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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 57

 

 

Verse 1-2

THE DEATH OF THE GOOD

(Funeral Sermon.)

Isa . The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart, &c.

I. Though God's people are the excellent of the earth, yet they must die. Though "righteous" and "merciful," and on these accounts so precious in God's eyes, and so useful in His cause, they are not exempted from that sentence of death which is passed upon all men. Were we consulted concerning many of them, we should entreat that they might be spared, and we see not how the cause of truth can be maintained without them. But they are "taken away," to show us that though God uses them as instruments, they are not indispensable to Him. It is our want of faith and our selfishness that cause us to wish them not to be removed. They themselves desire to "depart," &c.

II. Their death is a great blessing to themselves. They are "taken away," but—

1. It is to be with Christ. The word here translated "taken away" is often translated "gathered." When saints die, it is merely a gathering to Christ, And will not they account this a blessing? Being gathered to Christ includes, not simply His presence (though this is the choicest part of heaven), but the presence of the angels and of the spirits of the just made perfect. What a varied and glorious company do they form!

2. It is from the evil to come. From calamities and distresses that would otherwise befall them. From Satan's temptations. From the persecutions of an ungodly world. From the sad corruptions of their own hearts, which distress them daily. From all the cares, conflicts, and sorrows connected with a mortal existence and a sinful state.

3. It is to rest and peace.

III. It is a grievous, though a common sin, that when men behold the death of the righteous, they do not lay it to heart.

1. As a public loss! When such men die, the Church loses its ornaments, the world its best friends. Well may we mourn individually, when the hallowing influence of a godly character ceases to be exerted upon us.

2. As a public warning!

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let us make the best use of our godly relations and friends while they live.

2. When our godly friends are "taken away," let us not sorrow as those who have no hope.

3. Let us make sure that we are gathered to Christ now, that we may be gathered to Him hereafter.—James Sherman: Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv. pp. 1-12.

The characteristics here described are those produced by the operation of God's grace in human hearts.

I. The prophet notices a familiar fact.

We find it difficult to regard death as other than an enemy. With the exception of Enoch, and Elijah, and perhaps Moses, and those who will be alive when the Lord comes, the reign of death is universal (Ecc ; Rom 5:12; H. E. I. 1536, 1537). God's people do not escape. Here a question arises: Since the redemption in Christ removes their sins, why should they be retained under the bondage of death? We suggest in answer—

1. That possibly man was never intended to abide perpetually on the globe, but after a lengthened probation to be removed to a higher existence.

2. The necessity for the removal of one generation to make room for another.

3. The wisdom of the arrangement by which old age is ultimately relieved of the weariness and infirmity incident to it.

4. The danger to the spiritual affections of the saints involved in a perpetuated residence on earth.

5. The exemption of believers from death would be an open declaration of and mark upon them; but such open destruction does not accord with the design of this world as a state of trial and discipline.

6. That by the grace of Christ the aspect of death is entirely changed to believers.

7. That the humiliation and sorrow of death are amply compensated by the glorious resurrection and immortal life.

II. The prophet laments the general indifference with which this familiar fact is treated.

This may refer specially to the time of Manasseh, but it is still true.

1. The world does not love the righteous, because they are such. If they care for them at all, it is for other reasons. So far as what is peculiar to them severally is developed, it is antagonistic.

2. The world is indifferent to the fact that the death of the righteous is a public loss. Godly men in their families, neighbourhoods, the nation, by their character, prayers, public spirit are a preserving influence. Sodom could not be destroyed while Lot was in it.

3. The world does not consider the true import and consequence of the death of the righteous. It is not considered in relation to eternity; but only in relation to time. Such a one is dead, his new life is not considered.

III. The prophet suggests the sufficient consolation. To the righteous death is—

1. Exemption from evil. Terrible evil was coming on Israel which those escaped who died at that time. There may be public, domestic, and personal evils impending, from which the Lord snatches His people away.

2. Enjoyment of good. The Gospel does not conduct its votaries to the bed of death, and then leave them there in dark uncertainty. The change that is made by death is their entrance into peace and rest. For there is final and undisturbed security, and the perpetual presence of the objects to which the believer's spirit has been most closely united; God in Christ, holy angels, glorified saints, perfect purity.

1. How interesting to those left behind, to think of them thus!

2. See that you are among those of whom such thoughts are suitable.

3. Beware of being among those who are indifferent to the people of God and their fate. The world's indifference to the Church is the reflection of its indifference to Christ.—J. Rawlinson.

The visitations of death are frequently mysterious. Often the most talented, and pious, and useful are cut down, while mere cumberers of the ground are spared, &c. Piety exempts none from the arrests of death; it delivers from the sting of death, but not from its stroke. How affecting the death of a statesman, a minister, an influential Christian, or a pious parent in the meridian of life and usefulness, &c. Isaiah was deeply moved in consequence of the death of good men, and the indifference of his countrymen, &c. It matters little that we cannot accurately determine who these good men were, or the manner of their death. Consider—

I. The character of the good as here portrayed.

1. They are righteous. As none are so naturally, a real and radical change in the governing dispositions of the heart is implied, &c. Believing in the Lord Jesus, and being accepted righteous in Him, they come under an obligation to practise universal righteousness, and to present to the world a character of uniform and sustained holiness (Rom ; 1Jn 3:7). They are men of rectitude—men right in their moral relations and in their principles of action—right in heart, and habit, and life (1Jn 3:7). Such a man, however, will always feel that his claim to be regarded as a righteous man is not to be traced to what he is in himself, but to what he owes to the grace of God.

2. They are merciful. Not only the subjects of God's mercy, but merciful in their own dispositions—"men of kindness or godliness" (margin); forgiving offenders, compassionating the suffering, helping the weak and needy, and evincing kindness, consideration, and bountifulness towards all (Gen ; Psa 119:64; Joe 2:13; Rom 12:8; Col 3:12). In nothing do we imitate God more than in showing mercy. And we have abundant opportunity to do it, for the world is full of sin and misery, which we may help to relieve, &c.

3. They walk in their uprightness. They avoid the crooked path of sin, and pursue the straight line of righteousness (Psa ; Pro 2:15; Isa 59:8; Php 2:15). The Christian life does not consist in mere sentiment or feeling, &c. Feeling and practice, like twin sisters, must go hand in hand. Christianity is pre-eminently a practical system. The doctrine of the kingdom is, that "faith without works is dead"—that faith contains a seed of virtue or holy living, so that good works are not an adjunct of faith, but a necessary fruit of faith. Light must shine, and where there are the principles of holiness there will be all the habits of holiness pervading the whole life.

Is this a description of your character? Have you sought and secured "the righteousness of faith;" are you showing mercy to all men, walking uprightly, &c.?

II. The death of the good as here presented.

1. As the perishing of the body. The soul lives on, and will do for ever; but the mortal body decays, returns to its native dust, &c. The bodies of all the untold myriads of the human race have perished. The mightiest share the same fate as the meanest. Evident to all. Then why pamper the body, &c.

2. As disregarded by the vast majority. Only the few lay it to heart—lament it as a public loss, and regard it as a public warning. How soon the best are forgotten! How can we account for this?

(1.) The commonness of the event.

(2.) The thought of death is repugnant.

(3.) The concerns of life engross both the time and attention of the multitude. This general disregard of the death of the good is to be lamented because it implies—

(1.) Painful ingratitude. Good men are the world's greatest benefactors, "the salt of the earth," &c.

(2.) Deplorable moral insensibility. Their removal is a public calamity, for they are the strength of a nation and the safeguard of the land, &c. To treat their death with stolid indifference indicates the highest degree of moral blindness and perversity. Of such a state of things there is but one explanation—"God is not in all their thoughts." Little children least lament the death of their parents, because they know not what a loss it is to them, &c.

