his exile. So there have been men of wonderful magnetism of person. But hear me while I tell you of a poor young man who came up from Nazareth to produce a thrill such as has never been excited by any other. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
The birth of the “Wonderful”
Christmas marks the birth time of the matchless Christ. In what respect was He wonderful!
I. WONDERFUL IN CHARACTER.
II. WONDERFUL IN HIS TEACHING.
III. WONDERFUL AS TO HIS MISSION. (B. P. Grenoble.)
No extravagance in Christ
No one can at all appreciate the wonder fulness of Christ who does not consider its freedom from the merely marvellous. Has not the element of wonder in human history always had as its drawback and bane the tendency to extravagance? It cannot keep within bounds. Its disease is unnaturalness, exaggeration, grotesqueness. It piles marvel on marvel, outraging all sense of proportion. It defies every feeling of the ludicrous. It delights in trampling on the understanding, and finds a merit and satisfaction in receiving the monstrous and contradictory. Is not this the characteristic of all mythologies, and not least of the history of Buddha, whom some have ventured to mention along with Christ? The wonderfulness of Christ is not marvellous. It is not something to astonish. It has a meaning and a purpose prior to that and above it. His is not the marvellousness of the aurora borealis, but of the eastern aurora, the dawn It is not the marvellousness of an architectural monument meant to exhibit the resources of art and wealth, but the architecture of a temple for God and man to dwell in. His is not the marvellousness of a gigantic tree, but of the tree of life producing medicine and food; not the splendour of a vast orb of fire, but of the sun that rays out life to the worlds. There is no part of Christ’s wonderfulness which does not serve a great end and occupy a distinct and necessary place. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
I. Christ shall be called Wonderful FOR WHAT HE WAS IN THE PAST.
1. Consider His eternal existence, “begotten of His Father from before all worlds,” being of the same substance with His Father; begotten, not made, co-equal, co-eternal, in every attribute, “very God of very God.”
2. Consider, again, the incarnation of Christ, and you will rightly say that His name deserveth to be called Wonderful.
3. Trace the Saviour’s course, and all the way He is wonderful.
4. Christ is surpassingly wonderful.
5. He is not a nine days’ wonder. He is and ever shall be wonderful. He is altogether wonderful.
6. He is universally wondered at.
II. He is Wonderful FOR WHAT HE IS IN THE PRESENT.
III. His name shall be called Wonderful IN THE FUTURE. As the Judge. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Christ the Counsellor
This syllable of His name refers to His singular capacity for management of matters. Other princes must have their counsellors, by whose advice they may act: but He Himself is, and shows Himself to be, Counsellor, an oracle of government, a Prince in whose own breast is the oracle for right management of all things relating to His dominion.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS IS CHRIST THE COUNSELLOR?
1. He is of the secret council of heaven (Zechariah 6:13). He is a member of the cabinet council of heaven, to which the most favourite angel is not admitted. There is nothing transacted there, nor has been from eternity, but what He is acquainted with (John 5:20). With His Father and the Spirit He is of the council.
2. He is the oracle of counsel for the earth (John 1:18; Matthew 11:27).
(a) In respect of office.
(b) Of capacity (Colossians 2:3).
(a) He consults her interest, for her protection and preservation in the world.
(b) He is still actively counselling her by His Word.
II. WHAT IS THE IMPORT OF THIS PART OF CHRIST’S NAME?
1. He is of singular wisdom for the conduct and management of affairs Isaiah 11:2-3). The fulness of the Spirit of wisdom is lodged in Him. He is wisdom itself, the eternal wisdom of the Father (Proverbs 8:1-36). And His children are wisdom’s children (Matthew 11:19).
2. He is a Prince of great and noble designs and projects, requiring counsel and wisdom (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Psalms 49:7-8; 1 Peter 1:18-19; John 17:24).
3. He can manage all by Himself and needs no counsel of men. The name of the wisest on earth may be Consulter (Proverbs 11:14). But He is so far a Counsellor that He is a consulter of none (Romans 11:34).
4. His manner of conduct and method of management are deep and uncommon (Matthew 14:25, etc.).
5. He does nothing without a becoming reason
6. He manages all with a depth of wisdom.
7. He is the best Counsellor--there is none like Him.
1. Take Him for your Counsellor, renouncing all other.
2. Follow the counsel that He is giving you. He is counselling you in the Gospel--
3. Make use of Christ as a Counsellor, by consulting Him daily. (T. Boston.)
Christ the best Counsellor
I. CONFIRM THE TRUTH OF THIS ASSERTION.
1. He is of the Father’s choice and nomination for a Counsellor to us--“made of God unto us wisdom.”
2. He is the saints’ choice in all ages for a Counsellor.
3. He never misses the point in His counselling.
II. WHEREIN DOTH CHRIST COUNSEL SINNERS!
1. In their greatest concerns, their concerns for eternity.
2. In their lesser concerns, the things of time.
III. HOW DOTH CHRIST GIVE HIS COUNSEL?
1. He proposes His counsel in and by His Word.
2. He clears and opens and confirms it by His providence.
3. He makes it effectual by His Holy Spirit. (T. Boston.)
Christ the Counsellor
Christ is our Counsellor upon a threefold account--
1. As He hath rectified our notions of the Deity and turned us from the worship of dumb idols, to serve the living and true God.
2. As He hath taught us the truths of the moral law, and the real difference between good and evil.
3. As He hath instructed us in the means whereby we may obtain everlasting salvation. (W. Reading, M. A.)
Messiah the Counsellor
The word is employed in the Bible frequently of those who assisted in the councils of kings. Jonathan, the uncle of David, was called “a wise counsellor” to his prince; Ahithophel, the wisest man of his day, was termed “the king’s counsellor,” the king’s adviser. And thus it is constantly employed of a person giving sound and wise advice. The name, then, evidently implies these three things respecting Him--
I. THAT HE SHOULD POSSESS ADEQUATE WISDOM.
1. When He came into the world He descended from the bosom of God.
2. As He was acquainted with God, He was acquainted with man. He “searches the reins and the hearts.” He therefore has wisdom enough to guide His people through time to eternity, and to be their most effectual and safest Counsellor.
II. THAT HE SHOULD COMMUNICATE THIS WISDOM BY POSITIVE INSTRUCTION. And this includes the fulfilment of an earlier promise, made by Moses to the Church of God, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, like unto me.” Jesus came, then, to be this Prophet, to speak with authority from God, and thus to communicate that instruction to mankind, and especially to believers, which was needful for their welfare, He came, according to the Divine appointment, to reveal the character of God, which He knew; to communicate to mankind that amount of knowledge respecting God which they were capable of receiving. He could therefore say repeatedly, when He was upon earth, that He had manifested the name of God (that is, His character) to His disciples, who received His instruction.
III. THAT HE SHOULD URGE AND PERSUADE MEN TO RECEIVE THAT INSTRUCTION. The Lord Jesus Christ still communicates His Spirit to men, in order to open their understandings and their hearts; just as He did when at the outpouring of His Spirit on the day of Pentecost three thousand were subdued at once by the Gospel, and disregarding all the differences in their circumstances, and putting away from them all considerations of worldly ease or comfort altogether, at once embraced the Gospel of Christ,--just as much does Jesus Christ now communicate His Spirit, to subdue men to Himself, and is thus their effectual Counsellor. He has given instruction by His Word, but He makes that instruction effectual by His Spirit. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
His name--the Counsellor
It was by a counsellor that this world was ruined. Did not Satan mask himself in the serpent, and counsel the woman, with exceeding craftiness, that she should take unto herself of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the hope that thereby she should be as God? It was meet that the world should have a Counsellor to restore it, if it had a counsellor to destroy it. But mark the difficulties that surrounded such a Counsellor. ‘Tis easy to counsel mischief; but how hard to counsel wisely!
I. Christ may well be called Counsellor, for He is a COUNSELLOR WITH GOD. It hath been revealed to us that before the world was, when as yet God had not made the stars, the Almighty did hold a solemn conclave with Himself; Father, Son, and Spirit held a mystic council with each other, as to what they were about to do.
II. Christ is a Counsellor in the sense which the LXX translation appends to this term. He is said to be THE ANGEL OF THE GREAT COUNCIL. Do you and I want to know what was said and done in the great council of eternity? There is only one glass through which we can look back to the dim darkness of the shrouded past and read the counsels of God, and that glass is the Person of Jesus Christ. You may find out whether you are among His chosen ones. Christ is the Angel of the covenant, and you can find it out by looking to Him.
III. CHRIST IS A COUNSELLOR TO US. A man without a counsellor, I think, must of necessity go wrong. Woe unto the man that hath got a bad counsellor.
1. Christ is a necessary Counsellor.
2. Christ’s counsel is faithful counsel. How often do our friends counsel us craftily!
3. Christ’s counsel is hearty counsel.
4. Christ has special counsels for each of us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The mighty God
Christ the mighty God
I. CHRIST IS THE TRUE GOD.
1. The Scripture expressly calls Him so (John 1:1; Ac Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20).
2. The attributes of God, distinguishing Him from all created beings, are ascribed to Him.
3. The works peculiar to God alone are done by Him and ascribed to Him.
4. Divine worship, which must be given to God alone, is due to Him.
5. He is equal with the Father.
II. THE MAN CHRIST IS THE MIGHTY ONE.
1. He does and has done works that no other could do.
2. He has all at His command in heaven and earth, whether created persons or things.
3. Being God as wall as man His power is infinite.
1. This serves to refute the heresy of those who impugn the supreme Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. It speaks terror to all the enemies of Christ.
3. It speaks comfort to the Church and every believer in their low estate.
4. It serves to exhort all to take Him for their Prince. (T. Boston.)
His name--the almighty God
Other translations of this Divine title have been proposed by several very eminent and able scholars. Not that they have any of them been prepared to deny that this translation is after all most accurate; but rather that whilst there are various words in the original, which we render by the common appellation of “God,” it might be possible so to interpret this as to show more exactly its definite meaning. One writer, for example, thinks the term might be translated “The Irradiator,”--He who gives light to men. Some think it bears the meaning of TheIllustrious,--the bright and the shining One. Still there are very few, if any, who are prepared to dispute the fact that our translation is the most faithful that could possibly be given. “the mighty God.”
I. THE FOLLY OF THOSE WHO PROFESS TO BE THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, YET DO NOT, AND WILL NOT, CALL HIM GOD. It is His being verily God, that frees Him from the charge of blasphemy. It is the fact that He is God, and that His Godhead is not to be denied, that makes His death an unrighteous decide at the hand of apostate man, and renders it, as before God, an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the people.
II. HOW DO WE CALL CHRIST, “THE MIGHTY GOD”? It is Our delight and our privilege to attribute to Him the attributes of Deity.
1. In hours of devout contemplation how often do we look up to Him as being the eternal Son. In doing so we have virtually called Him the mighty God; because none but God could have been from everlasting to everlasting. How frequently do we repeat over to ourselves that precious verse, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Do you not see that you have in fact called Him God, because none but God is immutable!
3. Is it not also our joy to believe that wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, there is He in the midst of them? Have we not ascribed to Christ omnipresence, and who can be omnipresent but God! How is it possible for us to dream of Him as being “in the bosom of His
Father, with the angels, and in the hearts of the contrite all at the same time, if He be not God?
4. We call Him “the mighty God” in many of His offices.
III. HOW CHRIST HAS PROVED HIMSELF TO US TO BE “THE MIGHTY GOD.” This Child born, this Son given, came into the world to enter the lists against sin. For thirty years and upwards He had to struggle against temptations more numerous and terrible than man had ever known before. And yet, without sin or taint of sin, more than conqueror He stood. We know also that Christ proved Himself to be “the mighty God” from the fact that at last all the sins of all His people were gathered upon His shoulders, and “He bare them in His own body on the tree.” But He did more than this--when He led captivity captive, add crushed death and ground his iron limbs to powder, He proved Himself then the mighty God. Oh, my soul, thou canst say that He has proved Himself in thy heart to be a mighty God. I beg and beseech of you all, come add put your trust in Jesus Christ; He is the mighty God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jesus the mighty God
I. HE OF WHOM THE PROPHET SPEAKS IS THE MIGHTY GOD.
II. IN WHAT SENSE THE CHILD BORN MAY BE CALLED “THE MIGHTY GOD.” Not that the humanity is deified, or the Deity humanised. Humanity is still humanity, Deity is still Deity. But so united in one person that that which is peculiar to one nature is often ascribed to the other (Acts 20:28; John 3:13).
III. THE GREATNESS OF HIS ACTS IN REGARD TO THAT CHURCH TO WHOM HE IS GIVEN.
1. He bare her sins. And had He not been the mighty God, as well as man, He never could.
2. Besides this, He wrought out a perfect righteousness for His Church. He conquered all her enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, those three strong ones.
3. He converts the hardest heart, working mightily by His own gracious Almighty Spirit.
4. He supports the feeblest grace, carries on the work which He has begun. What mighty effects He accomplishes by the simplest means! He bears up the most timid and desponding spirit, binds up with His own hand, by His own Spirit, with His own blood.
5. And what shall we say of that mighty God, in all His mighty doings, when He shall raise the dead, judge the world, destroy sin, and in the new heavens and the new earth give His saints the eternal possession of Himself, and of God in Himself? (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
Jesus the mighty God
The surrounding nations, Egypt and Assyria, gave great names to their gods. Look upon the inscriptions on the pillars in the time of Sargon. One Assyrian king was called “The great king, the king unrivalled; the protector of the just; the noble warrior.” If Isaiah wrote in a time of great names he, by this conception of an appellation, threw all other cognomens into contempt. “The mighty God.” The word is not Elohim, a word under which a species of subdivinity could be classified: “Said I not unto you, Ye are gods?” That word is El, a word which is never applied but to Jehovah, and which is never used but as connoting the innermost essence of ineffable Deity. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The everlasting Father
The everlasting Father
The tender, faithful, and wise trainer, guardian, and provider of His own in eternity (Isaiah 22:21). (F. Delitzsch.)
The everlasting Father
Abiding in protection, as the Father of His people. (B. Blake, B. D.)
Christ the everlasting Father
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS CHRIST IS THE EVERLASTING FATHER.
II. WHAT A FATHER HE IS.
III. IMPROVE THE SUBJECT. (T. Boston.)
Christians bear Christ’s image
1. Conformity to Christ in His holiness.
2. Conformity to Christ in His sufferings. (T. Boston.)
Jesus the everlasting Father
I. CHRIST IS CALLED FATHER.
1. Not in respect to the eternal Three. He is the Son in this point of view.
2. But as one with Him, and the Eternal Spirit, in the unity of the same Godhead.
3. He is the Father of His people. “He shall see His seed” (Isaiah 53:10).
4. He is their spiritual life (Galatians 2:20).
II. HE IS CALLED THE EVERLASTING FATHER. He ever lives. He is Life. He ever loves. His blessings are everlasting. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
The everlasting Father
To be the “Father of eternity” is to have eternity, and to rule in eternity--to be the Lord of eternity. That is the meaning of it; and so Christ Jesus, who hath the government upon His shoulders, hath it on His shoulders forever and forever. But the eternity spoken of here is not the eternity that is bygone; it is the ongoing and unending duration that lies before us, and Christ Jesus is Lord and Ruler of all. No doubt He who can hold the future eternity in His hand, and who can rule all its affairs, must have been Himself the Unbeginning and Eternal One; and the Scriptures leave no doubt about that being the attribute of the Lord Jesus Christ. But that august tribute of being “from everlasting to everlasting” is not what is strictly before: us here. It is the duration from the time that Christ became human onwards.
I. Jesus Christ is the Father of the eternity that lies before and goes on, because He Himself lives forever. He is POSSESSOR He has it (Psalms 102:25-27, and Hebrews 1:10-12). The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ in humanity is to live forever is a stupendous expectation and belief. Sometimes it has seemed to me as if it were more wonderful than the mere incarnation. That this is an important thought appears from two considerations.
1. It is a part of the Divine promise of the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ Isaiah 53:10).
2. It is a thing for which Christ Himself prayed as part of His Father’s promise (Psalms 21:4). And so the Lord Jesus Christ thus in human nature lives forever and ever. But that implies that His work was finished to the Father’s satisfaction; to live forever was a proof that God the Father regarded Christ’s work as finished--this same title, “Father of eternity,” hath in germ within it the great facts of Christ’s resurrection and ascension and session in glory. And so when John, in Apocalyptic vision, beheld Him as the Son of man, he heard Him thus speak: “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, amen; and have the keys of Hades and of death.” Application--
1. To God’s people. What a Saviour they have! They need never fear that they will be without His care. They could not find a world in all the universe where He is not with them, and they cannot live on to any age when He shall cease to be their light and King.
2. The same thing brings comfort to every sinner; for is it not written, “He is” able to save to the uttermost, them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for the”? Mark, it does not say “seeing He died”--if that is all that could have been said, it would not have ever availed for the comfort and salvation of sinners--but seeing that, having died, “He ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
II. The Lord Jesus Christ is ORIGINATOR of this age that is spoken of. He made this “forever,” and gave it its grand characteristic; and all Gospel privilege that belongs to time, and all celestial enjoyment that belongs to eternity, we owe to Him.
III. Jesus Christ is CONTROLLER in this eternal age; the administration of its whole affairs is in His hands. The Author of our faith is the Ruler of its progress, and that not on earth alone, but in heaven. Can you doubt it, that when the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, went back to the glory that He had with the Father before the world began, went back in human nature, and appeared among the saints in heaven--can you doubt that from that hour heaven was another thing even to the glorified, because the Lord that brought them there by His blood was amongst them? And so, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read that we are come to the “spirits of just men made perfect,” which means to the Old Testament Church, perfected now in privilege; for at the 13 th verse of the eleventh chapter it is expressly said, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” God willed that He should “provide some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,”--that heaven itself should not, in privilege and glory, even to the saints that had gone home, be perfect until Christ Himself had introduced a new age, and gone Himself to heaven. (J. Edmond, D. D.)
