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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 52

 

 

Verse 1

THE WORK AND STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH

(Sermon preached before an Association of Churches.)

Isa . Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion.

Isaiah prophesied more than a hundred years before the captivity of Israel. Many of his predictions had to do with its termination. In his inspired anticipation, the period of Israel's desolation is now coming to a close, and the day of their redemption is drawing nigh. Hence, in these latter chapters, he calls upon the exiles, under the figure of a captive female, to arise from the ground on which she has been sitting, to shake herself from the dust with which she has been covered, to lay aside all the emblems of her degradation, and prepare to return to the enjoyment of freedom and prosperity in the land of her fathers. By a figure still bolder, he summons the holy land and the holy city to clothe themselves in their best attire, and get ready for the reception of the liberated captive. Frequently he employs the proper names, Zion and Jerusalem, in their literal sense; but at other times Jerusalem is put for its inhabitants, and Zion represents the worshippers of the true God. In this latter sense I employ the term Zion now. In the preceding chapter we see the chosen people in a suppliant attitude, sending up to heaven the cry—"Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." In the text we listen to the responsive command of heaven, addressed to the praying Church,—"A wake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion."

More than five-and-twenty centuries have passed away since the echo of these words first fell on expecting ears; but there is a sense in which they are as much needed by the Church of our day as by the Zion to and for which Isaiah spoke and wrote.

I. THE WORK WHICH THE CHURCH HAS TO DO.

1. It has millions of heathen yet to evangelise. The kingdom which the Messiah came to set up, was to be bounded only by the globe; its subjects only by the entire race. But before it can reach its destined universality, its gospel must be proclaimed to all men, and the gods many and lords many of idolatry's empire must be destroyed. That is part of the work which Christ has intrusted to His Church. Glorious harvests have been reaped as the result of the Church's toil. But large portions of the earth have yet to be won to our Saviour King. From the entire regions of darkness and death that are still under the dominion of false gods, it is computed that forty immortal beings go into eternity every minute, more than 2000 every hour, and more than 50,000 every day. Fifty thousand human beings daily hastening to a tribunal of which they never heard, and ushered into the presence of a God they never knew, because His own Church has hitherto failed to make Him known to the ends of the earth!

2. It has the Mohammedan imposture yet to overthrow. The mosque still stands on the very mount of God's selection, where once Solomon worshipped, where Isaiah prophesied, where Asaph sung, and where Jesus taught. Nearly one hundred millions of the earth's population are daily heard uttering the watchword—"There is one God, and Mahommed is His prophet." Never must we consider the Church's work done until the crescent be made to give way to the cross, and the followers of the false prophet be brought to worship Jesus as the sent of God and the only Saviour of men.

3. It has multitudes of the Jews yet to convert to the faith of Christ. It is calculated that nearly six millions and a half of the seed of Abraham are, at this time, scattered about in the different nations of the earth. These must be sought, and instructed, and entreated until they are won to Christ.

4. It has the Papal apostasy to oppose. As far from "the truth as it is in Jesus" is it now as when our own Wicklyffe began to protest against its errors. As dishonourable to God, as injurious to society, as corruptive of morals, as dangerous to souls, as when Luther hurled at the whole system the thunders of his righteous indignation.

5. It has a growing infidelity to confront.

6. It has to meet and resist a form of religion which, while it holds fast the name of Christianity, denies and denounces most of its distinctive doctrines. I refer to that system which would pluck the crown of Deity from the Saviour's brow, and reduce Him to the level of a mere man.

7. It has a vast region of indifference to invade. Wrapped in the slumbers of a spiritual death, multitudes care for none of these things.

8. It has a false liberalism to contend against. The parties that espouse this cause have a creed, and it runs somewhat in this strain—"There is something good in all religions: no church is perfect, nor persons either: it matters not what sect a man belongs to, so that he has charity in his soul, and observes justice in his dealings: it matters not what doctrines a man believes, so that he is honest in his belief, for—this condition complied with—he may be an infidel and yet be saved." We must not let this evil go unchecked and unopposed. It is wrong in itself, it is dangerous and destructive in its tendency—and hence, as the witnesses for God, we must work to stop its progress and to neutralise its mischiefs.

9. It has certain tendencies of the age to keep in check. Such as the growing worldliness of professors of religion—the growing love of gaiety, amusements, and pleasure, which often leads to dangerous associations and the desecration of the Sabbath—a spirit of daring speculation in trade—the deification of reason, which leads men to treat Gospel doctrines as they would mathematical problems, to question when they ought to believe, and to reject what they cannot comprehend—the rage for novelties, which begets a restless dissatisfaction with old truths however sound, and old ways however safe—the irreverence with which sacred things are treated and spoken of.

10. It has lost ground to regain. The cause of spiritual religion has not kept pace with the progress which has been made in other things. Where, in some cases, the external machinery of religion has been pushed forward, there is reason to fear that the inward life of it has been "sick and ready to die."

These are some of the claims which the times now passing over us present to the activities of the Church; and if the Church had nothing more to do than what has now been stated, it must be evident at a glance that its work is one of great magnitude and vast responsibility. The requirements of the case cannot be met by feeble resolves, low aims, or weak efforts. A Church asleep will not do for it. A Church reposing on the lap of its own privileges will not do for it. "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion."

II. IN WHAT THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH CONSISTS: AND HOW IT SHOULD PUT IT ON.

1. The first element of its renewed strength must be sought in its waking up to a sense of its past neglects and its present duties. Misconceptions on these points will be fatal to its power.

2. The Church's love to Christ must be augmented. What was the secret of Apostolic doing, daring, and suffering? It was love—"the love of Christ constraining us." Could we but get the same hallowed fire in our hearts—could we but get it to burn on, with a steady, constant, and augmenting flame, no service would be a weariness to us, no sacrifice a hardship, and no labour commanded by our Divine Master would be refused or neglected. If we can but get our hearts filled with the expansive and impulsive energy of Divine love, we shall soon be clad in the mantle of Divine strength.

3. There must be an increase of faith. Our warfare is the fight of faith, and our work is the work of faith. The Master whom we serve is the invisible God; the rewards we expect are unseen and future. The results of our labours are uncertain, except as we anticipate them by faith. Our obstacles are seen, our difficulties are felt. The natural exclamation of conscious weakness is—the work is too great for us. Too great indeed it would be, if we had to do it alone. But Omnipotence is pledged to help us, and success is guaranteed by Divine promise. We must have faith in that promise. Going forth strong in the power of faith, we may expect to see much greater things than we have ever yet beheld.

4. There must be an increase of fervent prayer. First must we become princes with God, and then shall we prevail with men. The Holy Spirit is given in answer to prayer. The special outpouring of that Spirit on the Church in its infancy, was preceded by special prayer. Gifts, zeal, activity, eloquence, fervour, will all be in vain without the Spirit of God. What the steam is to the engine, and what the winds of heaven are to the canvas-clad vessel, the influences of the Spirit are to the plans and activities of the Church. Without these influences there may be much husbandry but no harvest, much work but no progress. The known readiness of the Spirit to help and bless, should not supersede prayer but stimulate it.

5. There must be a deepened sense of personal responsibility. When charged with past neglects and sins, we must not attempt to shift the blame from ourselves and fasten it upon others. "Against Thee, O Lord, have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight." With respect to the future and its duties, we must be on our guard against being deluded by what may become to us the fiction of the Church. When we speak of the Church's work and responsibilities, we must not give the least indulgence to the idea that we are speaking of some imaginary being or body, altogether separate and distinct from ourselves. The Church is composed of individual Christians, and the only responsibility of the Church as a whole is that which is brought into it by the individual responsibility of its separate members. Go daily to the throne of God with the inquiry—"Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Be willing that God should answer it in any way He sees fit; and then as soon as it is answered, do that thing, whatever it may be, do it willingly, do it diligently, do it well.

6. There must be enlarged liberality. As compared with the givings of some bygone ages, the present scale of contributions to the cause of God may be admitted to be liberal. But what is given now, in a general way, bears but small proportion to what was given by the devout Jew to meet the requirements of the ceremonial law. The givings of both rich and poor to the cause of Popery—the princely sums of English earls, and the hard-earned pennies of Irish labourers—might well shame the stinted offerings of those who profess a purer faith. The sacrifices made by deluded multitudes in the worship of their false gods, make our ordinary rate of giving appear more like an insult than an offering. The servants of sin give incomparably more to the cause of corruption and death, than do the servants of the living God to the cause of religion and salvation. How will rich professors answer for themselves before God, who hoard up wealth for themselves and their heirs, and leave the cause of God to languish and die for want of support? The Church's work will not be done until those of His servants, whom He makes stewards of His wealth, shall honour Him with something better than "the crumbs" which fall from their own table.

7. There must be more directness of aim in the pulpit. To preach before a congregation is one thing, to preach to it is another. To preach to men in the mass, is the method of some, to preach so as to make each man feel—it is I, was the method of Paul (Col ).

8. There must be more of a devout and teachable spirit in the pew. The extravagant and often ridiculous demand for "talent" in the pulpit, must be moderated. When this is made the alpha and omega of ministerial fitness, of course the people take upon themselves to judge whether or not it exists in sufficient measure. Hence many go to the house of God, not to be instructed, edified in the faith, helped on in their way to heaven; but to sit in judgment on the preacher's intellectual powers, that they may go and pronounce for or against what they have heard. Spiritual growth is the last thing thought of and least cared about. But this must be altered before Christians will advance and churches will work as they ought to do. When our people come to a right state of mind on this subject, they will think that man the best minister whose preaching brings the greatest number of souls to Christ, and is most successful in promoting the knowledge, purity, consistency, and usefulness of his flock. Men who really want to do God's work, will feel that they have no time to waste in fruitless criticisms; and that human life is far too precious a thing to be frittered away in either compliments or complaints of God's workmen.

9. The promotion of family piety must be made more a matter of business at home.

10. There must be more of mutual sympathy between Christians and churches. There must be co-operation for mutual support and for aggressive work in the name of Christ.—John Corbin.

THE PERILS AND STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH

Isa . Awake, awake, put on thy strength.

The words of the text were addressed by God to His people when in a state of peril. The enemy, like Delilah, about taking advantage of their drowsy condition, to deprive them of their strength.

I. THE COMMAND UTTERED TO THE CHURCH.

"Awake, awake." The words, though indicating the low condition of the Church, in reference to its moral and spiritual mission, are still consoling; they prove that it was not dead. It was sleeping, and life is an essential condition of sleep. The Church at the time was in the nearest position possible for the living to be to the dead. Sleep resembles death in many respects. But it is not death. Hence the propriety of the command.

Why the Church to-day should obey the command.

1. "Awake, awake," because the foundations of thy faith are threatened. Threats spring from various sources—from the sceptical teachings of the age, from the oscillation of its own members, and especially from the fact, that so many of its teachers endeavour to persuade men that it matters not what they believe if they live properly. This is an attempt to deprive the Church of the fundamental truths of its creed that have enabled it to stand the storms of persecutions, that inspired its reformers, clothed its martyrs with power to suffer death on its behalf, and form the basis of this grand edifice the Christian Church (1Co ).

2. "Awake, awake," because there are elements within thee that rapidly lead to apostasy, decay. The injury received by the Church from without, compared with that done within, is but very little. Joshua and his people had many evils to withstand and powerful enemies to conquer in taking the fortified cities of Canaan; but they had a greater loss and more shame through the action of Achan in their own camp than from all the enemies without. There are things still in the Church that demand that it should listen to the alarm of our text.

(1.) The ritualistic tendencies of a great number of its members. People that think more of the form than the spirit of the service, more of the person that speaks, than what he says; that clothe themselves in the ritual of religion and feel satisfied.

(2.) "Worldliness." This evil principle manifests itself in various forms in Church life. There are some people that join the Church for mercenary purposes. Religion in our days is considered so respectable a thing, that a profession of it gives a person reputation, and helps him on; but mark this, it is possible to obtain a reputation by a mere profession of Christianity, and at the same time be void of its power (2Ti ). It manifests itself also in the lack of liberality, shown by many of its members in sustaining its funds. The poorer classes cannot afford to contribute large sums for this purpose; but when we find people enjoying all the luxuries of life and contributing meagrely towards the funds of the Church of the Most High, we feel it our duty to deal plainly with them. What converted Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, brought Haman to the gallows, and sent "Demas" out of the Church into the world? Worldliness! And worldliness will again affect its victims in a similar manner, and the presence of such an enemy in the Church is a sufficient reason that it should listen to the voice of its Maker in our text.

(3.) The carelessness of a great number of its members with reference to purity of life. The standard of Christian morality is certainly too low in the minds of thousands of our fellow-Christians. The ripe fruits that adorn the Christian life (Gal ) are unknown to many professing Christians in our day.

In the presence of many enemies, the duty of the Church is clearly defined. "Awake, awake, put on thy strength." She need not seek power outside her own resources. "Put on thy beautiful garments." Open thine own wardrobe, clothe thyself in thine own apparel, that thy beauty and power may be perceptible.

II. IN WHAT DOES THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH CONSIST?

1. In its devoting itself entirely to the work which it has to perform. The work of consecrating oneself to the moral and spiritual objects of the Church is too often neglected in these days. Remember, it is the men who entirely devoted themselves to the Lord's service, independent of their own personal interest and safety, or of the sect or party to which they were connected, who have left their mark on the kingdom of evil.

2. In meditation. There is nothing so effectual to inspire the mind, and clothe the soul with courage, as meditation on the Lord's dealings with His children (Psa ),

3. Prayer. With this the Church on earth is able to command the forces of heaven to the battle-field to fight on its behalf (2 Chronicles 20)

4. The word of God, which is called by Paul "the sword of the Spirit," and is the offensive weapon of the Church. The Christian armour consists of both defensive and offensive weapons (Ephesians 6), and the Church is commanded to take "the whole armour of God, that it may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."—J. P. Williams.

I. Put on strength by wakefulness. Sleep of the body, up to a certain point, is needful and wholesome; but beyond that it is harmful. The drowsiness of the sluggard is injurious. Still more hurtful is spiritual drowsiness. A slumbering life results in moral death. Sleepy men are the easy prey of false teachers; their moral vision is obscured, and they do not easily discern between the true and the false; their critical faculties are paralysed, and they are not in a condition to "try the spirits," whether they be of God. These times require men who are awake. The first two words of the text are not to be disconnected from the others, for by wakefulness we do put on strength. Awake from your dreams, open your eyes to behold the realities of life, and address yourselves to the duties to which God calls you.

II. Put on strength by activity. Activity develops strength—of body, of mind, of soul. Slothfulness is the secret and the cause of the spiritual weakness that abounds in our churches. What God requires of us is that by exercise we should develop the strength with which we have been endowed. It is not our possession of only one talent that He condemns; it is our having neglected to make use of it. Remember also, that God's command to do a thing always implies His promise of help to well-directed endeavour. The Saviour said, "Stretch forth thy hand!" the obedient man obtained his reward, and found that the Divine word of command is a word of promise to the obedient. The prophet says to the weak, "Put on thy strength;" and, obeying, they shall rejoice in a refreshing baptism of Divine energy. Out of weakness, those who have obeyed this command have been made strong by the processes of spiritual development. To the development of the physical powers there are limits; but to the development of moral power there is none. Here there may be constant growth and progress. Eternity will be but an ampler sphere for the enlargement of the soul's vast powers.

III. Put on thy strength by joyfulness. Joy, and not sadness, should be the characteristic of those whose final destiny is heaven. Joy begets strength, and strength increases joy. Put on thy beautiful garments of holiness and joy, O Zion! remembering always that the truly holy are the solidly and permanently joyful.

IV. Put on thy strength by hopefulness. The despairing are weak, the hopeful are strong. In view of God's promises made for her encouragement, the Church may well be hopeful. There is one in our text, which we may read, "For henceforth there shall no more come against thee the uncircumcised and unclean." Though oftentimes we stand on the towers of Zion as timid, fearful watchers, with little faith in the Divine promise of protection, the Church is safe (Zec ). Let us, then, be hopeful, let us be strong for the work and the warfare to which we are called.—W.

THE THREEFOLD TRUMPET-BLAST

Isa . Awake, awake, &c.

It is to the Church of Christ sleeping that the threefold trumpet-blast of the text comes.

I. A CALL TO WAKEFULNESS AND WATCHFULNESS. "Awake, awake!" zion never needed this trumpet-call more imperatively than now. Upon her the "spirit of slumber" has fallen. But all are not asleep; and those who are awake should take the trumpet, and with a blast as loud and as long as though life and immortality were at stake (see Eze ) sound the alarm. For,

1. The foundations of our faith are threatened. The sappers and miners are at work inside as well as outside; and they would delight to remove the cornerstones and shake the whole fabric of the temple of truth.

2. "The enemy is coming like a flood"—in the shape of intemperance, vice, greed, infidelity, and horrible wickedness, enough to afflict our souls and affright the world. (See the daily papers.)

3. Is not the visible Church drifting from Christ? We need to be on our guard against both enemies without and subtle traitors within; traitors who, themselves wakeful, are imposing on those who are in a state of unconscious slumber.

(1.) Is not one section of society drifting to Rome? Ritualism is rampant, loud-voiced, defiant. Roman Catholicism walks abroad in the light of day, and flaunts her flags in the eyes of all men. Think of her pilgrimages, her noble perverts, and her persistent policy of aggression, and ask what it all means.

(2.) Is not another section drifting fast into Rationalism? The so-called "men of culture" are almost all of them Rationalists, either covertly or avowed. Men like the late Strauss, in theology; Buckle, in history; our own J. Stuart Mill, in philosophy; with Professors Tyndall and Huxley, in science. These, and men of kindred sympathies and sentiments, are the foremost leaders of thought in our day, and their whole following are being led, some willingly, some unconsciously, into the bleak regions of Rationalism, if not into blank Atheism.

(3.) Is not still another section, by far the largest, too, drifting into utter worldliness? Is not the spirit of the world dominant? Is not indifferentism in relation to religion painfully apparent?—Is there not too much reason to fear that, on these three waves, society in England—including a large section of the visible Church—is drifting from Christ?

II. THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO GIRD HERSELF FOR CONFLICT. "Put on thy strength, O Zion!" She is within reach of strength enough to vanquish every foe. Let all her members, individually and collectively, put on,

1. The strength of personal consecration.

2. The strength of spiritual unity. "Unity is strength." The powers of evil are united. The Church cannot afford to be split up into contending sects. We must present ourselves as an unbroken phalanx to the foe. See our Lord's high-priestly prayer (John 17). What might not a united consecrated Church do?

3. The strength of "the arm of the Lord" (Isa ). The strength belongs to the Church, and is available by prayer, which moves the arm that moves the world; by faith, which takes hold of the strength of God, and has omnipotence at its command (Isa 27:5). "All things are possible to him that believeth."

III. THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO CLOTHE HERSELF WITH SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. "Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem." The Church has provided for her a spiritual wardrobe. Put on,

1. The garment of a "meek and quiet spirit." Rest in God. Calmness and tranquillity of mind are at once evidences and sources of power.

2. The garment of holiness. This is the most beautiful garment of all, while holiness is also the measure of spiritual power.

3. The garment of heavenly zeal. Men of the world and the emissaries of evil are zealous. We must meet them with a zeal greater and more divine.

Let the Church of Christ thus awake, put on her strength, and clothe herself with spiritual beauty, and she need not fear for the future. Victory is sure.

The command of the text comes to individual churches.

(1.) Let each of us take it as the voice of God to himself.

(2.) Let us awake promptly: life is passing, and the evil growing.

(3.) Let us avail ourselves of all available strength and beauty.

(4.) Let us make our consecration in sight of the cross and crown (Heb ).—The Study, 1874, p. 723.

The condition of Judea—conquered, degraded, captive, indifferent to Zion, feeble—no courage, temple demolished, &c., byeword and reproach.

I. THE THREEFOLD EXHORTATION OF THE TEXT.

1. "Awake, awake." Sleep often too accurately describes the condition of God's Church. Many are at ease in Zion. The prophets prophesy smooth things, and the people love to have it so. They cry, "a little more sleep," &c. But if the work of life is to be done, we must awake to a sense of our duty. It was whilst men slept that the adversary sowed the tares. During a period of spiritual apathy, what injury has been inflicted! Awake to the work of the soul, the evil of sin, &c. In commerce, &c., how wakeful men are!

2. "Put on thy strength." The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, and the expulsion of the enemy from the holy city, required strength. We are called to be strong in the Lord. The times call for a robust piety. Were God's people to put forth their strength, what success would be achieved, how soon would be ushered in "the new heavens, and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." In embattled array against the Church, are the ten thousand forms of vice and scepticism, of sin and error.

3. "Put on thy beautiful garments." The Church is to be attractive. The unloveliness of Christians is often apparent. The beauty of the Church is her holiness.

II. THE HAPPY EFFECTS OF OBEDIENCE.

The Church will be the home, 1, of the regenerate; 2, of the entirely sanctified.—Benjamin Browne.

I. AN INVENTORY OF THE BELIEVER'S WARDROBE.

1. The robe of righteousness (Isa ; Psa 132:9). How beautiful this robe. "Bring forth the best robe." It covers completely, unlike scanty garments in which men array themselves.

2. The garment of humility (1Pe ). This is well pleasing in God's sight. He hates flaunting garments of pride. It is a Christlike virtue (Php 2:8).

3. The garment of praise (Isa ). This is a beautiful robe. One of the same kind is worn by angels.

4. The garment of gladness (Psa ; Php 4:4).

1. These garments can always be worn; there is a dress reserved—a bridal dress, the wedding garment—to be worn at the marriage supper of the Lamb. White robe of redeemed. Symbol of purity, victory, joy.

2. These soul garments never wear out.

3. They cost us nothing.

4. In addition to dress, some people like to wear ornaments,—harmless weakness, when not carried to excess. The believer is exhorted to adorn himself with the "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." This can be worn without exciting envy or vanity.

II. THE EXHORTATION CONCERNING THESE GARMENTS.

Wear them. You cannot get better. You dishonour the Giver by not wearing them. You set light store by His gifts.—T. E. R.

JERUSALEM A TYPE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

Isa . Jerusalem the holy city.

Consider the ancient Jerusalem in its typical representation of the Church of Christ.

I. It was the city of the Divine choice (Psa ). The Church is the choice of the Lord; it contains the united congregation of His saints, those who have been called by His Gospel, who have believed in His Son, and who have been the living partakers of His heavenly grace. Over these God rejoiceth. With these He has His delights. Unto these He manifests Himself as He doth not unto the world. (See Joh 14:23; 1Pe 1:23-24.)

II. It was the city of Divine rule and authority. Here God made known His laws and judgments; deposited His living oracles, His holy statutes; revealed His will, and recorded His blessed word. And by these the inhabitants of Jerusalem were to be governed. Obedience to these secured the favourable tokens of God's love and favour. So in the new Jerusalem of His Church. Here He has revealed. His holy will, not by the oracle, or over the material mercy-seat, but by His own Son, and by making His living Church the pillar and ground of truth. By depositing within it the doctrines, and ordinances, and commandments of the Gospel. And the divine presence and favour is only secured by unswerving fidelity to the charge with which God has intrusted her.

III. Jerusalem was the city of Divine services. Here met the tribes of Israel who came to worship before the Lord. Here were presented the sacrifices and offerings of the people. Here God was worshipped and adored. Here the voice of prayer and praise was heard in God's holy temple. Here the religious festivals were celebrated, and God honoured in His sacred institutions. Such is the Church of Christ, the Jerusalem, &c. Here those who have believed, and are of the saved, are united together in the holy bonds of fellowship and love. Here they meet to observe all things their Divine Head has commanded them (Act ).

IV. Jerusalem was the city of Divine blessing. His special love and care was directed to it (Psa ). His providential benignity surrounded it. The Lord was the keeper and protector of the holy city. Within it He poured down the blessings of His grace, and caused His favour to dwell, even life for evermore. (See His gracious engagements and promises, Psa 132:15, &c.) So God pre-eminently blesses His spiritual Zion. Unto His people He gives exceedingly great and precious promises. They are blessed with the unsearchable blessings of His grace, with all the fulness of His love, with all the blessings of providence. God supplies all their need. Defends from all their enemies, and keeps and saves unto eternal life.

V. Jerusalem was a city of distinguished immunities and privileges. It was an honour to have been born in her. Her sons were freemen of the most favoured city under heaven. Her inhabitants had numerous opportunities of enjoying religious services, they had the presence of the priests and teachers of the law of God. "Happy were the people in such a case," &c. Still greater and more precious the immunities and privileges of the people of God. They enjoy spiritual liberty, have exalted titles, and possess immunities of the most glorious and heavenly character. Access to God's gracious throne. The sweet fellowship of His Holy Spirit. Delightful seasons of refreshing from the Divine presence, and experimental overflowings of that peace which passeth all understanding.

APPLICATION.—

1. Are we the citizens of the Jerusalem from above? Have we been born in her? Born from above? &c. Do we possess the spirit of her heavenly inhabitants?

2. How great the responsibility of such. It is theirs to exhibit the glory of divine grace, in calling and saving them, by a conversation which becometh the Gospel of Christ. "To show forth His praises," &c. To pray for her peace, and to labour for her prosperity. To display the spirit of love and harmony towards all the citizens, and to yield loyal subjection and hearty obedience to Christ the rightful Lord and King.

3. Unlike the earthly Jerusalem, she shall never become a prey to her enemies. Her walls shall never be cast down, nor her streets become waste (Mat ).—Jabez Burns, D.D.: Types and Metaphors, pp. 83-85.


Verse 3

SELLING AND REDEEMING THE SOUL

Isa . For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought, &c.

The Jews had gone headlong into sin, and as a punishment they had been carried captive to Babylon. They found that iniquity did not pay. Cyrus seized Babylon, and felt such pity for the captives, that without any compensation he let them go home. All of this is typical of a higher truth.

I. "Ye have sold yourselves for nought." There are persons who do not seem to belong either to themselves or to God; the title-deeds have been passed over to "the world, the flesh, and the devil;" but the purchaser has never paid up. They have made over their entire nature, but the holders of the deeds, when called on for the money, declare themselves bankrupt. The world does not keep its promises; it does not pay ninety per cent., nor twenty, nor one; it gives no solace when friends die; no peace when conscience rings its alarm. "Ye have sold yourselves for nought;" your conscience went; your hope went; your Bible went; your heaven went, all for nothing.

II. "Ye shall be redeemed without money." You were cheated out of your soul; the world has no right to take the title-deed from you. It can be proved. You need not say you are afraid of lawsuits, they are so expensive; for "ye shall be redeemed without money."

Money is good for a great deal, but it cannot do anything in this matter of the soul. Blood is here the only lawful tender. Neither is our blood rich enough; it needs a sinless stream. We have in this day some who do not want a religion of blood; but the Bible says, "In the blood is the life;" and an apostle (1Pe ). You put your lancet into the arm of our holy religion and withdraw the blood, and you leave it a mere corpse! No blood, no atonement, as prefigured in the Levitical sacrifices; "without shedding of blood there is no remission." Some one says, "the thought of blood sickens me." God intended it to sicken you with your sin; your sin caused Christ's blood-shedding.

The highest price ever paid for anything was paid for your soul. The estranged property is bought back. Take it; "ye have sold yourselves for nought, and ye shall be redeemed without money." Here is the price of your liberation—not money, but blood.—T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.: Christian Age, vol. ix. pp. 67-69.

Briefly review the circumstances under which these words were spoken. Israel had sold themselves as slaves, and for nothing. They were to be restored without money (Isa ). All this equally applicable to us today. Israel's captivity was temporal, ours is spiritual, and our redemption by Christ is "without money." These words suggest—

I. SELLING THE SOUL. "Ye have sold yourselves for nought."

1. What you have sold. Not your wares, your possessions, &c., but "yourselves." "Not the body, not the mere bundle of intellectual faculties, but the conscience, the moral ego, the inner man," that which works the faculties and which will live when the body is dust. It is your soul you have sold—the most precious thing God has given you—the gem of creation—the grand mark of man—the great possession. Put all the splendours of the visible creation into the scale, one soul outweighs them all (P. D. 3204). How many never think of the value of their soul, but sell it for the merest trifle.

2. To whom you have sold yourselves. To Satan. The worst being in God's universe—the enemy of God and man—the enslaver and destroyer of souls (2Ti ; Eph 2:1-2; Rom 6:17-19). To do his deadly work, and to be led captive at his will.

3. For what you have sold yourselves.

(1.) For worldly pleasure. But that is "nought"—unsatisfying, vanishing, leaves an aching void the world can never fill (Isa ; H. E. I. 4609-4612).

(2.) For worldly wealth. But that is "nought"—will soon take wings and fly away. Wealth is not happiness—cannot procure the elixir of immortality—often degrades. Wealth is useless when, like Esau, we are "at the point to die" (Luk ; Mar 8:36; H. E. I. 4358-4365, 4382-4386, 4389-4411).

(3.) For worldly fame. But that is "nought." At best it is unsatisfying. Charles Lamb had fame, and what did he say? "I walk up and down thinking I am happy, but knowing I am not." The great Dr. Johnson had fame, and what did he say? "I am afraid that some day I shall get crazy." Such testimonies multiply daily. Verily, "all is vanity," &c. (Ecc ).

4. Who sold you? "Yourselves."

(1.) It is a voluntary bargain. You cannot blame Adam, for, had you been in his place, you would have acted like him, &c. You love sin and sinful pleasures.

(2.) It is an unjust bargain. Reason and conscience say you have no right to sell your soul, for it belongs to God. "All souls are mine" (Heb ; 1Co 6:19).

(3.) You must confess that you have made a bad bargain, and that the outcome of it is deception, disappointment, embarrassment, &c. (Hos ).

II. REDEEMING THE SOUL.

1. The redemption of the soul could not be effected by any human means. The state of fallen man was so desperate that there was no hope for him in himself—no redeeming principle in his apostate nature; no possible way by which he could pay the price of his ransom. Nothing that the whole universe could offer, would be accepted as the price of it (Mic ; Luk 7:42). Obedience to the moral law could not secure it, for it has been broken, and whatever man did in the way of righteousness, he would render no more than is absolutely due to God; besides, he is unable to obey it perfectly (Act 13:39; Rom 5:6; Rom 8:8; Rom 3:20; Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16, &c.)

2. The redemption of the soul was effected by the Son of God. In man's desperate circumstances Divine mercy interposed, for nothing less than the sacrifice of "the Son of God" could remedy the infinite evil which sin had entailed upon humanity. Christ, the Ransomer, was Divine—met and satisfied the infinite demands of inviolable justice—assumed our nature in a state of lowliness and humiliation, but free from every stain of sin, that He might obey the law which man had broken, and suffer and die "the just for the unjust, that He might," legally, "bring us to God" (Isa ; Isa 53:10; Rom 8:3; 2Co 5:21; Gal 3:13; 1Pe 3:18; 1Pe 1:18-19). Our redemption by Christ secures the honour of the Divine character and law, &c. That would be no redemption which should cost the sacrifice of a single principle in the government of God, or make any compromise with the offenders. The justification of the penitent believer is perfectly consistent with the essential righteousness of God (Rom 3:24-26).

3. Personal redemption is realised by penitent faith in the Saviour's atoning sacrifice (Mar ; Joh 3:14-18; Joh 6:40; Joh 6:47; Joh 11:25-26; Act 20:20-21). Thus, repentance and faith are the conditions of personal redemption; while it is faith—a faith that presupposes repentance—which is emphatically the means of connecting the sinner with Christ, so that he is admitted to the Divine favour, and receives the Holy Spirit to inspire filial confidence, and to renew his soul. What repentance implies. The nature of the faith which is emphatically the condition and means of personal redemption:—reliance, appropriation, trust, coming to Jesus, receiving of Christ, &c. (H. E. I. 1957-1968.) The warrant of faith—Christ's promises (Mat 11:28; Joh 6:35; Joh 6:37); the declared will and purpose of the Father, which assures the sinner that he cannot come to Christ in self-renunciation and be rejected (Joh 6:38-40; Rom 8:32). Personal redemption is therefore perfectly gratuitous—"without money," without personal merit; and consequently is a manifestation of the abounding graciousness of God. St. Paul lays great stress on this (Rom 3:24; Rom 4:16; Rom 3:28). How excellent is this method of personal redemption, for it is adapted to all mankind (Rom 3:29-30); it shuts out pride from man (Rom 5:2-7); and it establishes the law (Rom 5:21).

CONCLUSION: Gratefully avail yourselves of God's method of redemption offered to you in the Gospel, and constantly proclaimed to you by the ambassadors of Christ. It is suited to you. Let the redemption of your soul be your chief business—your "first" work. You may realise it now. The value of the present opportunity is unspeakably great. It may be now or never (Psa ).—Alfred Tucker.

I. THE LORD'S CHARGE AGAINST HIS PEOPLE. "Ye have sold yourselves for nought."

It teaches us,

1. That we are a sort of trading creatures; indigent and restless, wanting something we have not, and looking about to find it, that we may be happy. Buying and selling to get gain, that we may be happy. "For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought," &c. (Psa ; Jas 4:13.)

2. That which we part with for this supposed happiness is inestimably precious. Ourselves (Isa ; Mar 8:36-37).

4. That the state into which we sell ourselves is deplorable. Like slaves. Joseph sold into Egypt (Psa ). The Jews sold themselves into Babylon. "Tied with the chain of our sins" (Psa 9:17; Isa 52:5; Rev 3:17).

4. That the enemy to whom we sell ourselves is the devil (2Ti ; Luk 9:21). Seen in Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1, &c), Judas, Ananias. Jesus Christ was tempted to this (Mat 4:8-9).

5. That we are volunteers in the sale of ourselves. "For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought," &c. Ahab sold himself to work wickedness (Hos ). The prodigal. Eve (Gen 3:6).

6. That in thus selling ourselves we rob and offend God. Because we are His creatures (Psa , &c.) We waste His goods (Luk 16:1).

7. That what we get in thus selling ourselves is nothing. "For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought," &c. (Isa , &c.; Ecc 2:11; Hos 8:7).

II. GOD'S GRACIOUS DECLARATION CONCERNING THEM.

"Ye shall be redeemed without money." which teaches us,

1. That God recovers His people to their forfeited privileges and enjoyments. "Redeemed" (1Sa ; 1Sa 30:20). Such as

(1.) acceptance with God. As to their persons and services (Eph ; Gen 4:4; Eze 20:40-41).

(2.) Conformity to the glorious image of God (2Co ; Eph 4:24; 1Jn 3:2).

(3.) Fellowship with God. Adam had this (Gen , &c.) Believers have this (Eph 2:18; 1Jn 1:1-2).

(4.) A system of providential blessings (Rom ; 1Co 3:1, &c.)

2. That this recovery is by redemption. "For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought," &c. By price (Act ). By power (Deu 7:8; Psa 106:1; Psa 106:7; Hos 13:14).

3. That this redemption is without money or merit on our part. "For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought," &c. (Isa ; Eze 20:42; Eze 20:44; Luk 7:42).

CONCLUSION.—

1. To the young, with whom Satan is beginning to tamper and bargain.

2. To the Antinomian, casting the blame of his captivity upon God. Adam and Eve (Gen , &c.)

3. To the captive—feeling his yoke, weakness and unworthiness (Jer ; Jer 31:20; Rom 7:1, &c.)

4. To the ransomed returning Christian (Psa , &c.; Isa 35:10).—New Pulpit Assistant, pp. 226-230.


Verse 5

BLASPHEMY

Isa . My name continually every day is blasphemed.

The proud and oppressive Babylonians delighted to add to the sorrows of the exiled Jews, by reproaching the name of their God, and by saying that He was unable to defend them and their city from ruin. This sin is awfully prevalent.

I. What is meant by the "name" of the Lord? His perfections, titles, word, &c.

II. The various ways in which it is blasphemed.

1. By denying His existence (Psa ; Psa 14:1; Psa 53:1).

2. By denying His sovereignty (Job ; Exo 5:2).

3. By denying His truth (Gen ; Isa 36:15; 2Pe 3:3-4).

4. By denying His power (2Ki ; Psa 78:19-20; Isa 36:15; Isa 36:18-20, and 2Ki 18:30; 2Ki 18:32-35).

5. By denying His omnipresence and omniscience (Job ; Psa 10:11; Psa 73:11; Psa 94:7; Isa 29:15; Eze 8:12).

6. By accusing Him of injustice (Jer ; Eze 18:25; Eze 33:17; Mal 2:17; Mal 3:15).

7. By murmuring against His dispensations (Isa ; Exo 14:11-12).

8. By false swearing, oaths, and curses, &c.

III. The excuses usually made for it. Ignorance, custom, example, surprise, passion, confirmation of what is said, meaning no harm, inconsistencies of professors, &c. (2 Samuel 12, 14; Eze ; Rom 2:24; 2Pe 2:2).

IV. The evil consequences of it. Destroys the little remains of the fear of God. Leads to the disobedience of all His commands. Sets a horrid example to others, especially to the young, &c.

V. The powerful arguments against it. "The Lord" is our glorious and lawful Sovereign, who sees and hears all things. He is a holy and jealous God, before whose bar we must appear. He is fully able to punish, and has assured us that He will (2Ki ; 2Ki 19:28; Isa 37:23; Isa 37:36-38; Eze 20:27; Eze 20:33; Eze 35:12-14).—Alfred Tucker.

Blasphemy. I. Its nature. II. Its guilt. III. Its awful prevalence. IV. Its certain punishment.—J. Lyth, D.D.


Verse 7

THE GOSPEL AND ITS PUBLISHERS

Isa . How beautiful upon the mountains, &c.

Whatever reference this passage might have to the deliverance of the people of God from the Chaldean bondage, it refers also and chiefly to the great and glorious Gospel of Christ (Rom ). It is in this application of it that it is now interesting and important.

I. A DELIGHTFUL REPRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.

1. The Gospel is represented as "good tidings." This is literally the meaning of the word gospel. These good tidings centre in one glorious fact—the provision of a Saviour for a guilty world. Everything else is based on this fact. Everything connected with the gift of the Saviour forms matter for joy: the supreme dignity of His person, the completeness of His work, the glory of His doctrine, the efficacy of His death, and the exhaustless fulness of His blessings.

2. It publishes peace. Man united with the fallen apostate spirits in rebellion against God, &c.

3. It brings tidings of good. Not only is God at peace with the sinner, but He waits to bless him with all good. There is

(1.) acceptance into God's favour.

(2.) Divine adoption.

(3.) The influences of the Spirit to illume, convince, guide, solace, meeten for heaven.

(4.) The precious promises of the new covenant.

4. The Gospel publishes salvation. A salvation meeting the needs of the sinner.

5. The Gospel declares the reign of Jesus (Psa , &c.)

II. AN INTERESTING DESCRIPTION OF THE MODE OF ITS PUBLICATION.

1. The messengers appointed to declare it. Jesus Himself went forth preaching the good tidings of His kingdom. Now the messengers are men, not angels. Men who have been called and qualified—sent of God. Men who have known and felt the power of the truths themselves.

2. The publication of this Gospel is to be free and extensive. They are to go forth prominently; to ascend the mountain tops, and there, before God, and angels, and men, they are to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. The message of grace is to be published throughout the world, and to every creature.

3. The publication of the Gospel is to be a source of joy and delight to perishing souls. By some it will be ridiculed. By others spurned. By others coolly and indifferently heard. But to thousands it shall be spirit and life, solace and bliss.

APPLICATION:

1. The subject should excite admiration and praise. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. But here is matchless love—unparalleled grace.

2. Have we experienced the saving power of the Gospel? Is it our boast, and joy, and Song of Solomon 3. The infatuation of the rejectors of the good news (Heb ; 1Pe 4:17).

4. The duty of the Church to diffuse the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Its prayers, energies, and means, should all bear to this one great end, &c.—The New Pulpit Assistant, pp. 318-322.

I. The varied characteristics of the "good tidings" of Christianity—they are peace, salvation, the reign of God.

II. The great function of the minister of the Gospel—is to bring these good tidings. III. The character in which he appears—"How beautiful," &c.; i.e., how welcome they should be to us!—John Cumming, D.D.: Occasional Discourses, vol. i. p. 336.

THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL

(Ordination Sermon.)

Isa . How beautiful upon the mountains, &c.

This exclamation would strike those who first read it more impressively than it strikes us. They would see the runner coming over the distant hills, bearing welcome news. They would hear the loud cry from the watchmen on the walls. They would see the people crowd to the gate to hear. The primary reference of the text is to the news of the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem, and of the restoration of the ruined city. But there is a secondary reference to gospel times. It is thus applied by the apostle (Rom ). We may thus apply it.

I. The ministry of the Gospel exists for the announcement of valuable intelligence. It brings good tidings. It is not a ministration of condemnation, but of salvation (2 Corinthians 3) It tells such things as these,

1. That satisfaction has been made for human sin. Man is sinful, guilty. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, has atoned for sin. Thus, in announcing this, the ministry of the gospel is "the ministry of reconciliation."

2. That on the ground of that atonement salvation may be obtained by all that desire it. The dark angel of sin and sorrow has not left the world. But there is pardon for the sinner, holiness for the depraved, comfort for the distressed, which will develop into heaven at last. It may be obtained by faith in Christ. The time when the gospel is preached is the tide of opportunity.

3. That thus the Divine dominion over man is re-asserted and re-established. "Thy God reigneth." He reigns through the bestowment of salvation. Jesus has been exalted to reign in His people's hearts, in the Church, in the world.

II. The ministry of the Gospel is a great and important office. The bearer of this intelligence, primarily referred to in our text, acquired importance both from his mission and his qualifications. He would require speed, interest in the message, fidelity. Thus the ministry is important. Remember,

1. The end at which it aims. The message, the sermon, is not the end but the means. It aims at the salvation of souls. Nothing less will content the true preacher than conversion, spiritual growth.

2. The means which it employs. The message itself. Attract attention to it by legitimate, not fantastic means. While the message cannot be changed, let it be presented in varied forms, to the young, to the aged, in public, in private.

3. The qualifications which it demands. Intelligent acquaintance with the message; a living personal interest in it; thoughtful carefulness as to the methods by which it may be made most interesting and acceptable; diligent and sedulous use of opportunities; earnest sympathy with Christ and immortal souls.

III. The ministry of the Gospel should be regarded with suitable respect and honour. The office, because of its nature; the man, on the supposition that he deserves it. The office cannot entitle the man to respect if he is not worthy of it. Qualification is the only title to office, and the only claim to respect in it. This being supposed, the prominent idea of the text is the man. This honour will comprise,

1. Welcome. The Galatians welcomed Paul. Jesus said, "Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear." Welcome the ministry of the word by regular and constant attendance; by candid and respectful hearing, as distinguished from indifference, and from unkindly criticism; and by a kindly reception at the home.

2. Love. Cherish affection to the minister for his work's sake. Let him see it in the manner which reveals and perpetuates kindness. Sometimes commend his work.

3. Maintenance (1 Corinthians 9; Gal ). Now what is maintenance? It is determined largely by position in society. If there is narrow-mindedness in relation to the minister's means of obtaining books, and unholding his influence in the locality where his lot is cast, the church suffers.

4. Co-operation. The primitive churches were active in many ministries. Every member of the church should do something for Christ. The work of extending the gospel is not the minister's business exclusively. The church should be a centre from which every one is working.

5. Prayer. This was the apostle's request (Eph ; 2Th 3:1).The work of the ministry is spiritual, and it requires spiritual influences. It needs the power of the Holy Ghost. Do you pray for it by praying for Him?

What is the practical effect of the preacher's work in those that receive the truth? Is it not that you bring forth fruits of holiness? See that such fruit is borne. Then you will in your turn proclaim the gospel to others, if not in words, by the influence of your lives (H. E. I. 2622, 2623).

But have you received the truth which has been heralded to you? Some of you are, perhaps, not yet saved. The preacher seeks your salvation. Oh, let this be his joy; not for his sake but for your own. Life is passing on. And the gospel alone can save.—J. Rawlinson.

I. A representation of a true minister of Christ. A messenger.

1. He receives his commission from God.

2. He is intrusted by Him.

3. He is qualified for his particular work.

II. The subject of his message. "Good tidings."

1. Peace.

2. Salvation from spiritual evil, and an introduction to spiritual good.

3. Dominion of Christ. He reigns in His providential and mediatorial kingdom.

III. The dispositions with which he is received.

1. With joy.

2. With admiration.

Improvement.

1. Gratitude for the gospel.

2. Attention to its tidings.

3. Obedience to its precepts.—J. Hordle.


Verse 9

COMFORT IN TROUBLE

Isa ; Isa 51:12, and Isa 52:9. For the Lord shall comfort Zion, &c.

The prophecy is addressed to those who are striving after the right kind of life and seeking Jehovah, and not turning from Him to make earthly things and themselves the object of their pursuits; for such only are in a condition by faith to regard that as possible, which seems impossible to human understanding, because the very opposite is lying before the eye of the senses (Delitzsch).

I. The people of God often stand in urgent need of Divine comfort. They not only have their full share of the sorrows which are common to humanity, but they have troubles to which the people of the world are strangers. Hence we are told that "many are the afflictions of the righteous," &c. The Saviour prepared His people for this: "In the world," &c., "Whosoever will be my disciple," &c The people of God have to fight every inch of their way to heaven: "These are they," &c. Their chief sorrows spring from sources unknown to and incomprehensible by the world. They are soul sorrows, having their origin in the vivid views which they have of the evil of sin, and of their own individual guilt in the sight of God, &c. Sometimes they fear that after all they shall never reach the celestial Canaan. Therefore they have the need of all the comfort which can be given them on the way to heaven. (See pp. 2, 4, 386; cf. Rom ; Gal 5:17; Gal 4:29; Rom 8:36; 2Co 4:8-14; 2Ti 3:12; Psa 88:18; Pro 17:1; Isa 38:14-15; 2Ti 4:10; 2Ti 4:16; Psa 51:5-8; 2Co 7:5.)

II. It is God's will that His people should to comforted amid all their tribulations. "See how God resolves to comfort His people: ‘I, even I, will do it.' He had ordered His ministers to do it (Isa ), but because they cannot reach the heart, He takes the work into His own hands. See how He glories in it; He takes it among the titles of His honour to be "the God that comforteth them that are cast down;" He delights in being so (M. Henry). Because He would have His people happy. His people should remember this, and cultivate the spirit of Christian cheerfulness, because,

1. Uncomfortable Christians often dishonour the Lord.

2. Uncomfortable Christians cannot be as diligent as they ought to be in the duties of religion. Working out their own salvation. Working for God in seeking to save others (Psa ; P. D. 450-453).

III. The bestowment of Divine comfort inspires them with grateful and exultant joy (Isa ; Isa 52:9). "Where there is joy and gladness to their satisfaction, it is fit there should be thanksgiving to God's honour; for whatever is the matter of their rejoicing, ought to be the matter of their thanksgiving, and the returns of God's favour ought to be celebrated with the voice of melody; which will be the more melodious when God gives songs in the night, songs in the desert" (M. Henry).

There may be elevated joy in the midst of deep affliction (Rom ; Php 3:1; Php 4:4, &c.) Eleven of the thirteen epistles of Paul begin with exclamations of praise and thanksgiving (2Co 1:3-4). Take to praising God under all circumstances, and thus you will lift your soul right out of your sorrow, and taste the pleasures of immortality. "In everything give thanks." Let this be your constant occupation. He well deserves our warmest praise.

CONCLUSION:

1. The duty and privilege of believers to seek Divine comfort. God has given us express assurances that it is His purpose that His people should have ample and unceasing comfort amid all their sorrows and sufferings (Isa ; Isa 51:3; Isa 51:12; Php 3:1; Php 4:4). Most ungracious on our part not readily and gladly to receive the comfort so provided. To refuse to be comforted, is to be guilty of a frustration of the merciful purposes of God towards us.

2. The duty and privilege of comforted believers to comfort others. God comforts you, that you may comfort others—that He may use you as comforters. Experimental knowledge helps us to speak with authority and power—fits us to be able and ready comforters. What we have received we must give (2Co ).—Alfred Tucker.

God will give His people, I. Consolation. II. Fruitfulness. III. Gladness—J. E. Page.

PARADISE RESTORED

Isa . For the Lord shall comfort Zion, &c.

The Church is a garden planted by the Lord, luxuriant in beauty and fruitfulness, and filled with happy occupants. The promise is as yet only in process of fulfilment; and that we may look more clearly into the future, we are called to look into the past. Eden was the garden of the Lord, the primeval paradise, the place of consummate beauty and happiness, ere sin had blighted its joys and stained its purity. To make Zion like Eden is to bring back the vanished glories of that happy place. To the extent that this is accomplished, the Church is—

I. A PLACE OF DIVINE COMFORT AND FELLOWSHIP. No sooner do we press in by faith, through Christ, the door, than we enjoy the comforts of Divine love, and are admitted to heavenly fellowships (Heb ). Did Adam hear the voice of the Lord God? Here the intercourse is renewed. Life conducts through an Eden radiant with the Divine presence. What a change since the day when the Lord drove forth the man from Eden! That door has been again unbarred, and Christ has secured for us a welcome into a fairer paradise than that then was lost. The Church is "a habitation of God." Enter, then, and you will enjoy this rich comfort and lofty fellowship. So long as you stand outside, you cannot know the beauties of the garden; you cannot survey its landscapes, nor breathe its perfumes. God has not disowned and forsaken this fallen world: it is not, as we might have expected, desolated by His wrath: we can still find an Eden in it—a garden of God's presence and favour.

II. A PLACE OF HELPFUL SOCIAL LIFE. Such was the life of the first pair, and such would have been the life of their children, but for the entrance of sin. Alas, how that fact has altered the course of human history! What jarring discords in our domestic and social life! But if the Church is to be as Eden, human society will be regenerated: the love, peace, and helpful companionship that were found in the garden of the Lord will be restored, when this promise is accomplished to the full. The Church will yet leaven society with her principles of brotherly love and mutual help. The world around is like a wilderness, where the wild plants of nature grow in rank profusion. But God has engaged to reclaim Zion's waste places. This garden is ever extending its walls, and will do so till the whole earth becomes an Eden.

III. A PLACE OF JOY. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein." No jarring strife shall mar its harmony: love to God and to each other shall reign among the happy inmates of the restored Paradise. We naturally think of a garden as a place of joy. Surrounded by all that is fair and peaceful, the mind depressed by trial is relieved by the cheerful notes of the birds, the luxuriance of the foliage, and the forms and hues of the flowers. The Church of Christ is such a garden, in which we taste joys unknown by the world. "The fruit of the Spirit is joy,"—the joy of sin forgiven and heaven secured,—the joy of communion with Christ, and assurance of His love—the joy of mutual endearment and mutual service. What joy can surpass that which is the heritage of all who dwell within this happy inclosure?

IV. A SCENE OF WORSHIP. There shall be found therein "thanksgiving and the voice of melody." What a delightful exercise is that of praise! What a happy garden, ever jubilant with sacred song!

These, then, are the features of this garden of the Church. Not on earth can we behold them in all their perfection. The earthly paradise, reopened to us by Christ, will soon become the heavenly paradise (Rev ; Rev 22:1-2). May we all at last become inmates of the Eden above, the paradise of beauty and splendour, the abode of love and joy and worship unending!—William Guthrie, M.A.


Verse 10

THE GREAT REVIVAL

Isa . The Lord hath made bare His holy arm, &c.

I. THE CAUSE OF A TRUE REVIVAL. The mere worldly man does not understand a revival, he cannot make it out. Why is it, that a sudden fit of godliness, as he would call it, a kind of sacred epidemic, should seize upon a mass of people all at once? It frequently occurs in the absence of all great evangelists; it cannot be traced to any particular means. There have been no special agencies used in order to bring it about, and yet it has come, just like a heavenly hurricane sweeping everything before it. What then is the cause? It is caused by the Holy Spirit alone. The day of Pentecost. Do not imagine when you hear of a sermon being made useful, that it was the sermon itself that did the work. But while this is the only actual cause, yet there are instrumental causes; and the main instrumental cause of a great revival must be bold, faithful, fearless preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus. But, added to this, there must be the earnest prayers of the Church. All in vain the most indefatigable ministry, unless the Church waters the seed sown with her abundant tears. Every revival has been commenced and attended by a large amount of prayer.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF A REVIVAL OF RELIGION.

1. Everything that our hearts could desire for the Church. The minister begins to be warmed. Directly after that, the revival begins to touch the people at large. A prayer meeting is summoned. The members of the Church grow solemn, more serious; family duties are better attended to, &c. And then comes the great result. There is an inquirers' meeting held; the good brother who presides over it is astonished, he never saw so many coming in his life before.

2. The revival of the Church then touches the rest of society. Men, who do not come forward and profess religion, are more punctual in attending the means of grace. Men that used to swear give it up, &c.

III. SOME CAUTIONS.

1. If in any revival you see any strange contortions of the body, &c., always distinguish between things that differ. The Holy Spirit's work is with the mind, not with the body.

2. Always distinguish between man and man in the work of revival. While during a revival of religion a very large number of people will be really converted, there will be a very considerable portion who will be merely excited with animal excitement, and whose conversion will not be genuine. Always expect that, and do not be surprised if you see it.

3. Do not relax the bonds of discipline.

CONCLUSION.—Stir you up to seek of God a great revival of religion throughout the length and breadth of this land. There are some of you who stand in the way—you are not consistent in your living; others that stand in the way of all progress; others are such sticklers for order, so given to everything that has been, that you do not care for any revival for fear we should hurt you. You who love Jesus with all your heart, and want to promote it, remember that men are dying around you by thousands. Did Christ give His whole life for their salvation, and will not you stir up your life to wrestle with God that His purpose may be accomplished on their behalf? As for you that fear not God, see how much ado we are making about you. Your souls are worth more than you think. Oh that you would believe in Christ to the salvation of your souls!—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 185.

THE SALVATION OF GOD UNIVERSALLY SEEN

(Missionary Sermon.)

Isa . And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

I. THE SALVATION WHICH IS TO BE REVEALED TO MANKIND.

1. Its nature: "the salvation of God." There is no doubt a primary reference to the delivery of the Jews from captivity; but its main and ultimate reference is to the salvation of men by Christ, for in the verses which immediately follow our text, as also in the next chapter, we have a picture of the humiliation of the Saviour, and of its effects on mankind (see also Luk ). It is salvation from the curse of a violated law, and from the bondage of sin; and it comprehends admission into heaven at death, the resurrection of the body in glory, and its reunion with the spirit for ever. Such being the nature and vastness of this salvation, it surpasses the limits of human or angelic agency. It is necessarily the salvation of God.—Contemplate, then,

2. Its divinity. It is the product of His infinite wisdom, His almighty power, His unchanging faithfulness, His boundless love.

