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SECTION VIII. A PROPHECY OF MESSIAH'S KINGDOM (Isaiah 32:1-8).
A PROPHECY OF MESSIAH'S KINGDOM. It is generally allowed that this prophecy is Messianic; but some critics insist that it is not so "in a narrow sense." They regard Isaiah as expecting Messiah's kingdom to follow immediately on the discomfiture of Sennacherib, and as looking to Hezekiah to inaugurate it. According to this view, Hezekiah, renovated in character, was to be the Messiah, and might have been so had he been "equal to the demands providentially made upon him." But he was not; and the task of establishing the kingdom fell to "another," at a later date. It is simpler to regard the prophet as looking for a greater than Hezekiah (comp. Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6), but ignorant how soon, or how late, his coming would be.
A king … princes. Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne translate, "the king … the princes;" but the Hebrew gives no article. The announcement is vague, and corresponds to those of other prophets, as of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5), "Behold, the days come that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper;" and of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9), "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion … behold, thy King cometh unto thee." The "princes" of the text are the minor authorities whom the king would set over his kingdom—i.e; the apostles and their successors. In righteousness … in judgment. Messiah's rule will be a rule of strict justice and right, offering the strongest contrast to that under which the Jews have been living since the time of Jehoshaphat (see Isaiah 1:15-23; Isaiah 3:1-12, etc.).
A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, etc. Modem critics mostly render, "each man"—i.e. the king, and each of his princes. But it is, to say the least, allowable—with Vitringa and Kay—to regard the word as referring to the king only (comp. Zechariah 6:12, where ish, a man, is used in the same vague way of One who is clearly the Messiah). There was never but one man who could be to other men all that is predicated in this verse of the "man" mentioned (comp. Isaiah 25:4, where nearly the same epithets are predicated of God). A covert; i.e. a protection against Divine wrath. Such is Messiah in his mediatorial character. Rivers of water; i.e. refreshing and invigorating (comp. Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14; John 7:37). The shadow of a great rook. At once refreshing and protecting (see Isaiah 25:4).
The eyes of them that see shall not be dim. In Messiah's kingdom there shall be no judicial blindness, such as that threatened in Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10, and described in Isaiah 29:10, Isaiah 29:11; but men shall see the truth clearly (comp. Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5; Matthew 13:16, etc.). The ears.; shall hearken; i.e. "shall both hear and understated" (compare "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear").
The heart also of the rash; i.e. of those who were rash and hasty, who would not give themselves time to understand the warnings addressed to them, or to think of the real character of their actions. These shall, in Messiah's kingdom, "have the gift of discernment to perceive things in their true nature" (Delitzsch). The tongue of the stammerers. The tongue of those who hitherto have spoken hesitatingly and inconsistently on moral and religions subjects shall be ready—i.e; prompt and eager—to speak upon them with clearness and elegance. The grace given to the uneducated fishermen of Galilee enabled them to preach and teach gospel truth, not only with clearness, but with refinement.
The vile person shall be no more called liberal; rather, the foolish person—as nabal is commonly translated (Deuteronomy 32:6; 2Sa 3:33; 2 Samuel 13:13; Psalms 14:1; Psalms 39:8; Psalms 74:22, etc.)—such a man as the "Nabal" of 1 Samuel 25:1-44. Men are apt to confound moral distinctions, and to call the "fools" who waste their substance in feasting and revelry "generous" or "liberal," and the niggards (churls) who hoard their riches "warm men," "wealthy men," "men well to do in the world" (see Isaiah 5:20; and comp. Arist.,' Eth. Nic.,' 2.8, § 3; Thucyd; 3.82). This perversion of truth shall not obtain in Messiah's kingdom. Bountiful; rather, wealthy (comp. Job 34:19, where the same word is translated "rich").
For the vile person will speak villany, etc.; rather, for the fool speaketh folly, and his heart doeth wickedness, practising profanity and uttering error against Jehocab, making empty the soul of the hungry—yea, the drink of the thirsty will he cause to fail. The prophet seems to have the portrait of Nabal in his mind, and to take him as the type of a class.
The instruments. Mr. Cheyne translates, "the machinations," which gives a better sense; but the rendering is scarcely borne out by any parallel use of the term c'li in Scripture or elsewhere. C'li properly means "vessels," "weapons," "implements." He deviseth wicked devices; rather, he deviseth plots. The word "he" is emphatic. Unlike the fool, who passively does evil through thoughtlessness, the niggard actively devises crafty plans against his fellow-men. He seeks to cheat the poor out of their rights by false witness (comp. Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14, Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 5:28, etc.), Even when the needy speaketh right; i.e. "has right on his side." The translation in the text is to be preferred to that in the margin.
By liberal things shall he stand; or, to liberal things. The Hebrew will bear either sense.
SECTION IX. FURTHER DENUNCIATIONS OF ISRAEL, JOINED WITH PROMISES (Isaiah 32:9-20).
A REBUKE OF THE WOMEN. It might seem at first sight as if we had here a detached utterance of the prophet, accidentally conjoined with the preceding passage (Isaiah 32:1-8). But Isaiah 32:15-18 furnish a link of connection between the two portions of the chapter, and make it probable that they were delivered at the same time. Mr. Cheyne supposes that the indifference of a knot of women, gathered at some little distance from the men to whom Isaiah had addressed verses 1-8, provoked the prophet suddenly to turn to them, and speak to them in terms of warning.
Rise up. The "careless daughters" are sitting, or reclining upon couches, at their ease. The prophet bids them stand up, to hear a message from God (comp. Judges 3:10). Ye women that are at ease; i.e. "that are self-satisfied and self-complacent." The word employed has almost always a bad sense (see 2 Kings 19:28; Job 12:5; Psalms 123:4; Amos 6:1; Zechariah 1:15). Hear my voice. This clause should be attached to the first half of the verse. The order of the words in the original is, "Ye women that are at ease, rise up and hear my words; ye careless daughters, hearken unto my speech."
Many days and years shall ye be troubled; rather, in a year and days; i.e. "in less than two years." The object of the prophet is not to fix the duration of the trouble, but to mark the time of its commencement (comp. Isaiah 29:1). Shall ye be troubled; rather, shall ye tremble, or shudder (so Deuteronomy 2:25; Psalms 77:18; Psalms 99:1; Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 64:2; Jeremiah 33:9, etc.). Ye careless women; rather, ye confident ones. The word is different from that employed in Isaiah 32:9 and Isaiah 32:11. The vintage shall fail; literally, has failed—"the perfect of prophetic certitude" (Cheyne). Some critics understand a literal failure, or destruction, of the vintage through the invasion of the Assyrians. Others suggest a refer-once to Isaiah 5:4-7. The vineyard of the Lord (Judah) has utterly failed to bring forth grapes—there is no ingathering—therefore destruction shall fall upon it.
Tremble … be troubled. The repetition of this verse is, as usual, emphatic. Its object is to impress those whom the prophet is addressing with the certainty of the coming judgment. Strip you, and make you bare; i.e. "bare your breasts," in preparation for the beating which is to follow (see the comment on the next verse).
They shall lament for the teats, etc.; rather, they shall beat upon the breasts for the pleasant fields, etc. (so the LXX; the Vulgate, Jarchi, Gesenius, Ewald, Maurer, Knobel, Delitzsch, and Mr. Cheyne). Dr. Kay prefers the rendering of the Authorized Version, understanding by "the teats" such "dry breasts" as Hosea speaks of (Hosea 9:14). But nothing has been said in this place of any such affliction. For the pleasant fields, etc.; i.e. for their loss (see verse 10).
A FURTHER MINGLING OF THREATS WITH COMFORTING PROMISES. The women require, like the men, to be both warned and comforted, wherefore the prophet addresses to them, as to the men in Isaiah 30:1-33. and 31; an intermixture of threatening (Isaiah 30:13, Isaiah 30:14) with promise (Isaiah 30:15-20).
Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars. This was the punishment with which the unfruitful vineyard was threatened in Isaiah 5:6. It may be understood either literally or of the wickedness that would abound when the time of judgment came. Yea, upon all the houses of joy (comp. Isaiah 5:9). If Sennacherib carried off, as he declares, more than two hundred thousand captives from Judaea, he must have left many houses without inhabitants. The solitude begun by him was completed by the Babylonians. The joyous city (see Isaiah 22:2). The word used has generally the sense of unholy mirth (comp. Isaiah 23:7; Isaiah 24:8; Zephaniah 2:15; Zephaniah 3:11).
The palaces shall be forsaken; literally, the palace; but the word is used in a generic sense. The prophet sees in vision Jerusalem deserted by her inhabitants, the grand houses of the rich empty, the strongholds haunted by wild beasts, and the slopes of the hills fed on by sheep, and even occasionally visited by the timid and solitude-loving wild ass. The description suits well the time of the Babylonian captivity, but not any earlier period. Probably it was not revealed to the prophet how soon the condition would be reached. The multitude of the city shall be left. The real meaning is, as Bishop Lowth expresses it, "The populous city shall be left desolate." But the whole passage is. as Delitzsch observes, "grammatically strange, the language becoming more complicated, disjointed, and difficult, the greater the wrath and indignation of the poet." The forts and towers; rather, hill and tower, with (perhaps) a special reference to the part of Jerusalem called Ophel (2 Chronicles 27:3; Nehemiah 3:26, etc.), the long projecting spur from the eastern hill, which points a little west of south, and separates the Kedron valley from the Tyropoeon. Shall be for dens; literally, for caves; but dens for wild beasts seem to be meant (comp. Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Jer 1:1-19 :39). For ever. This expression must not be pressed. Hyperbole is a recognized feature of poetry written under strong excitement. A joy of wild asses. The wild ass is not now found nearer Palestine than Mesopotamia, or perhaps Northern Syria. It is exceedingly shy, and never approaches the habitations of men.
Until. The expression "until" modifies the previous "forever," showing that the desolation was not always to continue. The Spirit be poured upon us from on high. An effluence from the Holy Spirit of God on individuals of eminence, prophets, kings, artificers, to fit them for their tasks, is recognized in many of the earlier books of Scripture, and especially in the Davidical psalms. But a general effluence of the Spirit of holiness on a nation, to produce a change of heart, seems to be first announced by Isaiah. The nearly contemporary prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28, Joel 2:29) is, perhaps, as wide in its scope, but limited to the prophetic gift, which is not necessarily conjoined with spiritual-minded-ness or holiness of life. Isaiah, the "evangelical prophet," first teaches that the conversion of a nation is God's work, effected by the Holy Spirit, and effectual to the entire change of the heart of a people. And the wilderness be a fruitful field; i.e. "the community long cursed with barrenness of good works" (verse 10) "becomes once more fruitful of them." And the fruitful field be counted for a forest. An order of climax seems to be here intended. The midbar, the bare pasturage-ground, becomes a Carmel, i.e. carefully cultivated; the Carmel becomes like Lebanon, a rich and luxurious forest. There is no close parallel between this verse and verse 17 of Isaiah 29:1-24. The prophet is not tied down by his previous metaphors.
Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness. In all parts of the kingdom of Christ, the lowest as well as the highest, "judgment" and "righteousness" shall prevail (comp. Isaiah 32:1).
The work of righteousness shall be peace. Peace—a true peace, not a false one (Jeremiah 6:14)—shall be the result of the reign of righteousness. War, quarrels, enmity, hostile feelings, are all of them the fruit of unrighteousness. In the kingdom of the Messiah, just so far forth as it is thoroughly established, "the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:18). The effect of righteousness; literally, the service of righteousness, which perhaps means here "the wages of righteousness." Quietness and assurance; or, quietness and confidence (comp. Isaiah 30:15). The final happiness of the blessed in Christ's kingdom is always spoken of as a state of "rest and quietness" (see Psalms 95:11; Job 3:17; Jeremiah 6:16; Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:9-11, etc.). The "confidence" felt would be an assured confidence, not a rash and foolish one, like that of the women of Isaiah 32:10, Isaiah 32:11.
When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; rather, but it shall hail in the coming down (i.e. the destruction) of the forest. "The forest" has commonly been regarded as Assyria, on the strength of Isaiah 10:18, Isaiah 10:19, Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34. Mr. Cheyne, however, suggests Judah, or the high and haughty ones of Judah, whose destruction was a necessary preliminary to the establishment of Christ's kingdom. May not God's enemies generally be meant? The city. Nineveh (Lowth, Gesenius, Rosenmüller); Jerusalem (Delitzsch, Knobel, Cheyne, Kay); "the city in which the hostility of the world to Jehovah will, in the latter days, be centralized" (Drechsler, Nagel)—the "world-power," in fact. The last view seems to give the best sense.
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters. The idyllic picture, begun in Isaiah 32:15, terminates here. The people of the kingdom have a well-watered land (Isaiah 30:25), where they live peacefully, sowing their seed beside the water-courses, and having abundant pasture for their peaceful beasts—the ox and the ass (comp. Isaiah 30:24). A spiritual meaning doubtless underlies the literal sense.
Strict justice a characteristic of Messiah's kingdom.
Whatever may be said, and said with truth, of the Divine mercy, still there is no quality more characteristic of God's rule over man than his justice. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25); "God is a righteous Judge" (Psalms 7:11); "He shall judge the world in righteousness, and minister judgment to the people in uprightness (Psalms 9:8). If this were not so, the whole foundations of morality would fall. And Messiah's rule was to be like God's—was, in very truth, to be God's. It had, therefore, to be strictly just. What is most wonderful in that marvelous scheme of salvation, which infinite wisdom conceived and decreed from everlasting, is that in it a way was contrived whereby "mercy and truth' might "meet together," and "righteousness and peace kiss each other" (Psalms 85:10). Attributes of God, seemingly contradictory, obtained a wondrous reconciliation by means of the sacrifice of Christ, which, though its whole import may transcend our faculties, was beyond all doubt an integer in the equation wherein mercy and truth met together, and reconcilement was made between "the wrath of man" and "the righteousness of God." The justice of Messiah's kingdom was shown—
I. IN CHRIST'S SEVERE CONDEMNATION OF EVERY FORM OF MORAL EVIL. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matthew 23:13); "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23); "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36); "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts … and these defile a man" (Matthew 15:19, Matthew 15:20). Christ made no compromise with sin. In his most signal act of mercy his words were, "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).
II. IN THE STRICT DISCIPLINE AT FIRST ESTABLISHED IN HIS CHURCH. "Purge out … the old leaven" (1 Corinthians 5:7); "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Corinthians 5:13); "Now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat" (1 Corinthians 5:11). The apostles "delivered to Satan' those who sinned grievously (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20)—cut them off from the communion of the faithful (Galatians 5:12), and only restored them after confession and penance. "The princes ruled in judgment" (Isaiah 32:1).
III. IN THE SOLEMN DECLARATIONS MADE OF A FINAL JUDGMENT ACCORDING TO WORKS. "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works" (Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:13; comp. Matthew 7:23; Matthew 12:37; Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 25:31-46, etc.).
What Christ is to his people.
The prophet enumerates (in Isaiah 32:2) some of the chief relations in which Messiah, when he came, would stand to his people. All his announcements are fulfilled in Christ.
I. CHRIST IS A HIDING-PLACE FROM THE WIND. When the winds of affliction blow, when "the blast of the terrible ones" is upon us, above all, when the breath of the wrath of God seems to sweep down on us and scorch us up, there is one Refuge only to which we can flee—one "Hiding-place"—Christ. In the time of natural grief and trouble, he lets us find a Refuge in him; when our enemies threaten, he "hides us in the secret of his presence from the pride of man," and "keeps us secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues" (Psalms 31:20); when we shrink from the thought of God's wrath, and the breath which is "like a stream of brimstone '(Isaiah 30:33), he offers himself to us as our Shelter. How many saints have not found comfort, unspeakable comfort, in the blessed words-
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee?"
II. CHRIST IS A COVERT FROM THE TEMPEST. Christ not only hides us away from wind and storm, tempest and evil of all kinds, but is himself our Coverture. He is "a Tabernacle for a Covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4:6). His merits "cover up" our sins, and make atonement for them. His righteousness is the "white raiment" which clothes us, so that "the shame of our nakedness doth not appear" (Revelation 3:18).
III. CHRIST IS AS RIVERS OF WATER. Rivers give refreshment. They are the great source of life, fertility, delight, in a parched and desert land. In the wilderness of this life, in the dry arid waste which our tired feet have to traverse, any refreshment that we enjoy comes from Christ—is Christ. He pours upon us the refreshing "dew of his blessing." He gives us to drink out of himself; and then "out of our belly there flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37, John 7:38). The water that he imparts to us is "a well of water springing up into everlasting life '(John 4:14). He is unto us "a place of broad rivers and streams" (Isaiah 33:21), refreshing, life-giving, exhaustless.
IV. CHRIST IS AS THE SHADOW OF A GREAT ROCK IN A WEARY LAND. The world is "a weary land." We are travelers across its waste. A hot sun beats down upon our heads; a scorching soil is under our feet. But we have a Rock with us, a Rock which "follows us"—and "that Rock is Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). In the shadow of that Rock we may at any time, and at all times, find rest, renovation, refreshment, protection, delight. The traveler in the desert comes, once and again, upon "a great rock," as he plods his weary way over the vast solitude, and rejoices at the sight, and toils for hours to reach the blessed refuge of its shade. Our "Rock" is ready to give us shade whenever we please—it is near us constantly; we have but to flee to it, to cling to it, to remain in its shadow.
The need of rousing women in critical times from a state of self-satisfaction and self-complacency.
Women are less apprehensive than men, more inclined to suppose that the state of things to which they are accustomed will, as a matter el course, remain unchanged. They have, as a general rule, less historical knowledge than men, and less acquaintance with the condition of the world wherein they live. The self-complacency and unsuspiciousness of Marie Antoinette and the ladies of her court, when the French Revolution was drawing on, has been a matter of surprise to historians; but it is merely a striking instance of what is, in fact, the ordinary condition of things when great changes are imminent. Jezebel did not expect, or appreciate, the revolution initiated by Jehu; nor Athaliah that carried out under the auspices of Jehoiada the high priest (2 Kings 11:4-16). The instinctive belief in "continuance," of which Bishop Butler speaks ('Analogy,' part 1.Isaiah 1:1-31.), whereby we expect "all things to continue as we experience they are, in all respects, "and "to-morrow to be as to-day," only perhaps "more abundant' (Isaiah 56:12),—is especially strong in women, and explains their inapprehensiveness. The result is:
1. That reverses come upon them suddenly and unexpectedly, without their being prepared to encounter them, and are thus sorer trials, under which they often fall into despair and recklessness, to their great hurt.
2. That the men, who are their associates, through the contagion of their security, are rendered themselves less apprehensive, and consequently less inclined to realize the coming danger and guard against it by wise measures of precaution. Under these circumstances, it becomes the preacher's duty at such times to address himself especially to the rousing of the women from their "carelessness" and security, both for their own sakes, and still more for the sake of the community, whose prosperity or whose very existence they imperil.
The fruits of the Spirit in a community.
The first result of the effluence of the Holy Spirit on man is fruitfulness: "the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field a forest." The dry ground of a stony heart is changed into a cultivated garden, which "brings forth much fruit." The heart which already bore some fruit is "purged, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). Then, when individuals have been thus changed and "purged" and perfected one by one, judgment and righteousness "dwell" in the land—the King "reigns in righteousness," and his "princes rule in judgment" far and wide there is a reign of justice, right, equity. Next comes a further consequence. "The work of righteousness is peace," peace subjective and objective, in the heart and in the life—the peace of quiet consciences assured of God's favor, knowing that their sins are atoned for, and feeling that they are at one with God; and the peace of internal concord and agreement among all members of the community, mutual respect of class towards class, and of man towards man, general good will of all towards all, kindliness, courtesy, ready aid, sympathy, consideration. The complete result has not been seen as yet, because men have resisted God's Spirit, and the copious outpouring of it, which he is willing to give, has never yet been given. But if this impediment were removed, if God's Spirit had free course, and a kingdom or society of perfectly virtuous men were once formed, then we should see such further consequences as are pointed out by Bishop Butler in his 'Analogy: '"In such a state there would be no such thing as faction; but men of the greatest capacity would, of course, all along have the chief direction of affairs willingly yielded to them; and they would share it among themselves without envy. Each of these would have the part assigned him to which his genius was peculiarly adapted; and others, who had not any distinguished genius, would be safe, and think themselves very happy, by being under the protection and guidance of those who had. Public determinations would really be the result of the united wisdom of the community; and they would be faithfully executed by the united strength of it. Some would in a higher way contribute, but all would in some way contribute, to the public prosperity; and in it, each would enjoy the fruits of his own virtue. And as injustice, whether by fraud or force, would be unknown among themselves, so they would be sufficiently secured from it in their neighbors. For cunning and false self-interest, confederacies in injustice, ever slight, and accompanied with faction and intestine treachery,—these, on one hand, would be found mere childish folly and weakness, when set in opposition against wisdom, public spirit, union inviolable, and fidelity on the other; allowing both a sufficient length of years to try their force. Add the general influence, which such a kingdom would have over the face of the earth, by way of example particularly, and the reverence which would be paid it. It would plainly be superior to all others, and the world must gradually come under its empire; not by means of lawless violence, but partly by what must be allowed to be just conquest, and partly by other kingdoms submitting themselves voluntarily to it, throughout a course of ages, and claiming its protection, one after another, in successive exigencies. The head of it would be a universal monarch, in another sense than any mortal has as yet been; and the Eastern style would be literally applicable to him, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him" (part 1.Isaiah 3:1-26. § 5).
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
An ideal of political good.
When the Divine Spirit has been outpoured, when the idols have been cast away, and the Assyrian yoke has been cast off, happy days will dawn.
I. ROYALTY WILL BE SYNONYMOUS WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS. The King will be seen in his beauty—not the splendor of purple robes and lofty throne and brilliant court, but that of the equity and justice which imitate Heaven. God will call him by his name, will make him rich with hidden possessions, will go before him to make the crooked ways straight (Isaiah 45:1-4). In spite of all the failings of kings, the mass of the people bear a deep reverence and affection to royalty. Even in the counterfeit they recognize some relation to the real thing. "A divinity doth hedge a king;" this is not only poetically, but religiously true, if the king in any sort answer to the truth of his position. In happier days he will so answer.
II. THE UPPER CLASSES WILL BE THE SPIRITUAL SUPERIORS OF THE PEOPLE. Aristocracy began with personal worth, and by it only can be maintained. We see from the description what the nobility ought to be in relation to the people. Patrons, protectors; "hiding-places from the wind," a "covert from the rain-storm, rivulets in a parched land, the shadow of a huge cliff in a thirsty land." Noblesse oblige. They should be looked up to; every popular cause should find in them its defenders and active advocates; every philanthropic scheme in them its leaders; every misery of the poor in them its zealous redressers. High place without high qualities is a mockery; lofty station coupled with low manners, a scandal and an abuse. Alas! too often in the history of the "ruling classes" these truths have been forgotten, these relations have been reversed. Again and again God has called them to judgment: "You have eaten up the vineyards, the plunder of the afflicted is in your houses. What mean ye that crush my people, and grind the face of the afflicted?" Notably so at the time of the great French Revolution.
III. THE RESULTS OF A SPIRITUAL CHANGE. No reformation of manners, no happy reconciliation of class with class can come about, except by a change of mind and heart. And that change itself can only come whence all changes in the realm of nature and spirit come—from the creative, the re-creative energy of God. The body is the organ of the spirit in its manifold activities. Any fresh sensibility of the physical organs is typical, therefore, of an awakened and living conscience. The closed eye is typical of the blindness of those who will not see. To shut the eye to evil, to turn the head away from what disgusts,—this may seem for a time equivalent to canceling the evil itself. Not so; and reformation sets in from that hour when men are willing to face the most painful facts, to let the light into the darkest corners of existence. Ears were made to listen, not to be stopped. Let the bitter cry be hearkened to; its tones thrill through every fiber of our sympathetic being; nor let its pleading be dismissed until the question, What can I do? has found some distinct answer. The tongue was made, not to stammer, but to flow with truthful and gracious speech. Silence may mean that we have no help to offer; stuttering accents that we are of a divided mind, of obscure habits of thought. Lucidity is what we need—the lucidity of the single eye, the sensitive organism filled through and through with light. And what does our haste and feverish precipitation signify, but want of that deliberate forethought and that circumspection which is a constant duty? "The heart of the hasty shall perceive distinctly." Although we cannot refer all sin, like Socrates, to want of insight, yet no sin but implies that want. God's deepest, most far-reaching blessings must ever be for the heart, in that large sense in which Scripture uses the word—including every mental faculty or activity. Material improvements are not to be neglected. The sanity and weal of the body have a direct bearing on the weal of mind; yet, on the other hand, there will be no material improvements until the improving mind has been awakened and truly educated.
IV. THE CONSTITUTION OF THINGS NEEDING REFORMATION. It is a confusion which needs to be removed. It is a world turned upside down which needs to be righted. The foot and the knave may designate the ruling classes of the time. Fool! how weighty the condemnation, how deep-burning the brand, which belongs to the use of the word in Scripture! The world may call him par excellence the fool who minds all business but his own; the prophet calls him the fool who thinks of self, bat forgets his God. The sinner, in short, is the fool. His is the worst and least excusable ignorance. He may be called "noble" in the convention of society, he is contemptible in the judgment of God. The characteristics of the fool are that he speaks folly, and this "out of the abundance" of a wicked heart—a forge and workshop where the production of evil is ever going on; that he delights to propagate heresy and atheism as a center of religious darkness. Hungry souls look to those Nabals, and are not fed, but deprived of their sustenance; and the waters they point out prove to be as the mirage of the desert on near approach. The denunciation of such spurious leaders of the people reminds of Milton's invective—
"The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed;
But, swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly and foul contagion spread."
And the knave, with his crafty plots and machinations, his insidious lies, drawing into his net the defenseless, honest poor. The age sorely needed true nobles, not of title and rank, but of God's own mint and stamp—men of principle; men as long-headed in their good devices as the others in evil; men of firm and constant heart; no time-serving, truckling, tide-waiting, opportunist, wavering spirits; but steady to their convictions, direct in their aims, consistent with themselves. Every time needs such men. God preserve to us the nobility of the land—the kind hearts that are worth more than coronets, the simple faith that is worth more than Norman blood; the holy seed, the vital element of a nation.—J.
Until the Spirit be poured out.
How constantly does Scripture speak of every happy reformation as due to the "outpouring of the Spirit," or the sending or breathing of the Spirit on human-kind! Language none the less expressive because mysterious. Those epochs cannot be forecast: no meteorology can explain to us these movements "from on high." But they may be waited for and prepared for, without fear of disappointment. Again and again they had come to the prophet's heart; and from his heart he knew they must some time come also in a wider sphere of operation.
I. UNTIL THEN—WHAT? The women are addressed, the daughters of Zion. The manners of the women must be a sure index of the state of a nation. New religious feeling kindles quickly in their hearts; they welcome and further revivals. Their indifference to spiritual things seems to belie their nature; atheism in woman is monstrous. The Jewish women are in a state of careless unconcern. This attitude of "ease," of apathetic nonchalance, arouses the indignation and the alarm of the prophets, perhaps more than vivacity in sin. It is an ominous symptom in the bodily life, not less so in the soul. It offers a dull prosaic resistance to enthusiasm of any kind, which it holds in smiling, sensuous contempt. A psalmist's soul is "exceedingly filled" with perturbation at this attitude (Psalms 123:4); Amos denounces woe (Amos 6:1), and Zechariah the great displeasure of Jehovah against them that "are at ease." Perhaps the vintage-harvest was over when the prophet spoke. The time would come when a shudder would pass through those luxurious frames; the outer garment would be torn off, the sackcloth assumed, the breasts that once heaved only with the sigh of pleasure be beaten in wild lament for the "days that are no more," for the pleasant fields and the fruitful vine. Those fields will be thorn and briar overgrown; the houses of the city deserted, its mirth quelled. The wild cattle will sport around the temple hill, the palaces be forsaken. Impossible to dissociate in our minds the desolation of once populous scenes from the sin of man and the withdrawal of the gracious Spirit of God. Take these descriptions as figures of the state of the soul; then power and beauty remain. The well-kept garden, the sweet fields in the harvest-time, the mirth of reapers and in-gatherers; these sights, these sounds, provide unsought expression for the soul that feels itself "at ease." The untilled fields, the signs of wild nature creeping to old ascendency over the works of man,—such sights carry symbolic meaning which depresses the most cheerful heart. "Until the Spirit be outpoured from on high"—that is our state, and that it must remain.
II. AFTER THEN—WHAT?
1. "Justice shall inhabit the pasture-country, and righteousness shall dwell in the garden-land." "Men ought not to be like cattle, which seek nothing but plenty of food and abundance of outward things. We should not, like hogs in a sty, judge of the happiness of life by abundance of bread and wine (Calvin). Righteousness alone exalts, righteousness alone can uplift a fallen nation.
2. "The fruit of righteousness shall be peace." This is inwardly and outwardly, subjectively and objectively, true. Peace in the heart is the companion of rectitude; it flows from right order in the home and family, and from just administration in the state. Peace, quietness, confidence: a triple blooming in one; a threefold band of prosperity and condition of all welfare. "Homes of peace, dwellings of confidence, easeful resting-places,—these are the pictures that all men draw in fancy; this the life for which they dream they were made. Such a state depends upon piety, upon personal and social morality. "It is as true now as it was in the time of Isaiah. True religion would put an end to strifes and litigations; to riots and mobs; to oppressions and tumults; to alarms and robbery; to battle and murder and conflict among the nations."
3. These blessings cannot come without suffering. The hail of judgment will fall upon forest and upon city. The refuge of lies and the hiding-place of falsehood must be swept away. Renewing and reforming forces work destructively on one side, as creatively on the other. Upon whom these judgments will fall is not evident from the text. Hail is an image of Divine judgment (Isaiah 28:2, Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 30:30).
4. The happiness of the tiller. He sows beside all waters—a reference to the Oriental custom of casting the seed upon the waters of overflowing streams and rivers, so that, when the waters subside, it will be found again in the springing crop and the abundant harvest. The ox and the ass are employed to tread the moistened earth and prepare for the sowing (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:1, Ecclesiastes 11:6). In a figurative sense—happy those who go steadily on with useful work, the work that lies nearest them, the sowing which looks for a "far-off interest of good," amidst the most troubled times. No troubles of the lime should divert us from our daily task, or unsettle us from the habit of continuous useful labor.—J.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
The soul's rest.
"The shadow of a great rock in a weary land." This is an Eastern picture. God is described as our Shade. In the glare of a too-garish day we become endangered; the sun of prosperity smites us. Sunlight has its penalties as well as its pleasures. So has success! The human heart cannot bear too much of brightness. We need shadows for the mind to rest under as well as for the body.
I. A MAN IS HERE DESCRIBED. The God-Man. One who, knowing our infirmities and temptations, is able to succor them that are tempted. The true King who is to reign in righteousness is prophesied of. "A man shall be." Christ has been the Refuge and the Rest of hearts wearied of the world and scorched with its radiant beams. We are led to Christ. Not to theological systems; not to human creeds; but to Christ. The shadow! Yes. Shadow of a cross, where we may find forgiveness and. peace. Shadow of brotherhood, where we may find true sympathy in our hours of loneliness and disappointment. Shadow, where we may recline and rest as the patriarch did under the oaks of Beersheba, and Moses did under the mountains of old. And Christ's Divinity is proclaimed in the words, "a great Rock" High as heaven, having its roots in God's own eternal years. So great that it offers shelter for all the weary hearts of men.
II. A PILGRIMAGE IS HERE IMPLIED. "A weary land" The pilgrims are passing on through the scorching heat, the camel-drivers walking then, as they do now, in the shadow cast by these "ships of the desert." Before them stretch miles on miles of burning sand. The blinding sun is above them. With their white cummerbunds and their light Eastern dress, they ease the heat-burden all they can. And now the great mountains come in sight. Some with gentle acclivities and some with sharp-cut rocks jutting out above the pilgrim-way. What blessed shadows they cast! Such shady places are our sabbaths and sacraments and sanctuaries, our holy moments of Divine fellowship, when God comes near and casts over us the protecting shadow of his gracious presence.
III. WEARINESS IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE WAY, "A weary land." We are often tired. How many hearts have said, "O God, I am a-weary!" and then, instead of the sad cry, "O God, that I were dead!" we hear the voices of spiritual souls crying, "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" and the blessed answer comes from the lips of the incarnate God himself, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"—weary with the load of sin; weary with the care and fret of daily life; weary with inward conflicts; weary with ceaseless watching, for our Arab enemies dash suddenly by, and point their rifle as they fly. Pain makes us weary. The loss of dear, true-hearted friends makes us weary. Doubt, with all our dark mental conflicts—doubt, which is sometimes the exquisite action of a sincere mind, makes us weary. So we come to the great Father, and rest in the gracious answer to the cry, "Lord, show us the Father," in the revelation vouchsafed unto us by our Divine Lord, who has taught us when we pray to say, "Our Father," and also has declared, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."—W.M.S.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Refuge in Christ and in one another.
In this country we can hardly hope to feel all the three and beauty of this illustration. To do that we must have visited tropical regions. There, with the rays of the sun shining directly down, the heat becomes so intense and intolerable that it cannot be endured, and often "the shadow of a great rock" means, not merely refreshment, but salvation. And as with the heat, so with the storm—the whirlwind, the tempest, the simoom: what desolations do not these produce? what terrors do they not excite? How precious in such lands, on such occasions, the hiding-place from the wind, the covert from the storm! But lifting our thoughts from the illustration to the thing itself which is pictured here, to that human heart and life of which all visible nature only supplies the types and hints, we make no abatement for change of scene; for the scorching rays of temptation fall as fiercely and the winds of passion blow as furiously in England as in Judaea, or in Babylon, or in India. Indeed, such are the confusions and complications of our time, so subtle and so seductive are the temptations to err from the straight line of rectitude, that more rather than less is there need for a hiding-place for the heart, a covert from the storm of sorrow and of sin. A man shall be for a hiding-place! One man in particular? or any man at any time in any land? In both senses the words may be taken. We may consider—
I. CHRIST THE REFUGE OF THE HUMAN SOUL.
1. Such he was in the days of his flesh, For his disciples had to share something of the enmity and opposition he encountered, and they always found an effectual shield in his protection. As evangelists they brought their success and their disappointment to him, that the one might be sanctified and the other be relieved (Luke 10:17-20). When worsted by the enemy, they felt back on his power and found defeat swallowed up in victory (Matthew 17:14-20). When imminent danger threatened their lives, they made their appeal to his all-con-trolling voice (Matthew 8:23-27).
2. Such he became, in a deeper sense, after his ascension. It was expedient that he should go away. "Before his departure he was with them, afterwards he was in them." The death and the resurrection of the Lord enlightened their minds and changed their spirits. Then they went to him as they never could have done during his presence; they trusted in him, gave themselves to him, leaned on him, were lost in him, as they would not have been: he became, in a deeper and fuller sense, the Hiding-place of their hearts.
3. Such is he now to all believing hearts.
(1) As sinners, burdened with a sense of guilt and craving mercy and reconciliation, we want some other refuge than we can find in the best and wisest of mankind; and with what glad eagerness, with what profound thankfulness, with what inexpressible relief, do we resort to him, and cry-
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee!"
(2) As the children of sorrow, we have need of more than human help! There are depths of disappointment, extremities of loss, intensities of pain and suffering, wastes of loneliness, gulfs of darkness and woe, for which human sympathy is entirely inadequate, in which the only thing we can do is to hasten to that Son of man who is touched most keenly with the feeling of our trials, and say—
"Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly!"
II. THE REFUGE WE MAY BE TO ONE ANOTHER. Any man may be, and every man should seek to be, a hiding-place, a covert. Oar domestic life shows us how this may be, and provides the first instance and best picture of human shelter. Our social life should provide us with many opportunities of succoring the needy and the tried. Our Church life should do the same; every Christian Church should be an asylum for the poor, the weak, the sad, the anxious-minded, the troubled of heart. Who would not like so to live, with such quick and ready sympathy of spirit, with such kindliness and hopefulness of word, with such friendliness of uplifting hand and sustaining arm, that his life should be suggestive of the words, "A man shall be a hiding-place?"—C.
Isaiah 32:3, Isaiah 32:4
Disabled and restored.
The words are suggestive of the spiritual incapacity of which Israel was too often guilty (see Ezekiel 12:2), and of the recovery which, in better days, they were to experience.
I. MAN DISABLED BY SIN. There are four directions in which we suffer sad deterioration and incapacity as the consequence of our sin.
1. Spiritual perception. After some transgressions, after continued disobedience and estrangement from God, we fail to "see light in his light;" our vision of his truth is less clear and full; sacred truths lose their true proportions in our view. Then come positive error, actual misconception, moral blindness; and finally comes that terrible mental distortion of which the Master spoke so sorrowfully and the prophet wrote so strongly (Matthew 6:22, Matthew 6:23; Isaiah 5:20).
2. Recognition of the Divine voice. The commission of sin ends in, first, a partial, and ultimately a complete, spiritual deafness. At first the quieter and more habitual tones in which God is speaking to us (daily loving-kindnesses, sabbath privileges, etc.) become inaudible to us, convey no message to us from God; then more distinct and unmistakable voices from heaven are unheeded and unheard; at last, the loudest demands which God ever makes fail to produce any impression on the ear of the soul.
3. The choice of that which is wise. The rash heart (of the text) is the heart which chooses precipitately, and therefore foolishly. Under the dominion of sin we come to choose the visible in preference to the invisible, the material to the spiritual, the transient to the abiding, the human to the Divine.
4. The utterance of Divine truth. The clouded vision naturally leads to the "stammering tongue." As man becomes more affected by the sin which dwells within and works upon him, he utters God's truth less plainly, less faithfully, more partially, with ever-widening divergence from the mind of the Eternal.
II. THE TOUCH OF DIVINE POWER. When man has become disabled there is no hope for him but in God. Human teaching is valuable enough, but it dues not avail. Only the awakening, reviving touch of the Divine power, brought into immediate contact with the soul, can call back these slumbering powers. But it can and does; God's renewing Spirit breaks upon the disabled mind, upon the degenerate nature, and that which was lost is regained; the faculties of the soul revive. Then we have—
III. SPIRITUAL RESTORATION. Revived by the power of God:
1. We see clearly. We apprehend the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning us, the excellency of his service, the beauties of holiness, the luxury of usefulness.
2. We hear distinctly the voice of God as he speaks to us in his Word, in his providence, in the privileges of the Christian Church.
3. We choose wisely. We become thoughtful, reflective, studious of the Divine desire, obedient, and therefore wise; we "understand knowledge."
4. We speak plainly. Discerning that which is acceptable in the sight of the Lord, we speak simply, faithfully, fearlessly, "with all boldness as we ought to speak," "the everlasting gospel"—both the elementary truths which make wise unto salvation, and those "deeper things of God," which enrich the mind and sanctify the spirit.—C.
A mark of good government, etc.
Three lines of thought are here laid down. We have—
I. A MARK OF GOOD GOVERNMENT. The displacement of the unworthy and the elevation of the good and wise. Under the reign of the righteous King (Isaiah 32:1) the "fool will no longer be called a nobleman," the man of mean character but lofty rank will be made to know his true place in the commonwealth; on the other hand, the man who has in him the qualities of nobility (Isaiah 32:8) shall have the opportunity of dealing graciously and bountifully. There is no surer sign of demoralization, no more certain indication of approaching ruin in any community, than the promotion of the unfit and the unworthy; and there is no healthier symptom than the advancement of the upright and the capable. Let nations, societies, Churches, look to it.
II. A HINT AS TO SIN'S LARGE DIMENSIONS.
1. Its tenacity of purpose. "The vile person will [continue to] speak villany, and his heart [to] work iniquity" (Isaiah 32:6). You may put him in a position in which you might hope that the commonest self-respect would ensure propriety of conduct, but you will be mistaken; the corrupt tree will bear evil fruit on any soil.
2. Its guilefulness. "To practice hypocrisy;" professing justice and purity, it enacts all that is unfair and evil.
3. Its falsity. "To utter error," etc. Sin, especially when found in high places, is most mischievous in that it scatters everywhere the fruitful seeds of error; it poisons the mind with misleading fancies, with shallow notions which may sound well but are essentially false and which conduct to wrong and ruin. Thus it leads men to act "against the Lord," for they pursue a path which he has forbidden, and they diffuse principles which are hostile to his reign.
4. Its heartlessness. (Isaiah 32:6.) What though the issue of those evil actions be that men's hearts are hungry and their souls athirst; what though they bring about impoverishment, destitution—bodily or spiritual, or both together,—let the cup be drained, let the game be played out!
5. Its unscrupulousness. Its "instruments are evil" (Isaiah 32:7).
6. Its effrontery. (Isaiah 32:7.) They whom it is wronging may be the poor, and therefore the appropriate objects of compassion; they may be the innocent, those who are in the right, and therefore the proper objects of regard; nothing but downright falsehood may suffice to prevail against them (Ahab and Naboth). No matter; let the case be established, let sentence be executed!
III. A COMMENDATION OF GENEROSITY. "The liberal deviseth liberal things," etc. (Isaiah 32:8).
1. A man of a noble nature will find opportunities for doing generous things. How well a man serves the Church or the world is not a question of circumstance half so much as a matter of character. Given a free, generous, open-hearted man, and you may confidently reckon on repeated and continuous acts of unselfish usefulness. 'Jesus "went about doing good, for God was with him," and because God was in him; because, in him, as in a perennial fountain, dwelt Divine love, pity, self-sacrifice. We need care comparatively little about arranging opportunities of service, though that is not a matter of indifference; what is of supreme consequence is that those we teach and train should have planted within them the sacred seeds of holy, Christian generosity.
2. Generous measures will give a noble heart stability: by them "he shall stand."
(1) They will commend him to the affection and the support of the direct recipients of his goodness (Job 29:11-13).
(2) They will result in general prosperity (Proverbs 11:24; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6).
(3) They will. command the blessing of God (Psalms 41:1; Psalms 112:9; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 13:16).—C.
Isaiah 32:17, Isaiah 32:18
The peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Righteousness and peace may be supposed to be entirely separate things; by those who look only on the surface they may even be imagined to be opposed to one another. In fact, they are closely and even vitally related to each other.
I. THOSE WHO ARE INCAPABLE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE UNRECEPTIVE OF PEACE. To them peace is simply incommunicable; it does not come within the range of their faculties. The horse, the swallow, the salmon, the unintelligent and irresponsible animal, may have quietude and comfort, but it cannot enjoy peace, in the fullest and truest sense in which we use that word. It is only capable of that sense of satisfaction which attends a perfect adjustment of its circumstances to its bodily nature; but that is not peace. Peace is that spiritual contentment which results from inward as well as outward harmony—from a sense of rectitude, a consciousness that everything is right in its most important, most sacred relationships. They who are beneath the sense of responsibility, and are therefore incapable of righteousness, can never possibly attain to the possession of peace; they are constitutionally below it.
II. THEY WHO HAVE LOST RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST REGAIN IT BEFORE THEY CAN HAVE THE HERITAGE OF PEACE.
1. This is so with the comer, unity. When the country, or the company, or the Church has fallen into disorder because it has fallen into error and the commission of wrong, there is but one way to regain the harmony which has been lost. Absolutism will never yield it. Force will not secure it. Compromise will not permanently restore it. Nothing will avail until righteousness is re-established. Justice must be done to those to whom it has been denied. Rights must be conceded to those who have fairly won them. Relations must be adjusted to changed conditions; every one and everything must make way for rectitude. In no other way whatever will the path of peace be found.
2. It is thus with the human soul. We have all wandered from the way of wisdom and of righteousness; we have refused to God the love, the reverence, the service which is his due and which it is our highest interest to render. We have thereby become disordered, disquieted, confused; instead of dwelling in "a peaceable habitation," in "quiet resting-places," we have become inhabitants of a realm of condemnation, reproach, peril, , agitation, misery. There is no way back to the home of rest which we have left behind us but by a return to righteousness; that is to say, by repentance, the turning our back on the sinful selfishness in which we have been living, and becoming right with God, accepting the gracious offer of his Son our Savior (Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29).
(1) Rejection of truth may give a false security;
(2) absorption in worldly pursuits or in pleasurable excitements may provide temporary indifference; but only righteousness, only the restoration of the soul to its true relation to God, by repentance and faith, will give peace.
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL ENSURE PEACE BOTH IN POSSESSION AND IS PROSPECT. It will effect:
1. Reconciliation with God, and the consequent "peace which passes understanding"—a blissful, satisfying "rest unto the soul," which is incomparably more precious than any earthly satisfaction to the body or the spirit.
2. The inward and abiding rest which belongs to spiritual harmony; this is the invariable consequence of the soul being in a right relation with the Supreme, and with its fellows, and of all its faculties being rightly related to one another.
3. A peaceful departure from the present life.
4. A home in the quiet resting-place of the heavenly land.—C.
"Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters." "There will he widespread desolation," says the prophet; "the fields will be untilled, the land will he covered with briars and thorns; but a glorious change shall come over the scene'—the 'wilderness shall become a fruitful field' (Isaiah 32:15), the happy scenes of industry will again be witnessed, the arts and industries of agriculture will revive and flourish in all their former fullness. Happy will be the land that shall put forth its whole strength in the field; 'blessed are they that sow beside all waters.' 'Two general truths spring from this passage.
I. THAT THEY ARE BLESSED WHO PUT FORTH ALL THE POWERS WITH WHICH THEY ARE ENDOWED. It should be the happiness of Israel in its time of restoration to leave no soil uncultivated that would yield produce; they would sow beside all waters. All its inhabitants, with all their agricultural implements, would be busy in the open fields; no strength left unexercised in the homes; no weapons left unused in the storehouses. Unhappy indeed is
(1) the country whose population is doomed to enforced idleness, whose looms are still, whose ploughs are rusting in the homestead;
(2) the family where sons and daughters are letting their various faculties lie idle, when they might be put forth to their own great advantage and for the good of others;
(3) the man whose individual powers are slumbering in his soul, unspent and undeveloped. Blessed are they who expend all the resources they possess, who cultivate all their skill of hand, who develop all their strength of mind, who so put out all their talents that the whole energies of their spiritual nature will be employed, increased, perfected. By sowing beside all waters is meant sowing seed in well-watered, and therefore fruitful, soil. The expression consequently contains the idea—
II. THAT THEY ARE BLESSED WHO ARE ENGAGED IN REMUNERATIVE LABOR. This is peculiarly true of the Christian workman.
1. He had the very best seed to sow: truth, which God took centuries to prepare, which is the purchase of a Savior's tears and blood, which is exquisitely adapted to the soil for which it is intended.
2. He has well-watered, i.e. fertile, responsive soil in which to place it. He has, amongst others:
(1) The virgin soil of youth. Youth may often be inattentive, frivolous, unstable; nevertheless it is docile, affectionate, trustful, tender-hearted.
(2) The prepared soil of affliction. When God has chastened the soul with his fatherly hand, there is a softness of spirit, an impressionableness of heart which makes words of comfort, of exhortation, of warning peculiarly welcome.
(3) The productive soil of poverty. From the days when "the common people heard Jesus gladly," and when it was said "to the poor the gospel is preached," to these times in which we live, the poor have been comparatively rich in faith and hope. By those to whom the riches and enjoyments of earth are denied, the treasures of truth and the blessedness of the kingdom of God are likely to be prized and gained
." A due discrimination of character would be made in the times of the Messiah, and persons and things would be called by their appropriate names (comp. Malachi 3:18; Matthew 23:13-33; Ephesians 5:5)" (Henderson). "The differences between good and evil, virtue and vice, shall be kept up, and no more confounded by those who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Matthew Henry). These sentences show that the subject introduced is the influence of a righteous reign in helping men to see things as they really are, and to estimate persons according to their true worth, and not according to the mere show they may make. We deal specially with those confusions which come by false judgments of persons, and these take the following, among other forms.
I. ADMIRATION OF TALENTS BLINDS US TO BADNESS OF CHARACTER. What is thought to be "genius" is too often allowed to excuse all sorts of laxity. The men who can astonish and amuse us may be unclean, untruthful, injurious; but we readily pass all this by. When righteousness reigns, talent will have to go with character, or men will count it to be Satanic agency. What a man can do must never be separated from what the man is.
II. THE COMMAND OF WEALTH BRINGS FLATTERERS TO BAD MEN. There is no more painful sign of the moral deterioration of a race, than its worship of the rich because they are rich. Money can never make goodness. Wealth is not the stability of a nation. Its hope lies wholly in its good men. Yet the rich man may be violent, rude, masterful, cruel; nevertheless, multitudes will fawn on him, and call the "Vile person liberal." When righteousness reigns, that confusion will be rectified, and the rich man shall have worship only if he deserves it for what he is.
III. THE RANK AND SOCIAL POSITION OF MEN NOW BEWILDER THEIR FELLOWS, AND MAKE TRUE ESTIMATES NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE. Well does Robert Burns remind us that
"The rank is but the guinea-stamp,
A man's a man for a' that."
No word of bitterness need be spoken concerning those to whom God has entrusted talents, or wealth, or social position. The point to enforce is simply the peril of letting these things confuse our ideas of moral character and moral worth. Evil is evil, and must be denounced as evil, in the genius, the man of wealth, and the man of title. Let Christ reign, and sin will be called sin, wherever it is found. He will strip all disguises off, and show us things as they are, and men as they are. The Lord hasten his coming!—R.T.
The stability of liberal men.
"The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand," or, "be established." It is quite possible that Isaiah had in mind the good King Hezekiah, of whom very noble and generous things are narrated in 2 Chronicles 30:22-26. Passing away to Messianic times, we are to see that the true subjects of Messiah, the ideal Prince, the King who reigns in righteousness, will be distinguished by a noble-minded benevolence, contriving and persevering in the execution of enlarged schemes of charity. In Psalms 110:3 they are very strikingly described as "a people of voluntarinesses." The term here used, "liberal," is a comprehensive one and may fairly include—
I. THE NOBLE-MINDED MAN. That is the man who takes high, generous views; who does not make himself, and his own small interests, the measure of all his opinions and judgments. The man who is, everywhere and in everything, ruled by what is right, and not by what will pay. That man may often seem to be at disadvantage. Keenly self-interested men push him aside and push before him. It is not really so. God will give him the only true and eternal prosperities. He deviseth liberal things; in liberal things he perseveres; and by liberal things he shall stand.
II. THE BROAD-MINDED MAN. Who is not limited in his views by the sect or school to which he belongs, the class in society of which he forms part, or even by the bias which follows his own preferences in reading. The man who knows the "world is wide," and has room for all kinds of men and all varieties of opinion. The man who is quite sure there is a "soul of good somewhere, even in things evil." That man makes the best of life, gets honey everywhere. He is a "liberal soul, that shall be made fat."
III. THE CHARITABLY MINDED MAN. One who accepts cheerfully the great "law of service," and recognizes that all he has is for the use and benefit of others. It is all for spending, none for hoarding. "Even Christ pleased not himself." He could say, "I am among you as one that serveth." One who is sensitive to the wants and woes of his fellows, and has in him the soul of the Samaritan, who pities and hefts, rather than the soul of priest or of Levite, who pity and pass on. Such a man puts contrivance, care, and serf-denial into his service. And such a man "shall stand." "The providence of God will reward him for his liberality with a settled prosperity and an established reputation. The grace of God will give him abundance of satisfaction and confirmed peace in his own bosom" (comp. Psalms 112:5, Psalms 112:6).—R.T.
Folk who are at ease.
Special reference is made to the women of the upper classes in Jerusalem, who were living in self-indulgence and extravagance, and setting mischievous example to all the women of the land. The coming woes would affect them all the more seriously because of the luxuries which they had gathered round themselves, and which had become to them fancied necessities. No doubt the idle, self-indulgent, and too often profligate conduct of these women greatly added to the pressure of the existing evils. It is suggested to us to consider how greatly; in every age, women represent and augment the evils of their times. Many a man has been ruined by his efforts to feed the pride, vanity, and luxury of these ease-loving, careless wives and daughters. And nations have lost their manhood in the moral decay of the "mothers" of the race. "When a land goes to ruin a great part of the blame of it rests upon the women. For they are more easily prompted to evil, as they are to good." But this "being at ease" describes the condition of what is called a "high state of civilization," when money is accumulated in the hands of the few, and these few, having no need to work, give themselves up to self-indulgence, manufacturing wants, and constantly craving for some excitement to relieve the dreadful ennui of life.
I. MEN AND WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE AT EASE. There is work to be done. Work for all. It is put close to our hand. There are evils to fight—evils so gigantic that every man and woman may have a place in the soldier-ranks. God worketh hitherto; Christ works; and woe to all who, in negligence or in rebelliousness, refuse to bear the yoke!
II. MANY MEN AND WOMEN MUST MASTER THEMSELVES AND THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES IF THEY ARE TO CEASE TO RE AT EASE. For careless ways may have become fixed habits. We may have deceived ourselves into the idea that our "doing nothing," our busy idleness, is really doing something. We begin to take life into our hands for ordering, when we face the question, "What is life given me for? '
"Life is real, life is earnest."
III. GOD'S WOE SURELY COMES ON ALL WHO KEEP AT EASE, Our Lord pictured this in his parable of the "rich man and Lazarus." That rich man, living at ease, is not to be envied while he lived, for the woe of God lay on him, making bitterness for his many idle hours. Much less is he to be envied when his life is done, for the woe of God is on him there. "In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." "Tremble, ye women that are at ease!"—R.T.
The Spirit as a quickening Rain.
The results produced by heavy rains in the East are so striking that these rains become a suggestive figure of the influence of God's Spirit on souls and on Churches. In times of prolonged drought, the ground is burnt up and chapped, and every sign of vegetation is destroyed. Then come the rains, the life in the soil responds, and in a few hours the world is green again. The figure of "pouring forth," or "pouring out," needs, however, to be very carefully used in relation to God's Spirit. It is only suited to the one aspect of the Spirit as an influence. It may be misconceived if applied to God the Spirit regarded, as a Person. When we use this term "pouring" nowadays, we should carefully keep in mind the figure of the rains, with which it is properly associated. The Jewish Church thought of the Spirit as an influence. The Christian Church has received the larger revelation, and knows of the Holy Ghost as a Divine Person, "dwelling with us, and being in us." He comes to us. We may grieve him. He may depart. But only as a figure can we now speak of him as being "poured on us." The figure of "pouring" is also given in Joel 3:1.
I. CHRIST'S CHURCH IS TOO OFTEN AS A DEAD THING. Illustrate from a parched field. Only noxious weeds can get vitality out of such a soil. Fields are dead because God withholds his rains. Souls are dead, Churches are dead, because God withholds his Spirit. Such withholding is done in judgment. The deadness of a Church is always begun in neglect of God, and self-indulgence. The first love fades out; and then spiritual death waits, "crouching at the door." Dead, for there are no expressions indicating the life of trust and love.
II. ONLY GOD CAN QUICKEN THE DEAD. This one thing is always and altogether out of human reach. Man can do much; but he cannot make anything live. God quickens dead souls, and dead Churches, by the gift of his Spirit. Life wakens life. The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, and brought forth life. That Spirit of God comes down, like refreshing rains, upon the thirsty fields. That Spirit of God enters the temple of a human soul, and the response is life, finding all due expression in activity: "The wilderness becomes a fruitful field." "The kingdom of Messiah was brought in, and set up, by the pouring out of the Spirit; and so it is still kept up, and will be to the end." Then, with unceasing constancy and earnestness it becomes us to pray for the quickening, reviving grace of God the Holy Ghost.—R.T.
Righteousness and peace.
Christianity means "righteousness," and "righteousness" is an active power, ever working towards the production of peace, quietness, and mutual confidence. "The element of peace is that by which order is established and perpetuated, people are brought to cordial agreement and willing submission, unity is made a living and growing fact, and all the arts of domestic life and of civilized communities are promoted." The great Napoleon said, "War is the business of barbarians." Our own Wellington said, "Men who have nice notions of religion have no business to be soldiers." Lord Brougham said, "I abominate war as unchristian. I hold it the greatest of human crimes. I deem it to include all others—violence, blood, rapine, fraud, everything that can deform the character, alter the nature, and debase the name of man." John Howe wrote in this way, "Very plain it is that war is a mark of the apostasy, and stigmatizes man as fallen from God, in a degenerated, revolted state; it is the horrid issue of men's having forsaken God, and of their being abandoned by him to the hurry of their own furious lusts and passions."
I. CHRISTIANITY IS, DISTINCTIVELY, RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is its essential characteristic, and its necessary work. In this it stands alone, differing from all other religions. Matthew Arnold finds an expression for God which, though it has been well scorned, is really suggestive and helpful. He speaks of him as "the Eternal which makes for righteousness," which is always working towards this end, and regards this as the highest of all attaiments. Other religions propose methods for propitiating God; in Christianity God proposes to make men good. Jesus Christ is the first, the model Christian, and he is good—"holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." His requirement, of all his disciples, is personal character—righteousness. Apostles say of this religion, "Herein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith." Christ's personal call is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." Christian growth is "changing into his image from glory to glory." We must "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which none can see the Lord." Prophets pictured the Christian ages, and saw holiness so pervading that it was even engraven on the bells of the horses. Let the Christian faith come to our hearts, and it will work out into righteousness. Let it go forth into society, and it will establish right principles, show right ways, give right impulses, tone with a right spirit, and work on until righteousness flows over all the land, like the waves of the sea.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS LINKED CLOSELY WITH PEACE. "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace." These two things can never be separated. Find the one, and you will soon find also the other. Unrighteousness, uncharity, selfish passions, and war go naturally together, hand-in-hand. Begin "righteousness" anywhere, and you have started on its working an active power that makes for peace. Every soldier that walks our streets, every cannon forged in our arsenals, is a testimony that the sin-curse yet hangs over us. We are not yet "all righteous," or the sight and the sound of war would be heard no more. When, as individuals, we are set right with God, peace comes at once into our hearts, and peaceableness gives tone and character to all our relations. The inner conflicts are stayed; the struggles between the flesh and the spirit are checked; the fever-heat of ambition is soothed; charity and brotherhood bring us into peace with all men. The gospel comes, "preaching pence by Jesus Christ." Righteousness, thus getting round it the one small circle of a life, soon begins to widen its sphere. It rays out on every side. It flows forth, like a sweet scent, purifying the atmospheres wherever a man goes. Families would have a "peace passing understanding" if their members were "all righteous." Our Churches would cease to be the scenes of dissension, if the members were "all righteous." Social life would no longer witness the bitter antagonism of classes, if the people were "all righteous." Nations would soon turn wasteful war expenditure on armies and weapons into the fruitful channels of commerce, and gracious schemes of education and philanthropy, if righteousness did but pluck up ambitions, envyings, and rivalries, and plant in charity, brotherhood, and peace. Envy, hatred, malice, pride, ambition,—these unrighteous things bring forth war. Charity, meekness, self-denial,—these righteous things keep happy fellowship with gentle peace. "First pure, then peaceable." Alas that the prophetic picture should still seem to be but a vision of the distant future! But what a vision it is! and how our hearts spring towards it! Prophets paint it. Saints pray for it. God is working towards it. And it shall surely come. "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness." "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ [the Prince of Peace], and he shall reign forever and ever."—R.T.
The figure in this verse is connected with the relief afforded by the destruction of Sennacherib's army, and consequent retirement of Sennacherib to Assyria. Before the invaders all persons living in the country had to flee to the shelter of the walled cities, abandoning the property which they could not readily carry with them. On the removal of the invaders, the sense of security would return, and such persons would go home and find "quiet resting-places." We see in this passage an on-looking to the times when the Holy Ghost should be given, and. he, ruling in hearts and lives, would make for all trustful souls "quiet resting-places." Treating the text meditatively, we dwell on times when, for us, this promise is realized.
I. THE QUIET RESTING OF EVENING-TIME. Such it is for wearied bodies and worn minds. Soothing is the calmness of natural evening, when the winds fail, the sun throws level yellow beams and long shadows, and the thousand noises of earth are subdued. Evening has a gracious influence on our spirits. It is the time for meditation, with Isaac. Very precious to Christian hearts are the quiet places for meditation, when holy feeling can be nourished.
II. THE QUIET RESTING OF THE SABBATH. Its first idea is "rest." We feel quiet; as if a spell had been breathed over us. The strain of life is relaxed. The world is away. We belong to the eternal world. Life-bustle is stilled. We can give room to other thoughts, and so we rest, body, mind, and soul.
III. THE QUIET RESTING OF TIMES OF AFFLICTION. Such times come into all lives. Times when we must be still. In illness, and in convalescence, there are many quiet, lonely hours. These are the scenes to which Christ invites us when he says, "Come ye into a desert place, and rest awhile."
IV. THE QUIET RESTING-PLACE OF DEATH. The grave is spoken of as the "place where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." And the place where there are memorials of the dead is often a most "quiet resting-place" for the living. This may be illustrated by the soothing, silencing, solemnizing influence exerted on us by a visit to Westminster Abbey. On earth there can hardly be found a more "quiet resting-place." Sometimes the chamber where we watch the dying of a saint of God is such a place. Beautiful to see the pain-worn face at last go into the repose of death. "When sinks the weary soul to rest." We may add that those who have found rest in God prove how graciously he gives restful moments in the very midst of the hurry and worry of life.—R.T.
This is part of the description of restored prosperity when the national troubles are removed. "While the enemy shall be brought low, the Jews shall cultivate their land in undisturbed prosperity." The Assyrians must have almost entirely stopped all agricultural processes, and this involved terrible losses and sufferings. In explanation of the figure of the text it is suggested that, where the seed is sown in the soil covered by water, it was customary to send oxen into the water to tread the ground before the seed was cast, so as to prevent it from being washed away by the subsidence of the waters. This, however, applies to such countries as Egypt, and to such crops as rice. The point set forth by the text seems to be that quiet and persistent continuance in duty, in daily toil, may be the most efficient expression of our trust in God. Regarding the sower as a type of the Christian worker, we may note the following things.
I. THE SOWER IS A MAN IN TRUST. He has the seed-corn for next year's harvest. The food of the people depends, in measure, on each one's faithfulness to his trust. The Christian is a man put in trust. He has what is for the blessing of men. Truth, more precious than seeds. Powers of sympathy and love that bring bountiful harvests. Wealth, and knowledge, and position, and opportunities, that may all prove life-giving to men. Above all, he has the trust of the gospel.
II. THE SOWER IS REQUIRED TO SOW ALL HE HAS IN TRUST. He is not to live on the seed. He is not to store it up safely. He is not to use it for any objects of his own. He must not delay in fulfilling his master's will with the seed. It was given to him that he might sow it all in the soil. So God would have the Christian put to use every talent, every trust, he has committed to him. In this our Lord is our example. Everything God gave him he gave away: love, truth, comfort, healing, pity, time, strength, character, life,—all, he gave away. In him there was no getting to keep; only getting to give.
III. THE SOWER IS REQUIRED TO SOW FREELY. "Beside all waters." Not too nicely examining the conditions of the soil; not selecting just the deep and prepared earth, but scattering freely, and scattering wide. The Christian never knows where, in God's fields, the richest harvests will be reaped. So he sows all over the field, sows in perseverance, and sows in faith.
In conclusion, it may be shown that the true sower is much more concerned with the excellence of his sowing than with the results that may attend it. These he must leave altogether in the hands of him who surely will not "let his work return unto him void."—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 32". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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