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I tell you, sirs, you must not trust your own apprehensions nor judgments of the mercy of God; you do not know how He can cause it to abound: that which seems to be short and shrunk up to you, He can draw out and cause to abound exceedingly.... This therefore is a wonderful thing, and shall be wondered at to all eternity, that the river of mercy, that at first did seem to be but ancle-deep, should so rise and rise that at last it became 'waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over'.
References. XLVII. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1054. XLVII. 6, 12. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 337; see also Church Times, vol. lvii. 1907, p. 655. XLVII. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1852.
In his famous Glasgow speech on Reform in 1866, John Bright closed by applying this passage, or reminiscences of it, to the great cause for which he pled. 'We believe in a Supreme Ruler of the Universe. We believe in His omnipotence; we believe and we humbly trust in His mercy. We know that the strongest argument which is used against that belief by those who reject it, is an argument drawn from the misery and the helplessness and the darkness of so many of our race, even in countries which call themselves civilized and Christian. Is not that the fact? If I believed that this misery and this helplessness and this darkness could not be touched or transformed, I myself should be driven to admit the almost overwhelming force of that argument; but I am convinced that just laws and an enlightened administration of them would change the face of the country. I believe that ignorance and suffering might be lessened to an incalculable extent, and that many an Eden, beauteous in flowers and rich in fruit, might be raised up in the waste wilderness which spreads before us.... That is our faith, that is our purpose, that is our cry let us try the nation.'
Who is it that can live by grace? even none but those whose temper and constitution is suited to grace. Hence, as the grace of God is compared to a river, so those that live by grace are compared to fish; for that, as water is that element in which the fish liveth, so grace is that which is the life of the saint Art thou a fish, man? Art thou a fish? Canst thou live in the water? Canst thou live always, and nowhere else but in the water? Is grace thy proper element.
Reference. XLVII. 9. C. H. Parkhurst, A Little Lower than the Angels, p. 25.
We have been severely enough taught (if we were willing to learn) that our civilization, considered as a splendid material fabric, is helplessly in peril without the spiritual police of sentiments or ideal feelings. And it is this invisible police, which we had need, as a community, strive to maintain in efficient force.
George Eliot, Essays of Theophrastus Such.
There is not a secular reform in the whole development of modern civilization which (if it is more than mechanical) has not drawn its inspiration from a religious principle. Infirmaries for the body have sprung out of pity to the soul; schools for the latter that free way may be opened to the spirit; sanitary laws, that the Diviner elements of human nature may not become incredible and hopeless from their foul environment Nay what impulse would even science itself have had, if sustained only by the material utilities? what inspiring zeal, but for that secret wonder which feels the universe to be sacred, and is a virtual thirst for God?
Part of the poetical works of Young, those of Watts, and of Cowper, have placed them among the permanent benefactors of mankind; as owing to them there is a popular poetry which has imparted, and is destined to impart, the best sentiments to innumerable minds. Works of great poetical genius that should be thus faithful to true religion, might be regarded as trees by the side of that 'river of the water of life,' having in their fruit and foliage a virtue to contribute to 'the healing of the nations'.
John Foster, On the Aversion of Men of Taste to Evangelical Religion, chap. Ix.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany