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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Isaiah 9



Verse 3


(Harvest Thanksgiving Sermon.)

Isa . They joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, &c.

1. It is the completion and reward of the anxiety and labours of the year it closes.

2. It furnishes the supply for our needs in the year to come.—We call upon you to rejoice before the Lord to-day (P. D. 1710-1712), and to associate your thanksgiving with the name of Christ (Heb ). Let all outward gifts remind you of that unseen Mediator through whom they flow. Our gratitude should be deep and fervent; it should bear some proportion to the regret we should have felt if God had withheld the blessings in which we now rejoice, and had blighted the promise of the year. Yet now, when those temporal gifts abound, let us remember their inability to satisfy the needs of the soul. The satisfaction for these needs is to be found only in Christ. He who had more corn than his barns could hold, now wants a drop of water to cool his tongue.

II. The joy of the spiritual harvest. The vicissitudes of the religious life are often compared to those of the seasons (Psa ). The Christian husbandman has his anxieties, arising from the badness of the soil, the unfavourableness of the seasons, the delay of harvest, the fear of final loss. Yet he has his reaping seasons of joy even in this world—

1. When a consciousness of sin which has long oppressed the soul is exchanged for a sense of pardoning mercy, through the application of the blood of sprinkling.

2. When, after a long period of depression, hope revisits the mind (H. E. I. 313, 314, 1658, 1659, 3041).

3. When there come to us the answers to our prayers that were long delayed (H. E. I. 3895, 3896). "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."

4. When the spiritual triumphs of the gospel are made manifest: to parents in their families; to ministers in their congregations; to missionaries abroad. Just in proportion to the toil and the prolonged anxiety is the rapture of success. The harvest sometimes comes to us after long delay, after many anxieties, after many fears (Jas ). God sees fit to exercise His people with the discipline of suspense, but this is for their good (Lam 3:26).

III. The joy of the eternal harvest. When all Christ's people are gathered into His immediate presence (Mat ); then will the declaration of our text be fulfilled in the highest sense of which it is capable. The ransomed will rejoice when they think,

1. Of the grace that reigns in their salvation. By that grace they were transformed from being tares, the end of which is burning, into wheat meet for the garner.

2. Of the great cost and care bestowed upon their culture, that they might be ripened for the heavenly kingdom.

3. How often they despaired of their own safety.

4. Of their deliverance from the fearful fate of the tares and chaff, whose end is to be burned.

—Samuel Thodey.

Verse 6


Isa . For unto us a Child is born, &c.

I. The Incarnation and Government of Jesus Christ. Let us contemplate Him,

1. As the Incarnate One. "Unto us a child is born" (H. E. I. 846-853).

2. As a gift of Heaven to a fallen world. "Unto us a Son is given."

3. As advanced to supreme rule and authority. "The government shall be upon His shoulder.

II. The names and characters by which He is distinguished. "His name," &c.

III. The adaptation of these Qualities to the purposes of His spiritual reign.

1. We need wisdom, and He is the "Counsellor."

2. We need reconciliation to God, and He is our "Peace."

3. We need support under the calamities of life, and this He gives us, for He is the "Mighty God."

4. We need comfort under the fears of death, and this He gives as "The Father of the Everlasting Age."—George Smith, D.D.


Isa . The government shall be on His shoulder, &c.

Let me caution you against mistaking this government for that essential dominion which belongeth to our blessed Lord as God. To suppose that this had been given to our Lord would be to deny His essential Godhead. The government here spoken of is one that He receives: a delegated government as the Mediator of the covenant: that which we are told (1Co ) He will hereafter deliver up to the Father. Three particulars we may point out, in which He exercises this dominion. I. He rules for His Church, as "The Lamb in the midst of the throne." II. He rules in His Church, being its alone King and Lawgiver. The Church is never for one moment to assume the power of legislation; it belongs not to her, but to Him: she has the executive—nothing more—to obey His laws, to carry them out according to the mind of Him who framed them. III. There is a third power—that which He exercises in the souls of His true subjects, ruling in and over them by the power of His own blessed Spirit.—J. H. Evans, M.A.: Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 337.

In this verse we have a constellation of titles, all of which illustrate the essential dignity and mediatorial claims of Jesus, and tend to awaken the confidence of the Church. The very first declaration, His "name shall be called Wonderful," fitly prepares us for all that is to follow, teaching us to expect something beyond the ordinary works of God. He is "wonderful" in His incarnation, in His government, in the counsels He originates, in the divinity of His nature, in the eternity of His existence, in the results of His mediatorial rule, for He is "the Prince of Peace," swaying the sceptre of mercy over an apostate and disordered world. There is a beautiful consistency in all this; for if the government of earth and heaven, the sovereignty of the Church and of the world, is to be exercised by the Redeemer, it is necessary that He should be possessed of attributes equal to its immense responsibilities. But these attributes are His, and hence the command, "Rejoice, for the Lord reigneth!"

I. It is a cause of peculiar rejoicing to all good men that the government of the world is in the hands of Christ. Their interest and joy in this fact arise—

1. From the near and sacred relation in which Jesus stands to them.

2. From the glorious perfectness of His character, which guarantees the wisdom and blessedness of His sway.

3. From the changelessness, perpetuity, and destined universality of His rule.

II. The sovereignty of Christ affords great relief in contemplating the abject condition of the heathen world. The heathen have been given to Him for His inheritance, and He will certainly deliver them from the superstitions and miseries by which they are oppressed.

III. This fact gives us a deep interest in beholding the vast extent of the universe of God. Every part of it is but a province in Christ's boundless empire.—Samuel Thodey.


Isa . His name shall be called Wonderful, &c.

I. Christ is wonderful in His nature. He is wonderful,

1. in respect of His essential Godhead.

2. In respect of His perfect manhood. All excellences were combined in him as a man, unlike even His most eminent servants, who are distinguished for the possession of special graces, which too often are clouded by some opposite defect.

3. In respect of the union in Him of Deity and humanity (1Ti ).

II. Christ is wonderful in His offices, at once Prophet, Priest, and King.

1. As a Prophet, what wonderful disclosures He has made to us of the Divine nature and will, and of human duty and destiny; with what wonderful authority He spoke; with what wonderful completeness and beauty He fulfilled all His own commandments!

2. As a Priest, how wonderfully He was at once sacrifice and offerer: how wonderfully He still carries on the work of reconciliation (Rom ).

3. As a King, how wonderfully He rules, with omnipotent power, yet with lamblike gentleness.

III. Christ is wonderful in His relation to His people.

1. In the care He exercises over them (Eze ).

2. In the abundance of the grace which He ministers to them (2Co ; Joh 1:16; H. E. I. 936).

4. In the perfectness of His sympathy with them. He identifies Himself so entirely with His people, that they have not a single care, trial, or temptation of any sort, but it is as much His as it is theirs (H. E. I. 952-961).—J. H. Evans, M.A.: Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii. pp. 336-348.

We are continually struck with one marked contrast between the greatness that is human and the greatness that is Divine: human greatness the more it is examined the less wonderful it appears, but Divine productions, the more closely they are investigated the more brightly they shine. We shall see that Christ is wonderful, if we consider—I. The excellences that compose His mediatorial character. God and man! Nor is this a wonder to men only (1Pe ). II. The stupendous blessings He bestows on His friends. III. The reserves of glory which He waits to exhibit in now unseen and future worlds.

Behold Him, and

1. Never hesitate to acknowledge Him as your Saviour and Lord.

2. Yield a ready obedience to His authority.

3. Anticipate His coming in glory.—Samuel Thodey.


Isa . His name shall be called … Counsellor, &c.

I. How Christ may be our Counsellor. Immediate, close, and confidential intercourse is involved in our idea of taking counsel. When we are in perplexity, we lay the whole matter before a friend in whose wisdom we trust. So we may spread our difficulties before Christ in prayer. Thus far, all is clear. But how can we receive from Christ the answer and guidance we seek? How does an earthly friend help us in such a case? By producing a certain impression on our mind. He may do it by spoken words, by letter, or even by a gesture. The manner is unimportant. So Christ guides us by producing impression on our mind; how, we know not, nor does it matter greatly. The well-instructed Christian seeks counsel from Christ in all things. He prays for daily guidance. Special difficulties he makes matter of special prayer. Then, upon the mind previously made calm and willing, there comes a sense of rectitude, and a feeling of resolution. One course, generally that which involves most self-denial and manifests least self-dependence, comes prominently forth in strong relief, as most to be preferred. Its advantages each moment look clearer and brighter; its consistency with his religious profession, conformity to the will of God, and true wisdom, are more and more strongly impressed upon his mind. He doubts no more. He has arrived at a decision. Christ's counsel has prevailed. It is our privilege thus to be directed at every stage and in every vicissitude of life.

II. Why we should take Christ for our Counsellor. Because in Him are all the qualities that would cause us to value and seek the counsel of an earthly friend—tenderness, wisdom, and power. He can help us to carry out His counsels.

III. What will be the effects of making Christ the Man of our counsel?"

1. A general consistency of Christian conduct. Inconsistency arises from listening to contradictory advisers; sometimes going to Christ, and sometimes taking counsel with flesh and blood.

2. A conformity and likeness to Christ. You will learn to love what He loves, and to desire what He promises. In the man who constantly makes Christ his counsellor, there is begotten a spirituality of mind, a deadness to the world, a fixedness of purpose, a cheerfulness of temper, a self-possession and patience, which are scarcely conceivable and quite invaluable. A man is powerfully influenced by the company he keeps—whether it be refined and moral, or coarse and profligate.

What, then, must be the effect of habitual intercourse with the Lord of light and grace and glory?

3. A preparedness for Christ's presence in heaven? What is the bliss of heaven? It is the vision of the Almighty; unclouded and uninterrupted intercourse with the Saviour and Lord of all. The more we have cultivated this here, the more fitted we shall be for it hereafter.—Josiah Bateman, M.A.: Sermons, pp. 1-18.


Isa . His name shall be called … The Mighty God.

"Mighty Hero."—Gesenius.

"Counsellor of the Mighty God."—Grotius.

"Counseller of God, Mighty."—Carpenter.

"And He who is Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, calls His name the Prince of peace."—Jarchi and Kimchi.

I. It is essential to soundness of creed, and to any full realisation of the Christian life, to hold firmly to the doctrine of the perfect humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man in the same sense that this is true of any man here; whatever was essential to perfectness of manhood existed in Him. Unless we grasp this great truth intelligently and firmly,

1. His example can be of no considerable help to us (H. E. I. 898). The example of an angel, though it might excite our admiration, would also smite us with despair.

2. His sympathy with men, because of His identity with them in their experience, can never be to us, what it has been to millions, one of the most comforting and strengthening of all thoughts (Heb ; Heb 4:15; H. E. I. 872, 954). II. It is equally necessary that we should hold firmly the doctrine of His Deity. That He is "the mighty God" is the testimony,

1. Of His works (Mat , &c.).

2. Of His words (Joh ; Joh 7:37; Joh 8:12, &c.; H. E. I. 836, 840-842). This doctrine pervades the New Testament (H. E. I. 835, 838.) The sum of its teaching concerning Him is, that in Him God was manifest, that He is the true God (1Ti 3:16; 1Jn 5:20). It is not only one of the profoundest of all doctrines, it is the most practical. Let me doubt it, and how can Christ be to me a Saviour? How can He be more to me than any other eminently holy and wise man who died centuries ago, or yesterday?

1. What comfort can I derive from the declaration that He died for me? Could a man atone for the sins of the whole world, for my sins?

2. What comfort can I derive from the declaration that He now lives and is in heaven? If so, as a man, doubtless, He will sympathise with me, but how can I be assured that He hears the cries for help which in times of distress and danger I raise? or that, if He hears me, He is able to help?

1. This complex Christian life of ours can be sustained only by the complex and unfathomably mysterious doctrine of the Divine-human nature of Christ, just as our physical life can be sustained only by the compound yet simple atmosphere we breathe. To simplify the atmosphere by taking away, if it were possible, either of its main constituents would transform the earth into a sepulchre; and to "simplify" Christian doctrine by taking away the doctrine either of our Lord's humanity or of His Deity is the destruction of spiritual life.

2. Let us, then, accept in all their fulness the declarations of Scripture concerning the Person of our Lord. Those declarations transcend our reason, but they do not contradict it (H. E. I. 851, 4809-4814), and they should be joyfully accepted by our faith.

3. Let us think much of Christ as the Son of man, that by His example we may be incited to strive after a noble manhood, and that by the assurance of His sympathy we may be sustained amid all the struggles and sorrows of life.

4. Let us think much of Him as "the mighty God," that our faith may rejoice in His ability to accomplish for us a complete redemption; that our reason and conscience may be led to bow to the authority which must therefore belong to all His utterances; that our love for Him, while it is tender and ardent, may be also reverent; and that our soul may feel itself free to give expression to the feelings of adoration that rise up within us when we contemplate His perfections, His purposes, and the work which it is declared He has accomplished on our behalf.


Isa . The Everlasting Father.

We usually associate the name of father with the first "Person" of the adorable Godhead. But there is no manner of doubt that the title here belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ—to the very same Person who, in human nature, was a Child born, and a Son given up for the salvation of men. But there is this difference: the title given to the Son born is not merely "the Father," but "the everlasting Father. The title is not "Father," but the entire phrase. Read more exactly in accordance with the original words, the phrase is this: "the father of perpetuity, the father of eternity, the father of the for ever." "Father" means here simply possessor or author. To be the father of eternity" is to have eternity, and to rule in eternity—to be the Lord of eternity. Christ Jesus, who hath the government upon His shoulders, hath it on His shoulders for ever; He is King of kings and Lord of lords throughout eternity. The eternity here spoken of is not the eternity that is bygone—if we may so speak of eternity; it is the ongoing and unending duration that lies before us, and Christ Jesus is Lord and Ruler of it all. No doubt He who can hold the future eternity in His hand, and who can rule all its affairs, must have been Himself the Unbeginning and Eternal One; and the Scriptures leave no doubts about that being the attribute of our Lord Jesus Christ (Joh ; Col 1:17; Joh 1:3). But it is that for ever which lies before us which Christ is here said to be the Father of. He is so as its Possessor—He has it; as its Originator—He makes it what it is; as its Controller—He rules in it.

I. Jesus Christ is the father of the eternity that lies before us, the father of the for ever, because He Himself lives for ever. He has it. Observe, this is true of the Second Person of the Godhead in human nature. The connection of the text will not permit us to forget that. It is the Child born and the Son given who is said to live for ever. That is a great thought; the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ in humanity is to live for ever is a stupendous expectation and belief. Sometimes it has seemed to me as it were more wonderful even than the Incarnation. It seems as if it would have been less strange for the Son of God, for some great purpose, to have clothed Himself with a creature's nature, and then, having accomplished that purpose, to have laid down that nature as a thing too far down from the Infinite to be worn for ever. But now the wonder is, that having made Himself our kinsman, He is to be our Head for ever, and is never to cease to wear the human nature in which He died on Calvary. That this is an important thought appears from two considerations.

1. It is part of the Divine promise of the Father to our Lord, and it is a thing for which our Lord prayed as part of His Father's promise (compare Isa , Psa 72:15; Psa 21:4).

2. It implies that His work was finished to His Father's satisfaction. It is clearly spoken of as a reward for work well done. Hence this title "Father of eternity"—hath in germ within it the great facts of Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and session in glory (comp. Rev ). From this fact two inferences can be drawn, both of a most consolatory and joyful character.

1. To God's people. What a Saviour they have! They need never fear that they will be without His care. They could not find a world in all the universe where He is not with them, and they cannot live on to any age when He shall cease to be their light and King

2. The same thing brings comfort to every sinner (Heb ). Do not lose yourselves in a great general thought of Christ living for ever; rather narrow the broad and grand conception, and fasten it down upon the present fleeting moment. Christ lives now, and lives here—lives here and now to save the sinner and bless the saint. Apply to Him, and rejoice in Him that liveth now and for ever and ever.

II. He originated this age that is spoken of. As by His death He secured His own immortality on the basis of the faithful covenant, and received life for ever because He had done the Father's will; so by the same completion of His mediatorial work on earth He purchased this immortality for His people. All that is valuable in the prospect of unending existence to any human being he owes to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the father of the eternal age; it could not have been without Him.

III. As Jesus Christ, personally and in humanity, lives through this eternal age, and as He introduced it and gave it its grand characteristics, so the administration of its whole affairs is in His hands. The Author of our Faith is the ruler of its progress, and that not on earth alone, but in heaven (Mat ). What follows from that?

1. What a terrible and what a hopeless thing it must be to resist Christ! To resist Him effectually, we would require to be able to do one or other of two things: We should need either to go beyond infinite distance and get away from Him that way, or live longer than for ever, which is equally impossible. The only question is this, "Am I in Christ's hands to be slain by Him, or to be saved by Him?" and that turns on my submission to His will. "Am I to sit on the throne beside Him? or take the other alternative and be made His footstool?"

2. What a good thought it is for the Christian, that he can never go away from Christ's care, that He can never be for a moment without his Friend watching over him, and never in any place in which he does not hear the music of those precious words, "Lo, I am with you alway!"—J. Edmond, D.D.: Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix. pp. 145-148.


Isa . The Prince of Peace.

How peaceful was the scene when the first Sabbath shone upon this world! How reversed was the scene when sin entered to revolutionise it! Think of the widespread and woful war which sin has entailed on this world, and see the need of such a Prince as our text reveals to restore the primitive peace. See, too, the magnitude of the work to which the Redeemer stands appointed when He is presented in the character of a pacificator who is to bring this strife to a happy conclusion for man.


1. In His original personal excellence as the only begotten of the Father.

2. In His Father's ordination of Him to the office.

3. In the meritoriousness of the work He accomplished as the substitute for sinners.

4. In the station to which He has been exalted, and the executive power which has been lodged in His hands. First of all, He has been appointed Intercessor, to plead the cause of His people on the foundation of the work He has done for them; and, secondly, He has been anointed a King with all the influence and energy of the Almighty Spirit placed at His disposal to carry into execution all the favourable purposes of the Divine government on behalf of those whose cause He has won by His intercession.

5. In the fervency with which His heart is dedicated to the attainment of His object.


1. He hath effected reconciliation between God and man.

2. In Christ we cease to war against ourselves.

3. Our Prince hath reconciled us to the angels.

4. Reconciliation is effected between Jew and Gentile (Eph ).

5. The general reconciliation of man to man, the destruction of selfishness, and the diffusion of benevolence. Christ came, by His dying for all, to teach that all were as brethren, and ought to regard one another with fraternal affection. How much the world required this lesson! How imperfectly it has been learned! H. E. I., 884).—William Anderson, L.L.D.: Christian World Pulpit, vol. x. pp. 392-394.

I. The character of Christ: "the Prince of Peace." How wonderful and glorious is this character when viewed in connection with this title! Infinite wisdom and almighty power employed not for purposes of war, but of peace! (Isa ).

1. He procures peace.

2. He proclaims peace.

3. He imparts peace.

4. He maintains peace.

5. He perfects peace.

II. The character of His religion. It is a religion of peace. True, at its first introduction, it leads to conflicts (Mat ); but in the end it secures a permanent peace (Jas 3:17). It will give peace, but only on its terms.

III. Character of the followers of Christ. They are the sons of peace.

1. They seek peace with God through the mediation of Christ.

2. They exemplify a spirit like His own, and thus help to heal the wounds of a bleeding world.

3. They extend through the world the gospel of peace.

4. They anticipate in heaven the reign of unbroken peace.—Samuel Thodey.

Verse 7


Isa . Of the increase of His government, &c.

The angel who came to Mary affirmed these very things of the Son then to be born (Luk ).—Cowles.

What are our grounds for believing this?

I. The distinct promises of Scripture (Psa ; Psa 22:27; Psa 72:8-11; Dan 7:13-14). For a Christian this is sufficient. But even to those whose reverence for God's Word is most profound and unquestioning, it is interesting to see—

2. As to their progress.

(1.) Vast empires fall to pieces by reason of their very vastness. Time brings many changes even to great empires, and among them at least a temporary weakening of the central power; the heart is enfeebled, and the whole body is enfeebled and begins to decay.

(2.) Great empires afford multiplied opportunities for great corruption, and this ultimately kills a state.

