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Arise, shine; for thy light is come
The glory of spiritual Israel
Having repeatedly and fully shown that the national pro-eminence of Israel was not to be perpetual, that the loss of it was the natural consequence and righteous retribution of iniquity, and that their loss did not involve the destruction of the true Church or spiritual Israel, the prophet now proceeds to show that, to the latter, the approaching change would be a glorious and blessed one.
(J. A. Alexander.)
Isaiah 60:1-22 is the spiritual counterpart of a typical Eastern day
Isaiah 60:1-22 is the spiritual counterpart of a typical Eastern day with the dust laid and the darts taken out of the sunbeams,--a typical Eastern day in the sudden splendour of its dawn, the completeness and apparent permanence of its noon, the spaciousness it reveals on sea and land, and the barbaric profusion of life, which its strong light is sufficient to flood with glory. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
Sunrise in the East
In the East the sun does not rise; the word is weak for an arrival almost too sudden for twilight. In the East the sun leaps above the horizon. You do not feel that he is coming, but that he is come. This first verse is suggested by the swiftness with which he bursts upon an Eastern city, and the shrouded form does not, as in our twilight, slowly unwrap itself, but “shines” at once, all plates and points of glory. Then the figure yields: for Jerusalem is not merely one radiant point in a world equally lighted by the sun, but is herself Jehovah’s unique luminary. (Ibid.)
“Thy light is come”
The perfect tenses are used from the ideal standpoint of the future. (Prof. J. Skinner, D,D.)
Light breaking on the mountains
Any one who has spent much time among mountains will appreciate the imagery. Around is absolute blackness; the valleys are in gloom; trees, rivers, towns have been obscured; nothing is visible but that dim shaft of granite rising into the silence of the sky. Suddenly we may imagine a spirit’s voice crying, “The light has come.” Instantly there is a glow on the mountain--trees, rivers, towns begin to take shape; the whole world has changed. The point to be observed here is that the light was from God. The city was exhorted to be in a condition in which the glory of God might be reflected from it. The chapter describes the degradation of the rest of the world, the effect of the light on other peoples, how they would be attracted toward it; and contains near the end this outburst of victorious joy: “The Lord shall be unto thee an ever lasting light, and thy God thy glory. This prophecy, was never literally fulfilled, and yet hundreds of years later a light did pour itself upon Mount Zion; it shone on the thickest darkness of the nations, and unto it ever since the people have been attracted. That prophecy was fulfilled in Christ. He is the Light. (A. H. Bradford, D. D.)
The Gospel era
I. THE GOSPEL ERA IS DISTINGUISHED BY A SPECIAL REVELATION OF DIVINE GLORY. The light that has come to the world is the glory of the Lord. What is “the glory of the Lord” We take the answer which the Eternal gave to the request of Moses, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory.” The reply was not, “I will show thee the infinitude of My possessions, the boundlessness of My, dominions, the almightiness of My power, the immeasurable depths of My wisdom, but, “I will cause all My goodness to pass before thee.” The Gospel is a wonderful revelation of God’s goodness, in the form of amazing mercy towards a guilty world.
1. The glory of His goodness is seen in the gift of His Son. “He spared not His own Son, etc.
2. The glory of His goodness is seen in the entire history of His Son. All the compassion, the tender love and mercy, which Christ displayed when on earth, were the reflected rays of Infinite goodness.
II. THE GOSPEL ERA IMPOSES A SPECIAL OBLIGATION UPON THE WORLD. “Arise, shine.”
1. Arise. Do not sleep while the rays of Divine goodness are streaming on you. Arise to thought, to penitence, to gratitude, to worship. Arise, discharge the duties and enjoy the advantages of a day flooded with the sun of mercy.
2. Shine. Reflect the rays of this goodness. Let this love of God be so “shed abroad in thy heart,” that it stream forth its radiance in thy every action, and bless the circle in which thou livest. Do not be as an opaque body, obstructing the rays and throwing a shadow over thy sphere; but be a mirror, to reflect every falling beam. (Homilist.)
Christ the light of the world
The words of the text comprise an exhortation to “arise “ and “shine”; and a reason to enforce it,--“thy light is come, the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”
I. THE REASON. There is such a connection between ignorance and darkness, that the one is constantly put for the other in Scripture. If ignorance is justly termed darkness, so knowledge is properly compared to light. At the dawn of day, the traveller takes fresh courage; he perceives the path in which he should go, and proceeds on it rejoicing. In the same manner religious knowledge enlightens a man as to his true business in this life, and sets him to work out His salvation. And Christ is the Sun which sends forth this religious knowledge.
1. The sun, when it rises in the morning, dispels all clouds and mists and clews, and shows every object in its true colours. So, without that light which Christ has furnished by His Gospel, we cannot perceive those truths which it is most needful we should perceive.
2. The sun, when it shines above us, does more than enlighten every object. It nourishes, it invigorates. Without it, the sickly plant droops and decays, and brings no fruit to perfection. And the effect of the sun upon outward nature is a striking emblem of the influence of Christ upon the heart. In Him is life, vigorous, spiritual life; and the life is the light of men.
II. THE EXHORTATION. “Arise, shine.”
1. When the sun rises, and scatters the mists of night, he gives a summons to mankind to rise also, and set themselves to the discharge of their various duties. In the same manner, the appearance of Christ in the world is a summons to all who hear of His revelation, to “arise.” To awake out of the sleep of ignorance, the sleep of thoughtlessness, the sleep of sin, which are, in truth, the sleep of death; and to apply themselves, before “the night cometh in which no man can work,” to the business which God has appointed them to perform both for themselves and for Him.
2. The text requires that you not only “arise,” but that you “shine.” That Christ has risen in the world is nothing, unless He illuminates your hearts also. When the sun is up, and shines brightly upon any object, that which before was dark shines too; receives a brilliancy not its own, not natural to it. So is it likewise, when Christ illuminates the heart. It takes a new colouring, a light which by nature it had not. Enlightened by the Gospel, the simple becomes wise, and acquires the knowledge which is most truly valuable--the knowledge of duty towards God and man. Enlightened by the Gospel, he who was selfish and covetous is made liberal, and abounds in the feelings of brotherly kindness, and in the works of charity. Enlightened by the Gospel, he who was sensual becomes temperate and pure, and “lets his moderation be known unto all men.” The “lover of this world becomes a “lover of God,” and “sets his affections on things above.” In this way the light which has shone upon them is reflected in their conduct, and is visible in their whole character. The sun shines; but some objects still continue dark and gloomy. Between them and the sun’s light other objects interpose, and prevent his beams from shining upon them. And so it is in the world of grace. (J. B. Sumner, M. A.)
The dawning of God’s light and its awakening call
I. THE DAWNING OF THE LIGHT. “Thy light is come.” If the light is always near, but the darkness is in man’s heart and the blindness in his soul, we have to ask how the darkness passes away, and to point out the manner in which the glory of God dawns upon it, in order that we may see why its dawning is a summons to arise and shine. There are three requisites for its dawning--three stages in the history of the soul’s enlightenment.
1. Spiritual penitence.
2. Spiritual penitence must pass into spiritual love.
3. Spiritual love necessitates spiritual prayer.
II. THE AWAKENING CALL. “Arise, shine.” That summons is the inevitable result of the dawning of the light. When God is felt to be near a man thus--in penitence, love, and prayer, that man is imperatively bound to reflectthe glory which has risen in his heart; to bear witness of the light which has pierced and transformed his soul. Let us again observe that this is also based on a great principle, viz the deepest emotion in a man’s nature must reveal itself in his life. I proceed to show the way in which the glory of the Lord thus manifests itself in life.
1. In the majesty of holiness.
2. In the beauty of unselfishness.
3. In the earnestness of your efforts for men, (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
The everlasting light
I. THE VOICE SPEAKS TO INDIVIDUALS. How few even realize their possibilities. We have had religious training, we have been taught to consider all questions as they appear in relation to God, we have grown up in a religious atmosphere, and yet the consciousness that no man is a true man until he reflects Jesus Christ in words, business, pleasures and thoughts is dim, and not even desired. The light has come; what does it find? It finds men absorbed and heedless, thinking only of what they can keep for a little while at best; not caring for their fellow-men; selfish and as impervious to higher motives as a granite rock to sunshine. The true glory of a man is to reflect Christ.
II. THE VOICE OF THE PROPHET REACHES THE CHURCH, both local and universal. The Church realizes its true mission only as it reflects the Divine light, which means, simply, realizes the life which was in Jesus Christ.
1. The Church should reflect Jesus in its worship. With Him worship was something essential and vital. Before every great act of His career He went apart from men to pray. The sources of His life were in God. Worship and prayer are the conduits along which flow streams of spiritual vitality. Is the Church a praying Church? Then it is continuing Christ’s work.
2. The Church lives to repeat the teaching of Jesus.
3. In like manner the Church should reflect Jesus in the service of humanity. It lives to continue His ministry. The most hospitable place in every community ought to be the Church of Christ. Has any one a grief? Let him go to the Church. Are any lonely? Let them go to the Church. Have any disgraced themselves and their friends? Let them seek the Church and its help. But will all these various classes find there a welcome? Not only within its walls, but outside also the Church should serve humanity in the spirit of Christ.
III. THIS CRY OF THE PROPHET COMES TO NATIONS. Nations, as well as individuals and Churches, exist to continue the Incarnation. That nation has not begun to realize its possibilities which has not learned that its superlative privilege is the manifestation of Jesus Christ. What do I mean? That the function of government is not only the protection of the people, but the service of humanity. John Milton truly said that the State is only a huge man. In the vision of the prophet when the light broke upon the sides of Mount Zion the nations saw the glory and were attracted by it (verses 3, 14). The most beautiful thing in this world is the character of Jesus Christ; nothing else so wins men. (A. H. Bradford, D. D.)
I. TO WHOM THE CHARGE IS ADDRESSED. To the Church of Christ. This is evident from the context. Further, it appears from the nature of the charge that it can apply only to the Church. There is none else on earth capable of at once fulfilling the charge. The world cannot, for it is essentially dark--“darkness covers the earth.” The Church is compared to reflected and artificial lights. Christ enlightens the world through His Church.
II. THE CHARGE ITSELF. This is a twofold charge implying two distinct acts.
1. “Arise.” This implies that the Church is in the meantime in a prostrate condition; her place is in the dust. This may be partly in penitence. It may indicate a state of affliction and mourning; the Church may be sitting in sackcloth. But chiefly it implies a state of sloth, worldliness, carnality. Whatever be the cause of this prostration the Church is directed to rise from the dust now.
2. “Shine.” “Christ shall give thee light” for this very purpose; not merely to enlighten yourself, to impart life and joy to you, but that you may “shine,” give light to the world. And this applies both to the Church as a whole and to the members of the Church individually. There are two ways in which those who have been enlightened by Christ may give light. On the one hand, by simply shining, each one in his sphere, as a separate light, perhaps in the midst of darkness. On the other hand, by kindling other lights.
III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED. “Thy light is come, etc. The Church has no independent light of her own, cannot shine of herself; and so, such an encouragement as this is needed. “Thy light’--this must mean Christ Himself, for He is the light of the Church. “Is come” - Christ did not come till seven or eight hundred years after this prophecy was delivered. But the prophet refers to Gospel times. Accordingly the Church did arise and shine at that time more brightly and auspiciously than she had ever done before. (C. G. Scott.)
An arousing call
There are some Christian men who have wasted a large part of their lives for want of somebody or something to wake them up. There is more evil wrought in the world by want of thought than by downright malice, and there is more good left undone through want of thought than through any aversion to the doing of good. Some Christians appear to have been born in the land of slumber, and they continually live in their native country of dreams. They rub their eyes occasionally, and suppose themselves to be wide awake; but they are in the Enchanted Ground, and, though they know it not, they are little better than sleep-walkers the most of their days. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. To God’s own people this is my first message, REMEMBER YOUR PRIVILEGE. Your light has come.
1. Recollect out of what darkness that light has delivered you.
2. This light, which God has given you, is His own glory. “And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Byron speaks of God S face being mirrored in the sea; but there is not space enough for the face of Deity to be fully reflected in the broad Atlantic, or in all the oceans put together. The image of God is to be fully seen in Jesus Christ, and nowhere else; for there you behold attributes which Creation cannot display.
3. There is also this blessed thing to be said about this light; you will never lose it (Isaiah 60:20).
II. I WANT TO ROUSE YOU TO SERVICE. “Arise, shine; for, etc. Since your light has come, shine”--
1. By holy cheerfulness.
2. By a gracious godliness.
3. By zealous earnestness.
4. By a secret bravery.
III. I WANT TO RALLY YOU TO THIS SHINING BY ONE OR TWO ARGUMENTS.
1. By the world’s great need (Isaiah 60:2).
2. Because of the great results that will surely come of it (Isaiah 60:3).
3. Because of the great blessing it will bring to the Church (Isaiah 60:13, etc.).
4. “That I may be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Epiphany: Christ manifested
I. THE STATE OF THE WORLD BEFORE THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL AROSE.
II. THE OBJECT OF THE PRESENT DISPENSATION.
III. THE FUTURE CONSUMMATION. (G. Huntington, M. A.)
The God-lit Church
The old story is repeated; Zion sits in the light while Egypt cowers in gloom. The light which shines upon her is the glory of the Lord, the ancient brightness that dwelt between the cherubim within the veil in the secret place of the Most High, and is now come out in the open world to envelop the desolate captive. Thus touched by the light she becomes light, and in her turn is bidden to shine. There is a very remarkable correspondence reiterated in my text between the illuminating God and the illuminated Zion. The word for “shine” is connected with the word for “light,” and might fairly be rendered “lighten” or “be light.” Twice the phrase “thy light” is employed; once to mean the light which is thine because it shines on thee; once to mean the light which is thine because it shines from thee. The other word, three times repeated, for “rising” is the technical word which expresses the sunrise, and it is applied both to the flashing glory that falls upon Zion, and to the light that gleams from her. Touched by the sun she becomes a sun, and blazes in her heaven in a splendour that draws men’s hearts.
I. AS TO THE FACT. Beneath the poetry of my text there lie very definite conceptions of a very solemn and grave character and these conceptions are the foundation of the ringing summons that follows and which reposes upon a double basis--viz. “for thy light is come,” and “for darkness covers the earth.” There is a double element in the representation. We have a darkened earth and a sunlit and a sun-like Church, and unless we hold these two convictions in firm grasp, and that not merely as convictions that influence our understanding, but as ever-present forces acting on our emotions, our consciences, our wills, we shall not do the work God has set us to do in the world. If we take the sulphurous and smoky pall that wraps the earth and analyze its contents, they are these: the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of sorrow, the darkness of sin. On the other side, remember the contrasted picture here of the sunlit and sunny Church. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the fulfilment Of my text, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. If you and I are Christians, we are bound to believe in Him as the exclusive” source of certainty. “We hear from Him no Peradventue,” but His word is “Verily verily, I say unto thee,” and on that we rest all our knowledge of God, of duty, of man, and of the future. If we have the light we shall be light. That is but putting in a picturesque form the very central truth of Christianity. The last word of the Gospel is transformation. We become like Him if we live near to Him, and the end for which the Master became like unto us in His incarnation and passion, was that we might become like to Him by the reception of His very own life unto our souls. These two convictions of these two facts, the dark earth, the sunlit, sun-like Church, lie at the basis of an our missionary work.
II. WE HAVE BASED UPON THESE TWO FACTS THE SUMMONS TO THE CHURCH. “Shine, for thy light is come. If we have light, we are light: if we are light, we shall shine; but the shining is not altogether spontaneous and effortless. Stars do not need to be bidden to shine, nor candles either; but we need the exhortation because there are many things that thwart the brilliance and the clearance of our minds. The command suggests effort, and the effort may be in the direction of the specific vocal proclamation of His name. If we are light, we shall be able to shine; if we are light, we are bound to shine; if we are light, we shall want to shine.
III. THE CONFIDENT PROMISE. “The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” If we have the light we shall be light; if we are light we shall shine, and if we shine we shall attract. A painter will fling upon his canvas a scene that you and I, with our purblind eyes, have looked at hundreds of times and seen no beauty in it, but when we gaze on the picture then we see how fair it is. There is an attractive power in the light of Christ shining from the face era man. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
An imperial ministry
This is a great statesman’s vision unveiling the moral and spiritual possibilities of a people. The prophet is primarily addressing his speech to an awakening nation. To direct a nation’s views is to shape its policies, and to determine the trend and colour of its life. What, then, shall be the elements of an efficient and fruitful ideal? “The Lord shall arise upon thee,” etc. (Isaiah 60:2-3). What are the constituent elements in the vision? “Light “ and “glory. A certain light, the element of illumination, charity, and simplicity of thought; a certain heat, the element of fervour, warm and expansive sympathies; a certain gravity, the element of impressiveness, weight and strength of moral principle. But the glory of the ideal is still further enriched and intensified. We cannot take Isaiah’s ideal and employ it with Isaiah’s limitation; we must carry over his vocabulary into the fuller day and let it receive enlargement in the life and mind of Christ. “Light,” interpreted by the character of the Master, means the absence of shady compromise, sunlit definiteness of purpose, the clear discernment of essentials. “ Heat,” interpreted by the character of the Master, means, an ardent inclusiveness of sympathy, cosmopolitan in its pervasion. “Gravity, glory, interpreted by the character of the Master, is significant of moral weight, incorruptible spiritual ambition, unconquerable virtue, whether illustrated in the light of a marriage-feast, or in the sombre experience of Pilate’s judgment-bar. “Arise! “, Stand erect and set thy face towards the burning vision, and thou shalt “shine’ with reflected glory. By contemplating the Divine thou shalt incarnate the heart of thy contemplation. “The Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, ‘ and thy imperial treasure shall be found in thy shining notabilities, in the radiant motives and ambitions of thy common life. We have seen this transfiguring ministry at work in the life of the individual. But we may be more than a little doubtful as to whether the vision will also serve and ennoble the community. Well, where is the line of transition? Surely, even in the nation we have again and again witnessed the transforming influence of the grand ideal. It was even so with the later experiences of the eighteenth century. The breaking up of formality, the melting of callousness, the opening out of rivers of philanthropy, the enlarged and sweetened life of our people, the enlightened measure of emancipation, can be directly traced to a “strange warming of the nation’s heart,” resulting from a restored contemplation of the light and glory of God. The prophet’s vision reveals an imperial deal, and unveils the only permanent imperial treasure.
1. The imperial character is to be creative of imperial unity (verse 4). There is to be an enrichment of the home, a consolidation of the family, a knitting together of the finer fellowships of the nation. And mark how this statesman describes the large characteristics of the communion. “Then shalt thou see and flow together.” It is to be an open-eyed communion, an illumined, society, a fellowship of transparent aims and aspirations. “Thine heart shall fear; the fellowship is not to be flippant, light-hearted, and vain; it is to be possessed by the pervasive influence of reverence, that saving element which preserves the sense of true perspective, and gives everything the setting of a just proportion. “And be enlarged; the fellowship is not to be fixed and exclusive; its sympathies are to be elastic and expansive, reaching out in ever enlarging circles of interest and regard.
2. The imperial unity is to be the minister of a world-wide illumination. “And nations shall come to thy light,” etc. (verse 3). If this be the true portrayal of imperial welfare, may we not infer the consequent obligations which rest upon the leaders of the people? The first essential of efficient public ministry is a large and exalted aim. The true aim of every true leader is to build up the moral energy of the people. To give ourselves to the production of superior men--this is the aim which should possess the minds and hearts of all who exercise leadership among their fellow-men. An aim like this, definitely and personally expressed, and pursued with undeviating consistency, will preserve a man from those perils of benumbment which seem to attach themselves to every public ministry. (J. H.Jowett, M. A.)
The privilege and prerogative of the Christian Church
The Church is promised an extraordinary measure of light and glory; an immense increase in the number of her adherents, universal exaltation in the eyes of her enemies, and permanent safety and happiness.
I. THE DIVINE ILLUMINATION WHICH THE CHURCH RECEIVED. “Thy light is come,” etc. The text suggests--
1. The nature of this illumination. It embraces--
(1) The light of Divine revelation.
(2) The light of the Gospel dispensation.
(3) The light of the Holy Spirit’s teaching.
2. The necessity of this illumination. The Church existed in a dark age; intellectual, moral, and spiritual darkness prevailed everywhere. This was preeminently the case when Christ came. This was--
(1) The darkness of moral guilt.
(2) The darkness of religious error.
(3) The darkness of spiritual ignorance. This darkness was deep, profound, awful.
3. The beauty of this illumination. “The glory of the Lord,’ etc. Allusion is probably made to the Shechinah. God manifested Himself to His people, and shone upon them in the glory of His grace and mercy.
4. The source of this illumination. “Thy light is come,” etc. It emanated from a Divine source. It was derived, not inherent. The Church is not the fountain of light, but the medium of it. It is called “thy light” because it was the exclusive or peculiar prerogative of the Church. It does not come from the Church, but is given to it, for its benefit and use.
II. THE PERMANENT OBLIGATION WHICH THE CHURCH INCURS IN RELATION TO IT. The Church is a Divine institution, raised up for a specific purpose. Its work is to teach men the truth of God and to testify of the grace of God. But she sometimes fails fully to realize her obligations, privileges, prerogatives, and responsibilities. Here she is enjoined--
1. To arise. She must arise from spiritual apathy, lethargy, and obscurity, take her legitimate position before the world, and faithfully discharge her obligations. Here is a loud call--
(1) To behold the light, and hail it with joy.
(2) To receive the light.
(3) To utilize the light.
2. To shine. Privilege confers responsibility. Every fresh accession of spiritual illumination or power increases her influence and responsibility. The Church is a luminous body, and must shine with heavenly lustre.
(1) For its own sake and benefit. It must gladly participate in the light that shines upon it from above, and be encompassed with light and glory. It should at all times be radiant with the beauty of holiness.
(2) For the sake and benefit of others. Not only is it to participate in the light, but to become the grand medium and means of imparting it. Like the reflector to the lamp, it is to collect, receive, and reflect its rays for the benefit of those needing its light. How is the Church to shine? By the beauty of her teaching. By the perfection of her example. By the purity of her doctrine. By the exemplification of her principles. By the grandeur of her life. By the vitality of her organizations. By the vigour of her activity. Like the light in the lighthouse, the light of the Church, in every age, is to shine conspicuously, constantly, cheerfully, and without fail.
III. THE GRAND PREDICTION WHICH THE CHURCH IS ULTIMATELY TO REALIZE. “And the Gentiles,” etc. This was partially accomplished soon after the rise of the Church, when thousands of the Gentiles “walked in this light.” When a few years elapsed, the Roman Emperor and many other kings ostensibly opened their eyes to the beams of light shed on the world by the Church. Large accessions are being made, and her power and influence are growing and will extend till the Gospel shall universally triumph over error, ignorance, and ungodliness. (J. S. Spilsbury.)
The Church: her functions and her blessedness
I. THE CHURCH HAS THE LARGEST SCOPE. Nations “ come to her light, kings to the brightness of her rising.” She is world-wide and universal.
II. THE CHURCH BEARS THE CLEAREST WITNESS. She “arises.” She “shines.” When she pulses and palpitates with the life of God, how impressive is her trumpet-call! It penetrates far. It arouses multitudes.
III. THE CHURCH DOES THE MOST GLORIOUS WORK. “Who are these that fly to her as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” Her Lord in her saves and edifies His sons and daughters, convinces and converts and comforts.
IV. THE CHURCH ENJOYS THE MOST LASTING BLESSEDNESS. In His favour her King “has mercy on her.” He never fails nor forsakes her. He leads her members just now in green pastures and by the waters of quietness. He will bring them by-and-by to the “Lovely city in a lovely land.” (A. Smellie, M. A.)
The true light of man
I. THE TRUE LIGHT OF MAN IS THE MEDIATORIAL REVELATION OF GOD (Isaiah 60:1).
II. THIS TRUE LIGHT OF MAN WILL ONE DAY BE UNIVERSALLY DIFFUSED (Isaiah 60:3).
III. THE UNIVERSAL DIFFUSION OF THIS LIGHT WILL EFFECT A WONDERFUL REVOLUTION IN THE WORLD (Isaiah 60:5-11).
IV. THE PEOPLE WHO, UNDER THIS LIGHT, WILL NOT SERVE THE TRUE GOD, MUST INEVITABLY BE RUINED (Isaiah 60:12). (Homilist.)
Christ our Light
Light makes many a surface on which it falls flash, but it is the rays which are not absorbed that are reflected in the optics of earth; but in this loftier region the deviation is not superficial but inward, and it is the light which is swallowed up within us that then comes forth from us. Christ will dwell in our hearts, and we shall be like some poor little diamond-shaped bit of glass in a cottage window which, when the sun smites it, is visible over miles of the plain. And if that sun falls upon us, its image will be mirrored in our hearts, and flashing in our lives. The clouds that lie over the sunset, though in themselves they be but poor, grey and moist vapour, when smitten by its beneficent radiance become not unworthy ministers and attendants upon its glory. So it may be with us, for Christ comes to be our light. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The shining of the common place
One summer day, when walking in Surrey, on the slope of a hill--the sun setting behind me--right away across the valley I espied a most remarkable light. It was more brilliant than electric light, and seemed to rise from the ground. At first I supposed that some one had lit a fire with resinous wood that sparkled and flashed, but there was evidently no smoke. It seemed as though some angel had dropped a brilliant star down there upon the ploughed field, and that it was burning itself out. Finally, on my reaching the spot, I discovered that an old piece of broken glass had caught the light of the setting sun, and was bathed in a supernatural glow. An old piece of bottle-glass--yet so brilliant--the bottle-glass not being visible, because of the light that shone on it! (Life of Faith.)
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth
The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles
The first token that was shown to the Gentile world that the great Light had arisen which was to cast its beams over them as well as over the small nation which alone hitherto had known God, was the wonderful star which was seen in the sky. This appeared but twice to the Magi--once to tell them to set out, and once to tell them that they had arrived. All the rest was faith.
2. It was the manifestation of the Redeemer, the Light of the world, to the Gentiles. But much had yet to be done before the Gentiles were received into the full equality of privilege and grace with the Jews. It was above thirty years yet before the rending of the veil of the temple showed that the partition-wall was broken down by the death of Christ, which divided Jew from Gentile; still longer before the commission was given to go and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Holy Trinity; still longer before the vision at Joppa and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Ceasarea bade St. Peter baptize Cornelius, the first Gentile Christian, into the Church.
3. Let us claim our share in that exceeding great joy with which the wise men saw the first brightness of that star when they saw it in the East. If we do truth--that is to say, if we really,, try to please God, by living according to His will--then we “come to the light, and our deeds will be made manifest that they are wrought in God. (G. Moberly.)
The prophet here reverts for a moment to the previous condition of the world, in order to describe, with more effect, the glorious change to be produced. He is not, therefore, to be understood as saying that Zion shall be glorious because, while the nations are in darkness, she is to enjoy exclusive light, but because the light imparted to her first shall draw the nations to her. (J. A. Alexander.)
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light
The attractiveness of an enlightened and light-giving Church
What shall invite such multitudes to the Church?
They shall be allowed to join themselves to thee--
1. By the light that shines upon thee.
2. By the light with which thou shinest. (M. Henry.)
The Jews unconsciously giving light to the Gentiles
I have read in one of George Macdonald’s novels of a born blind lamplighter. He illumined the city at night; but he had no sense of what he was doing. So has it been with this land. She has presented the Portrait to the gallery; she has heard the plaudits of the spectators, and she has refused to join in them. In all history there is nothing so unique. It is the enemies of this land that have crowned her world-king; it is the Gentiles that have come to His light. The lamplighter has been blind to the beauty of that throne which she has illuminated. Palestine has lit up the scene; she has listened to the crowd shouting their applause, and she has wondered why. She has been like a deaf mute in a concert-room. She has struck by accident the notes of a harp, and by accident they have burst into music. The audience has cheered the performance to the echo; but the performer knows not her triumph. (G. Matheson, D. D.)
Blessings of light
Miss Florence Nightingale, as the result of her wide observation, remarks:--“One of the greatest observers of human things says, Where there is sun there is thought.” All physiology goes to confirm this. Where is the shady side of deep valleys, there is cretinism. Where are cellars and the unsunned side of narrow streets, there is the degeneracy of the human race; mind and body equally degenerating. Put the pale, withering plant and human being into the sun, and, if not too far gone, each will recover heart and spirit. In France there are hospitals where they trust almost entirely to light for the cure of disease. Surely there is here an earthly analogue to a spiritual fact. (W. G. Horder.)
Lift up thine eyes round about
The Gentiles gathered
THE GATHERING OF THE GENTILES TO ZION. From every quarter--from far--from beyond the sea. With all the forces.
II. ZION’S EMOTIONS. She sees and overflows with joy. (R. A. Bertram.)
“Nursed at thy side”
Rather, “on thy side,” i.e carried on the hip, the
Eastern mode of carrying young children (Isaiah 66:12). (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
The Church’s children first be nursed at her side, not sent out to be nursed among strangers. They that would enjoy the dignities and privileges of Christ’s family must submit to the discipline of it. (M. Henry.)
Then thou shalt see
The glory of the millennial Church
Wealth, Commerce and Agriculture are three great interests and powers on earthen trinity of forces which have in all ages engrossed mankind.
Each one of the three will have its representatives in that vast multitude who are to ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The enlargement of the Church
We are likewise told how the Church shall be affected with this increase of her numbers and enlargement of her borders.
1. She will be in a transport of joy upon this account (Isaiah 60:5).
2. There will be a mixture of fear with this joy. “Thine heart shall fear,” as though it were a thing unlawful to join with the Gentiles, etc.
3. She shall be enlarged with Love, so as to leave room for all the Gentile converts.
4. She shall be struck with surprise and wonder, saying, “Who are these that fly?” etc. (E. Erskine.)
The multitude of camels shall cover thee
Commercial nations and nomad tribes aiding the Church
The nations engaged in commerce bring their wares to the Church; the tribe of Midian, descended from Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:2), and of which the Ephaens formed a branch, dwelling on the east coast of the Elanitic Gulf in the town of Madyan, lying five days’ journey south from Aria (according to the Arabic geographers)--these come in caravans so numerous and so long that the country round Jerusalem swarms with camels.
All these, Midianites and Ephaens, come from Sheba, of which Viral says, solis est turea virga Sabaeis, and which, according to Strabo, was a populous country of ample resources, producing myrrh, incense and cinnamon. There (viz in Yemen), where spices, precious stones and gold are found, they have brought gold and incense; and these valuable gifts they now bring to Jerusalem, not as unwilling tribute, but with cheerful proclamation of the glorious doings and attributes of Jehovah, the God of Israel. As the trading nations come, so also do the nomad tribes: Kedar, i.e the Kedarenes, armed with bows (Isaiah 21:17), and dwelling infortified settlements (Isaiah 42:11) in the desert between Babylon and Syria; and Nebaioth (likewise of Ishmaelitish origin, according to Genesis 25:23), a nomad tribe which, though still of no importance during the Israelitish monarchy, rose in the first century B.C. to eminence as a civilized nation, whose territory extended from the Elanitic Gulf to the country lying east of the Jordan, across Belka and as far as Hauran--for the monumental inscriptions they have left behind reach from Egypt to Babylon, though Arabia Petrcea is the chief place where they are found. The Kedarenes drive their flocks of small cattle, when collected, to Jerusalem, and the rams of the Naboteans, brought by this nation, ere placed at the service of the Church, and ascend, for good pleasure, the altar of Jehovah. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Properly young camels. The word does not occur in the Old Testament elsewhere; amongst the Arabs it denotes, according to some of the native lexicographers, a camel less than nine years old. (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee
None of the prophets of the Old Testament is able to think of the worship of God by the Israel of the latter days without the offering of sacrifices; but it would be a return to the limited conceptions of the Old Testament if one were to conclude that animal sacrifice will ever be restored.
The dividing-wall of national particularism and ceremonial observances forming shadows of things to come will never be re-established; and with the cessation of sacrificial worship since the fiery judgment fell upon the second temple, there has for ever passed away the restriction of worship to any one central spot on earth (John 4:21), butthe stream of salvation which proceeded from Jerusalem will, nevertheless, ultimately empty its waters there, and make the city once more a fountain of blessing. As the prophet has said (Isaiah 56:7), the house of God in Jerusalem will become “a house of prayer “ for all nations: Jehovah here calls it “My house of glory,” as that which was built for His honour and filled with His gracious presence. He will make its internal glory like the external, by adorning it with the gifts brought in homage by the world of converted Gentiles. (F. Delitzsch,D. D.)
I will glorify the house of My glory
A prosperous church
I. WHAT IS NOW THE HOUSE OF GOD? A house is a place of residence; the house of God, in the proper sense of the phrase, is the place of His residence. In this sense, the universe is His house, for He inhabits all space, and neither is, nor can be, confined to any one spot. Solomon felt this when he built the magnificent temple at Jerusalem. “Behold,” said he, addressing himself to God, “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” Stephen felt it when, in allusion to the same house, he said, “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool: what house will ye build Me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of My rest?” Whilst, however., the universe is thus the only proper house of God, there are places which, in condescension to our weakness, are specially denominated HIS house, to denote that He specially manifests His presence there, is specially worshipped there, and bestows there special spiritual blessings, rich spiritual banquets. The dispensation of the law was intended to foreshadow good things to come, and accordingly under that dispensation there was a typical sanctuary, a house intended to typify the spiritual house of this dispensation--the Church. In that typical sanctuary there was a visible emblem of the Divine presence, a cloud overshadowing the mercy-seat, the same cloud which had gone before the children of Israel when journeying through the wilderness, as a pillar of a cloud by day, and as a pillar of fire by night. This visible emblem was a type of the spiritual presence of God in His Church. In the same typical sanctuary where this visible emblem was vouchsafed, typical sacrifices were offered and typical blessings bestowed. The new dispensation being the antitype is spiritual. Hence we have not now a typical temple, but every believer individually, and especially every Christian Church, is a spiritual temple. The house of God, then, under this dispensation, is not the building where the saints meet, but the assembly of the saints be it where it may; it is a spiritual house built of living stones, a house where spiritual sacrifices are offered, the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which arc acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. At the same time, whilst the building is not the house of God, there is a subordinate sense in which it may be so denominated.
II. UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES MAY THE HOUSE CALLED “THE HOUSE OF GOD” BE DESCRIBED AS “THE HOUSE OF HIS GLORY”? It is the house of His glory, when His glory is the grand object in view. This house of His glory must not only be built, but also used for His glory: We have applied the phrase “house of God in its subordinate sense to the building; let us proceed to apply it in a higher sense to the assembly of the saints, to the Church meeting in the building; and we ask, When is such a Church properly denominated the house of God’s glory?
1. It is so, when the object of its original formation, and that of its assembling from time to time, is the glory of God. Let professing Christians meet together as a mere matter of form, meet without any definite end in view, or meet with any other end than the glory of their Lord, the Church is no longer the house of His glory; nay, if even they meet for praise, for their own spiritual improvement and for the conversion of sinners, yet if the glory of God be not the ultimate end of all this, their assembly cannot be looked upon as the house of His glory.
2. The Church is the House of God’s glory when His glory is kept in view in all Church acts; for example, in receiving members, exercising discipline, choosing officers.
3. The Church is the house of God’s glory, when a spirit in accordance with HIS glory is cherished and manifested by every individual member. It is for the glory of God that love should prevail in His house. It is for the glory of God that there should be peace in His Church. And that the members of Churches should be characterized by humility.
III. THE PROMISE THAT GOD WILL GLORIFY THE HOUSE OF HIS GLORY. There is no promise that He will glorify the house which may be called by HIS name, if it be not the house of His glory. The glory is--
1. When He makes the house the place of numerous conversions.
2. When He makes it the place of edification to His people. (R. Arnot, LL. D.)
I will glorify the house of My glory
I. THE PLACE. For what reasons, or with what propriety, may the Christian Church be called the house of the glory of God? Chiefly on these accounts--
1. Because it is planned and built by the purpose and power of the Most High.
2. Because it contains the special manifestations of the Divine presence and glory.
(1) Christ Himself is the exact image of God. He is the true
Shechinah, the glory of the Lord.
(2) In the gifts and influences of the Holy Ghost.
(3) By the development of the Divine glory in the preaching of the Word.
II. THE PROMISE. “I will glorify, ‘ etc. God did so in the first temple, by making it an object of beauty and glory to all His people, and by causing it to excite the admiration of surrounding nations also; and still further, by sending Christ finally to minister in that temple. God will glorify the house of His glory--
1. By accepting the services and offerings which, in connection with it, are performed.
2. By making it the place of special communion and fellowship with Himself.
3. By protecting it permanently against all the efforts of hostile powers.
4. By extending its influence, and increasing its celebrity in the earth.
5. By consummating it, finally, in the splendour and happiness of heaven. (J. Parsons.)
God glorifying the house of His glory
The vision is inspiring, and can only be fulfilled in the moral grandeur of the Church.
I. It begins to be accomplished WHEN SHE IS MADE A LIGHT TO DISPEL SPIRITUAL DARKNESS. At times she has not laid sufficient emphasis on her mission as a teaching Church. Unquestionably philanthropy is a function of the Church. But she ought not to permit the teaching side of her work to be thrust into the background. Her special business is to fight darkness with light.
II. God also glorifies her WHEN HE MAKES HER THE ARENA OF HEAVENLY VICTORIES.
III. God glorifies the Church IN MAKING HER THE SCHOOL OF SAINTLY VIRTUES. All educational institutions are to be admired, but the Church is foremost among them. To know the world, to know self, to know God, cover the entire domain of knowledge and mark its distinctive steps and progress. In the Church we are trained in the knowledge of self and God.
IV. But beyond all this the Almighty glorifies her WHEN HE MAKES IT A GARDEN FOR THE GROWTH OF HUMAN FELLOWSHIPS. We must not forget that what society knows of brotherhood has come from the Church. In the Roman Empire there were provident societies, especially burial guilds, before Christianity, but the real idea of fellowship began with the household of faith. The people were taught by Christ to love one another. And when the Church realizes her calling in this respect, and rich and poor meet together in her communion on equal footing, then is she resplendent with heavenly glory. (G. C. Lorimer, D. D.)
Who are these that fly as a cloud?
Accessions to the Church
It is a fine conception of Vitringa, that the ships expressly mentioned in the next verso are here described in their first appearance at a distance resembling with their outspread sails and rapid course a fleecy cloud driven by the wind, and a flight of doves returning to their young. Both comparisons are used as here to indicate rapidity of notion (Job 30:15; Psalms 4:6-7; Hosea 11:11; Jeremiah 4:13). (J. A. Alexander.)
As doves to their windows
I. THE MOVEMENT WHICH IS HERE STATED. It is a flight. The expression is intended to signify the coming of men from the distant regions of the earth to the Church of God, of which such glorious things are here said.
1. The movement signifies that state into which these men are transformed, and in which they come to the enjoyment of the designs of mercy. It is the abandonment of all their idolatrous worship; it is the renunciation of all that is opposed to God and to salvation; it is their coming back to “the Shepherd and Bishop of souls”; it is their looking to God as the alone source of happiness and peace; it is their believing in Him, who alone is able to save and to bless them.
2. It is under the Gospel dispensation that this is to be exemplified.
3. Divine influence must be imparted to effect this.
4. This change arises from the statements of Gospel truth as they are contained in the written Word.
II. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS MOVEMENT IS SAID TO BE MADE? The figures denote--
2. Their number.
3. Their unity. The clouds are supposed to fly in one body, and to be driven to one part of the horizon: the doves fly together to attain one home. So it will be with all who have been conducted by the Spirit into the way of life everlasting.
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE INQUIRY WHICH THE CONTEMPLATION OF THIS MOVEMENT EXCITES.
2. Joy. (J. Parsons.)
Converts coming into the Church
They corne as doves to the windows.
I. BECAUSE THEY FLY LOW. The eagle darts up, as if to strike its beak into the sun. There are birds that seem to dwell under the eaves of heaven; you see them as little specks against the sky, so far off that you cannot guess the style of their plumage or the shape of their bodies. They float so far away that if the hunter’s gun be discharged at them they do not change their course. Not so with the doves or pigeons; they never take any high excursions. They fly around your roof and alight on the fence, and seem to dislike great altitudes. So these souls who come to Christ and to His Church fly low. They ask no great things; they seek a humble place at the feet of Christ.
II. BECAUSE THEY FLY FOR SHELTER. The albatross makes a throne of the tempest; the sea-gulls find their grandest frolic in the storm. Not so with doves; at the first blow of the north-easter they fly to the coop. Eagle contends with eagle in mid-air, and vulture fights vulture on the bosom of the carcass; but doves at the first dash of the bird of prey speed for shelter from fiery eye and iron beak and loathsome talon. So these souls come for shelter. Christ is the only shelter of the soul in trouble.
III. BECAUSE THEY FLY HOME. Most of the winged denizens have no home; now they are at the north and now at the south, as the climate indicates. This year a nest in one tree, next year a nest in another tree. But the pigeons alluded to, summer and winter and always, have a home in the dovecot. And so Christ is the home of those who come to Him. He is a warm home I they rest under the “feathers of the Almighty.”
IV. BECAUSE THEY COME IN FLOCKS. The buzzard, with dripping beak, fluttering up from the carrion, is alone. You occasionally look up against the wintry sky and see a solitary bird winging past. But doves or pigeons are in flocks; by scores and hundreds do they fly. So to-day we see a great flock coming into the kingdom. (T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
A flight of doves
I. The first thought which the verse suggests, in connection with cur Communion services, is that of BLISSFUL ASSOCIATION. AS the dovecot may have its different apertures, so each Church retains its own denominational entrance. But the glorious meeting-place, the spiritual Shelter, is the same.
II. In connection with our sacred rite, the emblem suggests a PUBLIC PROFESSION. The prophet is arrested; or, possibly, in the poetical imagery here employed, a chorus of spectators--in which he veils his own personality--are arrested by the spectacle. The doves are not spoken of as flying under screen of night or darkness; neither were they beheld winging a solitary or circuitous flight, as if dreading and evading observation. But the midday sun looked down on a whole cloud of them, their golden iridescent plumage flashing in his beams. It is no unimportant or insignificant feature in your Divinely-appointed ordinance, this open, dove-like flight to the Covenant Ark.
III. The cloud of doves, as here represented, betokens THE CHARACTER OF CHRISTIANS AND OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNICANTS. They are, or ought be, dove-like. The dove has these among other characteristics--
1. It is the complex symbol, in sacred poetry and art, of peace and love, of meekness and gentleness, purity and harmlessness (Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 6:9; Matthew 10:16). In the rude, early Christian symbolism of the Roman catacombs, the dove, as the bird of hope, is generally represented in connection, variously treated, with the olive branch. What a lesson for us all as believers in Jesus.
2. A second characteristic of the dove is, that it is swift of wing. The prophet saw them, not sailing like a cloud, or drifting like a cloud, but flying; borne along with whirlwind speed. The carrier dove is well known for the swiftness--the length and steadiness--of its arrowy course, surpassing the proverbial flight of the eagle. This, coupled with Isaiah’s figure, surely suggests the activities of the Christian life.
IV. The figure of the dove fleeing to its window reminds and suggests that it is a bird which requires A SAFE SHELTER. It does not, like some others, cower in hedgerows or furrows. The wild pigeon may build its nest on the forest tree; but the tame one seeks its secure dovecot. The Eastern dove, which had no artificial home, had its equally secure dwelling in the rock-clefts (Song of Solomon 2:14). A little way from the north-west shores of the Lake of Gennesaret there is a recess in the hills called the “Wady Hyman,” or “Valley of Doves,” the sides of which are perforated with their retreats. You who are communicants have been fleeing anew to-day for refuge to the “Rock of Ages.” It is a special characteristic of the dove, that, however far it goes--though at a distance of hundreds of miles--it will fly back with unerring aim, sureness, and safety to its abode. So with “the dove of Christ.”
V. The cloud of doves on wing to their windows reminds one of Young COMMUNICANTS. In the LXX the words of this verse are remarkable! “Who are these that fly like doves with their young?” The doves fly to their dovecot, but not alone; they have their offspring with them. Not the least beautiful thing about a Communion Sunday is the spectacle of young doves; those who have just risen from their early perches, the perches of the morning of life, and are winging their way, bright and unsoiled, to the Rock!
VI. One other thought is suggested, by the remembrance of a large class of those who are always to be found at the Sacrament of Communion--I mean THE AFFLICTED. This image of doves flying to their windows reminds of storm. They were seen flying; drifting along like a tempestuous cloud. The dove flies to its dovecot, or to the rock-clefts, when the storm is brewing. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The joy of the Church on the multiplication of converts to Christ
I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF CONVERTS IN EVANGELICAL TIMES.
1. Whence do they fly? These persons are represented as coming from among the Gentiles, the Pagan world.
2. Whither do they fly? They repair to Him, who is designated in the sixteenth verse as “the Lord, the Saviour and Redeemer, the Holy One of Jacob.” But this is not the whole. These converts are also represented as repairing to the Church as to their rest and home.
3. What is the mode in which they are represented as flying from their former position, to Christ and to the Church? The images are very beautiful and impressive.
(1) “As the cloud,” which overspreads the heavens; intimating the vast numbers who should turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. As the cloud,” with great speed and celerity. “As the cloud,” openly and conspicuously; not as though they were desirous of concealment, but in the spirit of those who arc ready to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Christ, or of him who exclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” “As the cloud,” powerfully; so that nothing shall resist their course. “As the cloud,” which drops many a shower as it passes along the sky, and which refreshes and fertilizes the earth, so shall these converts be useful in their advancement, like those of whom we read in the history of the Gospels, who as they travelled through the towns and villages and different parts of the country, spread the name of Jesus, and pressed others to become His disciples also.
(2) Look also at the other admirable similitude: “As the doves.” This not only expresses some similar ideas, such as that of numbers and of rapidity and of strength--but some others which we must not omit carefully to notice. It denotes, then, general unanimty. They arc all bent on one grand object--“What must I do to be saved?’ They have all one Saviour to whom they look--one method of salvation which they embrace. The multitude is, in this respect, of one heart and one soul. It describes their cordial fellowship. In the happy days when the Gospel shall thus win its way among men, not one or two of a family and of a tribe alone, scattered here and there, shall hold communion with each other, but the body of believers shall be joined together in the unity of the spirit and in the bond of peace. And in fine, as the doves repair to their windows, and enter their cote, as their rest and home, when wearied with their long flight; so the subjects of Divine grace take refuge in the Church from the storms without, and there find a repose which is not to be obtained in the world.
II. THE SENTIMENTS AND EMOTIONS WITH WHICH WE SHOULD VIEW THESE ACCESSIONS TO THE CHURCH. “Who are these, that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows?”
1. This is the language of surprise and admiration; for the conversion of a soul to God is in all eases a wonder.
2. It is the language of gratitude and pleasure.
3. It is the language of complacency.
4. This is the language of prospective hope. For, if it be admitted that already many have come and yielded themselves up to Christ, it is a pleasing thought that they are only as the early drops of the copious shower. (J Clayton. M. A.)
God’s doves flying to His windows
I. A SWEET SIGHT THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH GETS OF THE STATE OF MATTERS UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT, upon the revelation of Christ in the Gospel among the Gentiles. She sees poor souls upon the wing, in great multitudes, flying to a Saviour; and a sweeter sight cannot be seen upon earth.
II. THE MANNER OF THEIR FLIGHT. “AS a cloud, and as doves.”
III. THE TERM OR OBJECT OF THEIR FLIGHT. They fly to the windows for their relief. Like the window of the ark of Noah, whereat the dove entered, when she could find no place for the sole of her foot, because of the deluge.
IV. THE PLEASANT SURPRISE THAT THE OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH IS PUT INTO AT THIS SIGHT. (E. Erskine.)
Marvellous increase of the Church
The Church, when she uttered these words, appears to have been the subject of three kinds of feeling.
1. The Church wondered at the number of her converts.
2. The Chaldee has the idea in it of swiftness. “Who are these that fly as swiftly as a cloud?”
3. The Targum has another idea, that of publicity. The cloud flies so that everybody can see it. So do these converts fly openly before the world.
4. There is another idea here, which Dr. Gill gives us in his very valuable commentary. “Who are these that fly as a cloud,” for unanimity? Not as clouds, but “as a cloud”; not as two or three bodies, but as one united and compact mass!
5. Again, there is the idea of power. Who is he that shall bridle a cloud and stop it in its march?
1. The Church is exceedingly pleased at the character of those who come to her. “Doves.”
2. The Church feels pleasure in their condition: They “fly.”
3. The translation of the LXX gives us another idea. “Who are these that fly like doves with their young?” The Church rejoices at the company that the converts bring with them.
4. The Church feels pleasure at the direction in which these doves move. “To their windows.” The joy of the Church is that the poor sinner does not fly to man, nor to the law, but to Christ, the dovecot.
III. ANXIETY. “All!” says the Church, “it is all very well their flying like a cloud; it is all right their going as doves to their window-s; but who are they?” She anxiously desires to be sure that it is all gold that is put into her treasury. “Who are they?” I address myself to an anxious Church to answer it.
1. They are those that fly. They fly because they cannot stop where they were, and they are flying, somewhere else for refuge. 2. They fly, not on the ground, but like a cloud, up high. They were persons that did not care about the world, but wanted heaven.
3. They were persons driven by the wind, just as the clouds are--who have no power of themselves to move, but have something driving them behind.
4. They are persons who have been regenerated, for they are “doves.” They are changed from ravens into doves, from lions into lambs.
5. They are those who have fled to their windows, and found a refuge in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The cloud of doves
I. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD BE SO MANY? The answer to that inquiry is another question: Why should they not be many?
1. There are a great many sinners in the world; why should not a great number be converted? When many souls are brought to Christ, they are only relatively many. Usually, alas! they are relatively small.
2. Has not Christ brought into the world a great redemption?
3. Why should they not come ill crowds when the spirit of God is quite able to lead them to come?
4. Heaven is very great, and the preparations which grace has made are very large.
II. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD FLY?
1. They fly to Christ, because they are driven, and cannot help flying to Him.
2. They may well fly, because they are in danger.
3. Besides, these flying sinners have strong desires within them. I sometimes see a man throw a pigeon up into the air, that it may find its way home. It usually wheels about for a little while, as though it were uncertain which direction it should take; but, presently, its quick eye catches sight of some familiar landmark, and by instinct it knows which is its way home, and then, away it goes. So is it with a soul that the Spirit of God has once quickened. It longs for Christ. It may hesitate, and look about to find the way it is to go to find Him; but at last, it says within itself, There He is, and away it goes, like the doves to their windows.
4. They may well fly, because they have such a short time in which to reach the Saviour.
III. WHY DO THEY FLY AS DOVES, that is, in a covey, so that they look like a moving cloud?
1. Because they are all in one common danger. They are too much taken up with the solemnities of their condition before God to have time or wish for contention; and, therefore, they do not quarrel and fight, as a number of hawks might do, but they fly together in one band.
2. Because they are seeking one common refuge.
IV. WHO ARE THEY THAT THEY SHOULD FLY THIS WAY? I mean, what makes them fly to Christ? What makes them fly to His Church?
1. Because they are seeking safety, and there is no safety for them except in Christ.
2. They also need rest, and a dovecot is a place of rest to a dove.
3. You like to come where God’s people assemble because your food is there.
4. Our companions are there.
5. Some of us fly there because our young are there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Surely the isles shall wait for Me
The ships of Tarshish
The ships of Tarshish coming from the extreme end of the European island-region, as the leaders of the fleet brining Lion’s children from afar.
(F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
The ships of Tarshish, transport-ships, shall lie ready to carry members from far distant regions to the Church, or, which is equivalent, to carry the ministers of the Church to remote parts to preach the Gospel, and to bring in souls to join themselves to the Lord. (M. Henry.)
The enlargement of the Church
I. WHO ARE BROUGHT. “Thy sons,” i.e such as are designed to be so, those “children of God that are scuttled abroad” (John 11:52).
II. WHAT THEY SHALL BRING WITH THEM. They live at such a distance that they cannot bring their flocks and their rams; but, like those who live remote from Jerusalem, when they come up to worship at the feast, they shall bring “their silver and their gold with them.” When we give up ourselves to God we must, with ourselves, give up all we have to Him. If we honour Him with our spirits, we will honour Him with our substance.
III. TO WHOM THEY SHALL DEVOTE AND DEDICATE THEMSELVES AND ALL THEY ARE WORTH. To “the name of the Lord thy God;” to God as the Lord of all, and the Church’s God and King, even to the Holy One of Israel, whom Israel worships as a holy One, in the beauty of holiness, “because He hath glorified thee.” The honour God puts upon His Church and people should not only engage us to honour them, but invite us to join ourselves to them. “We will go with you, for God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23). (C. H.Spurgeon.)
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish
The character and doom of a corrupt nation
THE CHARACTER OF A CORRUPT NATION. The text implies--
1. That there is a certain course of human life which the Bible recognizes as serving the Lord.
2. That nations as well as individuals are bound to pursue that course. There is no sentiment more common, none more philosophically absurd, none more morally pernicious than this: that communities of men are relieved from obligations which are binding upon individuals.
II. THE DOOM OF A CORRUPT NATION. “They shall perish, yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”
1. The doom is most calamitous. “It shall perish.”
(1) Perish as to their national existence. Their commerce shall waste away; their government shall be dissolved; all the institutions they glory in shall die out. The whole land shall be desolate as an old castle, Many great nations have thus died. Where are the empires of the Pharaohs, the Belshazzars, the Alexanders and the Caesars? They have perished, they have utterly wasted.
(2) But there is a more solemn sense still in which nations perish, that is, in a spiritual sense. They shall lose their souls. Not their existence, not their consciousness, not their memories; but their mercies, their friendships, their hopes, their heaven, their God.
2. The doom is most certain. It is here threatened with emphasis--“they shall perish, yea,” etc. All analogy indicates its certainty. Our subject explains--
(1) National convulsions.
(2) The true method of promoting national stability. (Homilist.)
The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee
Trees employed in the service of the Church
It is difficult to say whether the reference he to building materials for the sacred edifice, or to ornamental trees planted in the temple-courts.
(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Variety in unity
Variety of instrumentality and operation subordinate to unity of purpose is a striking feature in all the works of God. This law provides for beauty as well as use. The text teaches us that the method by which God works in nature is also the method by which He works in grace--that the law of variety in unity is the law according to which Heconsolidates and extends His kingdom among mankind. The allusion and the doctrine are equally clear. The allusion is to the various trees of Lebanon employed by Solomon for utility and beauty in the erection of the temple in Jerusalem. Varying in size, and quality, and appearance of wood, they were all deemed necessary for the purpose of beautifying the place, that was to be made more beautiful and glorious still by the majesty and grace of the indwelling God. The doctrine is that, in like manner, various agencies--men of different periods and nations, men of different positions, talents, and attainments, men of opposite creeds and mental tastes--are used by God in the erection and adornment of that spiritual temple which He makes His special abode, the magnificence and glory of which, outliving the desolations of time, shall shine to His praise through the ages of eternity. (W. Waiters.)
Diverse agencies in the Church
I. THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS DOCTRINE ARE MANIFOLD.
1. The first I notice is that which is supplied us in the structure of the Bible. To a superficial observer the Bible seems a collection of small books bound together without any connecting-link. But if we come to study this collection of books carefully, we shall see, underlying all diversities, a unity which indicates that all have been originated and guided by one supreme mind.
2. Certain periods require certain orders of men and certain gifts, not necessary at other times.
3. Further, the peculiar qualities of various races and tribes serve to extend the truth of God, and promote the growth and perfection of His Church. Christianity does not recognize nationalities as such Jew and Gentile,
Greek and Barbarian, European and African, American and Asiatic,--all are one in Christ Jesus. Still, God sanctifies all national characteristics to His gracious purpose of making Christianity universally triumphant. Jewish reverence, Grecian intelligence and taste, Roman courage and honour, Scandinavian enterprise, the practical energy of the Anglo-Saxon, the speculative inquiry and patient toil of the German, the Frenchman’s brilliant vivacity and grace, the Italian’s glowing imagination, the ardent negro, and the Oriental full of subtlety and disputation--all are wrought by the Master-Builder into the strength and beauty of the structure He is rearing to His honour.
4. Nor can denominational distinctions be regarded as altogether an evil; for God makes them all subserve the complete manifestation of His many-sided Gospel, and the wider extension of His kingdom.
5. Original differences of mental constitution and temperament have also their place and function. There arc diversities of gifts, yet there is the same Spirit; there are differences of administrations, yet there is the same Lord; there arc diversities of operations, yet it is the same God which worketh all in all.
II. PRACTICAL REMARKS.
1. We may be sure that where God has designed and qualified men for work in His Church He will prepare the way for their usefulness.
2. Every man should try to find his true position, and prove faithful in it.
3. The subject affords encouragement to the feeblest of the Lord’s servants. All have their place and use.
4. Are we not reminded of the duty of charity towards all engaged the work of the Lord? Too often the diversities of Christian men are occasions for jealous; let and strife. If we are Christians, we are all plants of God’s right hand planting; let us be content to bloom after our kind, and rejoice in that we all contribute something to the glory of the Master’s garden. (W. Waiters.)
I will make the place of My feet glorious
“The place of My feet”
I. THE SCENE OF THIS SPECIAL DIVINE GLORY. “The place of My feet.” The sacred writers speak of God’s feet as indicating His personal presence. The place of God’s feet, or His footstool, was, in ancient times, the temple at Jerusalem. The allusion of the language is to a royal throne. Jehovah is conceived of as the King of Israel, the King of kings, whose throne is in heaven, but His footstool in the earthly temple; and thither the Israelites as His true subjects were required to repair, to render homage to their great King, and bend lowly before His footstool. All this was, in turn, a figure of the better things reserved for us. The Jewish particularity has been broadened out into the compass of the great household of faith, whose sons and daughters are drawn from all the earth’s kindreds, and peoples, and tongues. The true Church, composed of all believers of whatever name or nation, is God’s temple--“the place of His feet I” In a real and important sense the wide earth, and the whole material creation, is His footstool, marked everywhere by the broad footprints of the Creator revealing His eternal power and Godhead. The signs of Providence reveal the movements of a present and ever-working God, exercising wise, and righteous, and benignant control over His creatures.
II. THE GLORY OF THE SCENE. It was the glory of Eden that there God talked with man face to face. So it is the glory of heaven that there He replenishes His saints with the joys of His eternal fellowship. It was the glory of Sinai that there He displayed His grandeur and proclaimed His law; and of Tabor and Calvary that there He unfolded His hidden majesty, and the fulness of His mercy. And it is the glory of the Church that it is distinguished by the clearest manifestations of the Divine presence and grace. What are these manifestations? God makes the place of His feet glorious--
1. By the worship that is there rendered and accepted.
2. By the spiritual glory that is there created. “The glory of Lebanon, etc. The glory of the Church lies in the possession and exercise of the grandest and noblest moral principles--those that are most assimilated to the Divine nature. The true purpose of the Church, the final end of its warfare, is to be a living witness to mankind of these moral principles, to be an embodied protest against all the money-worship and pleasure-worship, and therefore worship of the world; to be a revelation to man of higher interests and blessings, and a Diviner greatness. It is when she is most distinctly Godlike and Christlike that men fall down and confess that God is in her of a truth. The glory of the Lord is then risen upon her.
3. By attracting immense and various multitudes from all quarters of the globe to His Church. Though numbers be not the chief, they are a real element of glory.
4. By the blessedness there conferred. All the elements of the Church’s glory hitherto enumerated are elements of blessedness; but there are other special sources of that blessedness.
(1) There is the blessedness of inviolable security. The greatest earthly monarchy has no power to protect itself against assault, against even successful assault. It is the glory of God’s house that it is safe. It is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
(2) The absolute and unspeakable splendour of the Church--the splendour of her purity--the splendour of her joy. (J. Riddell.)
The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee
Honour done to the Church
A promise like this is made to the Church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:9); and it is intended to be--
A mortification to the proud oppressors of the Church.
2. An exaltation to the poor, oppressed ones of the Church.
3. And this is the honour that shall be done them: they shall have an opportunity of doing good to those who have done evil to them, and saving those alive that have afflicted and despised them. It is a pleasure to a good man, and he accounts it an honour, to show mercy to those with whom he has found no mercy. (M. Henry.)
The city of the Lord
The city of the Lord
1. He hath built it for the honour of His majesty.
2. It bears His name.
3. He hath fortified it with impregnable walls and bulwarks.
4. He hath beautified it with the graces of His spirit.
5. He hath replenished it with the blessings of His goodness.
6. He hath felicitated it with His gracious presence.
7. It is the city wherein reside the peculiar people of God, who are the beloved of the Lord, on whom His eyes and His heart are continually fixed.
8. He esteems it above all the kingdoms and empires of the world. (R. Macculloch.)
An ideal city
That city is truly great and honourable, it is strong, it is rich, it is safe, it is beautiful, it is the most desirable place that can be to live in, which is the city of the Lord, which He owns, in which He dwells, in which religion is uppermost. (M. Henry.)
Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles
The Church served by nations and kings
The nations and their kings now give up to the Church their vital substance, as a mother or nurse gives to the child the milk of her breasts; and the Church thereby has rich nourishment for prosperous growth, ever fresh material for joy and thanksgiving.
We can by no means think of enrichment by plunder; the sucking is that of a child, not a vampire. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Religion advanced by wealth and power
All interpreters agree with the Targum in applying this verse to the influx of wealth and power and whatever else the kings and nations of the earth can contribute to the progress of the true religion. The figure is derived from De
33:19. (J. A. Alexander.)
The perpetual excellencies of the Gospel Church
(Isaiah 60:15-16):--Considering how short Jerusalem’s excellency was, and how short it came of the vast compass of this promise, we must look for the full accomplishment of it in the perpetual excellencies of the Gospel Church, far exceeding those of the Old Testament Church, and the glorious privileges and advantages of the Christian religion, which are indeed the “joy of many generations.” Two things are here spoken of as her excellency and joy, in opposition to her having been forsaken and hated.
1. She shall find herself countenanced by her neighbours. The nations and their kings that are brought to embrace Christianity shall lay themselves out for the good of the Church, and maintain its interests with the tenderness and affection that the nurse shows to the child at her breast.
2. She shall find herself countenanced by her God. “Thou shalt know that I, the Lord, I am thy Saviour, etc. (M. Henry.)
Sucking the milk of the nations
Not suck their blood--that is not the spirit of the Gospel. (M. Henry.)
For brass I will bring gold
The kingdom of God
This passage occurs amid the glowing prophecies concerning the millennial kingdom.
It has, however, its application to the kingdom in its present state.
I. THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST RECOGNIZES DIFFERENT GRADES, QUALITIES, VALUES, USES. Each of these is most effective in its own place. We would much sooner commit ourselves to a vessel of steel than to one whose hull was made of gold. No greater calamity could happen to the world than to turn all substances into gold. In the Church variety of talent and gifts, differences of classes are essential to prosperity. God never repeats-Himself. Equality is impossible, and if possible would be disastrous.
II. ALL THINGS TAKE ON ENHANCED VALUE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. “For brass I will bring gold,” etc. Wherever the Church of Christ comes, instantly all things leap into higher value--property, schools, trade, institutions, government, the family, the individual. You may interrogate in just four different directions--Nature, the Rational World, Sin, the Kingdom. Nature replies: “I change nothing. I furnish the ore; I cannot bring out the metal; I can’t change even the place of a stone.” Rational World replies: “I can change the shapes, the places, the combinations of things, but I cannot change the substances. I cannot turn iron into silver, wood into brass, stones into iron.” Sin rises in its black monstrosity, and says: “Yes, I have power to change. I can reach up, lay my hand on the twenty-two carat gold and drag it down to silver; I can drag the silver down to brass, the brass to iron, the iron to stone, the stone to wood, the wood I can burn with the torch of hate, and scatter the ashes on the red-hot floor of hell--I can do that!” Sin can drag the genius or the archangel down to the abyss of a hopeless hades. It is only the Kingdom that can say: “Everything I touch shall increase in value. I can take even the devil’s outcasts and change them into burning seraphs.’
III. THIS ENHANCEMENT OF VALUES IS BY AND THROUGH SUCCESSIVE GRADES--wood, stone, iron, brass, silver, gold. God’s method of working is by development through grades. There is no such thing as reaching perfection at a bound. It is a walk, a race--meaning steady progress by steps.
IV. THE DIVINE AGENCY IS EMPHASIZED. “I will bring.” Transformations in human nature are effected through Divine power and grace. (A. McE. Wylie.)
The golden age
The golden age of humanity is in the future. This age is here represented as so far excelling all future ages as gold excels brass. Morally this may include three things.
I. THAT FOR PRACTICAL ATHEISM THERE WILL BE GODLINESS.
II. THAT FOR DOMINANT MATERIALISM THERE WILL BE SPIRITUALITY.
III. THAT FOR CONTROLLING SELFISHNESS THERE WILL BE BENEVOLENCE. (Homilist.)
The wonderful exchange
This seems like a very unthrifty kind of commerce. It promises only the most speedy and utter bankruptcy. Surely one making such an offer must have great treasures, and great love. There must be a perfect confidence that there can be no exhaustion of treasure, nor any exhaustion in the delight of perpetually giving others the best end of the bargain. No one can have such confidence and feeling but God. It is God, the infinite, who proposes to give gold for brass. It is just what He is constantly doing in nature, giving out the best for the worst. God always sees and seeks the highest possible thing in every nature. And He wants us to catch His penetrative insight. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived the glories God hath prepared for those who love Him.” But God is constantly trying to reveal them unto us by His Spirit. He is ever trying to give us gold for brass, and silver for iron. This ought to be good news for man. He is always willing to get the best end of a bargain. Now there are various kinds of life, and many degrees of each kind. There is what is known as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual life. Evidently there is life that is as clay, as ore, as iron, as brass, as silver, as gold. God all the time offers to every man to change his hard iron of life into brass his brass into silver, his silver into gold. How does He propose to do it? On precisely the principles that man acts in every-day life. Indeed, God has made it impossible for men to succeed at all in the life that now is, except in the laws that give success in the life to come. Just as man gives muscle for bread, or exertion of muscle that all the delights of life may be his, just as he gives a few midnights So study that he may be everlastingly wise, just as he gives self-denial that he may have exuberance of strength, just as he gives all the things that he hath, in order that he may keep his life, so God always asks your iron when He would give brass, asks your brass when He would give silver, asks your silver when He would give gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich, and have crowns of eternal glory. The trouble with men is they give their muscle for bread, but will not give iron to God for brass. I think it is a statement capable of vindication, that God does not enrich by legacy, but by exchange. Every one that is endowed is in great peril. Look at the great heroes that God has made in our history: they fill the earth and rise into the skies. Were they endowed? Not one, except with faculties; they had to develop their virtues. So in the case of all moral greatness. God gives the Conditions, the opportunities; but man must work with God. Did the human soul that Christ associated with Himself submit to this plan of development, and especially did the Son of God, begotten in holiness and perfection, submit Himself to this law that has been applied to all men? If this shall be answered in the affirmative, we must conclude that there is no other possible way to greatness and road to perfection. It is evident at first glance, that the man Christ Jesus constantly accepted this law. He was obedient to His parents, giving up His will to them. His announced principle of life was: “I came not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. ‘ He gave up the riches of silver, anal for our sakes became poor. He vacated the throne of the universe and became Seryant of servants of men. The Lord of life became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. He gave up all silver, brass, iron, stones, and wood. Was there any gold in return “Wherefore, because of this, God hath highly exalted Him.” There can be no mistake. We see plainly the way to highest strength of character and greatest height of glory. It is not the way of present gratification, of selfishness, of the pursuit of personal and family ends, but a giving up of personal good for God’s higher good, a selling of lower for higher. Once God opened the windows of heaven and poured out water enough to drown a world. Then He takes that great deluge of abundance and makes it an emblem of the abundance of spiritual blessings.
Bring the tithes into the storehouse, the little tenths of daily gain, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Homiletic Review.)
But thou shalt call thy walls Salvation
Walls, salvation; gates, praise
Consider how salvation is a wall, and how gates are praise.
1. There are three safeties which a sinner wants. He wants to be saved
(1) From the condemnation of his sins.
(2) From the, power of his sins.
(3) From the conflict and presence of His sins.
Therefore a man’s salvation comes to him with three unfoldings. This threefold salvation is, to every man that receives it, as a wall. On the one side, towards the adversary, it is a wall of fire; on the other side, as it shows itself to him that is within it, it is shelter. It is beauteous, as with all bright and precious stones, inlaid with all the loveliness and the attributes of God. And whatever comes through that wall to touch a man has first touched and pierced his Saviour; for all the faithfulness of God, and all the power of God, and all the glory of God, and all the work of the great Mediator, go to make the eternity and the sufficiency of that great bulwark.
2. “Thou shalt call thy gates Praise.” What is praise? The joy of a happy spirit, pouring itself back into the bosom of God as its only fountain. Through the walls of salvation, the Christian enters into a perfect peace--that with a happy heart ha may go out praisingly. In every object in nature, he likes to see some reflection of an unseen world! In every providence, he traces a Father’s hand. He has thoughts high above, that make him walk this world an independent man. Heaven is gilding all the distance to him. He comes at last to Zion “with songs and everlasting joy upon his head.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Thy gates Praise.
Songs and hymns have ever been the most interesting and inspiring of human compositions; if we draw a line of arbitrary distinction between the two, then I would say that Song represents the music of the blood, while the Hymn represents the music of the soul. It is in song that we utter the music of Nature; it is in the hymn we utter the music of grace and Divine holiness. (E. Paxton Hood.)
The gates of Praise
I do not wonder that the gates of the Church are called Praise. I do not wonder at it, because it is clear that praise opens--no I we cannot tell what are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge until we have passed through the gates of Praise. We do not know what God hath reserved for them that love Him, until we have passed through the gates of Praise. As we sometimes walk on from step to step, from landing-place to landing-place, and scene to scone, until at last we reach some elevation, when the whole of the grand panorama bursts upon our astonished vision, and the walk, and the steep ascent, and the hill, and even the beauties of the way, arc alike forgotten in the overwhelming splendour of the scene; so is it when we are able to pass through, or even to look through, the gates of Praise; even the consolations of prayer are all lost by reason of the glory that excelleth; we step from the finite to the infinite, when we look over the scenery, or breathe the atmosphere of praise. (E. Paxton Hood.)
The gates of Praise.,
I. PRAISE IS THE GATE BY WHICH WE PASS OUT OF OURSELVES.
II. IT IS BY THIS PATH THAT THE BELIEVER PASSES INTO NEW RELATIONS. He enters the Church through “the gates of Praise. It is impossible that there can be an ungrateful Christian.
III. Gates within gates, gates to the city, and gates within the city; THE GATEWAY BY WHICH WE PASS TO HIGHER KNOWLEDGE, AND TO HIGHER LIFE, IS PRAISE. (E. Paxton Hood.)
Praise because of salvation
The Rabbins say that when God created the universe He asked the highest seraph what he thought of the work of His hands--and he replied that nothing was wanting but that it should become vocal, and be able audibly to speak its Maker’s praise. But in the work of salvation it is so: “to Him that sitteth on the throne” it rises in the grandeur of loud peals of harmony. (E. Paxton Hood.)
The sun shall be no more thy light by day
The lower giving place to the higher
The prophet bids his people look forward to a time when even the sun and moon shall become needless to them; when in some new and more direct experience of God they shall need nothing to reflect His light to them, but drink immediately from Himself His strength and inspiration.
That seems to be the meaning of the words; and so it points us to one feature which belongs to every progress, the power to do without one thing after another which has before been essential, the way in which, as we advance to higher and higher supplies, we are able to gather out, of them what we used to get from lower sources. It is like that verse in St. John’s description of the New Jerusalem: “I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” Or like these soberer words of St. Paul’s autobiography: “When I became a man I put away childish things.’ This life that rises to the highest helps and companies is able easily to do without the lower. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Things once needed may cease to be necessary
As we climb a high mountain we must keep our footing strong upon one ledge until we have fastened ourselves strongly on the next. Then we may let the lower foothold go. The lives of men who have been always growing are strewed along their whole course with the things which they have learned to do without. As the track of an army marching deep into an enemy’s country is scattered all along with the equipage which the men seemed to find necessary when they started, but which they have learned to do without as the exigencies of their march grew greater, and they found that these provisions and equipments were partly such as they did not need at all, and partly such as they could gather out of the land through which they marched; so from the time when the child casts his leading strings aside because his legs are strong enough to carry him alone, the growing man goes on forever caring each help for a higher, until at last, in that great change to which Isaiah’s words seem to apply, he can do without sun and moon as he enters into the immediate presence and essential life of God. (E. Paxton Hood.)
A token of growth
As we grow we come to the capacity of higher pleasures and higher occupations, and so let go the lower ones; not by compulsion, because we cannot hold them any longer, but from the satisfaction of our newer lives; because we have got something else better than they are, and can do without them now. (E. Paxton Hood.)
The symbol and the reality
Let us take two or three instances of those things which are valuable as symbols, but which he is able to do without who has got beyond the symbol and gained the reality which it represents.
1. Take the instance of wealth. There are some men who can do without being rich--plenty of men who have to, but some men who can, can easily, can without discontent or trouble. They love comfort and respectability as much as these their neighbours. What is the difference? Simply this, that they have found that comfort and respectability, while money is their natural symbol, are not dependent upon money, and that one may reach past the symbol, and take the reality, and let the symbol go.
2. Or take another symbol. Praise is good. To be applauded by our fellow men, to hear our ambitions about ourselves caught up by their testifying cheers, to have our own best hopes for our own lives confirmed by their appreciation of us, that is a true delight for any man. To be able to do without men’s praise because we do not feel its value, because morosely and selfishly we do not care what men think, that is bad; that is a sign of feebleness and conceit. To feel it is wretched, and to affect to feel it is detestable. But to be able to do without men’s praise because that which their praise stands for is dearer to us than the praise is, and it so happens that we cannot have both of them, that is a wholly different thing. Men’s praise stands for goodness. Every man feels that if it does not mean that, if it is “given to iniquity just aa freely as to goodness, praise loses all its value. Praise is the symbol; goodness is the reality.
3. So it runs everywhere. The symbols of the deeper pleasures are the mere animal indulgences--eating and drinking, the lusts of the flesh. They stand for intellectual and spiritual joys. How natural their symbolism is. The Bible talks of “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.’” David says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Jesus tells His disciples about “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” The superficial emotions of the senses stand for and represent the profound emotions of the soul. In the, harmonious life the two will live in harmony. The symbol and reality, the body’s and the soul’s enjoyment, will be complete together. But when in this unharmonious life which we live the symbol and reality come into unnatural conflict, when either the soul must be, sacrificed to the body or the body to the soul, he who really knows what the soul’s happiness is does not hesitate. Here is the power of true self-sacrifice; here is the secret which takes out of it all the bitterness and brutality. Always it is the giving up of a symbol that you may have the reality. In the great sacrifice of all, Christ lays down His life, but it is that He may take it again. Do you think that Christ did not care for life and all that makes life beautiful to us? Surely He did; but He cared more for that which they represent--the living purely, the doing of His Father’s will, and the serving of His brethren.
4. I am very much impressed by the truth of all this as concerns the Christian Church. She has her symbols and her ordinances, and she has her true and inner life. Her outward ways of living really belong with her inward power. In a perfectly harmonious world there never could be any conflict. In heaven the outward and the inward Church shall absolutely correspond; but here and now the Church may be so set upon her symbols and her regularities that she shall fail of doing her most perfect work and living her most perfect life. The Christian may be so bound to rites and ceremonies that he loses the God to whom they ought to bring him near. Here it certainly is true that no symbol is doing its true work unless it is educating those who use it to do without itself if need be. (E. Paxton Hood.)
1. First you will ask, How can I tell the symbol from the reality, and so know what things it is good to hold less and less, what things it is good to hold more and more indispensable? It is not easy to give the answer in a rule. But the answer no doubt lies in a certain feeling of spirituality and infiniteness and eternity, which belongs to those things which it is good for a man not to be able to do without. Those things which serve the soul rather than the body, those which serve the whole of us and not one special part, and those which can serve us longest--those are the things which we want to make more and more indispensable. Those things whose usefulness belongs mainly to the body, those things which help some part of us and not the whole, and those things whose use is temporal--it is not good for any of us to have to say, “I cannot do without these things. This is, perhaps, the nearest that we can come to rules; but he who lives in the spirit of these rules acquires a certain sort of feeling of the infiniteness of some things and the finiteness of others, so that renown, wealth, dignity, sympathy, comfort, friendship, amusement, life, stand on one side; and honour, truth, bravery, purity, love, eternity, God, stand on the other. These last he must have. Those others he can do without. The moment that he touches any new gift he can tell to which order it belongs.
2. But then you say, What then? When I have felt this difference, when I know what things I must not allow to become indispensable to me, what shall I do then? Shall I throw all those things away? Shall I strip my life instantly of all that is not indispensable, and live only in those things which I cannot live without? No; certainly not. That effort to cast away the symbol as soon as it was seen to be a symbol has been the source of much religious unhappiness and failure, and of much of the wrong kind of separation between religious and irreligious life. Not to give up the symbol, but to hold it as a symbol, with that looser grasp which lets its inner reality escape into us, and at the same time makes us always ready to let it go when the reality shall have wholly opened from it, that is the true duty of the Christian as concerns the innocent things of the world. That was the way in which Jesus always seemed to be holding friendship, home, nature, and His own human life; never grasping them so tightly that their spiritual meanings might not come forth from them freely, nor that He could not give them up when a higher vocation summoned Him.
3. And that brings us to the last question. How shall I come to count nothing indispensable but what I really ought to, what I really cannot do without? The answer to that question is in Christ, who holds the answers of all our questions for us. As I read the Gospels I can see how, little by little, Jesus lifted those disciples past one conception of necessity after another, until at last they knew nothing that was absolutely necessary except God. They began as fishermen who could not do without their nets and boats and houses and fishing friends and sports and gains and gossipings. He carried them up till they were crying, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” (E. Paxton Hood.)
Thy sun shall no more go down
The world of light
THE SOURCE OF THE LIGHT. “The Lord.” This is true even of the present world. The light which reason sheds on our path is a ray of His kindling. But here, in this world of ours, there are generally intermediate sources through which the light we have is conveyed to us. It does not come directly from God. In the heavenly world, however, it will be different. There, every intermediate agency will be done away, and the light that shines will shine immediately from God. There are four things symbolized in the Bible by this word “light, ‘ and all that we shall know or possess of each of these four things in heaven, we shall know or possess through Jesus.
1. Knowledge (Psalms 119:130).
2. Holiness (Romans 13:12).
3. Happiness (Psalms 97:11).
4. Beauty or glory (John 17:24). In this lower world we know how true it is that there is no beauty or glory that the eye takes in for which we are not indebted to the light that shines from yonder natural sun. In heaven Jesus is the Sun that shines on all.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE LIGHT. Three elements of it are mentioned in our text. When we decompose the light of the natural sun, seven rays or colours are the result of the analysis. But these seven we know may be resolved into three--the red, the yellow, and the blue. Thus there is a trinity of rays of elements in the light which the natural sun is pouring forth continually And it is an interesting thing to find that when we come to analyze the light of the heavenly world, the same feature is found to mark it.
1. There is one ray in this light which may be called the continuous ray “Thy sun shall no more -o down neither shall thy moon withdraw itself.’
2. We have here a perpetual ray. “An everlasting light. To speak of the perpetual, as well as the continuous nature of this light, is not a distinction without a difference. You may have light that is continuous for a season even when you know that it cannot be perpetual.
3. The third ray may be characterized as a joyous ray. “The days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (R. Newton, D. D.)
The saint on earth and in heaven
The words present us with two different views of truth.
I. THEY TELL US OF OUR PRESENT STATE.
1. It is a state of change--vicissitude--perpetual alteration. The sun rises to set; it sets to rise. The moon waxes and wanes.
2. The words point us to our present state of comparative darkness; for the contrast is between the minor light of the sun, the lesser light of the moon, and the glorious light of the Lord.
3. The words present us, too, with a picture of a state of mourning: “The days of thy mourning shall be ended.”
II. THEY OPEN TO US A GLORIOUS PROSPECT. There are two blessings especially pointed out to us here.
1. Perfect light.
2. Perfect happiness. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
The present and future state of the people of God
I. THE PRESENT STATE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. A state of darkness and of sorrow. To what causes can such experience be ascribed?
1. To their remaining ignorance, and the imperfection of their present views.
2. This may be the case under a sense of the prevalence of sin, and especially of unbelief.
3. They may be in such a situation also, from the Lord withdrawing from them the sensible communications of spiritual light and comfort.
II. THEIR FUTURE STATE. A state of uninterrupted light, of perpetual cessation from sorrow, consequently of endless joy. The Lord shall be the everlasting light of His people.
1. As He will give them a more enlarged capacity of knowing and enjoying “Him.
2. He will afford them more perfect discoveries of Himself.
3. He will afford them more enlarged views of His works and ways.
4. He will impart to them the fullest assurance of their interest in His peculiar regard.
5. He will be their everlasting Light. (D. Dickson.)
The eternal day
1. Israel of old had light while all the rest of the world sat in darkness. This typical Church of God abode not in the light continually, its history was chequered with alternate brightness and gloom, repentance and relapse, prosperity and adversity.
2. Another dispensation came; Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem, “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel,” and the sun shone upon the earth as it had never done before. A visible Church was called out to walk in the light, which Church still exists upon the earth, and from the days of Pentecost until now its sun has never altogether gone down, neither has its moon withdrawn herself. The light has not been always equally clear, but it has been still day.
3. But there is a Church upon the earth which is within the visible Church, and is its central life. I refer to the spiritual Church. This secret Church, this Church mystical, this true body of our Lord Jesus Christ, may claim to have had this text fulfilled in its experience in a far larger sense. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” Yet even to the Church spiritual the text has not been fulfilled in its largest conceivable sense, for I fear me that to the most spiritual some darkness comes. Their light is sown, but it has not yet sprung up to its full harvest.
4. We must, therefore, refer to a fourth form of the Church. If we see it not at all in the typical, a little in the visible, very much in the spiritual, we find it all in the Church triumphant. The full triumph of the Church of Christ shall begin in the millennium.
I. THE LIGHT OF THE TRIUMPHANT CHURCH SHALL BE INCESSANT. “Thy sun shall no more go down,” etc. There will be no intervening nights of darkness, but one long noonday of purity and felicity, “the days of her mourning shall be ended.” And why will this be?
1. Because the light of heaven is independent of creatures. In heaven the saints will need no teacher. When God sends a true preacher he is a star in God’s right hand, and the Church is bound to value his light, which is the gift of heaven, but we shall need no teachers there; we shall see, not through a glass darkly, but face to face. Up there they need no comforters to succour them in the time of their distress, for God Himself has wiped away all tears from their eyes. Poor saints will not then be dependent upon the alms or the consolations of others, though once their generous friends were like sun and moon to them.
2. Because it is cleared of all clouding elements. Here below in the Church of God, whatever by God’s grace may be our light, errors will arise to cloud it; evil men come in unawares and distract God’s saints. There are none such up yonder. Satan himself shall be shut out.
3. The saints themselves shall be so purified that nothing in them shall darken their light. Here to-day Christ changes not, but we change, and hence our joy departs. It shall not be so there. Notice that the text hints that both the major and the minor necessities of saints will be abundantly supplied. Have you not found sometimes that the Lord Jesus Christ has withdrawn Himself from you? Then your sun has gone down. You ore prospering in business; God gives you all that heart can wish, the moon does not withdraw herself, but the sun has gone, and woe beclouds your spirit. It will never be so in heaven, you shall see your Lord face to face without a veil between, and that eternally. Here, on the ether hand, at times Jesus has shone upon you, and as to spiritual things you have been rich, but then earthly trouble has hovered over you, the “moon” has withdrawn herself. Not often have both sun and moon been as flesh and blood would have them. True, you have been able to do without the moon in the presence of the sun, but you would have preferred both spiritual and temporal prosperity. Now in heaven all the wants of our nature will be completely supplied.
4. The Church triumphant will be delivered from the vicissitudes of those seasons which cause the going down of sun and moon. I do not refer to slimmer and winter, but to ecclesiastical and temporal arrangements, such as the Sabbath and times of assembly and Church fellowship. It was a glad day for Israel when the trumpets rang out the morning of the Jubilee, for every slave was free, and every debtor found his liabilities discharged. Back came each man’s lost inheritance, and the whole nation was glad. With sound of trumpet and of cornet they saluted the rising of the sun on the first day of that Jubilee year; but the jubilee year went by, and lands were mortgaged and forfeited, and slaves fell again into slavery, and bankrupts were again, seized by their creditors. We are coming to a jubilee, of which the trumpets shall sound for ever.
II. THE LIGHT OF THE TRIUMPHANT CHURCH IS EVERLASTING. “The Lord shall be thine everlasting light.” Why will the perfection and bliss of the saints triumphant never end?
1. Because the God from whom it comes is eternal.
2. The covenant by which the saints stand in heaven is a sure one.
3. The guarantee of that covenant can never fail, seeing it is Christ Himself. “Because I live ye shall live also” is the great seal set upon the indentures by which we hold our inheritance in the skies.
4. Those who possess heaven are also themselves immortal.
III. THE LIGHT OF THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT SHALL BE BOUNDLESS. “The Lord shall be thine everlasting light.” The Lord is infinite. If He is our sun there can be no limit to the light in which we shall rejoice.
1. If God is to be our light, then in every separate believer there will be a perfect light of bliss and holiness. You are aged, you feel also that you are full of infirmities and sins; now, these will all vanish, and that weakened form of yours shall be raised in power. Your ignorance will give place to the light of knowledge, your sin to the light of purity, your sorrow to the light of joy.
2. In addition to your possessing personal light, you will enjoy the closest possible fellowship with God.
3. This glorious light will give us the clearest views of Gospel truth.
4. There, no doubt, we shall understand more of Providence. Here our sun goes down sometimes as to the Divine dealings; we cannot make out what He means; the lines are dark and bending; we thought He would have led us by a straight course, but we wind to and fro in the wilderness. All the happiness which knowledge and understanding can bring to intelligent beings shall be at our feet.
5. There we shall receive the utmost endurable joy. Some have thought the joy of heaven would lie in knowledge; they shall have it. Others have rejoiced in the prospect of continued service; they shall serve Him day and night in His temple. The sweetest thought of heaven to me is rest, and I shall have it, for “there remaineth, therefore, a rest for the people of God.” Peace! O quiet soul, do you not long for it? You shall have it. Security and a sense of calm! O tempest-tossed one, you shall have them. Strength, power--some have wished for that. You shall be raised in power. Fulness, the filling up of every vacuum! You shall have it; you shall be filled with all the fulness of God.
IV. THE LIGHT OF THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT IS UNMINGLED. “The days of thy mourning shall be ended.”
1. The mourning from a persecuting world.
2. There will be no more mourning from the common trials of life.
3. Then shall we be delivered from all mourning caused by our inward sin.
4. We shall be delivered from every kind of mourning as to an absent God, for we shall never grieve Him any more.
5. I find that one version reads it, “The days of thy mourning shall be recompensed,” and I say this to those who have to mourn more than others: you shall have a recompense. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thy people also shall be all righteous
The people of God considered as righteous
AS THEY ARE ALL INTERESTED IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST JESUS.
II. AS BY THE INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, THEY HAVE AN INHERENT RIGHTEOUSNESS WROUGHT IN THEM.
III. BY ABOUNDING IN WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS TO THE PRAISE AND GLORY OF GOD. Here two cautions are necessary, to prevent mistakes.
1. Virtuous actions do not constitute a person inherently righteous, but declare him so; as good fruit is rather a declaration of the goodness of the tree, than the thing which constitutes that goodness. Therefore,
2. Virtuous actions cannot be said to be necessary to salvation, in the same sense in which inherent holiness is so. It is possible that, where holiness is implanted, life may be so quickly taken away that there shall be no room for its discovering itself by the outward behaviour. Taking these cautions along with us, the necessity of works of righteousness, though not as a ground of our justification, yet, as an evidence of it, can never be too strongly asserted. Every motive, whether from interest or gratitude, whether from the beauty of religion or the pleasures of a virtuous life, still remains in full force. We further observe, that the reward of saints hereafter shall bear some proportion to their progress in holiness here below. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
A righteous people
The prophet here predicts the elevation of the Church to its normal or ideal state, a change of which we may already see the rudiments, however far we may get from its final consummation. (J. A. Alexander.)
A little one shall become a thousand
The amplitude of the Church
The Church of Christ has been often subject to persecution in past ages; but at a future time it will obtain general protection and patronage.
I. THE IMPORT OF THE PROPHECY. After a careful examination of the text in connection with the former part of the chapter, I am led to conclude that it refers, primarily and in part, to the time when our Lord appeared as “the Light of men,” a “Sun of righteousness” to illuminate a benighted world, and graciously introduced His kingdom and dispensation upon earth: but that the principal and pre-eminent fulfilment of the prophecy is reserved for a future and happier era than men have ever yet witnessed. The slight and partial fulfilment of the prediction in the primitive age seems to have been only a shadowy resemblance of its more complete accomplishment hereafter.
II. AT WHAT PERIOD THE PREDICTION WILL BE FULFILLED. “I the Lord will hasten it in his time”--not before the proper time--but in its season--in due time. We are not justified, by the spirit of out religion, in cherishing an unhallowed curiosity or presumptuous confidence in our attempts to ascertain the purposes of God. It is on the wings of faith and hope, not those of pride and speculation, that the Christian is authorized to soar. Yet whilst a sacred obscurity invests the whole of this mysterious subject, there seems to be ample encouragement given to those who are disposed to pursue their investigations with a devout and docile disposition--with a sober and humble mind.
III. CONCLUDING REMARKS.
1. The certainty of these events.
2. Our duty in prospect of such events.
(1) To anticipate with delight the approaching happiness of the world.
(2) The crisis that is approaching calls upon us to aim at a superior degree of piety. (T. Sims, M. A.)
The miraculous propagation of the Gospel
I. THE MATTER OF FACT ITSELF, to which this prophecy refers,--how swift and strange a progress the Gospel made at, and after its first setting out in, Jerusalem.
II. THIS SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL WAS CERTAINLY MIRACULOUS, and owing chiefly to the mighty operations of the Holy Spirit, and for this plain reason: because the natural and visible causes which concurred to the production of this great effect were not any ways equal to the effect produced. The Gospel of Christ, at its earliest appearance, had all the probabilities in the world against its success: for it was possessed scarcely of any one of those advantages which do most signally recommend a new doctrine, and make it thrive. It had no complying tenets, to soothe men’s appetites and passions. It had no encouragement, no protection from the civil power; no force or cunning to uphold it; no men of eminence and esteem to engage on its side. The age which was pitched upon for the discovery of it was more discerning and enlightened, more curious and inquisitive, than, perhaps, any that either preceded or followed it; and therefore the success of this doctrine could not be owing to men’s ignorance or supineness. Finally, its promulgators delivered it out not by parcels, as is the way of cunning and designing men; but offered the whole of it to be altogether examined and compared. Nevertheless, though pressed with all these encumbrances, it sprang forth, and made its way into the world by a swift and incredible progress. The inference from hence is plain and indubitable: that a Divine power and virtue certainly went along with it, to supply what was wanting to it upon other accounts.
III. CONSIDER WHAT SHIFTS THE ENEMIES OF THE GOSPEL MAKE USE OF, TO EVADE THE FORCE OF THIS PRESSING ARGUMENT. It is true, they will own, Christians multiplied very fast, and the increase of them was, in some sense, miraculous: that is, it was wonderful; as every unusual thing is to those who do not know or consider the causes of it. But to a man, they say, who dares to go out of the common road, and to think for himself, it will appear that there was at that time a set of natural causes on foot, sufficient to account for this effect, without any recourse to a Divine and supernatural agent. E.g. The sufferings of the martyrs made mighty impressions upon men. The purity of the Christian morals was a mighty argument to bring the men of probity and virtue into the interests of the Gospel. The analogy of some of its mystical truths to the doctrines of Plato (then in great esteem) was a very good bait to the men of learning. The distribution of goods which the first Christians made, and their living together in common, was a good reason for many men’s embracing that faith which, they were sure, would maintain them. The casual cessation of oracles was immediately turned to the advantage of the religion of Christ, as if that had procured it. And the destruction of the Jewish State contributed greatly to the increase of the Christian numbers; because it seemed to have been foretold by the Founder of their faith: and, therefore, luckily coming to pass about that time, raised a high opinion in men of His Person and doctrine. The causes here assigned were utterly insufficient to produce the event for which they are assigned.
IV. SHOW HOW GREAT AN ADVANTAGE IT IS TO THE CHRISTIAN INSTITUTION TO HAVE BEEN PROPAGATED AFTER SO SWIFT AND UNACCOUNTABLE A MANNER. No other religion ever had so large an increase with so little of human aid.
V. INQUIRE INTO THE TIME WHEN, AND THE MANNER HOW, THIS MIRACLE CEASED, and make suitable reflections upon it with regard both to those who lived then, when this check was given to the Gospel, and to us who live now. The plain answer to the inquiry proposed is that the miracle ceased when the civil power began to declare openly in behalf of Christianity; that is, soon after Constantine came to the throne. For it was no longer a wonder that our religion should thrive and flourish when, instead of bitter persecutions, it met with all manner of encouragements. For a century after Constantine, and upwards, the number of Christians multiplied exceedingly in all the parts of the world in which it had already been planted, and to which the empire of the Romans, or their influence, did extend. For above a century after that, Christianity seems to have been at a stand. But then it declined apace every day; dissensions among Christians grew hot, and their zeal for religion waxed cold. The great honours and endowments which religious princes had bestowed on the Church did too often occasion ambition and luxury in those who contended for them, or possessed them. In a word, all the vices of prosperity abounded, together with the advantages of it. So that the name of Christianity was no longer venerable in the eyes of men; and its holy doctrine, not producing an answerable sanctity of life, made no further impressions upon them. This unhappy opportunity Mohammed laid hold of to set up his religion; which, being suited to the voluptuous manners of the
East, and seconded by the power of the sword, made large inroads into Christendom, and tore away entire provinces at once from the profession of the Gospel. (F. Atterbury, D. D.)
The law of life and increase
So is it with every institution planted in the fear and love of God, with an aim to advance His glory and man’s good. Its life and increase are assured, for it becomes God’s work anal enlists God’s aid. The first hospital was founded by a Christian woman in her own house just outside the gates of Rome. Now there are hundreds in every land. So we may trace the rise and growth of institutions for the poor and the insane; of the universities, once small conventual schools where Christian truth was taught, developing into comprehensive and influential seats of learning. So, notably, the growth of the missionary enterprise. The latter was almost unknown a century ago. It began in the “reveries” of men or the dreams of Christian women, who began by collecting small amounts and consecrating them to Christ. Now modern missions are a power, immense, world-embracing. They emphatically illustrate the grace of Christ, present and dominant in the world. So it is with every endeavour. That which has the element of righteousness in it, God will care for. It has a vast future before it. Here, then, is illustrated the indebtedness of the race to the Gospel of Christ. Men of the world sometimes fancy that this matter of religion is an obstacle to their secular plans. But, for the very instruments they use in art and commerce and literature, they are more or less directly indebted to Christianity. (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
This law of life and increase obtains in the growth of gracious affections in our own hearts. We seem at times to be making but little progress; but we have this pledge, “A little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation.” Christ’s mighty energy is at work in us, as in society, impressing His image on all things. (R. S.Storrs, D. D.)
The thousand and the one
There is a threefold line of thought in this passage; three points of contrast in the prophet’s mind between the old world, the world in which he himself lived, and that new world, our world, of Christ and Christianity.
I. He says that the old world magnified masses, the thousands; whereas IN THAT NEW WORLD WHICH CHRIST IS TO BRING, OR RATHER HAS NOW BROUGHT, NOT THE MASS BUT THE INDIVIDUAL IS TO BE THE POWERFUL THING. Imagine if an angel were to come to me to-day to offer to prepare me for the study of ancient history. I say to him, “Will you show me the secret of the old world’s greatness?’ And in answer he takes me up on a lofty mountain and shows me immense masses. “Do you see that Chinese Empire,” he says, “do you see that long line of ancestors going back, back, back further than the eye can see? That is the secret of China’s greatness. Do you see that great Indian Continent--that long line of caste going back into antiquity; the thousand? That is the secret of India’s greatness, Do you see that Jewish Empire? Do you see that long family tree going back to Abraham, and further back still to the very foundation of all things? That is the secret of Judea’s greatness.” The old world magnified the thousand. But now let us take another side of it. Suppose this angel came to me and said, “I have come to prepare you for a study of modern history, of the world of Christ’s time,” and I say, “Well, I should like very much to get a specimen of the difference here. I wish you to show me the secret of England’s greatness during the last century (the nineteenth). Let me see, first of all, the secret of England’s greatness in mechanical powers.” I have not the slightest doubt that in answer he is going to take me at once into the dockyards where the thousand hammers are clanging and all the mechanical powers are at work. Instead of that, to my astonishment, he takes me through to Glasgow; he passes down the Clyde; he comes to Greenock, and he never looks at the shipping; he passes it altogether. He takes me through the streets, turns into a gloomy, narrow entry, climbs the stair, opens the door, and, lo I in a humble room and in a very small crib there lies a delicate infant, and he points to it and says, “That is the secret of England’s mechanical greatness.”, “What!” I say, “that puny thing that a breath would put out like a candle?” “Yes,” he says, “that is the secret of England’s mechanical greatness. That is James Watt; that is the one that has taken the place of the thousand.” Or suppose I say to him, “I want to see the secret of England’s scientific greatness in the last century.” I have no doubt whatever that he is going to take me into the laboratories where the thousand workmen are plying with the crucible, the pestle, and the mortar. Instead of that he takes me up to Grantham, into the village school, and there, at the very foot of the class, sits a very dull-looking boy, more distinguished for fighting than for anything else. He says, “That is the secret of England’s greatness in science. That is Isaac Newton. That one is going to take the place of the thousand in years to come.” Or yet again, suppose I say to him, “I wish you would show me the secret of England’s religious greatness in the last century.” I have no doubt whatever that he is going to take me into the great cathedrals where the aisles are dark with worshippers. Instead of that he takes me up to a little place called Epworth at midnight, where there is a minister’s manse on fire, and they are carrying out a screaming infant from the house. And the angel cries, “That is the secret of England’s religious greatness. That is John Wesley, one time to have his screams heard all over England, all over Europe. The one little fire-burned child will in time to come take the place of the thousand.” And why is it that I attribute this to Christianity? You might say, “What has Christ to do with this?” It is because if you and I go back nineteen centuries we shall see all Europe sleeping in an egg-shell: a little child; a little child laid outside in a stable. There it lay, holding all Europe in its little breast; its evolutions, its revolutions, its convolutions; its wars and rumours of wars; its cries for bread; its cries for light; its cries for liberty. The One has taken the place of the thousand.
II. The second point of the prophet I take to be this: that IN THE NEW WORLD THAT CHRIST HAS BROUGHT IN, THE GLORY CONSISTS IN THIS, THAT THE ONE INDIVIDUAL CAN PASS BY SYMPATHY THROUGH MYRIAD TYPES OF CHARACTER. One has become a thousand. Let me try to illustrate this by the case of two boarding-schools. I will call the one the boarding-school of the old world, and the other the boarding-school of the new. The boarding-school of the old world says, “Do you see these girls? In a few months you will not know your own little girl from any other. They will all become so like that no one could possibly distinguish the difference between them. The thousand shall become one--thoroughly Chinese.” But the second boarding-school, Christ’s boarding-school, says, “Will you give me this little girl of yours? She is just now very like other people. There is not much difference; hut I will undertake to send this little girl through My school, and she will catch a little bit of every, body in the now vacant mirror of her mind, she will catch a little bit of every light. Why is it that I attribute this to Christ? It is because Christ Himself is many members in one body. Christ is our Representative before the throne of God. What does that mean? What is a representative before the throne? Why, it is a Member of Parliament. What is the function of a member for Glasgow? He has to take into the mirror of his mind all the different wants of the thousand, and give them due consideration.
III. As a result of these points, the course of the old world has been still, stagnant, unprogressive; whereas IN THE NEW WORLD WHICH CHRIST HAS BROUGHT IN THINGS ARE TO MOVE WITH TREMENDOUS SPEED. “I the Lord will hasten it in its time” (R.V.). We commonly read it that God will hasten the time of its coming. I understand it to mean that there are times of acceleration, times when everything with double quick march; times when you take up the newspaper and find the unexpected has happened. This is what I understand, an accelerated progress; “The Lord will hasten it in its time. ‘ I wonder if there is any man here between eighty and ninety years old? If there is, that man has seen more events than all the history of the Chinese Empire from the beginning up till now! Think what he has seen. He has seen wings of steam--the steamboat; then he has seen wings of fire--the railroad; then wings of light--the telegraph; then wings of sound--the telephone. Aye, and he has seen something more than that; he has seen physical wings of memory--the phonograph. He has seen the voice bottled up in jars, and carried across the Atlantic. He has seen greater things than these. He has beheld social changes of the most momentous type. He has seen the institution of the rights of man; he has seen something greater still--the institution of the rights of woman. He has seen the bursting of the fetters of the slave; he has seen the birth of charity. It has been a world of wondrous acceleration. The power that can pass through these thousand changes must be Divine. You tell me that Christianity has not lived so long as some of the Eastern religious; that Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Parseeism have lived longer than Christianity. Yes, so they have; it is easy to be steadfast in a stagnant pool. “Better thirty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay. The power of my Lord’s religion is not its duration, it is the fact that its duration, such as it is, has been against tremendous odds. It is that the one has been battling ever with the thousand. (G. Matheson, D. D.)
I the Lord will hasten it in his time
The ministries of time
God is Sovereign and omnipotent, but He waits the ministration of time. He could force seasons and laws, but it is His way rather to work through them and by them. He has ordained them as servitors of His will. His purposes on the earth, in the conduct of human affairs, had, in respect to their accomplishment, a germination, a process, and a harvest-hour of consummation. Time is the prime-minister of Providence, and brings to pass in due order, at their full periods, and at the appointed juncture, the patient counsels of the Most High. There is no hurrying and no sickness of deferred hope on that eternal and tranquil Mind. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” It lends a new dignity and a sterner and loftier majesty to time, when we consider it thus, not impersonally, as the passing away of our days rather swift, mute lapse of the stream of life sliding down the vale--but as a strong executive angel, a sceptred and conscious force that has it in charge to reveal and fulfil the hidden plan of God. (A. L. Stone, D. D.)
Time is among men the revealer, the attester, the vindicator, the rectifier, the fulfiller. (A. L. Stone, D. D.)
Time a test
1. Time tests the principles of human conduct.
2. Time is the test of friendships.
3. Time tries his tests upon character.
4. God even commits His own vindication to time. (A. L. Stone, D. D.)
God’s purpose sure a fulfilment
All that is here said relating to the Jewish and Christian Church, to the militant and triumphant Church, and to every particular believer,--
1. It may seem too difficult to be brought about, and therefore may be despaired of; but the God of almighty power hath undertaken it. I, the Lord, will do it, who can do it, and who have determined to do it.
2. It may seem to be delayed and put off so long that we are out of hopes of it; but, as the Lord will do it, so He will hasten it; will do it with all convenient speed--though much time may be passed before it is done, no time shall be lost; He will hasten it in its time, in the proper time, in the season wherein it will be beautiful. (M. Henry.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 60". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent