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Wherever Jesus reigns, this is one of the fruits of His sovereignty. The sword is converted into a ploughshare, and the spear into a pruning-hook. The sword is not destroyed. It is transformed.
I. This is the method of Jesus. When I enter the Kingdom of God, and become a member of the pledged and aspiring host, I pass under the active and liberal influence of grace. I bring with me all the powers which I have been exercising in the ways of the world. I bring with me this or that faculty, possessed of so much power. How does the work of grace operate upon me? Does the great King denude me of my powers, and do I remain in the world emasculated, with the compass of my being diminished, and the totality of my energies decreased? Jesus Christ our Lord never diminishes our power. Whatever powers I bring to Him I retain, only I retain them converted and glorified. He takes my swords, and He hands them back to me as ploughshares. He takes my spears, and returns them as pruninghooks.
II. How does the good Lord find us? He finds us with plenty of force in our beings, but it is a force perverted, and, therefore, destructive force. That is how the Lord found Zacchæus. Zacchæus was not a weakling. His force of character was abundant. He was shrewd, cute, enterprising, firm, decisive. He had force enough, but it was the force of a sword, and was being used in self-destruction. When the Lord laid hold of Zacchæus, He did not destroy his shrewdness and despoil him of his foresight and enterprise. The redeemed Zacchæus was just as shrewd as the unredeemed Zacchæus, but the shrewdness had been transformed. It was no longer a poisoned sword; it had become a ploughshare used in the general welfare of the race.
III. Redemption does not mean power maimed or power abolished. Redemption means conversion, transformation. Converted force is force with the destructive element extracted, the sword changed into the ploughshare and the spear into the pruning-hook.
J. H. Jowett, Meditations for Quiet Moments, p. 94.
'I believe,' said John Bright at Edinburgh in 1853, 'that we shall see, and at no very distant time, sound economic principles spreading much more widely amongst the people; a sense of justice growing up in a soil which hitherto has been deemed unfruitful; and, which will be better than all the churches of the United Kingdom the churches of Britain awaking, as it were, from their slumbers, and girding up their loins to more glorious work, when they shall not only accept and believe in the prophecy, but labour earnestly for its fulfilment, that there shall come a time a blessed time which shall last for ever, "when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more".'
I cannot utter to you what I would in this matter; we all see too dimly, as yet, what our great world duties are, to allow any of us to try to outline their enlarging shadows.... Reflect that their peace was not won for you by your own hands; but by theirs who long ago jeoparded their lives for you, their children; and remember that neither this inherited peace, not any other, can be kept, but through the same jeopardy. No peace was ever won from Fate by subterfuge or agreement; no peace is ever in store for any of us, but that which we shall win by victory over shame or sin; victory over the sin that oppresses, as well as over that which corrupts. For many a year to come, the sword of every righteous nation must be whetted to save or to subdue; nor will it be by patience of other's suffering, but by the offering of your own, that you will ever draw nearer to the time when the great change shall pass upon the iron of the earth; when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; neither shall they learn war any more.
Ruskin, The Two Paths, §§ 195-96.
References. II. 4. J. Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 376. R. F. Horton, ibid. vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 6. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity. II. 4, 5. J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 378.
The Light of the Lord
A vision, great and splendid, had passed before the Prophet's mind. Jerusalem, lying low amidst the hills, and overshadowed by the mountains of Moab, became exalted above them all, and towered in grandeur towards the skies. Thus exalted, she is a sign and centre to the nations, and along the highways and up the slopes are seen marching, not the tribes of Israel only, but also the peoples of the world, who are hastening to seek instruction from the God of Israel, and to submit themselves to Him as supreme Arbitrator and Ruler. Under His universal sovereignty divisions are healed, and strife ceases, and peace covers the world. The weapons of war are no longer needed, and are applied to peaceful uses. As the glorious scene unfolds itself, God's kingdom, supreme and universal, the nations gathered into it, the Prophet turns to his countrymen to whom God's kingdom had first appeared, and cries, as he points to the coming glory: 'O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord'. The earthly Jerusalem was the type of a higher power, the sign of a greater kingdom to be set up in the world. The vision is a picture and prediction of the triumph of Christianity.
I. Come 'Ye'. The true method of extending Christianity is found in our personal submission to its sway. If we would contribute to its spread and share in its triumph we must begin with ourselves. Here lies the simple path of duty for every man who believes in Christianity, and sees in it the hope of his race.
Christianity ruling in the world is a more pleasant subject to men than Christianity ruling in the sphere of one's own nature and life. The Prophet's countrymen were quite willing that the kingdom of God should be supreme over men, and gloried in the prospect, but were most unwilling that it should be supreme over themselves. Christianity, giving peace to the world and bringing in the happy time when 'the lion shall lie down with the lamb,' is exulted in by many who have no idea of its power on themselves, subduing evil tempers, silencing angry words, and making their lives bright with tenderness and compassion.
Practical Christianity is described as 'walking in the light of the Lord'. Christ must become to us the law of our lives. (1) Life must have constant reference to His stupendous sacrifice. (2) Life must be ruled and directed by the example of Christ. (3) Life must be ennobled and sustained by the fellowship of Christ. 'If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.'
II. Christianity and Humanity. The motive to practical Christianity is found in the blessedness for man of universal Christianity. The appeal is inspired by the glory and peace and blessedness the world shall know when it has become the kingdom of God's Son. Therefore, if we are vexed and moved by the woes and evils that oppress humanity, let us ally ourselves with that mighty and beneficent power which shall bring them to an end. If we sigh for the golden age of peace and brotherhood, let us yield ourselves to the sway of Christ's Gospel of love. This is the test of our sincerity. Christianity is all that humanity needs for its true happiness.
III. Christianity as it shall be. Christianity must be considered in its real and inherent tendencies, and in its ultimate condition, not in its present aspects. We must encourage ourselves, and refute the objections of men, by Christianity in its own nature and purpose, and as it shall be when its triumph is won, and not as it now is, mixed up with the superstitions, the mistakes, the weaknesses, the sins of men. The stately edifice must be judged, if we would know its real character, not while the building is going on, with the scaffolding standing, and heaps of rubbish lying around; with the shouts of the workmen, the noise of the tools; with losses and injuries caused at times by the errors of the builders and by the storms that come; we must look at it and measure it by the design of the great Architect, by its completed proportions, as we have them in the Word of God.
IV. The Importance of Practical Piety. (1) It is free from any element of doubt and uncertainty. Many objections are taken to Christianity. Men are disputing and wrangling over its doctrines, its modes of worship, its history, and other matters belonging to it. To plunge into controversy cannot but bring unrest to the soul. Concerning practical godliness there can be no dispute. We cannot be wrong in 'doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God'. (2) It is the mightiest and surest method of extending Christianity. The glory of the latter days shall shine upon the world, not as the. doctrines of Christianity become more accurately formulated, not as its ecclesiastical system becomes perfected, but as its transforming power, purifying the hearts and lives of men, becomes more widely felt and seen. 'O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.'
References. II. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2713. W. J. Knox-Little, Sunlight and Shadow, p. 106; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 126. H. P. Liddon, Advent in St. Paul's, p. 37. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 371. II. 5-22. V. S. S. Coles, Advent Meditations on Isaiah I.-XII. p. 21. II. 7, 8. J. H. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 353. II. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2922. F. D. Maurice, The Prayer Book and the Lord's Prayer, p. 15. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 279. II. 12. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 1. II. 17. Hugh Price Hughes, Essential Christianity, p. 233. II. 22. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p. 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1984. III. 3. J. Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 322. III. 4; IV. 1. V. S. S. Coles, Advent Meditations on Isaiah I.-XII. p. 30. III. 10, 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 729. W. Brooke, ibid. p. 207. IV. 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah, p. 12. R. Ellis, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 45. IV. 6. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 81. V. C. Gore, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 182. V. 1. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 289. V. 1-2. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 322. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, vol. i. p. 15. V. 1-7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2480. V. S. S. Coles, Advent Meditations on Isaiah I.-XII. p. 34. V. 2. A. H. Bradford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 171.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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