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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 32

 

 

Verse 2

THE PRECIOUSNESS OF CHRIST

Isa . "A man shall be as an hiding-place," &c.

These figures all coincide in setting forth one great and blessed truth—the truth that in Christ there is suitable and complete relief under every circumstance of distress: in distress arising—

1. from temporal sufferings;

2. from conviction of sin;

3. from strong temptation;

4. from the near approach of death.—John Watt, B.D.: Sermons, pp. 92-108.

Jesus Christ—I. The refuge from all dangers; II. The fruition of all desires; III. The rest and refreshment in all trials.—A. Maclaren, B.A.: Sermons, Third Series, p. 135.

This prediction, uttered in the days of Ahaz, had a primary reference to Hezekiah, and to the relief from wicked magistrates which would be experienced in his reign. But its ultimate reference was to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are three separate figures, very striking to an Eastern ear, which admit of distinct illustration:—

1. From the winds and tempests of affliction.

2. From the tempest of an agitated conscience.

3. He is the only hiding-place from the tempest of divine wrath.

The camp was thrown into the greatest hustle, each bent on providing safety for his cattle, and afterwards withdrawing precipitately under his tent. We had scarcely got our beautiful Negde mares under cover ere the tempest burst. Impetuous blasts of wind hurled clouds of red and burning sand in eddies, and overthrew all upon whom their fury fell; or, heaping up hills, they buried all that had strength to resist being carried away. If, at this period, any part of the body be exposed, the flesh is scorched as if a hot iron had touched it. The water, which was intended to cool us, began to boil, and the temperature of the tent exceeded that of a Turkish bath. The hurricane blew in all its fury for six hours, and gradually subsided during six more; an hour longer, and I believe we had all been stifled. When we ventured to leave the tents, a frightful spectacle presented itself; five children, two women, and a man were lying dead on the still burning sand, and several Bedouins had their faces blackened and entirely calcined, as if by a blast from a fiery furnace. When the wind of the simoom strikes an unfortunate wretch on the head, the blood gushes in streams from his mouth and nostrils, his face swells, becomes black, and he shortly dies of suffocation.—Lamartine: Travels in the East, p. 213.

"A hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest." Soon Red Sea and all were lost in a sand-storm, which lasted the whole day. Imagine all distant objects entirely lost to view,—the sheets of sand fleeting along the surface of the desert like streams of water; the whole air filled, though invisibly, with a tempest of sand, driving in your face like sleet. Imagine the caravan toiling against. this—the Bedouins each with his shawl thrown completely over his head, half of the riders sitting backwards,—the camels, meantime, thus virtually left without guidance, though, from time to time, throwing their long necks sideways to avoid the blast, yet moving straight onwards with a painful sense of duty truly edifying to behold.… Through the tempest, this roaring and driving tempest, which sometimes made me think that this must be the real meaning of ‘a howling wilderness,' we rode on the whole day.—Dean Stanley: Sinai and Palestine, pp. 68, 69.

II. "As rivers of water in a dry place,"—that is, Jesus conveys satisfaction and refreshment to those who can find them nowhere else. He alone satisfies the heart's thirst—

1. for happiness;

2. for consolation;

3. for reconciliation with God.

1. Let us thank God for such a Saviour—the very Saviour we need.

2. Let us abide in Him—we always need Him.—E. Griffin, D.D.: Fifty-nine Plain Practical Sermons, pp. 261-270.

I. There underlies this prophecy a very sad, a very true conception of human life. The three promises imply three diverse aspects of man's need and misery. The "covert" and the "hiding-place" imply tempest and storm and danger; the "rivers of water" imply drought and thirst; "the shadow of a great rock" implies lassitude and languor, fatigue and weariness. Sad this is, but how true! Do we not need a "covert" from the tempests of adverse circumstances, of temptations, of God's anger kindled by our sins!

II. There shines through these words a mysterious hope—the hope that one of ourselves shall deliver us from all this evil in life. "A man," &c. Such an expectation seems to be right in the teeth of all experience, and far too high pitched even to be fulfilled. It appears to demand in him who should bring it to pass powers which are more than human, and which must in some inexplicable way be wide as the range of humanity and enduring as the succession of the ages. All experience seems to teach that no human arm or heart can be to another soul what these words promise, and what we need.

III. This mysterious hope is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That which seemed impossible is real. The forebodings of experience have not fathomed the powers of Divine Love. There is a man, our brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, who can be to all human souls the adequate object of their perfect trust, the abiding home of their deepest love, the unfailing supply for their profoundest wants. Behind His protection they are safe, by His grace they are satisfied, beneath His shelter they have rest.—A. Maclaren, B.A.: Sermons, Third Series, pp. 136-147.

1. It was an instrument of consolation to those who first heard it. The prophecy in which it occurs was given in the time of Ahaz, when justice was perverted, and the government, which should have been for the protection of the people, was organised for their oppression. Terrible are the sufferings of men at such a time, and precious was the hope which this prophecy held out of "a man"—a ruler—who should be a defence and blessing to the poor of the nation.

2. It was an instrument of consolation to devout men in all the centuries which intervened between its utterance and the coming of Christ. In due time Hezekiah ascended the throne, and in him this prophecy had a partial fulfilment. But he passed away, and Israel needed such "a man" as much as ever. Devout men learned to look for him in the Messiah for whom they and their fathers had waited. In the midst of national and personal humiliation and sufferings, they were sustained and cheered by the hope of His advent.

3. In due time He appeared. Whether in Him this prophecy was completely or only partially fulfilled, let any reader of the Gospels testify. And since the days when Christ went about Juda, solacing human woes, and ministering to human necessities, this declaration has been still more full of consolation to generation after generation down to our own day. It has taught men to whom to flee in their distresses, and fleeing to Him they have found that it was with no vain hope that it had cheered them. When you think what it has been to men ever since it was uttered, can you help looking upon it with love?

II. OF THIS INSTRUMENT OF CONSOLATION ALL MEN HAVE NEED. There are some portions of Scripture which have only a limited interest, because they are for special classes (e.g., kings, subjects, parents, children, &c.;) but this is a portion for every one. The needs of which it speaks will be felt by all men; and all men, at some time or other, will long for the blessings which it promises. Hence—

III. TO THE PRESENT AND PERMANENT VALUE OF THIS INSTRUMENT OF CONSOLATION THERE ARE MILLIONS OF LIVING WITNESSES. The declarations of our text are very beautiful, but the important question is, Are they true? Is Christ to His people all that He is here said to be?

1. Our text says that Christ is a refuge for His people. "As a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest." Remember what kind of storms sometimes sweep across the Eastern deserts. [See outline: The Christian's Refuge, section I.] As you have pursued the pilgrimage of human life, have any such storms burst upon you?—the storm of adversity? of persecution? of an awakened conscience? of temptations? The worst storms are those which rage within a man! In such storms where did you find shelter? what did you find Christ to be to you?

2. Our text says that Christ will satisfy the thirst of His people. Picture the scene at Rephidim. To the multitudes who had almost died of thirst, how welcome were the streams that burst from the smitten rock! All men thirst for happiness; the distressed for consolation, the penitent for reconciliation with God. In these respects, has Christ been to you "as rivers of water in a dry place?"

IV. Every truth is a call to duty. TO WHAT DUTIES DOES OUR TEXT CALL US? If we have had a personal experience of the truth of its declarations, it says—

1. PRAISE GOD. Would not a storm-driven traveller give thanks for "a covert," the thirst-consumed for "rivers of water," the faint and weary for "the shadow of a great rock?" Let us remember what Christ has been to us, and give "thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift!"

2. TAKE COURAGE, Usually as years increase troubles multiply: but what Christ has been to you in the past, He will be in the future—an all-sufficient Saviour!

3. To those who have not yet had a personal experience of the truth of its declarations, my text says, COME TO JESUS. Its promises are invitations. Is not a well of water in itself an invitation to a thirsty man? You need all that the text promises; and in the experience of millions of men living now, you have abundant evidence that its promises are worthy of your trust. Familiarise yourself with the "hiding-place" before the tempests of life burst upon you, that in the day of storm you may know whither to flee. Blessed are they who have made the Man of whom our text speaks their friend. According to His word (Matthew 28), He is with them "always," "as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

THE CHRISTIAN'S REFUGE

(For Christmas Day.)

Isa . A man shall be as an hiding place, &c.

This is a very remarkable prophecy and promise, and at first sight most strikingly at variance with almost every other declaration of the Word of God, e.g., Isa ; Psa 146:3; Psa 62:8-9; Jer 17:5. "A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind!" A poor, weak, helpless mortal, unable to protect himself from the wind and tempest, shall he be our refuge? Shall God's own Word command us to leave the living Fountain, and betake ourselves in our necessities to the broken cisterns of earth? Strange inconsistency, astonishing contradiction to every other portion of God's word? But who is this Man? He of whom it is also written (Zec 13:7; Php 2:6); and who is thus spoken of by the Spirit of God Himself, when predicting the event of this day (Isa 9:6). It is the Lord Jesus Christ, then, who reveals Himself in the words before us under two striking similitudes; the first of which regards His people's safety, and the second their consolations.

I. As regards their safety: "hiding place from the wind, covert from the tempest." Picture to yourself one of those scenes which Eastern travellers paint, when they describe the passage of a caravan across some dreary desert, where, throughout the long day's journey, there is no house, no rock, no tree to afford a moment's shade or shelter. The wind suddenly rises, the lightning glares, and in the distance are beheld gigantic columns of sand, raised and kept together in such vast masses by the whirlwind that drives them towards the poor bewildered travellers, who behold in them at once their destruction and their grave. In vain do they attempt to fly; as vain were all thoughts of resistance. Before the shortest prayer is finished, that multitude that was just now full of life and animation, is hushed in silence; every heart has ceased to beat; the simoom of the desert has passed over them, and the place they occupied is scarcely to be distinguished from the surrounding plain. This is no flight of the imagination, but a simple statement of a fact of not unfrequent occurrence. Now imagine in such a scene with what feelings these alarmed and flying travellers would greet "a hiding-place" and "a covert." If a rock of adamant, a barrier which neither sand, nor wind, nor tempest could beat down or overleap, should suddenly spring up between them and those swiftly advancing columns of death, what would be their feelings of joy, their thoughts of gratitude, their language of praise! Who can imagine the heartfelt cry of thanksgiving to God which would arise from that vast multitude at so complete, so merciful, so unhoped-for a deliverance? With such feelings should we "behold the Man" of whom I speak to-day. We stood in as great a danger. Our sins had raised a tempest of the wrath of God, against which the whole created host of heaven would in vain have attempted to erect a barrier. But our Lord has wrought a deliverance for us as much needed, as unexpected, as complete. He has interposed between us and the mighty "wind," the appalling "tempest," which justly threatened our destruction.

1. Let us who have found shelter in Christ rejoice in Him, and be glad this day because of the quietness we enjoy. Let those who are still outside the great "Hiding-Place," the wondrous "Covert" which God's mercy has provided, remember that an unapplied Saviour is no Saviour. Their peril has been in no sense lessened by His advent. In the gladness of this day they can have no share.

II. His people's consolation. "As rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Before we had symbols of safety; here we have symbols of consolation.

1. God's people often feel that this world is "a dry and barren place, and thirst for consolation and succour." That which they thirst for, they may find in Christ. He is not merely a river, but (so abundant are His consolations) "rivers of water" to them that are fainting under the trials, anxieties, or distresses of the world. But it is not enough that the river is running at your feet; you must know it is there, you must drink of its waters, or they will not assuage their thirst. In Hagar sitting down in utter hopelessness and helplessness, when near her there was an abundant supply of water for herself and her child (Gen ), we have an emblem of too many distressed and sorrowful Christians. "Rivers of water" are flowing past you: arise, and drink! (Rev 22:17).

2. God's people are often faint and weary as they pursue their earthly pilgrimage. But during every stage of it they may "renew their strength," and so be enabled to persevere until at length "they stand in Zion before God," for Christ is "as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Don't be satisfied with just coming within the range of the shadow of the Rock; there are in the Rock recesses where you may find a complete shelter and a sweeter rest. Enter into them. Cultivate a closer fellowship with Christ. So in every stage of your journey you shall have not only strength, but joy (Isa ).—H. Blunt, A.M.: Posthumous Sermons, pp. 23-42.

The "Man" here referred to is the Divine Redeemer—the one theme of the Bible. "Hiding-place" and "covert" express substantially the same idea—shelter, defence, safety, deliverance both from actual and impending evil. Jesus Christ in this broad and comprehensive sense is the Refuge of His people. Fleeing to Him, men find protection, &c.

I. Christ is a refuge in the day of earthly disappointment. Human life full of disappointments. Few of our anticipations of good realised. Our fondest and most sacredly cherished hopes blighted. The world deceives men: it is not what it seems to be, it does not satisfy the desires it awakens. The god of this world is the master spirit of lying and deception, and he so manages the shifting scenes as to keep up the deception until the last. So with (a) the man of business, (b) those who aspire to earthly honour, fame, power, (c) the student, (d) the pleasure-seeker. To these children of disappointment, Christ is a refuge; He has Himself felt the ills of life (Heb ). There is a "hiding-place" where the fury of life's storms never comes; the God of mercy offers eternal life in the Gospel. Forsaken, disheartened, disappointed men may still be accepted of Christ, and find peace and rest in Him.

II. Christ is a Refuge in time of affliction. This is a world of sorrow and suffering; men turn from it in disgust and anguish to seek relief elsewhere, or to weep life away in sadness and darkness. Now Christ alone is available in just such an hour. When the world turns its back upon us, there is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother—one born for adversity—a shield and a deliverer in the day of affliction. We may not be able to explain the philosophy of the thing, but the soul that looks to Christ is so sustained as to rejoice in tribulation, and the heaviest burden is lightened and made a blessing.

III. Christ is a Refuge in the day of trial It pleases the Lord to make full proof of His people. He puts their love, fidelity, and integrity to the test. God tries (a) our faith, (b) hope, (c) patience, (d) principles. And in His day of fiery trial our only safety is in the "hiding-place" of Divine mercy—we need the "covert" of the Almighty wings. None but Christ is able to give the soul confidence in such days and hours.

IV. Christ is a Refuge in the day of fear. Sin is darkness, and hence wherever there is sin there is gloom and fear. The wicked man is a slave to fear, and even the Christian at times suffers greatly because of it. The remedy for this gloomy experience is in Christ; and there is a power in the Gospel to lift the soul into a region of perpetual sunshine. In Christian experience, peace, joy, and hope are the ministering angels (Hab ).

V. Christ is a Refuge from the torments of an accusing conscience. The day of self-convicted guilt always a day of memorable experiences. Conscience upbraids, justice demands satisfaction; the soul is ready to sink into hell. Whose arm can save in such an hour? where shall he seek refuge? In that hour none but Christ can save.

VI. Christ is a Refuge in the day of final wrath. The wrath to come—the just, final, and eternal wrath of God—a reality, a fixed fact in thought and experience. Jesus Christ is a refuge from this impending evil. The Cross lifted up on Calvary has received the thunder; God and the believer in Jesus Christ are reconciled. What, then, have they to fear whose life is hid in Christ? Death cannot harm, the judgment-day need not terrify.

Glorious Refuge! it never fails—is never shut against the penitent soul—has never been shaken—and will yet resist the fire and deluge of the great day of wrath. This is the Ark, and they are eternally safe who are therein.—J. M. Sherwood: National Preacher, 1859, p. 217.

RIVERS OF WATER IN A DRY PLACE

Isa . As rivers of water in a dry place.

The surface sense of this passage may refer to Hezekiah and to other good kings who were a means of great blessing to the declining kingdom of Judah; but its declarations are too full of meaning to be applied solely or primarily to any mere man. They are never fully understood until they are applied to Christ, the true King of righteousness, who confers the highest blessings upon His people. In Him there is a fulness and variety of blessing such as the varied metaphors of this passage fail to set forth. He is the true Man of whom Isaiah speaks; the man in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and who therefore can be, and is, "as rivers of water in a dry place."

I. THE METAPHOR. This implies,

1. Great excellence of blessing. How valuable is a river to the land through which it flows! So Christ is the source and the sustenance of the fertility, fruitfulness, and beauty of His people.

2. Abundance of blessing. Think of the vast floods that flow through the Amazon, the Ganges, the Indus, the Orinoco. So in Christ there is grace sufficient for all mankind.

4. Freeness of blessing. Though individuals may claim peculiar rights in rivers, all creatures drink of them freely, the dog as well as the swan. So may all, however vile, partake of the grace that is in Christ.

5. Constancy of blessing. Pools and cisterns dry up, but the river goes on for ever. So it is with Jesus; the grace to pardon and the power to heal are not spasmodic powers in Him, they abide in Him unabated for evermore.

II. A SPECIAL EXCELLENCE which the text mentions. "Rivers of water in a dry place." Only the residents in a tropical country can fully appreciate that phrase. But Christ came to such a place when He came to our race. So He does when with His salvation He visits the individual soul. Were it not for Him, the souls, even of His people, under the influence of wealth or of poverty, of the cares or of the pleasures of life, would be always dry. But He refreshes, sustains, and fertilises those who otherwise would utterly faint and fail.

III. PRACTICAL LESSONS.

1. See the goings out of God's heart to man, and man's way of communing with God. God's heart is an infinite ocean of goodness, and it flows forth to us through Jesus Christ, not in streams and driblets, but in rivers of grace and mercy. These streams we cannot purchase or merit, we have only to receive them; when we drink of the stream, we partake of God.

2. See what a misery it is that men should be perishing and dying of soul thirst when there are these rivers so near. Some have never heard of them; therefore help to the utmost the Missionary Society. Others who have heard of them are smitten with a strange insanity that leads them to turn away from them.

3. Let us learn where, if we are suffering from spiritual drought and barrenness, the blame lies. It cannot lie in Christ.

[See also Outlines, RIVERS OF WATERS, Isa , and ENRICHING RIVERS, Isa 33:21.]

COMFORT IN CHRIST

Isa . As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

This chapter begins with a prophecy of the Messiah, and of the happiness which the godly should enjoy under His reign (Isa ). True as well as beautiful are its descriptions of Christ.

I. To the children of God this world is often "a weary land."

1. Because of the labours they have to undergo. This is a laborious world (Ecc ). Employment is in itself a blessing; it was provided for man in Eden; but every day the sun sets upon millions who are faint and weary, who are overwrought, and for whom there will be no sufficient rest until they lie down in the grave. To God's children it is a special cause of weariness that they are compelled to devote so much time in labouring for "the meat which perisheth," and that they have so little time for meditation and for communion with God.

2. Because of the troubles to which they are exposed (Job ). Troubles attend every stage and condition of life. They are national, domestic, personal. The pains and evils of life commonly increase as its length is protracted. And there, is nothing more wearisome than troubles. Many who can endure labour cannot endure trouble. This makes the heart stoop, and weakens the mind as well as the body. A troublesome world must be a wearisome world.

3. Because of the perplexities by which they are harassed. This is a dark world. What is past, what is present, as well as what is to come, lies involved in darkness. Life is full of mystery. Strange and unexpected events are continually happening, which disappoint the hopes and frustrate the designs of the wisest. Providence often baffles the interpretation and tries the faith even of the most devout. Wickedness is often triumphant, and virtue trampled under foot. Good men are often tired of living in a world which subjects them to continual anxiety and suspense.

4. Because of the sin by which they are surrounded. The moral atmosphere in which they live is uncongenial The practices and principles with which they are daily brought into contact fill them with disgust, with indignation, and with grief (2Pe ; Psa 119:139; Psa 119:156; Psa 119:158; Act 17:16; Eze 9:4).

II. Whensoever God's children are weary of the world, they may find comfort in Christ. They may always find comfort.

1. In the compassion of Christ. He knows what it is to be faint and weary. He knows the heart of a pilgrim and stranger. And He has the tenderest compassion for His friends in distress or want. He is as pitiful to-day as He was when He tabernacled on earth. He feels all that His followers feel (Act ; Heb 4:14-16).

2. In the intercession of Christ. As He prayed for Peter (Luk ) and for all His disciples before His crucifixion (John 17), so He still makes intercession for His followers according to their necessities. And His intercession is always prevalent (Joh 11:42).

3. In the strength of Christ. Weakness is the cause of weariness, and the weary may always find the strength they want in Christ (Php ; 2Co 12:7-10).

4. In the government of Christ. He sits as King in Zion. He has absolute control over the darkness, tumults, and confusions of the world. He governs all things for the benefit of His Church. Nothing can hurt it (Zec ; Isa 27:3; Psa 2:1-5; Psa 2:9).

5. In the promises of Christ. He has promised to give them peace even in this world (Joh ; Joh 16:33; Joh 14:2-3). These are great and precious promises, because they are sure promises.

APPLICATION.—Since the friends of Christ, when they are weary of the world, may always find comfort in Him—

1. They should not regard the things which make them weary of it as curses but as blessings. It is a good thing to have our hold of the world loosened. It is a good thing to be driven to Christ. All their trials and sufferings are suited to prepare them to enjoy more peace and rest in Christ, than they could otherwise enjoy. When a man finds a covert in a great storm, he finds more pleasure in it than he does on a fine fair day. So Christians enjoy more real satisfaction and happiness in adversity than in prosperity, because while prosperity leads them to the enjoyment of the world, adversity leads to the enjoyment of Christ.

2. They enjoy more happiness even in this life than sinners do. Sinners often seem happier than saints, but theirs is a loud and transient mirth, whereas God's people have a deep and lasting joy. Autumn is oftener a pleasanter season than spring, but it deepens into the gloom and vigour of winter; whereas after the storms of March and the rain of April come the bright joyous days of summer. The life of the sinner is at best an autumn life, with autumn prospects, but the life of God's children is a spring life. And even here and now they (and they only) are filled with that peace of God which passeth all understanding, affords joy in sorrow, and gives rest to the weary.

3. They ought never to be heard murmuring or complaining under any troubles or afflictions in which they may be involved. This world is full of murmuring; and when God's people complain, it is highly offensive to God (Psa ). But why should they complain? (Heb 12:11). And they have a present refuge, even Christ, in whom they may find "strong consolation."

4. They ought never to be found depressed with anxiety as to the future (Php ).—Dr. Emmons: Works, vol. iii. 352-365.


Verse 8

CHRISTIAN LIBERALITY

Isa . But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

This prophecy relates to the time when the kingdom of Judah would relinquish its foolish dependence on Egypt. The king would reign in righteousness. Men and things would be called by their true names. Selfish injustice to the poor would contrast with considerate helpfulness. When generosity begins to be exercised on a large scale, the standard is raised. The raising of the standard tends to the general enlargement of the scale of benevolence.

Our subject is Christian liberality.

I. THE QUALITIES BY WHICH IT IS DISTINGUISHED.

1. Sympathy. It is the opposite of the disposition to act on the assumption that a man's own interest and happiness is the main end of his existence. It is the disposition that looks out to others, imagines their case, feels for them, desires their happiness. Difference of race, nationality, church, opinion sinks to nothing in its presence. It asks, What is the need? Neither temporal nor spiritual need exhausts it. Spiritual need is the chief. It desires the salvation of all men. And when compassion for men's souls is tenderest, compassion for their temporal sufferings is usually also tenderest. The heart is often larger than the purse; but the purse-strings will not be closed. Our hospitals and other institutions for the relief of suffering and distress owe their origin and support mainly to Christian sympathy.

2. Ingenuity. "Deviseth liberal things." Many contribute to benevolent objects when solicited, but never originate anything in such a direction. There should be a thoughtful, holy solicitude to know what is needed, and how much of it we are able to do. Those act a useful part who discover for themselves and suggest to others suitable and feasible methods of usefulness. There should also be conscientious thoughtfulness as to the proportion to be established between what God gives to us and what we give to Him in return. As Jacob (Gen ).

3. Action. Liberality does not terminate in feeling and thought (Jas ; 1Jn 3:17-18). It does not devise methods of usefulness and leave them to be carried out by others. The good Samaritan did not look at the man who had been robbed and half-killed on the road and pass on (Luk 10:33; Luk 10:37). The woman who brought the alabaster box of ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus showed her love to Him more than if she had spoken a thousand endearing words.

4. Willingness. No selfish churl strikes out new plans of usefulness. Such as exists he unwillingly helps, if he helps them at all. According to the Christian idea, no amount of mere giving which does not come from the willing heart is accepted as liberality. The voluntary principle is alone recognised as the principle of liberality. And voluntaryism means willinghood (2Co ).

5. Continuance. Not by one generous act, nor by such an act occasionally, can the title of liberality be won. Excitable persons impulsively promise, but reflection brings them to their true selves; and they either break the promise or fulfil it grudgingly. Some undertake Christian work; for a time do it; perhaps do it well; but after a time weary of its inconvenience, sacrifice, and slow results. Now the liberal man "stands by" his liberal things. The other reading is, "adheres" to them. Continuance in the race reaches the goal.

II. THE SOIL IN WHICH IT IS NOURISHED.

It is engendered and thrives in the soil of Christianity. For it is in accordance with—

1. Its Spirit. It is the spirit of love. The man who drinks most into the spirit of Christianity will be most likely to feel such benevolent interest in humanity as will take practical shapes. It tends to the overthrow of selfishness. It fosters the spirit of self-sacrifice.

2. Its Precepts. We are commanded to stretch forth the helping hand to those in need. We are to extend the kingdom of Christ. Gifts and offerings in some form are demanded by the two great dispensations; by the Gospel no less than by the Law. He who lives for himself, giving forth nothing, or giving with grudging hand, has yet to learn the first principles of Christian obedience.

3. Its Examples. The newly formed Church in Jerusalem. Contributions throughout the churches afterwards for impoverished Christians there. Above all the example of Christ.

Donot suppose that liberality obtains no recognition.

1. It becomes a source of pleasure. Let any one put this to the test. And the pleasure is in proportion to the sacrifice it costs (Act ).

2. It is returned in blessing (Pro ). We cannot explain how this comes about, because we cannot explain the way of God's Providence. Everything is in His hands. Can bless or blast your affairs. It certainly brings spiritual blessing. Exercises, develops, improves faith, love, self-denial. The indwelling Spirit of God is manifested in larger measure. Conscience approves.

3. It will obtain the final recognition. It is all recorded. Nothing forgotten, however little. "Cup of cold water." "Ye have done it unto me." Let us strive for that commendation of Jesus, and for His commendation now, such as that He gave to the widow who gave her mites, and to the woman who did what she could.—J. Rawlinson.


Verse 11

A CALL TO THE CARELESS

I. Who are the careless ones in our own day?

1. Those who neglect the Bible. Its main object is to arouse the attention of sinners. Claims and deserves attention. That man is indifferent to the welfare of his country who never examines the principles of its constitution, the character of its laws, &c. So he who neglects the Bible can never be regarded as a serious man. He is careless on the most momentous of all subjects.

2. Those who neglect prayer. All who have any proper feeling towards God must regard this as a solemn duty. Nature teaches its necessity and importance, the Scriptures enjoin it with great earnestness (Luk ; 1Th 5:17).

3. Those who neglect the Sabbath. This "made for man," appointed for his convenience and spiritual good. An institution of unspeakable importance as regards eternity—in fact, no religion without it.

4. Those who neglect the institutions of the sanctuary. Those anxious to know "what they must do to be saved" always prize the preaching of the Gospel. On the other hand, as the interest in religion declines, so will be our indifference to the means of grace. See you one who makes his attendance on God's house a matter of convenience, who avails himself of any trifling excuse to be absent, &c., there is a careless one. So also with those who are so absorbed in the pursuits of this life, so as to have neither leisure nor disposition to attend the place of prayer.

5. In a word, those are careless ones who live in impenitence and unbelief. Repentance and faith in Christ. The great interest of the soul cannot be secured without these, and no man can be said to take heed to the things that belong to his peace, without obeying Christ's commands concerning them.

II. Why such ought to be troubled. Those who are indifferent are disposed to remain so—carelessness perpetuates itself. Still there are reasons why such should be troubled.

1. The fact that you are careless is a ground of alarm. Carelessness, an evidence of our ignorance of the true condition of the soul in the sight of God. Something truly frightful in false security where the danger is real and great. With such this fancied security is the most alarming symptom. The sinner suffering from a disease which no human skill can remove—in danger of eternal death. How fearful then the indifference, how appalling the apathy of such!

2. This indifference indicates a state of mind in which every blessing will be abused, and every warning neglected. A habit of body that would render everything received for nourishment or for medicine useless would be dreadful; what, then, of that moral disease which perverts every gift and makes the diversified means which God employs accomplish nothing for our good?

3. You ought to be troubled when you reflect what it is you are careless about, viz., your salvation. The man who is indifferent about his health, or regardless of his temporal interest, is unwise; what, then, of one who hazards the salvation of his soul by neglect? Salvation is offered in Christ—indifference is unbelief. Why so eager after the acquisition of wealth, and indifferent about the true riches?

4. Another cause of alarm is the exposure of your present position. Neglect of the Gospel ensures destruction (Heb ). This apathy a crime for which no amiableness or morality can atone.

5. No more powerful means will be employed to awaken you to the concerns of your soul. God disclaims any responsibility for your loss (Isa ; Mat 23:37). Ministers have preached, Christian friends have entreated, the Holy Spirit has been sent down, and still you are careless. The very heathen will rise up in judgment. If one rising from the dead would not make those hear who had Moses and the prophets, what shall awaken those who have Christ and the apostles?

6. This carelessness is induced, it is not natural. A long process of hardening the heart is gone through before such a state of apathy is reached. But once ours, it has all the force of habit, and is not easily broken up (Mat ). This indifference is voluntary (Act 24:25). Felix might have taken a different course. No iron necessity binds men to the fatal course they take, but a perverse will and an unbelieving heart.

7. This carelessness is a state of mind that provokes God to withdraw His Spirit. Deeply criminal. No apathy in heaven, there ought to be none on earth. Must it not offend God, to say that He has failed to reveal Himself in a way to interest His creatures? And yet men can be interested in a novel while the Gospel is neglected. Under the old dispensation He said, "My people would not hearken to My voice, so I gave them up to their hearts' lust." What of those who then reject the Song of Solomon 8. This indifference will ultimately be broken up, and will aggravate condemnation a thousandfold. Though retribution sleep, it must come and will not tarry. The Jews were spared forty years after the Saviour had wept over their doomed city. So with the sinner; there comes a time when he can be indifferent no longer; the realities of judgment and eternity produce a conviction which will go on deepening for ever. How it will embitter the soul then to dwell upon this carelessness of the past. Recollection itself a source of misery. (Luk ). What words can express the anguish of a soul thus reminded of lost opportunities, &c.?

Throw off this lethargy. From this moment seek the Lord with your whole heart, and call upon Him while He is near. Why run the desperate hazard of having to do all this on a dying bed?—Mark Tucker, D.D.: National Preacher, vol. vii. p. 138.


Verses 13-15

THE ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF MISSIONARY SUCCESS

Isa . Upon the land of my people, &c.

This chapter commences with a prophecy of the appearance and the kingdom of Christ. But instead of finishing the painting of that beautiful scene, with what might be anticipated as the effect of this appearance, Isaiah proceeds, in our text, to paint a scene of great desolation and barrenness. So, when our Saviour came, the effect of His appearance was by no means such as might have been expected; after gathering a few out of the Jewish nation, and thus planting the first Christian Church, He retired from the nation, on account of its impenitence and unbelief; and the land is still abandoned to desolation and barrenness. That barrenness, and the spiritual barrenness and blindness of that despised people, will continue until the arrival of the important event predicted in the last verse.

Though the immediate bearing of these words is upon the state and prospects of the Jewish people, yet they may be considered as assigning the reason why the nations of the earth continue in so wretched a state, with respect to things spiritual and divine, as they now exhibit; and as directing our expectations, and regulating our confidence, respecting the final termination of this state of things. The momentous truth taught in this passage is, that the ultimate success of missions depends upon the communication of the Spirit.

That the Spirit of God is afforded at present to the Church is evident from its existence; for, since the Church is entirely a spiritual structure, raised and preserved by that Divine Spirit, if it had been utterly withdrawn the Church would have been annihilated. But the especial time here announced has not yet arrived; the Spirit is not "poured from on high" in that plenitude and variety of gifts which may reasonably be expected.

I. That the success of missions depends upon the outpouring of the Spirit of God, appears to be manifest,

1. from the Scriptures (text: chap. Isa ; Zec 4:6; Zec 12:10; Joe 2:28-32, with Act 2:16-18; Eze 39:29.)

2. From the record concerning the Great Captain of our salvation, He did not enter upon His work until He was anointed by the Spirit of God (Luk ).

3. From the experience of the apostles. Until the effusion of the Spirit from on high, on the day of Pentecost, they were not qualified for their work in the nations to which they were sent.

4. From the testimony of the apostles. All their successes they attributed to a Divine agency (Act ; Act 14:27; Act 16:14; 1Co 3:5-7, &c.)

The Gospel is the instrument of God, and wonderfully fitted by Him for His work; but even it is nothing more than an instrument; and when it is successful and baffles every human effort exerted against it, it is because it is wielded by an omnipotent arm.—Hall.

H.E.I., 1400-1405, 3432-3442, 4106-4113.

II. There are two reasons why we are in danger of forgetting our dependence on the Spirit of God.

1. We cannot arrange the time and manner in which the divine agency will be exerted; and we are called upon to exert ourselves in much the same way as though there were no such doctrine existing in our creed, and no such expectation existing in our minds. Consequently, even while strenuously attending to our duty, we are very apt to lose sight of that mysterious divine agency on which the success of all our efforts must depend, and to direct our attention exclusively to the apparatus we are setting in motion.

2. This is an invisible power, and is manifest to us only in its effects; whereas our own actions and plans are objects of distinct observation. It is one thing to believe that there is an agency of the Spirit, and quite another thing to have a deep and practical persuasion of it, and to regulate all our actions and expectations in dependence on it.

III. Some practical results which should follow from our belief that the success of missions depends on the agency of the Divine Spirit.

1. In attempting the work of the evangelisation of the heathen, we ought to renounce all expectations of success founded on our own strength or resources.

2. In connection with every attempt for the conversion of the heathen, there should be earnest prayer. In every period of the world, a spirit of prayer for this great object has been the precursor of real success.

3. In the manner in which we prosecute this work, we should be exceedingly careful not to grieve the Spirit of God. There must be nothing in our conduct or temper opposed to the simplicity and purity of the Christian dispensation. Our mission must not be made the instrument of ostentation and gratification, or of amusing the public by a display of gaudy eloquence. All rivalry between different societies that has not for its end the knowledge and service of God, is offensive in His sight. Let us guard against the least disposition to depreciate or hide in silence the success of others; which shall lead us to look coolly on the most splendid acts of missionary labour, unless they emanate from ourselves, or bring honour to our party.

4. Our dependence for the men and the means wherewith to carry on this great work, must rest absolutely and exclusively on God. Whensoever He puts forth the influence of His Spirit, some of His servants will devote themselves to the work, and others of them will gladly contribute to it of their wealth (Isa ).

5. The doctrine of the text teaches us to regulate our confidence with respect to the success of every particular mission, at the same time that it animates that confidence in regard to the final success of the success itself.

6. If success in any field of effort does not reward our toil, instead of charging God with any arbitrarily withholding of the help of His Spirit, let us examine the instruments wherewith we are endeavouring to effect so great and important a charge, and see if there be not in them something unworthy of the enterprise, and keeps back the needed blessing.

7. However success may seem to delay, let us acquiesce, without repining, in the dispensations of God; and let us point our views forward to a future period, that will certainly come, when the Spirit will be poured from on high, and when the Redeemer will take to Him His great power, and reign universally in the hearts of men.—Robert Hall: Works, vol. vi. pp. 158-180.

As regards the final and universal triumphs of the Gospel, believers cannot entertain a doubt. Glorious things are spoken of Zion, &c. We are explicitly assured that the kingdoms of this world shall one day become the kingdoms of Christ.

But what is to secure this? Our hope hangs upon one thing—the promise of the Spirit. Every past conquest has been the effect of union and communion with the Comforter; and our own ability for the enterprises of the future must be derived from the same source. The chapter begins with a cheering account of the approach of a brighter day following a season of gloom and depression, which is to be terminated finally and only by the pouring out of the Spirit from on high. So always. Large as are our resources, we were never more dependent on help from heaven than now. Without special Divine aid we can do nothing.

I. The Spirit of God must be with us, or we shall not use the right means for converting the world. Our work is a vast one, but we are not left in uncertainty as to the way in which it is to be accomplished. The Gospel made for man. Sending the knowledge of Christ abroad through the nations is the appointed method of saving men. (a) More faith is needed in God's instrumentality. The cause may seem unequal to the effect, but a Divine unseen agency accompanies it, and difficulties must pass away. (b) No part of our business to make experiments for the relief of human woe or guilt; or dig channels for our compassion other than those in which the Saviour's flowed. Calvary our sole expedient, &c. (c) We need to keep to the means by which all this is accomplished without deviation or faltering. A downward tendency in the best of men, even when engaged in the holiest of work, which nothing but a constantly exerted influence from God can effectually counteract. Charters, subscriptions, pledges will not do it. (d) Must not lay our strength out on extraneous matter. Our true service only performed when relying on Divine aid.

II. Unless the Holy Spirit be with us, we shall never prosecute our work with proper energy. An enterprise like ours cannot be expected to flourish unless it takes fast hold on the hearts and sympathies of its friends. It is a cause of too much import to be carried on lukewarmly. One of the main purposes of the Church, her own self-extension. How shall we get up to this state of feeling, this standard of action? Never! until we have more of the Spirit of God.

Again, half our strength has to be expended in trying to keep our enterprise up to lines already reached. We seem at times to be merely stationary, and this side by side often with great secular prosperity. Why this falling off? And that as contrasting with the success of primitive believers? They seem to have carried with them a never-failing assurance, that where they planted and watered, God would give the increase. The Church can never come up to this standard until the Spirit is more copiously poured upon us from on high. We are shut up to this single resource.

III. That the Spirit must be given us, or we shall never see our efforts crowned with success. Something in a simple dependence on Divine help which imparts to our labours a character so earnest and decided as betokens a favourable result. We work best ourselves when we feel that God is working in us and by us. Nothing so nerves the arm and strengthens the heart as confidence in Him. So Luther, Whitfield, Paul wrought. Nothing else will keep zeal alive in the Church.

Hence arises (a) Our encouragement. Faith in the efficacy of the Gospel preached under the influence of the Holy Ghost is to be the mainspring of all our efforts. The Spirit is to take of the things of Christ and show them to men. We can only be straitened on that side. (b) Our duty. All converging to a single point—prayer.—David Magie, D.D.: National Preacher, vol. xxi. p. 221.

Let it be supposed that the invader and the conqueror have been in our land. Cultivation has disappeared, impoverishment and neglect reign over its once fertile and well-cared-for fields. The city, formerly the centre of life and activity, depopulated and desolated. Its factories dilapidated, its exchange a ruin, its streets overgrown with grass. Such was the ruin the prophet saw about to befall his country. How long would it continue? Until God should pour His Spirit upon the people, so as to turn them from their iniquities. When the moral scene changed, the material scene would also. Prosperity would return. The city would again be populated; the country resume its beauty and fertility; the wilderness would be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.

It is a picture of the world's moral desolation without the Gospel; of the time when the power of the Gospel shall be displayed; and of the happy state of the world in that day of its power. Three topics are presented in the text; the necessity, the certainty, and the condition of the world's salvation.

I. ITS NECESSITY. It is a fallen world. Scepticism at present criticises the Christian representation of the moral state of human nature as too low, while its standard is too high. Whatever may be said of the latter part of the indictment, the former part must be denied. The alienation of the human heart from God; its aversion to His holiness; the depth of its pollution, as evinced in the crimes and vices which disfigure the face of society, and are too patent to be refined away. With all the restraining influences around us, we have enough at our hand to justify the representation that man is morally fallen and desolated. Add to this the idolatry, with its attendant cruelty and impurity, prevalent over so large a proportion of the human family. And to this the extreme and manifold wickedness of men in history. The Christian representation of the state of human nature is fully justified. There is universal sin. There is need of mercy, change, conversion. Not merely the adoption, by large masses of men, for various reasons, of new religious names and forms. It is a personal conversion. Men need the change one by one.

II. ITS CERTAINTY. We should despair of the world's conversion if our vision were limited to its existing state. We should pronounce it as hopeless as the attempt to tear up the everlasting mountains from their roots, or to drive the ocean from its bed. But we are not thus limited. We are not at liberty thus to limit our vision. In the Word of God we find it declared that the redeeming dominion of Christ shall be co-extensive with the globe. Plain statements sometimes, gorgeous imagery at other times, utterly inexplicable except in this way. Including these in our vision, we have nothing to do with the difficulties, but only with the great duty of their destruction.

Include in the vision the words of Christ. His declarations and commands before leaving the world contemplate the universal diffusion of His salvation. And we must include His work. The expenditure will bear some relation to the result. It cost the death of the incarnate Son of God. That the event is long delayed proves nothing when we remember how long the world had to wait for His coming.

III. ITS CONDITION. The moral desolation will continue until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high. The Gospel only saves as the Spirit makes it efficacious. The human heart and will are opposed to the entrance of the truth. Not only evidence but influence is required. It is essentially a spiritual work, and only the Holy Spirit is equal to it. It is a work in hearts opposed to God, and His power can alone produce the willingness which is the very essence of the saving change. Every time we pray for the conversion of sinners and for the coming of God's kingdom, we practically acknowledge the necessity of the Spirit's work. The universal necessity is the necessity of the individual case. The world's conversion is pictured out in the conversion of every sinner. The power of the Spirit is the security for the fulfilment of the word (Joe ; Act 2:17-21; Eze 37:1-14; Joh 3:6-8; 1Co 2:4-5; 1Co 3:6-7).

From the text, then, we may learn two or three lessons relative to the work of Christ's Church in the world.

1. That all such work should be conducted in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit. Such dependence does not supersede labour, any more than the consciousness that the sun and the air and other mysterious influences of nature are necessary, supersedes the husbandman's labour.

2. That it should be conducted in a spirit of prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Whatever God promises to His Church, it is warranted to ask in prayer. Prayer is the condition, on the Church's part, on which the promise is suspended. In that wonderful passage of Ezekiel where the Spirit is promised in His cleansing and renewing power, the condition is expressly named (Eze ). While the hundred and twenty disciples were gathered together praying, the Holy Ghost fell upon them. How often does the great missionary apostle ask those who have been brought to Christ to pray for him in his continued work among those who have not.

3. That all Christian effort should be conducted, therefore, in expectation of the outpouring of the Spirit. Do we not dishonour Him when we fail to believe in the Spirit's work as a living reality—when we do not expect prayerful work for Christ to be followed by proportionate success! "Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high," all is desolation; when the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high, all shall be beauty.—John Rawlinson.

THE MORAL WILDERNESS TRANSFORMED

Isa . Until the Spirit be poured upon us, &c.

This chapter contains three distinct and important topics: the great and inestimable blessings resulting from the reign of Christ; a denunciation of the divine judgments on an ungrateful and rebellious people, and especially on the supine and careless women of Judea; and an assurance of more auspicious days.

I. The mind of man resembles a moral wilderness. This was not the case originally. In paradise all was moral attraction and glory. But, in consequence of man's apostasy from God, his powers have been withered, and his divine beauty has been defaced. The mind of man is a moral wilderness—

1. As it is a seat of sterility and desolation.

2. As, till it is transformed, it is of little use, because its best powers are not consecrated to God.

3. As it is the soil where noxious and destructive plants exist and flourish.

II. The means appointed for the cultivation of the mind of man are to be diligently employed, because,

1. These means are unfolded to us in the Gospel.

2. God requires us to employ them.

3. The divine sanction and encouragement have been given to those who have diligently used them (H. E. I., 3424-3465).

III. The best and most powerful means will be unavailing without the agency and influences of the Spirit.

IV. But with the influence of the Holy Spirit, a great moral transformation will be effected.

1. There will be a scene of cultivation; the wilderness will be converted into a fruitful field; enclosed, cleansed, irrigated, carefully tilled; presenting a beautiful appearance to the eye, and refreshed with the dews and rains of heaven.

2. There will be a scene of fertility; as a field, it will be rich in the variety and luxuriance of its produce; all the graces of the Holy Spirit will be fully and beautifully exemplified.

3. There will be a scene of grandeur. The fruitful field will be counted for a forest. A fine forest is a majestic and striking feature in a landscape. There is dignity, magnitude, elevation; all these moral characteristics are found in the mind on which the Spirit has been poured out. The saints will grow in grace, and increase with all the increase of God.

V. Learn from this subject,

1. The importance of honouring the Spirit by reverence, worship, obedience, confidence.

2. The necessity of waiting for the Spirit. Though He tarry, yet we are perseveringly to wait.

3. The duty of praying for the Spirit, and of expressing unfeigned gratitude for every communication of His grace.—G. Clayton: The Pulpit, vol. xvii. p. 190.


Verse 17

PEACE THE WORK OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Isa . The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

A large part of the book of Isaiah is taken up in setting forth the glories and the blessedness of Christ's kingdom. Sometimes this is done by grand images drawn from all that is brightest in the outward world (Isa ). Sometimes the great change to be wrought in mankind is spoken of under the figure of a like change in the beasts of the field (Isa 11:6-9). Again, in other places, as in the text and the adjoining verses, the description puts on more of a moral and spiritual character, and declares how God will be glorified in the hearts and lives of men (Isa 32:15-17). On reading these descriptions of a time when the world is to be full of peace and blessedness, we can hardly help wishing we were in such a world. But that time is not yet come. Many places may we find, where all seem to be bent on hurting and destroying one another. But the sun himself, with his all-piercing eye, though he beholds every dwelling of man, cannot see a single village which is the abode of peace and quietness and assurance for ever. Nor has he in all his journeys seen such a state of things. Did the prophet, then, see falsely? Was the vision which he saw a lying vision? Not so. If the "work," the effect, is wanting, it is that the cause is wanting. Did righteousness prevail upon the earth, there peace would also prevail. Wherever we find anything like true righteousness, and according to the degree of the likeness, we also find peace. Whatsoever is done to promote righteousness will also promote peace.

"The work of righteousness shall be peace." The words have a sweet sound; but when we think of the whole meaning that lies wrapt up in them, they may well strike us with awe. For while they declare that righteousness shall produce peace, they at the same time imply that nothing but righteousness shall or can. How, then, can peace ever abide upon earth, or dwell in the heart of man?

Another disturbing recollection is, that when it has pleased the all-righteous God to show forth His righteousness, as in the days of Noah, the work of that righteousness was not peace, but horror, and desolation, and destruction. Even when the ministers and executors of earthly righteousness pass through a land, they do not bring peace to the culprits whom they visit. How, then, can the perfect righteousness of God bring peace to the sinful race of man? There is but one way, a way purposed by God in the counsels of His unfathomable wisdom, the way whereby He vouchsafes to bestow His own righteousness upon man, to the end that He may make man partaker of His peace.

We may now perceive why there is so little peace in the world. It is because there is so little righteousness. The effect cannot exist without the cause. The one simple commandment, "Love thy neighbour as thyself," were it followed through all the branching duties into which it spreads, would turn the earth into a garden of peace.

"For the wicked," God has said, "there is no peace." But light is sown for the righteous, the light of joy and peace. The true disciple of Christ, he who has sought to be clothed in Christ's righteousness, will always enjoy peace, even here on earth. He will enjoy it in every condition of life. In riches, in poverty, in health, in sickness, in every outward circumstance of life, in the hour of death, the godly, and they alone, enjoy peace: in the day of judgment they, and they alone, will enjoy peace. And the peace they will have enjoyed till then will only have been a poor faint foretaste of the peace into which they will then enter, of the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, and in the full enjoyment of which they will live thenceforward through eternity.—Julius Charles Hare, M.A.: Sermons Preacht in Herstmonceux Church, pp. 325-346.

The Bible is the revelation of a gracious remedy for evil. Points out rightful claims of the divine government. Charges the human race with disregard of those claims. Man is guilty of unrighteousness. There is universal sin. It is in man's nature. It constitutes a moral disqualification for return. God's remedial plan comprehends the provision of pardoning mercy, and of regenerating mercy. The former is found in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, which constitutes a righteous ground on which the penal consequences of sin may be remitted. The latter, in this no less wonderful work of the Holy Spirit by which the sinner's disposition undergoes a change that makes him a new creature in Christ Jesus. Let it be supposed that this is the universal experience: instead of unrighteousness, the righteousness that springs from such contact with Christ by His Spirit universally prevails. It is a change of which we do not despair. We are taught to expect it. Thus the text will be universally fulfilled.

I. INTERNATIONALLY.

One of the most awful facts of human history is the extent to which war has marked its track. In the causes of all wars unrighteousness is found. But if the supposition we have made were a reality, wars would become impossible. Nations and their rulers would repress the desire to possess themselves of what is not their own. If different interests induced different opinions between them, wise and righteous arbitration would prevent their imbruing their hands in each other's blood. There would be "quietness and security for ever" (Isa ; Isa 11:6-9).

II. SOCIALLY.

1. Would the scenes witnessed in our streets, and the revelations of police courts continue, if all men were characterised by the righteousness contemplated in our text? Because men are unrighteous, they encroach upon each other. The religion of Christ can be ill spared. Where its influence prevails, society is better, happier, more peaceful, more secure than elsewhere.

2. Think of the family. In the home all exhibit their true selves. Selfishness and injustice may render it a place of incessant strife. But our Christian homes, even where allowance has been made for infirmities and peculiarities, are usually pervaded by an atmosphere of peace and love. The influences that surround them produce mutual forbearance and studiousness of others, restrain the harder and develop the softer passions. Just in the measure in which the subduing influences of Christian character prevail will our homes be secure from strife and discomfort.

3. Think of the Church. There are divisions in the Church, it is said. But there is less alienation of heart than is commonly supposed. The common Christian's sentiments override the separated denominations. So within the churches. Not many, in proportion to the whole, are divided. Animosity, as arising from difference of opinion, is restrained by Christian love. And if all were perfectly Christian, there would be none.

III. PERSONALLY.

1. There is peace with God. Because there is reconciliation in Christ.

2. There is peace within. The storms of distress and fear raised by the sense of sin are allayed by the cross. The discomfort of unsettled life—purposes is terminated by a decision with which the soul is satisfied. Its peace is enhanced by converse with heaven.

It is abiding peace. The peace in all aspects continues as long as the righteousness. The holiness of heaven, and therefore its peaceful rest, will continue for ever.

Have we this righteousness? Have we it in heart, in sympathy, in life? If not, we are on the side of unrighteousness. We are insecure. We need to be born again. O seek to possess and extend it.—J. Rawlinson.


Verse 18

THE PEACEFUL HABITATION

No doubt "the peaceable habitation" is found in moral dispositions created within by Divine grace. Here is, 1st. The Chamber of Holiness. Oh, the sweet tranquillity of a holy life!

2. Here is the hallowed Chamber of Resignation to the Divine will. If the soul is, by Divine grace, able to be still in the midst of temptation, it will also be still in the midst of personal trial.

