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All that do wickedly shall be stubble.
The destruction of the wicked
It is matter of alarm and profound regret that this awful doctrine is so seldom preached in these days, at least with plainness and fidelity. Why is it? Surely not because the doctrine is not expressly and fully taught in the Scriptures; not because it was not taught by Christ Himself during His ministry; nor because it has not always held a prominent place in the creeds of Christendom; nor yet because it is contrary to reason and the constitution of the moral universe. There is no hope for the finally impenitent. Application--
1. Since the everlasting punishment of the finally impenitent is clearly taught by Divine revelation, we are bound to accept it, reverently, submissively, and without criticism, however severe and terrible the aspect it wears toward the wicked.
2. Being an essential doctrine of the Scriptures, we are imperatively called upon to give it its due place and importance in the ministrations of the pulpit, The pulpit that dares to ignore it, or presumes to be more liberal and merciful than God in handling it, incurs a tremendous responsibility.
3. Christians are bound to have respect to it in all their prayers, and living, and intercourse with those who are unreconciled to God.
4. In view of a doom so certain, and so supremely dreadful to every unforgiven sinner, how earnestly should every man “work out his salvation with fear and trembling”! (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
Shall the Sun of Righteousness arise.
There is only one sun in our system: and there is one Mediator between God and man. The vastness of the sun is surprising, but Jesus is the Lord of all. His greatness is unsearchable. The beauty and glory of the sun are such that we cannot wonder at its being made the subject of adoration. But He is fairer than the children of men. And all the angels of God worship Him. Consider the inestimable usefulness of this luminary. How he enlightens, warms, fructifies, adorns, blesses. What changes does he produce in garden, wood, and meadow! The sun that ripened Isaac’s corn ripens ours, and though he has shone for so many ages, he is undiminished, and as all-sufficient as ever. What an image of Him who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever! He that seeth the Sun of Righteousness, and believeth on Jesus, hath everlasting life. The rising of the sun is the finest spectacle in the creation. But when and how does the Sun of Righteousness arise? His coming was announced immediately after the Fall. His approach obscurely appeared in the types and services of the ceremonial law. In the clearer discoveries of the prophets, the morning was beginning to spread upon the mountains. At length He actually arose--God sent forth His Son. He rises in the dispensation of the Gospel--in spiritual illumination--in renewed manifestations--in ordinances. But how will He arise in the irradiations of heaven!--in the morning of immortality; making a day to be sullied with no cloud, and followed with no evening shade! Then their sun shall no more go down. (William Jay.)
The Sun of Righteousness
As for the godly, He promises to send Christ unto them, bringing illumination, righteousness, healing, protection, and increase of grace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
1. An infallible character of the truly godly is their reverence and holy fear (presumption being very contrary unto piety), and that not only of God’s justice and terrible judgments, which the wicked may tremble at, but also of His name and whatsoever He reveals Himself by; His word being enough to make them tremble, and His goodness to make them fear.
2. Christ is the substance of the encouragement of the godly, as being unto His Church and children in a super-excellent manner, what the sun is to this inferior world, in enlightening all their darkness, illuminating all the inferior lights that shine in any measure, making all hid things patent, rejoicing, warning, cherishing, and ripening all fruits. “Unto you that fear My name, shall the sun arise.”
3. Not only is every man by nature and without Christ, in a dark, disconsolate condition till He come to them, but His manifestation of Himself under the law was far inferior to that under the Gospel, which is far more clear, glorious, and comfortable, than the legal shadows were: for where Christ comes, “the sun ariseth” after a dark night; and this especially relates to His incarnation, which is sunlight in comparison of the Old Testament, which had but, as it were, moonlight.
4. That which makes Christ especially comfortable to the godly is, that He brings glorious righteousness to them, whereby they who durst not appear before God, become glorious and beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. He is the “Sun of Righteousness”--glorious righteousness--to them.
5. As these who get good of Christ will have many sores, and be made to feel the deadly wounds and diseases which every one by nature hath; so Christ is the only Physician to cure such sores, and deliver His people from all sickness of sin and misery. “He arises with healing.” (George Hutcheson.)
The Sun of Righteousness
From the most glorious creature, “the sun,” He expresses the most glorious Creator, “Christ Jesus,” taking occasion to help our understandings in grace by natural things, and teaching us thereby to make a double use of the creatures, corporal and spiritual. Christ is compared to the sun--
1. Because, as all light was gathered into the body of the sun, and from it derived to us, so it pleased God that in Him should the fulness of all excellency dwell.
2. As there is but one sun, so there is but one Sun of Righteousness.
3. As the sun is above the firmament, so Christ is exalted up on high, to convey His graces and virtues to all His creatures here below.
4. As the sun works largely in all things here below, so doth Christ.
5. As the sun is the fountain of light, and the eye of the world, so Christ is the fountain of all spiritual light.
6. As the sun directeth us whither to go and which way, so doth Christ teach us to go to heaven, and by what means; what duties to perform, what things to avoid, and what things to bear.
7. As the sun is pleasant, and darkness is terrible, so Christ is comfortable; for He makes all at peace where He comes; and He sends the Spirit the Comforter.
8. By the beams of the sun is conveyed influence to make things grow, and to distinguish between times and seasons. Thus Christ, by His power, makes all things cheerful, for He quickens the dead and dark soul.
9. The sun works these effects not by coming down to us, but by influence.
10. As the sun doth work freely, drawing up vapours to dissolve them into rain upon the earth, so doth Christ. He freely draws up our hearts to heaven.
11. As the sun shines upon all, but doth not heat all, so Christ is offered to all.
12. As the sun quickens and puts life into dead creatures, so shall Christ, by His power, quicken our dead bodies, and raise them up again. How shall we know whether Christ be to us a sun or not? If we find that we feel the heat and comfort of a Christian, it is a sign that Christ hath effectually shined on us. If Christ have shined upon any effectually, they will walk comely, as children of the light. Uses of this doctrine--
(1) We should pity their estate that are still in darkness.
(2) We should repair to Him, and conceive of Him as one having excellences suitable to our wants.
The text describes this Sun as “with healing in His wings,” or beams. In these beams there is a healing nature. Naturally, we are all sick and wounded. We should take notice of our diseases in time, and go to the healing God. Christ hath a medicine of His own, able to cure any disease, though never so desperate, any person, though never so sick. Then why are we not healed? What means this that we are subject to these infirmities of ours? Some of Christ’s works are all at once perfected, and some by degrees, by little and little. The text also promises, “Ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” “You shall leap forth.” Both expressions signify a cheerful moving. We need to grow up. What are means thereunto?
1. Purge and cleanse the soul of weakening matter. Practise the duty of repentance daily.
2. Come at good food. Digest comfortable truths.
3. Use exercise of holy duties.
Take heed not to lightly esteem God’s ordinance; but in reverence use all means for the strengthening of our faith; by the Word, sacraments, and prayer. How shall we know whether we are grown? If we relish the food of our souls, the Word of God; are able to bear great burdens of the infirmities of our brethren; able, like Samson, to break the green cords of pleasure and profits. Our growth in grace is seen in our Performance of duties: if they be strongly, readily, and cheerfully performed. Text says, “Ye shall tread down the wicked.” While the Jews obeyed God, they were a terror to the whole earth. The Church treadeth, etc., in regard of true judgment and discerning of the estates of the wicked. The Church tramples on all things that rule wicked men. The promise of the text is finally accomplished at the day of judgment. (R. Sibbes.)
I. Who is this Sun of Righteousness?
1. Jesus Christ, who is spoken of as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
2. Light, a frequent Scrip ture symbol. The sun possesses some excellent properties above other luminaries.
3. The sun possesses the property of communicating light to all the other heavenly bodies. All men are indebted to the “light of the world “ for everything that is good. Good men are called lights of the world. The Sun of Righteousness is the great source of light and heat to the soul.
4. Similar effects are produced on the moral world on the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, as are produced on the face of the earth by the rising of the natural sun. Darkness is dispersed, and mists and vapour give way before his powerful rays. When Christ, the true light, shines, moral darkness is dissipated, and in proportion as the true light is received, superstition, error, and ignorance die away.
II. When may this “Sun of Righteousness” be said to “arise”?
1. When the prophet says “shall arise,” we are not to infer that He had never arisen before, but that a more abundant outbeaming of His light should be reflected upon the faithful.
2. “In the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son.”
3. He arose from the dead.
4. He may be said to arise when He visits any place by His Gospel.
5. When He visits the souls of the children of men by His Spirit.
III. The manner in which He is said to arise. “With healing in His wings.”
1. Only upon those who fear the Lord: by penitents, and by His own children.
2. Penitents fear God, and seek His face. They shall be made whole, and saved from the guilt and power of sin.
3. The Lord’s children serve Him with reverence and godly fear, and they too shall be saved from the pollution and indwelling of sin. (B. Bailey.)
The Sun of Righteousness
Nature is replete with types, shadows, or symbols of spiritual things. Our Lord is Himself called the Sun of Righteousness, because, in many respects, He bears the same relation to the moral universe which the sun sustains to the solar system. In this image, or symbol, there is a depth of meaning which does not at once strike the mind; and which, from age to age, continually deepens and expands, as science reveals more and more the intrinsic grandeur and glory of the sun. Plato says, “Light is the shadow of God.” Scripture says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” An apostle says, “God is love.” But yet is the brightness of this light and love so veiled and obscured to mortal vision that blessing, not blasting, everywhere follows in the track of their influence. The more we study the symbolism of Scripture the more are we lost in admiration of its richness, its fulness, its grandeur, and its beauty.
1. The sun is the central body of our system, by whose attractive influence all the planetary worlds are held in their orbits, and so kept from wandering into the outer darkness of infinite space. By Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, all worlds are kept in society with God, the great central light of the universe. For the Hebrew mind, this little earth of ours was the universe, around which the sun, moon, and stars revolved as the appendages and ornaments of its beauty.
2. The sun is the life of the natural world. Blot out the great luminary and all the beautiful forms of nature, both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, would sink into one mass of universal decay and death The Sun of Righteousness is the life of the spiritual world. “He lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
3. The sun is the only self-luminous body in our system; from which all others derive their light of life. So it is a symbol of Him who is “the light of the world,” the moral world. It is given to Christ, and to Christ alone, to have “light in Himself.”
4. The natural sun is, like the Sun of Righteousness, limited in the beneficent effects of its influence. It is often made an objection to the religion of Jesus, that it does not save all men. The same objection might be urged against the natural sun. Behold the arid wastes and barren rocks, on which its light-giving rays fall in vain. So the Sun of Righteousness shines in vain upon all whose sins have rendered their hearts more than stony hard. But for all this He is the life-giving power of the moral world.
