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GOD CORRECTS AND RECLAIMS HIS PEOPLE
Hosea 2:6-28.2.7. Behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them; then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.
THE generality of mankind are very incompetent judges of the dispensations of Providence. Indeed, for the most part, they quite mistake their nature and tendency; and draw conclusions from them which the Scripture will by no means justify. They suppose that prosperity is a token of Divine love and approbation; and that affliction, on the contrary, is a mark of God’s displeasure. But an inspired writer assures us, that “we cannot know good or evil by all that is before us.” Considering, however, that we are prone to forget God in our abundance, and that the rod of correction is the means whereby thousands are turned to God, we have reason rather to esteem affliction, at least as the more needful, if not the richer, blessing of the two. Certain it is that there are multitudes now in heaven, who owed their first serious impressions to some heavy chastisement; and who must for ever say with the Psalmist,“It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Nor can we doubt but that the good of mankind is one principal end for which God puts the cup of sorrow into their hands.
A remarkable proof of this we have in the passage before us The Jews were continually provoking God to jealousy, by depending on alliances with heathens, and worshipping their idols God, ever slow to anger, and delighting in mercy, used all possible methods to reclaim them He had tried what kindness would effect, and had found no success He now determined to take the rod; and sent them word by the prophet, that he would punish them for their offences; but that the end of their punishment should be to reduce them to a happier and better state: “Therefore,” says he, (because you are so bent to follow your own evil ways) “behold, I will hedge up,” &c
In these words we see,
What means God uses to reclaim his people—
Though God could effect his purposes instantly, by a mere act of his will, yet he is pleased in general to accomplish them by means suited to the end In reclaiming his people,
He obstructs their ways—
[In their unregenerate state they run on, like others, in the ways of sin But when his time is come, he instructs them either by temporal calamities or by spiritual convictions
In the common course of events he deprives them of health, fortune, friends;or perhaps by their own imprudence brings disorders or distress upon them.
These trials, however, of themselves have only a momentary effect; and therefore he accompanies them with the secret energy of his Spirit, convincing them of their guilt and danger, and making them tremble through fear of his eternal judgments He “meets them as an armed man,” so that they dare no longer to “rush on upon the thick bosses of his buckler.”
Thus he “hedges up their way with thorns,” and makes their progress in sin very difficult and painful.]
He disappoints their endeavours—
[God saw the Jews bent on forming alliances with Egypt and Assyria notwithstanding all his warnings to renounce them He therefore sent them into captivity in Babylon, where they could have no communications with Egypt or Assyria; and thus “built up a wall, that they could not find their former lovers.”
Thus we have our idols which we are prone to follow, notwithstanding all the troubles or convictions that are sent to wean us from them. Perhaps the world is the object of our affections; and we weary ourselves in the pursuit of its honours or emoluments. God therefore secretly blasts our endeavours, as he did those of his people of old [Note: Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9.]; and thus shuts us up as it were, unto himself, that we may seek him as our portion. Perhaps our great idol is self-righteousness: we desire to “establish a righteousness of our own,” instead of relying simply on the righteousness of Christ. God therefore leaves us to our own feeble efforts, that, by our repeated violations of our own vows and covenants, we may be constrained to look from ourselves unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, if we persist in breaking through “the hedge,” he will interpose “a wall;” that “when we follow after our lovers, we may not overtake them, and when we seek them, we may not be able to find them.” If smaller difficulties will not answer his end, he will send greater, till he has accomplished his whole will concerning us.]
These interpositions, however, operate in a rational way; as will be seen by considering,
What effects he produces on their minds—
Where calamities are sent without grace to sanctify them, they only harden those whom they ought to reclaim. But when the grace of God co-operates with his providence, it works in his people,
A sense of their guilt in having departed from him—
[They could once sin without any fear or remorse: at most, they only viewed sin as an opposition to God’s will: but, when the Spirit of God has opened their eyes, they see it as an act of spiritual adultery; and they begin to feel as a woman would, who, after having departed from a kind and loving “husband,” was just returning to a sense of her duty. How would she blush at the remembrance of her conduct! how would she be ready to doubt whether her husband would ever receive her again, and whether it were possible for her ever again to be the object of his affections! Thus a soul rendered truly sensible of its obligations to God the “husband” of his people, feels a proportionate degree of shame in having departed from him, of shame mixed with self-lothing and self-abhorrence [Note: Jeremiah 3:25.].]
A consciousness of their folly in having lost his favour—
[It once appeared folly to serve God: but now this sentiment is reversed. Even in the days of their unregeneracy they had a secret thought, that the godly, whom they despised, were happier than themselves. But, when divinely instructed, they see that they have been “feeding upon ashes, and that a deceived heart has turned them aside [Note: Isaiah 44:20.]. If ever they have “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” they cannot fail of looking back with grief on the blessedness they have lost [Note: Galatians 4:15.]. They confess that “once it was better with them than now;” that, in departing from God, they “forsook the fountain of living waters;” and that, in seeking happiness in the creature, they “hewed out to themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.].”]
A determination of heart to return to him—
[They no longer say, “We will follow after other lovers [Note: ver. 5.];” but, “We will return to our first husband.” They view God as their rightful Lord, to whom they are bound by every tie; and, with indignation against themselves for their past conduct, they say, “Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name [Note: Isaiah 26:13.].”]
The whole of this effect is strongly exemplified in the prodigal son—
[The prodigal departed from his father, and spent his substance in riotous living. God, intending to reclaim him, sent a famine into the country where he had taken up his residence. (However casual this might appear, it was ordained of God for his good.) He would not regard this “hedge,” or return to his father while he could get any other support. He therefore hired himself to a citizen of that place to feed his swine; and when almost famished, preferred the husks which the swine ate of, to the bread he might obtain by returning home. God seeing this obstinate reluctance in him, so ordered it, that, notwithstanding he had spent all his fortune there, no man should have pity enough to relieve his wants. At last, constrained by necessity, and stopped as by “a wall,” the prodigal is induced to return to his father’s house, where he finds a reception beyond all expectation kind and gracious. Thus misfortune upon misfortune, or conviction upon conviction, are sent to us, till, distressed on every side, and disappointed in every attempt to extricate ourselves, we are “made willing” to return to God.]
We may learn from this subject,
The depravity of man—
[We never seek God, till we are constrained by his providence and grace to do so: and, to the latest hour of our lives, we need hedges and walls to keep us in the way of duty. What an astonishing proof is this of our utter alienation from God, yea, of our enmity against him! Let us blush and be confounded before him.]
The end of trials—
[They “spring not from the dust,” but are sent for our good. They are like the angel that met Balaam [Note: Numbers 22:22-4.22.33.]: and our obstinacy in breaking through these obstructions would have repeatedly subjected us to the sword of vengeance, if our God had not still exercised mercy and forbearance towards us. Let us then “hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it [Note: Micah 6:9.].”]
The happiness of a religious life—
[No one ever gave himself up truly to God without finding that “his ways were ways of pleasantness and peace.” No one ever declined from him, that did not suffer loss in respect of present happiness, as well as of his future reward. Let all professors then “be sober and watch unto prayer;” that instead of saying, “It was once better with me than now,” they may “make their profiting to appear unto all,” and be enabled to say on every succeeding day, “It never was so well with me as at this present time.”]
GOD’S DEALINGS WITH PENITENTS
Hosea 2:14-28.2.15. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her: and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope.
WHOEVER is at all conversant with the holy Scriptures, must know, that they are, in many parts, highly figurative. If we examine many of our Lord’s expressions, and indeed some whole discourses, we shall see, that they were unintelligible to those who interpreted them only according to their literal meaning; because they were intended to be understood in in a mystical and spiritual sense: hence our Lord took occasion to inform them, that the words which he spake unto them were “spirit and life.” This is yet still more observable in the prophetic writings, which almost always must be taken in a mystical, as well as literal sense; and indeed in many places, as Bishop Lowth has well observed, the spiritual meaning is more true, and more immediately intended, than the literal. This, I apprehend, is the case in the passage before us. God has been declaring, what he would do in order to reclaim the ten tribes from their idolatries; that he would “hedge up their way with thorns, and make a wall, so that they should not be able to find their former ways,” i. e. (as it is more fully set forth in the ninth and following verses) that he would deprive them of all their national blessings, and deliver them into the hand of their Assyrian enemies: then, in my text, he adds, “Therefore (it should rather be translated, ‘nevertheless’) I will allure her,” and so on. He had, in ver. 7, mentioned, that in consequence of the obstructions which he would put in their way, they should be brought to see their sin and folly, and to say, “I will return unto my first husband:” and now he proceeds to declare, how he would deal with them, when they should be brought to that frame of mind; that he would allure her, and give her the Valley of Achor for a door of hope.” Now this has never been literally accomplished: for, if we except about twelve thousand Israelites, who accompanied the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in their return from the Babylonish captivity, none of the ten tribes have ever yet returned to their native country. We must therefore look for a spiritual sense to this passage: and here we have the authority of an inspired writer to interpret it, as relating to the conversion of the Gentile world, and the deliverance of God’s chosen people from a state of bondage to sin and Satan. St. Paul, in Romans 9:25, speaking expressly on the call of the Gentiles, quotes the last verse of this chapter in Hosea, and declares that this prophecy then received its completion. We may therefore without hesitation consider the passage as declaring the manner in which God deals with his penitent and contrite people, when once the Church, or any individual in it, is so wrought upon by temporal calamities or spiritual convictions, as to say, “I will go and return unto my first, my rightful husband.” God says, as in my text, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” In declaring from hence how God will deal with his returning people, we may observe, that he will encourage them,
With present comforts—
[The readiness of God to receive sinners is not discovered in any thing more than in his mode of dealing with them in their return to him: if there be only “some good in them,” he is sure to notice it with some testimony of his approbation: in proportion as they advance towards him, he makes greater advances towards a reconciliation with them: and when he sees that they begin in earnest to seek his face, he will cause them to abound in consolations. “He will allure them:” we must not suppose that God will really deceive any one; but yet there is a sense wherein he may be said to “allure” men: he will conceal from the view of penitents such things as might alarm and terrify them: he will feed them, while they are yet babes, with milk; and will withhold the stronger meat, which they are not yet able to digest. There are many things which he will say to them at a future period; but from which he diverts their attention at present, as from things which they cannot receive: and thus he leads them gently, as their strength will bear. He now also in a peculiar manner reveals himself to the soul, and fills it with heavenly delight. The sinner coming first to a sense of God’s favour, is borne up, as it were, on eagles’ wings: he seems to be breathing a purer air; I had almost said, to be living in a new world. His sensations are so entirely changed, that one may, almost without an hyperbole, call him “a new creature:” from being dead as to all spiritual things, he begins to enjoy a spiritual life: from being in total darkness, he is “brought forth into marvellous light:” from dreading God’s displeasure, he feels “his love shed abroad in his heart.” Now therefore he supposes he never can lose the savour of these things: “Am I a dog,” thinks he, that I should ever more offend this gracious Being, who has thus freely forgiven all my trespasses? Alas! little knowing what depravity and deceitfulness there is in the human heart, he concludes that he shall now bear down all before him: the corruptions of his own heart seem to be so mortified, as to be almost extinct: the world now is as nothing in his eyes: and Satan himself, formidable as he is, now appears to be “bruised under his feet.” Perhaps he has learned, as it were by wrote, to acknowledge himself weak, frail, and inwardly depraved; but the frame of his mind is like David’s, when he said, “My mountain is so strong, I shall never be moved.” Thus does God allure penitents: nor is this any more than what is necessary at the first; for their habits of sin are deeply rooted; their attachment to the things of time and sense is very strong; and the opposition they will afterwards meet with from the world, the flesh, and the devil, is so powerful, that they need all possible encouragement; they need time to get strength; they need to taste the sweetness of religion now, in order that when they come to endure the cross, they may be able to testify, from their own experience, that religion, with all its difficulties, is an incomparably better portion than the world. This was remarkably exemplified at the first publication of the Gospel: the three thousand converts “continued daily with one accord in the temple, and ate their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.” The favour of man they had very little reason to expect: but God saw fit to keep his infant Church for a little time from persecution, in order that their happiness might have no alloy, and that they might grow in strength, and be able to endure it afterwards, when it should come upon them: and thus he allured them, as it were, to a steady and resolute adherence to his cause.