(3.) Great empires include many conflicting interests; there is a perpetual struggle to maintain the balance of power; mutinies and rebellions are inevitable, and in the end some of these are successful, and the empire is broken. But none of these things can happen in the empire of Christ; none of these causes will tend to check the increase of His government.

3. As to their aims. This is a consideration even more important and vital than the others. All empires have really had for their aim the aggrandisement of some ambitious man or nation. The inspiring motive has been supremely selfish. Hence fraud and force have been unhesitatingly employed for their advancement, and, because God really rules on earth as well as in heaven, these things, though they secure a temporary triumph, ultimately lead to inevitable ruin (H. E. I. 4612, P. D. 2544, 2995). By similar means the great empire has to be maintained, and in every part of it there are millions watching for an opportunity to subvert it by the same means; because its aims are selfish, it is hated, not loved, by those over whom it triumphs. But the inspiring aims of Christ's empire are righteousness and peace it is to extend these blessings that His limitless resources are employed; the manner in which these resources is employed is in accordance with the ends sought; and hence

(1) all the laws of God's universe are on His side, and

Concerning the complete fulfilment of the prediction of our text, we need therefore have no fear. And hence,—

1. We can look without dismay at the mighty forces arrayed against Christ and His truth,—heathenism abroad and infidelity at home (H. E. I. 642).

2. We can look forward to the future of the world with hope. A golden age is yet to dawn (H. E. I. 3421-3423).

3. We can labour for the extension of Christ's kingdom with all the hopeful energy of those who know that the end of all their efforts is not failure, but a glorious success (H. E. I. 979, 1161, 1162, 1166-1168).


Isa . The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

It may be affirmed with equal truth, that from what zeal is in man we may know what it is in God; and that from what zeal is in man we cannot tell what it is in God (H. E. I. 2229-2240). We can tell what its nature is, but we cannot tell its power.

1. Zeal is in man an intense passionateness of desire for the accomplishment of some purpose; this leads to an energy and continuity of action that in many cases triumphs over obstacles, and accomplishes what seemed impossible. True zeal in man is intelligent, calm, persistent, and unweariable; and all this we know it must be in God.

This declaration is the consummation and crown of a great promise concerning the Messiah. It is the guarantee that, great as that promise is, it shall not remain unfulfilled; the heart of God is set upon its accomplishment, and He is "the Lord of hosts." We have here a general and blessed principle, applicable to all God's promises. For two reasons many human purposes remain unfulfilled: those who entertain them are not in earnest about them, or they lack power to carry them into effect. But both these essential requisites meet in God—earnestness and power. He makes no promise lightly; He attaches importance to every pledge He has ever entered into; and He will never lack resources to enable Him to fulfil His promises, according to the largest interpretation that can be put upon them (Eph ).

Let us use this declaration for the comforting and strengthening of our hearts. There are many great and precious promises,

I. Concerning the extension of Christ's kingdom, e.g., in the words preceding our text. It is declared that the influence and authority of Christ shall be unceasingly exerted with constantly augmenting effect, until all the disorder and misery of the world shall be brought to an end. So glowing is the picture given by the prophets of the world's future, that we are tempted to fear that it will never be realised. But "the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this"; and those who by their prayers, efforts, and sacrifices are trying to contribute to the extension of Christ's kingdom, may rejoice in the assurance that they are not labouring in vain, nor spending their strength for nought (H. E. I. 979, 1161, 1162, 1166-1168; P. D. 475, 517, 2465, 2466).

II. Concerning the temporal well-being of Christ's people.

(1.) Deliverance in time of danger (Isa ). Illustrate by the account of the deliverance of Hezekiah (Isaiah 37), noting especially that the promise then given was enforced by the very same declaration: "the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this" ( v. 32; H. E. I. 4058).

(2.) Supply for all temporal necessities (Mat ; H. E. I. 4507).

III. Concerning the spiritual necessities and ultimate perfection of Christ's people. After each of them Faith sees written, though not with ink, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (H. E. I. 1063-1071, 1106, 1112-1119). By and by there is to be a great gathering of Christ's ransomed ones in the heavenly world, and this will then be their grateful acknowledgment (Jos ). Meanwhile, whensoever in our search of the Scriptures we find a promise specially adapted to our needs, let us lay hold of it, saying with joyful confidence, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this!"

Verses 8-10


Isa to Isa 10:4. But His hand is stretched out still.

I. The reasons why God's hand is outstretched in anger. Reminding you that this is not an exhaustive statement of those reasons, and that no man is necessarily safe merely because his conduct is not here specifically described, I point out that among the things that put men in the most extreme peril of destruction by their Creator are—

1. Oppression (Isa .).

2. Hypocrisy (Isa .).

3. Stubbornness under Divine chastisements (Isa .).

II. The effects of the outstretching of God's hand in anger. These are terrible, increasing, continuous.

III. The mode of escape for those against whom God's hand is stretched out in anger. Not defiance, but submission and repentance (Isa ).

Verses 9-14


Isa . And all the people shall know, &c.

An entirely different interpretation has to be put upon affliction in the case of men whose sincere desire is to govern their lives according to the will of God, and in the case of men who are living wholly unto themselves. It is exclusively of afflictions that befall men of the latter order that we intend now to speak, though many things that will be said apply to all the afflicted.

I. In the case of the ungodly, the DESIGN of affliction is in the first instance corrective, and then, in the event of its not accomplishing this end, punitive.

II. Their DUTY is—

1. To recognise that their afflictions come from God. This is a fact that wicked men are very slow to recognise; they prefer to attribute their troubles to "bad luck," miscalculations on their part, superior ingenuity or force on the part of their human adversaries, &c. They prefer anything to a recognition of the awful fact that it is God who is dealing with them (H. E. I. 143).

3. Repentance toward God.

(1.) Repentance is more than submission (H. E. I. 4206-4209).

(2.) God will be satisfied with nothing less than change of heart towards Him.

(3.) Here we reach one of the most terrible results of iniquity; by it men are incapacitated for naturally doing that which is indispensable to their salvation. Did not God pity sinful men, they could never attain to that state of heart and mind without which it would be impossible for God to forgive them. But Christ has been "exalted … for to give repentance and forgiveness of sins." With the outward stroke of affliction there comes to the heart the inward grace of Christ: let transgressors be prompt to submit to the one, and to avail themselves of the other (H. E. I. 145, 4210).

These, then, are the duties of sinful men upon whom affliction has come. Let your compliance with them be—

1. Prompt. Not to comply with them is to perish. Not to comply with them promptly is an aggravation of all your former iniquity (H. E. I. 4247, 4248). By delay you may exhaust the Divine patience (Pro ).

2. Thankful. Adore the benignity of God, in that He is willing to receive you on your mere repentance; a repentance which He Himself enables you to exercise. Remember that where God sees it, He does not merely turn away His chastisements from the penitent transgressor; He receives him into His favour, and blesses him as a son in whom He delights (Luk ). Men do not act so. When their foes submit, they require from them an indemnity for the wrong that has been done; often an indemnity that is intended to be crushing, e.g., Germany and France. But God in all His dealings with penitent sinners shows Himself to be a God of grace (Mic 7:18-19).

Verse 10


Isa . The bricks are fallen down, &c.

Jesus said, "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light," meaning that they excel them in shrewdness and tact. Men of the world do not readily submit to defeat and failure, but strive to convert defeat into victory, and failure into success. In this respect, therefore, the children of this world are worthy of imitation. Within the spiritual, Christian sphere we might well emulate them in the determined, hopeful, persevering, progressive, patient spirit with which they prosecute their affairs. Of this the text affords illustration. The children of this world, of whom it speaks to us, are worthy of our imitation in the following respects:—

I. They proceed with a defined purpose. The bricks mentioned as having fallen down were not a heap of burned clay, which somehow had got piled up, no one could tell how. They had been built by human hands, and the builders had heads as well as hands. But now that the bricks had fallen, in making up their minds as to what should be done, they proceed with a defined purpose. The architect precedes the builder; the head leads the hand. They build not at 2G random. They first say what they will build, and how. They also resolve once more to beautify their surroundings with trees, and they make their choice. This time they will not have sycamores, but cedars.

The same principle should underlie the building up of all Christian character and work. Knowledge and zeal should ever be in partnership. The hand should be under control of the head. Everything should be done well, because done wisely. One purpose should run through and be supreme in each life. Striving, and toiling, and fighting, we should have it first settled what we are to strive, and toil, and fight for. And as to this we are left in no difficulty. A plan is made for us, and our wisdom is to work it out. A number of young men were one day practising archery, when the arrows of one invariably stuck in the ground. Seeing this, one of his companions cried out, "Do aim higher." That is what we have to do. We substitute our own low, faltering purpose for the high, glorious purpose of God (Rom ; 1Pe 2:21). So, also, in connection with our work, a high purpose should be our aim. We should not make up our minds to do as little as possible, neither should our only object be to do as much as possible. Our question should be, What is my Master's will? Obedience is better than sacrifice. They who would work for their Lord with acceptance must wait on Him, and He will give "to every man his work." Further, with our plan fixed, we must set our whole heart upon the working of it out. Here Israel teaches us. When her first effort failed, she tried again. The spirit of enthusiasm must inspire us. This it is which makes labour rest, and turns the yoke into a crown.

II. They were inspired with hopefulness. Their bricks fell down, but their spirits fell not into the pit of despair. Their sycamores were cut down, but their ambition was not. They viewed the desolation not without sadness, but in the midst of it all "Nil Desperandum" was the song which they sang. And that is the spirit of the world to-day. So the Christian ought to be hopeful. You have fallen! Say, "I will rise again." Your schemes have failed! Say, "I will try again." You are afraid you have laboured in vain! Say, "In labours I will be more abundant." You went into what you thought the paradise of God, but lo! it turned out to be a dreary wilderness. What then? Still hope in God. Seek on, O seeker, and thou shalt find. Knock on, louder and louder; the door will be opened.

Night must give way to day. Mystery after mystery will unfold itself. Light will appear to every man having eyes and using them. The children of this world hope; greater reason have they to hope who are children of God.

III. They show a spirit of industrious perseverance. Their hands responded to the impulse of their hearts. What they were ready to say they were ready to do. They were prepared by hard, persevering toil to make good their hope. These men of Israel were at this time without God, but they were not without common sense. They dreamed not that by mere wishing their ruined walls would rise again. If they wanted new temples and goodly cedars, they must build and plant them. The moral here is plain (Mat ). Hoping will not do everything. It must be backed by earnest effort. The way to heaven is not reached by flying, but by toiling. I am a son of God; let me then subscribe myself "Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ." Beautiful city of God! we hope some day to reach thy gate of pearl and enter in, but till then—

"Many a sorrow, many a labour,

Many a tear."

To your hope add diligence. Watch and wait, but forget not to work.

IV. They improve matters. These tumble-down buildings were, after all, but brick; but now they would build, not with bricks, but with hewn stones. Around them had flourished sycamores, but now that these were cut down they would plant cedars. Such is the spirit of the world. To-day is to be an improvement upon yesterday. "Excelsior" is added to "Nil Desperandum." Is not this the spirit which ought to animate us? There is no temper but may be improved. You never did a thing for Jesus, let it be ever so trifling, but you may do better next time you try. The text speaks to us of failure and ruin; and it shows us that out of these greater and better efforts arose. So should it be with us. Has your faith given way under the severe strain put upon it? Then for the future you must not only have faith, but stronger faith. In the pride and stoutness of their hearts Israel said, "In the future we will do better than we did before;" and we must say, not in the pride of our hearts, but in humble dependence upon God, strengthened with His might, "We count not ourselves to have attained, neither are we already perfect; but this one thing we do," &c. (Php ).

CONCLUSION.—Looking at what Israel proposed to do, three words are suggested, which would be good motto words for us to adopt. They are strength, beauty, growth.

1. "We will build with stones." They would now erect a strong building, one not easily to be overthrown. This should be our first concern. We are building not for time, but for eternity. What is to last must be strong.

2. They said, moreover, "We will build with hewn stones;" we shall go in for beauty as well as for strength. Some of us are strong, but we are lacking in beauty. We are robust characters, but we are also rough. There is a more excellent way. Perfection of character is reached only in so far as strength and beauty are blended together.

3. There must also be growth. Israel resolved to plant cedars, trees which should live and grow on for centuries. So we, rooted and grounded in faith, and love, and hope, should grow up in strength and beauty. So, on and on—changing bricks for hewn stones, and sycamores for cedars.—Adam Scott: Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii. pp. 230-232.

Verse 13


Isa , and Isa 9:13. And they shall pass through it, &c.

I. Sin leads to suffering.

1. This is true of individuals (H. E. I. 4603-4612). But because there is another life and a future retribution, the full results of sin are frequently not seen in this life. Nay, the sinner often appears prosperous even to the end (Psa ).

2. But in the case of nations, which as such have no immortality, it is otherwise (P. D. 2544); it is more prompt; it is often exceedingly terrible. This fact should make those who have any love for their children hostile to any national policy that is unrighteous, however politically "expedient" it may seem.

III. Suffering does nothing in itself to abate God's anger against sinners. We, when we are wronged, often yield to a passion of vindictiveness, which is sated when we have succeeded in inflicting a certain amount of pain on the wrong-doer. But God's anger is not vindictive, but righteous (H. E. I. 2288-2294); hence its terribleness. As it does not thirst for suffering, it is not satisfied by suffering. As long as the sinner holds to his sin, God's anger will burn against him, irrespective altogether of the suffering he may have endured. Nothing will turn away that anger but a genuine repentance (Isa ).

1. In the hour of temptation, let us think of sin not as it then presents itself to us, but as it will certainly appear to us when its results are manifested (H. E. I. 4673-4676).

2. When suffering has come upon us, let us regard it as God's summons to repentance (H. E. I. 56-59); and let us obey it with thankfulness that God is willing to deal with us in the way of mercy.


(Missionary Sermon.)

Isa . The people that walked in darkness, &c.

The prophecies contained in this text are of a mixed kind; they are partly fulfilled and partly unfulfilled. We have the authority of the Evangelists to apply the passage to Gospel times, and to prevent it from being restricted to the Jews (Mat ; Luk 1:79; Luk 2:32). Let us consider—

I. The view taken by the Prophet of the moral state of the world previous to the glorious change which makes the subject of his prophecy.

2. But darkness alone appears to the mind of the Prophet only a faint emblem of the state of the heathen: he adds, therefore, "the shadow of death." In Scripture this expression is used for the darkness of that subterranean mansion into which the Jews supposed the souls of men went after death. Figuratively, the expression is used for great distress; a state of danger and terror. It is an amplification, therefore, of the Prophet's thought. The predominant idea is that of a sense of insecurity, accompanied by fear. Darkness increases danger and fear at the same time. Such is the state of the heathen. The religion of the heathen has ever been gloomy and horrible.

There is nothing, however, in the connection to induce us to suppose that the Prophet particularly contemplated the Jewish nation. The same thing must be affirmed of every nation that abandons itself to wickedness. When nations are multiplied, their political strength is increased; and happiness would be multiplied too, were it not for sin. But in wicked nations the "joy is not increased." This negative expression signifies the misery is increased. God has not added His blessing; and there is no joy.—Watson.

II. On this blessed visitation we would now fix your attention.

1. As darkness is an emblem of the religious sorrow which had overcast the world, so light is an emblem of the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is "light."

(1.) This marks its origin from heaven.

(2.) This notes its truth. It is fitting that what is truth, without mixture of error, should be compared to what is the most simple substance in nature.

(3.) It is called "light" because of its penetrating and subtle nature.

(4.) Because of the discoveries which it makes.

(5.) Because it is life and health to the world.

2. As in the vision light succeeds to darkness, so also joy succeeds to fear and misery (Isa ). The joy here described is no common feeling; it is the joy of harvest, the joy of victory. The effect of the diffusion of the Gospel in producing joy is a constant theme of prophecy (chap. Isa 24:16; Psa 98:8; Luk 2:10). True joy, as yet, there is none upon a large scale; of sorrow and sighing the world has ever been full; and as long as it remains in this state, even sighs might fail rather than cause to sigh. Even that which is called joy is mockery and unreal, an effort to divert a pained and wounded mind; it gleams like a transient light, only to make men more sensible of the darkness. As long as the world is wicked it must be miserable. All attempts to increase happiness, except by diminishing wickedness and strengthening the moral principle, are vain. The Gospel is the grand cure of human woe. When it has spread to the extent seen by the Prophet, a sorrowing world shall dry up its tears, and complaint give place to praise (Isa 45:8; Isa 32:17). They shall joy as in victory, for the rod of the grand oppressor shall be broken; Satan shall fall, his reign be terminated; and one universal, transporting "Hallelujah" ascend from every land, to the honour of Him by whom the victory is achieved.

IV. But it may be said, "Is not all this a splendid vision? You speak of weak instruments effecting a miraculous success; of the display and operation of a supernatural power touching the hearts of men and changing the moral state of the world, but what is the ground of this expectation? This natural and very proper question our text answers (Isa ). In these verses we have the grounds of that expectation of success which we form as to missionary efforts. The plan of Christianising the world is not ours; it was laid in the mind of God before the world was. The principal arrangements of the scheme are not left to us, but are already fixed by the infinite wisdom of God. The part we fill is very subordinate; and we expect success, not for the wisdom or the fitness of the means themselves, but because they are connected with mightier motives, whose success is rapid, and whose direction is divine; because God has formed a scheme of universal redemption, to be gradually but fully developed; because He has given gifts to the world, the value of which is in every age to be more fully demonstrated; and because He has established offices in the person of Christ, which He is qualified to fill to the full height of the Divine idea (text).

Our text has set before us the moral misery of the human race; the purpose of God to remove it by the diffusion of His truth and grace; the means chosen for this purpose; and the ground of that certain success which must attend the application of the prescribed means under the Divine blessing. It now only remains for me to invite you to such a co-operation in this great work as your own ability and the importance of the enterprise demand.—Richard Watson, "Works," vol. iv. pp. 206-224.

Verse 14


Isa ; Isa 19:14. The burden of Egypt, &c.

The prophecies of Isaiah take a wide range, embrace the fortunes of almost every nation, however remote, with whom the Israelites were brought into common relation, whether of policy or commerce—Moab, Damascus, Tyre, Babylon, Ethiopia, Egypt. The prophet records the political and social phenomena of his day, not with the eye of a mere statesman or diplomatist, but as reviewing the moral as well as the political aspects of things, the eternal governing laws as well as the fitful moods and changes of a nation's life, the spiritual as well as the material forces of the world.

Israel, in their dread of the great Assyrian monarchy, often cast wistful eyes towards Egypt, where they hoped to find a sure and powerful ally. The Egyptians accepted their subsidies, but thought they consulted their own interests best by observing what has been called amongst ourselves a "masterly inactivity." Their strength was to sit still. They had a large standing army; but, as Rabshakeh showed, on a memorable occasion, that he knew (chap. Isa ) the nation, with all its outward semblance of prosperity, was being eaten up with a thousand moral and social cankers, which corrupted the very source of all national life. This chapter lays bare those wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.

1. There was a day when Egypt had been famous for its wisdom. This wisdom had become a thing of the past (Isa ).

2. There was no unity of purpose, no coherence of action in the body politic. The true ideas of the family, of the municipality, of the nation, were lost. Every man was fighting against his brother (Isa ). It is history eternally repeating itself; it is the lament of Thucydides over Greece; of Horace, Livy, and Tacitus over the corruption of guilty imperialism, and over the absence of the masculine, simple, republican virtues of ancient Rome.

3. With the decay of public virtue comes the decay of public spirit, and then soon follows the decay of national strength. Then comes what these old Hebrew seers called the "judgment;" God coming out of His place to visit the earth; anarchy, internal dissolution, collapse, conquest by the foreigner; the giving over of the nation into the hand of a cruel lord; the establishment of a military despotism.

It were easy to point these remarks elsewhere, but let us look at home. Many feel that during the last decade of years or more England has been parting with many of her old traditions. Some of those principles which were merely corrupt remnants of a social and political system which has passed away—feudalism—we have undoubtedly gained by losing. But there are others which we have lost, or are fast losing, to the great detriment of the commonwealth. The high sense of duty to the State overruling the sense of interest in the individual citizen; the true measure of a nation's wealth and greatness, not by its revenue in pounds sterling, but by its revenue in the healthy bodies, and honest hearts, and pure, healthy homes of the people; the noble, self-sacrificing spirit of devotion to the call of duty; the principle of right recognised as a higher principle than that of expediency; a temper of loyalty in the strict sense of the word, of willing obedience to the law and those who represent the law; strict commercial integrity, and not the tricks of trade which have been generated by an unwholesome competition—these are maxims of ancient wisdom which made England great, and the loss of which will make England small. Our greatness, whatever it has been, has not rested so much upon material forces, but, like Israel's of old, upon moral. We can only hope that our position among the peoples will be maintained as long as we hold fast the principles by which it was won. These privileges are not things of chance, but the direct result of moral laws as immutable and irreversible as the laws which govern the physical world. God send us statesmen who will turn the nation's mind away from delusive and partisan aims, and direct them seriously to efforts which may unite us all in one great crusade against evil; in which every soldier might certainly feel that he was fighting under the banner of Christ, in a righteous war, for objects which surely have a place in the redemption which Christ accomplished for the world.—Bishop Fraser: Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii. pp. 177, 178.

Verse 17

(An Ordination Sermon.)

Isa . The prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail, &c.

I. The world is so constituted that leaders of the people are at present a necessity. It is no disparagement of oak trees to say that few of them are sixty feet high; and it is no disparagement of our fellow-men to say that few of them are qualified to lead others. In both cases we have to do with an ordinance of God. We are all included in it. We all need, in some respect or other, to be led. This arises from the disparity between human needs and human powers. Our faculties and time are too limited to allow any man to dispense with guidance. Even the accomplished statesman needs to be guided in the matter of health by the physician; the skilled physician needs to be guided in building by an architect, and so on through all the grades of human life. Men need guidance in commerce, politics, literature, art, philosophy, and in religion. There is to be a time when in this last respect guidance will not be needed (Jer ), but that time is not yet. The people still need guidance in religion, because,

1. While in some of its aspects it is so simple that a child is capable of it, in others it is so profound that they need the most thoughtful instruction concerning it.

2. There are many false forms of religion seeking to win acceptance (Mat ; 2Pe 2:1; 1Jn 4:1).

3. The natural tendency of the human heart inclines it to the acceptance of those forms of faith which are most unscriptural. This is the real secret of the power of Romanism. To-day, therefore, the people still need religious leaders, and leaders of the highest order. Even with the Bible in their hands, most men need guidance (Act ). Woe to them, if they take as their guides men who have not themselves been taught of the Holy Ghost!

II. Leadership involves for the leaders the highest honour or the deepest shame. Many aspire to lead: few think of the difficulties and responsibilities of leadership.

1. The man who leads his fellow-men well is entitled to the highest honour. He cannot do it without noble qualities of mind and heart. Those who are well led are, as a rule, not slow to acknowledge and reward the service that has been rendered them.

2. But leadership does not necessarily involve any honour at all. The post of prominence may only bring out into view the leader's incompetency, mental and moral. "The fierce light that beats upon a throne," and upon a pulpit, reveals every speck and flaw in its occupant. It is a perilous thing to exchange the pew for the pulpit.

3. Through leadership a man may reach the most utter degradation and shame. He may do this

(1.) through his incompetency. Admiral Byng might have lived and died a respectable English gentleman, if he had not been made an admiral. Many envied him when he was so gazetted: none envied him when he was shot. Many a "stickit minister" would have made a highly respectable and useful church-member.

(2.) Through his dishonesty. Many a leader, claiming to be the head of a community, has really been its "tail," carried by it, not carrying it on in paths of truth and honesty. His aim has been, not the welfare of his followers, but his own aggrandisement and popularity; his concern has been, not to speak the truth, but to say what would be pleasant. This was the sin of many who claimed to be prophets in Israel (Isa ; Isa 5:20; Jer 5:31). It is a common sin to-day, both in the political and religious world. Let those who claim to be ministers of God shun it. Self-seeking, everywhere despicable, is in the pulpit most hateful and criminal (P. D. 2482). Let every preacher regard as warnings those base prophets of Israel; let him endeavour to realise that wonderful picture of a true leader drawn by Christ's enemies (Mat 22:16).

III. Leadership involves for the led salvation or destruction. It is not a trivial matter to be well or ill led. How true this is politically, commercially, legally; it is not less true religiously. That community shows little wisdom that chooses its leaders carelessly. That community is insane which demands that its prophets shall prophesy unto it only smooth things (Isa ). The following of righteous leaders who are themselves led by the Spirit of God will result in temporal and eternal well-being; but trust in "religious" demagogues, whose aim is not to speak the truth, but to flatter those who listen to them, results inevitably in social and spiritual ruin. In self-defence, then, demand of your minister that he speak to you, not what is pleasant, but what is true; and count him not your enemy, but your best friend, when he utters what, just because it is the truth of God, shall smite and wound as if it were a sharp two-edged sword (Heb 4:12).


Isa . Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows.

From one point of view, this is a terrible text! it shows us that a people may arrive at such a condition of desperate and incorrigible wickedness, that God may feel constrained, as the upholder of truth and righteousness in the world, to destroy them. But, on the other hand, how worthy of thought and thanksgiving is this revelation of God's constant feelings towards two very opposite classes of persons—those who are most joyful, and those who are most sorrowful.

I. God's feelings toward young men. He has "joy" in them, a fact of which young men seldom think. Doubtless He has joy in them, 1, because of what they are; and 2, because of what they may become. He has this joy in them as their Creator. The great Artist has a delight in all His works (Gen ; Pro 8:31). Young men are a realisation, more or less perfect, of a thought, an ideal in the Divine mind. Strength and comeliness of body, courage and vivacity of mind, modesty and generosity of heart, are the ideal characteristics of a young man, and precisely as they are actually found in any young man, God has "joy" in him, just as He has joy in the strength of the horse, the beauty of the swan, or the melody that is poured forth by the lark or the nightingale. We frequently see a young man who is obviously a glorious work of God; and had not sin so terribly cursed and marred our race, all young men would have been such as the British youths whose beauty called forth the old pleasant jest, "Not Angles but angels."

Young men and women, think of this—God delights in you! What effects will a realisation of this thought have upon you?

1. It will check that vanity by which the strength of the young man and the beauty of the young woman are often so pitifully marred (1Co ).

2. It will cause you to reverence yourselves. Those who think that no one cares for them, are apt not to care for themselves; but consciousness that we are observed leads us to circumspection and self-control. If the observation be friendly and approving, it is a stimulus to endeavour to merit it. Respect kindles self-respect. Remembering how God looks upon you, you will shrink from doing anything that will lessen His "joy" in you; you will not voluntarily permit faults or vices to mar the nobleness and beauty that call it forth, any more than the roses, if they had power of self-defence, would give a lodgment to those insects which blight the beauty that causes beholders to joy in them.

3. Kindly, loving feelings towards God will spring up in you. Friendliness and love tend to call forth friendship and love; just as the sunshine and rain that in early summer descend from the natural heavens cause flowers to spring forth from the earth.

Consider what joy God must have had in the young man Jesus of Nazareth, and why He had it, and resolve that the same causes for this Divine joy shall exist in you.


Isa . For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.

If God did not feel and manifest this anger against sin, it would be impossible to respect and love Him. If He could look down on the mean and dastardly things that are done every day, and yet remain cold and emotionless as an iceberg, as indifferent to the sufferings of His creatures as some Oriental despots have been to the miseries of their wretched subjects, our whole soul would rise up in righteous condemnation of Him.—R. A. B.

See outlines: GOD OPPRESSED, pp. 28-32; A TERRIBLE RESOLVE, pp. 61, 62; THE PURPOSE OF PUNISHMENT, pp. 63, 64.

Verse 18-19


Isa . For wickedness burneth as the fire, &c.

Wickedness, i.e., the constant thirst of evil is a fire which a man kindles in himself. And when the grace of God which damps and restrains this fire is all over, it is sure to burst forth.… The fire, into which this wickedness bursts forth, seizes individuals first of all; and then, like a forest fire, it seizes upon the nation at large in all its ranks and members, who roll up in the form of ascending smoke.… In its historical manifestation, this judgment consisted in the most inhuman self-destruction during an anarchial civil war.—Delitzsch.

The picture of guilt grows darker still. It is like destroying fire in the jungle of a forest. The confusion and misery thus caused are like the volumes of smoke that mount up in whirling eddies from such a conflagration.—Birks.

I. Consider how true it is in regard to individuals. The forest-fire—what a trivial thing it may seem in its commencement! It was but a little heap of dried leaves and sticks which a thoughtless traveller kindled, that by means of the little fire thus produced he might cook his evening meal. He had no conception how that fire would spread. So the wickedness that ultimately consumes and utterly destroys, often commences in what seems a little transgression, e.g., the few glasses of wine taken at a wedding-breakfast by one who has been a total abstainer; the little act of dishonesty that is undetected, &c. (Jas ). Many of the passions by which millions are consumed—avarice, lust, intemperance, &c.—seem little things in their commencement (H. E. I. 4497, 4498, 4513-4518).

2. It makes progress according to its own laws, utterly regardless of the desires of the onlookers. It will not stop at any line which they may prescribe. No man can accomplish a desire to burn down just one acre of a forest. If he kindles a fire in the forest at all, it will advance as far and as long as there is fuel for it. So no man can determine beforehand the measure of the power which permitted wickedness shall acquire over him; the fire which a man kindles in the forest of his own passions will go burning on long after he may wish it to stop.

3. Its power grows continually. It acquires a marvellous intensity and fervour as it proceeds (H. E. I. 409, 4500, 4501, 4534-4537).

4. Consequently it proceeds with ever-accelerating rapidity. Here again the moral analogy is frightfully accurate.

6. It is remorselessly undistinguishing in its effects. The fair flowers and the poisonous weeds, the stately cedars and the misshapen brambles, it consumes alike. So again with the sinner: the wickedness that consumes him spares nothing. In workhouses, lunatic asylums, prisons, how many most terrible proofs there are of the truth of this declaration! Once the owners of many choice possessions, and with prospects as fair as those of any of us, they are now like the forest region after the fire—blackened and desolate.

See also the Outline: THE TOW AND THE SPARK, pp. 69-71.

From all this there are many lessons to be learned.

1. He is a fool who makes a sport of sin (Pro ). He is infinitely more foolish than the child who plays with fire.

3. Those nations are guilty of suicidal folly who legalise vice in any form.

When a fire is first broken out in a chimney, it may with much less labour be quenched than when it has seized the timber of the house. What small beginnings had those fires which have conquered stately palaces, and turned famous cities into ruinous heaps!—Suinnock.

In this message the prophet affirms that there are resemblances between a fire and sin. It is not a common fire to which he refers, such as is employed for domestic or public purposes. It is a great conflagration which burns the humble shrubbery, the gigantic forest, extends over the land, and sends a mighty column of smoke and flame up to heaven. By attending to this comparison some of the characteristics of sin will vividly appear.

I. The origin of a great fire. Recently we read an account of a great fire, and the paragraph closed with these words: "The origin of the fire is unknown." Suppositions were made, conjectures were offered, still a deep mystery which may never be unravelled. The same with the origin of sin. We know it had a beginning, for God only is from everlasting. We know it had a beginning before Eve and Adam felt its power, since they were tempted. We know it began with him who is called Satan and the father of lies. Still, there are three questions about it which we cannot answer.

(1) Where did it begin?

(2) When did it begin?

(3) How did it begin. These questions might have been answered; they have not, because such information is not required by us in this stage of our unending history.

II. The progress of a great fire. Place one spark amid combustible material in London. Let it alone. What will be the result? It will leap from point to point, house to house, street to street, until the whole city is in flames. Sin has spread in an exactly similar way. One sin, to the individual; one wrong action, to the family; one immoral look, to thousands; one crime, to a kingdom. The sin of one woman away in the East, some sixty centuries ago, has spread itself amongst the whole race; and there is not one who has not felt, to some extent, its scorching power.

III. The transforming power of a great fire. Wood, coal, &c., it transforms into its own essence, because it makes fire of these. It is even so with sin. It turns everything, over which it gains the slightest control, into its own nature—that is, into a curse. The desire to possess, sin has turned it in a different direction, and made it an autocratic passion. Take the principle of ambition in the same way. Take commerce in the same way. Thus the richest blessings, yea, all the blessings which God has given to us, sin can so transform that they shall become curses.

IV. The destructive energy of a great fire. Who can calculate the amount of property in London alone which has been destroyed by fire? But the destruction which sin has caused in London is infinitely greater and more momentous. Some have bodies, once beautiful, now bloated and withered by sin. Some have feelings, once tender, now petrified by sin. Some whose intellectual powers were once strong, now feeble by sin. Some, who were once full of hope, now hopeless by sin. The destruction which sin has caused is awful. And this it must ever do to all who touch it. Avoid it, therefore, more than anything else. Herein only is safety.

V. The termination of a great fire. It terminates when all the material is consumed and reduced to ashes. Can the fire of sin ever be put out in this way? The body in the grave is scorched by it no more; but what of the soul? Look at the rich man. He is tormented, in pain, not by a literal flame, but by the fire of sin. He will be so for ever, because the soul is immortal.

A great fire has been terminated by a superior quenching power. There is also an element which can completely remove sin from the soul. What is it? Nothing can be more important than the true answer to this question. Health must depart, trade must be left, money not required. Our souls must live for ever. With sin, no heaven, but hell. How delivered? Ask those in heaven, and those on earth, who have been saved. They all say that the fires of unholy passion have been quenched in them, and their guilt removed, by the blood of the Lamb. Apply at once to the same source.—A. M‘Auslane, D.D.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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