3. As a blessing to themselves.

(1.) They are delivered from the miseries which attend the sins of man. Whatever they are, the good man escapes them by death (1Ki ; 2Ki 22:20).

(2.) They enter into peace—rest Their bodies "rest in their beds" or graves. The grave is a quiet resting-place, out of which they shall rise refreshed on the morning of the resurrection. No agitations or alarms can disturb their peaceful slumbers (Job ; Job 17:16; Psa 16:6; 2Ch 11:14; Isa 14:18). Their souls enter into the rest of heaven—the world of eternal repose, where peace is in perfection. They rest not only from all trouble, but from all sin, and sorrow, and strife, from everything that can create pain and uneasiness, for "the former things are done away" (Rev 14:13; Heb 4:9). No wave of trouble shall roll into that beautiful and peaceful haven, and the sense of past trouble will only add to the intensity of present enjoyment.

Such are the prospects of the good. If they were highly consoling and encouraging to the troubled prophet, they ought to be the more so to us, for we have added the disclosures of the Gospel, by which "life and immortality are brought to light." Then let us take encouragement as the rest and recompense opens to the eye of faith, &c. Sweet thought; we are nearing it every Sabbath. But no such prospects gladden those of you who are unconverted. If you would die the death of the righteous, you must live the life of the righteous, &c. (P. D. 1124).—A. Tucker.

Isa . I. The abominable idolatries of Israel. II. A parallel found in the covetousness and worldliness of professing Christians. III. These evils proceed from the same principles of unbelief. IV. Are equally offensive to God and debasing to the human mind. V. Must as certainly occasion final retribution.


Verse 6

Isa . I. Human substitutes for true and spiritual worship. II. Their offensiveness to God.—Dr. Lyth.


Verse 10

THE SOUL'S WEARINESS IN ITS SINFUL WAY

Isa . Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way, &c.

There is a littleness and there is a greatness in men's sins. Some people are mean, timid in wickedness, would indulge passions more freely if they dared. But there is a force and boldness about the sins of others; they disregard public opinion, rush impetuously along broad roads, &c. Whilst we condemn, we also mourn, because such strength and manhood are wasted in the "greatness of their way."

The text refers to a period of great iniquity in Jewish history during Manasseh's reign. The light of Divine truth had not utterly faded away, so the nation was full of unrest and misery, and yet would not retrace its steps, and make its peace with God. Pathetic is this picture of the misery of sin.

I. THE SOUL'S WEARINESS IN IT SINFUL WAY.

Various are the causes of weariness.

1. The attempt of the creature to be independent of the Creator. A sinful life is an attempt to do without God. But our noblest instincts impel us to lean upon the power and love of God. Dependence is stamped upon every faculty and fibre of our nature. Who then can wonder that men grow weary when they strive to live an independent, self-sufficient life? The creature can no more do without the Creator, than streamlet without fountain, or branch without tree.

2. A sense of the unworthiness of a sinful life. No one can be really happy without some degree of self-respect. Other persons can laud a man to the skies, but it spoils all if in his heart he despises his own motives and conduct. Self-contempt is a source of keenest misery. There are moments of clear insight, when many a Christless man sees the utter disproportion between the life which he leads, and the nature God has given him—between what he is and what he was meant to be, and might be. When he thus begins to despise himself he is "wearied."

3. The efforts of an outraged nature to avenge itself. It is impossible for a man to ill-treat himself without his very nature protesting against the injury. There are forces of pain which start into activity as soon as the evil is done. The body avenges its own wrongs—so also the soul. Give it error when it needs truth; husks of worldly pleasure when it hungers for bread of life, and a cry of discontent and pain will break forth from the injured soul. So the path of sin is a tiresome road, and men often grow "wearied."

II. THE SOUL'S PERSISTENCE IN ITS SINFUL WAY.

Weary but persistent. Many things impel men to pursue the road even when faint.—

1. The marvellous vitality of hope. Hope is like a hardy plant, which may be trampled under foot, but presently springs up into fresh life and beauty. Men are often baffled, deceived, achieve grand results, led on by living energy of hope. Yet all great things draw greatly astray when wrongly directed. So hope impels men to persist in folly and sin. Disappointed, wearied, they still persevere.—-

2. Dislike to confess failure. It seems a degradation to many a man to admit that he has made a mistake. Pride often leads the sinner to persist in his way. Weary at heart, yearning for a nobler life, still it is hard work for him to humble himself, to go back, to say, "I have sinned."—

3. Ignorance of God's character. Some think they are beyond Divine mercy—that God is "altogether such an one" as themselves—impatient and unforgiving toward those who have wronged Him. Weary souls would sometimes eagerly return to Him, and seek His grace, if they only saw into the depths of His heart and knew the truth.

CONCLUSION.—There is a Divine purpose in pain and weariness. God makes the sinner's way difficult, so that he may be led to forsake it. When we cry, "There is no hope," then there is hope through Christ, who was once wearied in the greatness of His way.—F. W. Mays, M.A.: The Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii. p. 145.

Isa . I. Hypocrisy. Fearless, false, inconsiderate, presumptuous. II. Its exposure. Certain, full. Its righteousness, nought; its works, wicked; its hopes, vain.

Isa . I. Men's righteousness. II. Its exposure. III. Its worthlessness.

Isa . I. The insufficiency of human confidences. II. The all-sufficiency of God.

Isa . I. False confidences. Cannot save. Will be swept away. End in destruction and misery. II. True confidence. Fixed in God. Enjoys present blessings. Inherits future happiness.

Isa . I. The stumbling-blocks. Inconsistencies. Errors. Divisions. False professors. II. Their removal. Necessary. Imperative. Personal.—Dr. Lyth.


Verse 15

THE GLORY OF GOD THE COMFORT OF THE CONTRITE

Isa . For thus saith the high and lofty One that inheriteth eternity, &c.

I. A MAGNIFICENT DESCRIPTION OF THE GREATNESS OF GOD.

His glory appears—

1. In His essential majesty. He is "the high and lofty One"—exalted far above us, out of human view and conception; the one mighty Author, Creator, Preserver, and Lord of all; to whom none other is like (Neh ; H. E. I. 2225-2228).

2. In the immutability of His existence. He "inhabiteth eternity." What a sublime expression! (Psa ; H. E. I. 2253; P.D. 2536).

3. In the infinite rectitude of His character. "Whose name is Holy." By the holiness of God we mean the unity and harmony in Him of every species of moral goodness in its highest measure, or rather beyond measure; this forms His distinguishing glory (H. E. I. 2275, 2818).

4. In the exalted place of abode where He more immediately manifests His presence.

II. AN INSTRUCTIVE DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPER WHICH SHOULD EVER RULE IN THE MIND AND HEART OF MAN WHEN BEFORE THIS GREAT GOD.

1. As a frail, mortal, feeble creature, who is "crushed before the moth," humility is the proper temper for man before God. Even angels and archangels veil their faces with their wings in His presence.

2. As transgressors, it behoves us to be abased in the awful presence of the Most High. Something more than humility becomes man as an offender against his rightful Sovereign. Contrition is more; it is penitence for sin, brokenness of heart for having offended God. The first is always man's duty as a creature; the second, as a sinner. Two things contribute to real contrition:

(1) A sense of God's gracious, benignant character. Nothing sets man's frightful ingratitude in so odious and prominent a light as the unspeakable goodness of the great God. So long as man falsely conceives of Him as a hard master, he feels, he can feel, no contrition; but when he discerns that God is, and ever has been, infinitely good, and to him also, his heart bursts with ingenuous grief and self-abhorrence.

(2) A perception of the inscrutable wickedness of the human heart, which, like the prophet Ezekiel's "chamber of imagery," discloses more and more of its interior abominations, the more closely it is examined. To produce this contrition of soul is one principle object of Divine teaching and grace (Eze ; Eze 12:10; Eze 16:63).

The presence in any man of this humility is certain to be manifested in an unmistakable manner, the manifestation itself further preparing him for the Divine mercy. A proud heart murmurs under rebuke, like the children of Israel in the wilderness; or rejects warnings like the men in the days of Noah and of Lot; or dares God to His face, like Pharaoh. So acted the majority of the men to whom Isaiah ministered (Isa ). But the contrite and humble in spirit receive the Divine rebukes, justify God in His righteous retributions, condemn themselves, and venture only to "hope in His mercy" (Job 34:32; Job 42:5-6; Psa 119:75; Psa 69:20).

III. AN UNRIVALLED DESCRIPTION OF THE MARVELLOUS CONDESCENSION OF GOD TO THE MAN IN WHOM THERE IS THIS RIGHT TEMPER.

1. God adopts the heart of the penitent as His abode. The allusion is to the temple (Isa ; Joh 14:23). The humble and contrite heart is prepared to entertain the Divine Guest: it is emptied of pride and self, &c.

2. Observe the purpose for which He enters it: "to revive the spirit of the humble," &c. The image is drawn from the revival of the face of nature by refreshing rain after a long drought, or from raising to new life a dejected and desponding mind by joyful and unexpected tidings. Although penitence and contrition may have done their work, comfort is still wanting, so long as the inhabitation of God by His Spirit is wanting. The daily increasing perception of innate corruption weighs down the heart. Conscience accuses, the law condemns. The joy of pardon sometimes springs up, but it fades again. The hope of being a sincere penitent cheers at times; but it is difficult for the soul to discern, amidst its tears and dejection, the marks of repentance unto life. Afflictions add to the general woe—God seems armed against the soul. But at length it pleases God to "revive the spirit," &c He sheds light amidst the gloom, &c. The prophet doubles the expression, to denote the certainty and magnitude of the blessing. The exhausted, dying traveller, plundered, wounded, and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, was not more truly revived by the wine and oil of the good Samaritan, than the spirit of the contrite one is revived by the presence and indwelling of the Saviour in the heart (Isa , and Isa 61:3).

3. All this consolation flows from the view of the Divine greatness. The whole scope of the text is directed to this one point; and almost all similar descriptions of the majesty of the Almighty are given in connection with His condescension to man (Psa ; Psa 138:6, &c). Consolation flowing from God's goodness, mercy, compassion, love, is great indeed; but not so overwhelming as that which springs from His greatness, holiness, and self-existence. For

(1) The sense of favour is thus enhanced. The condescension is more remarkable. The stooping, as it were, is from a greater height.

(2) The wonder and surprise are greater. Why is God first set before us in such magnificence, but to magnify the subsequent condescension by its suddenness? The beginning of the text seems to prepare for just a contrary conclusion.

(3) The value of redemption is elevated by the majesty and holiness of the exalted and lofty One who dwells in the contrite heart. For it is these very perfections of the moral Governor of the world which required such a sacrifice as the death of His only begotten Son. If you sink them, you sink the value of our redemption.

(4) The sense of security and deliverance is also greater. If this God be for us, who can be against us? Our feebleness is no ground of fear, if we are sheltered in "the Rock of Ages."

(5) The final end of man seems more distinctly taken into account and provided for. For we were made to enjoy this great God. We were endowed with all but angelic powers that we might know, adore, possess, and find our felicity in this glorious Creator.

CONCLUSION.—Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear in the last fearful day? If God be so glorious, what will then become of those who, like Pharaoh, refuse to humble themselves before Him? Submit, ere it be too late!—Bishop Wilson: Sermons Delivered in India, pp. 188-206.

Can the infinite God hold intercourse with man and interest Himself in his affairs? It seems incredible. He has made man capable of it. He has favoured some men with intercourse. He has revealed Himself as deeply interested in man, and has explained in His Word the circumstances and conditions under which He holds intercourse with us. It is not a conjecture. It is a glorious certainty. Is not this the burden of the Bible; how God the Father, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, dwells with man? Our text is a magnificent declaration of the fact. It is—

I. A PROCLAMATION OF THE DIVINE GRANDEUR.

We cannot conceive the Divine essence. We can only think of God as possessed of certain attributes in infinite perfection; and even these we can only conceive in so far as they resemble something in ourselves, and thus as capable of expression by means of human language (H. E. I., 2230, 2234, 2236).

Think—

1. Of the Divine Eternity (Psa , and others).

2. Of the Divine Holiness. Names with us are words selected because of some pleasant association, or adopted arbitrarily for the purpose of distinguishing one person from another. In ancient times the name was given because it expressed some quality in the person or some prophecy respecting him. Hence the Divine names in Scripture are instructive and important. "Whose name is holy." Holiness is the essential characteristic of His Being. It is like the incandescent heat; all white.

3. Of the Divine Sublimity. Height and depth are in relation to each other, and to all the space between their extremes. He is beyond comparison with creatures of every rank. Ascend the loftiest mountain; soar beyond the remotest star; contemplate the most exalted intellect; behold the ranks of angels and archangels—you will be as far as ever from the incomparable sublimity of God.

4. Of the Divine Majesty. The palace of the great King answers to the dignity of His nature. If a place must be imagined as the special dwelling-place of God, let it be beyond the hills, above the clouds, far above all heavens, adorned with the richest splendours of the universe. But this conducts us to the fact that He has another and a different dwelling-place. And this is the most astonishing announcement of the text.

II. AN ASSERTION OF THE DIVINE CONDESCENSION.

His dwelling-place below is in the heart of the lowly (Psa ; Psa 51:17; Psa 138:6; Psa 147:3; Isa 66:2). Not merely permission of distant communication; but God's abiding presence, the sweet intercourse of those who dwell happily together in the same house, the blessed reunion of those who had been separated by sin.

Is not this wondrous condescension? Does the occupant of the splendid mansion choose to live among the poor? Do the lofty dwell with the lowly? Is it not the study of those only moderately uplifted to get away as soon and as far as possible from the neighbourhood of the poor? Thine is not the manner of men, O Lord God! On the principle of fitness, man, as a creature, lifted up with pride, is unfit for God's residence and companionship, because he violates the proper order, as Satan did when in his pride he contended for equality with God. Man, as a sinner, impenitent and self-satisfied, cannot be God's dwelling-place, because of the essential contrariety between holiness and sin. God and man must be like each other before they can dwell together. Now, God cannot be contrite, because He has no sin. But there can be the likeness which comes from the fitting relation of things. Humility in man corresponds to loftiness in God. Contrition in man corresponds to holiness in God. Where God finds, the contrite and humble soul, He can condescend to dwell, consistently with His dignity and purity. Jesus has opened the way by which God and man may be fully reconciled and restored to each other.

Therefore does He by His grace bring the souls of His redeemed into this lowly state that He may lift them up. Therefore does He show them the evil of sin, so that they are humbled, ashamed, crushed, heartbroken. May He thus humble and thus dwell in us all! This brings us to the purpose for which He dwells in the contrite.

III. A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE BENEFICENCE.

When God enters the heart of the contrite and makes it His dwelling, it is a day of revival. For there is—

1. Comfort. He wipes away the tears, by revealing Jesus in the fulness of His atoning sacrifice, His pardoning love, &c.

2. Power. The activity and energy of spiritual life. We run the way of His commandments; we are identified with His kingdom; we labour for its advancement.

3. Growth. Under His reviving influence, we grow in all things that pertain to the spiritual life. Spiritual manhood is developed. Fruits of holiness. When sufficiently matured, we shall be transplanted to heaven.

The proud and impenitent are without God. Get the lowly and contrite spirit.—J. Rawlinson.

Three questions generally asked concerning a person with whom one is not well acquainted are: What is his name? Where does he dwell? What is his work or occupation? In this verse we find replies to these three inquiries if made concerning the Divine Being.

I. THE LORD'S NAME. The name indicates that God is—

1. Supreme in nature. He is infinitely above the highest of all created beings, human and angelic.

2. Supreme in character (1Sa ).

3. Supreme in authority. He is King of kings, and His dominion extends over all things.

II. THE LORD'S DWELLING-PLACE. He has four dwelling-places:—

1. Eternity. He fills all space. The boundaries of His habitation can never be reached.

2. Heaven—the habitation of His throne (Psa ).

3. His Church on earth. "Holy place" (1Ch ; Psa 9:11).

4. The contrite heart. He is so great as to fill immensity, and so condescending as to dwell in your heart and mine. God is never satisfied until He finds a home in the human soul. "Give me thine heart."

III. THE LORD'S WORK.

1. A work which none but God can do.

2. A work which God delights in above all others.

3. A work He will bring to a glorious consummation (Php ).—W. Roberts Penybontfawr; "Pregethau."

This Scripture opens up to view five great aspects of God—I. The Being. II. The character. III. The Sovereignty. IV. The dwelling-place. V. The work of God.—W. Seward.

I. God's greatness. II. God's grace.—Bishop Greig: Sermons, pp. 164-177.

ETERNITY CONTEMPLATED

Isa . Eternity

I. There is a period of endless duration which we call eternity (P. D. 1118-1129, 2965, 2054, 1921-1935). The period of duration which shall elapse between the creation of man and the universal conflagration is called "time." It has already extended over nearly six thousand years, but how long its course will continue to advance we can form no conjecture. But this we know, that as it had a beginning it will certainly have an end. Eternity is duration without limits. It exceeds all our powers of reckoning, illustration, thought.

II. In this endless period of duration there are two states extremely different, in one or other of which a portion shall be assigned to every man. That man is immortal is capable of proof from the dictates of reason, and is authoritatively taught in the Bible. In the after-world there are two states: of happiness—heaven; of misery—hell. Both are unending.

III. Time is given to man in order to prepare for eternity. The present state of existence, while introductory to the future, is also preparatory, in accordance with the general law which, in every stage of our being, makes what we are to be hereafter dependent on what we do now. How shall we prepare for eternity?

IV. It is foolish and dangerous to allow the things of time to engross the attention and the activity, that should be devoted to the things of eternity. It is foolish, because we prefer the less to the greater, a glass bead to a nugget of gold. It is dangerous, because we enter on an endless existence unprepared.—G. Brooks: Outlines, p. 43. 16.

I. God's controversy with men.

1. What it is. God claims a right to command; men refuse to obey. An old quarrel.

2. Why it is. The rebellion of men makes God angry. Explain the scriptural meaning of the phrase, "Anger of God." Not to be resolved into a mere figure of speech. 3. How it is carried on. By the lessons of His Word, by the dispensation of His providence, by the strivings of His Spirit with the conscience. Sometimes in mercy, sometimes in judgment.

II. The limits which God has imposed on Himself in conducting His controversy with men.

1. The limits which He has imposed. With regard to the wicked, because the time of their visitation is past. With regard to the righteous, because the end has been attained.

2. The reason why He has imposed these limits. In consideration of human frailty.

CONCLUSION.—The great lesson is, that God has no delight in our suffering here or hereafter.—G. Brooks: Outlines, p. 143.

I. The frailty of man (see pp. 420). Physically, intellectually, spiritually. II. The compassion of God. He restrains His anger—in wisdom, in mercy. Limited by man's ability of endurance.—Dr. Lyth.

17-21. GOD'S ANGER (pp. 424)

I. Its evidences. "I hid me," &c. How God hides Himself. II. Its occasion. III. Its removal. From the penitent, by the Gospel of peace—to all, with the assurance of forgiveness, producing peace in the heart, health in the soul, praise in the lips. IV. Its perpetuation against the wicked.

1. Absolutely determined by his moral condition—their hearts are full of evil passions, restless trouble, pollution.

2. And by the sentence of God.—Dr. Lyth.


Verses 17-19

ABOUNDING SIN AND ABOUNDING GRACE

Isa . For the iniquity of his covetousness I was wroth, &c.

The design of the Bible is twofold: first, to reveal man to himself, and, next, to reveal God to him. The Bible contains a revelation of the gracious heart of God, and of the sinful heart of man. Both were necessary, for man is essentially ignorant of himself, and the degree of his distance and separation from God (Pro ; Rev 3:17-19). The text is a case in point. It was necessary that the Jews should be rebuked for their rebellion, and that God's mercy should be revealed to them. God condescends to argue the case with them, and to justify His procedure in permitting their captivity and desolation, whilst He gives the promise of their future restoration and recovery to His image and favour.

I. THE ABOUNDINGS OF SIN ON THE PART OF ISRAEL.

By the "iniquity of covetousness" we may perhaps understand their reluctance to uphold the service of God, contrasted by their prodigality and profusion in the service of idols (Isa ; Isa 57:9; Isa 43:22-24; Hos 2:8-9). But as human nature is always the same, we may trace here the marks of a declining professor.

1. Their obduracy under Divine chastisement (Jer ; Zep 3:2; Zep 3:5; Zep 3:7). It argues a strange boldness not to put away sin, when men are suffering under Divine rebukes. It is to refuse the antidote, and let the poison of sin work on. The bond of iniquity must be exceedingly strong, if when the hand of God is upon us, the heart do not relent (Pro 23:15; 2Ch 28:22). We may well pray: "From all hardness of heart," &c. Guard not only against sinful acts, but against a sinful and unsubdued temper of mind (Rev 3:19; Psa 32:9).

2. Their apathy under the Divine with-drawments. A good man is anxious to possess the tokens of the Divine favour, &c. The withholding of these is a source of humiliation and sorrow (Psa ; Psa 77:1-9). But Israel was full of apathy. Samson was unconscious of the loss he sustained: "He wist not that the Lord had departed."

3. Their neglect of the kindest appeals and promises of God's mercy. God had said (Isa ); yet this awakened no response. There are some whom neither judgments awe, nor mercy subdues.

II. THE ABOUNDINGS OF GRACE ON THE PART OF GOD.

1. For obduracy here is mercy. The criminal is arraigned, convicted, condemned, and punishment actually begun; and yet an arrest is placed upon the execution of judgment. When you would expect nothing but actual destruction, you have immediately after the triumph of grace. "Who is a God like Thee?" &c. God hates the sinner's ways, but He loves the sinner's soul. His grace is able to subdue the evils that nothing else can. He not only pardons but sanctifies.

2. For desertion here is the promise of guidance. Christ is the Shepherd of the souls He came to redeem.

3. For sorrow here is comfort. When the soul wants peace, it can have none till God speak it.

4. For despondency here is triumph. So great was the despondency that the restoration of peace is a miracle! It must be created! (Isa ).

CONCLUSION.—The text is a most instructive and encouraging comment on Rom . It has been the characteristic of humanity, in all conditions and dispensations, that sin abounded. But the mercy of God has super-abounded. The pardoning mercy of the Gospel greatly triumphs over sin, though so greatly aggravated by the light of Divine revelation. It can erase the deepest stains of guilt, and ennoble the nature which sin has degraded and defiled. This abounding grace is offered for your acceptance.—Samuel Thodey.

Isa . GOD'S TENDER MERCY TOWARD PENITENT SINNERS.

Through the cloud of His people's sins God's mercy shines most brightly. Here is unspeakable tenderness, to melt, to strengthen, and to console. Verily, "the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him," &c. (Isa ; Isa 48:9, and others).

God's tender mercy toward penitent sinners is here presented in several ways—

I. He sees them. This ancient doctrine is at variance with modern popular philosophy, which maintains that God holds Himself too high apart to take cognisance of men on this low earth; that if there is a God at all, He is very distant, and does not condescend to "look upon men" (Job ). If this is the God of popular philosophy, it is not the God of the Bible (Psa 113:6; Pro 15:3; Pro 5:21; Heb 4:13). Present everywhere, He sees all that transpires throughout His vast domains, &c. In this chapter, we read of some of the things that God saw in those of whom He here speaks; scoffing at religion; infatuated by sin; given over to the grossest iniquity; hardened in sin (Isa 57:4-9; Isa 57:17). God's compassionate eye is fixed upon you; He sees your wanderings, sins, repentance, &c., from His Omniscient out look, as though you alone of all His children were penitent. As a compassionate parent looks upon his erring penitent child, so God looks upon broken-hearted penitents. His pitying eye sees the contrite spirit and the aching heart, &c. (Psa 103:13; Luk 15:20; Luk 22:61). Ever look upon God as ever looking upon you. Look well to your "ways," cherish the spirit of prayerful watchfulness and self-denial. "Thou God seest me."

II. He heals them. Pardons and restores them. Sin is often represented as a painful, loathsome disease, and pardon and salvation as a healing of the disease (Isa ; Isa 30:26; 2Ch 7:14; Jer 3:22; Jer 8:22; Jer 17:4; Jer 33:6; Psa 41:3-4; Psa 103:3; Psa 147:3).

1. The inimitable character of the Physician.

(1.) His skill is infinite. A physician must understand anatomy, disease, symptoms, causes, &c., and he must be skilful to prescribe suitable directions and remedies, &c. The Divine Physician possesses unbounded knowledge of the cause, the progress, and the precise state of the soul's disorders and infirmities, of which bodily diseases are analogous. (See pp. 496.)

(2.) His power is almighty. No spiritual disease so inveterate and stubborn but He can conquer and cure it with infinite ease. He never turns any away, saying, "I can do no more for you," &c.

(3.) His tenderness and compassion is unspeakable (Isa ; Psa 103:13-14).

(4.) His patience and diligence is unwearied. He bears with their ingratitude, &c., pursues His work till He has effected a cure.

2. The remedy by which He heals.

(1.) His pardoning and restoring mercy through the redemption of Christ (Isa ; Zec 13:1; Rom 3:23-26; Rev 5:9, Rev 5:12; Rev. 8:14). Announced in the ministry of the Word. Applied by His Spirit (Eze 36:25-27; Heb 10:16). Received by faith.

(2.) The means of grace (Eph ). Designed to promote spiritual health. The Church—the hospital of grace, where the Divine art of healing is carried on, &c.

III. He leads them. Not only amends what is amiss in them, that they may cease to do evil; but directs them into the way of duty, that they may learn to do well (Psa ; Psa 73:24; and others. See pp. 296). He leads them to the mercy-seat; to His Word; into paths of righteousness, &c.

IV. He comforts them. He restores the comforts which they had forfeited and lost, for the return of which the grace of God had prepared them, and for which the pious among them had fervently prayed. They had experienced true and satisfying joy, but they sinned it away—they had lost their peace of mind, their souls were sad and cheerless. Sin always produces this effect. In the path of sin neither hope nor comfort can be found. And when lost, it can be recovered only by penitent faith (Psa , and others). God graciously restores the comfort of forfeited mercy, lost joy, vanished hope, &c. (Psa 23:3). He removes all false comforts, and then restores true comforts—the comfort of perfect pardon, daily communion, &c.

CONCLUSION.—Some of you are still impenitent—indifferent about spiritual healing, &c. Remember! God sees you always, in all your sinful "ways," and therefore sees that which in righteousness He must abhor, and in pity mourn. As a faithful father mourns because of the continued rebellion of a prodigal, so your heavenly Father mourns over you. Take that into your consideration, and surely you will be reluctant to weary out His patience, &c. "Repent and believe the Gospel," then God shall not see you as sinners He must condemn, but as penitents He must save, and heal, and lead, and comfort (1Jn ).—A. Tucker.

ASPECTS OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER.

The proper study of man is God. Nothing so tends to expand the mind, and humble the soul, &c. This description of God is worthy our careful consideration. From it we learn—

I. God is the all-seeing One. The doctrine of the Divine Omniscience one of the most important. Yet practically ignored. It should—

1. Exert a restraining influence. If we realised that God's eye was upon us we should refrain from sin in all its forms and manifestations; like Joseph we should exclaim, "How can I," &c.

2. Encourage the penitent.

3. Stimulate the Christian worker.

II. God is the great Physician. Men need healing. Not a hopeless case. Bodily health valuable, spiritual far more precious.

III. God is the Leader of His people. They need leading. God graciously offers to be our Guide—all-wise, powerful, faithful, &c. He is leading us to the heavenly habitation, &c. (see p. 296).

IV. God is the Comforter of His people. In the world they have tribulation, &c. Therefore need super-human comfort.

CONCLUSION.—"Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace, thereby good shall come to thee."—A. Tucker.


Verse 19-20

THE PEACE OF GOD

Isa . Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, &c.

There was a time when man's religion was the religion of spontaneous innocence: the only religion open to him now is the religion of penitence. This makes the Gospel bear the character of a system of cure. It is not a work of improvement for a nature already good, but a remedy for a nature diseased. It is a healing process. There is one thing all want and seek—peace. The world has said "peace, peace!" and they find that there is "no peace." There are two ways of seeking peace, two promises made to the craving heart, the same in words but opposed in meaning—the world's and Christ's. The world proposes to fulfil her promise by gratifying nature; the Gospel by expelling nature. The world's method is: "Gratify your desires; indulge them." If there were no other world, no conscience, this would be wise and well. The peace which Christ proclaims is different—the healing of a disordered heart; not giving the reins to desires, but mastering them; placing the whole soul under the discipline of the Cross.

In considering the promise which comes from the lips of God, we shall examine two connected subjects contained in these verses.

I. THE STRUGGLE OF AN EARNEST SOUL TOWARDS PEACE.

The first step is made by treading on the ruins of human pride. One source of restlessness is an overweening estimate of self. The Gospel crushes that spirit. At the foot of the Cross there is no room for pride. Merit is impossible before God. We are not claimants for reward, only suppliants for life, a life forfeited by guilt. Learn this first how much you deserve on God's earth, and if it should turn out that you deserve nothing and have received little, then calculate whether you have been defrauded. When we have passed through the first humbling smart of that conviction, content to stand unclothed before God, without one claim except the righteousness of Christ, we have made one step toward peace.

The second step toward peace is the attainment of a spirit of reconciliation. If there were nothing else to make men wretched, uncertainty regarding their future destinies would be enough. There is no peace in prospect of eternity, unless there is something more than a guess that God is loving us. This peace is for two classes.

1. For those who have remained through life "near" to God. Such are spoken of as the ninety-nine just persons, and are represented by the Elder Son in the parable. Their religious growth has been quiet, regular, steady. Nurtured in religious families, they have imbibed the atmosphere of religion without knowing how, and so they go on loving God, till duty becomes a habit and religion the very element of life. The rapture that comes from pardoned guilt is like the fire-rocket, streaming and blazing; but the peace of him who has lived "near" to God is like the quiet steady lustre of the light-house lamp.

2. This peace is for those who are "far off," who have lived long in the alienation of guilt. It seems as if the joy of returning to God had in it something richer than the peace which belongs to consistent obedience. There is the fatted calf, the robe, and the ring. After all, for most of us this is the only Gospel. One here and there has lived near to God from childhood, but the majority of us have lived far enough from Him at some period. We want a Gospel for the guilty. It is not the having been "far off" that makes peace impossible (Rom ).

The last step toward peace is the attainment of a spirit of active obedience. It is not the dread of hell alone that makes men miserable. We cannot be happy except in keeping God's commandments. Make a man sure of heaven, and leave him unhumbled, impure, selfish—he is a wretch still. Disobedience is misery. God's remedy is to write His law on the heart, so that we love Christ, and love what Christ commands.

II. REASONS WHICH EXCLUDE THE GUILTY HEART FROM PEACE. Two are assigned.

1. The heart's own inward restlessness. Man's spirit is like a vast ocean. A pond may be without a ripple, but the sea cannot rest. So it is with the soul.

2. The influences acting on the soul. The sea rests not because of the attraction of the heavenly bodies. In us there is a tide of feeling (Gal ). Partly the impossibility of rest arises from outward circumstances. There are winds that sweep the ocean's surface. So with man there are circumstances that fret and discompose. The man who has not peace in himself can never get it from circumstances. Place him where you will he carries an unquiet heart.

3. The power of memory to recall the past with remorse. "Its waters cast up mire and dirt" Memory brings to light what has been buried in it, as sea casts up wreck and broken rock. Navies may sink in it, but the planks stranded on the shore tell the tale of shipwreck So with deeds and thoughts. There are tempests that will bring them up some day. This is the worst torment of the impenitent.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Mark the connection between peace and cure. Only the blood of Christ can give the sinner peace.

2. No amount of sin bars the way to peace.—F. W. Robertson, M.A.: The Christian at Work, Feb. 1881.

I. The nature of the blessing which is proclaimed in the Gospel: "Peace, peace."

1. There is war between God and man, but the Gospel proclaims peace.

2. There is war between the higher and lower principles of human nature. Appetite and passion against reason and conscience. A divided heart.

II. The persons to whom the blessings proclaimed in the Gospel is offered. "To him that is afar off and to him that is near."

1. In respect of religious privileges. Gentiles and Jews.

2. In respect of social advantages. Members of worldly and of religious families.

3. In respect of moral character. The profligate and the respectable.

4. In respect of local distance. The field is the world.

III. The influence of the blessing proclaimed in the Gospel on its recipient.

1. It is beneficial in its operations. Not hurting, not deadening, not teaching or helping merely.

2. It is individual in its efficiency.

3. It is Divine in its agency.

IV. The practical issue.

1. The fruit of the lips is thanksgiving (Heb ).

2. God creates the occasion and the disposition.—G. Brookes: Outlines, pp. 143, 144.


Verse 20-21

THE UNHAPPINESS OF SINNERS

A true picture of that continued state of restlessness, uncertainty, and apprehension in which the wicked are held daily by the terrors of an alarmed conscience; or even by the distrust and anxiety they are doomed to experience in the very midst of their fancied freedom and enjoyments! Whoever has looked upon the ocean when tossed by storm and tempest, must acknowledge that the prophet could have selected no better comparison to depict to the life the state of a sinner's spirit.

I. In illustrating these declarations we are not required to maintain that the life of wicked men is one of pure and unqualified wretchedness; common experience would be against us, and such is not the meaning of our text. We may admit, in perfect conformity with Isaiah's views, that the persons here mentioned are very often possessed of many worldly blessings, and have much apparent enjoyment (Psa , &c.; H. E. I. 5045-5047). Yea, they are capable of deriving certain comforts from these outward benefits, and would sometimes be surprised if you told them that they were altogether strangers to peace. It is difficult to suppose that wealth, power, and distinction, although the portion of worldly and wicked men, convey to them no satisfaction. And especially if we contemplate that large class who spend their time amidst worldly amusements and dissipations—is there no comfort here? Is it possible that these buoyant and lively spirits are a prey to inward vexation? Can it be supposed that the thoughtless, the cheerful, and the gay, who seem to be far remote from anxiety and care, are, at the very moment, miserable? Must we suppose that even the sensual, who work all uncleanness with greediness, really do not find even any sordid pleasure in their pursuits? We need not make any statements so strong and unqualified. Nor, whatever be the alleged gratification that such persons can have, and whatever be their exemption, at any stated period, from harassing anxiety, it is not peace ( α). The only condition which answers to the word peace is totally distinct both from the animal spirits, which are sometimes mistaken for it, and from the insensibility which marks the practised and daring sinner. True peace must be something essentially distinct from the changing objects of time and sense; it must be something which includes the freedom of the mind from just apprehensions of evil, and which breathes over the soul a calm which the world cannot take away. Now, there is nothing which can do this but the peace made known and offered to us by the Gospel (Joh 14:27; Rom 14:17).

Where there is no reconciliation with God, this peace cannot exist. The wicked, therefore, have it not; on the contrary, they "are like the troubled sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt." There may sometimes be a calm over the face of the deep, but it is not of long continuance; and the time comes when we observe the sea in commotion: no longer hushed in repose and presenting the stillness and clearness of a placid lake, but working up from its depths the sediment which is there deposited, and mingling it, even to the surface, with its waves. Such is the just and accurate image to represent the real state of mind of the wicked. Making all due allowance for the different natural dispositions of men, we see this to be generally the case with them. While all is cheerfulness and gaiety around them, while nothing occurs to interfere with their worldly pleasures, or the indulgence of their depraved minds, there is the apparent quiet and repose of the unruffled ocean: but let the soothing influence be removed, let the object of their gratifications and pursuits desert them, nay, let them be followed only to their own chamber and left to the solitude of their own thoughts, and how little have they of rest!

II. Why is there no peace to the wicked? Several reasons. 1. The unsuitableness of any earthly things to satisfy the soul. God created man in His own image; and although that image has been defaced, it is not absolutely destroyed; the temple which God created has not been ploughed up from the foundation; although a ruin, it is still a splendid ruin. The soul no longer possesses those elevated and lofty views and desires which distinguished it before the fall; but there is still in us a desire for something which this world cannot supply. Give to a man all that his heart can wish for of things visible: it will be found that the spirit is not satisfied. If we would give peace to the soul, we must have recourse to something better than the world with all its promises, and more suited to afford solid gratification than wickedness in all its branches (H. E. I. 4969-4974, 5006-5025).

2. The corrupt influence of depraved appetites and ungoverned passions. The terrible results of this influence will be obvious to any one who will observe the wicked, the perpetual outbreaking of their bad passions, and the misery thus inflicted on them (H. E. I. 4955).

3. An unpacified conscience. This troubles them in their solitude even in the days of their health; but how terrible is the distress it causes when death seems at hand.

CONCLUSION.—1. The folly of continuing in any known sin. No man would willingly and avowedly pursue a course which must involve him in misery. Why, then, is it that men persist in transgression? 2. How conducive to our happiness, even in this life, must be the spirit of true religion in the heart—reconciliation with God; peace of conscience; the peace which Christ can give. 3. What cause have we for gratitude to God, that He has provided a way of reconciliation even for the chief of sinners!—W. Dealtry, D.D., F.R.S.: Sermons, pp. 281-297.

I. In illustrating these declarations we are not required to maintain that the life of wicked men is one of pure and unqualified wretchedness; common experience would be against us, and such is not the meaning of our text. We may admit, in perfect conformity with Isaiah's views, that the persons here mentioned are very often possessed of many worldly blessings, and have much apparent enjoyment (Psa , &c.; H. E. I. 5045-5047). Yea, they are capable of deriving certain comforts from these outward benefits, and would sometimes be surprised if you told them that they were altogether strangers to peace. It is difficult to suppose that wealth, power, and distinction, although the portion of worldly and wicked men, convey to them no satisfaction. And especially if we contemplate that large class who spend their time amidst worldly amusements and dissipations—is there no comfort here? Is it possible that these buoyant and lively spirits are a prey to inward vexation? Can it be supposed that the thoughtless, the cheerful, and the gay, who seem to be far remote from anxiety and care, are, at the very moment, miserable? Must we suppose that even the sensual, who work all uncleanness with greediness, really do not find even any sordid pleasure in their pursuits? We need not make any statements so strong and unqualified. Nor, whatever be the alleged gratification that such persons can have, and whatever be their exemption, at any stated period, from harassing anxiety, it is not peace ( α). The only condition which answers to the word peace is totally distinct both from the animal spirits, which are sometimes mistaken for it, and from the insensibility which marks the practised and daring sinner. True peace must be something essentially distinct from the changing objects of time and sense; it must be something which includes the freedom of the mind from just apprehensions of evil, and which breathes over the soul a calm which the world cannot take away. Now, there is nothing which can do this but the peace made known and offered to us by the Gospel (Joh 14:27; Rom 14:17).

Where there is no reconciliation with God, this peace cannot exist. The wicked, therefore, have it not; on the contrary, they "are like the troubled sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt." There may sometimes be a calm over the face of the deep, but it is not of long continuance; and the time comes when we observe the sea in commotion: no longer hushed in repose and presenting the stillness and clearness of a placid lake, but working up from its depths the sediment which is there deposited, and mingling it, even to the surface, with its waves. Such is the just and accurate image to represent the real state of mind of the wicked. Making all due allowance for the different natural dispositions of men, we see this to be generally the case with them. While all is cheerfulness and gaiety around them, while nothing occurs to interfere with their worldly pleasures, or the indulgence of their depraved minds, there is the apparent quiet and repose of the unruffled ocean: but let the soothing influence be removed, let the object of their gratifications and pursuits desert them, nay, let them be followed only to their own chamber and left to the solitude of their own thoughts, and how little have they of rest!

II. Why is there no peace to the wicked? Several reasons. 1. The unsuitableness of any earthly things to satisfy the soul. God created man in His own image; and although that image has been defaced, it is not absolutely destroyed; the temple which God created has not been ploughed up from the foundation; although a ruin, it is still a splendid ruin. The soul no longer possesses those elevated and lofty views and desires which distinguished it before the fall; but there is still in us a desire for something which this world cannot supply. Give to a man all that his heart can wish for of things visible: it will be found that the spirit is not satisfied. If we would give peace to the soul, we must have recourse to something better than the world with all its promises, and more suited to afford solid gratification than wickedness in all its branches (H. E. I. 4969-4974, 5006-5025).

2. The corrupt influence of depraved appetites and ungoverned passions. The terrible results of this influence will be obvious to any one who will observe the wicked, the perpetual outbreaking of their bad passions, and the misery thus inflicted on them (H. E. I. 4955).

3. An unpacified conscience. This troubles them in their solitude even in the days of their health; but how terrible is the distress it causes when death seems at hand.

CONCLUSION.—1. The folly of continuing in any known sin. No man would willingly and avowedly pursue a course which must involve him in misery. Why, then, is it that men persist in transgression? 2. How conducive to our happiness, even in this life, must be the spirit of true religion in the heart—reconciliation with God; peace of conscience; the peace which Christ can give. 3. What cause have we for gratitude to God, that He has provided a way of reconciliation even for the chief of sinners!—W. Dealtry, D.D., F.R.S.: Sermons, pp. 281-297.

I. In illustrating these declarations we are not required to maintain that the life of wicked men is one of pure and unqualified wretchedness; common experience would be against us, and such is not the meaning of our text. We may admit, in perfect conformity with Isaiah's views, that the persons here mentioned are very often possessed of many worldly blessings, and have much apparent enjoyment (Psa , &c.; H. E. I. 5045-5047). Yea, they are capable of deriving certain comforts from these outward benefits, and would sometimes be surprised if you told them that they were altogether strangers to peace. It is difficult to suppose that wealth, power, and distinction, although the portion of worldly and wicked men, convey to them no satisfaction. And especially if we contemplate that large class who spend their time amidst worldly amusements and dissipations—is there no comfort here? Is it possible that these buoyant and lively spirits are a prey to inward vexation? Can it be supposed that the thoughtless, the cheerful, and the gay, who seem to be far remote from anxiety and care, are, at the very moment, miserable? Must we suppose that even the sensual, who work all uncleanness with greediness, really do not find even any sordid pleasure in their pursuits? We need not make any statements so strong and unqualified. Nor, whatever be the alleged gratification that such persons can have, and whatever be their exemption, at any stated period, from harassing anxiety, it is not peace ( α). The only condition which answers to the word peace is totally distinct both from the animal spirits, which are sometimes mistaken for it, and from the insensibility which marks the practised and daring sinner. True peace must be something essentially distinct from the changing objects of time and sense; it must be something which includes the freedom of the mind from just apprehensions of evil, and which breathes over the soul a calm which the world cannot take away. Now, there is nothing which can do this but the peace made known and offered to us by the Gospel (Joh 14:27; Rom 14:17).

Where there is no reconciliation with God, this peace cannot exist. The wicked, therefore, have it not; on the contrary, they "are like the troubled sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt." There may sometimes be a calm over the face of the deep, but it is not of long continuance; and the time comes when we observe the sea in commotion: no longer hushed in repose and presenting the stillness and clearness of a placid lake, but working up from its depths the sediment which is there deposited, and mingling it, even to the surface, with its waves. Such is the just and accurate image to represent the real state of mind of the wicked. Making all due allowance for the different natural dispositions of men, we see this to be generally the case with them. While all is cheerfulness and gaiety around them, while nothing occurs to interfere with their worldly pleasures, or the indulgence of their depraved minds, there is the apparent quiet and repose of the unruffled ocean: but let the soothing influence be removed, let the object of their gratifications and pursuits desert them, nay, let them be followed only to their own chamber and left to the solitude of their own thoughts, and how little have they of rest!

II. Why is there no peace to the wicked? Several reasons. 1. The unsuitableness of any earthly things to satisfy the soul. God created man in His own image; and although that image has been defaced, it is not absolutely destroyed; the temple which God created has not been ploughed up from the foundation; although a ruin, it is still a splendid ruin. The soul no longer possesses those elevated and lofty views and desires which distinguished it before the fall; but there is still in us a desire for something which this world cannot supply. Give to a man all that his heart can wish for of things visible: it will be found that the spirit is not satisfied. If we would give peace to the soul, we must have recourse to something better than the world with all its promises, and more suited to afford solid gratification than wickedness in all its branches (H. E. I. 4969-4974, 5006-5025).

2. The corrupt influence of depraved appetites and ungoverned passions. The terrible results of this influence will be obvious to any one who will observe the wicked, the perpetual outbreaking of their bad passions, and the misery thus inflicted on them (H. E. I. 4955).

3. An unpacified conscience. This troubles them in their solitude even in the days of their health; but how terrible is the distress it causes when death seems at hand.

CONCLUSION.—1. The folly of continuing in any known sin. No man would willingly and avowedly pursue a course which must involve him in misery. Why, then, is it that men persist in transgression? 2. How conducive to our happiness, even in this life, must be the spirit of true religion in the heart—reconciliation with God; peace of conscience; the peace which Christ can give. 3. What cause have we for gratitude to God, that He has provided a way of reconciliation even for the chief of sinners!—W. Dealtry, D.D., F.R.S.: Sermons, pp. 281-297.

II. The sinner, in his impurity, is like the troubled sea, "whose waters cast up mire and dirt." As in a tempest the waves of the ocean fling nothing but foam and weed and refuse to the shore, so the mind of the sinner is productive of nothing but polluted thoughts and corrupted actions, as worthless as the mire and clay left behind it by the retiring storm. This is of all others the greatest evil that sin brings with it. By it true happiness of soul and nobleness of life are rendered impossible. It is only when the stain of sin has been blotted out by faith, and the feelings of the heart purified by grace continually sought for in fervent prayer, that the peace of God reigns in the heart, and the fruits of peace show themselves in the life and practice.

III. Several things render the sinner unhappy even in this life. Not only shall he have no peace hereafter, but he has no peace here and now. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."

1. The wicked have no real comfort of mind from the pleasures of this world.

(1.) Nothing can afford us any real or lasting pleasures except so far as it can be enjoyed innocently and with a good conscience. The indulgence of disordered passion may, indeed, sometimes give a momentary delight; but it is always followed, on reflection, by the pangs of remorse and sorrow.

(2.) Even those delights which are pure and innocent the sinner enjoyeth not like other men; for his taste is too much corrupted and deadened by the intoxicating draughts of sin to relish the simple pleasures of innocence and virtue.

2. The wicked must necessarily want all effectual support under the many evils and calamities of life. In the time of affliction, what a contrast there is between the faithful Christian and the sinner. What the Christian can say (Psa ; 2Co 4:17-18). But when the storm overtakes the sinner, it finds him naked and exposed to its influence, without one single prospect of succour or of safety. He cannot retire within himself, and derive comfort in his adversity from the uprightness of his conduct and the purity of his intentions, for these never have had a place in his bosom; he cannot look back with pleasure on the past, and he dare not look forward to the future. Moreover, the world feels no pity for the unfortunate sinner, and his own companions in guilt will be the first to shun and the last to succour him.

3. The wicked are troubled perpetually with the reproofs of conscience, and unwelcome thoughts of death.—R. Parkinson, B.D.: Sermons, vol. i. pp. 148-158.

Words have different meanings on different lips. "A rich man"—a farmer's wife will so describe a man on whom a Baring or a Rothschild looks down as poor. To God and His inspired prophets "peace" has a loftier significance than it has to us, when uninstructed by them. Their peace means a condition of the heart arising from the harmony of the heart with God. A great work has been accomplished in any heart in which there is this peace. Its source is invisible, its results supernatural. The world does not give it; the world cannot take it away. It is independent of circumstances. Those who possess it are conscious of it when resting in the pleasant shade around which falls the pleasant sunshine of a summer day, and also when tossed to and fro at midnight on a stormy ocean. Christ, who gives it, had it when the cross was full in view: it was when He was on His way to torture and death that He bequeathed it to His disciples (Joh ).

If we forget what "peace" means in Scripture, we shall be disposed to regard this Scripture declaration as inaccurate, as exaggerated. Great was Asaph's distress when he forgot it (Psa ). In the world there are many counterfeits of peace on which our observation is apt to rest. These counterfeits of peace prevail: nevertheless to the wicked there is no peace. What they imagine is peace is like the smoothness of the ocean on a summer evening: there is in it no stability. The wicked man, after all, is "like the troubled sea."

I. He cannot rest. That is true of the sea, and it is just as true of the sinner, for there are mighty winds from which he cannot long escape.

1. The wind of an accusing conscience. No opiate will consign conscience to an endless slumber; no gag will keep it always silent. There are times when it will escape, and the work it does then is like the work done by a hurricane on the ocean. In solitude, in the sleepless midnight hours, in the season of sickness, the wicked man feels himself helpless before it.

2. The wind of approaching death, for which the wicked man feels he is not ready (P. D. 684).

3. The wind of judgment beyond death. In health, he scoffed at the thought of it as a silly superstitious delusion; but when he feels the chill hand of death is upon him, where is his "peace"?

These mighty winds render it impossible for the wicked man to rest. They expose the worthlessness of the counterfeits in which for a little while he rejoices.

II. He cannot permanently conceal the foulness that is within him. When the storm strikes the sea, "its waters cast up mire and dirt;" it is seen that they are not throughout as pellucid as on a quiet summer evening they seem. Their charm is merely superficial. On the wicked man, likewise, forces are exerted which show what is in him. For a time there may be a fair outward appearance, that deceives himself and others; but ere long it is dispersed by such things as these—

1. The fierce gale of sensual passion. What scandals shock society every day! What surprise is felt! And yet how unreasonable is the surprise! The temptation only showed what was in the man.

2. The fierce gale of disappointed ambition. What falsehood, meanness, cruelty, appears in men who are being deposed or hurled from power! With what base weapon they seek to defend themselves, and to retain their position!

3. The fierce gale of pecuniary necessity. There are in jail to-day men whose word a year ago was considered "as good as their bond;" but there never was in them real honesty. All these things show what is in the wicked; that beneath the surface, yea, to the very depths of their being, there is foulness.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let us not envy the wicked in their time of success and serenity (Psa ; H. E. I. 4943-4948, 4955-4966).

2. Let us seek the true peace and the permanent serenity we need where alone it can be found.

3. Let us have Divine compassion for the wicked.—R. A., 73.

THE HYPOCRITE UNMASKED

Isa . Cry aloud, spare not, &c.

The history of nations is pre-eminently the history of God's providential government of the world. The special charge laid at the door of Israel in our text is that of hypocrisy: a malady from which many a modern temple-worshipper is suffering. Indeed there is the tendency of it to be found lurking in the nature of us all. Consider—

I. The false professions with which the Israelites are charged.

1. An apparent diligence in the search after truth and justice.

2. They appeared to be regular and punctual in their observance of the ordinances of religion. Often secondary motives prompt to a religious profession and to attendance at the house of God. It is considered fashionable and respectable to keep the Sabbath and to be present at the sanctuary at least once on the Lord's Day. Besides, it is pleasing to our friends, &c. If these are your only motives to a religious profession, they are unworthy, and will not stand the lightning glance of Him who is the searcher of all hearts. This will help us to account for the apparent lapses and so-called backslidings of professing Christians. Learn the vital difference between a spurious and a genuine piety.

3. Look also at the spirit in which their sacrifices were made.

4. Evidently some of them were possessed of a strong desire to maintain the standard of orthodoxy (Isa ; 1 Corinthians 1). To-day the olden spirit of strife and sectarian jealousy still stalks through Christendom, and there is the same smiting at any rate with the mental fist that we find in the dark days of old. How is it with ourselves? What is the great object of all our self-sacrifice and labour? Is it merely to bolster up our own little sect or Church, &c.

5. The spirit of mock humility in which the Israelites indulged (Isa ). Custom of the East; the humiliation was feigned (Job 8:12). Such are some of the false professions with which the Israelites are here charged.

II. The vehement rebuke with which, because of their false professions, they are visited (Isa ; Eze 33:3). It is possible for God's people even to harbour in their midst the accursed thing which God hateth. And although we are sometimes slow to detect and confess the lurking evil, which like a worm is gnawing the root of our piety, and sapping the very fount of our spiritual life; yet God detects it, and it must be put away if we would still be accepted of Him.

CONCLUSION.—If your character answers at all to that of Israel, suffer the word of honest rebuke. Of all hateful things in God's sight, hypocrisy is the chief.—J. W. Atkinson: The Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 882.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-57.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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