II. ITS UNIVERSAL MANIFESTATION.

1. It was seen by "all the ends of the earth," in the ministry and triumphs of the early ages. Whilst the comparative cessation of its early triumphs may be traced to the faithlessness of the Church, we may be assured that they have never been extinct. Throughout the darkest periods of the Church there were some who preached the good tidings. In every age the salvation of God has been seen, and its victories have probably been achieved to a far greater extent than has been known or recorded.

2. In the future the prediction of our text shall be yet more gloriously fulfilled.

(1.) The Gospel shall be preached in every land.

(2.) The salvation thus exhibited shall be everywhere triumphant. The reign of superstition and sin shall be brought to an end (H. E. I. 979, 1161-1168).

1. How much we owe to our Saviour for the provision of this salvation!

2. Ought it not to be our earnest desire to see this salvation for ourselves?

3. Ought we not to rejoice in prospect of the period when the prediction of our text shall be fulfilled?

4. Let us labour to accelerate the arrival of this period.—John Johnson, M.A.: Sermons, vol. i. pp. 389-418.


Verse 11

A DIVINE CALL TO FORSAKE THE WORLDLY LIFE

Isa . Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, &c.

The prophet directly addresses those who were in exile in Babylon, and commands them to "depart" from it, when the opportunity, divinely promised, should occur. The urgency of the command, as indicated by its repetition, implies that there would be some delay on their part. Notwithstanding their early privations and sorrows, many of them seemed to prefer residence there, and were strongly indisposed to return. They knew the land of their fathers only by report. It was distant, involving a long and perilous journey across a pathless desert. Babylon was their native place, as well as their home, and the graves of their parents and kindred were there. Some of them had been advanced to official and illustrious positions, and many had property and friends there. Probably many of them had formed improper connections and attachments in that distant land, and they would be unwilling to relinquish them, to encounter the perils and trials incident to a return to the land of their fathers. Hence, the most urgent commands were addressed to them, and the strongest motives presented to induce them to leave the country of their exile. And after all, it is evident that but comparatively few of them were prevailed on to return to Zion. Apply this generally.

I. God calls men to forsake the worldly life. "Depart ye, … go ye out of the midst of her," &c. Many who attend our sanctuaries are "men of the world"—careless and indifferent about the claims of God and their immortal souls. Hardened by sin, and overcome by the world, they are deaf to entreaty and disobedient to warning, &c. The great majority of our fellow-countrymen "love the world and the things of the world"—manifest a stolid indifference to spiritual religion. This is the most painful aspect of our times. But God's call to men is—

1. Urgent.

2. Repeated.

3. Disinterested.

II. Men are reluctant to obey this Divine call. See introduction. Through love of the world they are prejudiced against spiritual religion. This reluctance springs from many causes.

1. Unbelief leads them to disregard all such calls. "The Jews might doubt the power of God, the sincerity of the proclamation, and the benefits of returning to Jerusalem." To indolent and wicked men the commands of God seem unreasonable, the calls to duty prejudicial to selfish interests. Others may go to the celestial city, but they remain in the city of destruction.

2. "Continuance in sin obliterates remembrance of spiritual good. The Jews forgot their own land, and preferred the wealth of Babylon to Jerusalem, their chief joy. Worldly men are concerned for nothing beyond present enjoyments."

3. "Present possessions are thought more certain than future good. The present world to them is real Power, position, and riches are seen and felt. But they disbelieve in future blessings." They walk by "sight," and for the sake of seen advantages, honours, and pleasures, they pursue courses of folly, sin, and shame, regardless of the consequences.

III. Sufficient motives to comply with this Divine call are presented to men. "God deals with them as reasonable and intelligent creatures. He does not constrain or force men out of the world."

1. "Though God has punished, yet He loves men." The Jews had been dispersed far and wide; they had been punished with violence; yet God recalled them, and had mercy on them. God hates your sin, but loves you; and though He punishes your sin, still He loves you. His love to you is manifested in manifold ways.

2. "Though men have disobeyed the call, they are not forsaken." God had called the Jews again and again, and though they had been ungrateful and disobedient, still God invites them tenderly and urgently. How often has God called you! How ungrateful and disobedient have you been! Still God invites you! But His longsuffering will have an end. Beware! Hear and obey!

3. "Though invitations are given to men, yet disobedience will endanger their souls" (Isa ; Luk 12:47; 2Th 1:7-9; 1Pe 4:17). The danger is,

1. Real.

2. Imminent, Therefore (Gen ; Jer 51:45).—Alfred Tucker.

This is a direct address to the exiled Jews in their captivity. They were to separate themselves wholly from an idolatrous nation and keep themselves pure. The command pertains particularly to the priests and Levites, whose office it was to carry the vessels of the Lord (Num ; Num 4:15). They were required to feel the importance of their office, and to be separate from all evil. But all Christians are spiritual priests (1Pe 2:9; Rev 1:5). "They are to bear the vessels of the Lord, are intrusted to keep the ordinances of God pure and entire; it is a good thing committed to them, and they ought to be clean, and so carry God's vessels, and keep themselves pure."—M. Henry.

I. God's people will have to do with the world as long as they are in it. The separation enjoined does not refer to civil affairs—buying, selling, &c., neither to existing relationships, &c. While in the world, the godly must live, &c.; and they are commanded not to be "slothful in business," &c. They are compelled to have intercourse with those whose ungodly deeds are grievous to them, like Lot (2Pe ). The believing wife must not leave her husband, &c. (H. E. I. 1035-1041, 5026-5043).

II. God's people should regard the world as the sphere of their influence and usefulness.—They are to be blessings to the world. They are its instructors, examples, ornaments, bulwarks, &c. Hence they must live and labour among worldly people, that they may be their benefactors, &c., and the instruments of their salvation. They are to shine in the world—to reprove its sinfulness by their holiness—to attract it by the beauty of their lives, &c.

1. The world is Satan's kingdom, and sinners are his subjects (2Co ; Eph 2:2; Joh 14:30). Saints must not needlessly associate with sinners, but show that Christ is their Master. "What concord (harmony) hath Christ with Belial?" None. "So is there none betwixt those who are Christ's disciples and Satan's servants. Discord arises from their fellowship, which is so painful that the believer is often tempted to lower his note in order to produce apparent harmony."

2. The world is spiritually dark (Joh ; Eph 5:8; Eph 5:11). "What communion hath light with darkness?" None. "If there be communion betwixt light and darkness, it is to the detriment of the light. How has the brightness of many a Christian life been dimmed by intimacy with the ungodly."

3. The world is unbelieving (Num ). Worldly men trust in themselves and despise Christ. Sometimes their unbelief assumes the form of scepticism, which is not the result of careful inquiry, &c., but the slow result of indifference and prejudice, &c. (H. E. I. 369). "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"

4. The world is idolatrous. They worship their pleasures, possessions, honours, &c. (Col ; 1Jn 5:2). "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" Wherefore, come "ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean," &c. The separation is not to be comprised in a single act, but must be the habit of the life. It must be a complete withdrawal from all that is inimical to our spiritual interests, and contrary to the will of God.

IV. God's people have many motives urging them to this course of conduct.

1. The requirement of God (2Co ; Rom 12:2, &c.) Remember who it is that speaks. His eye is full upon you. What will you answer Him?

2. The grand object and aim of the Gospel economy (Gal , &c.)

3. The nature of their profession. The vows of God are upon them; their baptismal engagements bind them to "renounce," &c.

4. The glory of God and the interest of His cause. How can we glorify God fully without entire separation from the world? Does not the worldliness of many professing Christians mar and sully the cause and honour of our Redeemer?

V. God's people will realise the most blessed results from such a separation.

1. Deliverance from the terrible consequences of worldliness. Many have been ruined by it, as Sampson, Lot, Solomon, Demas, &c. (1Co ). Worldliness separates us from fellowship with God, and finally plunges us into perdition.

2. The abiding presence of God (2Co ; Col 3:16; 2Ti 1:14).

3. An interest in God and all that He has promised. "I will be their God"—that is, everything that heart can desire (2Co ).

4. Ever-increasing usefulness. "Other things being equal, you will be useful in proportion as you are holy." (H. E. I. 1089-1095.)

5. A more glorious reward in the world to come (P. D. 722, 1752).—Alfred Tucker.

For introductory material, see other outlines on this text.

A summons to a very important duty, which, if more generally regarded, would greatly tend to the purity and prosperity of the Church, &c. One of the greatest evils of our times, with which the Church has to struggle, is conformity to the world, &c. "From worldliness, that mildew of churches, good Lord, deliver us."

I. There is great danger lest we should damage our Christian life by conformity to the lower life of the world around. Such conformity may be—

1. Involuntary. "We have simply to cease to resist the current, and we shall drift with it. Left to themselves, things tend to equilibrium and assimilation."

2. Unconscious, because so slow and gradual. "As the ship is moved by the tide without the motion being perceived, as old age creeps on a man before he is aware of it; so silently and stealthily the spirit of the world infuses itself into the unwatchful Christian."

II. Our security against this danger lies in spiritual separation from it (H. E. I. 5026-5061).

1. "It is vain to flee from the world, for we may carry the world in our hearts to the wilderness; and it is wrong, for we have a distinct mission to the world, and in fulfilling this mission must learn how to use the things of the world without abusing them." If you would overcome the world, be assured that you must remain in it, but not be of it; you must not shrink from its responsibilities to avoid its perils. You must stand where God in His providence has placed you—humble in prosperity, trustful in adversity, Christian in all.

2. "It is equally vain simply to oppose the world. Unless we are ourselves different in spirit from the world, the opposition will be a futile hypocrisy."

III. We are commanded thus to separate ourselves from the world. "Go ye out of the midst of her" (2Co ; Rom 12:2, &c.)

1. The Divine command implies urgency. (See previous outline.)

2. The Divine command implies strenuous effort. (See vol. i. p. 37.)

3. The necessity for such a command is obvious when we consider—

(1.) The constant presence of the world.

(2.) The ties which bind us to the world.

(3.) The tendency of the human heart.

IV. There are many motives which concur in urging obedience to this command.

1. The will of our Heavenly Father (1Th ). He requires our "sanctification"—separation from all sin, &c.

2. The example and mission of Christ. "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." In all His transactions, in all His intercourse with others, He preserved Himself unspotted (1Jn ). "He has left us an example," &c. The design of Christ in dying for us—the one great moral result for which He "gave Himself for us," was that He might rescue us—select and separate us—"from this present evil world"—the system or course of the present age, as impregnated with spiritual evil, &c. (Gal 1:4, &c.) The grand moral result contemplated was our deliverance from worldliness.

3. The principles you profess.

4. The duty you owe to the Church and to the world. By nonconformity to the world you strengthen the cause of truth and righteousness, cause the friends of Zion to rejoice, and manifest to the world the sincerity of your profession, &c.

5. The duty you owe to yourself. Self-love prohibits conformity to the world, for thereby you take the most direct steps to plunge yourself into that condemnation which will be the portion of the ungodly. But by obedience to this injunction you promote your own holiness, happiness, usefulness, &c.

CONCLUSION.—Is your separation from the world boldly and clearly defined? If not, in so far as you are concerned, Christ has died in vain. "Come out from the world"! "Go ye out of the midst of her"! Yield yourself to Jesus, that He may accomplish this great work in you. Give Him your heart and He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness in heart and habits and life. Let not the charge of singularity frighten you from duty. Let your nonconformity to the world be manifest and thorough.—Alfred Tucker.

HOLINESS

Isa . Touch no unclean thing, &c.

The great Head of the Church speaks to His people now, in the voice of His word and by the voice of His providence, as He has scarcely ever spoken before. And for good reasons. The world is perishing all around us. The Church in many places is asleep in its worldliness, fashions, and follies, &c. But the fields around us are whitening to the harvest. The doors are opening on every hand, under the providence of God. We have no confidence in the permanent success of any reformatory movements, unless they are under the leadership and influence of a living Christianity and a living Church (Psalms 51; Isaiah 6) It was only when the coronals of fire were on the brow of the early Church that every one of its members became a living witness, testifying of "Jesus and the resurrection."

I. Holiness furnishes both the disposition and desire to work for the Lord. We cannot be co-workers with God, unless we are one in sympathy, spirit, and purpose with Him. Just in proportion as the spirit of holiness sways the soul will be this disposition and this purpose. The very first entrance of the renewing Spirit into the soul of the believer begets this desire and purpose; and how much more will they control and impel it when He has taken full possession of all its powers! The believer will be willing to do anything for Jesus when he has consecrated all to Him. Sacrifices will be regarded as nothing for the sake of Him who sacrificed all for us.

II. The spirit of holiness also furnishes the help needed for such work. Nothing but this will bear the soul along for weeks, months, and years in this work. There are difficulties, discouragements, and sometimes fearful obstructions in the way of those who undertake these services. No one, unaided by Divine grace, would enter upon such a work, and if he did he would speedily abandon it in either disgust or despair. But the same Spirit who gives the disposition and desire to work for God, also gives the help to do that work (2Co ). This is heroic; it is sublime. And it is this endowment of power, the power which holiness brings with it to the soul, which the Church, in its ministry and membership, now needs to fit it for its high and holy mission (H. E. I. 2827).

III. Holiness furnishes the very best and the only absolutely necessary qualifications for this work. We do not refer so much to intellectual qualifications; they are to be secured in other ways. But holiness will clarify the intellect, enlarge the heart, and tip and touch the tongue with an unaccountable eloquence, far beyond any natural gifts which the witness for Christ may possess. This is the one indispensable requisite for this work. Learning is, indeed, exceedingly desirable; but all may be possessed, while the one who has it is unfitted for the Master's service, and powerless for the salvation of immortal beings. If he have this power, this grace, however rude he may be in speech, or inelegant in manners, or unacquainted with the mighty tomes which contain the facts of science or the lore of the ages, however unheralded he may be by name or fame, he will work wonders in the name of the Lord. The instances are multiplied, &c. Certainly, the more holy any one is, the more closely he will endeavour to imitate his Master and Lord, who "went about doing good." Oh, it is not a negative holiness which the world wants, but a positive, earnest, self-sacrificing, all consuming holiness, which will expend itself in labours for the good of others (2Co ). If any one should think that he has attained to holiness, or profess to enjoy this grace, and has not this disposition or desire to work for Jesus, it is clearly evident that he is deceived, and all his professions are worse than vain.

We have now everything else. In a measure we have this. But we have it not in the degree of fulness and power which is needed to enable us to meet our vast responsibilities and move our ponderous machinery. And this is what is needed to meet the wants of the great beating, surging heart of the world. This is to be its great centre of attraction. All else will be of no avail (H. E. I. 2813-2866).

I. Holiness is wanted in the ministry. The priests of Zion, to be efficient, must be "clothed with righteousness as with a garment." They must be anointed and endowed with the "spirit of holiness." It was for them primarily that the Saviour prayed in His intercessory prayer: "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth." There is nothing ministers need so much as holiness. How great is the need, even now, that the entire ministry of the Church should be clad in the shining vestments of holiness! What a spirit of consecration would they then exhibit! What zeal, what self-sacrifice, what sympathy, what power would they possess! It is true that this might create some opposition from worldly-minded, formal, or backslidden professors of religion; but this would not hinder the progress of the work of God. Such a mighty momentum would be given to the cause of the Redeemer, that all barriers would sooner or later be swept out of the way, and the Gospel would not only "run," but it would be "glorified." And what an impulse would this give to our missionary work!

II. Holiness is wanted in the Church. The history of the Church clearly demonstrates the fact that, as spiritual vitality and power have declined, there has been an effort to substitute for them external forms and multiplied machinery. And generally, where there has been the least of these spiritual elements, there has been the greatest amount of the material. Now the same absurd tendencies are developing themselves. Much is said nowadays about the barrenness of Protestant worship; it is the barrenest thing in the world, without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Romanism, the Greek Church, and the High Church of England and America, have a something which seems in a measure to compensate them for their loss or lack of spiritual vitality. As they have not "the beauty of the Lord upon them," they have invented a sort of beauty which attracts the eye and ravishes the senses. As they have ceased to be spiritual, they have become simply sensuous. But Protestantism has really provided for nothing of this kind. Without holiness, our churches are nothing but a shell. But where this is, there "the tabernacle of God is with men" (Isa ). And this is all the glory and defence which we need. There must be a return to vital godliness, with all its blessed and heavenly influences, speedily, or else there will follow on rapidly decline, decay, and death.

III. It is holiness which is wanted to bring in the glories of the millennial era, and which will be universal in that era. The ministry and the Church thus consecrated, bearing on every forehead and every breast, on every heart and every life, "Holiness unto the Lord," would soon bring in the brightest glories foretold on the glowing pages of Isaiah (H. E. I. 1089-1093, 1169).—Lewis R. Dunn, pp. 109-117.


Verse 12

THE VANGUARD AND REREWARD OF THE CHURCH

Isa . For ye shall not go out with haste, &c.

God's salvation is a great salvation, because of its Divine origin, and because of the original dignity of man. It is not a rescue simply, but a deliverance; not an escape, but a victory; sin is not eluded, but destroyed. This has been the grand characteristic of all God's deliverances.

I. THE ESSENTIALLY SYMBOLIC CHARACTER OF THE CAPTIVITIES AND DELIVERANCES OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE.

The history of Israel is the Divine key to the history of man. The Egyptian bondage has the broadest meaning. Of Christ, of you, of each one, the words are true: "Out of Egypt have I called my son." There were two great captivities of Israel; they were born in one; the other they earned by sin. These represent our natural bondage, and the self-earned serfdom of the soul. Therefore also two deliverances. There is one Deliverer, and one deliverance from both captivities. In each case the method of His deliverance was the same,—a glorious manifestation of the might of the redeeming arm of God. At first sight, there is a contrast as well as a likeness. One might feel inclined to say that the Exodus was a flight. This contrast was, no doubt, before Isaiah's mind (Deu ; Exo 12:31-39). From Babylon they went forth in orderly array, with the king's good-will, and by his royal command (Ezra 1) But under the surface the grand features are identical; in neither case did they steal away; they obeyed Jehovah's will; the angel of His presence guided them, and His judgments were on all who sought to resist their departure. Here it was that Isaiah saw and asserted the likeness, "Jehovah shall go before you," &c. (Exo 13:21-22; Exo 14:19-20).

II. THE GREAT DELIVERANCE WHICH IS FREELY OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL.

1. The reason of our protracted discipline. God will not have us "go out with haste, nor go forth by flight." Many Christians can look back to some period, and say, "Would God that I had then been taken home!" Others in the hour of trial say, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." Not by the short, straight way, but by the long, weary, desert path, God led His pilgrims; a band of trained veterans, they entered at length into Canaan. It is this experience which, at sore cost of pain, God is laying up within us; this patient waiting is a store of power and wisdom, the worth of which will only be manifested as we press the borders of Canaan.

2. "The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rereward." The Lord has gone before us; it is this which makes our progress a triumph; it is in Him we find the way to the conqueror's rest.

(1.) He has gone before us in bearing to the uttermost the penalty of sin.

(2.) He has gone before us in breaking the power of evil (Joh ; Joh 16:33). You have but to strive with a beaten foeman.

(3.) He has gone before us in the way of the wilderness, through life's protracted discipline, to glory (Heb ). Sorrow is transfigured by the resurrection and glorification of Christ; and He has gone "to prepare a place for you."

"And the God of Israel shall be your rereward;" He shall gather up the stragglers of the host (Isa ); the weak ones shall not be downtrodden, nor the halting left hopelessly in the rear (chaps. Isa 41:10; Isa 43:1-7). The cause is God's, the power His, and His shall be the glory of the everlasting victory.—J. Baldwin Brown, B.A.: Sermons, pp. 419-427.

The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the Gospel. Nevertheless, the Church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the Church militant, the Church armed, warring, conquering. It is in the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. It is but a rule of nature that holiness must be at enmity with sin. And every child of God proveth by experience that this is the land of war. Now, how comforting is this text to the believer who recognises himself as a soldier, and the whole Church as an army!

I. The whole Church of God may trust in this great twofold promise.

1. Jehovah will go before you. Has He not gone before His Church in act and deed? Perilous has been the journey of the Church from the day when first it left Paradise even until now. I see the Church going out from Ur of the Chaldees; afterwards going down to the land of the cruel Pharaohs. But now the Church has to come up out of Egypt, and God goes before her still. But why need I go through all the pages of the history of the Church of God in the days of the old dispensation? Hath it not been true from the days of John the Baptist until now? If you read the history of the Church, you will be compelled to confess that whenever she went forward she could discern the footsteps of Jehovah leading the way.

2. "The God of Israel will be your rereward." The original Hebrew is, "God of Israel shall gather you up." Armies in the time of war diminish by reason of stragglers, some of whom desert, and others of whom are overcome by fatigue; but the army of God is gathered up; none desert from it if they be real soldiers of the cross, and none drop down upon the road. The Church of Christ has been frequently attacked in the rear. It often happens that the enemy, tired of opposing the onward march by open persecution, attempt to malign the Church concerning something that has either been taught, or revealed, or done in past ages. Now the God of Israel is our rereward. I am never at trouble about the attacks of infidels or heretics, however vigorously they may assault the doctrines of the Gospel. If they must attack the rear, let them fight with Jehovah Himself. Perhaps the later trials of the Church may represent the rereward. It always has been so with the Church—a time of prosperity and then a period of persecution. Can you now conceive the last great day when Jehovah the rereward will gather up His people?

II. The individual believer should lay hold upon this great twofold promise. We are now come to the last Sabbath of the year. Two troubles present themselves, the future and the past. We shall soon launch into another year, and hitherto we have found our years years of trouble, &c. Perhaps we are trembling to go forward. Foreseeing trouble, we know not how we shall be able to endure to the end, &c. Let this sweet morsel now cheer you. The Lord Jehovah will go before you. He has gone before you already. Your future path has all been marked out,—

1. In the great decrees of His predestination. Remember, you are not a child of chance. If you were, you might indeed fear.

2. In the actual preparations of His providence. God always makes a providence beforehand, ready for His people when they get to the place. We do not know how the future lies in the bowels of the past, and how what is to be is the child of that which is. As all men spring from their progenitors, so the providence of to-day springs from the providence of a hundred years past. The events of next year have been forestalled by God in what He has done this year and years before. I am certain of this, that on the road I am to travel during the next year, everything is ready for me. You are not going through a land that God has not prepared for you.

3. In the experience of Christ. As to our future troubles for next year, and the remnant of our days, Jesus Christ has borne them all before. He has conquered every foe.

Now I hear one say, "The future seldom troubles me; it is the past—what I have done and what I have not done; how I have sinned, and how I have not served my Master as I ought, &c. Oh! it is the rereward that is most unsafe. I dread most the sins of the past." "The God of Israel shall be your rereward." Notice the different titles. The first is "The Lord," or properly, JEHOVAH—JEHOVAH will go before you. That is the I AM, full of omniscience and omnipotence. The second title is "the God of Israel," that is to say, the God of the Covenant. We want the God of the Covenant behind, because it is not in the capacity of the I AM, the Omnipotent, that we require Him to pardon sin, to accept our person, to blot out the past, and to remove iniquity by the blood of Christ. Now let me always think that I have God behind me as well as before me, let not the memories of the past, though they cause me grief, cause me despair.

CONCLUSION.—Are there any here to-day whose hearts God hath touched, who desire to join this great army? The past shall all be blotted out; God shall be thy rereward. And as for the future, thou chief of sinners, if now thou enlistest into the army of Christ by faith, thou shalt find the future shall be strewn with the gold of God's grace, and the silver of His temporal mercies; thou shalt have enough and to spare from this day forth even to the end, and at the last thou shalt be gathered in by the great arms of God, that constitute the rear-guard of His heavenly army.—C. H. Spurgeon: The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 230.


Verses 13-15

THE PREDICTED CHARACTER AND TRIUMPH OF CHRIST

Isa . Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, &c.

Our text is a distinct subject from that discussed in the previous parts of the chapter, and evidently ought to have formed a part of chapter 53. It is most clearly a prophecy concerning the Messiah. It relates both to His official character, sufferings, exaltation, and conquests; and, as such, is replete with deeply interesting matter for our profitable meditation.

I. THE OFFICE OF CHRIST. God's servant. "My servant" (Isa ). Christ, in His mediatorial character, was God's servant, while in His essential glory He was God blessed for evermore (see pp. 80-92). Hearken to His own declarations (Mat 20:28; Joh 9:4; Joh 5:30). His feeling at the beginning of life (Luk 2:49). His declarations at its end (Joh 17:4). He ever recognised Himself as God's servant.

Observe how he discharged the office of servant.

(1.) His fidelity. He was faithful in all things—never omitted one of the requirements of His Father; did all His will, and that perfectly.

(2.) His zeal. His Father's honour and glory ever melted His ardent soul. This feeling consumed His sacred spirit. How it burst forth in the Temple (Joh ).

(3.) His perseverance. He held on His course with undeviating constancy; never turned aside; was faithful unto death.

(4.) The text refers to His prudence. The word in the margin is "prosper," But our translation would lead us to view one striking feature in His office—the wisdom which distinguished His course. This shone forth as the light of the sun at noonday. In His discourses to His disciples, in His replies to His enemies, "never man spake like this man." ever could His foe entangle Him, &c. Infallibility marked all He said and did.

II. HIS SUFFERINGS. "As many were astonished." A stonishing—that a personage so illustrious should be so abased (Psa ; Isa 53:3-4). How bitterly was He calumniated! How maliciously He was persecuted!

III. HIS EXALTATION. "He shall be exalted," &c. Christ was exalted,

1. In His resurrection from the dead.

2. By His elevation to the right hand of the throne of God.

IV. HIS GLORIFICATION. "He shall be extolled." That is, praised, His character celebrated, &c. Angels extolled Him as their Lord, heralded Him back again to His kingdom and glory (Psa ). John heard all the celestial hosts of heaven extolling Him in their anthems of praise (Rev 5:11-14). His ministering servants and people extol Him on earth. He shall be extolled by His redeemed saints for ever.

V. HIS GRACIOUS CONQUESTS.

1. "He shall sprinkle," &c. He does so,

(1.) By His doctrines. His blessed word falls as the rain, distils as the dew, &c.

(2.) By His blood. When these doctrines are received, then man partakes of the merits of His death, and the cleansing virtues of His blood. The blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling.

(3.) By His spiritual blessings. The outpouring of His Holy Spirit, and the rich communications of His mercy and love.

2. He shall silence the opposition of kings. These shall oppose the Gospel, and employ worldly power and authority against it. But He shall overturn, &c. (Psa ; Psa 72:10).

3. His achievements shall be unprecedented and wonderful. Two things shall particularly astonish.

(1.) The simplicity of His means. Not by carnal weapons, not by human power, not by armies, &c., nor by science, but by the word of grace, and the messengers of salvation (1Co ).

(2.) The completeness of the results. Effective, deep, and universal changes. Men renovated—society altered. Ignorance banished—crime annihilated—misery extinguished. Purity, joy, and bliss diffused. The days of heaven upon earth.

APPLICATION.

1. Are we the friends or enemies of the Saviour? Do we despise, reject, deride, reproach, &c., or do we hail, receive, and delight in Him? All men act now as His friends or foes.

2. Has He sprinkled your hearts with the blessings of His grace—His word—His blood—Spirit?

3. Are you aiding Christ in His triumphal career? Accelerating the conversion of the world? The soldiers of His cross?

4. What bright visions are yet to distinguish the cause of the Saviour! "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," &c.—The Pulpit Encyclopœdia: vol. i. pp. 156-160.

I. The work of. Christ on earth, as this prophecy presents it.

1. He is called the "Servant of the Lord."

2. He is a servant "dealing prudently."

3. Yet was His visage marred more than any man.

II. The glory of Christ upon His mediatorial throne.

1. He shall be exalted. This relates to His authority and power.

2. He shall be extolled.

3. He shall be very high (Php ).

III. The works of mercy which the Saviour is accomplishing in His exalted state.

1. He sets forth His Gospel according to His promise.

2. He shall sprinkle many nations. This denotes the priestly office of Christ. The kings shall shut their mouths at Him, &c.—J. Stratten: The Pulpit, vol. iii. pp. 117-124.

Modern Jewish writers refuse to see the Messiah in this passage, but their predecessors were not so blind. The Targum and the ancient Rabbins interpreted it of the Messiah, and indeed all attempts to explain it apart from Him are palpable failures. Christian commentators in all ages have seen the Lord Jesus here.

I. THE CHARACTER OF OUR LORD'S DEALINGS. He is called in the text, "My servant," a title as honourable as it is condescending. Jesus has deigned to become the great servant of God under the present economy; He conducts the affairs of the household of God, and it is said that He deals prudently. He who took upon Him the form of a servant acts as a wise servant in everything. This prudence was manifest in the days of His flesh, from His childhood among the doctors in the Temple on to His confession before Pontius Pilate. Our Lord was enthusiastic (Joh ); but that enthusiasm never carried Him into rashness; He was as wise and prudent as the most cool-hearted calculator could have been. He was full of love, and that love made Him frank and open-hearted; but for all that He "committed Himself unto no man, for He knew what was in man." Too many who aspire to be leaders of the people study policy, craft, and diplomacy. The Friend of sinners had not a fraction of that thing about Him; and yet you see His wisdom when He baffles His adversaries; and when He deals with His friends (Joh 16:12).

He who on earth became obedient unto death has now gone into His glory, but He is still over the house of God, conducting its affairs. He deals prudently still. Our fears lead us to judge that the affairs of Christ's kingdom are going amiss, but we may rest assured that all is well. He has ultimate designs which are not apparent upon the surface, and these He never fails to accomplish.

Another translation of the passage is, "my servant shall have prosperous success." Let us append that meaning to the other. Prosperity will grow out of our Lord's prudent dealings. The pleasure of the Lord prospers in the hands of Jesus. The Gospel will prosper in the thing whereto God has sent it. All along the line the Captain of our salvation will be victorious, and in every point and detail of the entire business the will of the Lord shall be done, and all heaven and earth shall be filled with praise as they see that it is so.

In consequence of this, the Lord shall be exalted and extolled. How well He deserves to be exalted and extolled for His matchless prudence! The plans which the Lord has adopted are surely working out the growth of His kingdom, and will certainly result in bringing to the front His name, and person, and teaching. The star of Jesus rises higher every hour. He was despised and rejected of men, but now tens of thousands adore Him; and to Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

II. THE STUMBLING-BLOCK IN THE WAY OF OUR LORD. It is His cross, which to Jew and Greek is ever a hindrance. As if the prophet saw Him in vision, he cries out, "As many were astonished at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." When He was here, His personal position and condition and appearance were very much against the spread of His kingdom. He was the son of a carpenter, He wore the smock-frock of a peasant, He associated with publicans and sinners. Therefore the Jews rejected the meek and lowly prince of the house of David, and alas! they persist in their rejection of His claims.

The practical part of the Gospel is equally a stumbling-block to ungodly men, for when men inquire what they must do to be saved, they are told that they must receive the Gospel as little children, that they must repent of sin, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Very humbling precepts for human self-sufficiency! "Be kindly affectioned one to another," "forgiving one another and forbearing one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you;" to the world which loves conquerors, and blasts of trumpets, and chaplets of laurel, this kind of teaching has a marred visage, and an uncomely form.

What seems even more humbling, the Lord sends this Gospel among us by men who are neither great nor noble, nor even among the wise of this world. Very simple is what they say: "Believe and live; Christ in your stead suffered for you, trust Him;" they say this and little more. Is not this the fool's gospel? Is it not worthy to be called the foolishness of preaching? Men do not like this, it is an offence to their dignity. They would hear Csar if he would officiate in his purple, but they cannot endure Peter preaching in his fisherman's coat.

III. THE CERTAINTY OF THE SPREAD OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. As His face was marred, so surely "shall He sprinkle many nations." This sprinkling we must interpret according to the Mosaic ceremonies, and you know there was a sprinkling with blood, to set forth pardon of sin, and a sprinkling with water to set forth purification from the power of sin. Jesus Christ, with

"The water and the blood

From His riven side which flowed,"

has sprinkled not only men but many nations, and the day will come when all nations shall feel the blessed drops which are scattered from His hands, and know them to be "of sin the double cure," cleansing transgressors both from its guilt and power.

The text claims for Christ that the influence of His grace and the power of His work shall be extended over many nations, and shall have power, not over the common people only, but over their rulers and leaders. "The kings shall shut their mouths at Him;" they shall have no word to say against Him; they shall be so subdued by the majesty of His power that they shall silently pay Him reverence, and prostrate themselves before His throne. The day will come when the mightiest prince shall count it his highest honour to have his name enrolled as a member of the Church of Christ (Psa ; Jer 31:34).

IV. THE MANNER OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS PROPHECY. How will it come to pass? Will there be a new machinery? Will the world be converted, and the kings be made to shut their mouths by some new mode of operation? No, the way which has been from the beginning of the dispensation will last to its close. It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. To conceive that our Lord will end the present mode of warfare, as though it were admitted that the evil could not be conquered by the use of that instrumentality, is to my mind to do Him great dishonour. To me it is plain that, as He has chosen to magnify His power by using feeble instruments, He will continue to do so till the victory is won.

According to this passage, these kings and nations are first of all to hear. "Faith cometh by hearing." Well, brethren, if they are to hear, we must preach and teach, so that our clear line of duty is to go on spreading the Gospel.

These people appear not only to have heard, but to have seen. "That which had not been told them shall they see." This seeing is not with their bodily eyes, but by the perceptions of their minds. Faith comes by the soul perceiving what the Gospel means. We cannot believe in that which we do not perceive. Therefore we must go on telling people the Gospel till they see what the Gospel is.

After they had seen, they considered. "That which they had not heard shall they consider." This is how men are saved: they hear the Gospel, they catch the meaning of it, and then they consider it. Let us pray that God would set unconverted people considering. If we can but get them to think, we have great hopes of them. (See vol. i. pp. 7-12.)

It is clear that those people, when they had seen and considered silently, accepted the Lord as their Lord, for they shut their mouths at Him; they ceased from all opposition; they quietly resigned their wills, and paid allegiance to the great King of kings. Now then, let us spread abroad the Saviour's blessed name, for He is the world's only hope. The cross is the banner of our victory. God help us to look to it ourselves, and then to hold it up before the eyes of others, till our Lord shall come upon His throne.—C. H. Spurgeon: The Metropolitan Pulpit, No. 1231.

THE HUMILIATION AND EXALTATION OF THE MESSIAH

(Missionary Sermon.)

Isa . Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, &c.

I. THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY INTO THE WORLD BY THE MYSTERIOUS SUFFERINGS OF ITS DIVINE FOUNDER.

"Behold my servant! Many were astonished at Thee: His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." This "astonishment of many" evidently refers to the inconsistency apparent between the high pretensions and the depressed condition of this Servant of God. The prophecies concerning Him (Hag ; Gen 49:10; Isa 9:6-7, &c.) A sordid and earthly interpretation had enshrined these promises in the hearts of the Jewish nation. The Jewish patriot hailed, in expectation, the brilliant hour in which the Messiah should break to shivers the chains which held his country in subjection to the Roman yoke; while the man of narrow and selfish ambition rejoiced in the vision that gleamed before his eyes, when the descendants of Abraham should hold dominion over the prostrate nations of the world. When, therefore, the Saviour of the world appeared in the lowly garb of the son of the carpenter of Nazareth; when He shunned every effort for personal aggrandisement—resisted every popular movement to advance His regal claims—put forth His power only to heal the diseased and comfort the wretched—and, with a humility without parallel, and a sympathy that knew no exclusion, constantly mingled with the meanest and most despised of His countrymen; then the mortified expectations of the Jewish rulers burst with tremendous efficacy upon His devoted head. The evidence in favour of His high claims was speedily examined; it was strong, clear, obvious (Joh 7:46; Mat 9:33; Mat 27:42); but it was as speedily rejected. The union in Him of power and suffering—of dignity and contempt—of riches to others and poverty to Himself, was a source of astonishment to many. Angels looked on, and wondered, and adored. In truth, the plan of Christianity, with its introduction into the world, is far above the calculations of human sagacity (1Co 1:23-24).

II. THE DECLARATION WITH REGARD TO THE UNIVERSAL DIFFUSION OF THE RELIGION OF CHRIST ON THE EARTH. "My servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high."

1. "He shall deal prudently" is in the margin translated "He shall prosper," and thus the whole clause is declarative of the same truth—the triumph and success of the Son of God. If many were astonished at His humiliation, a far greater number shall be astonished at, and rejoice in, His exaltation. He has already established upon earth the heavenly kingdom over which He rules.

2. This grand and glorious achievement He effected by means that came not within the expectation of the Jewish people, although they were clearly predicted. It was by death that He conquered death. It was by a perfect obedience in action and suffering that He became the second Adam—the spiritual Head of a new and happier race (Rom ). He planted His religion on the earth, opposed by hostile scorn, relentless malice, and despotic power. In a few years the banner of the Cross waved upon the conquered fortresses of Paganism, and enlisted under its folds the great and mighty of the earth. Yet no earthly weapon had been raised in its defence nor in its assaults. The cause of Christ had achieved its victories by its own inherent power. It was resistless by its truth, and by the silent operations of the Spirit of truth. Its adherents were indeed strong, but it was in faith, purity, and charity. Thus the Servant of God prospered, was extolled, and became very high.

3. But His reign on the earth is yet very limited, and His conquests incomplete. "There remaineth yet much land to be possessed." Three-fourths of the human race are still the prey of idolatry or of imposture; and the ancient people of God are still outcasts from His favour, and the victims of unbelief.

III. WHAT WE MAY GATHER FROM THIS PROPHETIC ACCOUNT RESPECTING THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE KINGDOM OF THE MESSIAH SHALL BE FULLY AND FINALLY ESTABLISHED. "As many … shall they consider" (1 Corinthians 14, 15). These declarations are full of information as to the process by which Christianity shall advance to her sacred and ultimate dominion. We are led to infer—

1. That there shall be a wide dispersion of Divine knowledge over heathen and Mohammedan nations; for men cannot see or consider that which is not presented to their notice.

2. The nations shall fix their anxious attention on the truths declared to them. Is there now before our eyes no such symptom of the approaching reign of Christ?

3. Impressed with holy awe, they shall assume the attitude of abasement and submission. The expression, "the kings shall shut their mouths at Him," implies the submission of whole nations, here represented by kings; for, as the reception of Christianity on the part of the rulers of a country requires the overthrow of every system of religious polity previously established, such a reception, publicly made, implies, more or less, the submission of the mass of people. Enlightened by the Divine Spirit, they shall recognise His righteous claims, receive His law, trust to His grace, and bow to His sway.

4. He shall forgive their iniquities and sanctify their hearts. "He shall sprinkle many nations"—that is, in allusion to the aspersions under the law, by which the people were sanctified,. He shall apply to the souls of regenerated multitudes the blood of His great atonement, and the sacred influences of His Holy Spirit. Then the conquests of the Redeemer shall be visible and splendid (Psa ).—G. T. Noel, M.A., in Sketches of Sermons on Christian Missions, pp. 114-119.

Of whom does the prophet speak? Not of the nation, but of an individual. That individual is not himself. No one corresponds, in the circumstances detailed, but the Christ. "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently," &c.

I. DESCRIBES HIS HUMILIATION. "My servant." He was appointed to a work. He assumed the human body, subjecting Himself to the conditions of a lowly human life, that He might be under law. He was voluntarily a servant under a master. He became subject to the Father's will, although that will involved His suffering unto death. He was fully acquainted with the solemn necessity for His suffering, in order to the accomplishment of the end, on which His heart was set as much as the Father's heart. Hence the sweep of His humiliation was all the way from the bosom of the Father—the glory which He had with the Father—in heaven, to the lowliest conditions of an earthly life.

II. COMMENDS HIS CONDUCT. "Shall deal prudently." His conduct was uniformly consistent with the end He had in view. He pursued that end steadily from the beginning of His course, both when He eluded the vigilant hostility of His enemies, and when He allowed Himself to fall into their hands. He conducted Himself with perfect wisdom, so that everything happened in the way and at the time He intended.

III. PREDICTS HIS EXALTATION. "He shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high" (Isa ).The exaltation follows the humiliation, and is its consequence (Php 2:6-10). Note how varied are the elements of His exaltation, and how we have in them a complete and glorious fulfilment of this prediction. We see it fulfilled. Let us observe how it has followed His humiliation. Note these facts—

1. In His resurrection from the dead. On the third day from His crucifixion He rose from the grave (1Co ). Its moral grandeur as evidence of His truth, and of the Father's acceptance of the work He had just performed in His death, is enhanced by the circumstance that He had predicted His resurrection on that day. This fact was made prominent in the apostolic ministry, especially at first; it was the main argument for the truth of Christ.

2. In His ascension to heaven. This was also witnessed by the apostolic company. And references to it in their sermons and epistles show how much importance they attached to it in relation to His personal distinction, and also in relation to His continued work and influence on His Church and on the world.

3. In the pre-eminence assigned to Him. He is at the right hand of God, which is the place of honour and prominence at the celestial court (Col ; 1Pe 3:22; Eph 1:20-23). All things are put under His feet.

4. In the functions He discharges. They arise out of the redemptive work which He accomplished on the Cross. They consist in

(1.) The restoration of His Church. To this end He endowed His apostles with power to work miracles in His name. He commissioned them, and still commissions His ministers to preach the Gospel to every creature. He bestows spiritual blessings on sinful men (Act ; Joh 17:2; Heb 7:25; Joh 14:2).

(2.) In the certain subjugation of His enemies (Psa ). The gradual extension and final triumph of His empire (H. E. I. 979).

(3.) In the judgment of the world. All judgment is committed to Him. In Matthew 25 there is a representation of the proceedings of the great day of judgment, which represents the Lord Jesus Christ as the most august and illustrious personage in the universe.

5. In the honour He receives. From the Church on earth. The Church honours the Son even as it honours the Father. It renders to Him similar trust, love, and obedience. From the saints in heaven (Rev ). From the angelic ranks (Rev 5:12). From the whole universe (Rev 5:13-14).

Christian brethren, see that you exalt your glorified Saviour. Be not ashamed of your connection with Him. Let it be your boast, as it is unquestionably the cause of your real dignity. Glorify and extol Him by your praises, and by the holiness of your lives. And expect the final glorification with Him. For, like your Saviour, your days of conflict, toil, and suffering will be followed by the exaltation to heaven.—J. Rawlinson.

I. THE UNPARALLELED HUMILILIATION OF CHRIST.

1. The state of humiliation begins with the stupendous fact of His incarnation (Php ; 2Co 8:9, &c.) While we believe and teach the supreme divinity of Christ, we also exult in the wondrous fact that He became man. Two natures mysteriously united. Revelation affirms the fact, but not the mode. "Great is the mystery of godliness." A stoop of illimitable graciousness! His assumption of humanity was real and complete. It was "no God in disguise"—no mock assumption of humanity, the whole nature was taken on (H. E. I. 849-854).

2. His humiliation is seen in His humble and lowly life, in fixed obedience to the law. He was not born of "loins enthroned, or rulers of the earth," but of a poor virgin, &c. (Isa ; Mat 1:18-23; Luk 1:26-35; Mat 13:55-56; Mar 6:3-4). He was born in a stable at a common inn, &c. (Luk 2:1-7; Luk 12:16). He wrought at the same employment with His reputed father (Mat 13:55). The Lord of the world was subject to man! The Author of the law became its servant—submitted Himself to the rite of circumcision, and all the righteousness of the law, and accomplished it by a perfect obedience in deed and suffering. He was always poor (Mat 8:20; Mat 17:24-27; Joh 19:25-27). He toiled, hungered, thirsted, and was weary; tempted of the devil and despised by man. Again and again He was declared to be a deceiver and in league with hell (Mat 4:1-11; Joh 7:12, &c.) That He might be the comforter of the poor and wretched, He shunned not the poverty and wretchedness of men, &c.

3. In His sufferings and death. His whole life was one of suffering (Isa ). His general appearance was so disfigured by excessive grief and distress, as scarcely to retain the appearance of a man (see Barnes, in loco). In every struggle and conflict of which man is capable, the Captain of our salvation shared a part. His humiliation was deeper still: "He humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross." The agony in the garden (Luk 23:41-44); the betrayal (Mat 26:14-16; Mat 27:3-4); the treachery of His disciples, &c. The weight of a world's sin; the dread hiding of His Father's countenance; the shameful, painful, and cursed death of the cross (Mat 27:46; Isa 53:10; Joh 19:16-18; Php 2:7-8; Gal 3:13). While we treat of the depth of this suffering, let us meditate upon the dignity of the person undergoing such agony. What immeasurable love and compassion!

4. He was humbled in His burial (Joh , &c.) The body of the Son of God lay lifeless in the grave until the morning of the third day!

Note carefully and remember well that the humiliation of Christ was perfectly voluntary (Php , &c.) The will of the Father did not coerce the Son (Joh 10:11; Joh 10:17-18). With the entire concurrence of His will He thoughtfully and deliberately yielded Himself up to death, with all its attendant circumstances of shame and suffering, that He might accomplish the Father's will, and effect the redemption of mankind. He was a willing victim (H. E. I. 918). This was essential. There can be no merit in exacted suffering. Herein we behold the wonderful love of Jesus. In this voluntariness we are called to imitate our great pattern. How willingly we should give ourselves to Him who so willingly gave all He could give for us!

II. HIS UNPARALLELED EXALTATION. A happy transition. "He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high." Concerning the fulfilment of this prediction, see preceding outline.

CONCLUSION.—From the wide field of instruction furnished by this subject, two or three reflections deserve particular consideration—

1. We have the Divine attributes exhibited in a manner and to a degree they would never otherwise have been.

2. We see the way in which His followers may expect to go to heaven. Like their Master, they must be humbled before they are exalted (Luk ; Jas 4:10; 2Ti 2:11-12). Whatever we may have to pass through, let us remember that Jesus has gone before, &c. He prays that His people may be with Him (Joh 17:24), and in due time they who have suffered with Him shall also reign with Him.

3. The manner in which these stupendous facts must affect the finally impenitent. What are they to you? Only wonderful events? Is there no intelligent personal interest in them? Your condemnation will not proceed on the evidence that you have profaned God's holy name, &c., but on the rejection of an offered Saviour—the one great, damning sin into which all other sins are merged (Joh ). Again, this once humbled but now exalted and glorified Saviour is offered for your acceptance (Psa 2:12).—Alfred Tucker.


Verse 14

THE FACE OF JESUS

Isa . As many were astonished at Thee; His visage was so marred, &c.

The personal coming of the Son of God was a great theme of prophecy. Changes of dynasties, national and local calamities, the raising up of heroes, the overthrow of sovereigns and of empires were predicted by the ministers of Jehovah; but the overthrow of the dominion of sin, by that man Jesus Christ, is the sublimest intelligence uttered by prophetic lips. The personal character of Christ is sketched in prophecy. He is to be different from ordinary men—their superior. He is to be open of heart, gentle of hand, sober of mind, consistent in conduct. The personal circumstances of Christ are mentioned. He is to come of royal stock, yet impoverished. Obscurity and lowliness are to be His portion in His domestic life, rejection and contempt in His public career. Yet are men to hear eagerly His words, and He is to be crowned with ultimate glory. The countenance of the Saviour, His personal appearance, is also referred to. These slight sketches were literally fulfilled. How different is the face of the infant from that of the dying man! During the tortuous course of life, the chisel of the energetic sculptor, Time, has been busy cutting deep furrows; the pencils of the twin painters, Sorrow and Care, have left the expression wan and worn.

I. The text is a photograph of the face of Jesus in the hour of His death. Let us meditate upon it. "Love and grief the heart dividing."

1. The face and form are those of a man. There is here flesh and blood; parts and features capable of expressing feeling.

2. Though in these respects a face like ours, yet how different! It is a visage marred; but not by evil life, evil disposition, infirmity, sickness, or age. In the Saviour's face there are,

(1.) Lines which tell of severe hardship. He was made acquainted with hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He lived for others' welfare, comfort, and happiness, forgetting His own.

(2.) Indications of heavy sorrow (Isa ). A world's ingratitude pressed upon His spirit. A world's sin grieved Him.

(3.) Traces of anxious care. He had come as the representative of His Father to men. He had undertaken to represent the case of man before His Father. What responsibility!

(4.) Marks of much suffering. Allusion is made in the text not only to mental, but to physical suffering. Gethsemane's agony; the cruel usage in Herod's hall, where "He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair;" His sufferings under Pilate; the tortures of the crucifixion, remove all room for wonder at the statement of the text. There are actual scars upon His sacred Person; "the print of the nails;" of the thorn crown; the spear-wound.

II. We may reverently muse upon what is here revealed. The face is but the outer mask; the soul is hidden within. The face is an index which reveals and expresses the feelings and experiences of the soul.

1. We learn from the face of Jesus the reality of His life. It is seen to have been intensely real. The visit to earth was no illusive appearance of the Son of God. To Him sin, human guilt, and Divine wrath were real and fearful matters. The features of the grim soldier on the battle-field tell forth unmistakably his earnestness and anxiety; for with him it is a matter of glory or shame, of victory or death.

2. We see the reality of His sympathy. Life is to us a reality. It is a burden, an effort, a struggle. He understands our case. He has undergone all. Behold His face! Think upon His racked nerves, weary limbs, aching head, wounded spirit, broken heart! (Heb .)

3. We understand the reality of His work. God might have left us to our fate; but where would then have been the glory of His grace? He might have forgiven us and saved us with a word; but where then would have been the purity of His holiness, justice, and truth? "It behoved Christ to suffer."

4. We have now evidence of the reality of His love (Joh ; Joh 15:13; Eph 3:19; 1Jn 3:16).

(5.) We cannot now doubt the reality of His Divinity. The weakness of His humanity having endured the long trial of anxiety, pain, and sorrow, and having ultimately and perfectly triumphed, proves to us the fact and the glory of His Divinity.

III. Let us make application of this subject to ourselves. We look at Christ to learn of Him.

1. Is there not here matter for wonder? "As many were astonished at Thee." They said: "It is impossible, incredible, that this humble, patient sufferer can be the Christ" (Isa ). We wonder, not to doubt, but to adore.

2. Here is reason for admiration and love. What has the Lord endured for our eternal salvation?

3. We must remember to expect an experience very similar to that of our Lord.

4. We have here an example worthy of imitation. How patiently He endures all! (Heb .)

5. Does not this revelation of the nature, character, and work of Christ afford us ground for trust? Saints may be assured of His sympathy. Sinners may see in His substitutionary suffering their salvation.—Robert S. Latimer: Study and Homiletic Monthly, New Series, vol. iii. pp. 164-166.


Verse 14-15

OUR MARVELLOUS REDEEMER

Isa . As many were astonished at Thee; His visage, &c.

This prophecy runs through chapter 53. It sets forth the exaltation of the Messiah, which was to be preceded by His humiliation. There would be surprise and disappointment in some cases, while there would be surprise and admiration in others.

I. View the Saviour as attracting universal attention. "That which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."

Some men cannot fail to attract attention whether they court it or not. There is something in their appearance, or manner, or intelligence, or power of expression, or sympathy, on account of which, wherever they are, they become the object of general interest. Jesus was one of these when here. Sometimes He tried to escape from the crowd. But He could not be hid. He was largely discussed by the people of His country and time; in some cases favourably, in other cases very unfavourably. In the end they rejected His claims.

He soon after attracted very wide attention outside Judaism. For it was part of His plan and purpose that after His earthly life and work were completed, He should be proclaimed more extensively than among His own countrymen. His apostles preached Him freely among the heathen. Not without effect. Communities sprang up in every direction in Asia and in Europe, called by His name, and held together by their common belief of the things concerning Him. One apostle quotes this part of our text in illustration of his own action in spreading the knowledge of Christ among the heathen (Rom ).

He attracts attention still. He is extensively preached and believed in at the present time; more than at any previous time. He exerts the most valuable and gracious influence on those that receive His truth. He gradually through them leavens and modifies society, making His influence felt even where it is not recognised as His. His claims are regularly brought before the attention of countless multitudes, and are more or less considered by them. And they are, according to prophetic Scripture, destined to be made known over the wide world.

II. View Him as exciting extreme astonishment.

1. His humiliation did. "As many were astonished at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Were the sufferings of Jesus depicted on His face? Was the personal beauty which tradition attributes to Him spoiled by His experience of suffering? That Messiah should appear in so lowly a form as did Jesus of Nazareth, excited disappointed astonishment. There was a revulsion of feeling even on the part of many who had been at first favourably inclined. They could not believe that the great Messianic King would come in so lowly a form.

2. His exaltation did. Even the disciples who believed in Him, and had heard Him speak of resurrection, were astonished when it occurred. The ascension surprised them still more. But they were joyfully surprised. The Jews could not believe that the Crucified One was crowned.—Thus it is still. Christ does not command universal faith even where His claims are known. Men do not trust those whom they deem unfortunate. They cannot receive a humbled Christ. The offence of the cross has not ceased. That He who was crucified should be exalted is of difficult belief to many. Yet some believe. They admire, while they wonder at, the wisdom and the love that shine through the redemptive plan.

III. View Him as bestowing saving blessings. "So shall He sprinkle many nations." This word is capable of two interpretations.

1. That which points directly to the impartation of the blessing. Under the law there were washings and sprinklings that made reconciliation for sinners, or cleansed them from sin. When Jesus comes with His salvation He reconciles to God, and cleanses the soul from sin.

2. That which points to the effect of the blessing. They shall spring up with joy, as those leap who have found great treasure. Is not the influence of Christ joy-creating everywhere?

He does this on an extensive scale. "Many nations." There is a universal sufficiency in His atoning blood. There is also a widely extensive efficacy. The Gospel is for man. Jesus bade His followers preach it among all nations. The redeemed are a multitude that no man can number (Rev ).

IV. View Him as winning reverent homage. "The kings shall shut their mouths at Him." It indicates the reverence in which they hold Him who conquers all opposition. It includes,

1. Honour. They see His power and glory, with which none can vie. Like conquered kings they confess His superiority.

2. Love. For He attaches them to Himself with personal admiration and love.

3. Obedience. They willingly obey His commands, although formerly they resisted His authority; for His laws are written on their hearts.

Thus the text exhibits not only the glory of Christ, but the great importance of the sentiments with which He is regarded.

1. Some hate Him. The Gospel does not commend itself to their approbation. It is utterly distasteful to them. Its doctrines are too humbling, or its precepts are too holy. Their pride flies from the Crucified, their sinfulness from the crowned Saviour. A mighty change must take place in your spirit before you can be safe.

2. Some are indifferent to Him. You think it matters little what you think of Christ, so long as you are not actively hostile to Him. But it does matter. Union with Christ; a spiritual union, formed with consent of mind, and heart, and will, makes all the difference between life in Christ, and death without Him.

3. Some love Him. There is a deep personal love between Christ and His people. Although on the throne of the universe, He finds room in His heart for each believer, however lowly, and they for Him; "Whom, having not seen, ye love."—J. Rawlinson.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 52:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-52.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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