His name--the everlasting Father
How complex is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Almost in the same breath the prophet calls Him a “Child,” and a “Counsellor,” a “Son,” and the “everlasting Father.” This is no contradiction, and to us scarcely a paradox, but it is a mighty marvel. How forcibly this should remind us of the necessity of carefully studying and rightly understanding the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand Him at a glance. A look will save the soul, but patient meditation alone can fill the mind with the knowledge of the Saviour. The light of the text divides itself into three rays--Jesus is “everlasting”; He is a “Father”; He is the “everlasting Father.”
I. Jesus Christ is EVERLASTING. Of Him we may sing, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” A theme for great rejoicing on our part.
1. Jesus always was.
2. So also He is for evermore the same. Jesus is not dead; He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
3. Jesus, our Lord, ever shall be. The connection of the word “Father” with the word “everlasting” allows us very fairly to remark that our Lord is as everlasting as the Father, since He Himself is called “the everlasting Father”; for whatever antiquity paternity may imply is here ascribed to Christ. It is the manner of the Easterns to call a man the father of a quality for which he is remarkable. To this day, among the Arabs, a wise man is called “the father of wisdom”; a very foolish man “the father of folly.” The predominant quality in the man is ascribed to him as though it were his child, and he the father of it. Now, the Messiah is here called in the Hebrew “the Father of eternity,” by which is meant that He is preeminently the possessor of eternity as an attribute.
II. We come to the difficult part of the subject, namely, Christ being called FATHER. In what sense is Jesus a Father? Answer
1. He is federally a Father, representing those who are in Him, as the head of a tribe represents his descendants. The grand question for us is this, Are we still under the old covenant of works? If so, we have Adam to our father, and under that Adam we died. But are we under the covenant of grace? If so, we have Christ to our Father, and in Christ shall we be made alive. In this sense, then, Christ is called Father; and inasmuch as the covenant of grace is older than the covenant of works, Christ is, while Adam is not, “the everlasting Father”; and inasmuch as the covenant of works as far as we are concerned passes away, being fulfilled in Him, and the covenant of grace never passes but abideth forever, Christ, as the Head of the new covenant, the federal representative of the great economy of grace, is “the everlasting Father.”
2. Christ is a Father in the sense of a Founder. The Hebrews are in the habit of calling a man a father of a thing which he invents. For instance, in the fourth chapter of Genesis Jubal is called the father of such as handle the harp and organ; Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents, and have cattle; not that these were literally the fathers of such persons, but the inventors of their occupations. The Lord Jesus Christ is, in this sense, the Father of a wonderful system--a great doctrinal system; a great practical system; a system of salvation.
3. Now there is a third meaning. The prophet may not so have understood it, but we so receive it, that Jesus is a Father in the great sense of a Lifegiver. That is the main sense of “father” to the common mind. Everything in us calls Christ “Father.” He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. If we love Him, it is because He first loved us. If we patiently endure, it is by considering “Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” He it is who waters and sustains all our graces. We may say of Him, “All my fresh springs are in Thee.” The Spirit brings us the water from this well of Bethlehem, but Jesus is the well itself.
4. The term implies that Jesus Christ is to be in the future, the patriarch of an age. So Pope in his famous poem of the Messiah understands it, and calls Him, “the promised. Father of the future age”
5. Christ may be called a Father in the loving and tender sense of a father’s office. God is called the Father of the fatherless, and Job says of himself, that he became a father to the poor. Now, albeit that the Spirit of adoption teaches us to call God our Father, yet it is not straining truth to say that our Lord Jesus Christ exercises to all His people a Father’s part. According to the old Jewish custom the elder brother was the father of the family in the absence of the father; the firstborn took precedence of all, and took upon him the father’s position; so the Lord Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren, exercises to us a father’s office. Is it not so? Has He not succoured us in all time of our need as a father succours his child? Has He not supplied us with more than heavenly bread as a father gives bread unto his children? Does He not daily protect us, nay, did He not yield up His life that we His little ones might be preserved? Is He not the head in the household to us on earth, abiding with us, and has He not said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come unto you”? As if His coming was the coming of a Father. If He be a Father, will we not give Him honour? If He be the head of the household, will we not give Him obedience?
III. We weigh the words, “EVERLASTING FATHER.” Christ is called “the everlasting Father” because He does not Himself, as a Father, die or vacate His once. He is still the federal Head and Father of His people; still the Founder of Gospel truth and of the Christian system; not allowing popes to be His vicars and to take His place. He is still the true Life giver, from whose wounds and by whose death we are quickened; He reigns even now as the patriarchal King; He is still the loving family Head; and so, in every sense, He lives as a Father. But here is a sweet thought. He neither Himself dies, nor becomes childless. He does not lose His children. He is the Author of an eternal system. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Prince of Peace
The Prince of Peace
How peaceful was the scene when the first Sabbath shone upon this world! How reversed was the scene of man’s Sabbatism when sin entered to revolutionise it! It is a work of magnitude to which the Redeemer stands appointed when He is presented in the character of a pacificator to bring this strife to a happy conclusion for man.
I. WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF CHRIST FOR ACTING AS THE PRINCE OF PEACE?
1. His original personal excellence as the Only-begotten of the Father.
2. His Father’s ordination of Him to the office.
3. The meritoriousness of His work when substituted in the room of sinners.
4. The station to which He has been exalted and the executive power which has been lodged in His hand.
5. The fervency with which His heart is dedicated to the attainment of His object. Assemble, then, together these various items of qualification, and howsoever dreadful be the war in which man is naturally so unequally engaged, here we have a Prince all-sufficient to reduce it to peace in behalf of those who may accept His aid. That aid He offers to all.
II. THE PRINCIPAL ARTICLES OF THAT PEACE OF WHICH CHRIST IS, OR SHALL YET BE, THE MINISTERING PRINCE TO ALL THAT BELIEVE ON HIM.
1. The fundamental article of this great pacification is that He hath reconciled God to them. The principal idea conveyed in the text we maintain to be that God has in Christ devised a scheme whereby He may consistently leave off His anger, and not impute to mankind their trespasses.
2. In Christ we cease to war against ourselves. The sinner’s follies, his passions, his evil conscience, destroy him. By the gifts of the Spirit which He has secured for His people, He restrains, subdues, and controls their passions and appetites, through the lawlessness of which men so frequently bring ruin on their persons, their characters, and their fortunes; and altogether, so does He incline them to their duty that their conscience ceases to torment them with its upbraidings and shall even invigorate and gladden them with the smiles of its complacency.
3. Our Prince hath reconciled to us the angels. When the human race rebelled, zealous as they are for God, they participated in the wrath of their King, disowned man as their brother, and became the willing executors of His wrath. But when God becomes the Friend of the believer, the angels hasten to salute him as a recovered fellow subject and brother, and resume their emulousness of the honour to be made the ministering spirits of his salvation.
4. By the Prince of Peace reconciliation is effected between Jew and Gentile.
5. The fifth article of pacification is the general reconcilement of man to man, the destruction of selfishness, and the diffusion of benevolence. (W. Anderson, LL. D.)
Christ the Prince of Peace
I. PEACEFUL OF DISPOSITION.
1. He bears long with His enemies.
2. He bears much at the hands of His friends.
3. He is easy of access for poor sinners.
4. He is ready to forgive.
5. He is very familiar with His true subjects.
6. The afflicting of His people is, as it were, against the grain with Lamentations 3:33; 1 Peter 1:6; Hebrews 12:10; Isaiah 63:9).
7. He bore His own sufferings with the utmost peaceableness, meekness, and patience.
II. PEACEFUL IN ACTION. Consider--
1. What peace is effected by this Prince of Peace?
2. What is His work about that threefold peace?
III. PEACEFUL IN RESPECT OF THE STATE OF HIS KINGDOM. He is the true Solomon (Peaceful); and no king of Israel had such a peaceable and prosperous reign as Solomon.
1. Every one of His subjects is, by His wise management, put in a state of John 16:33).
2. The peace of His kingdom is the fruit of war and victory in that war. What made Solomon’s reign so peaceable was David’s wars and victories. Our Lord Christ was a man of war; He fought and overcame sin, death, and the devil; and the peace of His kingdom now is the fruit of that.
3. Hence in His kingdom is the greatest wealth and abundance.
4. The good of His kingdom is advanced from all quarters, and there is nothing but is turned to the profit thereof, by the infinite wisdom of the Prince (Romans 8:28).
5. In the end the peace of His kingdom will be absolute. Solomon’s reign was more peaceable in the beginning than toward the end. But Christ’s kingdom is contrariwise; though, indeed, it will never end. But, at last, all occasion of disturbance, from without or from within, will be utterly cut off. (T. Boston.)
Christ the Prince of Peace
1. We learn from the Roman historians, that at the time of our Lord’s nativity, the temple of Janus at Rome was shut up, in token of a profound peace all over the world; for the Romans, being then lords of the world, had power to make peace or war as they pleased. But there was a special providence of God in it, that His blessed Son, “the Prince of Peace,” should be brought into the world in such a season of tranquillity. Accordingly we hear the angels proclaiming at His nativity. “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.”
2. When He came to preach the Gospel, He began His sermon, with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” He calls upon His disciples to learn of Him to be meek and lowly in heart, that they might find rest for their souls. When He was apprehended and brought to His trial, He practised His own doctrine of meekness and patience. And when St. Peter drew his sword in His defence, He commanded him to put it up again, “for,” says He, all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.
3. When He took His leave of His disciples, He bequeathed peace to them, as the best legacy which He could leave them. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” At His various appearances among them after His resurrection, He commonly saluted them with the blessing of peace.
4. One great end of our Lord’s coming into the world was, to break down the partition walls between all nations, and take away all party distinctions from among men.
5. The most signal act which entitles our Lord to the character of the Prince of Peace, is this, that He has reconciled us to God, and made an atonement for the sins of the whole world. (W. Reading, M. A.)
Christ the Prince of Peace
I. HE IS THE PEACE BRINGER, as He is the revealer of His Father’s peaceful designs towards His sinful creatures.
1. Point out the situation in which man stood in relation to God.
2. The office of Christ as the bringer of peace reminds us how God might have acted in relation to man.
3. But His love prompted Him to a design of rich and sovereign mercy.
4. He has developed this design through the medium of His Son, who, therefore, takes His title from His work--the Prince of Peace.
II. HE IS THE PEACEMAKER the efficient means of procuring, and establishing peace between God and man.
1. His atonement made reconciliation for the sin of man.
2. By His mediatorial office He secures peace for us individually.
III. HE IS A PRINCELY GIVER OF PEACE.
I. It is a knowledge of His sacrifice which gives peace to the troubled conscience.
2. By Him we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit which gives peace from the power of sin.
3. He brings us into a state of communion with God, so that we enjoy peace.
4. The peace which Jesus gives endures through all troubles and in spite of all enemies.
5. He gives eternal peace and rest in heaven.
IV. THE FOUNDATION AND SUPPORT OF HIS KINGDOM ON EARTH IS PEACE.
1. It Was founded without the intervention of violence or carnal weapons.
2. Its very essence consists in the influence of peaceful doctrines.
3. In the promotion of His kingdom He employs none but peaceable means. (The Evangelist.)
The Prince of Peace
I. HE POSSESSES PEACE. He possesses it as none other does, in greater measure, the abundance of it. It is all at His command. He is the Prince or Monarch of it.
1. He is in a world where the noise of our strife and tumult never reaches. Discord is never known there, change is never experienced.
2. And then we must try to get into His mysterious soul, and see the eternal calm which reigns there day after day, year after year, age after age, unbroken. All is as quiet within as around Him. And it is not the quiet of inaction or indifference, of a clod of earth or a stone; His mind is ever working and ever feeling, and with an energy which to us is inconceivable; but yet His mind is never ruffled.
II. HE EXERCISES PEACE.
1. Look at Him as He trod our earth. The meek and quiet lamb was an image of Him.
2. He bears long with His enemies.
3. He bears much, too, with His friends.
4. There must, then, be a mighty inclination to peace where things are thus.
III. HE BESTOWS OR DISPENSES PEACE. God is often called in Scripture the God of that which He communicates. In this way may our Lord be called the Prince of Peace.
1. Our peace with God flows from Him.
2. And peace, too, among men.
3. Peace of conscience and peace of mind are His gifts.
IV. HE DELIGHTS IN PEACE. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
Messiah, the Prince of Peace
Christ, our blessed Lord, does evidently by establishing peace in each bosom of His people, peace in each family of His disciples, peace in each congregation of His saints, and peace in all His Churches, lead directly to the establishment of international peace throughout the world. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
When we receive this prediction of our Lord, and reflect upon it, we are met with some contradictions to it, which are both apparent and most effectual. Our Lord, when He was upon earth, declared on the contrary--“I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” Accordingly, He further told His disciples that they must expect to be “hated of all men,” and to be “hated of all nations.” He warned them, that the feuds that should arise through His doctrine, would poison the peace of families; “the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child.” He warned them, that there should be public persecution as well as private, and that they should be dragged before governors and kings for His sake, and scourged in public. Universal war, then, rather than peace, seemed to be predicted as the result of the doctrine of Christ. And have not facts, up to this day, answered to these predictions? Ten imperial persecutions, extended over the most civilised parts of the world, threatened through three centuries the extermination of the Church of Christ: in which every atrocity was committed, and the barbarous ingenuity of man taxed to the utmost extent to devise new torments to make the servants of Jesus Christ suffer, And when heathenism was subdued by the power of the Gospel, and ceased to reign, it was only that this other prediction might be accomplished fearfully in the earth; so that the saints of Jesus Christ became His martyrs throughout Europe. Papal Rome succeeded to the enmity of pagan Rome: in the valleys of Piedmont, and along the plains of France, and throughout the Low Countries, and in England also, as well as, in the time of the Reformation, throughout Italy and Spain, everywhere accomplishing what Christ by His apostle had predicted, and bringing myriads of the saints of Jesus to public martyrdom; massacring without mercy the feeblest and the strongest, young and old, and threatening the extermination of the Church of Christ. And this led to still more extensive offerings to the sanguinary dispositions of man; great and long protracted wars following these massacres. Witness the wars of the Hussites in Bohemia, the wars of the Huguenots in France, to mention no other civil commotions, to which the doctrine of Christ has seemed to lead. And then, when the sword was sheathed, and nation was not imbruing its hands in the blood of other nations for the sake of theology, even then the different Churches of Christ raged in enmity one towards the other: factions that have not ceased to this day, so that the governments of the world find questions of theology and ecclesiastical rivalry still mingling with the counsels of senates, and embarrassing all their decisions. Is this the peace which Christ came to produce? In what sense is He “the Prince of Peace”? (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
The Prince of Peace not responsible for strife and violence
These evils that have arisen from the doctrine of Christ, and which, perhaps, have made that doctrine occasion more bloodshed than any single cause that has afflicted mankind, do not in the least degree detract from the glory of this great Monarch, this adorable Saviour, who after all establishes beyond all question at once, to the minds of all who believe on Him, His claim to be “the Prince of Peace,” throughout the universe. If the servants of Jesus Christ were sent forth by Him as sheep among wolves, and the wolves have torn the sheep in every land, it is not the fault of the sheep that these raging persecutions have taken place. If He has sent forth His disciples to love one another, and to love all mankind, it is not the fault of Him, nor His doctrine, nor His people, if apostates from His faith have chosen to carry His abused name upon their foreheads, and under that name to persecute with a violence which would have stamped infamy even upon heathenism, those who loved Him and served Him the best in the earth. And, if those who have even followed Him with honesty of purpose, have yet been so ill instructed in His declared will, or have sinfully given way to the weakness of their tempers, so that those have quarrelled for ages, who by His express authority ought to have been one in Him, it is not to be ascribed to His doctrine, but to their faults. And all this evil, great as it unquestionably is, and though it has fed the mirth of the infidel age after age, is transitory still, preparatory still; and still does the strong and stead fast faith of His people carry forward their thought to that day when transient evil will only end in lasting good, and when, after all impediments have been swept, away: He will still reign everywhere and always as “the Prince of Peace.” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
All creation at war with the sinner
When God wars against the sinner, all creation must war. The earth wars against him in its barrenness, its poisons, its inundations, its earthquakes and volcanoes. The atmosphere wars against him in its storms and thunders, and winds breathing pestilence. The beasts war against him, thirsting for his blood, and pursuing him as their prey. His neighbour wars against him, slandering him, robbing him, oppressing him, and murdering him. The angels war against him, executing the judgments of their insulted King. He wars against himself, his own passions enslaving and destroying him, and his conscience stinging him with deadly remorse. The grave and hell have marked him for their victim. Oh, how beautiful, then, upon the mountains are the feet of Him that publisheth peace. (W. Anderson, LL. D.)
The good time coming
What a day that will be when museums shall be erected to preserve as curiosities the implements and accoutrements of war, that the children of the new age may study the old barbaric times which shall have passed away as a bad dream! (P. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The Prince of Peace
It would be ridiculous to depict the Lord Jesus with a rifle over His shoulder. (Josiah Mee.)
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end
The missionary work
1. The missionary work is the increase of Messiah’s government and peace: the proclamation of Messiah as King of kings and Lord of lords throughout the universe; the establishment of peace among men, because He hath made peace for them through the blood of His Cross.
2. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
II. WHAT ARE THE INSTRUMENTS WHOM THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL EMPLOY in the accomplishment of this seemingly impossible work? They are themselves subjects of the Kingdom which they aim to extend, and adorers of the one name which they desire to exalt, believers in the Word which they combine to diffuse, holding substantially the same truths, maintaining steadfastly some fellowship with those to whom the Lord Jesus proclaimed in the days of His flesh, “Go ye,” and to whom He graciously declared, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”
III. WHAT IS OUR OWN DUTY AND OBLIGATION IN REFERENCE TO THIS WORK? As we are Britons, the missionary work belongs to us from our country; as we are Christians, from our profession; as we are churchmen, it appeals to us from our very prayers, for how can we implore our blessed Lord to bring home to His flock the infidel, the heretic, the beguiled Romanist, the benighted idolater, unless we are prepared, as far as in us lies, to “prepare the way of the Lord, and make in the desert a highway for our God”? But neither as Britons, nor as Christians, nor as churchmen, shall we ever learn our duty from any teacher but God’s Word, or perform it through any power but that of God’s Spirit. Besides, while the missionary work, being a work of faith, is therefore acceptable to God, it is also profitable to ourselves; it awakens brotherly affections, it kindles a holy zeal, it expands Christian charity, it brings us into communion with “the excellent of the earth,” it cements our fellowship with each other, and with Christ; by engaging in it heart and soul, we not only apprehend the brotherhood of man, but we anticipate the brotherhood of heaven, when they shall “come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.” Nor is the missionary work profitable only to the heathen and to our own souls, but to those who dwell immediately around us. What we attempt abroad we shall never be content to leave undone at home. (T. Dale, M. A.)
The increase of His government
I. THE INCREASE OF HIS GOVERNMENT. This implies--
1. The extended diffusion of the knowledge of His Gospel.
2. The triumphs of His grace over the sin and misery of man.
3. The diffusion of the peaceful influence of the Gospel in calming the passions, and allaying the violence of unhappy men.
4. The annihilation of all that opposes His progress.
II. HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT OF CHRIST TO INCREASE? By the agency of miracles? No; the age of miracles is gone. By the distribution of the Bible, and suitable tracts, by pious individuals? Doubtless this may be the means of great usefulness. By the education of the young? We look for something more than all this. How then shall it be increased? By the instrumentality of the preached Gospel accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit.
III. WHERE IS THE NECESSITY OR CERTAINTY OF THIS INCREASE OF THE SAVIOUR’S GOVERNMENT?
1. In the Divine appointment.
2. In the claims of His mediatorial sacrifice (Philippians 2:8-11).
3. In the very nature of His exaltation (Ephesians 1:21-22).
4. In the events which have taken place in the theatre of the world Haggai 2:7).
5. In the proofs with which we are furnished of the final evangelisation of the world. (E. Parsons.)
The government of the Prince of Peace
I. THE VAST AMPLITUDE AND GROWING EXTENT OF THE MESSIAH’S KINGDOM.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE KINGDOM IS GROWING. (R. Macculloch.)
Christian peace conditional
“His government and peace.” Note that combination. It contains a truth much needed in these times. There is no peace without government. Liberty and independence are our favourite watchwords; liberty for the community, liberty for the individual. Obedience, order, self-control, are less enthusiastically praised. Yet we cannot have the one without the other. We need no appeal to history, no a priori conjectures, to convince us of the truth, that peace and government must go hand in hand. The experience of our own times, the experience of each man’s daily life, is ample to teach us that. Every newspaper we take up is full of such lessons. Every reproach of conscience tells the same.
1. Is it not so in the State? Whence comes the want of peace in our sister island? Whence come the perplexity and the insecurity which are such a stain on our civilisation, and which make statesmen well-nigh despair? Is it not because government has become impossible, while law is neutralised and defiled by the unscrupulous opposition of a rival and self-constituted power?
2. Is it not so in ourselves? Whence comes the want of peace in our own hearts? Is it not because of the want of government there; while passion, and self-indulgence, and the fashion of the world, usurp in turn the authority of conscience? What we fancy, what comes easiest to us, what other men do, these constitute our rule of life: not the dictates of conscience, not the will of God, not the example of Jesus Christ. We most of us wish for peace, as we most of us wish for heaven; but we take little means of winning either the one or the other. The cry for personal freedom, for liberty of thought and conscience, is on every lip; but we are most of us more eager to win the power of doing what we choose, than careful to choose what is best. Self-knowledge, self-control, self-renunciation--this is the only road. And while you pursue it, liberty will come unsought; for the highest liberty of all is to be free from the tyranny of self. Self-government is only another name for that service which is perfect freedom. Perfect peace is found in the absolute surrender of self to One who cannot abuse so tremendous a trust. And with this peace in your own hearts you will almost without effort, almost without knowing it, bring peace to others. (A. Plummer, M. A.)
“He will do it”
Charles, King of Sweden, father of the great Gustavus Adolphus, was an ardent Protestant, and purposed for his country more good than he was able to accomplish. His son, who gave early promise of his brilliant qualities, was his father’s great hope. Often when a scheme of reformation, yet impracticable, was referred to, the king would lay his hand upon the boy’s head and say to the bystanders, “He will do it.” So with respect to all which cannot now be accomplished, our faith should look confidently to “Great David’s greater Son,” in whose reign it will surely be effected. (Sunday School Teacher.)
“The empire is peace”
Napoleon, standing amid the ambassadors of Europe, reassured the entire continent by the utterance of his New Year’s motto, “The empire is peace.” But with far greater truth may we apply the words to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose rule over the soul is the synonym of peace unspeakable and full of glory. And as His government spreads further and further over the soul, with its growing area there is growing peace, until they shall both become complete to all the heights, and depths, and breadths of blessedness. Of the increase or his government, and of our peace, there is no end. (F. B. Meyer B. A.)
Christ’s influence ever increasing
Speaking on the day of Mr. Gladstone’s funeral, the Rev. F.B. Meyer said: “One of the marks which distinguish Jesus Christ from every human teacher and reformer is the fact that His influence is ever increasing. The influence of Gladstone, today so great, will diminish year by year, but Jesus Christ’s influence was never so great as it is now.”
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this
The zeal of the Lord
“The zeal” translates our English version, but no one English word will give it. It is that mixture of hot honour and affection to which “jealousy” in its good sense comes near. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Claiming and reckoning.
If we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears us; and if we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petition that we desired of Him--not only that it will be our, but that it is our, to be used forthwith for His glory, because the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
1. Are you in need of counsel? Reverently and thoughtfully claim the wisdom of the “Counsellor;” reckon that you have it, and act to the best of your judgment, believing that His wisdom is threading it with its unseen direction. And when you have acted, whatever be the results, dare to believe that you were directed to do the best thing, and never look back.
2. Are you in need of strength? Reverently and believingly claim the power of the “Mighty God,” and reckon that it is yours; and go forth to any work to which He may call yon, believing that you are adequately equipped. You will not know what power you have till you begin to use it.
3. Are you in need of unchanging love and affection, in a world of incessant disappointment, in which the warmest friendships cool/ and the dearest friends die? Reverently and gladly avail yourself of the love of me “Father of the Ages,” the I AM, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
4. Do you want peace? Reverently and trustfully claim His peace, who is the “Prince of Peace; and know that it is yours in the depths of your soul, though the surface of your life be still swept by storms. These are two great words--“claim” God’s fulness, and “reckon” that whatever you can claim is yours, although no answering emotion assures you that it is. Dare to act in faith, stepping out in the assurance that you have what you have claimed, and doing just as you would do if you felt to have it. But this is only possible when you have put the government, where God the Father has placed it, on the shoulders of Jesus. It is there by right, but it must be also there by choice and acquiescence. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones
A drinking song
It has been conjectured that these words are a fragment of a drinking song actually sung in Ephraim.
In the first strophe Isaiah depicted the
Ephraimites’ proud superiority to danger, and their placid, assurance after defeat: “The bricks,” they say, “are fallen, but we will build with hewn stone; the sycamores are cut down, but we will put cedars in their place”: no sooner, in other words, has one scheme miscarried than they are prepared with a more magnificent one to take its place; no sooner is one dynasty overthrown than another rises in its stead. The proverb gives apt expression to the temper habitually displayed by the northern kingdom. (Prof. S. H. Driver, D. D.)
The commonest tree in the lowlands of Palestine, by the
Mediterranean Sea (1 Kings 10:27). (Prof. S. H. Driver, D. D.)
Beautiful words of varying import
There cannot be two opinions about the beauty of these words. What, then, will be your surprise, when you find that they express nothing more than a wicked thought on the part of
Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria? This circumstance gives us our first point. Noble mottoes may be written upon unworthy banners. Religious words may be pronounced by irreligious lips. We must always look at the surroundings of a circumstance in order to understand its full value. Every circumstance, like every globe, has an atmosphere of its own, hence the wisdom of looking at the context as well as at the text itself. How needful it is to inquire into the surroundings of anything that may charm us. If you have seen a man in church, his mouth opened in praise, his head inclined in prayer, surely you have a right to argue from that individual circumstance to the whole circle and bearing of his daily life. It is impossible that a man can have bowed his head in prayer, and then allow the devil to roam through the whole circle of his intellect, there to inspire evil thoughts. He cannot allow anything that is mean and unworthy to touch and debase the life that has been consecrated by prayer. You know how fallacious would be such reasoning! But the rule should be applied impartially, and therefore I hasten with the noblest interpretation which my judgment can approve to those who may have been caught in some moment of evil passion. Surely a man is not a bad man utterly because he has once been in high excitement. If the one little beauty does not redeem the whole sterile place, in the midst of which it was found, surely the one act of evil cannot spoil the whole paradise of the life, and blight a heart beautiful as a garden in summer. We may learn from these words that wickedness is not mitigated by the beauty of the language in which it is expressed. Is there anything lovelier in all the universe, possible to the inspired imagination, than poetry, painting, and music? Do they not carry with them all elements of beauty and all qualities of high and noble strength. Yet even they have been uncrowned, robbed of their nobleness, and bound down to do menial work in the devil’s service. Let me guard the young, therefore, along this line. They will come from certain places and will say, “the music was so beautiful!” No doubt of it. They will come again and say, “the whole scene was so lovely!” No one questions its loveliness. “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars,”--what language, what music could be more beautiful! And yet through this beautiful speech, Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria indicated their ambitious purpose to thwart the God of the universe! What would you say if I told you that this hand of mine was the hand of an assassin, but yet pleaded for it because of the jewel which flashed upon its fingers! Would you kiss a hand so decorated? Now, take the other view, and let us imagine beautiful words expressing a beautiful purpose. Then we shall have the wedlock which God loves. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Building with hewn stone
There are three classes of you who are building with bricks, and I will ask you if you had not better build with hewn stones.
1. Take those who make good vows limited by time. There are many such. A man, for example, has said to his father, “I promise I will go to church once a week, for twelve months.” It is very good so far as it goes, but it is building with bricks, not with hewn stones. A young man has said, Give me thin paper, and I will pledge myself to abstain from everything that can intoxicate for six months.” Very good. I do not pour contempt upon such a resolution; so far as it goes, it is good. But the very limitation of the vow is a source of weakness. Thus--for the first few days you are strong in your purpose, but gradually you begin to count the days that you have yet to serve. The last week comes, and the vow is like a pale figure gradually disappearing; the last day but one comes, where then is the vow? tomorrow you say you will be free. Free what to do? To become a slave again! Now I want you to change that brick wall of temporary resolution for the hewn stone of an eternal vow.
2. Then there is another class building with bricks instead of hewn stones, namely, those who are inspired by inadequate motives. Where the motive is insufficient, conduct must go down. We live in motive. When the motive force fails the machinery must of necessity stand still There is a man who says he will do a certain thing to obtain a reward. That man’s virtue is only suppressed vice. He who will do a good thing simply because he will earn a reward, will do a bad thing if you double the premium. The motive is insufficient, and the last state of that man will be worse than the first. Others will come to church to please an admirer. That is not church going. Would that I could speak in sufficiently forceful language to the young about this! Where the motive of church going is inadequate it will always be intermittent, and in the end it will expire. If you go to church because you love to be there, and would have Sunday doubled in its golden hours, then you will always be strong in your religious attachments, affections, and convictions. Then there are those who attempt to do right in order to escape a penalty. This is an insufficient motive. I know that fear plays a very important part in the constitution of the human mind, and in the direction of human conduct. But man can outlive fear. Man can become accustomed to the unexpected. There is but one true motive--a hearty love of God!
3. Then there is the third class to which I refer,--those who have not calculated the full force and weight of temptation. When you build a house, you build for the roughest day in the whole year. That should be the sovereign rule, in the building of the life house. The ship that left for the United States yesterday, probably took out three or fourfold the necessary provisions, according to the season of the year, and probably took out coal sufficient for a double journey. Why this excess? Why take more than is needed for the ten days’ voyage? Because of the unforeseen. If, therefore, in such things men make such arrangements, they condemn themselves--I do not hesitate to say the word--as fools, if they leave the spiritual life and the spiritual destiny without more than a transient consideration. Herein is the glory of Christianity, that it builds with hewn stones. Christ’s Gospel is full of soundness, life, and indestructible virility. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Wise lessons from wicked lips
Jesus said, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light,” meaning by the statement that they excel them in the shrewdness and tact with which they manage their business when that has taken an adverse turn. Men of the world do not readily submit to defeat and failure, but strive to convert defeat into victory, and failure into success. Of this the text affords illustration.
I. These children of this world PROCEED WITH A DEFINED PURPOSE, and in this are worthy of imitation. The bricks mentioned as having fallen down were not a heap of burned clay which had got piled up, no one could tell how. They had been built by human hands, and the builders had heads as well as hands. We are not told what sort of buildings they were which “Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria” had constructed, and which had “fallen down.” They may have been dwelling houses, or a temple, round which the sycamores would be planted for groves in which idolatrous Israel worshipped the gods of her own evil devising and choice, and for which she had forsaken the God of her fathers. But let this be as it may, now that the bricks had fallen, and the sycamores were out down, in making up their minds as to what should be done--being anxious to repair the ruin and desolation--they proceed with a defined purpose. The architect precedes the builder: the head leads the hand. So when they set to work they know what they are about. Now, the same principle should underlie the building up of all Christian character and work. Knowledge and zeal should ever be in partnership.
II. These children of the world WERE INSPIRED WITH HOPEFULNESS, and, therefore, are worthy of imitation. Their bricks fell down, but their spirits fell not into the pit of despair. Their sycamores were cut down, but their ambition was not. Is not that the spirit of the world today as then? In 1865 men said England and America shall be connected by the electric telegraph, and they went to work. But the cable snapped, and for the present the enterprise failed. Were the promoters daunted, and persuaded that their scheme was beyond the reach of possible things? No, not they. The next year saw them again at their work, and saw not only a new cable successfully laid, but the broken one, searched for in the great “wilderness of waters,” at length found, after which it was lost and found again several times over, until the 2 nd September, when it was at last secured, and the following telegram flashed along its wire. I have much pleasure in speaking to you through the 1865 cable.” So the Christian ought to be hopeful. You have fallen! Say, I will rise again. Your schemes have failed! Say, I will try again. You are afraid you have laboured in vain! Say, In labours I will be more abundant. You have stormed the citadel of indwelling passion and evil, and still you have to confess, “The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not that I do.” Say again, By the grace of God I shall meet my spiritual foes. Have you with earnest soul entered the Holy of holies, desirous to know “the deep things of God,” and where you expected light, lo! great darkness; and where you sought for peace, and sunshine, and beauty, and harmony, lo! seeming contradiction, the howling waste, cloud, and storm? You searched for a way out of your intellectual doubts and difficulties, and behold mystery has added itself to mystery. Still hope thou in God.
III. These children of this world SHOW A SPIRIT OF INDUSTRIOUS PERSEVERANCE, and are therefore worthy of imitation. Their hands responded to the impulse of their hearts. They dreamed not that by mere wishing their ruined walls would rise again, or their gardens, laid waste, would blossom with the rose, and be made beautiful with the cedar. The moral here is plain. “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord (so hoping to enter), shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father.” Hoping will not do everything. It must be backed by earnest effort.
IV. These children of the world IMPROVE MATTERS, and are, therefore, worthy of imitation. These tumble down buildings were, after all, but brick; but now they would build, not with bricks, but with hewn stones. Around them had flourished the sycamores, but now that these were cut down, they would plant no more sycamores. They would do better than that; they would plant cedars. In three different places (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 2 Chronicles 9:27) the value of the sycamore as compared with the cedar is given as the value of stones compared to that of silver. Such is the spirit of the world. Is not this the spirit which ought to animate us Never to rest satisfied with present attainments in self-culture or success in our work. (A. Scott.)
Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him
“The Lord shall set up the adversaries.
For all thin ms anger is not turned away
The end of judgments and the reason of their continuance
His mercies is to take us off from our sins and win us to our duty Romans 2:4). This is the way wherein God delights to deal with us. The way of judgment is that which He is more averse from. Though the judgments of God be evils in themselves, yet considering the intentions of God in them, they are no real objections against His goodness, but rather arguments for it.
1. The judgments of God are proper for the cure of a far greater evil of another kind--the evil of sin. We take wrong measures of things, when we judge those to be the greatest evils which afflict our bodies, wound our reputation, and impoverish our estates. For those certainly are far the greatest which affect our noblest part; which vitiate our understandings, deprave our wills, and wound and defile our souls. Now it is very agreeable with the goodness and mercy of the Divine providence, to administer to us whatever is proper for the cure of so great an evil.
2. The judgments of God are likewise proper for the preventing of far greater evils of the same kind; I mean, further punishments. In sending temporal judgments upon sinners God usually proceeds by degrees.
3. The judgments of God are not only proper to these ends, but in many cases very necessary. Our condition many times is such as to require this severe way of proceeding, because no other course God hath taken, or can take with us, will probably do us good. The providence of God makes use of hunger and extreme necessity to bring home the prodigal (Luke 15:1-32).
II. THE REASON OF THE CONTINUANCE OF GOD’S JUDGMENTS--because the people were not reclaimed by them. And how can t be expected it should be otherwise, when incorrigibleness under the judgments of God is a provocation of so high a nature, a sign of a most depraved temper, and an argument of the greatest obstinacy in evil? (2 Chronicles 28:22; Leviticus 26:22, etc.; Deuteronomy 28:58-59; Isaiah 1:4-5;Hosea 7:9-10; Amos 4:11-12; Psalms 18:26.) (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
God hath invited us to Him by many blessings, but we would not come; so (to borrow an apt illustration from Bishop Sanderson) we have forced Him to deal with us as Absalom did with Joab: he sent one civil message to him after another, but he would not come; at last he set on fire his cornfield to try whether that would bring him: this course God hath taken with us; we would not be persuaded by messages of kindness (by His many blessings and favours) to return to Him, and therefore hath He sent amongst us the terrible messengers of His wrath. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
For the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them
God’s rod should be kissed
“The people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them.
Turning to God
Sin is described in. Scripture as departing from God. Repentance, therefore, is returning to Him. To “seek” God, in the idiom of Scripture, is to pray to Him (Isaiah 55:6), to consult Him (Isaiah 8:19), to resort to Him for help (Isaiah 31:1), to hold communion with Amos 5:4-5). Hence it is sometimes descriptive of a godly life in general (Psalms 14:2). So here it includes repentance, conversion, and new obedience. (J. A. Alexander.)
God’s purpose in affliction should be considered
A very holy man, who was working on behalf of the sufferers in the recent plague at Bombay, wrote home to ask certain of his friends not to pray that God would remove the plague, but to pray that whatever was His purpose and intention in sending it might be done. It was a true and lofty view. (C. H.Sharpe.)
Chastisement should bring the soul to God
A Christian friend visiting a good man under great distress and afflicting dispensations, which he bore with such patient and composed resignation as to make his friend wonder and admire it, inquired how he was enabled so to comfort himself? The good man said, “The distress I am under is indeed severe; but I find it lightens the stroke very much to creep near to Him who handles the rod!” (J. Whitecross.)
Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tall, branch and rush, in one day
God giving account of His actions
1. Of their simple impiety. Sin is the meritorious cause of all punishment.
2. Of their additional impenitency. Those that sin and so thoroughly provoke God’s anger against themselves, by repentance may happily divert and appease it. But the people in the text “turned not to Him that smote them.” And this made their judgment to be so much the surer to them. Impenitency seems in a manner to own and justify sin and stand in the commission of it. Further, it does in a manner trespass upon all the attributes of God, which it either questions or vilifies. The omniscience of God, as to the deserts of sin (Psalms 94:7). The truth of God, as to the threats of sin (2 Peter 3:4). The justice of God, as to the punishing of sin, The power of God, as to me executing of judgment.
3. Of their continued obstinacy. They did not “seek the Lord of hosts.”
II. THE JUDGMENT ITSELF. (T. Horton, D. D.)
God’s judgment on Israel
I. THE DENUNCIATION OF IT.
1. The Author of it. “The Lord.”
2. The nature of it. “The Lord will cut off.” From correction He passes to destruction. First, He cuts them short; and if that will do no good upon them, He cuts them off. First the pruning knife, then the axe. There is a two-fold sword which God makes use of for cutting with, before He proceeds to cut off; the sword of His mouth, i.e., the Word of God, and the sword of His hand, i.e., the rod of God. “He will.”
3. The subject of it. If Israel shall provoke God by their impenitency and obstinacy against Him, even Israel shall be punished and cut off by Him 1 Peter 4:17).
II. THE EXTENT OF IT. That we have expressed in a double metaphor; the one from the nature of the head and the tail; the other from the nature of a tree, in the branches and roots: both of them coming to one and the same purpose. Whereby we have signified to us the universality and impartiality of the destruction which is here threatened; it shall be of so general an extent, as to reach to all sorts of persons, high and low, rich and poor, great and small, to one as well as to another.
1. The metaphor taken from a body in the head and the tail. We may reduce it by way of explication to a threefold rank of--
2. The metaphor taken from the nature of a tree or plant: the branch and the rush. It is not said the branch and the root, because the Lord reserved a remnant which should be spared by Him. But the branch and the rush; the branch as an emblem of usefulness--persons of parts and employments; the rush as a note of unfruitfulness--idle and unprofitable persons. The branch is a note of strength and solidity; the rush of weakness and inconstancy. The branch (in like manner as the head) is a note of supremacy, the rush of meanness, In the execution of public judgments for the impenitency and incorrigibleness of a nation, God’s hand is indifferent and impartial; He will spare no ranks or sorts or conditions of people at all
III. THE TIME OR SEASON OF IT. “In one day.” It is a day--
1. In regard of the certainty of it, as that which is set and fixed.
2. In regard of the suddenness, as that which is speedy and soon accomplished. (T. Horton, D. D.)
Judgment obliterates classifications
“Branch and rush--the allusion is to the beauteous palm tree: it shall be cut down notwithstanding its beauty; and the “rush”--the common growths round about it, entangled roots, poor miserable shrubs that crowd and cumber the earth--branch and rush cannot stand before God’s sword and fire: everything that is wrong goes down in a common destruction. Judgment obliterates our classifications. (J. Parker, D. D.)
For the leaders of this people cause them to err
Render: “And the leaders of this people have become misleaders.
Leaders’ responsibility for the people’s faults
1. By conniving at their wickedness.
2. By countenancing wicked people.
3. By setting them ill examples. (M. Henry.)
It is ill with a people when their physicians are their worse disease. (M. Henry.)
A shameless ruler
(Charles II):--A king might be pardoned for amusing his leisure with wine, wit, and beauty, but it was intolerable that he should sink into a mere saunterer and voluptuary; that the gravest affairs of State should be neglected, and that the public service should be starved, and the finances deranged in order that harlots and parasites might grow rich. (Macaulay’s England.)
The responsibility of leaders
The ancients placed the statues of their princes and patriots near the fountains, to show that they were the spring heads of good or evil to the public. (J. Trapp.)
I. The world is so constituted that LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE ARE AT PRESENT A NECESSITY.
II. LEADERSHIP INVOLVES FOR THE LEADERS THE HIGHEST HONOUR OR THE DEEPEST SHAME.
1. The man who leads his fellow men well is entitled to the highest honour.
2. But leadership does not necessarily involve any honour at all.
3. Through leadership a man may reach the most utter degradation and shame.
III. LEADERSHIP INVOLVES FOR THE LED SALVATION OR DESTRUCTION. (R. A. Bertram.)
Therefore the Lord shall have no Joy in their young men
“The Lord shall have no joy in their young men”
The meaning is full of suggestion God delights in the young.
General corruption followed by general desolation
The desolation should be as general as the corruption has been, and none should escape it.
1. Not those that were the objects of complacency; none shall be spared for love. “The Lord shall have no joy in their young men.” etc.
2. Not those that were the objects of compassion; none shall be spared for pity. He shall not “have mercy on their fatherless and widows.” They had corrupted their way like the rest; and if the poverty and helplessness of their state was not an argument with them to keep them from sin, they could not expect it should be an argument with God to protect them from judgments (M. Henry.)
For wickedness burneth as the fire
Wickedness as fire
Wickedness, i.., the constant willing of evil, is a fire which man kindles in himself. And when the grace of God, which stifles and checks this fire, is at an end, it breaks forth The fire of wickedness is nothing else but God’s עֶבְדָה for so wrath is called as breaking forth from within and spreading itself inwardly more and more, and then passing outwards into word and deed; it is God’s own wrath; for all sin carries this within itself as its own punishment. (F. Delitzsch.)
Sin compared to a great fire
The prophet affirms that there are resemblances between a fire and sin. It is not a common fire to which he refers, such as is employed for domestic or public purposes. It is a great conflagration which burns the humble shrubbery, the gigantic forest, extends over the land, and sends a mighty column of smoke and flame up to heaven
I. THE ORIGIN OF A GREAT FIRE. Recently we read an account of a great fire, and the paragraph closed with these words: “the origin of the fire is unknown” The same with the origin of sin. We know it had a beginning, for God only is from everlasting. We know it had a beginning before Eve and Adam felt its power, since they were tempted: We know it began with him who is called Satan and the father of lies. Still, there are three questions about it which we cannot answer.
II. THE PROGRESS OF A GREAT FIRE. Place one spark amid combustible material in London. Let it alone. It will leap from point to point, house to house, street to street, until the whole city is in flames. Sin has spread in as exactly similar way. One sin, to the individual; one wrong action, to the family; one immoral look, to thousands; one crime, to a kingdom.
III. THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF A GREAT FIRE. Wood, coal, etc., it transforms into its own essence, because it makes fire of these. It is even so with sin. It turns everything, over which it gains the slightest control, into its own nature--that is into a curse. The desire to possess, sin has turned in a different direction, and made it an autocratic passion. Take the principle of ambition in the same Way. Take commerce in the same way. Thus the richest blessings, yea, all the which God has given to us, sin can so transform that they shall become curses.
IV. THE DESTRUCTIVE ENERGY OF A GREAT FIRE. Who can calculate the amount of property in London alone, which has been destroyed by fire! But the destruction which sin has caused in London is infinitely greater and more momentous. Some have bodies, once beautiful, now bloated and withered by sin. Some have feelings, once tender, now petrified by sin. Some whose intellectual powers were once strong, now feeble by sin. Some, who were once full of hope, now hopeless by sin. The destruction Which sin has caused is awful.
V. THE TERMINATION OF A GREAT FIRE. It terminates when an the material is reduced to ashes. Can the fire of sin ever he put out in this way? The body in the grave is scorched by it no more; but what of the soul? Look at the rich man. He is tormented, in pain, not by a literal flame, but by the fire of sin. He will be so forever, because the soul is immortal. A great fire has been terminated by a superior quenching power. There is also an element which can completely remove sin from the soul. What is it? Ask those in heaven, and those on earth, who have been saved. They all say that they “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (A. M’Auslane, D. D.)
Sin mirrored as fire
The Bible is full of the figurative and analogic.
I. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN THE FORMS IN WHICH IT EXISTS. Fire is found to exist in two states--the insensibly latent, and the sensibly active.
1. In an insensible state, heat is everywhere. Even in solid masses of ice it is to be found. Sir Humphrey Davy, it is said, quickly melted pieces of ice by rubbing them together in a room cooled below the freezing point. It is so with sin. It is found in every part of the human world; it sleeps, perhaps, even in the most innocent of our kind. All it wants is the contact of some tempting circumstance to bring it out into an active flame. The virtue of some men is but vice sleeping. As savages light their fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together, so men stir up the latent of depravity by mutual contact. There is sufficient latent fire around us to burn up the globe, and there is sufficient latent sin in humanity to turn earth into hell
2. But fire is active as well as latent. In its active state you see it flaming on your hearths, illuminating your cities, working your manufactures, propelling your fleets, drawing your carriages, flashing in the lightning and thundering in the earthquake. Sin is terribly active in our world, active in every department of life:--in commerce, in politics, and religion To use the language of the text, “It mounts up like the lifting up of smoke”: the smoke of this fire of sin pollutes and darkens every sphere of life.
II. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS TENDENCY TO SPREAD ITSELF. What a great fire a little spark will kindle! Fire is essentially diffusive; so is sin. How true it is that “one sinner destroyeth much good.”
III. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS POWER OF CHANGING EVERYTHING TO ITS OWN NATURE. It has turned alcohol into intemperance, merchandise into fraud, government into tyranny, aggression into the demon of war. When Archimedes, to gratify his vengeance on the Romans, brought down the genial rays of heaven by magic glass to burn up their ships, he only dramatised the universal fact that sin ever strives to turn the greatest blessing to the greatest curse.
IV. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS REPELLING ENERGY. Philosophers tell us that fire is that principle in nature which counteracts attraction, and keeps the various particles of matter at their proper distance. It is that repulsive force which prevents atoms from coming into close contact, and sometimes drives them far apart. It turns the solid bodies into liquids and liquids into vapours. Apply fire to the compact tree, and it will break it into a million atoms, and send these atoms abroad on the wide fields of air. Were it not for heat, all parts of the universe would rush together into one solid mass, whose parts would press together in closer contact than the heaviest stone. Sin is a repulsive principle. It separates man from man, family from family, nation from nation--all from God!
V. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS DEVOURING CAPABILITY. It consumes something far more valuable than the most beautiful forms of material nature, or the most exquisite productions of human art--it consumes man. You cannot walk the streets of any great city, without meeting men whose bodies are being consumed by sin. Sin devours the soul. It dries up its fountain of Divine feeling, it sears its conscience, it withers its intellect, it blasts its prospects and its hopes.
VI. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS POWER TO INFLICT PAIN. There is no element in nature capable of inflicting more suffering on the body than fire. But sin can inflict greater suffering: the fires of remorse are a thousand times more painful than the flames that enwrapped the martyrs. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” The fire of sin in the soul will “burn to the lowest hell.” Ask Cain, Belshazzar, Judas, concerning the intensity of moral suffering.
VII. SIN IS LIKE FIRE IN ITS SUSCEPTIBILITY OF BEING EXTINGUISHED. You have seen a raging fire go out from one of two causes; either because it has consumed the body on which it fed and reduced it to ashes, or because of the application of some quenching force. The fire of sin will never go out for the former reason--the object on which it feeds is indestructible: if it is ever to be destroyed, it must be extinguished by some outward force. Thank God! there is a moral element on earth to put out sin; the river of mediatorial influences that rolls from the throne of God has quenched the fire of sin in the case of millions, and is as efficacious to do so now as ever. (Homilist.)
Wickedness as fire
I. WICKEDNESS. Of this wickedness there are divers sorts, each of which may be distinguished by the objects on which it terminates.
1. When immediately directed against God, it is discovered by an absurd contempt of His providences and ordinances, His commandments, promises, and threatenings, and a virulent opposition to the interests of His kingdom and glory.
2. When its operations are aimed against men, it is perpetrated by harassing, oppressing and persecuting those who are entitled to acts of justice, beneficence, and charity, and by disturbing the peace and good order of human society.
3. When it chiefly respects the persons themselves by whom it is acted, the most daring iniquities are committed, forbidden by the law of nature, the law of nations, and the law of God, in order to gratify their ungovernable desires, and to promote their interest, honour, or pleasure.
II. WICKEDNESS BURNETH AS FIRE. The amiable endowments of the person in whom it burns, the good dispositions and laudable desires with which his mind is furnished, will fall a sacrifice to its rage. It will enfeeble the understanding, harden the conscience, deprave the heart, hurt the memory, weaken the senses, debilitate the whole frame; it will entirely eat away peace of mind, and lead on to contention, confusion, and every evil work. It will devour the strength and vigour of the body, bring on untimely old age, and shorten the now short life of man. It will consume his honour and reputation, and leave behind it indelible marks of disgrace and reproach, that shall not be wiped away. It will burn up his riches and possessions; for by means of it a man is often brought to a piece of bread, and a nation involved in irremediable destruction. (R. Macculloch.)
Wickedness is destruction
There is to be internecine war: Manasseh shall fly at Ephraim, and Ephraim at Manasseh, and they who could agree upon nothing between themselves always agree in flying together against Judah. This is what wickedness will bring the world to--to murder, to mutual hatred and distrust, to perdition. We do not understand the power of wickedness, because at present, owing to religious thinking and action and moral civilisation, mere are so ninny mitigating circumstances, so many relieving lights; but wickedness in itself let loose upon the earth, and the earth is no longer the abode of green thing of fair flower, or singing bird, of mutual trust and love: it becomes a pandemonium. If we could consider this deeply, it would make us solemn. We do not consider it; we are prepared to allow it as a theory or a conjecture, but the realisation of it is kept far from us. The wicked man kills himself; puts his teeth into the flesh of his own arm, and gnaws it with the hunger of a wild beast. That is what wickedness comes to! It is not an intellectual error, not a slight and passing mistake, not a lapse of judgment, or a momentarily lamentable act of misconduct which can easily be repaired: the essence of wickedness is destruction. Wickedness would no sooner hesitate to kill a little child than to snap a flower. The thing that keeps the world from suicide is the providence of God. Were God to take away the restraining influences which are keeping society together, society would gall into mutual enmity, and the controversy could only end in mutual death. “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” Do not blame the judgment, blame the sin; do not say, How harsh is God, say, How corrupt, how blasphemous is man! (J. Parker, D. D.)
Injury inflicted on the body politic
A nation is sometimes spoken of as a person constituted of a soul, and the various parts of a human body. In this political body there are those who act the part of the arms, by whom its strength is exerted, and its safety preserved. On this principle I explain this prediction, they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm. Every one almost was to be employed in cruelly harassing and devouring those whose business it was to support and defend the interests of the nation. Unmindful of the laws of nature, the ties of friendship and gratitude, they would vex and destroy those useful members of the community with whom they were nearly connected, and to whom they were obliged for their efforts in their behalf. (R. Macculloch.)
Monday, March 27th, 2017
the Fourth Week of Lent
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