3. Here is Trust in God's providence. This is the observatory, and like all observatories, it is high and clear. Other observatories boast that from them you may see the stars in the day-time; but from this, you may see the sun in the night-time.—E. Paxton Hood: Dark Sayings on a Harp, pp. 361-368.


Verse 20

SPIRITUAL HUSBANDRY

Isa . Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.

Two explanations of this description of agricultural life. The first refers it to the practice of literally sowing on the waters. In some parts of the East, particularly in the sowing of rice, the time chosen is when the rivers overflow their banks. Cattle are turned into the wet land to tread it and prepare it for the seed, which is then cast upon the water. It subsides into the ground and yields a quick harvest. If this is the allusion, the corresponding passage will be Ecc . The other explanation refers it to the sowing of seed in soil that is well watered by its proximity to some river, and to such a state of security that the oxen and asses may be turned upon the land to feed at large, without fences to limit their excursions. Either way the general idea is the same. It is the close of the beautiful description of peaceful prosperity after the return from captivity. The land would be cultivated in security, the harvests gathered in peace; a splendid contrast to the desolation of a country which has been the seat of war.

We apply the text to the privilege of labouring for the production of a moral harvest in human souls by the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is—

I. AN ANALOGY BETWEEN THE MATERIAL AND THE SPIRITUAL HUSBANDRY. Our present subject is not our own spiritual culture, although that is of supreme importance and the primary qualification for the cultivation of other souls. We are always sowing seed, the fruit of which is in our character and destiny, in time and eternity (Gal ).

The analogy between the moral and material husbandry is very obvious (1Co ; 1Co 9:10-11; Jas 3:18; Mat 13:3-32). This is the great work committed to the Church. We are to tell the story of God's love; to make known the ruin; to proclaim the salvation; to persuade men.

Now, this supposes several things:—

1. Opportunity. By the restoration of Israel to their own land, they would have the opportunity of which they had been long deprived. There have been times when endeavours to teach God's word was prohibited. In some lands it is so still. There are persons who will not hear. There are classes and circles, higher and lower, which are inaccessible to you. None of us is responsible for sowing the seed when there is no opportunity. But in so far as opportunity exists, or can be made, it behoves all to avail themselves of it to the full extent of their power. Mothers have the opportunity with their children. Sunday-school teachers. Doors opening in heathen lands.

2. Capacity. To sow a field requires some knowledge of the kind of work. City men would make sorry work. So the spiritual sowing requires some capacity. Two mistakes may be made. There is the mistake of those who think any kind of work will do; and of those who estimate the requirements so highly and their own power so humbly that they never venture anything. The latter deterrent operates largely. It falls in with the love of ease. It is sometimes said that the extension of popular education demands a higher class of Sunday-school teachers, for instance, than sufficed some time ago. Many Christians think their own education inadequate. It is a mistake. If we cannot realise our ideal, let us do our best. Besides, experience does not show that boys and girls are ahead of teachers of average intelligence. And spiritual earnestness is a greater qualification than even intellectual endowment. Capacity for Christian work, like any other, perhaps more than any other, increases by exercise.

3. Interest. He who would succeed must be interested in his work. He who dislikes it or is indifferent to its results will not do it well Commonly what was undertaken merely as an occupation, or for advantage, becomes a pleasure. The various labours of the husbandman interest him. And this is essential to the spiritual sower. There must be a disposition for the work. It presents attractions only to such as are in sympathy with its great ends. There must be sincere belief of the truth, thorough conviction of its necessity to man, and a benevolent desire for the widest dissemination of its blessings. Working in this spirit, your interest in it will constantly deepen. By the prospect of harvest you will be animated. With the heart in the work and the love of Christ in the heart, the sowing time will be full of spiritual interest.

4. Diligence. "All waters." This suggests earnestness, energy, promptitude. Throw all your energy into this work. The husbandman watches everything that bears on his husbandry. Business men spare no pains in working out their arrangements. We must be equally diligent.

II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF BEING ENGAGED IN THE SPIRITUAL HUSBANDRY.

1. In the work itself. It becomes a pleasure. Knowledge and experience of the truth increase by communication, as seed by being sown. Spiritual enjoyment is deepened. Christian character grows. Many can say the sowing days are the happiest.

2. In the consciousness of usefulness. It is not labour in vain. Assured that we shall reap if we faint not. Already there are signs. Evil is prevented. One and another are being trained to goodness. The future career of those among whom you sow will be influenced in the most valuable way. Some will have their passage to the grave helped. The future world will be brightened to them, as well as the present.

3. In the Master's approbation. As the work goes on, the consciousness of this is a blessedness. And when this world is left behind, His "well done."

Address—

1. Those who are sowing, with words of encouragement.

2. Those who ought to be, with words of exhortation.—J. Rawlinson.

THE USE OF OPPORTUNITIES

Isa . Blessed are they that sow beside all waters, &c.

I. We may use the language of the text as a warning against the neglect of the least opportunity of usefulness to others. The prophet pronounces a blessing upon those who are prepared to scatter seed, not only where there is a probable prospect of a rich harvest, but upon whatsoever soil God shall bring them in contact with. It is not only by the waters that are sweet and sparkling that the sowing is to be carried on, but beside the floods that seem likely to overwhelm. We are to maintain a lively sense of our obligation to do good unto all men as we have opportunity. Even those who are alive to the reality of the effect which one man's life and conversation may have upon another, nay, who are desirous to be useful to their brethren in Christ, are under a great temptation to be ruled by predilections for or against particular persons, and to regard some as too proud, too insincere, too thoughtless to reward their labour. Or their affections are so absorbed in one or two individuals, united with them by blood or friendship, that they are rendered comparatively indifferent about the influence they may exert upon others. But whether we choose or no, our power for good or evil extends over all who come within our shadow, and we should neglect no opportunity to make it a power for good (H. E. I. 1857-65, 4596).

II. We should not neglect any opportunity of securing benefit for ourselves. Every period of existence is to be spent unto God. Swift and resistless the waters of life glide on. But beside them all, the Christian sows his good seed. Equally in youth, middle age, and in advancing years, whatsoever his hand finds to do, he does it heartily, as unto the Lord; and in each he reaps a harvest according to his sowing in that which preceded it. Blessed through eternity will he be who sowed wisely and liberally beside all the waters of life.—J. R. Woodford, M.A.: Sermons preached in Bristol, pp. 228-243.

It should be the ambition of us all to be useful. The difference between one man who lives a useful, and another who lives a useless life, is simply this—the one improves his opportunities for doing good and making others happy, while he ministers to his own well-being; and the other lives only for himself, and reaps the barren harvest of his selfishness. Life comes but once to each of us, and blessed are they who, bearing this ever in mind, are careful to "sow beside all waters."

I. Those who wish to be useful should never forget the many favourable opportunities for sowing seed on the clear and untroubled waters of childhood.

II. Another opportunity for scattering precious seed is on the troubled waters of strife (Mat ).

III. Another, on the stagnant and muddy waters of doubt and unbelief. It often happens that the Christian is obliged to listen to the vapid and senseless discourse of those who seek to bring the religion of the Son of God into contempt, and if he would be prepared for such occasions of seed-sowing, he ought to be a diligent student of the Word of God, and of such works as will give him a right understanding of it.

IV. There will be times when words of comfort may be spoken to bewildered souls about to embark on "the narrow sea" which divides this world from the next.—John N. Norton: Golden Truths, pp. 73-81.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 32:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-32.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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