Further, God says, “I will bring her into the wilderness.” Many able and judicious Commentators translate these words somewhat differently, “I will allure her after I have brought her into the wilderness:” and this I should suppose to be the more proper rendering of the words, because the sense is then clear; viz. “After having afflicted her for her sins, I will comfort her on her return to me.” But, if we retain the present version, we must understand the ‘wilderness’ to mean, not a state of affliction, but a state of solitude and retirement: and this makes very good sense, and exactly agrees with the experience of young Christians. When God allures them in the manner we have before represented, they immediately forsake the company of the world, and seek their God in retirement: they now love solitude; they now never feel themselves less alone than when alone: nor would they forego their secret intercourse with God for all the world. There are many seasons when they would account the presence of their very dearest friend to be a grievous interruption. But, however true the words are in this sense, I apprehend the other to be the better version of them; and therefore passing by this, we observe further, That God will speak comfortably to those whom he thus allures. He makes his word now to be exceeding precious to their souls: he opens their understandings to understand it; and they begin to hear God speaking in and by it: and O! how delightful are the promises! With what eagerness do they embrace the promises! With what unspeakable pleasure do they now apply them to themselves! Under a sense of guilt, they now see that they may have pardon for sins of the deepest dye: under a consciousness of their own insufficiency for any thing that is good, they see here in the sacred records an inexhaustible treasure of grace and strength. In every situation and circumstance of life they find, that there is a word suited to their condition: they hear the voice of God in the promises; and by these he speaks indeed most comfortably to them. There is somewhat peculiar in the original words; literally translated, they mean, “I will speak to her heart:” and this is very properly rendered, “I will speak comfortably to her;” for God speaks to the outward ears of thousands to very little purpose: he invites, but they are not entreated; he promises, but they are not comforted: but, when once he speaks to the heart, then comfort flows in apace, and “they rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified.”]
Thus we see how God, alluring the sinner, and speaking comfortably to him, leads him on by present comforts. We proceed to shew, how he encourages him,
With future prospects—
[He that is born of God, is indeed born to a great inheritance: nor is he in danger of expecting too much at the hands of God; for, as he has said in general, “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it,” so he says in the passage before us, “I will give her vineyards from hence, and the valley of Achor, for a door of hope.” You will call to mind what was observed in the beginning of this discourse, that this passage was never literally fulfilled, and that St. Paul has explained it in a spiritual and mystical sense: and this we now repeat, lest our construction, or rather our application of it should appear fanciful or forced. Vineyards were a very important part of the produce of the land of Canaan; insomuch, that when the spies went to search out the land, they brought back a cluster of grapes upon the shoulders of two men, as the best proof of the fertility of the soil. When the Lord therefore promises to give his people “vineyards from thence,” he means by it a supply of every temporal blessing, which he will bestow upon them from the very instant that they thus return unto him. If therefore we apply this spiritually, we may understand by it a supply of all spiritual blessings, which God will vouchsafe to his people from the time that they come to him with real penitence and contrition. Just as when our Lord says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” (by which he meant all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit,) so, I apprehend, when God says in my text, “I will give her vineyards,” he means every kind of temporal and spiritual blessing. It is added further, “I will give her the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” Achor was a very rich valley, so called from the circumstance of Achan being stoned there. It was the first portion of the promised land that came into the possession of the Israelites, and this was to them a door of hope; it was a ground of assurance, that they should in due time possess the whole land, it was, as it were, an earnest, whereby they were taught to expect the fulfilment of all the promises. Here then we see the meaning of the passage before us, according to the spiritual interpretation of it, God promises to his people the richest spiritual blessings; and teaches them to consider all which they here possess, as an earnest only of what they shall hereafter inherit. Now it is by this prospect of receiving all spiritual and eternal blessings, that the young Christian is encouraged to proceed.
First, He has a prospect of all spiritual blessings. The believer soon finds, that, if he will be faithful to his God, he must forego some worldly advantages; and sacrifice every interest that stands in competition with his duty. Now this to our earthly hearts is no little trial, those who are insincere cannot stand this test, like the young man in the Gospel, they may wish for an interest in Christ; but, if they must sell all in order to obtain it, they will rather part with Christ and his benefits, yea, if for a season they make a profession of godliness, they will at last, like Demas, prove by their conduct that they are “lovers of this present evil world.” But, as an antidote against this poison, God promises that he will give better riches, even “durable riches and righteousness;” and, that the blessings which he will bestow, shall far more than counterbalance any thing which can be lost for him, and thus he inclines the soul to suffer temporal loss, in expectation of greater spiritual advantage; and (as did the saints of old,) to “take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” The Christian also, after a little time, begins to find that he has many sore conflicts to maintain; that he has enemies on every side; that he has temptations without number; and that he has in himself no strength, either to withstand one temptation, or to overcome one enemy. Under such circumstances, he would soon faint and be weary, but that God has engaged to support him in every trial, and make him conqueror over every enemy. But when he knows, that “his strength shall be according to his day;” that there shall be “no temptation without a way to escape;” and that every conflict shall produce an abundant increase of grace and peace; he is willing to engage his enemies, under a full assurance, that, while God is for him, he need not regard any that are against him. He has already found the blessedness of serving God: he knows, by his own experience, that God “never is a wilderness unto his people;” that he is a gracious master, who richly repays them for whatever they may do or suffer in his cause. Having therefore experienced this, he looks forward with confidence: having obtained grace in past trials, he expects assuredly, that it shall be given him in future difficulties: having tasted how gracious the Lord is, he expects to receive yet richer communications of peace and joy: he looks upon every thing he receives as an earnest of something future.
In addition to spiritual blessings which he hopes to receive in this life, he has A prospect of eternal blessings in the life to come: his increasing conformity to the Divine image is a door of hope, that he shall one day be “holy as God is holy:” his increasing happiness gives him a lively assurance, that he shall ere long be free from every care, and be happy as the angels that are around the throne: so also the sweet communion which he enjoys with God in secret, those discoveries of his glory, and those communications of his love, are as earnests, that he shall one day see God face to face, and “drink of the rivers of pleasure which are at his right hand, for evermore.” Now this contains somewhat of the Christian’s experience, when first he comes to God through Christ: he is led on at first by present comforts; and, as he proceeds, his prospects open; so that in an assured expectation of grace sufficient for him, and of a crown of glory at the end, he “goes on, conquering and to conquer.”]
We will now conclude with an address—
To those who may now be enjoying their first love—
[The prophet observes,; that the time of espousals is a time of love [Note: Jeremiah 2:2.]: and in the letter to the Church of Ephesus, mention is made of a first love; by which is meant, that peculiar earnestness and delight in Divine things which are often to be observed in young converts. Now it may be, that some of you who are here present have just begun to taste the joys of religion: you have peace with God in your consciences; and can scarcely think of any thing but the goodness of God to your souls. I would to God this might always remain; or rather, that it might increase more and more; and that you might so learn divine lessons in prosperity, as not to need to learn them in a more humiliating way! But this is very rarely the case: the deep things of God are scarcely ever learned in this way: in general, God, after a season, leaves the soul to discern its own depravity, and to feel its utter helplessness: and, in order to humble it in the dust, he suffers the latent corruptions of the heart to spring up, and thus to harass and defile the soul. Not that God acts thus from any pleasure which he takes in mortifying the soul: I am persuaded he would rather overcome us by love, because “he delights in the prosperity of his people:” but this is the way in which he punishes our past sins, and our present neglects; he suffers those very sins, which most dishonoured and provoked him in our unregenerate state, most to grieve and perplex us after our conversion: and every secret backsliding he punishes, by withdrawing in a measure his restraining grace; so that, as the prophet says, “Our own wickedness corrects us, and our backslidings reprove us.” You must not wonder, therefore, if this should be your own experience: and this I say, not to damp your joy, so much as to keep you from abusing it. Strange as it may appear, our hearts will sometimes take occasion, even from religious joys, to puff us up with pride, or to lull us into security: and wherever pride or security is, no doubt there will ere long be a fall. Remember then, that these comforts which God vouchsafes you, are to be an occasion of gratitude, but not of pride; “a door of hope,” but not of presumption. When once you begin to presume upon your attainments, and to think that less diligence, less watchfulness, and less fervour will suffice, be assured, that the blessings you so abuse will be withdrawn: you will find, that your gifts, your graces, and your comforts, will decline. Be on your guard then against “leaving your first love:” be sober, and watch unto prayer: and, if you find but the first beginnings of decay, O! flee to the Saviour; flee to him as for your lives: if you feel yourselves sinking, cry to him, “Save, Lord, or I perish!” and endeavour, “as ye have received the Lord Jesus Christ, so to walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”]
Those who have “left their first love”
[Perhaps you will ask, “Who are they? and how shall I know whether I be of the number?” Beloved, this is no hard thing to know. It is true, there may have been some abatement with respect to rapturous or ecstatic feelings, while yet your love remains as firm as ever: but yet all who are really walking nigh to God, find the text realized in their own experience. God allures them by the consolations of his Spirit; he seals his promises on their hearts: he enriches them with gifts and graces; and he opens glorious prospects to their view. If therefore, instead of being thus allured, your spirit is become dull; if, instead of finding the promises precious to your soul, they scarcely ever dwell upon your mind, or administer any solid comfort; if your gifts or graces, instead of increasing, decline; and if, instead of looking for, and longing after, and hasting to, your heavenly inheritance, you are becoming more forgetful of it, and ready, as it were, to take up your rest in earthly things, Thou art the man: whoever thou art, “I have somewhat against thee;” “Thou hast left thy first love.” O! “turn and repent, and do thy first works.” See what has caused this declension in thy soul: see what there is that troubles the camp: and O! put away the accursed thing: if thou hast given way to a worldly spirit, watch and pray against it: if pride have defiled thy soul, humble thyself for it before God, and beg for grace, that thou mayest “be clothed with humility:” if passion be thy besetting sin, pray that thou mayest “put on meekness as the elect of God,” and be adorned with that “meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.” If sloth be the enemy that hath cut thy locks, and shorn thy strength, up, up, and be doing: in short, whatever it be that has caused thy declension, sacrifice it, though it be “precious as a right eye, and necessary as a right hand.” “Cease to do evil, and learn to do well: put away the evil of your doings.” I know indeed, that you cannot put it away of yourselves; but I know at the same time, that, till after it be put away, God will not shed abroad his love in your heart, nor can you look up with comfort and confidence to him. “Turn ye then unto your God, from whom you have deeply revolted;” and know, that he is a God ready to pardon: “he will heal your backslidings, and love you freely:” he will give you the earnest of his Spirit in your hearts, and fill you with joy in expectation of the full inheritance. O beloved! say with the Church of old, “I will go and return unto my first Husband; for then it was better with me than now:” and you will find, that, as “he hateth putting away,” so “he will cast out none that come unto him.”]
GOD BETROTHING US TO HIMSELF
Hosea 2:19-28.2.20. I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.
THERE are various figures used in Scripture to represent the care which God will take of his people: but that which is the most endearing, the most honourable, and, perhaps I might add, the most frequent, of any, is a marriage covenant. The Old Testament abounds with expressions to this effect. Jeremiah has whole chapters addressed to the Church as an adulterous wife, and inviting her to be reconciled to her divine Husband. Hosea not only delivers messages in similar terms, but was actually commanded to take an adulteress (i. e. either one who had been so, and was now penitent, or one who, though chaste at the time of his union with her, afterwards proved abandoned) to be his wife, in order that he might be a visible sign unto the Jewish nation. By this, Jehovah, having for a season put away his people for their unfaithfulness, here makes known to them his purpose to restore them yet again to his favour. Let us notice,
How God contemplates the restoration of his ancient people—
He considers himself as standing in the relation of a husband to them—
[He had chosen them, and set them apart for that end [Note: Ezekiel 16:8.] — — — He acknowledges himself as still bearing that relation to them [Note: Isaiah 54:5.]. And complains of their unfaithfulness to him in terms peculiar to that relation [Note: ver. 2–5.] — — — And urges their return to him by the consideration of their duty to him under that relation [Note: Jeremiah 3:14.].
Amongst men, such a restoration of the offending party would be inexpedient [Note: Jeremiah 3:1.]: but God both can and will do it in perfect consistency with his own honour. He tells us, He will do it “in righteousness,” having accepted the sacrifice of his only dear Son in their behalf [Note: Romans 3:21-45.3.22.]. He will do it “in judgment,” having from all eternity determined so to act towards them [Note: Ephesians 1:8-49.1.11.]. He will do it “in loving-kindness,” having “loved them with an everlasting love [Note: Jeremiah 31:3.]. He will do it “in mercies,” having freely forgiven them all their trespasses [Note: Romans 11:27.]. He will do it “in faithfulness,” seeing that “his gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.]. And, that he is determined to do it, he makes clear by a threefold repetition of his purpose, “I will betroth thee, I will, I will:” and, because it seems a stretch of mercy beyond all reasonable hope, he says,” I will even betroth thee in faithfulness.”]
He further declares that in this his renewed connexion with them he will far exceed all his former mercies—
[His former espousal of them issued in their being repudiated: but this shall be “for ever [Note: Jeremiah 31:31-24.31.33.].” And, whereas their former knowledge of his character was very imperfect, they shall now have such discoveries of him as they had no conception of before; they shall behold all his perfections as harmonizing in this stupendous act of mercy [Note: Isaiah 45:21.], and all “his glory as shining in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.].”]
But “is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:” and to them also does my text refer: so that, to enter fully into it, we must further notice,
What glad tidings are here announced to the Gentile Church—
To the Christian Church does St. Paul expressly apply this prophecy, saying, “God saith in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God [Note: Romans 9:24-45.9.26.].”
Now, in fact, Christ stands in the same relation to us as Jehovah did to the Jews—
He is the Bridegroom of his Church [Note: Matthew 9:15.]; and every true Christian, as well as the whole body of his Church, is presented to him under the character of his spouse [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.]. True, we have departed grievously from him, and may justly be put away by him for ever. But he authorizes his ministers to bring us back to him, and engages not to cast off so much as one who shall return to him in penitence and faith [Note: John 6:37.]. His language to us is “Turn ye, turn ye; why will you die [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]?” And so has he prepared the way for our return, that the perfections of God shall not only not be dishonoured, but shall be greatly glorified, in that event. St. Paul takes great pains to shew, that the righteousness of God will be displayed in it no less than his mercy [Note: Romans 3:25-45.3.26.]: so that in it “shall mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other [Note: Psalms 85:10.].”
By entering into this relation to Christ, our happiness will be immeasurably and eternally enhanced—
[Other unions are but for a time: but this shall be for ever. “He will not cast off his people, when once he has been pleased to make us his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.].” And he wishes us to know this for our joy. The covenant he makes with us is different from that which he made with the Jews. His covenant with them was to depend on their stability; and therefore it was dissolved: but that which he makes with us, provides for our stability itself, and therefore shall never be dissolved to all eternity [Note: Hebrews 6:17-58.6.18.].
And who can conceive what discoveries of his glory shall be vouchsafed to us through eternal ages? We cannot really know God now, unless we are united to him in Christ Jesus: but, when that union takes place, we, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, have all his perfections proclaimed to us, and all his goodness made to pass, as it were, before our eyes [Note: Exodus 33:19; Exodus 33:23.]. Increasing experience of his love will give us increasing discoveries of his love. Yet to the last we shall only behold, as it were, his back parts, and see him as in a glass darkly: but when once the soul is liberated from the body, “we shall see him as we are seen, and know him as we are known [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:12.].”]
Be like-minded with God in reference to the Jews—
[You see with what delight he views their restoration to him: and will you be indifferent about that great event? Far be it from you. The whole creation will take a deep interest in it, and express, every thing according to its ability, its desire to contribute to their happiness [Note: ver. 21–23.] — — — Do ye also look forward to the event with ardent desire, and exert yourselves in every possible way to promote its speedy consummation.]
Accept with gratitude the overtures now made in reference to yourselves—
[In the name of Jehovah I would now espouse you to the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.]: and for your encouragement I would say, that there is not one perfection of the Deity, not even justice itself, that will not be glorified in your acceptance of his proffered mercy [Note: 1 John 1:9.]. O, think what it will be to stand in that near relation to the Deity, and what blessedness you will obtain both in time and in eternity by means of it! Methinks all heaven will rejoice when the time shall have arrived for the marriage of the Lamb to be consummated [Note: Revelation 19:7.]. May all of you now daily have your meetness for that blessed event increased, and in due season have your joy perfected in the full fruition of your Saviour and your God.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hosea 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany