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Do no wrong.
The meaning of the word “wrong” is, something that is twisted from the straight line. Do you say you have not done wrong? When you set yourself up as a pattern of goodness, and at the same time turn up your nose at your erring acquaintance, it leads one to think that your angelic profession may cover the filthy rags of human sin. Some people profess too much. If they would acknowledge to some fault and confess that occasionally they are common metal like everybody else, we should respect them. People who will not permit you to think that they have ever done wrong, are often very unfeeling in their dealings with a person that has “made a fool of himself.” The man who feels himself to be a wrong-doer, is the most compassionately helpful to those that have fallen. When I hear anybody speaking harshly or ridiculing somebody who has done wrong and been found out, I fear that the only way to save them is for God to let them also fall into the mire of iniquity. Bear patiently with wrong-doers, and give them time to repent. Had they possessed your light, your education, your good parents and your virtuous surroundings, they might have lived a nobler life. When a man or a woman has done wrong, do not cast a stone at them; let us, if we can, lead them on to the path of right.
1. Let me urge that you do no wrong in your intentions. Let us weigh well our motives. Before doing any act, we should consider its intent, and ask ourselves, “What is my intention? Is it the glory of God, the good of man, or only my own advantage--my own indulgence?” When the intention is wholly selfish it is pretty sure to cause disappointment and misery; but when the intention is unselfish, it is likely to result in happiness both to ourselves and others.
2. It is also a matter of course that every true Christian should do no wrong in his practice. We profess much; let us seek to practise what we profess. I do not suppose that we are at present on such a high level as that shown in the spirit of the life of Christ; but let us aim at it, and though we fall, let us rise and try again. A farmer one day went to his landlord, Earl Fitzwilliam, saying, “Please, your lordship, the horses and hounds last week quite destroyed my field of wheat. The earl said “I am very sorry; how much damage do you think they did?” The farmer replied, “Well, your lordship, I don’t think £50 would make it right.” The earl immediately wrote out his order for £50 and handed it to the farmer, saying, “I hope it will not be so bad as you think.” So they parted. Months afterwards, the same old farmer came to the hall again, and when admitted into the library, said, “Please, your lordship, I have brought back that £50.” The earl exclaimed, “Why, what for?” The farmer said, “Well, because I find that the trodden field of wheat has turned out to be a better crop than any of the others. So I have brought the money back.” The earl exclaimed, “This is as it should be; it is doing right between man and man.” He tore up the order and wrote another, saying, “Here, my good friend, is an order for a hundred pounds; keep it by you till your eldest son is twenty-one and then give it him as a present from me, and tell him how it arose.” Now I think the honest farmer sets a good example to us all No doubt the tempter whispered in the ear of his soul, “The earl will never miss that £50. Why, farmer, you don’t mean to say you are going to give the morley back!” But the honest old John Bull of a farmer replied, “It would be wrong, you know, for me to keep that £50.” Do no wrong to your neighbour, either in competition of business, or in your social and political relationship. Every man has a weak side to his character, and a tendency to do wrong in some direction. In other words, every man is a spiritual invalid who wants a heavenly prescription to restore him to health. Now, when your body is ill, you send for a doctor who counts your pulse and asks where your pain is, and how you feel. If you do not tell him all the truth, he does not know how to treat you. In the same way, when we are spiritually sick, we should confess all the symptoms of our sin-disease to the Great Physician of heaven. Let us be humble and honest enough to tell Him our sins. (W. Birch.)
Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him.
The prophet and the exile
I. “The dead,” probably Josiah, for whom a long mourning was kept (2 Chronicles 35:24; Zechariah 12:11). Shallum is Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:33).
II. The chapter, even the text, suggests the picture of the disappointment of the prophet and the sympathy of the prophets.
1. Jeremiah had begun to work when a better time seemed to dawn (Jeremiah 1:2). His hopes had been baffled, his words neglected, by “the guilt that scorns to be forgiven.” Could human lot be more sad than thus to foresee the coming ruin, and to be helpless to avert it?
2. The true prophet, in spite of the people’s sin, sympathises with them (1 Samuel 12:20-22). The Prophet of prophets did so. The king’s captivity was only a type and foretaste of that of the nation.
III. The love of one’s country is freely recognised in scripture (Psalms 137:1-9; Psalms 102:1-28). National life is an ordinance of nature. National as real as home affections. The sorrows and joys which they bring are alike used for our discipline by Him who knows whereof we are made.
IV. The captivities, terrible as they were, served good ends.
1. To wean the people from idolatry.
2. To draw them nearer to God. All affliction used aright does so.
3. To turn the people more to prayer, which seems to have become more common after the Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 66:1-2; Daniel 6:10; Daniel 9:3; Daniel 9:19).
V. The dead are in the hands of God, beyond our reach. Weep rather for those who are living, torn away from the city of God.
1. Those who have been ensnared by their own sins and carelessness.
2. Those who are brought up in vice through circumstances of birth. Slaves of worse than Egyptian bondage (John 8:34).
3. Those of our own countrymen who, from duty or circumstances, are in foreign lands, and away from outward tokens of the Church. But should we merely mourn for these, and do nothing for them?
VI. Jeremiah a forerunner of the Lord, and a type of His servants in witnessing to the truth, and in the endurance of persecution and disappointment of hope. (B. Moffett, M. A.)
Did not thy father eat and drink.
God’s expostulation with Jehoiakim
I. God remembereth the piety and usefulness of our ancestors, and observeth how far we resemble them. The Eternal Mind cannot possibly forget anything. All things past, as well as present, are naked and open before His eyes. He remembers all the way in which our fathers walked; the secret piety of their hearts; the evidences of it in their lives, and all the service they did for God and their generation. He remembered how piously Josiah walked, and mentions it to his honour. God hath a kind remembrance of His faithful servants, when they are departed out of this world; and is “not unrighteous, to forget any work and labour of love” which they have performed. Let it be further observed, that God takes notice how far we resemble them. Thus He chargeth it upon Jehoiakim, that he had not trod in his father’s steps. God can and will make a just estimate, what our religious advantages are, compared with theirs, and what improvement we make of these advantages. He observeth every instance of declension from that which is good, and the principles from which our departures from God and religion flow.
II. Young persons often forsake the religion of their fathers, through pride, and love of elegance, pomp, and show. This was the case of Jehoiakim. No doubt it is lawful for persons of rank and fortune to build themselves houses and to beautify them; provided it be suitable to their circumstances, and no injury to justice or charity. But it was pride that led Jehoiakim to covet so much splendour, and practise so much injustice. This is a sin that easily besets the young, and often leads them to forsake the ways and the God of their fathers. They set out beyond their rank and circumstances, and begin where their wiser fathers ended. And this their pride and vanity leads them to forsake the religious profession of their fathers. Thus Jehoiakim, it is probable, turned idolater. He forsook the God of Israel, and persecuted His faithful prophets. Hence so many among us forsake the principles and profession of their ancestors; because the favour and preferments of the world and public fashion are not on that side. Set out in life, young friends, with moderate desires, wishes, and expectations. Be content with your rank and station. Endeavour to cultivate and strengthen religious principles and dispositions. Never compliment any at the expense of truth and conscience. Thus you will be able “to do justice and mercy,” and will retain that steadfastness in religion which is true politeness, and improve in that humility which is the brightest ornament.
III. It is a great dishonour and reproach to any to forsake the good ways of their fathers. Having fully known their manner of life, their devotion, purity, temperance, patience, charity, and love to God’s house and ordinances, they must act a very mean and scandalous part, if they neglect these virtues, and show themselves blind to the lustre of such good examples. How justly may such be expostulated with, as Jehoiakim was in the text! Did thy father, young man, do justice and judgment, and assist the poor and needy? Was he sober, diligent, grave, and devout? And will it be to thy credit to be giddy, dishonest, idle, extravagant, and an associate with rakes and sots? Did thy mother, young woman, fill up her place honourably? Was she active, prudent, serious, and good tempered? Did she sanctify God’s Sabbath, and labour to keep thee from pride and levity, and dangerous acquaintance? And wilt thou forget all this, and run into every fashionable folly? Will this be for thy reputation and comfort? But there is a more weighty thought than this, yet to be urged; and that is, if you act thus, you will forfeit the favour of God. There are terrible threatenings, in the context and other places of this prophecy, against this wicked Jehoiakim. All his wealth, pomp, and power could not shield him from the judgments of God. A few years after this prophecy, the King of Babylon seized him, and bound him in fetters to carry him to Babylon; but, being released upon his promise of allegiance, he afterwards rebelled, was slain in a sally out of Jerusalem, and was “buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 22:19), and had no child “to sit upon the throne of David” (2 Chronicles 36:6; Jeremiah 36:30). If you forsake the religion of your pious ancestors, it will be to your shame.
IV. The way of religion is the way of wisdom, honour, and happiness.
1. The way of religion is the way of wisdom (Psalms 111:10). With this the New Testament agreeth (1 John 2:3-4). Many think themselves wiser than their good fathers; and perhaps they may have juster notions of religion, and be more free from superstition and enthusiasm. Yet, “while they profess to know God,” they may “in works deny Him,” and “love the praise of man more than the praise of God.” And thus they prove that they are not so wise as their fathers.
2. The way of religion is also the way of honour. Josiah was universally esteemed while living, and much lamented when dead. The prophet Jeremiah lamented for him. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him, and “made them an ordinance in Israel,” that his remembrance should be kept up by some annual form of lamentation (2 Chronicles 35:25). Luxury and extravagance, splendour and show, are not the way to be truly honourable. The just, the generous, the friendly man, he who is strictly religious, and soberly singular, and who studies to do good to others, though he hath a mean house, and dresseth and liveth plain, this man will be held in reputation.
3. The way of religion is the way of happiness. It is the way to enjoy prosperity, and to have comfort in it. While we do well, it will certainly be well with us. If our views extended no further than the present life, it is our wisdom and interest to be steadfastly religious. But when we consider ourselves as in a state of trial for another world, and that our future state will be either happy or miserable forever, according to our present behaviour, it must be the greatest folly and madness to neglect religion, to sacrifice it to anything else, or not to make it the main business of our lives. (Job Orion, D. D.)
With the burial of an ass.
Dishonoured in death
Jehoiakim was king, and yet not one word of thanks do we find, nor one word of love, nor one word of regret expressed concerning his fate. We should learn from this how possible it is to pass through the world without leaving behind us one sacred or loving memory. He that seeketh his life shall lose it. A man that sacrifices daily to his own ambition, and never sets before himself a higher ideal than his own gratification, may appear to have much whilst he actually has nothing, may even appear to be winning great victories, when he is really undergoing disastrous defeats. What is a grand house if there be not in it a loving heart? What are walls but for the pictures that adorn them? What is life but for the trust which knits it into sympathetic unity? What is the night but for the stars that glitter in its darkness? There is an awful process of retrogression continually operating in life. Experienced men will tell us that the issue of life is one of two things: either advancement, or deterioration; continual improvement, or continual depreciation: we cannot remain just where we are, adding nothing, subtracting nothing, but realising a permanence of estate and faculty. The powers we do not use will fall into desuetude, and the abilities which might have made life easy may be so neglected as to become burdens too heavy to be carried. It lies within a man’s power so to live that he may be buried with the burial of an ass: no mourners may surround his grave; no beneficiaries may recall his charities; no hidden hearts may conceal the tender story of his sympathy and helpfulness. A bitter sarcasm this, that a man should be buried like an ass! (J. Parker, D. D.)
The doom of the defrauder, libertine, and assassin
After a life of private or public iniquity, a man’s death is not deplored. The obsequies may be pretentious--flags, wreaths, catafalques, military processions; but the world feels that a nuisance has been abated; he is cast forth by reason of the contempt of men; figuratively, if not literally, he is “buried with the burial of an ass.”
I. There is the romance of fraud. The heroes of this country are fast getting to be those who have most skill in swallowing “trust funds,” banks, stocks, and moneyed institutions. I thank God when fortunes thus gathered go to smash. They are plague struck, and blast a nation. I like to have them made loathsome and an insufferable stench, so that honest young men may take warning.
II. Next, I speak of the romance of libertinism. Society has severest retribution for the impurity that lurks about the cellars and alleys of the city. It cries out against it. It hurls the indignation of the law at it. But society becomes more lenient as impurity rises towards affluence and high social position, until, finally, it is silent, or disposed to palliate. Where is the judge, or the sheriff, or the police, who dare arraign for indecency the wealthy villain? Would God that the romance which flings its fascinations over the bestialities of high life might be gone! Whether it has canopied couch of eiderdown, or sleep amid the putridity of the low tenement house, four families in a room, God’s consuming vengeance is after it.
III. Next,. I speak of the romance of assassination. God gives life, and He only has a right to take it away; and that man who assumes this Divine prerogative has touched the last depth of crime. Society is alert for certain forms of murder. For garroting, or the beating out of life with a club, or axe, or slung shot, the law has a quick spring and a heavy stroke. But let a man come to wealth or social pretension, and then attempt to avenge his wrongs by aiming a pistol at the header heart of another, and immediately there are sympathies aroused. If capital punishment be right, then let the life of the polished murderer go with the life of the ignorant and vulgar assassin. Let there be no partiality of hemp, no aristocracy of the gallows. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The ignominious burial of the wicked
Christ tells the story of a prosperous farmer who was clean intoxicated with success, and could not entertain a thought but of his gains,--how the very night that he had decided on the enlargement of his premises, a voice from heaven called his soul away; and whatever monument with flattering title his friends may have erected over his grave, God wrote his epitaph, in one word of four letters, “Fool.” “Buried with the burial of an ass.” No one will for a moment suppose that a splendid catafalque and imposing funeral obsequies betoken the close of a noble and honourable life. Ah! many a man is laid in one of yonder cemeteries with every form of ceremonial pomp, with gilt, and nodding plumes, and long rows of carriages and costly wreaths; and if the truth were told, a nuisance is being got rid of; the world will be better now that he is gone. Well might the artless child, who had been wandering among the tombstones, and reading the epitaphs, turn to its mother and say, “Mother, where are all the bad people buried?” (T. Thain Davidson, D. D.)
A kings humiliating burial
Our Richard II, for his exactions to maintain a great court and favourites, lost his kingdom, was starved to death at Pomfret Castle, and scarce afforded common burial. King Stephen was interred in Faversham monastery; but afterwards his body, for the gain of the lead wherein it was coffined, was cast into the river. (John Trapp.)
I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear.
Influence of prosperity
In heaven, the more abundantly God’s bounties are dispensed, the more is He loved and adored; but on earth, the richer His gifts, the more will He be neglected and disobeyed. A striking proof of our depravity, that constant prosperity hardens, and is unfavourable to piety.
I. Abundant earthly blessings do tend to make the heart rebellious towards God.
1. Scripture teachings are emphatic on this matter (Deuteronomy 8:12-14; Hosea 13:6; Proverbs 30:8-9).
2. Experience confirms Scripture. In many instances we see that the highest human virtues and holiest saints of God were unable to withstand the influence of prosperity. They could endure affliction, and profit thereby; as certain liquors ripen in the shade, which under the noonday beams turn to acidity and corruption.
3. It is doubtful whether there ever was a single instance of piety which could pass uninjured through the ordeal of unmingled prosperity. The tone of religion is lowered amid riches and honours. Where simplicity and humility of spirit are preserved amid prosperity, it is owing to some hidden trouble, which like the cord on the feet of the aspiring bird keeps the proud spirit lowly and abased.
II. What, then, must be the effect of prosperity on those who have no religious principle to counteract it, and who are avowedly lovers of the world and its pleasures?
1. They will not heed the messages of God.
2. Religion, with its sober realities, is despised.”
3. Those favoured of fortune are the most pitiable objects in the world.
III. They who have worldly prosperity should be led to self-inquiry as to its effect on themselves.
1. Are you the same simple-hearted and sincere follower of Jesus as when you began to lay the foundation of your worldly exaltation?
2. What a caution is here to those who are seeking prosperity! Can you discover a means of preserving a lowly spiritual mind amid prosperity? Unless so, there is no alternative but that you must suffer adversity to keep you humble, or become worldly and spiritually hardened.
3. They who have become more indisposed to hear the voice of God should awake to their peril.
4. Prosperous ones may well regard their ease with apprehension. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
I. The exactness with which God observes all that relates to human character and conduct.
1. All our relative circumstances are immediately before His eye; and He notices with tender and faithful scrutiny the various effects which His merciful dispensations have upon the mind.
2. The circumstances of human life, however produced, are undoubtedly under the guidance of providence, and therefore subservient to a wise and perfect design. Each man’s history is arranged and adapted with utmost precision to the growth of permanent character.
II. The tendency of unsanctified prosperity to render us insensible to the claims of religion and separate us still further from God.
1. Uninterrupted comfort tends to lessen our confidence in God: to form in the mind a feeling of self-confidence: a security nothing can shake: so much so that religion can make no entrance into the mind.
2. It hardens the heart. God would have every temporal blessing raise the inquiry, “Lord, what is man?” But wicked and irreligious men are only concerned for enjoyment, and for scope for their ambition. They feed and grovel like swine beneath the oak, without looking up to the boughs that bore the fruit, or the hand that shakes it down.
3. Then comes pride. Nebuchadnezzar. God is forgotten, prayer neglected.
4. Leaves a dulness and lethargy of mind. All Divine threatenings, warnings, promises unheeded.
III. Various ways in which God rebukes this tendency and humbles men. God speaks to men in various ways, and He distinctly marks the various impressions produced upon the mind by His communications. He speaks to us by His Word and ordinances, by the instructions we receive in religious education, by the various dispensations of His providence, by affliction, by mercies. (S. Thodey.)
The perverseness of prosperity
Why is prosperity so perverse?
I. Because prosperity often tends to hardness of heart.
II. Because prosperity often grows proud and self-sufficient. Religion and the Bible are well enough for the poor, who need comfort, but what do they want with it, who have “more than heart could wish”?
III. Because prosperity is often immersed in cares or pleasures. There is no room for religion. The voices of the counting house, the mart of commerce, the shop; or the voices of the pleasure takers, who call men to partake of their pastimes, so fill their ear that they will not obey the voice of God. “I have my nest in the cedars.” (Anon.)
The Christian prospering in business
The voice of God to the prosperous, which they are in danger of not hearing, concerns--
1. This humility will be shown towards God. There is a natural tendency in wealth to foster a spirit of sinful self-sufficience and independence of God. Many things conspire to this. Wealth is power. Not only the labour of the hands, but the thoughts, the will, and consciences of men may be bought. Wealth not only gives a sort of independence, but a sort of sovereignty. And, thus, it is an object of esteem and reverence. Now, whatever natural religion may teach us, it is certain that the Bible teaches, that “God giveth power to get wealth,” and that we have nothing “which we have not received.” Now, how comprehensive is the claim for humility involved in all this! It makes every difference, whether we be the authors of our wealth, or whether it be the gift of God. If we receive all, the more we have, the more we have received. The prosperous Christian should realise this; and, realising this, he will be grateful. The bounty of Providence will endear the thought of God. In proportion to his joy will be his thankfulness.
2. This feeling of dependence will respect the future, will influence the mode of regarding the continuance of good things. He who feels deeply that we are in the hands of God; that we are in a state of probation; that the great purpose of God is to try us, to reveal us, to exercise us, and especially to sanctify us; that we deserve nothing, while we receive everything; and that crosses and afflictions are often among the most gracious methods of Divine discipline; will regard the fluctuations of life as Divine dispensations. He will not say only, “It is the course of things,” “It is the lot of man,” “It must be expected,” “It can’t be helped,” but he will say also, “It is the will of God.”
3. Another aspect of this humility will be towards men. In pleading for humility in the rich Christian, I do not advocate an impossible equality, or a forgetfulness of outward distinctions. But I mean, that the feeling of human brotherhood and of Christian respect and affection should be displayed towards all; and that the favours of Providence should only bind us to a more careful regard to the will of our common Father, and a more delicate respect to the feelings of our brethren.
1. Spirituality is opposed to extravagance. He who prizes the manliness and integrity of his soul; he who would not render himself unfit for the possible reverses of life; he who would maintain a taste for the most exalted pleasures; he who is duly alive to the perilous corruption within him, ever ready, like a magazine of powder, to ignite from the smallest spark, or, like a river, on the removal of a little portion of embankment, to burst forth with desolating violence; he will err on the side rather of defect than of excess, and “deny himself” too much rather than smooth the way and strengthen the temptations of “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.”
2. Spirituality is opposed to worldliness. He is worldly who “walks” not “with God; whose conversation is not in heaven; whose affections are not “set on things above”; who has no keen eye for the mysteries of the kingdom, no quick ear for its voices, no delicate sensibility to its impressions. Have you not many before your minds who have become worldly through prosperity
3. Spirituality is opposed to indolence. Prosperity says, “Take thine ease”! and men are but too ready to comply with the suggestion. The man well-to-do contributes to societies that perform the works in which he was engaged. He now works by proxy. He assigns his sphere to others. He is not idle; he supports all good things. But, my brother, the power to do this is additional to the powers you used to have, not instead of them. You did good then by personal service. That obligation remains. The ability to give does not destroy the ability to labour, and the purse cannot answer the demand for activity and effort.
III. Benevolence. The very means of riches, the common way and method of getting rich, should teach this lesson. Why has God appointed commerce? Why given to men different faculties and spheres? Is it not all designed to impress the doctrine of brotherhood, and to draw out affections and promote deeds in keeping with it? The prosperous Christian should be a liberal Christian. It is not enough that he continue his gifts; he must increase them Proportion is God’s rule. He estimates what we part with according to what we keep. A healthy saint will delight in being able to relieve his brethren, and one of the chief charms of prosperity, will be the power it gives him to be a minister for good. His first care will be his own, the needy kindred whose trials he may soothe by generous gifts, or whom he may more worthily and wisely serve by enabling them to serve themselves. His next will be the welfare of those by whose assistance he has succeeded. He will not think his duty done by a mere payment of wages; but will seek to promote their physical and mental and moral well-being. (A. J. Morris.)
The danger of self-confidence
Christians are taught, at least in words, to believe that riches and, indeed, any kind of worldly prosperity are exceedingly dangerous to us--that they prove, very often, too great a trial for men’s principles; a snare in which they are entangled to their own destruction. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” to submit himself to the mortifying precepts of the Gospel. The word in the text translated “prosperity” signifies properly “calmness, tranquillity, self-satisfaction.” It does not merely mean the possession of money, and other such advantages, but also any state or business of life, which makes a person unwilling to apply to his heart or his conscience those truths of the Gospel especially, which might lessen his confidence about himself, and him spiritual estate. When “God speaks to men in this their” fancied prosperity, “how often in the pride . . . of their hearts do they refuse to hear.” They will “not hear, because they will not consider.” Thus, for instance, when things go well with a man, and he has sufficient to maintain himself and his family comfortably his case is one of great difficulty and danger. There is this which makes prosperity a greater danger to us than adversity, that it renders us less willing to listen to the voice of truth and conscience. When worldly things have gone well with a person, and he has yet neglected his eternal interests, there is still hope that adversity may bring him back to his God. But if things have gone ill with a man, and yet he is still worldly-minded and irreligious, what hope is there that prosperity will effect what adversity could not do? The reason is, because worldly business, especially if it be at an successful, is apt to intoxicate the mind, as a dram, and to make a man unable to collect his thoughts and fix them steadily on any object which is not some way or other connected with his immediate interests. But adversity, and suffering, if the heart be not quite hardened against the convictions of conscience, as they make us feel our frailty and dependency, so they have a natural tendency to make us look beyond this present scene for support and consolation. Let it also be considered, that a life of prosperity, and ease, and freedom from trouble, is the least suited for the exercise of those graces and virtues which are peculiarly Christian, and by which our souls are to be fitted for an entrance into that blessed land where sin and sorrow shall be lab more. It is quite certain and unquestionable, that the Gospel of Christ is uniformly addressed to us, as to persons on their trial and probation for an everlasting reward,--to persona who have it in their power to refuse or to receive the gracious offers made to them,--to persons who are to be through life exercised and disciplined, and led on by degrees towards that perfection of holiness from which our nature was degraded by the transgression of our first parents. Here, then, we may see and acknowledge the great danger of a life of prosperity, ease, and self-satisfaction; and, at the same time, the real benefit of adversity, suffering, and self-distrust. If, then, our gracious God have spoken to us in our prosperity, and we have refused to hear; if He have spoken to us in adversity, and our hearts have been somewhat softened at His gracious chastisement, then let us learn to bless Him for all His dispensations, indeed, but most of all for His punishments. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the Tracts for the Times.)
Man in material prosperity
I. Addressed by almighty God.
1. Be humble. “Charge them that are rich,” etc. Through the depravity of the heart, wealth has a tendency to fill the soul with self-sufficiency and pride.
2. Be spiritual. Through the depravity of the heart, wealth is often used so to pamper the appetites as to carnalise the soul.
3. Be generous. There is a tendency in wealth so to feed selfishness.
II. Refusing an audience with his Maker. Material indulgence deadens the moral tympanum of the heart. “I will not hear” though Thou speakest in nature, in Providence, in the Bible, in conscience, in a thousand holy ministries, I will not hear. Why?--
1. Because I am happy as I am. I have all that I want; not only to supply my needs, but to gratify my passions, to satisfy my vanity and ambition.
2. Because Thy voice will disturb me. (Homilist.)
Sin in prosperity
I. The divine condescension. “I spake unto thee.” What is man that God should notice him at all? It is not so much that man is fallen, but he is rebellious, wilfully ignorant, deliberately sinful, and infinitely beneath God in capacity, duration, power.
II. The hardness of man. “Thou wouldst not hear.” Surely, one would think that when the great God comes down to commune with man, man, out of mere reverence, would stay to listen. On the contrary, he turns away with disdain. The worm turns upon its Maker and King. This hardness is astonishing--
1. On account of the disrespect it manifests. So great, so good, so merciful a Being demands our attention, our love, our all.
2. On account of the pain it gives. Could you spurn a loving friend, and not cause him grief?
3. On account of the loss it entails. Why does God speak to man?
(1) In order that He may save him from evil--from the evil of sin, of death, of eternal loss.
(2) In order that He may do him good--that He may raise his intellect body and soul, and exalt him to eternal life and glory. It is, then, an astonishing fact that man refuses to hear.
III. The unnatural reason implied. “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity.”
1. This is a strange assertion. It is strange because--
(1) All prosperity comes from God. The natural thought respecting it, then, would be that it would excite greater reverence and love towards Him who so mercifully bestowed it.
(2) All prosperity gives greater prosperity and enjoyment, and demands a greater return in thanksgiving and sacrifice.
2. It is a true assertion, as history and experience infallibly prove.
(1) When men have prosperity, they get engrossed with their possessions.
(2) When men have prosperity, they get satisfied with what they possess. This makes them refuse the invitations and solicitations of God. (Homilist.)
Danger of prosperity
The long reign of Philip of Macedon--over forty years--witnessed the great decadence of the Hellenic Empire. When he came to the throne she was still a strong empire, full of fairest prospects. But he was one of those characters that are only kept within the bounds of good sense and justice by the sternest adversity. As soon as he found himself safe, his idleness, his tempers and lusts broke out. It was a misfortune both to himself and the world that he was not obliged, Like his predecessors, to recover by arms the kingdom to which he had succeeded by right. Prosperity enervated him; adversity would have braced him. (H. O. Mackay.)
How God’s voice is drowned
On entering a mill the noise of the machinery stunned and bewildered me. The owner of the mill explained the various processes as we went on, but it was a dumb show to me, I heard nothing. Suppose when I came out I had been asked whether the gentleman spoke to me during my visit and I had replied No! would it have been true? Certainly not. He spoke but I did not hear. His voice was drowned in the surrounding noise. And so it is with thousands of those around us. God speaks to them, but His voice is drowned in the hubbub by which they are surrounded. They are awakened in the morning with the postman’s knock, and before they have time for a though about God or eternity the noise of their own mill is all around them; before the letters are finished the morning papers arrive, and the roar of the world is added to the sound which already existed, and henceforth it is whirl and excitement till evening. (Charles Garrett.)
This hath been thy manner from thy youth.
Youthful habits retained
I. Habits formed in youth generally continue in future life. This applies to those--
1. Whose Life is given to the luxury of pleasure.
2. Who pass the season of youth in gross vices.
(1) Sabbath breaker.
3. Equally relevant to vices of the mind.
4. So also as regards their attitude towards religion.
(1) Those who pass their youth in a merely formal regard to the external duties of religion usually become formalists.
(2) Those who practise guile and deceit become hypocritical.
(3) Those who in youth slight the Gospel, in old age are seen to be unfeeling and hardened.
(4) Those who are sceptical frequently become confirmed infidels.
II. Custom in any course generally issues in confirmed habits.
1. The commencement of a course in life is often attended with a struggle and with difficulties.
2. But continuance in a course renders habits congenial and easy.
III. Solemn cautions and exhortations.
1. Cautions. Guard against slighting--
(1) Parental instruction.
(2) The Gospel.
(3) The Sabbath.
(4) Avoid ungodly companions.
(1) Accustom yourself to consider your accountability to God.
(2) Study the sacred Book, by which your future should be directed.
(3) Decide early in favour of religion. (Anon.)
O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars.
The nest in the cedars
The inhabitant of Lebanon, that maketh his nest in the cedars, is an illustration of all those who, in the pride and security of the present, are blind to the uncertainties of the future.
I. Why is it that God’s message takes such little hold of the heart? He pours out all His love in pleading with men. “Seek ye My face.” Has the answer gone up from your heart, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek”? If not, why not? Are you making a nest for yourself among the cedars? dreaming yourself to be secure, and, like the false Church in the Apocalypse, saying to yourself, “I shall see no sorrow”? What is the ground of your security? Has the hand of diligence surrounded you with comforts? The cheerful home, the well-spread table, the smiling faces of children,--are these your portion? Oh, how often are these things as the nest in the cedars! Or the nest may be of another kind--framed out of self-righteousness and moral excellence. In short, whatever it be which holds back the heart from Christ, and prompts the vain hope that all will be well at last, though there be no conscious faith, nor any evidence of a converted heart, that is your nest among the cedars. Though now heedless to the call of God, the storm must ere long burst on the cedar, and rive it to its roots, laying in the dust the nest that seemed so safe in its towering branches. Disappointment, loss, disaster, trial, death, the judgment,--what are these in their turn but just the lightning flash which strips the cedar of its foliage, and leaves the nest exposed to the scorching of the summer’s heat, and the withering of the winter’s frost? What are they all but God’s instruments for shivering into ruins the miserable refuges in which men seek shelter and comfort amid the experiences of time, and in the prospect of eternity?
II. When the cedars are fallen, how bitter the disappointment! The world, its business, its pleasures, its cares, its struggles, its joys, its sorrows,--all are fast vanishing. Snap the cedars go! and meanwhile there is dismay at the review of the past, and the still darker prospect of the future! Behind, a life spent with the form of godliness, but entirely without God. Before, is death, the sifting of the judgment, eternity. Behind, a life given up to earth and earthly things. Before, an immortality, over the far-reaching expanse of which no star of hope sheds a gleam of life and peace. Can we wonder if the soul shrinks back in alarm, if dark forebodings haunt the spirit, and prayers, and regrets, and vows, and promises blend together as the outward expression of anxiety and fear?
III. Where can you build your hopes and not find them shattered and broken by disappointment. Not among the cedars, but in the hollow of that Rock of Ages, which defies the howling of the tempest, and the sweep of the hurricane--which stands forth calm and stately in its strength, amid the shocks of time, and shall lift its head unshaken, even when the earth and all that is in it shall be dissolved and broken up. The memory of guilt and shortcoming, and the record of transgression are terrible, hut to the humble and believing Christian they can bring neither harm nor hurt. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide beneath the shadow of the Almighty.” (R. Allen, M. A.)
A sure refuge
I. The insufficiency of every human aid, as illustrated by the prophet in the example of the “inhabitant of Lebanon.” Lebanon was a noble and a stately mountain, the pride and the ornament of the Eastern world. Its summit was crested with eternal snows, while its sides were adorned with forests of the graceful and goodly cedar. Beneath were slopes of rich pasturage, on which were fed unnumbered flocks and herds. Rivulets gushed from the fissures, and separated among the hills, which afforded refreshment to the fainting traveller, and maintained in native purity of freshness the verdure of the mountain side. No image could more expressively convey to the mind of an Israelite all that man most highly esteems of grandeur, magnificence, and beauty. But the idea of security is also implied. In many human ills, money, as the wise man says, “is a defence”; and the rich man, in a land of commerce like our own, is as the “inhabitant of Lebanon,” compared with the dweller in the plain below. The winds may rage, and the storm beat; but his airy dwelling place is unmoved. The enemy may spread themselves over the plain; but his house of defence “is the munitions of rocks.” How enviable a condition! you will say, But Ah! “the things that are impossible with men, are possible with God.” Lightning from heaven above may blast the towering cedar; the earthquake muttering from beneath may rend the solid rock: or even when the wave reposes without a ripple or an undulation on the surface of the mountain lake, the stroke of death may come suddenly, the strong man’s fortress may be powerless in an instant, as a woman in her travail, or as the infant just struggling into birth.
II. For all who will seek it there is a sure refuge, whatever may be the danger, and an invincible arm of defence, whoever may be we adversary. St. Paul indeed said, in reference to the times of fiery persecution in which his own lot was cast, that “if in this life only they had hope in Christ, believers were of all men most miserable”; but what was then “the present distress,” has happily passed away, and godliness is now truly “profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” All creation is redolent of joy and peace to the true believer in Christ Jesus. He knows, that God hath “made with him an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure”; that “all His ways are mercy and truth, unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies”; and that no truly good thing “will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” So long, then, as prosperity continues, enjoyment is enhanced by thankfulness; and when adversity comes upon him, suffering is lightened by faith. The “light affliction,” which is upon him, will, he knows, “work for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” etc. (T. Dale, M. A.)
Though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.
Punishment of the impenitent inevitable and justifiable
I. Mention some awful instances in which God has verified this declaration.
1. The apostate angels.
2. Our first parents.
3. The Flood.
4. The Jews.
5. The Saviour Himself.
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He spared not His own Son. And will He then, O impenitent sinner, who by refusing to believe in Jesus Christ crucifiest Him afresh, will God spare thee? No; though thou weft the signet on His right Hand; though thou wert dear to Him as the Son of His love, He would not spare thee, when His violated law and His insulted justice call for thy destruction.
II. State some of the reasons why God has formed and enacted such a declaration; or, in other words, why He will sooner give up all that is dear to Him than suffer sin to go unpunished.
1. It is needless to remark that, among these reasons, a disposition to give pain has no place. As God has sworn by Himself that the wicked shall die, so He has sworn by Himself that He has no pleasure in their death.
2. Nor has a desire to revenge the insults and injuries which sinners have offered to Himself any place among the motives which induce God to punish sin; for He inflicts punishment, not as an injured individual, but as the Sovereign and Judge of the universe, who is under the most sacred obligations to treat His subjects according to their deserts.
3. It is because the welfare of His great kingdom, the peace and happiness of the universe, require it. It is because a relaxation of His law, a departure from the rules of strict justice, would occasion more misery than will result from a rigid execution of His law. Were sin unrestrained, unpunished, it would soon scale heaven, as it has once done already in the case of the apostate angels; and there reign and rage with immortal strength through eternity, repeating in endless succession, and with increased aggravation, the enormities which it has already perpetrated on earth. We may add, that after God had once surrendered His truth, His justice, and holiness, and laid aside the reins of government, He could never more resume them. Nor could He ever give laws, or make promises to any other world, or any other race of creatures, which would he worthy of the least regard. (B. Payson, D. D.)
O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.
The treble urgency of the Gospel call
I. The Gospel call may well be pressed with threefold emphasis, when we consider the limitation it implies as respects the parties addressed: it is addressed to men and not to angels--it is addressed to “earth” as contradistinguished from hell. Between these two worlds, behold the Bible, like the cloud between Israel and Egypt, with a side of brightness for the former and a side of darkness for the latter! It is surely a solemnly affecting and suggestive thought that, while the Sun of Righteousness is flinging His splendours over the earth, there is another fallen world very differently circumstanced. Do you not feel your soul, at the very thought, concentrating its energies on the inquiry, What is the Gospel message, and what are the terms it proclaims? Will not the sinking crew turn to the lifeboat that is making directly for them, and that all the more eagerly that they discern around them a foaming sea strown rough with wrecks? Will not the patient turn to the physician that proffers his aid, and grasp at the prepared medicine with all the greater eagerness that he is given to understand that no other physician is within reach, though pestilence stalks all around him? And shall we not ply the Gospel call with treble emphasis, and wilt not thou listen to it with treble interest, that it proclaims a Saviour for men, over the head of angels--that it names our “earth,” but names not hell?
II. Universal as my text is, it carries a limitation as respects time: it is addressed to men in time, not in eternity--to the earth as it is now, not as it shall be hereafter.
1. As respects the individual, God “limiteth a certain day, saying, Today, if ye will hear,” etc. Each has his allotted time of probation, his day of grace. Now is that time, that golden day - the time of acceptance. Come, fellow sinner; come as you are; come now; touch the golden sceptre, and live forever.
2. God has also limited a certain time for our world as a whole. There is a certain hour known to God when He will address the commission to Jesus, “Thrust in Thy sickle,” etc. Momentous harvest! The earth even now is rapidly ripening. All will be astir and in earnest then; but many, alas! will awake, not to touch mercy’s sceptre, or the folds of her garment, but to catch the echo of her last farewell.
III. This triple emphasis will be still further accounted for if we consider the universality of the gospel call: it is addressed to the whole race, and not to part of it merely. All the seeming limitations in Scripture of the universal call are, in fact, the strongest proofs of its universality. Were I now to press the appeal in my text on different classes--the old, the young, the abandoned, the careless, or the anxious,--every candid man would understand that my specifying one class implied no exclusion of others, but was merely intended to give point and pungency to my appeal by breaking down the universal call into its particular applications, and thus “rightly dividing the word of truth.” On this obvious principle are we to explain such descriptive phrases as “hungry,” “thirsty,” “weary,” “heavy-laden,” which some have regarded as denoting incipient spiritual attainments, or subjective qualifying prerequisites, which the sinner must have before he is entitled to believe the Gospel. Far from it. They express not our holiness but our misery, not our riches but our poverty, whether we have caught a glimpse of Christ’s fulness or not. “Wide as the reach of Satan’s rage, doth His salvation flow.” Let us share in our Saviour’s spirit. Let the universality of the Gospel provision lead us increasingly to realise the wants and woes and claims of the unnumbered myriads of mankind. It is here that the fire of missionary and evangelistic zeal is to be kindled.
IV. We shall cease to wonder at the threefold emphasis here imparted to the Gospel call when we reflect on the facts it presupposes as to the condition of the world.
1. It supposes the world to be in a state of danger, for a threefold call to the earth, so pointed and energetic, implies that no ordinary catastrophe impends over the world. It is precisely such an impassioned appeal as would be given forth on the outbreak of some public danger, such as fire, or flood, or hostile invasion.
2. But, further, and as a frightful aggravation of the danger, the world is, to a lamentable extent, in a state of insensibility to it. This, too, is implied in the appeal of our text. It represents the world as asleep: hence the call “O earth”; and because that sleep is profound, the call is redoubled, “O earth, earth”; and because the world sleeps on, wrapped in a slumber deep as death, a third time peals the call, each louder than before. Some years ago, two or three men were seen floating asleep in a boat on the river Niagara, and were already among the rapids. Loud and long were the calls addressed to them by the spectators on the river side; but the unhappy men awoke only to utter a wild shriek of despair as they were borne over the tremendous verge. This, by no means an isolated case, aptly illustrates the sinner’s danger as he floats down the stream of time, his insensibility thereto, and the loud warnings addressed to him, both by God and man, to shake off the slumberous spell, and turn while he may to the matte of safety. Say not, “If I am asleep, I am not responsible.” You are not in this sense asleep. You are responsible; for you are an agent rational, intelligent, moral, voluntary, unfettered and free. You are responsible; for, if you believe man, you can believe God; you can give that attention to the Bible which you lavish on the things of time; you can think upon your soul’s salvation with the same faculties that you exert on your business or pleasures; and if you are reluctant to do so, this is not your misfortune, remember, but your crime.
V. The Gospel call may well be urged with threefold emphasis when we consider the quarter whence it comes: it is not of earth, but from heaven--it is not the word of man, but “the word of the Lord.” The King of heaven gives forth an utterance from His everlasting throne, but the worms of His footstool will not deign to give Him audience. Louder and louder speaks the voice which at first spake us into being--and could at any moment revoke that being,--but men sleep on; they will not consider; they say, “Who is the Lord that He should reign over us? Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” Disbelieve man if you will, spurn authority, trample on the tenderest of human ties, but oh, address not yourself to a sin that towers in solitary magnitude far above all these--venture not on the supreme blasphemy of making the God of truth and love a liar.
VI. The Gospel call may well be plied with treble emphasis if we consider the precious import of the message it proclaims: it is a word of Gospel, or good news, and not of authority merely--when it might have been a word of wrath. Ah, this deepens the dye still further, of the sin of unbelief--a perpetration of which earth, and earth alone, is the theatre. The light of God’s love in “the glorious Gospel” makes the darkness of human rebellion the more appallingly visible; and the thought that such mercy is within reach, and yet such wrath is in reserve--that man’s destination, if not high heaven must be some nethermost abyss: ah, this, considering the magnitude of the interests involved, may well make us to intensify, redouble, and treble the call, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!” (T. Guthrie, D.D.)
The Divine appeal to man
I. The Characters Addressed “O earth, earth, earth,!” By “earth,” we are to understand the dwellers on earth--man the lord of this lower creation; andlooking to its origin, the term is one that is appropriately employed to designate man.”
1. When addressed as earth, we are reminded of our native origin. “Man is of the earth, earthy.” God made man of the dust of the ground. What, then, becomes of the boastings of man? How foolish the pride of pedigree, the pride of descent! The sable sons of Africa, the swarthy Hindoo, the Red Indian of America, the stunted Esquimaux, the tribes of Europe, and of all the islands of the sea, have all of them a common origin: they are all of them of the earth, earthy.
2. When addressed as earth we are reminded also of our true nature. We are not only from the earth, but we are of the earth. “Dust thou art,” is the true description of every man, of every child of man. Yes, what is that muscular frame but brittle earth? What is that beautiful countenance but tinted earth? What are those sparkling eyes but transparent earth? What are those sensitive nerves so keenly alive to pleasure and to pain, what are they but fine filaments of earth? What is that amazing structure the brain, the seat of the thinking powers, but just a curiously wrought mass of earth?
3. When addressed as earth, we are reminded of the source of our supplies. Not only are our bodies of the earth earthy, but it is from the earth that we derive all that is essential to their sustenance and comfort. It is on its kindly surface that we erect our habitations. It is from its yearly replenished storehouse that we derive the staff of life. It is thence we draw our supplies of corn, of wine, and of oil, while from its copious fountains issue those crystal streams that fertilise our fields and quench our thirst, and in other ways minister to our comfort; and by this, too, we are reminded to moderate our desires. Bread and water are the supplies that the earth most copiously yields, and to these only does the promise extend, “Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.”
4. We are reminded, when we are addressed as earth, of the earthly state of our minds, that state which is so aptly expressed in the words of the Psalmist, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust.” The design of Gospel truth is to draw our affections from the world, to raise our minds above its grovelling pursuits, and to change the current of our desires, our feelings, and our affections; and for the effecting of all this it is perfectly competent, for “it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth.” Why, then, is its success so limited? The reason is that the earthly is more potent than the heavenly, that the material outweighs the spiritual in our thoughts, affections, and desires.
5. We are reminded, when we are addressed as earth, of the tendency of us all. “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” These bodies, full of life and activity, must ere long drop into the grave. Those eyes now sparkling with life and intelligence, must ere long be closed in death. Those tongues, now eloquent with the language of hope and affection, must ere long be silent in the tomb. Upon that countenance, now flushed with the bloom of health, must ere long settle the damp dews of death. Let our thoughts and aspirations, then, be tending heavenward while our bodies are tending earthward. Let it be seen, that if our bodies are ripening for the grave our souls are ripening, for heaven.
II. The exercise that is enjoined. “Hear the word of the Lord.”
1. The subject of attention: “The word of the Lord.” In other words, the subject of that attention is the revealed will of God, the Holy Scriptures, the preached Gospel. It must be listened to, not as to “a tale that is well told,” not as to “the voice of one that playeth well upon an instrument,” but listened to with self-application, and with a believing heart.
2. This exercise of hearing “the word of the Lord” may be enforced by many considerations, especially when you take into account the Being who addresses you. It is God who speaks. It is He whose Word is life or death, which exalts to heaven or sinks to hell. Think of the Word itself, of the subject of which it treats. It is no indifferent theme on which it discourses. It is the Word of knowledge, it is the proclamation of mercy, it is the glad tidings of salvation. It is, too, a Word of judgment and of death, but only to those who contemn and refuse to hear it. And then, think of the universal adaptation of its truths. They are fitted for all, for saint and for sinner alike; for the most learned and the most illiterate; for the king upon the throne and the beggar by the wayside. Think, too, of your dying condition, as yet another consideration enforcing attention to “the word of the Lord.” Soon you may be beyond the reach of its tidings of mercy. (H. Hyslop.)
Jehovah’s call to the earth
We know of persons who rise up early and sit up late, in order that they may accumulate riches, in order that they may follow their trade, or in order that they may enjoy the pleasures of sin; but how few there are who can say they “prevent the night watches” that they may “meditate upon God’s Word”!
I. In meditating upon God’s blessed Word, notice the authority with which it comes.
1. It has no title, save that which distinguishes it from all common communications, from all uninspired books. It is the Bible, which means emphatically the book, in distinction from every other book.
2. If you inquire as to its topics, its index, it is impossible to make a catalogue of these. Who can describe the truths, the doctrines, the promises, the precepts, the predictions that it contains?
3. Then you have to inquire respecting its Author. It is God--He that made us, He that sustains us, He that governs us, He alone that can bless us. The Bible is not anonymous, any more than the sun, the moon, the stars, or the sea, for it bears the impressive signature of the Divine name. It is not a fable. “We have not followed cunningly-devised fables” when we testify to you the great things of God’s Word. Oh, the riches, oh, the profundity of this inexhaustible Word! Christians have been drawing upon the resources of its wisdom; mighty preachers have been expounding its contents, scholars have been penetrating into its mysteries, the press has been pouring out dissertations and commentaries upon its mighty theme, and it is still unexhausted and inexhaustible; for it is like its infinite Author.
II. How we are to receive this communication, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.”
1. If we are to hear the Word of the Lord that our souls may live, our ears must be opened. Closed by prejudice, ignorance, and sin, closed by the imperfection and deceitfulness of our nature, the Holy Spirit must open our ears to hear: then we shall hearken diligently, we shall hear believingly, so that this Word will be the life of our souls.
2. As this Word comes to you there must be spiritual participation. Indeed, the reception of the Word of God is described as “eating” that Word; and the Word of God is described as bread which we are to eat, and the manna that came doom from heaven and fell around the camps of the children of Israel was understood to be the type of that living bread upon which we are to feed. It is receiving Christ by faith, it is believing on Him, that is eating the Word. Oh, for this spiritual participation of God’s blessed Word! May God give you a spiritual taste, and spiritual desires.
3. The Word of God is to be received or heard with spiritual joy. Come and take of the most precious things God has given in His Word--let your souls delight themselves in fatness. There are precious promises and precious doctrines, precious prophecies and precious precepts; yea, everything is precious; but the nearer you get to the Cross of Christ and the discovery of God’s love in the gift of His Son, the more precious, the more nourishing, the more comforting, and the more consoling will Divine truth be to your minds.
III. This word comes to different characters and in various ways.
1. In the first place, let me address the sceptic--the doubter. There is no discovery in science which does not tend to confirm the inspiration and credibility of God’s truth; and there is not an evolution of Providence which does not serve to illustrate some portion of God’s prophetic Word. Keep your eyes upon the movements of Providence, and you will find that God is continually unfurling His truth Recollect eternity, with its weal and its woe, stands upon the decision, whether you receive with reverence, or whether you despise or neglect the great salvation which the Word of God brings.
2. This Word comes a warning to the man absorbed in the anxious cares of time; and, says it, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” This world cannot make you happy. Why spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not!
3. Then the Word of God speaks to the man who assents to God’s Word with his understanding, but denies it with his heart’s affection--having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. God cannot be deceived by pretences, God cannot be mocked by external service.
4. The Word of God speaks to the sorrowful. It speaks generally to the mourning, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It speaks to the widow in her desolateness, and says, “Thy Maker is thy husband.” It speaks to the orphan and the fatherless, and gives them the assurance of protection. It speaks to the soul half-despairing under a consciousness of its sin, and saying, “I am a great sinner, I do not know whether Christ will have compassion upon me and save me.” You are a great sinner? Well, then, Christ is a great Saviour. It speaks to the timid believer, who is ready to say, I fear I shall some day fall by the temptations and allurements of the world. Fall! you cannot fall; you walk upon firm ground, and the arms of Almighty grace sustain you whilst you are unreservedly trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. (H. Dowson.)
God’s loud call to a sleeping world
;--On our rugged and water-worn shores you may often see a black wall of stone, as regular as if it had been built by human hands, running across the tide mark from the terrestrial vegetation down to the lip of the water at its lowest. It is a trap dyke, forced up when its matter was molten, through a fissure in the overlying strata, and appearing now a narrow band of rock, totally distinct both in colour and in kind from the surrounding surface. These protruding portions show that the material of which they consist lies in vast masses underneath. So the thin line of our text seems to protrude above a broad field of mingled prophecy and fact.
I. The manner of this cry. You may measure the danger which a monitor apprehends by the sharpness of the alarm which he gives. The earth itself, and all the creatures on it under man, have a quick ear for their Maker’s voice, and, never needing, never get a call so urgent. The alacrity of the creatures that lie either above or beneath him in the scale of creation brings out in higher relief the disobedience of man. Physically, earth is wide awake and watchful. It courses through the heavens without halting for rest, and threads its way among other stars without collision. The tide keeps its time and place. The rivers roll toward the sea, and the clouds fly on wings like eagles, hastening to pour their burdens into the rivers’ springheads, that though ever flowing they may be ever full. The earth is a diligent worker; it is not the sluggard who needs a threefold call to awake and begin. Equally alert are the various orders of life that crowd the world’s surface. Above our own place, too, angel spirits are like flames of fire in the quickness, and like stormy winds in the power, with which they serve their Maker. The cry of this text is meant for man; he needs it, and he only. When the polar winter threatens to freeze the navigator’s blood, rendering constant and violent exercise necessary to keep the currents moving, then it is that the man feels the greatest drowsiness. It is only by the vigilance of experienced chiefs that they are prevented from sinking into a sleep from which there is no awakening. This fact, and the law which rules it, constitute in the moral region the saddest feature in the condition of the world. They sleep most soundly who have most need to be wakeful. The guilt which brings upon a man God’s displeasure, so stupifies the senses of the man that he is not aware of danger, and does not try to escape.
II. The matter of this cry.
1. The speaker is the only living and true God. It is essential that our belief in the first principle of religion should be well defined and real. Religion may be faint and feckless, for want of a foundation in an actual belief that God is. That Christian education is a tally defective which does not leave upon the mind and conscience a practical sense of God’s being and presence, as the first principle of all truth and all duty.
2. The thing spoken is the Word of the Lord. It is not enough for us that God is near. He was not far from the men of Athens in the days of Paul, and yet He was to them “the unknown God.” He has broken the silence; He has revealed His will The Word of the Lord lies in the Scriptures.
(1) The Word of the Lord in the Scriptures is Mercy. If the message brought only vengeance, we could at least understand the voluntary deafness of the world. But it is strange that men will not listen to their best Friend; strange that the lost should shut their ears against a voice which publishes salvation.
(2) Still further, and more particularly, “the Word of the Lord” is Christ. The use of the Scriptures is to reveal Christ; if we reject Him, they cannot give us life.
3. The injunction to regard that Word “O earth, earth,” etc.
(1) The earth so summoned, has already, in a sense most interesting and important, heard the Word of the Lord. Christ’s kingdom is even now more powerful on the earth than any other kingdom. The power that lives in the conscience and links itself to God is, in point of fact, the most persistent and effective of all the powers which mould the character and history of the human race. It is great, is growing greater, and will yet be supreme.
(2) The earth through all its bounds will one day hear and obey the Word of the Lord. Saving truth lying in the hearts of saved men has a self-propagating power.
(3) When the earth hears its Lord’s word, forthwith it calls upon the Lord. Those who sail in air ships among the clouds, as others sail on the sea, tell us that every cry which they utter on high is answered by an echo from the earth beneath When the earth, spiritually susceptible, receives from heaven the sound, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord,” another cry forthwith arises, “O heaven, heaven, heaven, hear the petition of sinful men upon the earth.” God delights in that cry.
(4) Earth--that is, men in the body--should hear the Word of the Lord, for to them it brings a message of mercy. Now is the accepted time; this is the place of hope. Beware lest the sound that first awakens you be the crash of the gate when it shuts!
(5) Earth--the dust of the dead in Christ--shall hear the Word of the Lord, and shall come forth. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
The Divine appeal
I. The deep and awful concern of Jehovah for the soul of the sinner.
1. There is surely something peculiarly affecting and awful in this. Mark the concern of your Creator, deeply anxious about the noblest work of His skill and power. It is the concern of your Preserver, who hath watched you with His eye, led you by His hand, etc. It is the concern of a Saviour God, who spared not His own son, etc. This concern of Jehovah assumes a more amazing character when you think of the persons for whom it is manifested. These are not only creatures of a day, but creatures laden with iniquity, filled with corruption, at enmity with Himself, in rebellion against His law, and hastening unto perdition, without one plea for mercy, or one claim on His pity.
II. The strange stupidity and unconcern of the sinners to whom this appeal is made. We are blind and see not God; deaf, and hear Him not; dumb, and speak not to Him. We are, as Paul says, “past feeling.” Try this truth by a double experience. Try it first by the experience of those who never felt it. How else can you account for the fact that such appeals as this addressed to sinners by the living God, are often as unheeded as if the voice of the Eternal resounded through the charnel house of the tomb, or were lost amid the echoes of the desert? But try it by the opposite experience. Give me the sinner who has been startled by the voice of God, and aroused from the slumber of his carnality; give me the man with a broken spirit, who fears, hates, and mourns his manifold iniquities, and looks back upon his former state with shame and sorrow; and that is the man whose language will be, “Oh! what a blinded being I was not to see my guilt and my Saviour sooner I what a stupid creature to go on as I have done neglecting my soul! what a hardened wretch to stand out so long against my God and Saviour!”
III. An appeal to frail and dying creatures. This is always a melancholy and solemnising reflection;--we are earth. We spring from the dust and we hasten back to it. Old men, we appeal to you, and ask you how few have been the days since you were children? But how speedily now shall you be borne away from your frailties to the tomb! Young men, how rapidly are you and I hastening on to become the old men of our time! As to the children, do you not see how fast they are climbing the hill of life? But who will venture to say that things will take that natural course with us? Who can count upon a day, an hour, a moment? The thread of life is frail as the spider’s web, and may be snapt by the feeblest breath. It may be now or never.
IV. God may be supposed to call the earth to witness that He has offered you salvation, and to be ready to testify that He has spoken to you, warned you, besought you to hear His word, and flee from the wrath to come, so that if you refuse the offered mercy, the very earth will lift up its voice against you to silence every excuse, and you shall stand speechless at the bar of the judgment. Will not heaven, and earth, and seas, and skies thus conspire to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, on that great and dreadful day? Will not the simple fact that He shall summon up our spirits to His bar from every hiding place, turn these places into witnesses? Will not the fact that He shall gather our dust from the four winds, from the bottom of the sea, or from the silence of the grave, turn these elements into witnesses? Will not thus the Omniscient God turn the air we breathe, the light we behold, the dust on which we tread, every object we touch, every scene we visit, into a witness for or against us?
V. Apply the text to those who have believed this Word of the Lord. Having felt concern for your own souls, you will feel for the souls of others. You know the preciousness of Christ, and the value of souls. You perceive the danger you have escaped, but to which multitudes are still exposed. You can see yonder long, deep, gloomy phalanx of immortal souls rushing on and rolling over the brink of time into the abyss of eternity. You have entered in some small measure into God’s own views of their state. Having these views, you will, you must feel deep and distressing concern for them. You will plead for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost to raise up labourers, to qualify and send them, and give them success in winning souls. You will do more. You will put your own hand to the work as God Himself does. Is He to give all, and we nothing? Is He to do all, and we not to be fellow workers with Him? Shall He give the word, and we not publish it abroad? (John Walker.)
The earth and God’s Word
I. Earth’s attention to the divine word is of the utmost importance.
1. The earth is under condemnation; His Word can alone gain its acquittal
2. The earth is in moral darkness; His Word can alone enlighten it.
3. The earth is in bondage; His Word alone can liberate it.
4. The earth is in misery; His Word alone can relieve it.
II. Earth’s indifference to the divine word is very stolid.
1. This indifferentism has always been awfully prevalent.
2. This indifferentism is monstrously irrational.
3. This indifferentism cannot always continue. (Homilist.)
I. The solemn address to the children of men.
1. The expression is a metonymy, in which the container is put for the contained; but as man is “of the earth earthy,” it is also descriptive of his mortality. The expression, “O earth, earth, earth!” when properly heard, is well calculated to bring down the lofty looks of man, and to produce humility in the place of pride.
2. The repetition of the word “earth,” is used to command greater attention. This way of arresting the attention was very common amongst the Roman and Grecian orators.
3. When preceded by the interjection O or Oh! the repetition generally expresses uncommon emotion or grief (2 Samuel 18:33).
II. The important object to which their attention is called.
1. The Word of the Lord demands our attention, because it is the most interesting Book.
2. The “Word of the Lord” demands our attention, because it contains the most and best information of any book of the size.
3. But “O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord!” for there are the words of eternal life. (B. Bailey.)
God’s voice to man
I. Specify some respects in which we should hear God’s voice.
1. In the still small voice of heavenly mercy.
2. In the loud thunder of God’s providential dispensation.
3. In your personal and relative afflictions.
4. In the ample promises and encouragements addressed to returning penitents.
II. Enumerate some reasons why the whole earth is interested in these communications.
1. Because the Gospel shows the only plan of salvation.
2. Because the progressive improvement and advancement of the race is connected with this message.
3. Because the success of missionary work shows the practicability of diffusing it.
4. Because the signs of the times are in direct accord with the promises of God. (S. Thodey.)
A call to hear the Word of the Lord
I. The subject on the address.
1. The Word of the Lord is unwritten as well as written.
2. It is threatening as well as promising.
II. The duty inculcated in the address.
1. To hear and understand.
2. To hear and obey.
3. To hear and make known to others.
III. The style of the address; apostrophe.
1. The universality of its range.
2. The earnestness and affection of its spirit. (G. Brooks.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 22". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25