5. The Sun of Righteousness is, like the natural sun, the source, or rather the occasion, of many incidental evils. The natural sun, for example, in acting on the corruptions of the earth, often breeds those noxious vapours, or effluvia, which spread pestilence in the air we breathe. But is this the fault of the sun, or of the corruptions on which it acts? It is only in relation to Christ that men blame the physician for the disease He came to cure, and for the evil and malignant passions He came to eradicate or subdue.
6. For many weary, countless ages men sought an answer to this question: What is the foundation of the earth? After all their searching, it was discovered that the earth rested on nothing: it was suspended from the sun. Men have been seeking the foundation of society, but the everlasting, foolish search is all in vain, for the foundation of the moral world is nowhere. It is suspended from above. The Sun of Righteousness is its only point of support and rest. All the planetary worlds are like a magnificent chandelier, suspended from the sun; so are all social states, nay, all moral worlds, upheld and sustained by the Sun of Righteousness.
7. The sun is, by virtue of its transforming power, a magnificent type or symbol of Christ. The Divine power of Christ, working silently and unseen through all the ages, is fitly symbolised only by those stupendous agencies which, with such inconceivable grandeur, are ever at work on the magnificent theatre of the material universe.
(1) It is “no task for suns to shine.” And yet, by the pervasive force of the sun’s rays, all the mighty changes of the earth are wrought, and all the wondrous harmonies produced.
(2) The sun’s rays are indeed His ministering angels, sent forth to minister to all things on earth.
(3) Nor is the solid globe itself exempt from the transforming power of the sun’s rays. All the stupendous coal strata of the globe are but so many entombed vegetable kingdoms of the past, all of which were reared and ruled by the mighty sun. It is not without significance that the great Reformer, or rather the great Trans former, of the moral world is called the Sun of Righteousness.
8. The power of the sun, by which all natural things are progressively developed, symbolises the corresponding power or influence of Christ in the development and progress of the moral world. The progress of Christianity is the progress of man. All real progress has been confined to Christian nations.
9. The Sun of Righteousness, like the natural sun, works silently, but efficiently, in the depths of His dominion, and acts on the secret springs or principles of its inner life. And a glance at the past is sufficient to inspire us with hope for the future. The kingdom of Christ, though once the least of all seeds, is now the greatest of all trees. Having its roots in faith, its vital principle is love, its blossoms are immortal hopes, and its fruit eternal life. (R. Bledsoe.)
The rising of the Sun of Righteousness
I. The persons to whom the promise is made. Those that fear the name of the Lord. By the “name” of God is meant the “character” of God. We have, in ourselves, no knowledge of the nature and character of God, and therefore cannot fear His name until He send forth the Spirit of truth into our hearts, to lead us into all truth. All the notions which we form of Him, before the Spirit of truth is in us, are as contrary to His true character as darkness is to light. While we are in this state of blindness we can have no real fear of God according to His Word. The true fear springs up with faith, and arises chiefly from the soul believing some part of God’s Word, which the Holy Spirit carries home to the sinner’s conscience to awaken him. This fear will be marked by a growing desire to know the true character of God. And this is not a feeling which passes away. The text does not speak of those that have feared the name of God, but of those that do “fear it, i.e., continue to do so. It is not a passing fright, but a holy abiding fear. The marks of it are an abiding sense of sin, a desire to be taught of God, by searching the Word of God in order to know His name, or true character, and by praying for the teaching of the Spirit of truth.
II. The promise itself. The “Sun of Righteousness” shall arise upon them “with healing in His wings.” Jesus Christ is to the soul what the natural sun is to the earth. The sun gives light and warmth to the earth, by which its various fruits are brought forth and ripened. Jesus is especially the Sun of Righteousness, as being the fountain of all righteousness; of that perfect righteousness by which believers are testified in the sight of God. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness in His own person when manifest in the flesh, and was perfectly obedient to the will of God, even unto death. This perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed, or reckoned to believers, through faith, as if they had entirely fulfilled it themselves; and thus they are justified or made righteous in the sight of God. Jesus is also the fountain of the righteousness of sanctification. The mode in which the Sun of Righteousness arises upon the soul of His people is, by pouring into them more and more of the light of the Holy Spirit strengthening their faith, and enabling them to see that Christ, with all His blessings, and all His promises, is theirs. He thus also rises with healing in His wings, to heal the broken hearts of His people.
III. The happy effect of the fulfilment of the promises. “They shall grow up, as calves in the stall.” The believer is enabled to go forth with peace and joy on his way to Zion. The blessed effect will be manifested both by the peace and shed into the believer’s soul, and by his growth in holiness. The rising of the Son of Righteousness will also greatly promote the believer’s growth in grace. The growth in size of calves, when fed in the stall, is very great; so shall the growth of believers be great. Apply subject to ourselves. Are there not too many amongst you who are entirely strangers to the fear of the name or character of God? Perhaps you have hitherto been brought only to fear God, and you walk in dark ness. You should apply to yourselves this text: let the Sun of Righteousness rise on your souls with healing in His wings. If He rises on your soul you will have peace with God. (H. Gipps, LL. D.)
The Sun of Righteousness
This passage seems to refer principally to the second coming of our Lord; the text itself may be safely understood of His first coming in the flesh. It points out, primarily at least, the judgments to be brought upon the unbelieving and impenitent Jews.
I. The coming of Christ, as the Sun of Righteousness rising upon the world. The most glorious object in creation is the fittest to represent the King of Glory. The sun is the great source of heat and life and light; of everything that is beautiful and beneficial. The Sun of Righteous ness here is the Lord and Saviour Christ; the Lord and giver of life to His servants: a never-failing source of spiritual health and comfort to His servants. Whatever the sun is in the material world, that, and much more, in a spiritual sense, is the Lord to His Church. “Sun of Righteousness” may mean that He is perfectly just and righteous in Himself, and therefore discovers and rebukes sin, brings to light the hidden things of darkness and vice, and affords in Him self a perfect example of light and virtue, by which others may see and avoid their errors and failings. Or it may mean that, by His own righteousness, “He justifies many.” This Sun arose when our Lord came into the world. He again rose in His resurrection. He will again rise when He comes in glory. And He may be said to rise upon each of us when by faith we receive Him into our souls.
II. The salvation which the Sun of Righteousness brings with him. “With healing in His wings.” The Son of God came to earth as a Saviour. This character He maintained through the course of His ministry upon earth, during which He went about doing good. How did this Sun of Righteousness bring healing in His wings (or, as we should rather say, in His beams and rays) at His rising?
1. The most natural interpretation is, of the cures which He wrought upon the bodies of men.
2. The great act of salvation was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. “By His stripes we are healed.” This healing procured the pardon of our sins, and the grace of the Spirit of God, to enable us to fulfil the conditions required of us. Only by joining these two together can the salvation be regarded as complete. Notice how great is His mercy in administering comfort to the penitent.
III. The qualifications required of those to whom the Son of God will prove a Saviour. “You that fear My name.” Religious fear of God is necessary to qualify a man to receive the healing grace of Christ. To the soul which has no fear Christ brings no healing. This is the state of the true Christian; in which his terrors are never so great as to extinguish his hopes, and his hopes never prevail so much as to make him confident and secure. (T. Bowdler, A. M.)
Sun of Righteousness
I. Illustrate the comparison of our Lord Jesus Christ to a sun.
1. His unapproachable pre-eminence.
2. His benign influence.
3. His relation to the whole world.
II. Describe His restorative or remedial efficacy. In the world; in a country; in an individual.
III. Consider the persons to whom His efficacy is confined. Who are they? And why are they the sole recipients of the promised blessing? Consider Christ--as the centre of the spiritual world; as the source of light; as the source of heat; as the object of attraction. (O. Brooks.)
Parallel between Christ and the sun
A parallel is drawn between Jesus Christ and the natural sun.
1. Before the rising of the natural sun there is darkness; until Jesus Christ arise or is apprehended there is darkness--moral and spiritual darkness. Look to the world before the coming of Christ: the heathen; the multitudes around us; any one of the unconverted; the place of outer darkness.
2. Jesus Christ, as the natural sun does, arose gradually.
(1) He arose in the Scriptures, through the prophecies and promises, the types and sacrifices, until, in the development of God’s providence, He appeared above the horizon.
(2) He arose, in His own personal history, in the completion of His work, in His resurrection, in His ascension, in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(3) He rises in the souls of His people, on earth, in heaven, for ever.
3. Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, reveals or is the source of light.
(1) He reveals God, perfections, purposes, past, future, creation, providence.
(2) He reveals man, law, way of salvation, Gospel.
(3) All time; eternity; the invisible worlds, and the paths to them.
4. Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, is the centre of a system. Of the material universe; and the moral and spiritual universe. Centre and sum of revealed truth of the Church.
5. Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, has His image reflected, both in the material and in the moral universe.
6. Is the source of enjoyment. He has all blessing; and admits to His own joy.
7. Is often concealed by clouds.
(1) By a cloud of guilt on the conscience.
(2) By a cloud of corruptions.
(3) By a cloud of misrepresentations.
8. He dispenses His influence freely. “Without money and without price.”
9. He hastens the process of decay and corruption. “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” (James Stewart.)
The Messiah as the Sun of Righteousness
That the promised Messiah should be termed the Sun of Righteousness may appear characteristic and appropriate. But what are we to understand by a sun with wings? What by those wings being endowed with the powers of healing? what mean we when we term the Messiah Sun of Righteousness, but that we, being by nature the heirs of God’s curse, are through Christ reconciled to Him whom we had offended? what mean we by the wings of the sun? In Egypt a sun with wings was sculptured upon the gateways and monuments. Some regard the sign with a reference to the rays or beams of the luminous body itself. Others interpret it as representing that overhanging canopy of the heavens which bends, like a protecting arch above this lower globe of ours, brooding over it, so to speak, and sheltering it. Others explain the wings as betokening the swiftness with which the light of the sun traverses illimitable space. Others appropriate the term to the cooling breezes which in the East accompany the early sunrise. Those who have experienced the glare and weariness of an Eastern day may be better qualified than most of us to appreciate those first hours of cool and refreshing daylight which are appropriated to health ful exercise and the enjoyment of nature’s loveliness. The period at which we celebrate the rising of the predicted Sun cannot convey real and fitting gladness to the hearts of those who do not entertain this chastened and holy fear of God’s name. The verse preceding the text is full of woe and alarm for them that despise His loving-kindness and disobey His laws. Apt as is the image of the sun’s rising and progress through the heavens, to represent the rising of the Sun of Righteousness and His increasing influences as He goes on His way rejoicing, it is when He has reached His height that the metaphor fails us altogether. Slowly and surely the material orb sinks at last in the darkness. Herein we are taught the infinite inferiority of the sign to that which is signified thereby. (T. Ainger, M. A.)
The Sun of Righteousness
Why was it that God permitted His ancient people to be overwhelmed with such unheard of calamities? We have reason to believe it was simply because they rejected Christ, and the offers of mercy and salvation through Him. If God, however, take vengeance on the wicked, He will be favourable to the righteous, and spare them in the great day, as a father spareth his own son that serveth him.
I. The Sun of Righteousness. There is but one Sun from whom proceeds righteousness, and that must be the Son of God. As Christ is the source of all spiritual life and light, so by His sufferings and death He hath procured or merited righteous ness. He is therefore the believer’s justifying righteousness.
II. His rising on God’s people. Christ’s face shines on His people and disperses their sorrows, but His face is dark towards sinners, for He is angry with the wicked every day. In the spiritual world, when Christ took on Him our flesh and was born in Bethlehem, then the light was come, and the glory of the Lord was risen upon us! This Sun still shines; He is still shining, in His Gospel and in the power of His Word.
III. The effect of his rising. “With healing in His wings.” Understanding this literally, we may see how Christ, as man, has arisen with healing in His wings. How many; yea, what multitudes did His hands heal of various maladies. This Sun is still shining. All our spiritual light is from Him. All our spiritual healing comes from the merit of His works. (R. Horsfall.)
I. The sun. Of all the things the eye can see the most Christlike is the sun, for he is quite alone in our world. Nor rival, nor helper, nor partner has he. We have many stars, but only one sun. All light is in and from the sun. Yet even this glorious image of the light of the world fails in some ways; for the sun has its dark spots, but in Christ, our sun, is no darkness at all. The sun is the centre of all the worlds. Every star is held in its place by the attractive power of the sun. The sun is the grand river in this world. Our thoughts wax warm as we sum up all the benefits with which he fills our earth. You cannot overstate them. Science is every year finding fresh wonders in sunlight. All kinds of force come from the sun. As the sun gives according to a never-changing law, so Christ blesses only in a righteous way.
II. The sun-rising. Sunrise is probably the grandest sight in the world. In the East it is so magnificent as almost for the moment to make one a Parsee, a worshipper of the rising sun. Malachi was in the twilight, and you are in the daylight. To him the sun was beneath the horizon, sure harbinger of the wished for day. You live in the Gospel-day.
III. The blessings christ brings to men. As the sun destroys only darkness and its hateful brood, so Christ destroys only our miseries, and brings us all blessings.
1. Healing. The Easterns often carved a winged sun above the gateways of their temples. Malachi has a poet’s quick eye for the glories of nature, and perhaps this also was in his mind,--the sun rises like a birch, with equal wings wide enough to cover the world. Malachi’s meaning is, that as sunlight brings health to a diseased, dying world, so Christ brings health to our diseased, dying souls; and this healing comes to us with all the ease, swiftness, gentleness, and freshness of morning sunshine. This healing brings health, which shows itself in joyous activity. To healing and health Christ adds victory. (James Wells, M. A.)
The blessings of the Sun of Righteousness
I. The promise which is made.
1. The metaphor under which the coming of Christ is spoken of. The rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Malachi assimilates Christ’s coming to that of the sun rising upon the earth. Is He not well entitled to this appellation?
2. The manner in which Jesus is to come to His saints. “With healing in His wings.” It is a bold poetical figure used by the prophet for the beams or rays of the sun; and such bold painted figures are by no means uncommon with Eastern writers.
II. The persons to whom this promise is made. “To them who fear the name of the Lord.” This expression is used in Scripture for religion in general. Without a certain mixture of fear, taking the term in its most literal signification, no worship can be accept able to Jehovah. Without a certain mixture of fear, no worship can produce any deep or lasting impressions on the worshipper himself--no sanctifying effects on his heart and conscience. The term may, however, be limited and applied to some particular classes of saints.
1. To them who are spiritual mourners.
2. To them persecuted for the sake of religion.
3. To them who sit in heathen darkness.
4. To the elect on the day of judgment.
To the righteous on that day Christ shall “arise with healing in His wings.” To them shall He come with joy and songs of triumph. (James Watson.)
Christ Jesus the Sun of Righteousness
The great light which the Almighty Maker of the world set up in heaven to rule the day is the most glorious object in the whole visible creation of God. The worship of the sun, as it was the first, so it was assuredly the least degrading of all the idolatries by which men and nations have since been enslaved. Does the sun exhibit the glory of God? What, then, shall we say of Christ Jesus, in whom “dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”? Seen as an absolute God, and by the flashes of the law from Sinai, our God is a consuming fire; but we have the light of the knowledge of His saving glory in the face of Jesus Christ. “In Him is light, and the light is the spiritual and everlasting life of men.” By rising in the ancient promise He dispelled the midnight ignorance and utter hopelessness of guilty creatures; by rising in His own person, and glorious acts of grace, He chased away the dim shadows of the ceremonial law; by rising in Gospel ordinances He abolished the night of error and delusion; and by rising in His spiritual influences upon the believer’s soul He says, “Let there be light, and there is light.” The sun rises gradually over the earth; and so hath the Sun of Righteousness displayed His saving light. His first ray was cast upon this fallen earth when the promise of redemption was given to guilty man in paradise. The law and the prophets reflected it with increasing brightness until His advent. But it is only when that advent is spiritually and graciously made to a soul once darkened and dead in trespasses and sins that the true and efficacious light of salvation reaches him and renews him. Upon whom, then, will this bright and radiant Sun arise? Upon those who “fear the name” of God. This fear of God is produced by that work of regeneration which the Holy Spirit effects. The fear of the Lord is a gracious and heavenly state; not meritorious of any good at the hand of God, but a disposition which best subserves His great design of raising up and glorifying the riches of His undeserved love. He who thus evangelically fears the Lord is led to serious and solemn self-examination. If you fear God there is a deep, earnest, ardent, unceasing breathing of the soul for Christ, a constant application to His blood as its true Bethesda, its everlastingly appointed house of mercy, where the soul may be made whole. Note the blessing which shall attend those who fear the Lord. Sin is the cause of all spiritual dark ness, because sin is the soul’s separation from God. Christ comes with spiritual health, and with the abundance of spiritual peace: peace from the guilt of sin rising up to condemn, peace from the accusations of conscience, peace from the curse of the law, peace with the blessed Trinity, and peace with all who are one with Him. The material sin is the source of earth’s fertility. And how free, how common, how accessible is the sun of the natural world, for all who live beneath it! (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
Christ as a sun
I. Of the metaphorical representation of Christ. Metaphors are useful. They arrest the attention: the imagination is engaged in discovering their beauty and admiring their aptitude, while they rivet themselves in the memory by the force with which they bring home to us the subject they are intended to illustrate. To illustrate Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness,” consider the miserably benighted state in which the human race were in the days anterior to the Gospel dispensation. Jesus Christ, that “Sun of Righteousness,” pure and spotless, is the author of all righteousness, whether imputed for justification or imparted in sanctification. When Christ rises in the soul He enlightens, quickens, and comforts.
II. What is meant by “healing in His wings”? The beams of this heavenly luminary may indeed be perceived by us, but do they pervade our hearts and lives? To fear the name is to reverence Him as God and man; to participate by faith in His incarnate sufferings; to accompany Him to the scene of His cruel death. It has its foundation in a deep sense of the enormity of sins, and a humbling conviction of our depravity. (Samuel Crowther.)
The Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings
I. The characters spoken of. The “name of the Lord” signifies the perfections of the glorious God of heaven--the great ness and goodness of the Lord--God Himself. It is the peculiar character of the people of God that they “fear His name.” It is a fear of offending God, the tenderness of the child that fears to offend its parent. This fear is an abiding principle, and it is a practical principle; it operates upon the life.
II. The blessed privilege of those that fear the name of God. The Sun of Righteous ness is Immanuel, God with us. And He arose at His birth, because more conspicuous in His ministry; was eclipsed at His death, shone forth brighter after His resurrection and ascension, and attained His meridian splendour when the Jewish dispensation closed and the Christian dispensation was fully established. But the promise of our text is daily receiving its fulfilment in the hearts of God’s believing people. The promise of the text, however, still awaits the consummation of its fulfilment. (Benjamin Maturin, B. A.)
The Sun of Righteousness
I. The persons. Those that “fear the name of the Lord.” Fear is the passion of our nature opposed to hope, and by it the author of our being guards us against danger. The “fear of the Lord” is the sublimest principle which can influence a soul. It casts out all other fear. Filial and godly fear is always accompanied with love.
II. The blessings. The Messiah should be, to the spiritual world, what the sun is to the natural world. In this view we may regard Him as the source of light, fertility, comfort, and health. (Peter Grant.)
Christ, the gun of Righteousness
Were I to adhere to the textual view of these words I should be shut up to consider what Christ’s coming was to those who already had some true light, to those who already feared God and thought upon His name, and thus I should have mainly to set forth the superiority of Christianity to Judaism. But I shall make no apology for giving to this title “Sun of Righteousness” a wider application, and for considering not so much Christ’s rising then and there upon Jewish cloudiness and dimness, as rather His arising from first to last upon the total darkness of our fallen world.
I. The nature of Christ’s light, or enlightening power.
1. This light is saving light. In many parts of the Old Testament “righteousness” is used in nearly the same sense with “salvation.” The salvation of God, resting on the perfect righteousness of God’s own Son as the sinner’s substitute, applied to believers in Him for justification, and in its gracious operation, terminated and completed by their willing return to personal righteousness and holiness of life,--this is what is here meant under the name of “righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). We speak in our own language of the “sun of freedom” rising upon a country, or of the “sunshine of peace” revisiting it. But the light which here bursts upon a lost and guilty world is the saving light of righteousness. It announces to the condemned the hope of pardon, and shows the way; and it discloses with equal clearness the means of deliverance from the power and bondage of corruption. In Christ the whole salvation is contained, even as the sun reveals himself. In Him the guilty are righteous in law; in Him, and as subdued by His birth, they are righteous in fact.
2. This light is original light. The light of the sun is unborrowed. It is a mystery which our science has not yet solved, how this fountain is fed. But relatively to all sources of light that we know, it is higher and self-sustained. This images the nature of Christ s light, in contrast with all the knowledge of Divine things which comes to us from other quarters.
3. This light is pre-eminent light. The most glorious object in nature is the sun. The ancient world had its lights, we grant--its poets, philosophers, moralists, law-givers. But what were they in regard to righteous ness or salvation? How much did they diffuse of the light of life? Christ was even pre-eminent above Jewish prophets, who had known and revealed God to men. They were but secondary lights. Their use was to point to Him. It is needless to assert Christ’s pre-eminence over His own apostles and ministers and people.
4. This light is a universal light. What a universal blessing is sunshine! What an emblem of the Higher Light which is not less universal, though, for reasons which we cannot fathom, it is still beneath the horizon in many a wide region of the earth. Where it has shone, can the natural sun be more unrestricted and free?
II. The nature of Christ’s healing influence. By wings the prophet means the rays or influence of the sun. In addition to the influence of light we are now to take into account that of heat, of which, too, the sun is the centre.
1. Christ’s healing power in relation to sin. What is wanted to moralise the whole community? Only one thing, the love of Christ in every man’s heart.
2. Christ’s healing extends to sorrow. This follows from the healing of sin. Every sin has its own sorrow, its remorse, its injuries to mind and heart, and often also to body and estate.
3. The influence of Christ’s sun shine upon death. The natural sun lights all generations to their grave. How is Christ risen from the dead, risen with healing in His wings for all that sleep in Him! Oh, the glory of that victory over death, the last enemy, which the light of Christ’s immortal countenance shall achieve! (John Cairns, D. D.)
Christ the Sun of Righteousness
We with the early Fathers take our Lord to be “the Sun of Righteousness.” The mass of the sun being so vastly greater than that of all the planets and satellites taken together, constitutes it a suitable centre of light, heat, and gravitation; and therefore a striking emblem of Christ. Of the many points of resemblance we will examine two. The darkness which precedes the dawn, and the gradual growth of the light. These are seen--
I. In the growth of Christianity. At the dawn of Christianity there was a darkness like that of Egypt, “that might be felt.” Darkness is the symbol of ignorance and sin. The intellectual greatness of the Augustan age is seen in its poets, philosophers, etc.; but the flowers grew on a marshy and rotten soil. Classical writers confirm St. Paul’s testimony in Romans chap. 1. to the awful moral degradation of the time. The “dayspring from on high” appears, and gradually asserts its power over the darkness. Christian teachers penetrated where the Roman legions never trod. Persecution did not arrest the wave. When the northern barbarians overwhelmed the Roman Empire, they had to yield to a power greater than their own--that of the Cross. The glory of the meridian sun must fill the earth.
II. In the growth of the Christian. Before conversion our hearts were “dark, void and formless,” like the original world. The spirit of man is illumined by the Sun of Righteousness, and chaos becomes cosmos. This growth is gradual. Three stages of Christian growth. God calls, touches, blesses; which corresponds in some sort to assent, affiance, and assurance. Growth in religion is mainly characterised by thought of ourselves at its beginning, by consideration for others as we advance in holiness, and by a desire for the glory of God when more matured. Is Christ growing in us? We must be advancing or receding. If Christ be growing in us, certain effects will follow. His light will cleanse and purify; and shining from us, it will give us influence on others. (J. S. Pilkington, M. A.)
The rising of the Sun of Righteousness
All nature is laid under contribution to furnish emblems of Christ in His Person and offices. Text refers to the second advent. But the glory of the second will be the consummation of the grace of the first advent. It was the rising of the Sun of Righteousness when Christ appeared as the Light of the World revealing pardon, peace, liberty, and joy. It will be the rising in full meridian splendour, when He shall appear the second time, to complete the salvation of His saints and to be glorified in them.
1. What the sun is to the natural world, that Christ is in the spiritual, the source and centre of its light and life.
2. Christ is the Sun of Righteousness. He is Righteousness embodied, exhibited as a living reality. He fulfilled all righteousness. He makes His people righteous. As their justification, and as their sanctification and illumination. By His Spirit He imparts His own nature to them, creates them anew in righteousness and true holiness.
3. Christ rises “with healing in His wings.” The figure admits of a natural and beautiful interpretation. On certain coasts there sets in with the rising sun a balmy breeze which, because of its soothing and salubrious character, the residents call “the healer.” Regarding this with poetic fancy as winged zephyrs of the rising sun, the prophet speaks of the coming Messiah as a sun rising with healing in His wings.
4. “Grow up as calves” is better rendered, “bound as calves loosed from the stall.” Liberty and enlargement of heart, exultation and lightness of spirit, shall be to them on whom the Sun of Righteousness arises. The expression “go forth” denotes release. We know the exuberance of a young animal set free to range in the open pasturage. To them who “fear His name” the rising is with “healing in His wings.” But the sun in the heavens can smite, and scorch and slay. Oh, that terrible sunstroke, so fatal in the East! Christ’s coming may he to some a revelation of flaming fire taking vengeance. (A. R. Symonds.)
The Sun of Righteousness
I. The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, are of the utmost value. A sunless landscape is less dismal than a Christless soul; whilst a Christly soul has on it “a light that never shone on sea or land.” The blessings of the natural sun and of the Christ are, in many respects, similar.
1. They are enlightening. Sunrise means daylight.
2. They are restorative. Healing,--for does not the sun’s influence on drooping flower and faded face of human weakness but hint Christ’s influence on men’s hearts and lives?
II. The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, come to men in a remarkable manner. The sunrise and these “wings” combine to suggest--
(4) Swiftness. So Christ blesses.
III. The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, bring benefits that, in a large degree, are universal. The sun shines on the evil and on the good. What spot of earth does it not, directly or indirectly, reach and bless? So many of Christ’s blessings bless all. Is there not through Him--
(1) Prolonged probation for the whole human race?
(2) “Means of grace” for multitudes still sinners.
(3) Holy influences of thought and character that restrain and that tend to elevate?
IV. The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, demand special conditions for their full appropriation. The best cultivated soil will best utilise the heat and light of the sun. So the soul that in steadfast faith and love turns to the Christ, and with intense desires drinks in all His truth and grace, will be the soul on which will be most evident the healing influences of the great Sun of Righteousness. (Homilist.)
A message for the faithful
Changed, indeed, are our days from those in which the words of the text were written. Since that time the Sun of Righteousness has arisen. Elias the prophet has come already, and they have done to him all that they listed. The law of Moses, commanded in Horeb for all Israel, has been exchanged for the voice of One who speaks to us from heaven. And yet God’s last words, as here recorded, are still substantially the same with those which He speaks to us to-day after the lapse of more than two-and-twenty centuries.
1. What is the great basis, here set before us, of all revelation? Behold, the day cometh. Everything is tending to one point; every act, every word of ours, is running on before us to that great end, the day of final reckoning. How difficult it is to believe this; how much more difficult still to act upon it! How often does sin triumph! The day cometh; a day revealed by fire; a fire not purifying but consuming to all the proud, yea, and all who do wickedly. And need we remind you who these are? They are all who say in their hearts,--not with their lips indeed, but in their hearts,--There is no God: all who live, that is, as if there was none; live without intercourse with Him; live without regard to His will and His approval. Take with you unto your new life this one great principle, there is a day of judgment coming.
2. Then what force and interest will this first truth give to that which follows. He who is expecting the coming judgment can alone rejoice to hear of One who will enable him to meet it. “Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” The prophet is speaking of a time when those who have served God in their generation shall find to their eternal comfort that they have not served Him in vain. This is the great blessedness of God’s service, that all its difficulties and troubles come first: they lie on the surface; they beset its first entrance; diminishing commonly, or made by use lighter to bear, as life advances; and all ceasing absolutely when this life ends. A true Christian is on the winning side in the great battle. With what patience, then, should he who is called to suffer some times for his Christian faithfulness regard those who thus deal with him.
3. This for every one of us is the great lesson, that we look well to our hearts and lives, to the work which God has set us to do, and to the spirit in which we may do it.
4. There remains yet one portion of these last words of God by His prophets, which is scarcely less applicable to days when He has already spoken to us by His Son. “Behold, I will send Elijah,” etc. The prophetical part of these words has already been fulfilled. The mission of the Baptist accomplished them. But the practical lesson which they contain is of unchangeable moment. You all know how large a part of your duty is connected, by God’s wise appointment, with your parents. God accepts through them an obedience which cannot yet be paid consciously to Himself. God makes it one portion of your duty to Him to honour and obey them. Their approval He would have you to regard as your highest earthly reward; their comfort and happiness as your highest earthly object. (Dean Vaughan.)
Christ’s first coming
There is a touch of sadness about the Book of Malachi. His are parting words, and they show how God’s people had degenerated, had lost their fervour, and become content with a mere outward service. Malachi revealed the spiritual state of the people to themselves, denounced their sins, and warned them of judgment to come. But he does not leave them without hope. It is the manner of Hebrew prophecy to blend together different events which have relation to one another, and here we have words which belong to both comings of Christ.
I. Christ’s first coming. Described under the image of the rising of the sun. This implies that the world was in a state of darkness before the Incarnation. The title which the prophet gives to Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness,” marks one great purpose of His advent illumination. “Healing in His wings,” applies to the work of Christ, in body and soul. As the rays of the sun look like wings when they stretch out across the heavens, so this healing work of Christ extends, by means of His mystic body, the Church, far and wide over the nations.
II. Who profit by it?
1. Light is diffusive.
2. But we may close our eyes against it, or hide from it.
3. Christ is the sun to those who fear His name.
4. Christ’s light was convictive, as well as attractive.
5. Even our Lord’s first coming was, in some sense, an act of judgment.
1. Realise the need of spiritual illumination.
2. Question ourselves how far the light and healing effects of Christ’s coming have reached us, and how far our daily life is influenced by His presence.
3. To be clear about the fact whether He is a “swift witness” against us, or the “Sun of Righteousness,” depends upon ourselves and our use of the grace which is given to us. (The Thinker.)
What Christ is made to believers
Jesus Christ is made unto us of God, a soul-heating, soul-warming sun.
I. What need have we of these warming influences from christ, the sun of righteousness? It is upon the account of the coldness we are subject to in spiritual things. Some are key cold, stone cold; dead in trespasses and sins. Even such as are spiritually alive, are subject to their cold fits. The causes of this spiritual coldness are--
1. Some inward distemper prevailing in the soul.
2. From the season; night-time, and winter-time, are cooling times. When God withdraws, it is both night and winter to the soul.
3. From cooling circumstances, such as want of ordinances, engage ment with carnal relations. The effects of spiritual coldness are--
(1) Inward uneasiness.
(2) Unfitness for action.
(3) Unaptness to receive impressions, by the Word or by the rod.
II. How is heat and warmth communicated by christ to those that fear His name? In general, it is by His wings. In particular, He is a warming sun to us--
1. By the immediate motions and comforts of His Holy Spirit.
2. By His Word and ordinances, though not without the Spirit.
3. By good society. And Jesus Christ is made a heavenly sun, with “healing” in His wings. Ours is a sick and wounded condition. Sick of the disease of natural corruption; sick of the wounds of actual sin. This is--
(1) The alone healing.
(2) It is all-healing.
(3) It is healing at hand.
And Jesus Christ is made a growth-furthering sun to us. “Grow up as calves.” Can a tree or plant grow without warmth? And, finally, the Lord Jesus is a fruit-furthering sun. (Philip Henry.)
The inner world of the good
The “name of the Lord” means Himself, and to fear Him with a loving, filial reverence, is genuine godliness. We have here, in fact, a picture of their inner world.
I. It is a world of solar brightness. The “Sun of Righteousness” rises on the horizon of their souls. There are souls that are lighted by sparks of their own kindling, and by the gaseous blaze springing from the bogs of inner depravity. All such lights, whether in the forms of philosophic theories or religious creeds, are dim, partial, transitory. The soul of a good man is lighted by the sun. The sun--
(1) Throws his beams over the whole heavens.
(2) Reveals all objects in their true aspects and proportions.
(3) Quickens all into life and beauty.
(4) Is centre, holding the whole system in order. Christ is the light of the good.
II. It is a world of Divine rectitude. “Sun of Righteousness.” “The kingdom of God is within.” Eternal right is enthroned. God’s will is the supreme law. The meat and drink of the godly soul are to do the will of their Father, who is in heaven. Such a soul is right--
(1) In relation to itself. All its powers, passions, and impulses are rightly adjusted. Right--
(2) In relation to the universe. It renders to others what it would that others should render unto it. Right--
(3) In relation to God. The Best Being it loves the most, the Greatest Being it reverences the most, the Kindest Being it thanks the most.
III. It is a world of remedial influence. “With healing in His wings.” The sun’s beams are in Scripture called His wings. “The wings of the morning” (Psalms 139:1-24.). The soul through sin is diseased. Its eyes are dim, its ears are heavy, its limbs are feeble, its very blood is poisoned. The godly man is under remedial influences. The beams of the “Sun of Righteousness” work off the disease, repair the constitution, and enable it to run without being weary, and to walk without being faint. There is a proverb among the Jews that as “the sun arises, the infirmities decrease.” The flowers which drooped and languished all night, revive in the morning. The late Mr. Robinson, of Cambridge, called upon a friend just as he had received a letter from his son, who was surgeon on a vessel then lying off Smyrna. The son mentioned to his father, that every morning about sunrise a fresh gale of air blew from the sea across the land, and from its wholesomeness and utility in clearing the infected air, this wind was called the doctor. Christ is the Physician of souls.
IV. It is a world of buoyant energy. “Ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.” See the calf, which from its birth has been shut up in the stall, let forth for the first time into the green fields in May, how full of buoyant energy, it leaps and frolics and frisks. This is the figure employed here to represent the gladsomeness with which the godly soul disports its faculties under the genial beams of the “Sun of Righteousness.” Conclusion--What a transcendent good is religion! How blessed the soul that has come under its bright, benign, and heavenly influence. (Homilist.)
Progress in the religious life
They were before in darkness and disease; both of which confine. But the Sun of Righteousness arises, and with healing in His wings; and thus, the true light now shining, and health being restored, they become free and active--they go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. For even now they have not attained, they are not already perfect. Nor are they to remain what they are, but to increase with all the increase of God. We are not to deny what God has done for our souls. But though we must not despise the day of small things, we are not to be satisfied with it. A day of greater things is attainable: and if we do not aspire after it, we have reason to suspect even the reality of our religion. Spiritual principles may be weak, but if they are Divine, they will evince it by a tendency to growth. The sacred writers express this progression by every kind of growth. By human growth; vegetable growth; and here we have animal growth. No creatures, perhaps, increase so rapidly and observably as calves, especially when they are well attended and fed, and for the very purpose of growth. We have been reminded, sometimes, of the truth of this image, by the spiritual reality. We have seen those who, in a little time, have surprised all around them, by their progress in the Divine life. But many of us have reason to exclaim, “My leanness, my leanness!” How little progress have we made in religious knowledge, experience, practice, and usefulness, though we have possessed every advantage, and long enjoyed the means of grace. At present the comparison reproves us. But let it also excite and encourage. It not only reminds us of our duty, but of our privilege. This growth is not only commanded, but promised. It is therefore attainable--and we know the way to our resources. Jesus came, not only that we might have life, but have it more abundantly. (William Jay.)
“The Sun has risen”
The natives of the now thoroughly Christianised Samoa Islands have commemorated the coming of the Gospel among them, and the remembrance of their friend, John Williams, who laid down his life on their behalf, by erecting a church on the spot where the missionary first landed. The motto chosen for inscription on the walls is simple and expressive, “The Sun has risen.” (Missionary News.)
Hopeful view of the future of the world
I do not know whether any of my hearers have ever gone up from Riffelburg to Gorner Grat, in the High Alps, to behold the sun rise. Every mountain catches the light according to the height which the upheaving forces that God set in motion have given it. First, the point of Monte Rosa is kissed by the morning beams, blushes for a moment, and forthwith stands clear in the light. Then the Bretthorn, and the dome of Misehabel, and the Matterhorn, and twenty other grand mountains, embracing the distant Jung Frau, receive each in its turn the gladdening rays, bask each for a brief space, and then remain bathed in sunlight. Meanwhile the valleys between lie down dark and dismal as death. But the light which has risen is the light of the morning; and these shadows are even now lessening, and we are sure they will soon altogether vanish. Such is the hopeful view I take of our world. “Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people; but God’s light hath broken forth in the morning, and to them who sat in darkness a great light has arisen.” Already I see favoured spots illumined by it; Great Britain and her spreading colonies, and Prussia extending her influence, and the United States, with her broad territory and her rapidly increasing population, stand in the light; and I see, not twenty, but a hundred points of light, striking up in our scattered mission stations, in old continents and secluded isles and barren deserts, according as God’s grace and man’s heaven-kindled love have favoured them. And much as I was enraptured with that grand Alpine scene, and shouted irrepressibly as I surveyed it, I am still more elevated, and I feel as if I could cry aloud for joy, when I hear of light advancing from point to point, and penetrating deeper and deeper into the darkness which we are sure is at last to be dispelled, to allow our earth to stand clear in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. (J. M’Cosh.)
Properties of light
Light is purifying; let sunshine into a dark cellar, and it soon becomes pure. Light is vivifying; expose a withered plant from a dark room to the sun, and it colours up. Light is power; all sources of fuel are directly from the sun, coming in rays of light. Light is joyous; nothing contributes so much to making a brilliant assembly as a flood of light upon it. Light is comforting; a dark day is always a gloomy day, but a burst of sunshine brings a cheer. Light is strengthening; a puny child may grow strong if he can play in the sunshine. So you should get into the light that streams from the Sun of Righteousness. His presence purifies the heart, energises the mind, brightens the life, cheers the spirits, and strengthens the whole man. (Sunday Companion.)
The Sun of Righteousness
I. His oneness. In the universe there is infinite variety and abundant repetition. In our world many rivers roll their waters into many seas; many mountains attract the many clouds which are born out of many deeps. Above and around us are many worlds; many stars twinkle over many watchers. But there is for m only one Sun, unique in splendour and in power. There is but one Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. There is no other name given under heaven, or among men; only one all-meritorious Saviour.
II. Centralness. Our solar system holds its place in the mechanism of the heavens by revolving in silent grandeur round the central sun. That sun is the pivot and point round which, in smooth, unbroken harmony, the mighty worlds are ever moving in their courses, linked and ordered by the law of gravitation; so is Jesus the true centre of the soul. Apart from Him, the soul, like an erratic meteor, a wandering star, flies ever away from the central point of bliss, to be finally lost and shattered in awful night. The true believer is bound to Jesus by the mightier law of love. Round Him, in the orbit of light and duty, he revolves for ever, subject to the law of righteousness, and brightened with the beatific beams of grace.
III. Light. The moon, bright though her beams are, and radiant her beauty, has no inherent illuminating power. The stars that make obeisance to their fiery lord borrow their glory from this central source, and shed a reflected lustre on the world below. The coal dug out of its subterranean bed, and all other sources of artificial light, have drawn their resources from this central reservoir. So with Jesus. “It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell.” “I am the light of the world.” As the sun chases the gloom, scatters the clouds, conquers the night, and floods the worlds with day, so He banishes the night of nature, the darkness of ignorance, the clouds of doubt and fear, the gloomy shades of death.
IV. Life. The sun is the great quickener. Winter, made by its absence, is the time of death; bird and beast are sluggish, and comparatively inert; tree and plant and flower are paralysed by an icy grasp. With the returning sun comes the germinating seed, the bursting bud, the swiftly circulating sap, and a marvellous activity pervades creation. So Jesus raises dead souls to life, and quickens the soul of man into hale and thriving resurrection. “I am the Life,” He says.
V. Beauty. The sun is the greatest artist. His magic pencil gives the sky its peerless blue, robes nature in emerald vestments, silvers every lake and stream, and paints in fairest hues the flowers that gem the earth. Spring-tide’s green, summer s flush, autumn’s gold, and winter’s white, “all are the offspring of his magic, pencil, while the sun itself is more glorious than they all. So Jesus Christ is Himself the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether, lovely.” He invests with moral excellence and spiritual beauty all that His love shines down upon. He invests the believing soul with the garment of praise and the beauty of holiness.
VI. Gladness. “The sun,” says the Psalmist, “rejoices as a strong man to run a race.” It is a type of perfect happiness. A happy face is said to be a “sunny” countenance; gladness is oft called “sunshine.” All nature breaks into song under the sun’s influence; the tiniest insect dances in his beams; the weary invalid welcomes the first rosy salutation of the morning. Jesus is the joy-giver.
VII. Perfectness. The sun is the great ripener. It brings all the processes of nature to perfection. It finds the leaf an imprisoned embryo in russet husk and shell, and continues to expand and beautify it until it flutters in perfect growth on plant or tree. It touches the green bud, and never rests until it shines upon- the perfect flower. It nurses the fruit till it drops ripe and mellow into October s lap. It undertakes charge of the green corn-blade, and never ceases until the golden harvest bends to the reaper’s scythe. So Jesus is the Great Perfecter; and in the believer’s nature the good seed of the kingdom is nursed and nurtured until, as Job has it, he becomes a “shock of corn ripe for the garner.” He that pardons and He that sanctifies is all of one.
VIII. Fulness. The sun’s resources never fail. What liberal largess he has conferred on the world! What harvests he has ripened! What mountain snows he has melted into crystal streams! What flowers he has painted! What spirits he has gladdened since first his mission was begun! and yet his eye is not dim nor his natural strength abated! So with Jesus. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell!”
IX. Universalness. “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of the earth: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” It bronzes the brow of the rude Fijian, reddens the skin of the Indian warrior, blackens the negro’s swarthy face, and wraps the world in its benevolent embrace. “I am the light of the world,” says Jesus. His saving beams have blest humanity in all its tribes, from shivering Esquimaux to sweltering Ethiopian. He tasted death for every man.
X. Impartialness. The sun makes no selection. Where it can shine it will. It beautifies the garden, and smiles upon the desert. It glorifies the rose, and flings a halo round the thistle. It flashes on the crystal lakes, and shimmers on the stagnant pool. It gleams on the topmost oak leaf, and shines on the humblest violet. It burnishes silk and rags alike. “Whosoever” is the widespread word of Jesus too. “If any man thirst,’ etc. Wealthy Nicodemus or Joseph, poor Bartimeus or the woman by the well. This Sun of Righteousness, does He shine on you? He is your one centre of life and light; the one source of gladness, beauty, and perfection. (J. Jackson Wray.)
Remember ye the law of Moses.
Of all the books of the Old Testament, the first five books are the most vital. The Pentateuch is not a branch of the tree of revelation; it is one of the very roots. If objectors must attack some portion of the Old Testament, let them assail the Book of Kings, the writings of Solomon, the prophecies of Daniel, the glories of Ezekiel, the sublimities of the Book of Job, for these, though inspired, are not of such vital importance; but of the foundation truths of Genesis, we say, “Touch not, handle not.” If the writings of Moses are not authentic; if the facts therein recorded are untrue; if, in fact, Moses in his offices and character, be a mere fiction of the brain, then the most tremendous results must necessarily follow. If such be the case, then the whole of revelation must be blotted out. If the Pentateuch suffer an eclipse, the New Testament suffers the same. You cannot have a partial eclipse. The Pentateuch and New Testament are woven together in one seamless robe. If you make a rend, you destroy the whole. The Epistles of St. Paul are full of Moses. If Moses falls, St. Paul falls with him, and all the glorious apostles. He that rejects the law must reject the Gospel also: for the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Moses spake of Christ, and testified of Christ. The man who rejects Moses must reject the Lord Himself. We have other witnesses to the authenticity of the Pentateuch than the inspired Word of God. The testimony of the rocks of Sinai, etc. (Alfred Cay, A. K. C.)
The law, its place and power
In our text Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, shows that the fear of the Lord necessarily involves reverential regard for His law. This law is described as that which was given to Moses in Horeb, and the charge is given: “Remember ye the law.” These words seal up the Old Testament revelation. Our text expresses a necessary, universal, and perpetual obligation: “Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb.” In very many minds there are very hazy notions in reference to the relation of the Old Testament to the New, of the Mosaic to the Christian dispensation, of the law to the Gospel. It is quite true that there are statements in the New Testament which indicate that some old things had passed away, and that some new things had come. There is a sense in which the revelation of the Gospel is in contrast to that of the Old Testament--not, however, the contrast of contradiction, but rather of fuller and clearer development. We must remember that the term “law of Moses” is used in two senses--the one covering the whole Mosaic legislation, the other having special reference to what are called the “Ten Commandments.” There were things in the legislation of Moses which were purely civil--which could apply only to the Jews as a nation. There were other things which were ceremonial--belonging to a dispensation which was symbolical, typical, and preparatory. All these things, national and ceremonial, passed away with the dawn of the new dispensation. But there was one part of the revelation given by Moses--and this the central and most important part--called distinctively “the law,” the moral law, the ten commandments, which is of universal and perpetual obligation.
I. The law is a glorious revelation of the character and will of god. God is the Creator and Governor of the universe. He hath made all beings and things by His almighty power. He governs them according to His own infinite wisdom. Over material things and irrational creatures His control is a matter of forceful operation; but over all orders of rational, responsible beings His control is a moral government. This renders an intelligible revelation necessary. His moral nature is at once the source and the standard of all purity and beauty. The moral law reveals Him as the just and holy God, pointing out the way of duty and demanding obedience. This law is perfect. It reveals God s character, declares His will, and discloses the fundamental, unalterable principles of His moral government.
II. The law is suited to the nature of man, and is fitted to secure his highest development and happiness. Man is a moral, responsible being, who was crested in the image, and intended for the service and glory of God.
1. Likeness to the Divine character is essential to man’s true development. The moral law revealing the purity and beauty of God, or declaring His holy and righteous will, sets before men the original pattern of their own character and the standard of their intended development.
2. Thus we may say also that obedience to the law of God is the necessary justification of man’s existence. The holy and righteous God could not create a race of rebels intending that they should exist to be disloyal and disobedient. Man, coming under the power of sin, through rebellion and disobedience, forfeited his right to existence in the sight of God and among His creatures. The law declaring man’s duty justifies his Divine sentence of condemnation and death upon transgressors.
3. Still more, it is absolutely certain that harmony with the will of God is essential to man’s happiness. Holiness and happiness are in their very nature closely and inseparably linked together.
III. The law came straight from God to man. Man was not left to discover or reason it out for himself. The law is not a constitution agreed upon among men for self-government. This same law was given of God to Moses in Horeb.
IV. The law is enforced by the most powerful sanctions. To it are attached promises of blessing and reward, and threatenings of curse and punishment.
V. The law has necessary, universal, and perpetual authority.
1. Necessary. Man’s obligation to keep the law does not depend upon his own profession or resolution. Some people excuse themselves in reference to a certain looseness of conduct by saying that they make no profession of religion, or that they have very liberal views. They say that it is quite proper and necessary that professing Christians should recognise the authority of the law, but they contend that every man has the right to judge for himself. This is all wrong; no man has the right to set his judgment or opinion or prejudice or wilfulness against the plain, positive precepts of the Divine law. The authority of the law is due to its Divine authorship.
2. Thus it must be evident that obligation to the moral law is universal. Wherever you find the moral faculty, the moral law has authority.
3. Thus also the authority of the law is perpetual. God cannot change.
VI. The law is the basis, and shall be the crown and glory of the gospel. The Gospel did not destroy the law. It did not lower its standards. It was not intended as an apology for its severity. The Gospel honours and maternities the law, declaring that it is holy, just, and good. The law could not pardon a transgression, therefore it could not give life and salvation to guilty sinners. It gave the knowledge of sin, measured the extent of man’s weakness and the depth of his fall; thus it prepared for the exhibition of pardoning mercy and saving grace by showing the necessity for it. Then again, the law determined the plan of salvation and the provisions necessary, so that in the exercise of mercy the Divine righteousness might be preserved and declared, so that God might be just in justifying every one that believeth. Still further, the condition of pardon and salvation under the Gospel--which is faith--is determined by the law. What is faith but the recognition and acceptance of the truth that Christ in our behalf made a full satisfaction to the law, and took away our guilt and cancelled the sentence of condemnation by the sacrifice of Himself? Thus we must see that the law is the basis of the Gospel--determining its plan and provisions and conditions of salvation. But there is more to be told. Through Christ Jesus come the renewal of man’s nature and the gift of life and power, so that men who were dead in trespasses and sins, and under the carnal mind, and led captive by the devil at his will, are caused to love and delight in, and are enabled to obey the law. The law is always the same. The motives to obedience are higher and the power stronger, because of full satisfaction and reconciliation, and the free gift of life and salvation through the redemption of Christ. The crown and glory of the Gospel come to each man when the law of God is enthroned in his heart and manifested in his life and conduct. It is said that in ancient times some laws were put into verse, so that the people might learn to sing them. Through the grace and Spirit of Christ, God’s law becomes poetry to us and His statutes a song. (J. K. Wright, B. D.)
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet.
Of the prophecies relating to the Messias some were so obscure, and had such an appearance of inconsistency, if applied to one and the same person, that they could not well be understood, till the event reconciled and unfolded them; for which obscurity many good reasons have been assigned. But it is reasonable to suppose, that as the time of Christ’s coming drew nearer, the later predictions concerning Him should be more distinct and plain than the former.
I. Explain the prophecies of Malachi relating to the Messias. The Jews, after their deliverance from Babylon, were free from idolatry, but in other respects they were base and wicked; and as unsettled people go from one extreme to another, they had exchanged a pagan superstition for a kinder religious libertinism and cold indifference; and this nation, which had once adored any and every idol, was become remiss in the worship of the true God. Malachi reproaches the Jews for their ingratitude to God, who had so lately showed them so much favour and mercy. He accuses them of irreligion and profaneness; he tells them that God abhorred their offerings, and would raise up to Himself better worshippers amongst the Gentiles. Then the prophet proceeds to declare the coming of a very considerable person. The passage indeed describes two persons. The messenger, and another person who, being called the Lord, and having a prophet to go before Him, must be one of the highest dignity. This same person is also called the “Angel of the Covenant.” He is to come suddenly, and to come to His temple. He should make and confirm a covenant between God and men. Who may abide the day of His coining? How few will be found fit to appear before Him! He may be compared to fire which tries metals and purges them from dross, and to soap which cleanses garments; for He shall pass a just and impartial judgment upon the lives and doctrines of His people, distinguishing false opinions from the Word of God, and false appearances of holiness from true piety. He shall find religion greatly corrupted, and the priests and Levites as bad as those whom they should instruct; but He shall correct all that is faulty, and so reform the worship of God that it shall be again acceptable to Him. The day of His coming shall be destructive to the wicked. A new Elijah was to prepare His way. He was to make converts by his ministry, but not to produce a general messenger.
II. The completion of these predictions. Jesus fulfils these predictions. He came suddenly; came to His temple; was the messenger of the covenant; was a refiner s fire; purified the sons of Levi; freed the law and the worship of God from all defects and innovations, from all that was superfluous, burdensome, and temporary. Jesus Christ arose as a Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. His coming was truly the great and terrible day of the Lord. The prophecy of Elijah’s coming was fulfilled in John the Baptist. He might be, not improperly, said to turn the hearts of the people, and to restore all things, as he did all that was requisite for that purpose. Elias in Malachi was to prepare the way of the Lord: to turn the hearts of men, and to call the Jews to amendment: not to cause a general conversion of the Jews; to convert several and thereby to save them from destruction. John the Baptist was like Elias in his prophetic office; in living in a corrupted age; in fervent zeal; in restoring decayed religion; in rebuking vice; in suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake; in offending wicked princes by reproving them for their sins; in austerity of life, in habit, and in dwelling in retired places. By the ministry of our Lord and His apostles is that remarkable passage in Malachi fulfilled. “From the rising of the sun, unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles.” (J. Jortin, D. D.)
The herald of the day of the Lord
The last of prophets, who heralds the day of the Lord, is to restore the spiritual continuity between the generations of God’s people; he is to bring the spiritual fathers of the race to recognise in the men of his own age their spiritual sons; he is to make the men of his own age welcome with the affection of sons their spiritual progenitors. He is to restore spiritual continuity, “lest God come and smite the earth with a curse.” For breaches of spiritual continuity, that is, religious revolutions, are almost always disastrous. There are times, indeed, when God has willed nations to break with the past. But such exceptional moments we need not now consider. Breaches of religious continuity are not always permanent. The incoming of some flood of new knowledge may antiquate received statements of the current religious teaching, and the men of the “new learning” may revolt from what seems like intellectual bondage, and yet after all it may appear that what they revolted against was rather the parody of their faith than their faith in its true character, and a harmony between the combatants may yet be arrived at again, which is a victory of the faith, but not a victory to either side. There are reformations and counter-reformations; these are revolts and reactions. There are “blindnesses in part” which happen to our Israels, which may be necessary to let loose new and suppressed forces, and which may lead at last to reconciliation. There are revolts which are not apostasies. But so it is not always. There are breaches which are never healed, at least in this world. And in any case such losses of spiritual continuity are terrible evils. More and more, as we go on in life, we feel our responsibility for making the best of the heritage which the past has bequeathed to us--the heritage of Christian creed and character. Verily, we have entered into the labours of other men. How are we to get the old religion to recognise the men of our day? How are we to “turn” them from the one to the other! Let a man get at all into the heart the Christian religion, and he becomes conscious at once that what that religion corresponds to is nothing which is changeable in human nature. Knowledge grows and past knowledge is outgrown; criticism develops, and its method alters, and a past criticism is a bygone criticism. But underneath all these developments there does lie a humanity that is permanent. The dress, the circumstances of a particular epoch fall easily off the Christ, and He stands disclosed the spiritual Lord of all the ages. The consciousness to which He appeals, the need of God, the desire for the Divine Fatherhood, the sense of sin, the cry for redemption, the experience of strength which is given in response to the self surrender of faith, the union of men of all sorts and classes in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost--this consciousness, this experience, does not belong to any one age or class. It belongs to us now as much as to the men of old. The pledge that a Catholic religion is possible lies in the recognition (in the moral and spiritual departments only) of a Catholic humanity, which may be dormant in superficial ages and men, but can everywhere be awakened by life’s deeper experiences or the profounder appeals of the men of God. How then are we to play our part, in keeping unimpaired, or in restoring, the spiritual continuity of our age with the past?
1. The task is to be wrought out in the character by spiritual discipline. Christianity finds its chief witness in life, in character. All down the ages it is character which has been the chief instrument in propagating the truth. The Christian character is sonship; something which is peculiar to Christianity; much more than mere morality, or abstinence from sin. It is the direct product of a conscious relation to the Divine Father, a fellowship with the Divine Son, a freedom in the Spirit. Christian sonship is the direct outcome of Christian motives, and its chief evidence lies in itself. Certainly the chief witness for Christ in the world is the witness of Christian sonship. Here then is your first vocation--realise and exhibit the temper of sonship. It is developed by generous correspondence with the movement of God’s Spirit within us, by constant ventures of faith and acts of obedience: it comes of the deliberate and regular exercise of those faculties of the spirit to which Christ most appeals, of prayer, of self discipline, of faith, of self-knowledge, of penitence. The obligation of keeping up the spiritual continuity of the generations, presses with especial force on the Church’s teachers. The prophetic office of the Church consists in the permanent function of maintaining an old and unchanging faith, by showing its power of adapting itself to constantly new conditions; it is to interpret the old faith to the new generation, with fidelity to the old, and with confidence in the new. The old dogmas are to many men, and to many of the best men, as an unknown tongue. The prophetic office of the Church is to interpret the unknown tongue of old doctrine till they speak in the intelligible language of felt human wants. How is this to be done? By knowing the wants. By being in touch with the movements. There is a special sense in which the task of maintaining spiritual continuity down the generations belongs to the Christian student. Two things are necessary, as for the pastor: the knowledge of the old, and the appreciation of the new. The Christian student will study with reverent care, irrespective of modern wants, the genius of historical Christianity: making himself at one with the religion of Christ in that form in which it has shown itself in experience most catholic, most capable of persistence through radical changes, least the product of any particular age, or state of feeling. So with frankness and freedom he will study the conditions of the present. Mostly the same person does not do both these things. There is much work before us to emancipate Christianity from the shackles of mediaeval absolutism, of Calvinism, of mere Protestant reaction, and to reassert it in its largeness, in its freshness, and in its adaptability to new knowledge and new movements. We live in an age of profound transition, socially and intellectually. What is wanted is for the same people to take measure of the ancient faith, and to discern the signs of the times. (Canon C. Gore, M. A.)
The gilt of prophecy the supreme need of our age
A strange and weird figure is this of the prophet Elijah, the Tishbite. A unique person, with a unique mission. John the Baptist was one of his spiritual successors, and the greatest. Athanasius, perhaps, was another, and Martin Luther, and perhaps John Wesley; or, at least, these latter have been like Eliseus, catching up his mantle, baptised with a potion of his spirit. They have been the men who have accomplished the great social and spiritual revelations of the world. Rough, earnest, strong-willed men most of them, not given to mince their words or to stand upon courtesies; but they have been the men to keep alive the flame of religion, and to prevent its dying out. Mark their ages, and then compare the work of the man with the needs of his age. There were giants in the earth in those days, and people say we shall never see giants again. The individual grows less as the world grows more. Knowledge has got to be so diffused, and the elements of life so manifold, society so vast and complicated, that an Elijah whom all would recognise as a messenger from God seems impossible. The age of prophets, at least of Elijahs of the old type, has passed away. Yet, though no Elijah, there may be an Elisha; though no Isaiah, yet a Malachi. St. Paul tells us that prophecy is the highest gift bestowed by Christ upon His Church; and it is certain that all who feel that our call is to proclaim God’s truth to men may well pray to be endowed with a portion of it. Whatever spiritual gifts may have been necessary or profitable to the Church at other times, I am persuaded that the gift of prophecy is the most necessary and profitable now. Men felt the difference between a Paul and a Philetus, for Paul spoke “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” A man may well pray for a portion of this power, and for grace to use it in the noblest cause. It is not eloquence, it is not popularity, it is not the power of attracting the crowd; it is something impalpable, but most real, when men bend their wills and hearts and consciences before the uttered truth. It is strange how even educated men misread the signs of the times. This age wants, and is prepared to receive, not the priest, but the prophet: not the man who claims to stand between them and God, and says, “No access to the Heavenly Father but by me”; but the man who can teach the truth, and help them, in their blindness, and waywardness, and ignorance, to discern the way of peace and righteousness. The prophet must be in earnest, or men will not receive him as a prophet; must himself believe his message, or he will carry no conviction to his hearers. We have a message able to stir the most phlegmatic feeling, and to arouse the dullest conscience, if only we knew how to deliver it. If our own hearts have found out the secret, we can speak of present peace and joy in believing, of the kingdom of God standing in righteousness, of the nearness of a Father to us in our dangers, difficulties, troubles. There are those who can speak of these things with a strange and moving power, and their arguments will rise high above the clouds of doubt and speculation, till they seem to bring us almost face to face with God. Such men are in very truth the Lord’s prophets; such teachers build on immovable ground the fabric of faith. They are sure and trustworthy guides; for they are leading men to God through grace by the ways of holiness: they have themselves travelled, or are now travelling the road; they are testifying to us out of their own experience; they speak that which they know. It is a faith thus quickened, and faith cometh by hearing,” that vitalises sacraments and prayers and worship. Without such faith, all these things are dead; with it they become living, quickening powers. It is the spirit of the prophet, before all other gifts, that the Churches need to enable them to evangelise the world. (Bishop Fraser.)
And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children.
The reconciliation of the old and young
I. The prophet was thinking of what may fairly be called a time of transition. The passing from one dispensation, or order of things, to another. Such a period was that under Moses, when the people passed from a patriarchal to a national life. The bringing in of the only begotten Son was the greatest event of the sacred history. All that had gone before seems trivial in comparison with it. It was a change from law to grace, from a religion limited to one nation to a universal faith, from a system of rite and ceremony to one of inward spirit, But all times of great change are full of danger. They give great anxiety to all thoughtful minds. Ours is a time of transition, and the grave danger of our times is, the possibility of estrangement between the fathers and the children, i.e., between the old and the young. The fathers are disposed to be conservative; the older we get the harder we find it to receive new thoughts, or accustom ourselves to new ways. So when the fathers see the children entering on new ways, adopting new methods, forming new parties, there is a danger that their hearts should be turned away from them and on the other hand, the young are disposed to that which is new; their minds are receptive and plastic. They are tempted to think their fathers’ ways and thoughts are old-fashioned, to underrate the good of the past, and to leave their fathers behind.
II. Our duty in such a time of transition. There is a duty peculiar to such an age. To fulfil it was part of the mission of John the Baptist. He did much to break the abruptness of the transition from the one dispensation to the other.
1. The duty of the fathers to the children. That “the fathers should recognise the new needs, and the new powers of the children.”
(1) We should not repress their thoughts, though they may differ from ours. Few things are more harmful to the young than repression. Doubt and difficulty, closed within the heart, grow more and more. Bring them out into the light of loving sympathy, and they often almost vanish away.
(2) Nor shall we condemn. Condemnation has often made a searcher after truth into a determined heretic.
(3) Let us foster and encourage the good rather than trouble ourselves too much about the error. We are all too anxious to root up weeds. A vigorous growth in the corn will do much to weaken the growth of the weeds.
2. The duty of the children to the fathers, the young to the old. “The children should recognise the value of the institutions and traditions which they inherit from their fathers.” The opinions of the fathers are certainly entitled to respectful consideration. Age should prejudice you not against them, but in their favour. Be not swift to remove the ancient landmarks.
III. Our safe guard in such a time of transition. There is a certain deep interest in this as the last word of the Old Testament. It is filled with the hope of one who should be the messenger of the Highest; but lying close behind it is the thought and hope of Him whose way should be thus prepared. We think not of the herald, but of the King before whose face he went. The true safeguard amid the perils of our day is in Christ. The young may outgrow the special forms in which His doctrine has been cast, but they cannot outgrow the Christ. Christ, rightly regarded, meets the needs of old and young. It is absurd to talk of outgrowing Jesus Christ. He is the true gathering point for the old and the young. (W. Garrett Horder.)
Religion in the Family
The family is a radical and fundamental organisation and agency in human society. It is the original source of authority, government, morality, and religion. Without family ties, family government and discipline, family virtue and piety, the Church could not exist, and society would quickly relapse into anarchy and barbarism, and fall to pieces. Here are the roots of godliness, of self-government, of right development. Is it any marvel, then, that God guards the family sanctity and life with such jealousy, and lays upon the marital and parental relations such solemn sanctions and obligations? There is no more alarming sign of the times than the decay of family religion. And the decay is not superficial but radical, and the effects are far reaching, disastrous, and permanent. Family government is fearfully relaxed, family religious instruction is almost a thing of the past, parental restraints have come to be obnoxious, children have lost reverence for their parents, the home altar, in ten thousand households, is broken down, and the children even of Christian parents grow up without the fear of God, without Christian training and restraint, and go forth into the world, wholly unprepared to resist temptation, or to meet the responsibilities of life. We must have a speedy and grand revival of family religion, or we are doomed. Nothing else can stay the tide of religions declension, in faith and in practice, the tide of demoralisation that threatens to make a clean sweep of social integrity, of law and order, and self-government. We must heed the Divine warning uttered by Malachi, or God will smite us with a still more fearful curse. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
Our debt to childhood
There are encouraging hints that the study of the young is not to be always undervalued. One is, the careful observation of child-life which men of science are beginning to make simply in the interests of science. Legislators also are beginning to see that in order to have good citizens we must educate the young. The Church needs to establish an early tutelage of her children. In the old New England meeting-house all was stately and sterile, rigid and unattractive, to the children. Notice some of the advantages of the modern method of youthful Sabbath instruction.
1. Children learn more in company than alone. It is good to see truth through the eyes of others.
2. There are elements in the Church which are brought out by the effort to discharge our debt to the young. Here is a field for lay activity. It is an inexplicable fact, that a teacher, or some one outside the family, will sometimes get nearer the child’s heart than the dearest home-friend. How can we all co-operate? As this enlarging interest in childhood is the hope of the world, so the growth of this spirit of helpfulness in individual lives is the guarantee of the healthful and happy development of Christian character. (Jesse B. Thomas, D. D.)
Malachi, in his last chapter, prepares the people for the long silence of revelation by two words, of which one is a promise, and the other a precept. The command is, to walk by the law of Moses. The promise is, that in due time the Messiah’s forerunner, coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, shall usher in the solemn yet glorious day of Christ, by his preparatory ministry. This was to be the next prophet whom the Church was entitled to expect. But his work was to be prominently a revival of parental fidelity and domestic piety. The work upon fathers and mothers was to be far more than the removal of domestic alienations. It was to embrace a great revival of parental and filial piety, an awakening of parents’ hearts to the salvation of their children, and the docile seeking and reception of parental instruction by the children. This revival of domestic piety and parental fidelity is necessary to prevent the coming of the Divine Messiah from being a woe instead of a blessing to men. God’s way of promoting revival is, not to increase” the activity of any public, and outward means only, but to “turn the hearts of the parents to the children. The duty of parental fidelity is equally prominent in both dispensations.
1.The old terminates with it, the new opens wire it. This is the connecting link between both. The fidelity of the parents ought to imply the docility of the children. The duties are mutual.
I. The urgency of parental responsibility appears in a solemn manner from the nature of the parental relation itself. Wherever human society is, there a parent is. Every human existence begins in a parental relation. The glory of the Divine beneficence towards the human race appears in this, that the parents, without alienating anything of their own immortality, are able to multiply immortalities in ever-widening and progressive numbers. Here are the two facts which give so unspeakable a solemnity to the parent’s relation to his children. He has conferred on them, unasked, the endowment of an endless, responsible existence. He has also been the instrument of conveying to this new existence the taint of original sin and guilt. Can the human mind conceive a motive more tender, more urgent, prompting a parent to seek the aid of the great Physician, for dealing with the spiritual disease which they have conveyed?
II. From the unique and extensive character of parental authority. Men win be held accountable according to the extent of the powers intrusted to them. The trust is that of immortal souls. Let the extent of the parent’s legitimate or unavoidable power over his children be pondered. Neither Divine nor human law gives the parent a right to force the tender mind of the child, by persecutions, or corporeal pains or penalties; or to abuse it, by sophistries, or falsehoods, into the adoption of his opinions. But this power the providential law does confer: the parent may and ought to avail himself of all the influences of opportunity and example, of filial reverence and affection, of his superior age, knowledge, and sagacity, to reinforce the power of truth over the child’s mind, and in this good sense to prejudice him in favour of the parental creed.
III. But this power has suitable checks and guards. One is found in the strict responsibility to which God holds the domestic ruler. Another is found in the affection which nature binds up with the parental relation.
IV. The parent’s influence for good and evil will be more effectual than any other. As parents perform or neglect their duties, the children usually end in grace or impiety. The parent has the first and all-important opportunity. Application--
1. The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth.
2. The Church-membership of the children of believers may be reasonable and scriptural. (R. S. Dabney, D. D.)
True family government is instituted for the sole benefit of the governed. “The true end of government is to make the pathway to virtue and morality easy, and the pathway of crime difficult and full of peril.”
I. The vast importance of family government. Of Abraham it was said, “He will command his children.” Neglect of commanding is seen in the failure of Eli. By “turning the hearts of the fathers to the children,” the text means that the chief duty of every father is to bring his children to God. In every ease where family government has been enforced the pious parents have fully realised the truth of the glorious promise, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We may learn the importance of family government from the teachings of all the greatest philosophers and statesmen, of all ages and climes. The Greeks and the Romans, the rulers of the world, and our grander Old English and Puritan fathers, all taught and practised family government. Every pastor knows that young converts who have had no family government make as a general thing worthless Church members. The last argument on the importance family government, is the happiness of the child. An ungoverned child is a bundle of bad passions, a seething volcano of untamed and ungovernable passions, hating everybody, and hateful to everybody.
II. How shall i govern my child? Lay down seven golden rules.
1. Begin, continue, and end in prayer.
2. Begin early.
3. Be tender.
4. Be firm.
5. Have no partiality among your children.
6. Let father and mother be united.
7. Imbue the soul of your child with reverence for God and right.
A strong wall, and safe quarantine, may be made of four great laws. No bad company; no idle time; no fine clothes; and make home happy. (Rufus C. Beveleson, D. D.)
The home school
With this verse the Old Testament ends. So far down had Malachi come towards the Messiah, that the East was already growing bright with His coming. He predicts the end of sacrifices, and the coming of a more glorious era. What were the words that, when the last record was ended, were to come with blessed undulations down to our time? See the text. The institution nearest to the heart of society is the family. The most important office in society is the parental office. The sphere of each family is small, but the number of these spheres is incalculable. As each drop is small, but the sea is vast, so is it in society. Families are the springs of society. Declension in religion will be found to be accompanied with carelessness in the family; and the earliest steps of religious reformation ought to take place in the family. If all the families of a nation were to reform, the nation would be reformed. All preparation for God’s work should begin in the household. Many persons are for ever running round for revivals, careless of home, neglectful of children, and seeking their own pleasurable excitement, frequently in a kind of religious carnival. Any conception of religious culture and life that leaves the family out, or that is at the expense of the family, is fundamentally wrong, and in the end cannot but be mischievous. The divinity of revivals may be tested by their effect on the family. If religious excitements make home dull, and parental and filial duties and religions tame and tasteless, they may be suspected of being spurious, carnal, worldly.
I. Parents are responsible to God and to human society for their children. It is a responsibility assumed by every parent, to look after the welfare, temporal and eternal, of his child.
II. This responsibility is just. Because God has framed the family so that nothing can exceed the advantage which parents have in rearing their children. They take the child before all other influences. None gains ascendency over the child before the parent. The parent receives the child in a condition perfectly fitted to be moulded and stamped. The child comes to us with all natural adaptations for taking impressions. It is sympathetic, trustful, and imitative. The hardest work we have to do in this world is to correct the mistakes of parents in the education of their children. The parent receives the child into an involuntary atmosphere of love, which is that summer in which all good dispositions must grow. Justice, and all other feelings, in the family, act in the sphere, and under the control, of parental love. Nowhere else is love so much the predominating element. Love is the atmospheric condition in which we are to mould and teach the child. Besides, the family is sheltered from contact and temptation and interruption. The family is the” only institution in which one can repel all invasion and all despotism from state and from meddling priests. God has nut our children into our hands with the declaration that they are His; that they have in them the germ of immortality, and that He commits them to our charge that we may fit them for the future life that is prepared for them.
III. The destiny of a child renders it worthy of a parent’s whole heart, thought, and time. Your child is given to you to be brought up in the manner best calculated to qualify it for the life to come. Your supremacy over it is absolute. With such a charge it is worth while to stay at home. Sometimes mothers think it is bard to be shut up at home with the care of little children. But she who takes care of little children takes care of great eternities.
IV. When a child has gone forth from parental care, parental neglect cannot be made up to it. Some alleviation there may be, and some after-refuge, but there can be no complete remedy. There is no way of compensating for neglect to sow the seed at the proper time. The most precious legacy that a parent can give to a child is that throughout all its after life it should in connection with everything that a wise and true and just and pure and spiritual call to mind father and mother. (H. Ward Beecher.)
Decay of family power
The text is in the form of a prediction. The object and effect of Elijah s coming mission shall be what is set forth in the text, namely, to reform mankind and bring the world back to those elementary principles or institutes ordered of old for human improvement and salvation. The special mission of John the Baptist was that of a reformer. He come to preach repentance. Degeneracy and corruption were so deep-seated and universal that it was necessary to begin at the beginning; not with the church or the state or society, but with the family, the fountain of moral influence; and build up again the family constitution which irreligion and vice had overthrown. We have here, then, the Divine plan of reforming and saving mankind. This prophetic utterance has application to all ages and nations. Christianity is God’s ordained instrument to plant and extend His kingdom on earth; and, contrary to the teachings of the schools and the expectations of the wise, it shall not do this by the power of the state, by the force of law, by ecclesiastical organisms, by the influence of fraternities, or by means of patronage, learning, and wealth, but by simply recognising and working the original elemental principles of society; by simply “turning the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” The Gospel seeks to accomplish the mission of life by the power of family religion--by invigorating and purifying the family constitution, by drawing close and sanctifying the bonds of domestic affection and life, and if it fails to do this it fails of its end. Affection is the great family bond and the chief element of power in domestic life. And Christianity appeals powerfully to the affections of our nature. There is a mighty force in it to excite and purify, to strengthen and exalt our nature. A family not under a religious training and influence is a fountain of social corruption. Here are the sources of infidelity and vice and disorder, of social, political, and religious declension and overthrow. Is there a widespread corruption of morals pervading society? Depend upon it, the main and primary cause of it all may be traced up to the family. This fundamental, elementary justification is not honoured, but abused and perverted. There are three fundamental agencies by which Divine wisdom seeks to reform and save the world--the family, the state, and the Church. They sustain most intimate relations to each other. They underlie all goodness, all prosperity, all order. The family is more radical than the others, and they cannot exist without it. It is a wonderful arrangement, this division of the whole human family into little separate communities, each community a little government, a miniature world by itself--marriage the foundation, love the bond, and Divine authority the governing power. Such an arrangement, simple as it is, touches all the elementary and radical principles of human nature. The family power is the fountain of all moral power in the world. Without such an agency we cannot see how religion could ever have gained a footing in it. During all the patriarch ages the family alone preserved the knowledge and worship of God. We cannot estimate the full value of such an agency. We cannot tell all its vital bearings on the kingdom of Christ, on the world at large. Where the family power is neglected or perverted religion has nothing to build upon. The only way to build up Christ’s kingdom is to make the family what it should be. The household must be sanctified. There is no agency that can be substituted for the family. It is a shallow and miserable philosophy which would set it aside, or endeavour to improve upon it. It belongs to all time, to universal humanity. (J. M. Sherwood.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Malachi 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30