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I do believe the station of a popular preacher is one of the greatest trials on earth: a man in that position does not stop to soberly calculate how much, or rather how little is done when there appears a great effect, nor to consider how immense is the difference between deeply affecting the feelings and permanently changing the heart. The preacher who causes a great sensation and excited feelings is not necessarily the one who will receive the reward of shining as the stars for ever and ever, because he has turned many to righteousness.
F. W. Robertson.
Yonder stars are rising. Have you ever noticed their order, heard their ancient names, thought of what they were, as teachers, 'lecturers,' in that large public hall of the night; to the wisest men of old? Have you ever thought of the direct promise to you yourselves, that you may be like them if you will? 'They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars, for ever and ever.' They that be wise. Don't think that means knowing how big the moon is. It means knowing what you ought to do, as man or woman; what your duty to your father is, to your child, to your neighbour, to nations your neighbours.
Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, lxxv.
I like to associate my friends with particular stars, there is something so sweet and intimate and confidential in a star. The sun and the moon, but especially the sun, are too universal and general for particular friendship; but you may consider a star as your own.
Erskine of Linlathen.
Heine, in his Confessions, tells of an interview he once had with Hegel. After supper the poet, looking out of the window, began to speak sentimentally of the stare as the dwelling-place of the blessed. Hegel muttered, 'Hum! hum! The stars are simply a brilliant leprosy on the face of heaven'. 'In God's name,' cried the poet, 'is there then no happy place above where the virtuous may find reward after death?' Whereupon Hegel rejoined, 'So you think you deserve a pourboire for tending your sick mother, or for not poisoning your elder brother!'
Take as many to heaven with you as ye are able to draw. The more ye draw with you, ye shall be the welcomer yourself.
Reference. XII. 3. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 212.
It is written, Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Surely the plain rule is, Let each considerate person have his way, and see what it will lead to. For not this man and that man, but all men make up mankind, and their united tastes the taste of mankind. How often have we seen some such adventurous and perhaps much censured wanderer light on some outlying, neglected, yet vitally momentous province; the hidden treasures of which he first discovered, and left proclaiming till the general eye and effort were directed thither, and the conquest was completed. Wise was he who counselled that speculation should have free course, and look fearlessly toward all the thirty-two points of the compass, whithersoever and howsoever it listed.
S artor Resartus, book i. 1.
The art of printing appears to have been providentially reserved till these latter ages, and then providentially brought into use, as what was to be instrumental for the future in carrying on the appointed course of things. The alterations which this art has already made in the face of the world are not inconsiderable. By means of it, whether immediately or remotely, the methods of carrying on business are in several respects improved, knowledge has been increased, and some sort of literature is become general.
Daniel 12:4 ; Daniel 12:9
My book will await its reader; has not God waited six thousand years before He has created a man to contemplate His works?
References. XII. 4. H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix. p. 291. XII. 6. J. Kerr Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, 1890, p. 131.
It is the manner of the Holy Spirit in sacred prophecy to pass rapidly from one future event to another foreshadowed by it. The Prophet in this Scripture having revealed the sufferings which the Hebrew Church and nation would endure in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, passes on by a quick transition to unfold the trials which await the Christian Church in the latter days. It is a subject for serious inquiry whether, in the history of the Church or world of late years, there has not been a gradual tendency towards a fulfilment of this prophecy.
I. In reviewing the past we may recognize a remarkable change in popular opinion concerning the origin and claims of authority, both civil and ecclesiastical. The belief taught by St. Paul and St. Peter that authority is derived from God, and that obedience is due to lawful authority in things not unlawful for the Lord's sake, has now been greatly weakened; and authority is commonly supposed to be derived from earth and not from heaven, and to have no other claim upon allegiance than that which depends on the voice of the people, and not on the will of God. Together with the change in popular opinion as to the claims of authority two other powers have grown up. Men crave protection, and admire strength. On one side some have almost deified the Roman Papacy, and on the other side some have been driven to defy all authority whether temporal or spiritual, and to cast away all belief in a Personal Ruler of the World, and in future rewards and punishments, and to place the people on the throne of God.
II. Our own duty in face of these events. We must endeavour to revive in the public mind a recognition of the Divine origin of authority. This feeling needs to be answered in rulers as well as in subjects. If parents, masters, and governors were resolved to act in the consciousness that their authority is received from God, and that He will call them to account at the Great Day, then they would use it as a sacred trust from heaven, and never abuse it to gratify their own selfish desires.
Bishop Wordsworth, Clerical Library, vol. II. p. 262.
God will not judge men by what they know; yet to have used knowledge rightly will be a staff to support and comfort us in passing through the dark valley.
Where, if not in Christ, is the power that can persuade a sinner to return, that can bring home a heart to God? Common mercies of God, though they have a leading faculty to repentance, yet the rebellious heart will not be led by them. The judgments of God, public or personal, though they ought to drive us to God, yet the heart unchanged runs the further from God. Leave Christ out, I say, and all other means work not this way; neither the works nor the word of God sounding daily in his ear, Return, return. Let the noise of the rod speak it too, and both join together to make the cry louder yet the wicked will do wickedly.
Nature in her grave nobleness is not less, but more dear now, when I remember that I shall soon bid her good even, to enter into the presence of her Lord and mine. New heavens and a new earth I cannot sever my human heart from mine own land; and who shall say that those noble countries, casting off all impurity in the fiery trial that awaits them, shall not be our final heaven?
I love to think that it may be so; I love to think that the Lord, in His humanity, looks tenderly upon the mortal soil on which He sojourned in His wondrous life, and that here, perchance, in these very lands, made holy by His grace and power, our final rest shall be. It may be but a fancy; but it comes upon me with gentle might, like the whispered comfort of an angel. A new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness a glorified humanity which, remaining human, is mortal no longer! with the judgment and the condemnation and the wars of the Lord overpast, and the earth and the heaven one fair broad country, and Himself over all, blessed for ever! These are the old man's dreams; and they shed new glory over the pleasant places in which my lines have fallen.
From Adam Graeme of Mossgray, by Mrs. Oliphant.
Spare no deceit. Lay the sword upon it; go over it: keep yourselves clear of the blood of all men, either by word or writing; and keep yourselves clean, that you may stand in your throne, and every one have his lot, and stand in the lot in the Ancient of Days.
Fox's Address to the Quakers, 1656.
Jesus, that Flower of Jesse set without hands, getteth many a blast, and yet withers not, because He is His Father's noble Rose, casting a sweet smell through heaven and earth, and must grow; and in the same garden grow the saints, God's fair and beautiful lilies, under wind and rain, and all sunburned, and yet life remaineth at the root. Keep within His garden, and you shall grow with them, till the great Husbandman, our dear Master Gardener, come and transplant you from the lower part of His vineyard up to the higher, to the very heart of His garden, above the wrongs of the rain, sun, and wind.
Go Thou Thy Way
If there be any deep prophetic sense in these last words of God to Daniel, I do not mean to endeavour now to search them far. I wish only to accept them very practically, and very simply, as they apply to every one of us; and this is what they say to you and me.
I. Go Thou Thy Way. ' The future is wrapped in clouds; much is hidden from your view; and, there are many mysteries "But go thou thy way"; do not hesitate, do not look back, do not measure by results go thou thine own proper way and appointed way. Do thy work, whatever it be, that God has given thee to do; fulfil thy part; execute thy mission; act out thy destiny "Go thou thy way".' And there are many of you to whom this command appears now especially to apply. I see some of you afraid to begin. Halting at the threshold, you have such a fear lest you should fall back again, and do harm by your inconsistencies, and grieve the Holy Ghost, and it would be worse for you than ever. To you it comes 'Go thou thy way'. Or you have tried and failed so often that you are utterly discouraged, and you are sure that you shall never succeed; nevertheless, 'Go thou thy way'. Or the work which you are now called to do is very great, and it so outstretches all your strength and all your grace that you dare not touch it 'Go thou thy way'. Or the differences of opinion in the Church are so apparent. It is so hard to know 'what is truth ' I am drawn so many ways, I see so many contradictions, such opposites, I do not know what to believe 'Go thou thy way'. Or there are such inconsistencies everywhere. I see so much that is wrong in Christian men that I feel frequently staggered 'Go thou thy way'. You cannot be wrong if you are in the path of duty, that is safe; the rest will take care of itself. Only act out your convictions, and keep well in your own true line.
II. But be sure it is 'Thy Way'. But then you must first have well ascertained that that way which you are now going to take is ' thy way'. This was the point at issue between Christ and Satan. Satan, falsely quoting, said: 'In their hands they shall bear Thee up' leaving out the sequel, which was the hinge of the promise, 'in all Thy ways '. Christ saw the omission, and saw that any venture which was without that condition would be presumptuous; and therefore He answered: 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God'. The first thing, therefore, that you have to do is to be quite sure that the way you are taking is 'thy way'. Ask God to make this quite clear. Try it by some of the great tests. Does your conscience quite go along with it? Have you a vocation? Is it directly or indirectly to usefulness? Is there any cross in it? Does it bring you nearer to Christ? Do you believe that He is pleased with you in it? Does it advance truth and holiness? If you are quite satisfied by such proofs that it is your way, then go, nothing doubting. With the end you have nothing to do; that is God's care. He will be sure to make that right Deal with the present, and watch for, but do not anticipate nor wish to hasten conclusions. Steadily, patiently, and perseveringly work on, wait on, believe on, till the end be. And, be that end what it may, it will be a blessed end to you; strange, perhaps, very contrary to your expectations, but a right end and a happy end. I know of no comfort in life I know of no repose greater than this Today, duty; tomorrow, trust the foot straight in the road, and the eye looking out for loving ends it cannot see.
III. The Soul's Rest. I do not wonder that the very next words are 'thou shalt rest' ' Go thou thy way,' and 'thou shalt rest'. There is the soul's rest, increasing experience of God's faithfulness, a growing assurance of forgiveness, a greater and greater nearness to Christ, tokens for good, glances of the smile of God all these will be 'rest,' even while you are on the road.
Rest for God's Servants
These words are addressed to Daniel, now an old man, when his work is over, and little remains for him but to die.
I. For God's servants this present life is a time of labour, and in respect of it their time of rest is not yet. They are looking forward to their rest. This is the place of labour, with its accompanying measure of weariness and pain. Rest is an eventide blessing and comes when the day ends. True, the Gospel holds out a present rest, real and wonderful, to men believing, but it is true that called to rest in God, the Christian is also called to service: and this service has in it a laboriousness, a burden-bearing, an experience of weariness and an exercise of patience.
II. But this labour has its period. While He appoints to His servants their day of work, and amid the blessings of the life of faith disciplines them with their measure of toil and pain, He will certainly (and not too late) bring them into their rest. But what can we say of it?
a. One thing certain we may fix upon its sinlessness. What exercise, what high employment, may be theirs, we do not know. But this wonderful rest goes through it. Sin and temptation come nigh them no more.
b. Here we live in a continual experience of change. But then how different. For want of constancy our rest here is unquiet and precarious at best a brief snatch of breathing: but they possess it there.
c. We know how any great experience, religious or not, disquiets us here. The heart beats quick, and becomes too full, and joy itself becomes painful. Not so there: not so with those who are made conscious of the love that blesses them, and of the nearness of that uncreated and eternal nature.
III. At the end of the days God's servant shall find the work in which he bore a part perfected. And he shall find his own labour in it So, when God subjects His servants to that discipline which the most eminent of them, and those that have served most faithfully, have experienced, He is not sending them away as useless servants.
R. Rainy, Sojourning With God, p. 37.
References. XII. 13. C. Stanford, Penny Pulpit, No. 1033. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series), p. 54. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Daniel, p. 84. XII. J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 199.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Daniel 12". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent