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Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness
Asayria and Judah
Such (Isaiah 31:8-9) will be the ignominious end of the proud battalions of Assyria.
For Judah a happier future immediately begins. There should be no break between the two chapters. The representation which follows (Isaiah 32:1-8) is the positive complement to Isaiah 31:6 f., and is parallel to Isaiah 30:23-26, completing under its ethical and spiritual aspects the picture of which the external material features were there delineated. Society, when the crisis is past, will be regenerated. Kings and nobles will be the devoted guardians of justice, and great men will be what their position demands that they should be--the willing and powerful protectors of the poor. All classes, in other words, will be pervaded by an increased sense of public duty. The spiritual and intellectual blindness (Isaiah 29:10) will have passed away (Isaiah 30:3); superficial and precipitate judgments will be replaced by discrimination (Isaiah 30:4 a); hesitancy and vacillation will give way before the prompt and clear assertion of principle (Isaiah 30:4 b). The present confusion of moral distinctions will cease; men and actions will be called by their right names. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
A new era
For Judah--sifted, rescued, cleansed--a new era opens.
I. JUST GOVERNMENT IN BLESSING TO THE PEOPLE is the first good fruit (Isaiah 32:1-2).
II. The second is AN OPEN UNDERSTANDING AFTER THE CURSE OF HARDNESS (Isaiah 32:3-4).
III. A third good fruit is CALLING AND TREATING EVERYONE ACCORDING TO HIS TRUE CHARACTER (Isaiah 32:5-8). Nobility of birth and riches will give place to nobility of disposition, so that the former will not be found, nor find recognition without the latter. (F. Delitzsch.)
A flourishing kingdom
It may be taken as a directory both to magistrates and subjects, what both ought to do. It is here promised and prescribed--
I. THAT MAGISTRATES SHOULD DO THEIR DUTY IN THEIR PLACES, and the powers answer the great ends for which they were ordained of God (Isaiah 32:1-2).
1. There shall be a king and princes that shall reign and rule; for it cannot go well when there is no king in Israel.
2. They shall use their power according to law, and not against it.
3. Thus they shall be great blessings to the people (Isaiah 32:2). “A man”--that man, that king that reigns in righteousness--“shall be as a hiding-place.”
II. THAT SUBJECTS SHALL DO THEIR DUTY IN THEIR PLACES.
1. They shall be willing to be taught, and to understand things aright (Isaiah 32:3). When this blessed work of reformation is set on foot, and men do their part towards it, God will not be wanting to do His. Then “the eyes of them that see”--of the prophets, the seers--“shall not be dim,” &c.
2. There shall be a wonderful change wrought in them by that which is taught them (Isaiah 32:4).
(1) They shall have a clear head, and be able to discern things that differ, and distinguish concerning them.
(2) They shall have a ready utterance.
3. The differences between good and evil, virtue and vice, shall be kept up and no more confounded by those who put darkness for light, and light, for darkness (Isaiah 32:5). (Matthew Henry.)
Though Isaiah s words are only perfectly ful-filled in Jesus Christ, it was not concerning Christ that they were spoken. The prophet is speaking of the religious future and social progress of his people. He is presenting a picture of regenerated Judah. He points to the essential elements of all national stability and greatness. He speaks first of the righteousness that shall be exalted, and exemplified in the government of king and rulers; and then he goes on to speak of the moral conditions of real blessedness and progress, as they shall appear among the people. Great characters are the outstanding feature in the reformed society that he anticipates. Through them the progress of the nation is secured; in them the greatness of the nation will consist. But great characters can only exercise their full and proper influence when they move among those who are able to discern their greatness. Hence Isaiah declares that in that glorious time for which he confidently looks the moral blindness of the people, over which he had so often and so deeply mourned, the moral insensibility dulness, with all the confusion and false judgment it occasioned, shall have ceased (verse 3). Men shall know true manhood when they see it, and honour the manhood that they see. They shall no longer debase the moral currency, and make false use of terms denoting moral qualities. The great men shall be seen in all their greatness, and shall raise others to a moral elevation like their own. They shall protect the weak, and encourage the faint-hearted; they shall foster the growth of all goodness, and be an unfailing source of noblest inspiration. As they stand there in all their moral grandeur, rooted and grounded in the eternal righteoushess, they are indeed--and they are known to be--“as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rook in a weary land.” (E. A. Lawrence.)
The first eight verses of this chapter are like the sudden opening of a window. The hall behind you resounds with the clamour of fierce contentions; the window before you frames in the prospect of a fair country, all bathed in rosy light, a land of corn and wine and oil, a land of plenty and peace. Isaiah is not the only politician who has found relief from the anxieties of a stormy time in a Utopia of his own imagining. The air was full of the noise of change, the Reformation was in full career on the Continent, and the ground-swell of the great movement already trembling on the shores of England, when Sir Thomas More wrote his description of the ideal state. When, as they think, everything is going wrong, men often have brightest visions of what the world would be if everything were going right. Isaiah’s Utopia has three grand characteristics:
1. The triumph of righteousness in government. His programme for the ruling power is this: “A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.”
2. The new state shall be broad-based, not upon the people’s will, but upon the people’s character. Men shall not be, as they have been, weak and unstable, and ungenerous; but, rock-like and river-like, they shall be strong and bountiful.
3. The ideal Israel, themselves judged justly, shall be just judges of others. They shall be able to discriminate character, and to recognise and honour the truly good. “The quack and the dupe,” says Carlyle, “are upper and under side of the same substance.” So, in the kingdom of the future, “the vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.” There will be no quacks, because there will be no dupes. Those who are liberal themselves are not likely to err in what constitutes liberality in others. (W. B. Dalby.)
A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind
A hiding-place from the wind
In the East, the following phenomenon is often observed.
Where the desert touches a river, valley, or oasis, the sand is in a continual state of drift from the wind, and it is this drift which is the real cause of the barrenness of such portions of the desert, at least, as abut upon the fertile land. For under the rain, or by the infiltration of the river, plants often spring up through the sand, and there is sometimes promise of considerable fertility. It never lasts. Down comes the periodic drift, and life is stunted or choked out. But set down a rock on the sand, and see the difference its presence makes. After a few showers, to the leeward side of this some blades will spring up; if you have patience, you will see in time a garden. How has the boulder produced this? Simply by arresting the drift. Now that is exactly how great men benefit human life. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
The true shelter/or the world
A Saviour who does not seek first to improve man’s condition, but to improve man. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)
The prophet here has no individual specially in his view, but is rather laying down a general description of the influence of individual character, of which Christ Jesus was the highest instance. Taken in this sense, his famous words present us--
I. WITH A PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY. Great men are not the whole of life, but they are the condition of all the rest; if it were not for the big men, the little ones could scarcely live. The first requisites of religion and civilisation are outstanding characters.
II. But in this philosophy of history there is A GOSPEL. Isaiah’s words are not only man’s ideal: they are God’s promise, and that promise has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the most conspicuous example--none others are near Him--of this personal influence in which Isaiah places all the shelter and revival of society. This figure of a rock, a rock resisting drift, gives us some idea, not only of the commanding influence of Christ’s person, but of that special office from which all the glory of His person and of His name arises: that “He saves His people from their sins.” For what is sin? Sin is simply the longest, heaviest drift in human history. “The oldest custom of the race,” it is the most powerful habit of the individual. Men have reared against it government, education, philosophy, system after system of religion. But sin overwhelmed them all. Only Christ resisted, and His resistance saves the world.
III. In this promise of a man there is A GREAT DUTY AND IDEAL for every one. If this prophecy distinctly reaches forward to Jesus Christ as its only perfect fulfilment, the vagueness of its expression permits of its application to all, and through Him its fulfilment by all becomes a possibility.
1. We can be like Christ the Rock in shutting out from our neighbours the knowledge and infection of sin, in keeping our conversation so unsuggestive and unprovocative of evil, that, though sin drift upon us, it shall never drift through us.
2. We may be like Christ the Rock in shutting out blame from other men; in sheltering them from the east wind of pitiless prejudice, quarrel, or controversy; in stopping the unclean and bitter drifts of scandal and gossip. How many lives have lost their fertility for the want of a little silence and a little shadow!
3. As there are a number of men and women who fall in struggling for virtue simply because they never see it successful in others, and the spectacle of one pure, heroic character would be their salvation, here is a way in which each servant of God may be a rock. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Humanity greater than all distinctions of class
In the first and second verses of this chapter we have suggested to us the three great forms of government or social power, in accordance with which society has been constructed, and under which men have lived; namely, the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the democracy. A king shall reign, princes shall rule, and a man shall be as a hiding-place. First, there is a throne, then a palace, and then the common earth. It seems to be a descent from a king to princes, and from princes to a man; but it is also an ascent, for the man is the climax rather than the king. The king and the princes disappear in the man. Humanity or the common nature is greater than all distinctions of class. A king exists for men, rather than men for a king; and the salvation of society consists in the elevation of the common substratum of the race. In this elevation all the three powers may play a part--the power of the throne, the power of the nobles, and the power of the people themselves. All these three forms of government may exist in the same constitution. In the heavenly, or eternal government, there is a King with different orders of subjects. But since, in this heavenly kingdom, He who is King of kings and Lord of lords became a man, and a poor man, that He might serve all, and lift up all to citizenship in His kingdom, and to sit even on His throne, the great moral and spiritual law has been laid down, that every one, from the ruler on the throne to the humblest subject, rises in moral character and dignity just as he stoops to the help of others. If it is by the gentleness of God that we are made great; if He who is over all became servant to all, we cannot hope to become great on a different principle; that is, by seeking to be ministered unto rather than to minister. (F. Ferguson.)
Christ the shield of the believer
It is probable that the prophecy had some reference to Hezekiah, who, as the successor of the iniquitous Ahaz, restored the worship of God, and re-established the kingdom of Judah. The very striking deliverance vouchsafed by God to His people, in the reign of this monarch, when the swarming hosts of the Assyrians fell in one night before the destroying angel, may justly be considered as having been alluded to by the prophet in strains which breathe high of the triumphs of redemption. And when “a king” is spoken of as “reigning in righteousness,” and there is associated with his dominion all the imagery of prosperity and peace, we may, undoubtedly, find, in the holy and beneficent rule of Hezekiah, much that answers to the glowing predictions. But the destruction of the army of the Assyrians may itself be regarded as a figurative occurrence; and Hezekiah, like his forefather David, as but a type of the Lord our Redeemer. There are to be great and fearful judgments ere Christ shall finally set up His kingdom on earth. We shall consider the text as containing a description--metaphorical, undoubtedly, but not the less comforting and instructive--of what the Redeemer is to the Church.
I. The first thing which may justly strike you as remarkable in this description of Christ, is THE EMPHASIS WHICH SEEMS LAID ON THE WORD “MAN.” A man” shall be this or that; and Bishop Lowth renders it “the man,” as if he were man by distinction from every other--which is undoubtedly St. Paul’s statement when he writes to the Corinthians: “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
It is the human nature of Christ to which our text gives the prominence; it is this human nature to which seems ascribed the suitableness of Christ’s office prophetically assigned. What our blessed Saviour undertook was the reconciliation of our offending nature to God; and of this it is perhaps hardly too much to say that it could not have been effected by any nature but itself.
II. Let us now proceed to consider WITH WHAT JUSTICE OR PROPRIETY THE SEVERAL ASSERTIONS HERE MADE MAY BE APPLIED TO OUR SAVIOUR. There are four assertions in the text, four similes used to represent to us the office of our Redeemer, or the benefits secured to us through His gracious mediation. These assertions or similes are not, indeed, all different; on the contrary, there is great similarity, or even something like repetition. Thus, “a hiding-place from the wind” does not materially differ from “a covert from the tempest.” The idea is the same; there is only that variety in the mode of expression which accords with poetic composition. Neither is “the shadow of a great rock in a weary desert” altogether a different image; the idea is still that which shields--shelter from the heat, if not from the tempest. It may, perhaps, be more correct to say that there are two great ideas embodied in the text, and there are two figures for the illustration of each. The first idea is that of a refuge in circumstances of danger; and this is illustrated by “a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” The second idea is that of refreshment under circumstances of fatigue; and this is illustrated by “rivers of water in a dry place, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” There is one thing, according to the three illustrations, which should be separately and carefully considered. The “hiding-place,” the “covert,” and the “rock,” give shelter and relief, through receiving on themselves that against which they defend us. It were a dull imagination, nay, it were a cold heart, which does not instantly recognise the appropriateness of the figure, as taken in illustration of the Lord our Redeemer. These Scriptural figures while under one point of view they represent Christ, under another they represent ourselves. And it is simply because there is so little feeling of our own actual condition that there is so little appreciation of the character under which Christ is described. (H. Melvill, B.D.)
Jesus, the hiding-place
There is not a want, not a need, but we find Jesus enough for it.
I. MAN’S NEED OF A HIDING-PLACE.
1. What a tempest will sharp afflictions sometimes raise, particularly if one follows another in quick succession.
2. There are other storms--national judgments.
3. What a storm can the Eternal Spirit raise in a man’s own conscience when the poor Christless sinner catches his first glimpse of God!
4. What a burning wind has oft withered the mere professor when the Eternal Spirit has in a dying hour forced him to the fearful review of the past.
II. THE GLORIOUS HIDING-PLACE WHICH THE GOSPEL POINTS OUT. As God-man, who can describe the hiding-place? What a hiding-place is His Person! What a hiding-place is His intercession! What a hiding-place is His deep sympathy! What a hiding-place is His fulness of grace! What a hiding-place, that has all the power, strength, and merit of Deity in it, and all the tenderness, love, and sympathy of humanity in it! The great question is, Have we really entered in? (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
A covert the tempest
We cannot easily imagine the fury of whirlwinds in the East. Granite and iron columns are snapped in two; the largest trees are torn up by the roots; houses are tossed about like straws, and at sea whole fleets are cast away. But Eastern storms are most terrible in the desert. There mountains of sand are lifted up and dashed down, sometimes burying whole caravans, and even whole armies. Picture a traveller in such a case. After a strange stillness, he sees a cloud of sand arising in front of him. At once the sky is darkened, and earth and heaven seem confounded. The angel of destruction rides on every blast, and claims the whole desert as his own. The poor man stands appalled, as if the clay of doom had come. Oh, for a shelter: it is his one chance for life! Lo! a gigantic rock rears its head; he runs under it. The storm spends its fury upon the sheltering rock, not upon the sheltered pilgrim. (J. Wells, M. A.)
I. IN THE SAVIOUR THERE IS SHELTER FOR OUR SOULS. What are the storms from which the Saviour shields us? The Bible speaks most about two: the storm of God’s wrath against sin, and the storm of life’s trials.
II. IN THE SAVIOUR WE HAVE SAFETY. Shelter and safety are different things, though we may not see the difference at once. About eighteen hundred years ago there was a town in the south of Italy, called Pompeii, which owes its fame to its destruction. It was buried under streams of boiling mud from Vesuvius, and showers of dust and ashes. Most of the people escaped by flight. The priests, having no faith in their idols, seized their treasures and fled. But some poor folks ran to the temples, hoping that their gods would save them. They found shelter, and--a grave. Since many are more anxious about shelter than real safety, Christ is at great pains to warn us against a mistake as common as it is dangerous. You remember Christ’s story about the two builders; the one building upon the sand, and the other upon the rock. Very likely the two houses were equally fair to look upon, and both the wise man and the fool found shelter enough in sunny weather. But the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the fool’s house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof. The poor man found shelter-and death. Many “refuges of lies”--man-made refuges all--would lure us away from our true safety.
III. IN THE SAVIOUR THERE IS SYMPATHY. Shelter and safety are often found without sympathy. The fortress that gave the besieged safety from their foes has often been a hateful prison, in which famine and pestilence slew more than the sword. The dens and caves which were the hiding-places of our martyrs were equally wretched and safe. The Alpine traveller, overtaken by snowstorms, hurries to the nearest shelter, and finds only four bare walls. No cheerful fire, no kind host welcomes and revives him; and often he faints on the threshold, and dies within. But the soul’s hiding-place is the soul’s banqueting-house. You must lay the stress on the word “man.” To the Jews before Christ it was no news to be told that God was a hiding-place. But that a man should be their hiding-place and covert, their overshadowing rock and water of life--that was a very surprising and glorious prophecy. And what a man! The Man of men, the alone perfect Man, of all men the most gracious and tender-hearted the God-man. And He is a man by His own choice. More, He is a man from love to us. Had He been only God, we sinful, trembling creatures might not have dared to draw near; had He been only man, we should have doubted His power; but being both God and man, we can approach Him with equal confidence and affection. Your safety is not a hard, cold, empty thing. No, it is like the safety of the young eagle, covered with the feathers, and drawn close to the warm, ,beating side of the parent bird.
IV. IN THE SAVIOUR THERE IS SATISFACTION. Tis thorough satisfaction, as when the desert-traveller, perishing with thirst, finds “rivers of water in a dry place.” Among men, Beasts, and birds, how boundless is the delight the thirsty find in fresh water! Every one has a craving for happiness, that never can The conquered, but lives while the soul lives. The Bible is ever declaring these” two truths--
1. Your soul cannot get true satisfaction away from Christ.
2. You may find it in Him. (J. Wells, M. A.)
I. THE HOLY GHOST DECLARES IT IS “A MAN THAT SHALL BE THE HIDING-PLACE FROM THE WIND.”
II. IN WHAT RESPECT OUR BLESSED LORD IS THAT “HIDING-PLACE.”
III. THE MANY ENCOURAGEMENTS THAT ARE GIVEN IN GOD’S SACRED WORD TO THE POOR AND WEARY TEMPEST-BEATEN TRAVELLER TO ENTER INTO THAT “HIDING-PLACE.”
1. The commandment of God, on the one side.
2. The freeness of invitation, on the other.
3. The open door.
4. The testimony of all those who are in heaven, and all those who are on earth, under the teaching of the Eternal Spirit, that never did any go thither and have a negative, but that as many as went were freely welcomed by the Lord of life and glory. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
The value of true man-hood
Change the emphasis of your policy. You have been busy making alliances; now make a man. That was the teaching of this statesman-prophet. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The variety and urgency of human need
What a revelation is here of the wants of men! The very supply indicates the depths and urgency of the need which craves for satisfaction. “Hiding-place!” “Covert!” “Fountains of water!” “The shadow of a great rock!” Each of these beautiful images serves to accentuate the impression of urgent and pitiful need. Lighthouses and harbours are always terribly suggestive. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Human need met in Christ
I. WIND. How apt a symbol of our lives is here! Often when all seems fair, suddenly a wild storm envelops us in a furious melee. A calumnious story is circulated, which is absolutely without foundation; a well-meant act is misconstrued; a love suddenly cools; a dam which had warded off the wild North Sea breaks; a life which had been dearer than our own fails; our whole nature is plunged into a bath of agonising pain; the mind is cast into a tumult of perplexity; the heart is rent. Then we know bitterly the spiritual side of the words, No small tempest lay upon us.
II. STORM. We are exposed not only to great and crushing sorrows, which threaten to suddenly engulf us, as it is said the old seats of human life were engulfed in the midst of the Indian Ocean; but we have to suffer from the accumulations of little stinging irritations, which are like the grit or sand grains of the desert. The rasping temper of some one with whom we have to live; the annoyances and slights which are daily heaped on us; petty innuendoes and insinuations that sting; trifles which we could not put into words, but which hurt us like acid dropped into a sore.
III. A DRY PLACE. Our lot is sometimes cast, as David’s was, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. There are few helps in our religious life; we are cast into a worldly family; we are obliged to attend an uncongenial ministry; we are too driven with occupation to have quiet times for fellowship with God, and communion with His saints; or we are so lonely that we long unutterably for some kindred soul, some one to love, or to be loved. The eye ranges day after day over the same monotonous landscape.
IV. A WEARY LAND. Weary people--there are plenty of them! Weary of life, with its poverty from which there is never a moment’s respite; with the love of the life unrequited; with the light of life hidden beneath a bushel; with common-place duties and monotonous routine! The demands are so incessant, the pressure so constant, the heartache so wearing, the pain so cruel! The eyes weary of looking for one who never comes; the ears weary of listening for a step that never greets them; the hearts weary of waiting for a love that never comes forth from the grave, though they call never so loudly. But all these many-sided needs may be met and satisfied in The Man Christ Jesus.” No one man could perfectly meet even one of them; but Jesus perfectly meets them all. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Christ the perfect Man
Have you not often wished to take the characteristic qualities from the men in whom they are strongest, and put them all together into one nature, making one complete man out of the many broken bits, one chord of the many single notes, one ray of the many colours? But this that you would wish to do is done in Him-in whom the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the patience of Job, the strength of Daniel, the love of the apostle John, blend in one complete symmetrical whole. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Christ our hiding-place
I. THE STORMS.
1. The storm of adversity.
2. Of conviction.
3. Of temptation.
4. There is an eternal storm.
II. THE HIDING-PLACE. “A man,” &c.
1. What man? The Man Christ Jesus.
2. A suitable refuge. While He feels for you as a man, He helps you as a God. A refuge from--
(1) A broken law.
(2) A raging devil.
(3) A persecuting world.
III. DELIGHTFUL REFRESHMENT. As rivers of water,” &c.
4. Free to all.
IV. NEEDFUL SHELTER. “As the shadow,” &c. (W. Jackson.)
Offices of Christ
I. Christ came to be A HIDING-PLACE PROM THE WIND. This part of our text may be regarded as referring to the lesser evils of human life; to those which chiefly affect our temporal condition. Who does not feel, in his measure, the winds of adversity, which never fail to blow upon this lower world? The widow mourns over her bereavement, and sits alone, as a sparrow upon the housetop. The orphans look in vain for a parent’s sympathy and protection. The poor man stands aghast at the prospect of penury. The sick languish under the appointment of painful days and wearisome nights. The mourners go about the streets, telling the sad tale of their desolation, and refusing to be comforted, under the loss of some endeared object. But let us not imagine that even our most trivial sufferings are beneath the notice of Jehovah. He became a man that He might make Himself acquainted with the afflictions of humanity, and thus be able to afford His sympathy.
1. There is the shelter of His gracious declarations.
2. Of the promises.
3. Of Christ’s example.
See Him weeping with those that wept. See Him providing for the hungry multitude. See Him ever ready to alleviate human misery, and, during the whole period of His life, going about doing good. Is it possible to study the life of Jesus, and not derive succour from the view of His sympathy and compassion?
II. The second clause of our text leads us to the consideration of those greater evils, from which Christ protects His followers. He is spoken of as A COVERT FROM THE TEMPEST.
1. There is the tempest of God’s wrath, roused by man’s transgression.
2. Of Satan’s buffetings.
3. Of indwelling sin. But, amidst all these tempests, Christ is a covert for His people. Consider how it is that He shelters them. It is by bearing Himself the stormy wind and tempest.
III. Christ is spoken of as RIVERS OF WATER IN A DRY PLACE. To the renewed mind, what is the whole world but a dry place?
IV. Christ is spoken of as THE SHADOW OF A GREAT ROCK IN A WEARY LAND. What are we but pilgrims toiling over the sandy desert of this weary world? We have various burdens to carry, and labours allotted to us; and now are we straitened in our work! With one hand we have to fight continually against our enemies, as we hasten onward to our home: with the other, we have to labour diligently, both for ourselves and others. We have to bear the burden and heat of the day. But shall we faint because of the way? No, we have a grand support. We have the shadow of a great rock in this weary land. (Carus Wilson.)
Christ a refuge
I. We are reminded here of our DANGERS. These are set forth by images which we in our climate can only half understand. Except at sea, we have little to fear from winds and tempests. At the worst, they are inconveniences to us, seldom dangers. But in other countries they are at times the causes of great havoc. Besides these, there are gentler winds sometimes blowing in them, that are almost as fearful. Hot and debilitating, they cannot be breathed without much suffering, and instances, it is said, have been known in which they have been so noxious as to occasion death. Is not this a true picture of our situation? There are storms of outward affliction for us in the world. And there are inward storms also--storms of conscience, storms of temptation; and still worse storms than any of these--the ragings of our own corrupt affections. And yet what are all these? They are all nothing compared with one storm yet to come. There is the wrath of God awaiting us.
II. The text tells us of A PROTECTOR FROM OUR DANGERS. And who is He? If we understand what our dangers are, we shall all say He must be the great God. But the text does not say this. It tells us that He is a man. But how, we may ask, can this be? We have tried often enough to get help from men. This man is such as never before was seen or heard of, the everlasting Jehovah manifest in our mortal flesh, God and man united in one Christ. But why is the Lord Jesus called so emphatically a man in this passage? Perhaps for three reasons.
1. To lead the ancient Church to expect His incarnation.
2. To encourage us to approach Him. We naturally are afraid of God. But here, says this text, is God appearing before you in a new character and form. His mere appearance in our world as a man, proclaims Him at once man’s Friend and Saviour.
3. To show us the importance of His human nature to our safety.
III. THE EXCELLENCE OF THAT PROTECTION WHICH THE LORD JESUS AFFORDS US. Imagine yourselves in such a desert as the prophet has here in his mind. Suppose yourselves asked, what kind of shelter you wished for.
1. You would naturally say, in the first place, it must be a secure one. And Christ is a secure hiding-place.
2. Then you would say, the refuge I want must be a near one. And who so near at hand as the Lord Jesus.
3. But, you may ask, Can I gain admittance into this refuge if I flee to it? The answer is, You can. It is an open refuge, a refuge ever open, and open to all who choose to enter it.
4. He is a well-furnished hiding-place. There is provision and plentiful provision in this stronghold for all who enter it. Conclusion--
1. What think ye of this hiding-place? What use have you made of it? Have you fled to it?
2. But there are those who are out of this hiding-place. Oh, brethren, have mercy on yourselves! (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The suffering world and the relieving Man
I. THE SUFFERING WORLD. The world’s trials are here represented by the imagery of--
1. A “tempest.” Tempests in nature are often most terrible and devastating. Spiritually, the world is in a tempest. It is beaten by the storm of--
(1) conflicting thoughts,
(2) sinful passions,
(3) guilty memories, and
(4) terrible foreboding.
2. A drought. “A dry place.” The Oriental traveller under a vertical sun, and on scorching sands without water, is the picture here. He has a burning thirst and is in earnest quest for the cooling stream. Is this not a true picture of man spiritually as a traveller to eternity? He thirsts for a good which he fails to get.
3. Exhaustion. “In a weary land.” The Oriental traveller has exhausted his strength, and lies down in prostrate hopelessness. Man, spiritually, is “weary and heavy laden,” “without strength.” Without strength to discharge his moral obligations, to please his Maker, to serve his race, and reach his destiny.
II. THE RELIEVING MAN. “A man shall be,” &c. Hezekiah did much to relieve Israel in its political troubles, but Christ does infinitely more. He relieves the moral troubles of humanity.
1. He is a shelter from moral storms. What a secure, accessible, capacious refuge is Christ.
2. He is the river in moral droughts. Christ refreshes and satisfies souls by opening rivers of holy thoughts, &c. (Homilist.)
The humanity of the way of salvation
I. A PICTURE OF THE STATE OF THE WORLD. We may view this picture of the world under four aspects--
1. A picture of the natural world. The four elements of nature are brought into view--earth, air, water, and fire; and each in its turn may become a blessing or a curse to man. Man has lost the dominion of nature, and is no longer at home in it. He fights an unequal battle, and is obliged to succumb.
2. A picture of the moral world. Although war, famine, and pestilence are physical evils, their causes are moral. They fall more directly on man than other natural evils. They are the storms of human society.
3. A picture of the spiritual world. This earth is the platform, not merely of a natural and political moral strife; it is the arena, as well, of a spiritual strife. To realise this, and to know it as the most certain of all facts, the soul must be awakened by the Spirit of God to the true meaning of life. We must feel the battle within ourselves in order to see it around us.
4. Something that reminds us of a condition of existence in the eternal world. All the storms of which we have spoken are but the foreshadowings of the wrath of God.
II. A PROPHECY OF THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. This is represented under the figure of a hiding-place, a covert, rivers of water, and the shadow of a great rock.
1. The blessedness of the prophecy. In proportion as we have realised the world to be what the word here describes it as being, Will the announcement of the text appear most acceptable and blessed.
2. The wonderfulness and apparent contradictoriness of the prophecy. It says that a “man” shall be a hiding-place. Man is the creature who is in want of salvation.
3. The prophecy itself, more directly and particularly. We accept the statement as at once referring primarily to Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Only in Him is the prophecy fully realised, and delivered from its apparently contradictory character. Believers look upon Him as the only one who can save from physical, moral, spiritual, and eternal evil.
4. How the man Christ Jesus is such a hiding-place. (F. Ferguson.)
I. There underlies this prophecy A VERY SAD, A VERY TRUE CONCEPTION OF HUMAN LIFE.
1. We live a life defenceless and exposed to many a storm and tempest.
2. “Rivers of water in a dry place!” And what is the prose fact of that? That you and I live in the midst of a world which has no correspondence with nor capacity of satisfying our truest and deepest selves--that we bear about with us a whole set of longings and needs and weaknesses and strengths and capacities, all of which, like the climbing tendrils of some creeping plant, go feeling and putting out their green fingers to lay hold of some prop and stay--that man is so made that for his rest and blessedness he needs an external object round which his spirit may cling, on which his desires may fall and rest, by which his heart may be clasped, which shall be authority for his will, peace for his fears, sprinkling and cleansing for his conscience, light for his understanding, shall be in complete correspondence with his inward nature--the water for his thirst, and the bread for his hunger.
3. And then there is the other idea underlying these words also, yet another phase of this sad life of ours--not only danger and drought, but also weariness and languor.
II. But another thought suggested by these words is, THE MYSTERIOUS HOPE WHICH SHINES THROUGH THEM--that one of ourselves shall deliver us from all this evil in life. “A man,” &c.
III. THE SOLUTION OF THE MYSTERY IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Christ a refuge
I. In the day of earthly DISAPPOINTMENT.
II. In times of AFFLICTION.
III. In the day of TRIAL. God tries our faith, our hope, our patience, our principles.
IV. In the day of FEAR.
V. From the torments of an accusing CONSCIENCE.
VI. In the day of FINAL WRATH. (J. M. Sherwood.)
The covert of Divine love
There are two very distinct methods and aims in the Bible. A very large portion of the Scriptures are in the form of appeals to duty, to service. But there is another part of the Bible that appeals to exactly the opposite sentiment, and is a call to rest, to quiet, to ease, to everything but action--to contemplation, to silence. And there are times in our experience when we need the call to rest as absolutely as at others we need the call to duty. I desire, then, to call your thought to the rest side of religion.
I. PRAYER, as revealed to us in Scripture, is beautifully illustrated by the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
II. THE WORDS THAT ARE GIVEN US IN THE SCRIPTURE are offered to us like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land--the Scripture is full of these delightful surprises. “Come unto Me,” &c. “Let not your heart be troubled,” &c. “Lo! I am with you alway,” &c. Such doctrines as Divine Providence; the idea of God giving you work to do; the idea that trouble comes to us as a dispensation from our Father’s hand, &c.
III. CHRISTIAN HOPE is also like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Rest, in the Word of God, is like rest in nature. The night is very blessed for the weary one, but the morning follows the night, and rest is given that we may be strong to labour. (A. D. Vail, D. D.)
The wayworn pilgrim’s hiding-place
(with Isaiah 32:3):--
I. Who THE TRAVELLERS are, on their homeward march, and the dangers and difficulties which beset their path. The way to heaven is often spoken of in Scripture as a journey, and this by no flowery meadow or purling brook, through no over-arching bowers or verdant shade, but through a wilderness.
1. The first peril mentioned is the wind. By “the wind” here, I understand the pestilential wind, sometimes called the simmom, or samiel, which at certain seasons passes over the desert, blasting and withering all it touches, and carrying death in its train. But what is there in the spiritual desert corresponding to this pestilential wind? Sin.
2. The second peril in the wilderness is “the tempest.” This we may characterise as the thunderstorm, which differs from the pestilential wind in being from above, not from beneath; violent, not subtle; destroying by lightning, not by poison. And what so aptly corresponds to this as the manifested anger of God against sin?
3. But there is a third peril in the wilderness--one in a measure peculiar to it, and rarely absent from it, “the want of water,” for the wondrous man here spoken of is promised to be “as rivers of water in a dry place.” The wilderness is especially dry. What an expressive emblem, then, is thirst of the desire of the soul after Christ!
4. The last peril of the wilderness here mentioned is the wearisomeness of the way. What poetry and beauty there are in the expression, “a weary land”! As if the land itself were weary, weary of its own wearisomeness, weary of being such an uncultivated waste, and of wearing out the lives of so many travellers. One main, perhaps the chief, element of the weariness of the desert is the unclouded sun, ever darting his beams down upon it. What does the sun here, then, represent? Temptation.
II. THE HIDING-PLACE AND COVERT--the refreshment and shade which the Lord has provided for these travellers in the Son of His love.
1. “A hiding-place from the wind.” This wind we have explained as the pestilential breath of sin. A hiding-place is wanted, lest it should destroy body and soul in hell. Where shall we find it? In the Law? That is going out of the wind into the storm. In self? That is the very thing we most want shelter from. Jesus is the hiding-place, the only hiding-place from sin and self. But three things we must know and experionce before we can enter into the beauty and blessedness of Jesus as a hiding place from the wind.
(1) We must feel our need of such a shelter.
(2) We must be brought to see the hiding-place which God has provided in the Son of His love.
(3) Then follows the third step--the entering into the hiding-place.
2. But the same wondrous man is also “a covert from the storm.” This we explained as referring to the law. How a shelter is needed from its condemnation and curse! Where is this refuge to be found? In Jesus. He has redeemed us from its curse.
3. From this springs the third character which Jesus sustains to the pilgrim in the wilderness. “As rivers of water in a dry place.” How graciously does the blessed Spirit, by this figure, set forth the suitability of the Lord Jesus Christ to travellers in the wilderness. The Lord Jesus is spoken of as “rivers of water.” The very thing in the desert which we need. In the wilder ness we do not want strong drink; that would only inflame the thirst, make the blood boil in the veins, and smite the frame with fever. As it toils through the desolate wastes of sand it is water that the fainting spirit wants. It is water--the well of water springing up into everlasting life--that is provided. The fulness of the Lord Jesus is not a rill, but a river; not only a river, but “rivers.”
4. But the Lord Jesus is spoken of also as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” He has been tempted in all points like as we are; but as the rock bears uninjured the beams of the hottest sun, and yet, by bearing them, shields in its recesses the wayworn pilgrim, so did Jesus, as man, bear the whole fury of Satanic temptations, and yet was as uninjured by them as the rock in the desert. And having borne them, He shields from their destructive power the tempted child of God who lies at His feet under the shadow of His embrace.
III. THE OPENING OF THE EYES TO SEE AND THE UNSTOPPING OF THE EARS TO HEARKEN to the blessings thus promised.
1. “The eyes of them that see shall not be dim.” Our text speaks rather of dimness than blindness. There is a difference between the two. The dead in sin are blind; the newly-quickened into life are dim. How true is this of the wilderness pilgrim! The breath of the pestilential wind, the thick clouds of the tempest, the hot and burning sand, and the glare of the mid-day sun, all blear and dim the eye. But the hidingplace from the wind, the covert from the tempest, the rivers of water, and the shady rock heal the dimness.
2. “And the ears of them that hear shall hearken.” The persons spoken of in the text are not totally deaf, for they “hear.” Yet there is a difference between hearing and hearkening--a difference almost analogous to that between the eyes being dim and seeing. To hearken implies faith and obedience. When the pilgrim in the wilderness reaches the hiding-place from the wind, and the covert from the tempest; when he drinks of the rivers of water, and lies under the shadow of the great rock, he not only hears but hearkens--believes, loves, and obeys. (J. C. Philpot.)
Men as hiding-places from the wind
The sandstorms of the desert margin have their counterparts in human history and society. Here also the victories of faith and effort are won painfully, and often, after a little time of security, are overswept by some blighting evil influence. Isaiah himself, St. Paul, Luther, Wesley, are examples of the rock-like men of history, who have withstood the storm, and made the good things of life--faith, hope, and charity--possible to others. Isaiah’s bold stand against a disposition and a policy which would have made Israel the plaything of the greater nations around, preserved the national existence and made possible the great revival of religion which took place in the reign of Josiah. St. Paul’s protest against the Judaisers saved the infant Church of Christ to be a worldwide faith instead of a feeble sect. Luther’s great work of reformation broke one of the strongest currents of history--the dead set of things towards superstition and lifeless formalism. And when in England religious indifference and a cold, heartless scepticism lay on the land like a nightmare, it was the work of Wesley and his helpers which gave a new opportunity to Christian enterprise and fervour. The great value of these lives is not only in their own intrinsic nobleness and beauty; they make space for others. Thousands of hearts pining in secret for the opportunities of service, for the inspirations of faith and courage, gather to them, take shelter in their greatness, and are vitalised and transformed by their personal power. (W. B. Dalby.)
The rock-like man
Who is the rock-like man?
1. He is always a man of great strength of will. A purely natural quality? Yes; but one which is nourished on prayer and striving.
2. Another virtue of the rock-man is moral courage. He dares to do right when right-doing is dangerous, when it carries with it probabilities of loss and suffering.
3. But that which adds the crowning value to the true moral hero is that he is always a man of faith, i.e the unseen is real to him. He has many ways of realising the unseen, differing according to the age in which he lives, the influences which have moulded him, the manner and form in which the Divine revelation has come to him; but this one thing is of the essence of his life, whether he be a Socrates, a Marcus Aurelius, a St. Bernard, a Dante, or a Martin Luther-that he shall have felt and known that “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (W. B. Dalby.)
It was said of one who even as a boy showed the promise of his later years, “it was easy to be good when he came to the school.” A man may be a rock to his fellows at school, in the office, in the home life, in the world, wherever his influence falls, a fertilising shelter, a healing shade, an opposing barrier--the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)
Christ’s human sympathy
Once when addressing children upon this text, I asked what word in it proved the sympathy of the Saviour. A boy, in his eagerness forgetting where he was, started to his feet, and, waving his right hand, made the whole church ring with, “A man, a man.” (J. Wells, M. A.)
Brotherhood in adversity
I was one of five or six who, the other day, under a tree sought shelter from a passing shower. I noticed that, though strangers to one another, we seemed then more friendly than friends usually are. The storm gave us a sense of fellowship as well as of danger. The common deliverance from the common peril, trifling though it was, had power somehow, I thought, to awaken friendly feeling. The least easily suggests the greatest. There is a sad want of love in the world, but brotherly love would reign everywhere, if we only remembered that we are all fellow-travellers through the desert, that the same storms may any moment sweep down upon us, and that we have the same hidingplace in the man Christ Jesus. (J. Wells, M. A.)
As rivers of water in a dry place
Religion a river
This chapter is a prophetic photogram of a bright age that awaits this world. The dry places are unregenerated souls--souls scorched with the drought of sin, dusty and leafless, without any vestige of spiritual life or verdure. Without figure--a soul unrenewed by heavenly influence, is, in a moral sense, “a dry place,” barren and unfruitful. What is the river that is to run through it, irrigate its barren districts, clothe it with living beauty, and enrich it with fruit? It is Christ’s religion. Let the river then stand, not for objective Christianity, but for Christianity in the soul, for experimental godliness; and we have four ideas suggested concerning it.
I. VITALITY. So necessarily do we associate life with a river, that the ancients traced the universe to water as the first principle of all things. Life, in all its forms, follows in profusion the meandering course of rivers. Even all the races of men crowd to their banks and settle on their shores. The Euphrates made Babylon; the Tiber made Rome; and the Thames makes London. Water is life. “Everything shall live whither the river cometh.” Religion, which, in one word, is supreme love to God in the soul, is life; it quickens, develops, and brings to fruition all the powers of our spiritual nature.
II. MOTION. The river is not like the torpid pool or the stagnant lake, resting in the quiet of death. It is active, essentially and perpetually active. So with real godliness in the soul. It is in perpetual flow; it keeps all the powers of the soul in action. Thought is ever at work, gathering elements to feed the fire of devotion, and brighten the lamp of duty. The spirit is always abounding in the work of the Lord.
III. EMANANCY. A river is an outflow--it has a fountain-head somewhere. It has no independent existence; there is a force that started it at first and feeds it every hour. A river is an emanation; so is true godliness in the soul.
1. There is a Divine fountain from which it emanates. What is its primal font? The love of God. This fountain lies far back in the awful depths of eternity.
2. There is a Divine channel through which it flows- Christ.
3. There is a Divine agent to let it into the heart. The Spirit of God does this in connection with means.
IV. PROGRESS. In a river there is twofold progress.
1. Progress in its volume. As the river meanders on its way, it grows in bulk by the contributory streams that flow into it. At length it gets force enough to sweep everything before it and to give a character to the district. So with godliness in the soul. Holy currents of thought, sympathy, and purpose, deepen their channels and rise in the strength and majesty of their flow, as years and ages pass on.
2. Progress towards its destination. So with the godly soul. Godward it ever moves. (Homilist.)
Christ the source of refreshment
1. Christ relieves His people from their feelings of dissatisfaction, inspired by the vanity of earthly things.
2. Christ may be described as the source of refreshment to His people, in consequence of the comforts He vouchsafes to them amidst the toils and sorrows of their Christian pilgrimage. (J. B. Patterson, M. A.)
Rivers of water in a dry place
I. As setting forth the benedictions which come to us through the incarnate God, LET US STUDY THE METAPHOR of rivers of water in a dry place. This means--
1. Great excellence of blessing. A river is the fit emblem of very great benefits, for it is of the utmost value to the land through which it flows.
2. Abundance. Jesus is full of grace and truth.
3. Freshness. A pool is the same thing over again, and gradually it becomes a stagnant pond, breeding corrupt life and pestilential gases. A river is always the same, yet never the same; it is ever in its place, yet always moving on. We call our own beautiful river, “Father Thames,” yet he wears no furrows on his brows, but leaps in all the freshness of youth.
4. Freeness. We cannot say this of all the rivers on earth, for men generally manage to claim the banks and shores, and the fisheries and water-powers. Yet rivers can scarcely be parcelled out, they refuse to become private property. See how freely the creatures approach the banks.
5. Constancy. Pools and cisterns dry up, but the river’s song is--
Men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.
So is it with Jesus. The grace to pardon and the power to heal are not a spasmodic force in Him; they abide in Him evermore.
6. The text speaks of “rivers,” which implies both variety and unity.
7. Force. Nothing is stronger than a river; it cuts its own way, and will not be hindered in its course.
II. A SPECIAL EXCELLENCE which the text mentions. “Rivers of water in a dry place.” In this country we do not value rivers so much because we have springs and wells in all our villages and hamlets; but in the country where Isaiah lived the land is parched and burnt up without rivers. When the man Christ Jesus came hither with blessings from God, He brought rivers into the dry place of our humanity. What a dry place your heart was by nature! Do not many of you find your outward circumstances very dry- places?
III. THE PRACTICAL LESSON from it all.
1. See the goings out of God s heart to man, and man’s way of communing with God. Other rivers rise in small springs, and many tributaries combine to swell them, but the river I have been preaching about rises in full force from the throne of God. It is as great a river at its source as in its aftercourse. Whenever you stoop down to drink of the mercy which comes to you by Jesus Christ you are having fellowship with God, for what you drink comes direct from God Himself.
2. See what a misery it is that men should be perishing and dying of soul-thirst when there is this river so near. Millions of men know all about this river, and yet do not drink.
3. Let us learn, if we have any straitness, where it must lie. Our cup is small, but the river is not.
4. Is Christ a river? Then drink of Him, all of you. To be carried along on the surface of Christianity, like a man in a boat, is not enough, you must drink or die.
5. And if you have drunk of this stream, live near it. We read of Isaac, that he dwelt by the well. It is good to live hard by an inexhaustible spring. Commune with Christ, and get nearer to Him each day.
6. If Christ be like a river, let us, like the fishes, live in it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Infinite fulness in Christ
I always feel very fidgety when theologians begin making calculations about the Lord Jesus. There used to be a very strong contention about particular redemption and general redemption, and though I confess myself to be to the very backbone a believer in Calvinistic doctrine, I never felt at home in such discussions. I can have nothing to do with calculating the value of the atonement of Christ. Appraisers and valuers are out of place here. Sirs, I would like to see you with your slates and pencils calculating the cubical contents of the Amazon: I would be pleased to see you sitting down and estimating the quantity of fluid in the Ganges, the Indus, and the Orinoco; but when you have done so, and summed up all the rivers of this earth, I will tell you that your task was only fit for schoolboys, and that you are not at the beginning of that arithmetic which can sum up the fulness of Christ, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. His merit, His power, His love, His grace, surpass all knowledge, and consequently all estimate. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Freeness of grace in Christ
I took pleasure the other gay in seeing the cattle come to the river to drink. The cows sought out a sloping place, and then stood knee deep in the stream and drank and drank again t I thought of Behemoth, who trusted he could snuff up Jordan at a draught, they drank so heartily, and no one said them nay, or measured out the draught. The dog, as he ran along, lapped eagerly, and no tax was demanded of him. The swan was free to plunge her long neck into the flood, and the swallow to touch the surface with its wing. To ox, and fly, and bird, and fish, and man, the river was alike free. So thou ox of a sinner, with thy great thirst, come and drink; and thou dog of a sinner, who thinkest thyself unworthy even of a drop of grace, yet come and drink. I read near one of our public ponds a notice, “Nobody is allowed to wash dogs here.” That is right enough for a pond, but it would be quite needless for a river. In a river the foulest may bathe to his heart’s content. The fact of its fulness creates s freeness which none may restrict. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Rivers of water in a dry place
Isaiah’s moral ideal is not exhausted in a single picture. The scene is changed, The desert is indeed a “dry place”; but so also is every place in Palestine when the hot season is reaching its close. The whole land is thirsting for the coming rain. The harsh, dry air shimmers over the rocks and dusty roads. The heavens are as brass. Every evening when the red sun sinks below the western horizon one can imagine him sullen and weary. The grass is no longer green, hut of a dull dead brown. In the vineyard the vine leaves hang sapless and limp, or drift wearily to the ground. The figs, the oranges, and the pomegranates have all been gathered; the last flower has withered upon its stem. The reservoirs are rapidly becoming exhausted; the diminished Jordan wanders sluggishly along its southward course; its tributary streams have long since ceased to run. The land is a “dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” But by-and-by the watchers on Carmel see the light clouds rising out of the Great Sea. Soon the heavens are overspread, and the first heavy drops begin to fall. The rain comes at length in sheets, in torrents. The water-courses fill as by magic. Kedron, Cherith, Kishon, and Jabbok are now no longer mere names, but “rivers of water in a dry place.” The change wrought in a few days is wonderful. The hot earth drinks in the living stream, and gives it out again in life, abundant, exuberant. Everywhere the grass grows green, the fields are carpeted with flowers. Soon the orange trees mingle the silver of their blossoms with the golden glow of their fruitage, and the dark leaves of the oleanders are relieved by the rich red or snowy white of their flowers. The air is clear and the horizon luminous. It is a land of rejoicing now; the song of the birds is heard around, on high, fitting accompaniment to the sounds of happy labour--labour which will soon result in the abundance of vintage and harvest, when Palestine shall literally be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (W. B. Dalby.)
The fertilising power of a gracious character
Where is the life that answers to the comparison, “as rivers of water in a dry place”? Any life which is rich in the softer virtues--unselfishness, gentleness, purity, patience, charity. There are some people whose natures overflow in blessing. To have known them is an education m morals and religion. They are strong: they have will, courage--especially the courage which endures; they have a lofty faith. But these are not the things which most impress you in them. Their sphere, it may be, is a narrow one; their gifts of the quiet, homely order. It is not so much what they say or do, it is what they are, that so penetrates you with a sense of sweetness, graciousness, and charm. They are women with no particular idea that they have a “mission.” Or they are men of quiet, self-contained nature, very high-principled, though they never tell you so; of sensitive honour, though they never call attention to the fact. When trouble comes, they meet it calmly; loss and sorrow are to them merely experiences which profit to the increase of their hopefulness. If you make demands upon their patience, upon their self-sacrifice, they are ready to endure hardness, to go all lengths to succour any brother human being broken by the world. Their lives are lovely and pleasant in themselves, fruitful in blessing to others. It is said of the late Clerk Maxwell, the great natural philosopher, that “he made faith in goodness easy to other men.” You never heard of him as a public advocate of religion or philanthropy. His life was absorbed in what are called “secular studies,” yet the character rang the true note of Christian purity and graciousness. “Rivers of water in a dry place”: that is a very affluent description of these quiet lives; but not any too much so, for without them the work of the great moral reformer would be in vain. Each type has its place and power; each is needed for the work of God in the world. (W. B. Dalby.)
Shelter and refreshment in Christ
During the Crimean War a bombshell was fired from the fortifications of Sebastopol by the Russians, which buried itself in the earth, and burst on the side of the hill on which the British troops were encamped. Strange to say, immediately from the ragged hole which it made in the ground came out a copious stream of clear, cold water. The shell had tapped a hidden fountain in the dry and thirsty land, and broken the rocky cover which hid it. And thus, in a most extraordinary fashion, the British soldiers, who were complaining of thirst, and had great difficulty in getting water, had their want supplied; and the enemy’s shot that was meant for their destruction, proved their salvation. And so the wounds inflicted by your sins upon the Rock of Ages, not only produced a place of safety for you, but also opened up a fountain of refreshment in it. And a Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is your hiding-place from the wind, and your covert from the tempest--the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, and rivers of water in a dry place. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land
Comfort in Christ
This is the agreeable truth to be illustrated: that saints may always find comfort in Christ in this wearisome world.
I. THIS WORLD IS WEARISOME TO SAINTS. Their treasure is in heaven, and they are only passing through the world to take possession of it.
1. This is a laborious world. “All things are full of labour.” Employment was originally enjoined upon man. But since the apostasy servile labour has become a burden.
2. This is a troublesome world. Trouble attends every stage and condition of life.
3. This is a dark world. What is past, what is present, as well as what is to come, lies involved in darkness. Good men are often weary of conjectures, and despond under the darkness of Divine dispensations.
4. This is a sinful world.
II. WHEN SAINTS ARE WEARY OF THE WORLD THEY MAY FIND COMFORT IN CHRIST. They are then prepared to receive comfort; and Christ is always ready to bestow comfort upon those who are prepared for it. In particular--
1. They may always find compassion in Christ, which is a source of comfort. Christ has gone through the heat and cold, the storms and tempests, the labours and troubles of this world. He knows what it is to be faint and weary. He knows the heart of a pilgrim and stranger. And He has the tenderest compassion for His friends in distress or want.
2. Weary saints may find comfort in the intercession of Christ.
3. When saints are weary of the world, they may always find comfort in the strength of Christ.
4. They may find comfort in the government of Christ. Since Christ has the government of all things in His hands, His people may safely confide in His wisdom, power, and compassion to defend His own cause and repel every weapon formed against it.
5. They may find comfort in the promises of Christ.
1. May the friends of Christ always find comfort in Him when they are weary of the world? Hence we may see the reason why He forbids them to be conformed to it, or seek to derive their supreme happiness from it.
2. If those who are weary of the world may find comfort in Christ, then the more they become weary of the world, the better they are prepared to enjoy His promised peace and comfort.
3. If Christians who are weary of the world may always find rest and comfort in Christ, then they may enjoy more happiness than sinners do, even in this life.
4. If saints, when weary of the world, find comfort in Christ, then we may readily believe that those who have lived in the darkest times, met with the greatest troubles, and experienced the severest trials, have often arrived at the greatest degrees of holiness and happiness in the present life.
5. Since all real saints who are weary of the world may always find rest in Christ, they have no reason to murmur and complain under any of the troubles and afflictions in which they are involved.
6. Since all true believers may always find rest in Christ, when they are weary of the world, they have no more reason to be anxious about future, than to be impatient under present, troubles and trials.
7. Since saints may find rest in Christ when they are weary of the world, we may easily account for their being sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker than other men in adversity.
8. Since weak and weary saints may always find rest in Christ, they have a much brighter prospect before them than sinners. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
A traveller, recently returned from Africa, relates that one day, overcome by intense heat, he fell asleep on the baked earth, but on awaking had the sensation of freshness, and found it was caused by the thoughtfulness of his attendants, who were standing around him, receiving upon themselves the fierce glare, and sheltering his recumbent body from the ardent rays of a vertical sun. In truth, the whole world rests in the shadow of Him who stands between us and the consuming fire of outraged law, and in virtue of His interposition a thousand blessings are ours. “A man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind,” &c. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Jesus the Rock
Of Jesus, the believer can truly say that life on this side of Him is very different from life on that. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
An emblem of our gracious God
The rock and its shadow. Look at it! It is the mingling of all that is most massive and immovable with all that is gentlest and tenderest. The rock going down to the very depths of the solid world, rooted and grounded, it is the very figure of all that is enduring and abiding. Yet its shadow is a thing almost spiritual; noiseless in its fall, it creeps as if it feared to disturb those whom it has lulled to rest, like a mother who fears to stir lest she awaken the little one that she has hushed to sleep. The shadow--is it not the perfection of gentleness?. The breeze whispers of its coming and grows boisterously playful sometimes; but the shadow will not add a burden to the flower bell. The rock and its shadow--it is power and pity. It is the fit emblem of our God and Father. Thegreat Creator of heaven and earth, from everlasting to everlasting He is God--yet how gracious and pitiful is He, how gentle! (M. G. Pearse.)
Weariness in life
O! the weariness felt by us all, of plod, plod, plodding across the sand! That fatal monotony into which every man’s life stiffens, as far as outward circumstances, outward joys and pleasures go! the depressing influence of custom which takes the edge off all gladness and adds a burden to every duty! the weariness of all that tugging up the hill, of all that collar-work which we have to do! (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A many-sided Christ
Applying the language of the whole verse to the Lord Jesus Christ, the King in Zion, we are struck with the number of the metaphors. He is not merely a hiding-place, and a covert, and a river, but He is a shadow of a great rock. Yes, if we attempt to set forth our Lord’s glories by earthly analogies, we shall need a host of them, for no one can set Him forth to perfection, each one has some deficiency, and even altogether they are insufficient to display all His loveliness. It is very pleasant to see that our Beloved is such a manysided Christ, that from all points of view He is so admirable, and that He is supremely precious in so many different ways, for we have so many and so varied needs, and our circumstances are so continually changing, and the incessant cravings of our spirit are so constantly taking fresh turns. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The eyes of them that see shall not be dim
Four tests of character
The whole of this chapter refers to the state of the world during the time of the millennium.
The happiness which shall be the lot of God’s children in that period will be only an increase of our present state of happiness and holiness. Therefore this passage may be fairly taken as furnishing tests of our conversion at the present time.
I. There are to be hereafter CLEAR VIEWS. If we are converted, we have clearer views than we once had.
II. The second test is, THE HEARING EAR There is a great difference in the manner in which persons listen to the Word of God.
III. There will be INCREASED KNOWLEDGE. It forms part of the promise of God that His people shall be taught of Him. And what is it they are taught? They are taught to see the excellence of the person of Christ Jesus their Saviour.
IV. There shall be BOLD CONFESSION OF JESUS, for “the tongue of the stammerers,” &c. Can you say your character will bear these tests? (M. Villiers, M. A.)
The vile person shall be no more called liberal
(Hebrews, nabal):--Compare 1 Samuel 25:1-44.
(A. B.Davidson, LL. D.)
The conventional abuse of moral terms
“Liberal” and “bountiful” were conventional names. The Hebrew word for “liberal” originally meant exactly that--open-hearted, generous, magnanimous. In the East it is the character which, above all, they call princely. So, like our words “noble” and “nobility,” it became a term of rank--“lord” or “prince”--and was often applied to men who were not at all great-hearted, but the very opposite: even to the “vile person.” “Vile person” is literally the “faded,” or the “exhausted,” whether mentally or morally--the last kind of character that would be princely. The other conventional term used by Isaiah refers to wealth, rather than rank. The Hebrew for “bountiful” literally means “abundant”--a man blessed with plenty--and is used in the Old Testament both for the rich and the fortunate. Its nearest English equivalent is, perhaps, “the successful man.” To this, Isaiah fitly opposes a name, wrongly rendered in our version “churl,” but corrected in the margin to “crafty”--the fraudulent, the knave. When moral discrimination comes, says Isaiah, men will not apply the term “princely” to “worn-out” characters, nor grant them the social respect implied by the term. They will not call the “fraudulent” the “fortunate,” nor canonise him as successful who has gotten his wealth by underhand means. “The worthless character shall no more be called princely, nor the knave hailed as the successful.” But men’s characters shall stand out true in their actions, and by their fruits ye shall know them. In those magic days the heart shall come to the lips, and its effects be unmistakable. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
For the vile person will speak villany
The outer life according to the inner
A vile person and a churl will do mischief; and the more if he be preferred, and have power in his hand.
His honours will make him worse, and not better. See the character of these base, ill-conditioned men.
1. They are always plotting some unjust thing or other; designing ill either to particular persons or to the public, and contriving how to bring it about; and so many silly piques they have to gratify, and mean revenges, that there appears not in them the least spark of generosity. Observe, there is the work of the heart, as well as the work of the hands. As thoughts are words to God, so designs are works in His account. See what pains sinners take in sin; they labour it, their hearts are intent upon it, and with a great deal of art and application they work iniquity. They devise wicked devices with all the subtlety of the old serpent.
2. They carry on their plots by trick and dissimulation. When they are meditating iniquity, they practise hypocrisy, feign themselves just men. The most abominable mischiefs shall be disguised with the most plausible pretences of devotion to God, regard to man, and concern for some common good. Those are the vilest of men that intend the worst mischief when they speak fair.
3. They speak villany. When they are in a passion, you will see what they are by the base, ill language they give to those about them, which no way becomes men of rank and honour. Or, in giving verdict or judgment, they villainously put false colours upon things to pervert justice.
4. They affront God, who is a righteous God and loveth righteousness. They utter error against the Lord, and therein they practise profaneness. They give an unjust sentence, and then profanely make use of the name of God for the ratification of it. Nothing can be more impudently done against God than to patronise wickedness with His name.
5. They abuse mankind, those particularly whom they are bound to protect and relieve.
6. These churls and vile persons have always ill instruments about them, that are ready to serve their villainous purposes--“the instruments of the churl are evil.” (M. Henry.)
The liberal deviseth liberal things
Liberality, natural and gracious
The liberal man is one who is generous and benevolent in his feelings--a man of large views and public spirit--one far above covetousness and selfseeking--ever desirous to promote the welfare of his country, and the best interests of his fellowmen.
1. There is a certain kind of liberality which may be considered natural and constitutional. Some there are who, from their earliest days, evince a benevolent and generous disposition. The liberality which is natural will be found to operate chiefly, if not exclusively, in promoting the temporal welfare of mankind. And in this department of philanthropy the labours of such are often entitled to highest commendation. But such rarely evince any interest about the precious undying soul, and the eternity towards which we are all so rapidly hastening.
2. The person described in the text, we may well suppose, is indebted to a higher source than himself for a mind so enlightened and a heart so enlarged. As water cannot rise higher than the fountain, so man cannot in himself develop a character higher than he has inherited. There are some feelings of natural amiability which have survived the ruin of the fall. These may, along with certain external causes, form a character in which there is much to admire and love. But just as, to borrow the words of a great writer, “all the complexional varieties of the human countenance, from exquisite beauty to revolting deformity, have the one universal attribute of decay, so, amid all the varieties of human character, from the most lovely to the most hideous, there is a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” There is a constant tendency In the world to overlook the agency of God s Spirit, and to put to the credit of something human--such as good education, or good example, or sound philosophy--what, in reality, is the fruit of the Spirit.(W. Runciman.)
The liberal man
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE LIBERAL MAN. “He deviseth liberal things.” It is not said he doeth liberal things. This is implied. If he has the means, he has the heart and the will to practise large and wide liberality. There is a far greater expenditure both of mind and labour in devising, than in doing liberal things. It is an easy thing for one who has abundant wealth to give largely in aid of any scheme of philanthropy. But to originate and carry forward any plan for the improvement of mankind, requires much wisdom, and energy, and patience, and benevolence. The one is liberal; the other directs and stimulates the liberality of others. The one is as the hand, the other the mainspring of the watch. Of the multitude who cheerfully give, how few have the capacity to devise! And one intelligent head, conjoined with a benevolent heart, can open the purses of a whole community.
II. THE SECURITY OF THE LIBERAL MAN. “By liberal things shall he stand”; or, as rendered in the margin, “shall he be established.” This statement does not mean that there is anything about the most enlightened and generous liberality which has anything meritorious, and which in any way is the procuring cause of God’s favour.
1. The possession of this beauteous character is a clear indication of possessing God’s favour, and an important means of preserving that privilege.
2. A liberal man is, by liberal things, established in the estimation of the wise and good.
3. Devotion to the good of others establishes and secures much happiness to the liberal man. The greater the outgoing of benevolence, the greater the influx of peace. (W. Runciman.)
The picture drawn has a twofold aspect.
I. THE INFLUENCE OF LIBERALITY.
1. The liberal man is he whose mind has been freed and enlarged by the truth of the Gospel. You cannot make a man liberal so long as a violent craving for more sways his heart; neither will a man be liberal, though he may count himself rich, if he disintegrate himself from the great community of which he is a member. We are made free indeed by the Son when we see that all things are ours, and that it is ours also to fulfil our mission as part of that all of which God is the sum and substance.
2. The liberal man is he whose mind premeditates acts of liberality--“he deviseth liberal things.” There are instincts of pity and charity in human nature which may be brought into accidental action. There are moments of weakness which make the miser even to relax his hold of his hoardings. Many are terrified by the approach of death to make large bequests. There are others who are naturally tender-hearted, and they give alms most feelingly, but not from thought. There are some seasons of the year, such as Christmas-tide and harvest, when many make a small display of their charity. These are the once-a-year liberal folk. The text refers to a much higher class of liberality than such can possibly be--the liberality of thought. The goodness of God is not fitful or forced, but the outcome of His Fatherly care and providence. Liberality in thought emanates from the Spirit of Christ in us.
3. The liberal man is he whose acts are liberal. The subject is far wider than almsgiving. Our Sunday-school teachers and the leaders of religious and temperance movements; our tract distributors, and those who visit the poor, the afflicted, the dying, and the sinful--are greater benefactors than those who can spare silver and gold. Alexander gave, not according to the merit of the man, but according to the honour and resources of a king. Jesus gave. How much? Time, and energy, and wisdom, and sympathy, and power? Much more. He gave Himself. Let all yours be love-gifts.
II. THE REFLEX INFLUENCE OF LIBERALITY. “And by liberal things shall he be established.” There is a power in liberality which strengthens our faith and character. Whatever Christian work we engage in, the influence on ourselves is as great as on others.
1. The liberal man, by his liberality, cultivates the Spirit of Christ in himself.
2. The liberal man, by his liberality, increases the store of his wealth Proverbs 11:24). Many Christians are poor because they are not liberal.
3. The liberal man, by his liberality, obtains the approval of God. That approval we now receive in our consciences, but hereafter the judgment will demonstrate it, when the Judge will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
4. The liberal man, by his liberality, will conquer the hardness of the human heart. If we look forth to the mission field, liberality has been the vanguard of civilisation and religion. Or if we look nearer home, at the liberal changes which have been made in the punishment of criminals, we have ample proofs that crime has decreased in proportion as we have humanised jurisprudence. The highest note of liberality is this, “For God so loved the world,” &c. (T. Davies, M. A.)
Liberality and its reflex advantages
I. THE SUBJECT, or person spoken of.
II. THE PROPERTY ascribed to him. “He deviseth liberal things.”
1. The act. “He deviseth”--the bent and inclination of his mind is set this way. The word may denote two things. Either--
(1) Serious deliberation about it; or
(2) readiness of mind to it. Such an one doth not stay till he be provoked or necessitated by others to such kinds of work.
2. The object. “Liberal things,” such as become a person of a large and bountiful heart, redounding to the good of mankind.
III. THE BENEFIT or advantage of it. “By liberal things shall he stand.” Such persons shall not only be not ruined by their bounty, but shall hereby be confirmed and advanced in all kinds of prosperity. (Bp. J. Wilkins.)
The virtue of liberality
I. THE NATURE OF THIS VIRTUE: what it is and wherein it consists.
1. The several names whereby it is described--generosity, &c. The periphrastical descriptions of it are such as these,--Opening our hands Deuteronomy 15:8); drawing out our souls (Isaiah 58:10);dispersing abroad (2 Corinthians 9:9); being enriched in everything to all bountifulness (2 Corinthians 9:11); to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Timothy 6:18).
2. The nature of it. Extended to persons in a state of suffering and misery, it is styled mercy or pity. To persons in a condition of want it is styled alms or charity.
3. The qualifications or conditions required to the due exercise of it.
(1) It must be done willingly, with spontaneity, with forwardness of mind 2 Corinthians 9:2). Not grudgingly, but cheerfully (verse 7). “Thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest to thy brother” Deuteronomy 15:10).
(2) It must be done freely, without expecting reward. “Do good--expecting nothing again; freely you have received, freely give.” He that is liberal upon design may be styled mercenary. Such kind of gifts are not benevolence, but a bargain; not a dole, but a bait. That is a remarkable Proverbs 22:16), “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.”
(3) It must be done readily, without delay (Proverbs 3:28).
(4) Besides these several qualifications for the manner, it must likewise be done freely and liberally for the measure--according to our several abilities. ‘Tis for a brother of low degree to give sparingly: they that are rich in this world must be rich in good works also. Goats’ hair and badgers’ skins may be a suitable gift for the people, and a mite for a poor widow; but the rich are to give purple, and gold, and jewels. And in this sense is that Scripture to be fulfilled, that “to whom much is given, of them much shall be required.”
4. The opposites to it, which (as of all other moral virtues) are of two kinds--redundant, and deficient.
(1) The exceeding extreme is styled prodigality, profuseness, riotousness, which observes neither the due manner nor measure in keeping or giving.
(2) The deficient extreme is churlishness, tenacity, shutting up the bowels of compassion, being greedy of filthy lucre. It hath these particular characters given to it in Scripture; it is a kind of idolatry, inconsistent with religion. “No man can serve God and mammon.” He that “loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It is the root of all evil, leading men into temptations and snares. It is hateful to men, amongst whom it will render a person vile and contemptible; and it is abominable to God Psalms 10:3).
II. THE NECESSITY OF IT, or the grounds of our obligation to it from Scripture and reason.
1. Scripture proofs.
(1) The precepts for it (Deuteronomy 15:7-8; Deuteronomy 15:10-11; Ec Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 3:8).
(2) The commendations of it. That which we translate “a liberal soul” Proverbs 11:25) in the Hebrew is “the soul of blessing.” As the virtue of charity is frequently celebrated for one of the most excellent amongst all the rest, and set forth by many peculiar commendations as being better than sacrifice; the fulfilling of the law; the bond of perfectness; the great commandment; the royal law: so is bounty one of the top branches of charity. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is both the evidence and the ornament of our religion. It is the chief fruit whereby we are to judge of our sincerity. Men do vainly pretend to faith and religion, without the proof of such good works. Obadiah doth urge this to the prophet as an evidence of his fearing God, that he had been careful to relieve others in distress. And the centurion was for this reason styled a man of worth. “Pure religion and undefiled,” is to abound in works of this nature, “to visit the fatherless and the widow” (James 1:27).
(3) The promises made to it.
(4) The threats and judgments denounced upon the neglect of it.
2. The arguments from reason.
(1) From equity.
(a) In respect of God, who bestows upon us all that we have, and therefore may well expect that we should be ready to lay out some of it for His use, according to His appointment.
(b) In respect of the poor, who by reason of their relation to us, and their need of us, may reasonably expect assistance from us.
(c) In respect of ourselves. We can hope for nothing from God but upon the account of bounty. Now, the rules of congruity require that we should be as ready to show mercy to others as to expect it for ourselves.
(2) Justice. In God s law, the not doing a kindness when we have a fitting occasion is counted injustice, and He will arraign us for the omission of such occasions. The apostle, having said (Romans 13:7), “Render to all their dues,” subjoins in the next verses, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another,” implying that, in the Scripture sense, charity is a debt, and the not paying of it an injustice. It is such a debt as we can never fully discharge, but though we are always paying it, yet we must still be in arrest whilst there shall remain any ability and occasion for our exercising it.
(3) Advantage. “By liberal things shall he stand.”
III. APPLICATION. By way of--
1. Doctrinal inference.
2. Practical inference. (Bp. J. Wilkins.)
The advantages of liberality
I. FOR THIS LIFE. It is the most effectual way both to improve and preserve our estates, and to render us honourable and amiable in the esteem of others.
1. For the increasing of our estates, the apostle compares it to sowing, which refers to a harvest.
2. For the preserving them safe. The Jews call alms by the name of salt, for its preserving power. It is laying up treasures in heaven, where rust cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Saith the epigrammatist, “A man can be sure only of that wealth which he hath given away.”
II. FOR THE FUTURE LIFE. Works of beneficence are called by St. Paul, Θεμέλιον--the foundation of that reward we shall receive in the world to come (1 Timothy 6:19). (Bp. J. Wilkins.)
I. THE LIBERALITY.
II. THE DEVISING.
III. THE STANDING. (J. Donne.)
I. STATE THE TRUE NOTION OF LIBERALITY. True liberality by no means intends profuseness, or a wasteful, thoughtless scattering of our substance, without judgment or economy. Neither is it consistent with the account the Scriptures give us of liberality, nor indeed with the laws of nature and reason, that a man should abound in acts of generosity to more remote objects, while he neglects those under his special care (Matthew 15:3 - 1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). But it is most of all inconsistent with the liberality recommended in the Word of God, that we should give that to others which is not our own; or distribute among the poor that which should pay our just debts.
1. By a liberal man, we are to understand a man of a kind, compassionate, benevolent disposition; one who observes, with admiration and delight, that profusion of bounty with which the great Creator of the world blesses the works of His hands; is truly thankful for the share he enjoys of it; and as he sees his “heavenly Father makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” so he is charmed with the Divine pattern, and labours, according to his measure, to imitate it.
2. But his benevolence must, according to his ability, be put in practice.
3. His charity is very diffusive; indeed, it can bear no limits but such as are prescribed by Scripture and sound reason. The stranger must partake of it as well as those of his own country and kindred.
4. To finish the character of the truly liberal man, it is necessary that his disposition and practice should be founded in religious principles, and be the blessed fruit of the saving work of the Spirit upon his heart.
II. CONSIDER THAT PART OF THE LIBERAL MAN’S CHARACTER WHICH IS, IN A SPECIAL MANNER, RECOMMENDED IN THE TEXT. He “deviseth liberal things.” It is commendable to have a readiness of soul to such works as these, when they are proposed and marked out to us by others. It is well to have a mind easily impressed with the condition of the indigent, and willing to submit to the dictates of conscience, the importunity of the necessitous, and the advice of good men. But the charitable character rises much higher when we devise liberal things ourselves. It supposes a heart greatly set on doing good.
1. The liberal man wisely manages his own affairs to this good end.
2. He employs all his wisdom and prudence in order to dispose of his bounty in the best manner and to the most advantageous purposes. He is so far from hiding his face from his brother who is in want, that he searches diligently to find him out. He will lay himself out in the service of every community to which he stands related, and will labour what in him lies to promote the true peace and welfare of the whole world.
3. He will also call in all proper assistance in this good work. He will consult about these things with such of his pious friends as have generous souls and good judgments.
4. The liberal man contrives how he shall diffuse and promote the spirit of liberality.
5. He persists in this course.
III. SOME ACCOUNT OF THAT SUITABLE AND GRACIOUS REWARD WHICH SHALL ATTEND THE LIBERAL MAN. “By liberal things shall he stand.”
1. In some good degree in this life.
(1) In the opinion and regard of mankind.
(2) This temper and conduct are the most likely way both to secure and enlarge our estates, as well as give us the truest enjoyment of them.
(3) This conduct will certainly afford him a pleasure in his own mind that cannot easily be described.
(4) What is still more valuable, he shall be supported, maintained, and established by the liberal things of Divine grace.
2. What will crown all, is the blessedness which shall follow in the life to come. (Joseph Stennett.)
I. THE TRUE SOURCE OF LIBERALITY.
II. THE PRACTICE OF THE LIBERAL.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF LIBERAL MEN. (A. Brandram, M. A.)
The Christian liberal
The name liberal comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning free, open-handed, generous-hearted, and well-bred; it implies also a nature which acts according to its own desire, and yet is neither selfish nor narrow, being of pure mind and noble soul.
1. The genuine, Christ-inspired liberal loves freedom in the highest sense of the word.
2. He embraces other interests than his own.
3. He should be unselfish, broad, and catholic in his character.
4. To be liberal-natured after the standard of Christ is not so easy as it seems; it is the work of a life-time. (W. Birch.)
Saving and giving
He that locks up may be a good jailer, but he that gives out is His steward. The saver may be God’s chest, the giver is God’s right hand. (J. Donne.)
Devising liberal things
One of the most liberal and lavish givers to charitable objects said to a friend who spoke of his generosity, “You mistake: I am not generous. I am by nature extremely avaricious: but when I was a young man I had sense enough to see how mean and belittling such a passion was, and I forced myself to give. At first, I declare to you, it was hard for me to part with a penny; but I persisted until the habit of liberality was formed. There is no yoke like that of habit. Now I like to give.” (W. Baxendale.)
A liberal heart desired
Sir Thomas Sutton, the founder of the Charter House, was one of the wealthiest merchants of his day. Fuller tells how he was overheard one day praying in his garden: “Lord, Thou hast given me a large and liberal estate; give me also a heart to make use of it. (Tinling’s Illustrations.)
Rise up, ye women, that are at ease
Female complacency reproved
Isaiah turns aside abruptly from his main theme.
His eye, we may suppose, was arrested by the spectacle of some women, sitting down perhaps at a little distance from where he stood, and testifying their indifference to his words. In chap.
3. it was their vanity and love of display which called forth the prophet’s censure: here it is their complacency and unconcern. (Prof. S. B. Driver, D. D.)
Be troubled, ye careless ones
Besetting sins may be the defects of virtues
The besetting sins of either sex are its virtues prostituted.
A man’s greatest temptations proceed from his strength; but the glory of the feminine nature is repose, and trust is the strength of the feminine character, in which very things, however, lies all the possibility of woman’s degradation. (Prof g. A. Smith, D. D.)
The careless sinner reproved
I. I am to EXPOSTULATE WITH THOSE WHO ARE CARELESS IN THE CONCERNS OF RELIGION AND THEIR SOULS. The following things are submitted to your consideration:--
1. The importance of religion, which is neglected by you.
2. The beneficial proofs of the Divine agency which surround you.
3. Your personal obligations to God are neither few nor small.
4. The grand display of the love of God in giving His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, &c.
5. The certainty of judgment and a future state.
II. We are now to ADDRESS THESE EXPOSTULATIONS TO THE CONSIDERATION OF YOUTH, MANHOOD, AND AGE. (A. Shanks.)
An alarm to the careless
To be careless in temporal things is generally regarded as a very serious defect or offence. How much more so when one is careless in spiritual things! Yet this is characteristic of great numbers who hear the Gospel. Is there no cause for alarm? A careless attitude and habit towards God and Christ and salvation are--
3. God-provoking. (J. M. Sherwood.)
Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers
The outpouring of the Spirit
As the communication of the Spirit is necessary to produce a reformation, so a large communication or outpouring of the Spirit is necessary to produce a public general reformation; such as may save a country on the brink of ruin, or recover one already laid desolate.
Without this remedy, all other applications will be ineffectual; and the distempered body politic will languish more and more, tin it is at length dissolved. Until this outpouring of the Spirit, says the prophet, “briers and thorns shall come up upon the land; and the houses of joy, the palaces, and towers, shall be heaps of ruins, dens for wild beasts, and pastures for flocks.” Until that blessed time come, no means can effectually repair a broken state, or repeople a desolate country. But when that blessed time comes, then what a glorious revelation--what a happy alteration follows! (Isaiah 32:15-19). (S. Davies, M. A.)
The Holy Spirit in prophecy
I. THE BLIGHT OF SIN. It is contrasted here with the beauty of holiness; and this contrast makes the deep gloom more apparent than if it were viewed by itself.
II. THE DARK OUTLOOK which Isaiah beheld. There is gloom first, and then gladness--confusion first, then comfort--darkness first, then light. Sin brings suffering and sorrow, either in this world or in the world to come.
III. THE BLESSING PROMISED. In proportion as the Church prays for, and expects, and receives the more abundant outpouring of the Spirit, the work of the world’s conversion will proceed apace. We speak of a Pentecostal effusion; but the Church prays and waits for a yet more abundant outpouring: and, when it comes, the glory of the latter day will be fully realised.
IV. THE BRIGHT FUTURE. As the result of the pouring out of the Spirit, “the wilderness shall become a fruitful field.” It has been said that this part of the prophecy is “luminous, rather than lucid; full of suffused, rather than distinct meanings.” This much, however, is clear, that the good fruits of the Spirit’s outpouring will be both material and moral. (P. Mearns.)
Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high
THERE IS PROVIDED IN CONNECTION WITH THE CHRISTIAN ECONOMY, THE BESTOWMENT OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES ON MANKIND.
1. In what manner is the Spirit poured from on high? It cannot but be expected that there must be not a little of mystery on such a subject. Yet the information we possess is distinct and important. There was a distinct communication of this influence made to the apostles, which was accompanied by immediate and visible signs. But it was intended that this Spirit should influence the hearts of men in general: an arrangement was made, in the Divine goodness, by which the Gospel should be rendered powerful and effectual to produce great moral results in the hearts and on the lives of men. We speak of this influence as common and permanent. We pretend not to state how this Spirit comes down to influence the minds of men: “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” But we do regard it as an essential principle, that the Spirit of God is poured out upon mankind; and we declare that to reject this doctrine is most perilous to the immortal soul!
2. For what purposes is the Spirit poured from on high? One effect of this influence on the minds of the apostles at first was a great and a public one; it was intended to endow them with those miraculous gifts and graces which were commensurate with the divinity of their claims--the truth of their mission--the importance of their object. But the more ordinary influences of the Spirit are still poured out, and are most important to effect the salvation of the soul. He is the Spirit of repentance--of faith--of power--of knowledge--of “wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ” roof holiness--of comfort--of love--of anticipation.
3. To what extent is the Spirit poured from on high? It is evidently the design of God that there should be a very wide extension of this influence.
4. Under what necessity is the Spirit poured from on high? Excepting it were the case that such an arrangement had been made, in the mercy of God, for changing the state of mankind, there could have been no prospect of happiness on earth, or of everlasting glory hereafter.
II. THE FACTS REGARDING THE BESTOWMENT OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE UPON MANKIND OUGHT TO PRODUCE ON OUR MINDS THE MOST POWERFUL EFFECTS.
1. We ought carefully to ascertain whether we have the communication of this influence of the Spirit.
2. Pray that there may be an outpouring of this communication. Pray for this gift for yourselves--for your families--for the Church of God--for the world. (James Parsons.)
The pouring-out of the Spirit
Whoever has paid any serious attention to religion must be convinced of his natural weakness and inability to fulfil even his own wishes and resolutions. It is to meet this undoubted fact of man’s natural inability to do the will of God that the Divine influence of the Holy Spirit was arranged and promised.
I. THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT IN THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL. The Bible shows us our dependence on God as Creator, Preserver, and Lord.
1. On the first page we find the creation, with all its wonders, recorded. “The earth was without form, and void.” But the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, and forthwith light and order proceeded, life appeared, the heavens and the earth, and all was very good.
2. Sin came and devastated the social world. The evil spirit of temptation was at work.
3. During the times of the prophets the limited range of the Spirit was felt and more favoured days proclaimed.
4. These promises were revived in the words of Christ, who more particularly entered into the offices and working of the Holy Ghost and its influence on the future Church as well as on the individual lives of Christians. On Him also the Spirit descended in a bodily form. He gives definite promises of the particular gift--promises which the disciples did not rightly apprehend.
5. In subsequent history all was made plain and clear. On the day of Pentecost was the great promise fully realised.
6. The apostles, in all their writings, enter fully into its power and influence. Do the converts need wisdom? The Father will give the Spirit of wisdom. Or, deliverance from corruption? The Spirit works in them to “will and to do” the good pleasure. The distinguishing marks of a Christian are that he “walks after the Spirit”; is “spiritually minded”; that the Spirit dwells in a man as a Spirit of adoption, confidence, and love; while the apostle glories in tribulation “because of the Holy Ghost,” and prays that the disciples may be “filled with hope” by the power of the Holy Ghost. Thus we see the nature and office of the Spirit.
II. ITS PRACTICAL APPLICATION TO OURSELVES. All persons are divided into two classes.
1. Those who have no adequate apprehension of the nature or value of divine things. “The natural man receiveth not the things of God, for they are foolishness unto him.” They are therefore ignorant for want of spiritual illumination. “But,” continues the apostle, “God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This reveals to us the knowledge of ourselves as ruined and lost.
2. But as there may be light without heat, so there may be knowledge without practice. The Word of God may be received with joy, but it may not take root in the soul. It is the glory of the Gospel that it not only inculcates what is right, but gives strength to perform it: it teaches what is evil, and helps to subdue that evil. All this is wrought by the Holy Ghost. (Homilist.)
A national Pentecost
I. THE NATIONAL IMPORT OF THESE WORDS. That the thought of Isaiah was national, and not individual, may easily be gathered from his opening words, and from the whole burden of his message. It is of a king he speaks, and of the effects of a righteous rule. The words of our text are especially addressed to women, and reveal the sad state of society as it was when Isaiah addressed it. There is no hope for the nation when its women are “careless daughters,” and contemptible of holy things. Woman is the last bulwark of godliness. If women are lost to God, all is lost. Yet though the prophet’s heart groans under the lamentable state of the women of his day, he sees a glad day coming, when the Spirit shall be so outpoured, that society will be purified. Upon the outpouring of the Spirit, three things are to take place.
1. There is to be a godly revolution. It may be silent and natural, but is to be very real. The very wilderness is to become a fruitful field. The desert is to blossom as the rose. If we study the prophecy of Joel, we see the signs are revolutionary. And no language employed by Carlyle in his French Revolution is more potent, more expressive. “I will show wonders in the heaven and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.” It is the recreation of the nation that the prophet has in his mind. Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones is to be re-animated. The national identity as well as the national life is to be restored.
2. There is to be an outburst of new life. The wilderness is to blossom, the fruitful field is to become a forest. Mazzini must foster a “Young Italy” to-day if he is to create a new Italy to-morrow. The Spirit generates new life. The visions of possibilities in the young, the fresh dreams of the old, all make for a new existence.
3. There is also to be a newly organised government. A king rules in righteousness. And even the wilderness, type of lawless oppression, is to be under a just government. Judgment shall rule in the wilderness. Righteousness is the basis of peace. Pascal says, “Philosophy says, know thyself. Christianity says, know thy God.” That is all the difference between the maxims of the world and the new force that Pentecost created in the world. When men fall into right relationship with God, they will soon fall into right relations with one another.
II. THE EFFECT OF THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY GHOST. Pentecost was only a promise, a first-fruit, a miniature fulfilment of the prophet’s great words.
1. There is in our prophecy a restoration of blessing. Acquainted as Isaiah was with vast reaches of arid desert, he sees it a fruitful field. Out of death life comes, and into barrenness, fruitfulness.
2. There is to be a multiplication of blessing. That vast, dreary stretch of desert in the East is to be as the Vale of Carmel, luxuriant and beautiful, and Carmel’s valley is to be as precious as Lebanon’s forest. And righteousness is to sway its sceptre over all. The effect of righteousness is to be quietness and assurance for ever. The Church of apostolic days was a beautiful miniature of still larger things, of richer spiritual results.
3. There is to be a social betterment for all. Wherever Christianity goes it uplifts the races. Unbelief may sneer at Christianity, but it still remains the greatest civilising force in the world.
III. THINGS ESSENTIAL TO THE NEW ORDER. The Holy Spirit is to effect regeneration, by convicting men of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. By breathing into them a new life, and by Divine illumination. Three things are essential to a new kingdom. Power to create it, authority to govern it, a cause for its existence. Garibaldi found his cause in the degraded condition of his people. Jesus finds His cause not only in the lost condition of the human race, but also in the Father’s eternal love and purpose. Christ is said to be seated at the right hand of power. That word power is the same as that from which we get dynamics. The very strength of power, a mighty force. Christ is at the right hand of Almighty power. There are certain powers in the world which we call forces; such as gravity, steam, hydraulics, liquid air, electricity. These forces operate along definite lines, just as surely as a train of railway carriages runs along the track of its lines of steel. It is said, “Whenever you obey the law of power, the law of power obeys you.” Now, in fact, this is just what Peter says. The Holy Ghost is given “to them that obey Him.” If the Holy Spirit is to use a man, work through and by a man, he must obey the laws of the Spirit. He must be conformed to God’s will. Let me now quote to you some cases where men have been obedient to the Holy Spirit, and as a result have been filled with power from on high. In each case they have obeyed Christ’s word--“Tarry ye . . . until ye be endued with power from on high.” Jonathan Edwards, a quiet, strong intellect, strongly Calvinistic, whose influence in the world has been most mighty, says, “I found from time to time an inward sweetness that would carry me away in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise than as a calm, sweet abstraction of the soul from all the concerns of the world, and sometimes a kind of vision of being alone on the mountains, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapped and swallowed up in God.” Then there is John Flavel, who one day journeying alone, had such concentration of mind, such ravishing tastes of heavenly joys, that he utterly lost sight and sense of this world, and for some hours knew no more where he was than if a deep sleep had fallen upon him in the night. Thus we see that these men wholly consecrated to God, obeying His will, placing themselves in direct communication with the Spirit of God, leaving their whole being open to the Spirit’s operations, were filled with a Divine power that is inexpressible. And may we not thus lie open to His gracious incoming, and wait daily upon God “until the Spirit be poured out upon us from on high”?
IV. THE NATURE OF THE SPIRIT’S MANIFESTATIONS. The Holy Spirit’s presence is seen in His conviction of the sinner. When He is among us, men realise their sinfulness, and cry unto God. (F. James.)
Judgment and mercy
Some time ago, amid a very heavy thunderstorm, I heard, between two of the heaviest peals, the carolling of a lark! It was a strange and welcome contrast. All around us the thunder was growling and roaring, but in one of the brief interludes there came this burst of bird-song. And all about this chapter one hears the growl of the threatening thunder. There is a gathering storm of judgment. The future is full of menace. And yet, in the midst of all the approaching terror, there sounds out this sweet little paean about fruitful fields, and righteous relationships, and peaceful homes, and happy, restful days. It was ever the way of this great prophet. The hard note of judgment was alternated with the softer note of mercy. The lark’s song is frequently heard amid the thunder. (J. H.Jowett, M. A.)
The Spirit poured out
I. Here is A GREAT PROPHET FORESEEING THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. That in itself would be interesting, but it is rendered doubly so by the fact that--
II. HE PROCEEDS TO NAME THE RESULTS WHICH WOULD FOLLOW THE OUTPOURING (Isaiah 32:15-17). (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Results of the outpouring of the Spirit
Here is the problem: If the Spirit of God were to be poured out upon a nation, what would happen?
1. The unfolding of creation in accordance with the fullest design of God. “The wilderness a fruitful field,” &c. Is that to be taken literally or only figuratively? Shall we interpret it as only meaning that the wilderness of meanness and niggardliness and greed shall break into the fruitful field of benevolence and philanthropy, or shall we interpret it according to its literal meaning that nature itself shall pass into larger bounteousness and perfection? I think the literal interpretation is the right one. I think Isaiah means just what he says, that the beautifying of humanity will elicit higher beauty in the world about us. Throughout the whole book you will find this doctrine taught, that the perfection of nature is involved in the redemption of men. Nature cannot put on all the fulness of her beautiful garments until man puts on the beauty of holiness. The unfolding of one awaits the evolution of the other. Scripture affirms that nature is held in bondage. She is fettered, and unable to realise the full glory of her design, and this because of the moral and spiritual bondage of man. This is not the teaching only of the prophet Isaiah. It is apostolic teaching. Have you ever paused at that profound word of the Apostle Paul, where he says that, “the earnest expectation of creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God”? English translation does not in any degree express the extraordinary force of the figure which the apostle employs. What is the figure? It is this. Paul represents nature standing bound, “with uplifted head, scanning with longing eyes the horizon from which she looks for help, her hands stretched out to grasp and welcome the redemption into freedom and perfection which she yearns for and confidently expects.” That is the figure: creation, bound and imperfect, yearning and waiting for her redemption and perfection, which is to come through redeemed man.
2. Judgment and righteousness shall dwell among them as abiding guests. Righteousness shall “dwell” there! It shall not be an occasional visitor, a spasmodic impulse, an inconstant and irregular desire. It shall dwell there as a permanent disposition. It shall not be a weak emotion. It shall be a mighty passion. When the Spirit of God is poured out upon a people, that people shall hunger for righteousness. You know how it is with mountain air. Down in the sultry valley we are sluggish and languid. We are indifferent about our food. We come to it as a custom; we take it as a task.
But if we get up into the pure, strong air of the higher moorlands, our languor drops from us, and our appetite awakes, and we turn to our food with hunger, and take it with relish.
3. The creation of social peace. Put things right, and peace will come. Maladjustments always produce unrest in the physical and moral life. (J. H.Jowett, D. D.)
And the work of righteousness shall be peace
The true work of life
THE NATURE OF TRUE LIFE WORK--the work of righteousness. What is righteous work?
1. Working by right law. God has established a law to regulate all action and motion throughout His empire. What is the law by which mind is to be regulated? The will of God, not expediency. Of expediency, we are no safe, no correct judges.
(1) This will is revealed in nature. But the revelation is difficult to interpret.
(2) It is revealed in Christ. There it can be clearly read and easily appreciated. He embodied the great moral code.
2. Working by a right law from a right motive. A mere conformity to the letter of the law, if it could be obtained, is not righteousness. We must keep the law not from the fear of hell, or the hope of heaven, but from a predominant affection for the Lawgiver. It is noteworthy that the work of righteousness is not a work to be limited to any department of action. Righteousness must run through all personal and social relationships.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF TRUE LIFE WORK. “Peace.” This is true.
1. Of individuals.
2. Of families.
3. Of churches.
4. Of nations.
Conclusion--Learn the transcendent worth of the Gospel. The great object of Christ’s mission was to promote righteousness. His life was a revelation of righteousness, His death a demonstration of righteousness, His whole history one great motive to righteousness. This is the supreme want of humanity. Legislation, philosophy, poets, priesthoods, civilisations, have tried to supply it and have failed. Christ alone can establish righteousness. (Homilist.)
Righteousness and peace
Peace is not a root, but a fruit. It is not the beginning of a process, but its end. It is not the summary creation of an imperial fiat; it is the matured product of the spiritual order. We cannot command peace; we can only grow it. If we would have the reapings we must attend to certain sewings. To obtain peace we must plant righteousness. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The spiritual order
The first bugle-peal proclaims not the advent of peace but the enthronement of right! The herald withholds the word “peace” until “righteousness” is established. “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness!” That is the voice of the first trumpet, and it is only when certain great redemptions have been wrought, certain perversities corrected, certain degraded monarchies restored, certain pure and muscular dispositions recovered, that we hear the sound of the second trumpet, “And the work of righteousness shall be peace,” &c. That is the expression of the spiritual order as contained in the teaching of the Divine Word. (J. H.Jowett, D. D.)
Peace is the general glow of health resulting from the inter-related life of many members, each of whom occupies his appointed place in the spiritual order, and is possessed by the spirit of equity and truth. Peace is the spirit of communion, the genius of co-operation, the cohesion of many members into one pure and indissoluble whole. Now there can be no cohesion among the unclean. Dirt is always divisive. (J. H. Jowett, D. D.)
Righteousness and peace
Before iniquity intruded King Arthur’s court was whole, and the angel of peace abode in the temple. But when the iniquitous stole into the court, the rare communion was broken, and the angel of peace flew away into distant exile. (J. H. Jowett, D. D.)
Maladjustments always produce unrest whether it be in the physical or moral life. You say, “I cannot rest at night.” How is that? “I have a great deal of pain.” Where? “In this hand.” How are you treating it? “Oh, I bathe it very frequently, and I use a little ointment.” But your finger is out of joint! There is a maladjustment. Your finger is not where God intended it to be. Your finger will have to be set right. Physical righteousness, physical rightness must be the first step to physical rest. The truth is analogous in the moral sphere. There are mal-adjustments there, disjointings there. (J. H.Jowell, D. D.)
Goodness and joy
“Why are you singing?” a lady asked a little girl. “Oh, I don’t know, unless it is because I have tried to be good to-day,” was the answer.
My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation
The safety of believers in time of judgment
CONTEMPLATE THE COMING JUDGMENTS OF THE LORD.
II. CONSIDER THE BLESSED PROMISES MADE TO HIS SEEKING PEOPLE.
III. THE PERIOD WHEN THESE PROMISES SHALL HAVE THEIR FULFILMENT. Read the first verse of this chapter, and what is there stated is enough to answer all inquiries upon this head. “Behold, a king, &c.” I expect this when the King of righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ, reigns. The personal improvement of this subject consists--
1. In directing you to the safety of believers.
2. In considering the conduct becoming those who have so high a destiny. Watch and pray. Pray for yourselves, pray for your country. Be valiant for the truth, continue in persevering faith. (J. Wilcox, M. A.)
The peaceable habitation
I. I believe I shall not be doing justice to the prospective design of all Old Testament truth, if I do not represent to you all peace--all true moral peace--as founded in and on, not only THE ATONEMENT MADE BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, but on the nature of that atonement. “The peaceable habitation,” in which only we have “a sure dwelling,” and “a quiet resting-place,” is made of the wood of the Cross.
II. Having said this, I must say, that no doubt “the peaceable habitation” is found in MORAL DISPOSITIONS CREATED WITHIN BY DIVINE GRACE. There is, first, the chamber of holiness. Oh, the sweet tranquillity of a holy life! This is the deep centre of peace. There is a hallowed chamber in the same palace of holy dispositions--a “quiet habitation”--resignation to the Divine will. From these chambers we climb the stairs and rise higher. Trust in God’s providence-this is the observatory; and like all observatories, it is high and clear. Other observatories boast that from them you may see the stars in the day-time; but from this, you may see the sun in the night-time! A quiet habitation indeed! Scripture speaks of a “peace which passeth all understanding.” The grave is a hallowed cavern, a blessed hiding-place. (Paxton Hood.)
A quiet life
George Herbert, thinking of his former ambitions in the court of James I., in contrast with his quiet life of prayer and song, could write: “I now look back upon my aspiring thoughts and think myself more happy than if I had attained what I then so ambitiously thirsted for.”
The Christian in temporary retirement from business
To speak of cessation from business, to urge retirement, will sound very strange and, perhaps, very ridiculous to some. “What,” they exclaim, “sacrifice opportunities of getting money? To get what we can, and keep what we get, is our motto.” But, has it ever occurred to you that you may so pursue business as to destroy the power of doing it? Besides, if thou be getting the chief good, is getting all? Is there to be no enjoyment of it? And no use of it? But, the gain on which thou hast set thine heart, and which thou thinkest it a great mistake and weakness to forego in any measure, will not last long. Does it accord with reason to let thy nature be neglected for the sake of temporary possessions?
I. LET US CONSIDER THOSE RETIREMENTS WHICH ARE INCUMBENT ON THE CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDST OF SECULAR LIFE.
1. I shall omit the compulsory, and confine myself to the voluntary; and shall treat of these in relation rather to their ends than to their seasons.
(1) The first end is health. This I put on the ground of duty. If a man kill himself, or if he deprive himself of some bodily organ, we pronounce him a grave offender. Why? Because he has no right to do it. He is not his own proprietor. A man may kill himself by excessive toil and care, just as well as by poison or the knife. And if he who maims his body is a sinner, is not he who destroys the vigour and elasticity of his powers, physical or mental? There is no law more clear and indubitable than that rest is necessary to health. And if this ordinance be violated, it will tell somewhere.
(2) Enjoyment is another end. We were made for happiness, for various kinds of pleasurable sensations and emotion. Benevolence must contemplate that end. Now, he who gives himself to unremitting toil cannot enjoy the gifts of providence, as it is meant he should. He may have much pleasure in the very exercise of his faculties; but there is a pleasure in the calm contemplation of the Divine bounty, in the unbending and relaxation of the soul, and in the gratification of its varied tastes by the means afforded by success, which is impossible to him. He feasts at God’s table, but it is a hurried and an unquiet meal; he rests on God’s pillow, but it is a dreamy and disturbed slumber. He lives wholly without, and not within. He is like one who labours only in the sun, and never seeks the calm cool shade. The bow is kept bent till its spring is lost. He obtains a portion, but does not “rejoice in it.” He holds property, but does not possess it. He builds a house, but does not inhabit it. He has gorgeous apparel, but does not wear it. His connection with his lot is that of title and outward law, not of fresh and joyous interest.
(3) The general cultivation of faculty is an end. Business requires and sharpens some faculties; and, in connection with other things, it may exercise a sanitary and invigorating influence upon many faculties. But when it is pursued, as it must be by him who does nothing else, it has but a limited influence for good, and a powerful influence for evil. It is well known, that the powers necessary to the greatest secular success are none of the highest, and that they may have but a small range. His only reading may be the “city article”; his only meditation, the state of the market; his only estimate, profit; his only aspiration, gain. He may have, in high perfection, the activity, the cunning, the quickness, the perseverance, which belong to many portions of the animal world, and be almost entirely destitute of the distinguishing endowments of a rational and moral being. Now, retirement from business should be sought in order that the mind be furnished and expanded with knowledge; that it be refined and elevated by literature; that noble affections be nourished by the study and contemplation of noble natures; that social sympathies be developed by intercourse; and that principles more lofty and disinterested than those which rule the world of commerce may be fed and fostered by thought and service.
(4) Religion is an end of retirement. Devotional engagements have the same relation to active life that food has to exercise. The world is the place in which to exercise and apply spiritual principles, rather than the place in which to get or increase them. If exercise does strengthen, it cannot do so without truth and grace, to be obtained elsewhere. It is by the study of the book of life, by deep meditation on spiritual things, by intercourse with Christ, by earnest prayer, by severe self-examination, that we must minister to the principles and habits of holiness, that we must “exercise ourselves unto godliness.”
(5) Benevolent activity is an end of retirement. We may not stop at personal religion. Can it be doubted that the salvation of men would be largely promoted, if those Christians who give themselves wholly to secular life were to devote a portion of their time to good works, to intercourse with the sinful, to earnest endeavours to teach and warn them? Need I specify the family? By incessant work how is that defrauded! Need I mention the school; the neighbourhood; the Church, whose wants and spheres are neglected by the over-busy saint?
2. I must say a few words on the relations of retirement from business to business.
(1) In retiring from business, do not take business with you.
(2) Do not bring the spirit of business into your retirements.
(3) Look at business from those points of view which are accessible only in retirement. We cannot properly estimate our pursuits, when actively engaged in them. It is often necessary to withdraw from an object in order to get a proper view of it; and we must come out of the world to see it clearly and fully.
(4) Use your retirement, at least in part, with a view to your return to it. I do not mean that you should make your retirement a mere means of more effectually prosecuting worldly pursuits. I mean that you should seek for a counteracting influence to business. It may be that you have failed in the exercise of some moral virtue, that you have wronged some brother, that some particular sensibility is in danger of being injured, that some care is becoming engrossing and benumbing; then, let your retirement be, in part, directed to this matter.
II. I did intend to speak on another point, THAT RETIREMENT FROM BUSINESS WHICH CONSISTS IN A FINAL ABANDONMENT OF IT, IN A COMPLETE RESIGNATION OF ITS CONCERNS; not that which takes place at death, but that which takes place, though a voluntary act, in consequence of the obtainment of competency, on the growth of infirmities, or the influence of other circumstances.
1. This retirement may be a duty. It may be a duty in order that you may give place to others. It is a selfish thing for a man to go on getting as much as he can, simply because he can. But the duty becomes still plainer when considered in relation to a man’s own well-being. If God has prospered secular diligence so that there is enough and to spare, it is a loud call to modes of activity and service that are impossible, to any great extent, in the heat and absorption of worldly pursuits.
2. When a Christian has retired from business, he should form some settled plan of life. (A. J. Morris.)
“Nothing to do!”
I know that many find retirement a burden and a snare, and that many have returned to business after having left it, because they were oppressed by having nothing to do. But what a condemnation is this of their past life; what a rebuke of their treatment of the immortal mind! Nothing to do; and yet living in a world of mysteries! Nothing to do; and yet surrounded with the images and works of God! Nothing to do; and yet belonging to a race which has seen six thousand years, and to a system of redemption which has been a Divine gift and power for nearly two! Nothing to do; and yet the works of countless mighty dead extant, and full of glorious things and thoughts! Nothing to do; and yet possessing a nature which is the reflection of Deity, and the heir of immortality! Nothing to do; and yet the world in its sin and suffering calling for the utmost tenderness of human compassion, and the utmost activity of human energy. He who pleads that he has nothing to do after business is abandoned, what has he been doing in the long years devoted to its pursuits? (A. J. Morris.)
Quiet resting places
It is impossible to doubt that the prophet, now and again, in describing those nearer scenes obtains and reveals glimpses of a higher glory, and refreshes his readers and himself with anticipations of Messiah’s times. The closing verses of the chapter are full of the Gospel, penetrated with the very spirit of evangelical peace. “My people” seems to make the promise general, and to hold it out to us sealed with the “yea and amen” which is attached to every promise of God. “Shall dwell” seems to import some settled order of Divine procedure. If Solomon said in his day, “all things are full of labour,” what would he say in ours? How fierce and keen are the conflicts of life! Where shall rest be found? Only in some of those quiet resting-places which God makes and keeps for His pilgrim people. They have soul-quietness for city strife.
I. THE EVENING. A sacred time even in Eden was “the cool of the day.” Isaac went out into the field to meditate “at eventide.” Jesus often left His disciples about sundown, and wandered up among the Syrian hills to find some sequestered spot where He might feel himself alone in the full presence of God. The breeze that fanned the leaves of Paradise will touch our cheek, and make coolness at the close of our day, if we will but cease from care and sin. We read in the Scriptures that day and night are the “ordinances” of God. Can anyone suppose that He has established them for only material ends? Surely a higher end is found in the trial, nurture, and purification of souls. To a devout soul the evening is like “the secret place of the Most High.” It is “the shadow of the Almighty.” It is a closet of which God builds the walls and shuts to the door. Think, then, as the evening comes round--for thought is the soul’s rest--of the day that is gone with gratitude, for every hour of it has been overflowing with the goodness of God; with penitence, for you will easily discover that it has been a day of shortcomings and sins; with wisdom, aiming to understand it better than when you lived it; with tenderness and holy fear, as feeling how good and how grand a thing it is to be permitted to live on, and to hope to live better. Think of to-morrow which will come so soon, with its unknown and yet probable events--of the task that will await you then; of the persons who will be around you, of their words, their looks, their influence; of the peril you will have to brave; of the weakness you will feel; of the strength you will need; of the failure you fear, that by your thought and prayer it may be the less likely to come; and of the goodness which will certainly enrich and crown to-morrow as it has filled and now closes to-day. Think of the evening of life itself. Think any such thoughts with prayer and faith, and your soul must be lifted at least somewhat above the dust and drudgery of this vexing and down-dragging world.
II. THE SABBATH. In the beginning God rested from His work, and blessed and hallowed the day for all time, and never has there been a Sabbath on earth in which men have not been entering into the very rest of God.
III. THE PROVIDENTIAL CHANGE may be of such a character as to lead us at once into a “quiet resting-place.” It may be a change of locality, or of occupation, or of condition. Any considerable providential change has something of the same character. An infant is born, and in his first sleep sheds through the house something of the solemnity of being. A child is “recovered of his sickness,” in which the little pilgrim seemed to be wandering away from all your care and love. A son has gone out to a foreign land. A daughter has been married. Anything that breaks the continuity, that alters the relationships, that makes a pause in life--an open space in the forest of its toils and cares--anything of that kind is God’s voice, saying, “Here is relief for you. Enter this quiet resting-place which My hand has made.” Or, let the change, be from health to sickness, then the “quiet resting-place” is made in the retirement of the chamber, or the “stillness” of the bed.
IV. THE GRAVE. “There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master. There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest.” It is not our mere human fancy that invests the burial-place of the Christian dead with such a sacred charm, that wraps it as in the peace and silence of God. It is Christ who thus hallows the grave. He has been a sleeper there; He has taken the harshness, the disquietude, the terror away.
V. HEAVEN is the quietest resting-place of all. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
God’s thoughtful loving-kindness
In eastern countries, where the habit of hospitality is stronger than with us, the traveller is sometimes surprised and regaled by much-needed but unexpected wayside comforts. Yonder husbandman who is now a-field at his work was here in the early morning to leave by the wayside that pitcher of water that the passing traveller might drink. This clump of trees which makes a thick and welcome “shadow from the heat,” was planted by one who expected neither fame nor money for his toil, and who now lies in a nameless grave. Hands now mouldering in dust scooped out this cool seat in the rock. Some “Father Jacob gave us this well after drinking thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle.” Travellers from the west are much affected by such instances of pure humanity and unselfish kindness. And yet these are but feeble types, mere dim shadows of Divine thoughtfulness and care. The heavenly benefactor comes down in preventing loving-kindness upon the earthly pathway of His people. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
True rest in persons; specially in God
We need one great complemental truth--we do not find our true rest in places at all, but only in persons. The living soul must have a living portion. What were the fairest prospect if a man were condemned to behold it for ever alone? What even the higher things of this human life, the duties, and the interests, and the struggles, if there were not intermingled with them all a sense of the nearness of other human beings, and if there were not the continual reciprocal action of these affections and sympathies which make life so sacred and dear? But no human being, no assemblage of human beings, can meet the wants and fulfil the longings of even one human soul. Your heart is waiting, and aching while it waits, for an infinite sympathy, for an everlasting strength, for a grace that will cancel sin and restore purity, in one word, for the love of God; for the love of God in Christ. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters
Times of peace should be improved
The war is now over; Asher has been crushed like a serpent, and this sweet voice is heard when the enemy has been driven out of the land.
Understand that times of peace are to be times of cultivation. We are not to be great only in war. (Jos. Parker, D. D.)
The allusion in this verse is supposed by some to be to pasturage, by others to tillage. Lowth follows Chardin in applying the words to the practice of treading the ground by the feet of cattle before planting rice; Henderson to the act of setting them at liberty from the rope with which they were tied by the foot. Knobel understands the verse as contrasting the condition of those who lived at liberty, on the seaside or by rivers, with theirs who were pent up and besieged in cities. Hitzig supposes a particular allusion to the case of those who had escaped with their possessions from Jerusalem. Hendewerk applies the verse to the happy external condition of the people in the days of the Messiah. Henderson says it beautifully exhibits the free and unrestrained exertions of the apostles and other missionaries in sowing the seed of the kingdom in every part of the world. Ewald explains it exclusively of moral cultivation, as implying that none can expect to reap good without diligently sowing it. Of all these explanations the last may be considered as approaching nearest to the truth, because it requires least to be supplied by the imagination. Taking the whole connection into view, the meaning of this last verse seems to be, that as great revolutions are to be expected, arising wholly or in part from moral causes, they alone are safe, for the present and the future, who with patient assiduity perform what is required; and provide, by the discharge of actual duty, for contingencies which can neither be escaped, nor provided for in any other manner. (J. A. Alexander.)
Missionary operations in the Christian dispensation
It has been granted to Isaiah to look into the future, and he foresaw the call of the Gentiles and the Christian dispensation. There he beheld the messengers of the Lord receiving their commission, “Go ye and teach all nations”; and he pronounced them to be blessed as compared with himself, sent to a single people, rebellious and gainsaying. This he expresses in metaphorical language, and by reference to a process of husbandry, or to the manner of sowing grain, particularly rice, which still prevails in Eastern countries, and with which the Israelites were familiar. The mode of proceeding is thus described:--The sowers cast their seed upon the waters, when, by the swelling of the river, the waters cover the land. Beasts of burden are employed to tread down the mud or slime, to render it capable of receiving the seed as it sinks. (W. F. Hook, D. D.)
Sowing beside all waters
There is spiritual seed to be sown. It is to be sown by the side of all waters. It is, however, sown in vain, unless the moral soil be cultivated in which it is designed to take root.
I. THE NATURE OF THE SEED WE HAVE TO SOW. Our Lord and Master, when explaining the parable of the Sower and the seed to His disciples, saith, the seed is the Word o God.
1. The ministers of Christ are the sowers of the seed.
2. But they are not so exclusively. To sow the seed is in some measure the duty of all who name the name of Christ; of the parent especially to his child, and of every Christian in his daily conversation and walk.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF WATCHING THE TIMES, AND OF AVAILING OURSELVES OF THE OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDENTIALLY OPENED TO US, FOR SOWING THE SEED. In every nation, and in every clime, it is indeed as much the farmer’s duty to watch the seasons as it is to sow the seed. And in spiritual husbandry, this it is that distinguishes the sober-minded Christian from the mere fanatic. But this is not the only lesson that we are to deduce from our text. We are to sow beside all waters.
III. THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE SOWING OF IT RESULTS IN A MORAL, SPIRITUAL, AND HEAVENLY HARVEST. God requires the spiritual seed to be sown; He requires the spiritual seed to take root in the heart, before the harvest of grace can be realised, or the fruit be produced. It is by meditation that we tread down the seed into the heart and soul. (W. F. Hook, D. D.)
The blessedness of communicating the privileges of the Gospel to others
I. Blessed are they in this work; for in acting thus THEY ARE INSTRUMENTS OF GOD’S MERCY TO MEN.
II. Blessed are they, IN REFERENCE TO THE STATE OF RELIGION WITHIN THEMSELVES.
III. May we not add, as another ground of blessedness, THE PRAYERS OF THOSE WHO ARE BROUGHT TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SAVIOUR BY MISSIONARY EFFORTS? (H. Raikes, M. A.)
The work of the evangel
I. It is a SOWING WORK. Of all mere human works, this is--
1. The most Divine. The seed, the soil, are all of God.
2. The most righteous. Statesmen, merchants, warriors, may question the rectitude of their work, but the agriculturist has no reason to doubt.
3. The most useful. The farmer feeds the world.
4. The most believing. The man who commits the precious grain to the earth has strong faith in the laws of nature.
II. It is a BLESSED WORK. “Blessed is he.”
1. He is blessed by the gratitude of society. All are indebted to his services.
2. He is blessed with the approval of his own conscience. He feels that in sowing he is doing his duty.
3. He is blessed by the smiles of his God.
III. It is an UNRESTRICTED WORK. “All waters.” The meaning is, all well-watered places. The word “beside” would be better translated “upon.” Scatter seed upon all suitable spots. The evangel has unlimited scope for his operations. His field of labour is the world, and he is commanded to be instant in season and out of season. (Homilist.)
The blessedness of sowing beside all waters
I. They who wish to be useful should never forget the many favourable opportunities for sowing good seed on THE CLEAR AND UNRUFFLED WATERS OF CHILDHOOD.
II. Another opportunity for scattering precious seed is on THE TROUBLED WATERS OF STRIFE.
III. Another opportunity is upon THE STAGNANT AND MUDDY WATERS OF DOUBT AND UNBELIEF.
IV. If we are really anxious to do good in our day and generation, there will be times when WORDS OF COMFORT MAY BE SPOKEN TO BEWILDERED
SOULS ABOUT TO EMBARK UPON “THE NARROW SEA” WHICH DIVIDES THIS WORLD FROM THE NEXT. (J. N. Norton.)
Sowing beside all waters
1. Here is an assertion of that universal law that operates in the whole domain of human life--the law of consequent following precedent, of effect being the child of cause, of our sowing determining our reaping, of our character and conduct evolving our destiny.
2. “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.” Why? Not because the sowing is itself an absolute benediction. Oftentimes it is attended with a great deal of pain, and labour, and anxiety, and sacrifice. It is the casting away of that which is in itself of great value. The sowing is blessed because it is a prophecy of the increase of that which we sow, the promise of the reward of our labour and our sacrifice.
3. We are very apt to say, “I shall attain this and that, acquire this and that by the goodness of God.” We do well to say this. But we must not forget that the mercy and goodness of God alone will do nothing for us. It is God’s mercy and goodness, plus our own will, energy, and conduct, that will determine our destiny, and evolve our circumstances, and ripen our harvests.
4. The skill of the farmer lies in his knowledge of the relation of his seed to the soil, to the season, and the atmosphere, and the conditions of the growth and development of the seed. The highest wisdom of life is the knowledge of the relation of conduct to character, and of character to destroy: the perception of the conditions under which h e s highest elements are perfected and its fruit-bearing qualities ripened. That is the mystic meaning Of the benediction of my text: there is the secret of the blessedness of every Sower.
5. Do we know what God’s purpose in our life is? Along what lines would He have us develop? What does He wish human life to be? I would answer these questions first, and then show how the working of the human with the Divine fulfils the purposes and plans of God. I do not think that He wants us to go hungry or poorly clad in the biting cold; I do not think that we are fulfilling His purpose when we sigh over accidents that are traceable to human causes. It is anything but piety to sit down in poverty, rags, and dirt, and say, “The will of the Lord be done.” His will is our wellbeing--body, soul, and spirit. I want to point out what lines of conduct will contribute to the forming of such a Character and the developing of such circumstances as God approves.
I. I would speak of ACTIVITY as fruit-bearing seed that ripens into a harvest of blessedness. I do not mean busyness in any realm of life that may present itself. What I mean is activity in righteous pursuits, in holy ambitions, in legitimate callings; activity in things that pertain to human improvement, human comfort and well-being; things that belong to the many phases of life’s wondrous economy; things that tend to the uplifting of human lives, to the amelioration of human woes, to the lightening of human burdens, to the redeeming of human souls from tyranny, falsehood, and wrong.
II. The next fruit-bearing quality of which I would speak is LEARNING. There is a trite old saying, “Never too late- to learn,” which in most lives has little or no practical application. Do not let learning end at the schoolroom, net yourself some task to learn that shall explain some of the mysteries of life to you. Go apart from the “madding crowd’s ignoble strife,” and there open the windows of your mind, till that “light which never was on sea or land” shall flood it and make it luminous as with the sunshine of God. Every task you set yourself to learn, and learn it; every mystery that you make plain to yourself by processes of reasoning and study; every new fact that you gain by search and research in the domain of knowledge will not only make you wiser, but better; and, perhaps, after much pain and labour, you shall find the task ripening into a harvest that shall make the autumn of life golden.
III. I would mention also THE PRESERVATION OF HEALTH as that which will bear abundant fruitage in our happiness and well-being. “A sound mind in a sound body” is doubtless God’s will concerning us. And towards attaining that we can do more for ourselves than all the physicians in the world can do for us. Blessed is every man that sows his life’s seeds in fertile places; he is promoting the Divine economy, he is carrying out the purposes of God on earth. (W. J. Hocking.)
Sowing beside all waters
I. THE CHARACTERS HERE DESCRIBED. Sowers. A sower implies seed. There is only one granary in which the living seed of the kingdom is treasured, namely, the Bible.
1. The true spiritual sower, having first of all received himself the seed, will manifest a real love for the work. He will go forth willingly, conscientiously, and lovingly, to scatter broadcast the precious treasure, not merely on well-cultivated patches of human soil, but “beside all waters,” finding very often his chiefest joy in sowing the unlikeliest patches.
2. The true, spiritual sower will also have faith in his work.
3. He will not only have faith in the seed, but also in the soil. The farmer who does not believe the soil capable of producing fruit will certainly not waste time in its cultivation. If we did not believe that between every human heart and the Gospel seed there was such affinity that it could not help taking root therein, we should most certainly give up our toil.
4. The true, spiritual sower will often encounter difficulties in his work.
5. The spiritual sower is earth’s truest philanthropist.
II. OUR SPHERE OF OPERATION. “Beside all waters.” Wherever there is a solitary spot capable of receiving the good and living seed--whether at home or abroad, in dens of squalor or palaces of luxury and ease, in the crowded city or the rural village--we are commanded to go and plant it there.
III. THE BENEDICTION HERE PRONOUNCED. “Blessed are they that sow beside all waters.”
1. The work itself is its own reward.
2. The spiritual sower enjoys the benediction of others.
3. He has the smile and benediction of Him in whose service he is engaged. (J. W.Atkinson.)
Sowing beside all waters
Isaiah ever had an eye to the golden age. In view of the successful issue of the coming struggle, he intimates the wisdom of going on with seed sowing. They are blessed who are not hindered by fear. May we not learn the wisdom of hopefulness? The man who believes in Divine faithfulness has every reason to be an optimist. This subject is capable of application in various ways. The optimism of Isaiah, Christ, Paul, and John needs cultivation.
1. Those who give any thought to the social problems of the age are met by many difficulties and discouragements. So much want to be relieved, so many wrongs to be righted. Pessimism says, “Society is going to the dogs; let it go.” Optimism says, “I’ll save it if I can.” Present social inequalities and woes should not make us hopeless. Jehovah was more mighty than Sennacherib. He is more mighty than all the forces arrayed against true liberty. Having faith in God we may sow the seeds of social reform.
2. In evangelistic and missionary work a spirit of optimism is essential. With Divine promises of power and blessing we may hopefully sow. Concerning foreign missions, Pessimism says, “It is a waste of life, money, energy”; but the man whose faith in God is strong, points to the golden age when all shall know the Lord.
3. Considering our own life and experience this same hopefulness is essential. Is life worth living? Yes, if for no other reason because in it we may sow for a golden harvest. (T. S. Williams, M. A.)
Selfishness in service
Some one tells of a physician, who, at the beginning of his career, made a resolution that he would undertake no cases but those with which he was certain he could succeed. While this would mean the loss of a good deal of money, he shrewdly calculated on getting it back a hundredfold in the reputation of skill which such a course would bring him. The idea is wholly selfish. He preferred to let men, whom he might possibly have saved, die, rather than run the risk of having the brightness of his reputation dimmed. (Christian Endeavour.)
Is there a word in our language which expresses more than that? What images of the good, the devoted, and the self-sacrificing does it not bring up vividly before us! We see Thomas Cranfield, the tailor, labouring among the bricklayers in the cause of Sunday schools; John Pounds, the cobbler, who founded ragged schools; Sarah Martin, the dressmaker of Yarmouth, the devoted visitor to the workhouse and the jail; and Thomas Dakin, the Greenwich pensioner and distributor of tracts. Among these, in the higher walks of life, we recognise Howard, the philanthropist, over whose grave, in Russia, was engraved the motto which kings might envy, “He lived for others”; Clarkson, Wilberforce, and a host of honoured statesmen; the Thorntons, and a multitude of other merchant princes; Washington and Wellington, and Havelock and Scott, who, while they were leaders in the armies of this world, were proud to be humble privates in the armies of the Lord of hosts. (J. N. Norton.)
Where shall we sow?
“Beside all waters.” Some waters are clear and sparkling, and the murmur of their ripple gladdens the ear, sow there, of course. But there are turbid, angry waters, fouled and polluted, sow beside them also. Into the bright, sunny, prattling lives of the little ones cast the precious seed, but also, all the more lovingly and skifully, when the swollen torrents of sin rush past. God is able to make it grow and take root there; and also beside the stagnant pools of stolid atheism. “Thou canst not tell whether shall prosper, either this or that.” (G. Soltau.)
Many striking incidents are related of good “Father Nash,” one of the early heralds of the Cross in the more destitute and neglected regions of the “Diocese of New York,” who has been made to figure with such effect in Fenimore Cooper’s famous romance, The Pioneers. On a certain occasion, when a number of clergymen were assembled for some purpose, and conversation began to flag, one of them, who was almost too diligent a farmer for the good of the Church, entertained the company with an account of his agricultural operations, and, among other things, of his successful management of sheep. Father Nash, whose whole heart was devoted to his Heavenly Master’s work, felt little interest in all this, and when the enthusiastic farmer-pastor turned to him and asked, “What do you feed your lambs with?” the worthy missionary could not resist the temptation of administering a mild rebuke, and answered--“With Catechism!” (J. N. Norton.)
Tact in seed-sowing
A young friend was invited to spend the evening with Dr and Mrs. Horace Bushnell. She was a girl of fine intelligence and character, but not at that time religious. When, therefore, she was invited to tea by Mrs. Bushnell, she accepted with considerable misgiving, lest the evening should be made the occasion of such exhortations as were then too commonly the only subject of ministerial intercourse with the unconverted. To her great relief, however, the time was spent in the pleasantest social intercourse, free from all remarks of a personal nature. Dr. B., of course, saw her safely home when the evening was over, and as the night was one of brilliant starlight, the talk on the way was naturally of astronomy, and of the law-abiding order of the universe. He spoke eloquently of the great harmony of the spheres, and of the perfect manner in which each little star fulfilled its destiny, and swung in the Divine order of its orbit. “Sarah,” he said, turning to her with a winning smile, “I want to see you in your place.” No other word turned the suggestion into a homily, and her quick intelligence was thrilled and won by a thought which seemed in that quiet hour to have dropped upon her from the skies. He had simply let the occasion speak its own thought. (Dr. Bushnell’s Life.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 32". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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