Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE DAWN OF THE NEW DAY. Zion, lying like a prostrate woman on the ground, is bidden to arise, because the glory of her God has dawned upon her. And this in contrast to the thick darkness enwrapping the earth in general. This darkness means alienation from God. As the Israelites had light in their dwellings when thick darkness was on the land of Egypt, so again now. Israel is the "central and mediatorial people." Here a community of God; yonder a world exiled from God. The contrast continues, and ever must continue. "We are of God; the whole world lieth in the evil one." The glory of the pure Church is nothing but a reflection from the Eternal. He is a Sun to enlighten the understanding, open the eyes of the mind, thrill the heart with love. When through the faithlessness of the Church that splendour fades from her, there are no conversions, there is little interest in religion. When it reappears, nations set forth to that light, kings to the brilliance of that dawn.
II. THE RETURN FROM EXILE AND INFLUX OF WEALTH. Here the prophet exults in the contemplation of Arabian wealth flowing into the holy city. Their gifts are viewed as religions, as sacrificial, - consecrated to God. "The wealth of the heathen world shall be consecrated to the service of the Church. In part this has been the case. No small part of the great wealth of the Roman empire flowed into the Christian Church. The time will come when the wealth of India and China, and of Africa, and of the entire world, shall be devoted to the service of God."
III. THE NEW JERUSALEM. The walls shall be raised by the willing hands of strangers, probably the converted heathen, whose kings shall become servants of Zion; an endless stream of caravans shall flow through the open gates. And "eager to minister to Israel, the far-off nations force their reluctant chiefs to join them." For the very existence of these nations must depend on their organic connection with Israel. The Prophet Zechariah significantly declares that the nations who refuse to come up to Jerusalem to worship shall not enjoy the blessing of rain (Zechariah 14:17, 18), which means they must perish, and their land become desolate. Whatever is said of the territory is said of the nation. To Zion, thus effulgent in her revived glory, shall be attracted also the beauty of natural products - the splendour of the trees of Lebanon, that the courts of the temple and the whole city may be decorated in honour of Jehovah. The oppressors, once so hated and feared, will come in the attitude of crouching suppliants, and they will call the city, "City of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." This magnificent picture may be construed:
1. As a picture of the ideal Church in relation to mankind. True, in this imperfect state, the prophecy can be but imperfectly realized. The glorious Church, without spot or blemish, remains the dream of lofty prophets and apostles. But without such dreams religious life must become despondent and dreary, fiat and sad. While we listen to such oracles, translate them into song and set them to music, we purify and uplift our hearts. Sursum corda! We rise a little nearer to heaven, or bring heaven a little nearer to earth.
2. As a picture of heaven. There stands the heavenly temple; thither a vast multitude has congregated; and there a vast fund of spiritual riches has accumulated. Prophecy and religious poetry in general are but illusory enchantments unless they point to a reality in that state unseen. - J.
I. OPPORTUNITIES ARE NOT ENOUGH. These come to nations and to men; but we must arise, and shake ourselves from slumber and indifference. Israel is to live as a witness for God. We are not to be as the vortex swallowing up all heavenly privileges; but a fountain, to send them abroad. A lighthouse is not for our own vessels, but for the merchandise of the world. The light shines there in Israel that the Gentiles may come to the brightness of its rising. Light is come. What an advent! How valueless is all else in creation without light!
1. The light of a new morning of national life.
2. The fight of an evangelical prophet, like Isaiah, who sees not only Israel's ruin, but Israel's remedy too.
II. HUMAN ENDEAVOURS ARE NOT ENOUGH. Isaiah does not say, "I have come." He does not point to the medium, but to the light itself. "The glory of the Lord." This is seen to be such:
1. By its unique character. There is no light like the light of inspiration.
2. By its glorious influence. It brings safe guidance, sure prosperity, and spiritual peace. - W.M.S.
I. THE EXALTATION OF THE DIVINE. Its glory will be manifestly the "glory of the Lord" (vers. 1, 2). And everything is to work for the exaltation of Christ (vers. 20, 21). Whatever does not aim at this or make for this is alien, intrusive, harmful.
II. THE POSSESSION OF VITAL PRINCIPLES. (Ver. 12.) All that opposes itself to those truths and principles of which the Church of Christ is the exponent and depository will fail and perish.
III. PERFECT ACCESSIBILITY. (Ver. 11.) Its gates are never to be shut. The Church which is exclusive, the Christian society which is repelling, the minister or messenger of Christ who is forbidding, the message which does not welcome the wandering, bears on the face of it a decisive condemnation.
IV. TRIUMPH OVER ITS BITTEREST ENEMIES. (Vers. 10, 14, 15.) Those who smote and scorned shall acknowledge its heavenly origin, and their lips shall utter the redeeming truth; their own hands shall build the walls of Zion.
V. THE INCOMING OF THE REMOTEST. (Vers. 6, 8, 9.)
1. Those most distant in space. They shall seek entrance who come from furthest latitudes, whose language, laws, customs, are most strange.
2. Those most distant in spirit - they who have been farthest from God, dwelling in the thickest and grossest darkness with which the land has been covered (ver. 2).
VI. LAYING ALL THINGS UNDER TRIBUTE. NOt only the glory of nature (ver. 18), but also the greatness of mankind (ver. 16); fairest and finest fruits of the field, and the proudest products of society, shall minister to its strength and promote its cause.
VII. SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE KINGDOM AND GLORY OF CHRIST. (Ver. 7.) As the flocks and herds of Kedar and Nabathea would add something, by their novelty and peculiarity, to the glories of the temple; so will the especial characteristics of Christian converts, of the Englishman, of the Italian, of the Indian, of the Chinaman, etc., contribute to the glories of the Church: so will "the imagination of the East, the passion of the South, the vigour of the North, and the enterprise of the West," bring their own tribute to the glory of Christ.
VIII. THE PREVALENCE OF PEACE. (Vers. 17, 18.)
IX. THE REIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Vers. 17, 21.)
X. EVER-ENLARGING PROSPERITY. (Vers. 17, 22.) The special lessons to be learnt from this description of the Church triumphant are:
1. That in all matters pertaining to the kingdom of God, it is his glory that should be sedulously kept in view.
2. That the Church of Christ must expect to prove an attractive power in the midst of encompassing evil.
3. That it must address itself to the restoration and acquisition of those that seem least likely to be gained.
4. That each community should consider what is the particular contribution it can bring to adorn the doctrine and strengthen the cause of its Master.
5. That the Church should be incessantly active in its holy mission.
6. That it should take care that moral Had spiritual excellency marks it course as well as numerical growth and the brilliancy of its conquests.
7. That it must maintain the attitude of devout expectancy and holy gratitude, remembering that all its strength and hope are in "the Lord, its Saviour and its Redeemer." - C.
life. See the direct teachings of Christ. "He that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them;" "He that doeth the will... the same is my brother;" "Yea, blessed are they that hear the Word, and do it." This union of doing with professing is necessary:
1. To satisfy us of the reality of our own piety. Illustrate from the seed - if there is life in it, that life will show itself to the light. Men expect to see religion influencing conduct. We expect this in others. Others expect it in us. They look for our shining if we profess to have received God's light. No excellence of creed can excuse unsubdued tempers, unrestrained habits, indifference to the welfare of others, and silence concerning what we have tasted and handled and felt of the Word of life. We must test ourselves if we would be assured of our own vitality. No breath, no life. No shining, no light.
2. To prove the truth of Christianity. It makes great pretensions. How shall it support and prove them? Only by living examples. Experiment tests everything, and constantly fresh experiments are needed. After all argument and evidence are exhausted, we ought to be able to say, "See what Christianity has done: the demon-possessed, the blind, the lame, the drunken, the strong-tempered, the selfish, are changed, and now they shine." Then, if we would offer to the men around us the best plea for Christianity, we must just shine. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come."
3. To extend the work of the Light-bringer, the Redeemer. Christian living is the supreme persuasion. Men may resist eloquence, reasoning, force, - they cannot resist the power of godliness; it is like the influence of leaven; it is like the testimony of the dawning day, which men must heed. Jerusalem of old - Jerusalem spiritualized as the modern Church - may well be bidden to "put on the beautiful garments" of godly living, and "arise and shine." - R.T.
Haggai 2:7-8; Malachi 3:1). Rendered literally, the sentence would read, "My house of beauty will I beautify." Foreshadowings of this spiritual truth are found in God's presence making the charm of the Eden-home; God's presence abiding as a glory between the cherubim in the holy of holies; and God's presence coming in the symbol of the descending cloud on Solomon's temple. It was the great glory of Herod's restored temple, that the God-Man walked and worshipped and taught within its courts. It is the exceeding great glory of the Church, the spiritual temple, that God the Spirit comes to it, dwells in it, is the inspiration of it, and glorifies it. There is no glory in a shrine without the Deity. The sunshine, streaming through the windows of the old cathedral, fills the whole place with wondrous and solemnizing lights and shades; and the sunshine of the Divine presence fills the heart and the sanctuary with the only true glory and beauty and joy. "The Church is the house of God's glory, where he manifests his glory to his people, and receives that homage by which they do honour to him."
I. WE OUGHT TO GLORIFY GOD'S HOUSE. One idea of the text is that the restored temple at Jerusalem would be honoured by abundant supplies of sacrifices. That old way of worshipping has given place to spiritual forms, such as prayer and praise and instruction; then we should give the best possible attention to these, that in so doing we may honour God's house. The best song, the best gifts, the best architecture, all should be devoted to the glorifying of God's house. And the best, most regular, most reverent, attendance at public worship may be our way of honouring God. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." That is the way to glorify God for his goodness.
II. GOD ALONE CAN TRULY GLORIFY GOD'S HOUSE. If he is not present, accepting the worship, inspiring the worship, and sanctifying the worship, then it is all vain show, empty form, deluding ceremony. Write up "Ichabod," for the "glory is departed." God's presence is known in the enduement of his ministers with righteousness, and in the making of his chosen people joyful. - R.T.
Revelation 21:25, "And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it." The figure is taken from a country in which the cities were defended by walls and gates, and these gates were closed at night. Closed gates represented the old limitation and exclusiveness of Judaism. Open gates suggest the fulness and freeness of the gospel provision and the gospel offer. "Here the open gates have their special reason assigned - to admit the ever in-streaming world, with its offerings and homage." "The words of the text imply a state of peace, in which there would be no danger of attack; and the constant stream of pilgrims, with their offerings, entering by night as well as by day."
I. OPEN GATES ARE A PROCLAMATION OF PEACE. The Church does not want to hurt anybody, so it feels no fear of anybody wanting to hurt it. Illustrate from the open country of America; it can keep its gates open, because it does not want to injure or take advantage of any other nation, and so it is unable to conceive of other nations wanting to injure it. George Macdonald has, in 'Thomas Wingfold, Curate,' a very curious, but very striking, conception of a heaven of sweetest peace, where there is no money to create greed, and where everybody wants to serve his neighbour, and nobody wants to injure his neighbour. That place can keep its gate open; and so can Christ's Church. Even in some parts of our country, people's doors are never locked. It is a delightful sign of peaceful living.
II. OPEN GATES ARE AN INVITATION TO ENTER. Illustrate by the silent, yet powerful, call of the open church doors on the sabbath day. We hear them singing to us and saying-
"Come in, come in, III. OPEN GATES ARE AN ASSURANCE OF WELCOME AND PROVISION. There is something inside the temple, inside the city, which thus boldly dares to open its doors. There must be a "feast of fat things,... of wines on the lees well refined." Illustrate from our Lord's parable of the gospel-feast. He would not open thus wide his doors if the oxen were not killed and the fatlings ready. Unfold what precious and all-satisfying things for souls the Lord Jesus has provided, and plead that, whether it be morning-time of life, noontime, evening, or night, the gates are open, and we may enter now. - R.T.
III. OPEN GATES ARE AN ASSURANCE OF WELCOME AND PROVISION. There is something inside the temple, inside the city, which thus boldly dares to open its doors. There must be a "feast of fat things,... of wines on the lees well refined." Illustrate from our Lord's parable of the gospel-feast. He would not open thus wide his doors if the oxen were not killed and the fatlings ready. Unfold what precious and all-satisfying things for souls the Lord Jesus has provided, and plead that, whether it be morning-time of life, noontime, evening, or night, the gates are open, and we may enter now. - R.T.
I. BELIEF IN GOD. Atheism never has built up, and never can build up, a stable nation. An atheistic nation is like a wall of loose stones. There is nothing to bind it into a unity of strength.
II. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD. From different points of view the absolute necessity for some public and authorized testimony of the national faith may be urged.
III. OBEDIENCE TO GOD. By the recognition of his Law as the absolute standard of national righteousness, the final court of appeal.
IV. REFERENCE TO GOD. In all times of national perplexity or peril. "Righteousness exalteth a nation," but righteousness is this - trying to know God's will, and trying to do it. - R.T.
I. EVIDENCES OF THE FULFILMENT OF This PROMISE. Or signs of the spiritual presence and spiritual power of God in his Church.
1. Quickening of religious life; or conversions.
2. Renewals of religious life; or sanctification.
3. Enlargement of religious feelings. This, however, may be spurious, or it may be sound.
4. Reconsecration to religious work.
II. THE CONDITIONS ON WHICH THE FULFILMENTS OF THIS PROMISE DEPEND. Our moral attitudes. We must be set for the blessing. The Church that would have the spiritual presence of God must be
(1) maintaining the Christian spirit;
(2) living the Christian life;
(3) upholding the Christian worship;
(4) working the Christian work.
Then there is much preparing and fitting work for us to do, if God is to "make the place of his feet glorious" where we unite in his worship. - R.T.
i.e. neglected (Genesis 29:31; Deuteronomy 21:15), like one less beloved. No more are her streets to be deserted of passengers. She is to be made an "everlasting pride, the delight of successive generations." The kings of the earth are to be tender over her, and she is to be enriched by the resources of the nations.
I. JEHOVAH THE SAVIOUR AND THE RULER. (Repeated from Isaiah 49:26.) Happy the people whose God is Jehovah, the "Hero of Jacob"! Every image of temporal riches and prosperity, such as the gold of Solomon's palace, or the silver common as stones, and the cedars as sycamores (1 Kings 10:21, 27), may but faintly shadow forth the splendour of the city under the true and eternal King. Better still, the politics will be those of peace. By a figure of speech, peace itself and righteousness are said to govern the city. And so spiritual shall be the sources of its strength, "it shall need no walls nor gates; for Jehovah shall be a constant source of salvation, and of a renown which shall keep all foes at a distance" (Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 33:21). Nothing less than righteousness prevailing in every department of Church and state can satisfy that ideal which has been revealed to us, and which our souls thirst to see realized. Violence is to cease. "The pure gospel of the Redeemer has never originated a single war of invasion, nor produced a scene of bloodshed or prompted to strife. Let us look forward to a time when the mad passions of kings and nations will be subdued, and wars only be known among the sad and disgraceful records of the past." THE ETERNAL SPLENDOUR OF THE CITY OF GOD. Jehovah himself, and material luminaries, shall enlighten it (Isaiah 30:26; cf. Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5). All the wonders of the natural world must pale and turn lustreless before the effulgence of moral beauty. The glory of the Church is its great Head - his Name, attributes, laws, and protecting care. Not so much wealth, talent, numbers, influence, but the character of her sovereign Lord, is her boast. The Church shall enjoy a perpetual existence, living through all changes and surviving all revolutions. Discipline and sorrow shall one day have done their work, and the people shall "all be righteous." They will possess the land, will inherit all that God has done for its welfare, will enter into all his plans and purposes, enjoy the fruit of his agelong spiritual husbandry. And from this state of things fresh lustre will ever be reflected upon his holy Name. There would be immense increase by accessions from the Gentile world. Nor will there be unnecessary delay. The lesson is to wait, pray, and toil until the day dawn - till,
"Crowned with light, imperial Salem rise,
I. GOD'S IDEAL IS IMMORTAL. "An eternal excellency."
1. Military empire passes from kingdom to kingdom.
2. Taste changes alike in art and architecture. But the moral law is eternal.
II. THE CONTRAST IS COMPLETE. The "forsaken" shall have arise among them One who shall fulfil the words of the sixteenth verse, "Thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." The "hated" shall find and feel the tender love of God; for (ver. 10) "In my favour have I had mercy on thee." Scorn and contumely, what are they when the heart glows with the love of God, and the character wins his everlasting favour? - W.M.S.
himself than with his circumstances. The cursory view might make much of the changeableness and the hardships of Jacob's checkered life; but he easily mastered his circumstances. The deeper view sees throughout the career a constant struggle with the bad self, which never gets more than a partial victory, until life draws near to its close, and then the hero of a thousand fights with the bad self is enabled to speak of "the angel that redeemed me from all evil." That angel the prophet suggestively calls the "Mighty One of Jacob." This, then, is our point. The glory of God our Redeemer is that he can redeem us from our bad selves. Show what is meant by and included in the "bad self."
I. THE STRUGGLE WITH THE BAD SELF IS A SECRET STRUGGLE, We do not talk about it. We do not put forth any signs of it. Men think our earthly troubles are our great troubles, but the truth is that no cry goes forth from us with such intensity of passion as the cry which no fellow-creature hears, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Nobody knows how hard we are trying to put away the "old man with his corruptions."
II. THE STRUGGLE WITH THE BAD SELF IS A HOPELESS STRUGGLE. It is if we carry it on in our own strength. "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" What Jacob-like man or woman ever yet sang a victory-song over his own giant self, and praised the weapons and the skill that gained the triumph? Jacobs that try to get quit of the bad self in their own strength end in the dust, under giant Self's foot.
III. THE STRUGGLE WITH THE BAD SELF IS JUST THE STRUGGLE IN WHICH WE MAY HAVE, AND SHOULD REJOICE TO HAVE, A DIVINE HELPER. He, the "Mighty One of Jacob," has access to souls, and influence on souls. He "strengtheneth us with strength in the soul." He will not cease his gracious working until his people are "all glorious within." Of this we may be sure, in this we may have supreme consolation-over the secret inner strife of our souls, the Lord, the Saviour, the Redeemer, graciously presides. - R.T.
I. FOR US GOD MAY BE THE LIGHT OF THE MATERIAL WORLD. To let ourselves be so engrossed with business affairs that there is no room for God in thought, or heart, or life, is to lose the everlasting light - to be unable to see God in common everyday things. It is hardly conceivable that any man could wish to have this fair earth with its vales and hills, without the gilding beautifying sunshine. O poor earth, dull and dead, like sunless winter in Arctic climes! And yet thousands are willing to have this earth of material relationships without the sunshine of God. Exactly what men want, but do not know that they want, is God their everlasting Light. Common life, with him, is lived in the sunshine.
II. FOR US GOD MAY BE THE LIGHT OF THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD. In our day he is only allowed to shine intermittently in this world, and there are many who would blot him out of this sky if they could. Others, who would not go so far as that, would gladly make a thick, foggy atmosphere of their own wisdom, through which he can only shine dimly. We shall never get the full glory of the treasures of the intellectual world until we let the revealing rays of the "everlasting light" fall everywhere upon them.
III. FOR US GOD MAY BE THE LIGHT OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Indeed, there is no light at all in the spiritual world if he does not shine. And the one thing above all others which they crave after who dwell in that spiritual world is the full, constant, unshaded, glowing, life-renewing power of the everlasting Light. - R.T.
It is God. As the Light of the soul, he shall live for ever. We speak of sun and moon, not only as they exist in nature, but figuratively, as symbolic of joy and gladness to the human heart. Many things are in this sense lights to us here, but their glory is often dimmed, often eclipsed in darkness; but hereafter "the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy Glory." Night is indispensable to nature here. Its dews and darkness answer numberless purposes of good in the wide creation. And must we not say that the gloom and mystery of life have all a meaning, a Divine intent? and that the spirit of the probationer for eternity is perfected in it? To have all sunshine in a world so stained with sin would argue that God thinks lightly of evil. It is not so. This life of ours has much of gloom; but all its darkness, directly or indirectly, springs from sin. The eclipse is caused by the selfishness of man coming between God and the soul. Will God always cause us to endure so much of darkness? No. But we must wait his time. We must wait his place. We may put off our black dress and dress in bridal robes when, as our text says, "the days of our mourning shall be ended." Light is beautiful. "Surely light is sweet." Think how many golden harvest-fields the all-ripening sun has looked down upon; how many scenes of blest content its rays have rested on. Many of our frames of mind are materially affected by the merry sunshine. The sun not only ripens the corn, it gladdens the heart. But there is a sunshine of the soul not at all connected with this. There are joys which nothing outward can bestow or remove. Yes; there are many miserable hearts on the brightest days. The sunshine cannot replace the smile of a vanished face. Likewise there are many glad hearts on the gloomiest days. Nothing can steal from them the blessedness of being loved and doing good. I would remark, however, that -
I. THE SUNSHINE OF LIFE IS UNCERTAIN. Do dark days come suddenly on mariners in distant seas, in other zones? So imperceptibly comes sorrow to human hearts. We have no control over the landscape and the heart. Its fairest scenes may be darkened in an hour! Imagine a belated traveller seeing the sun go down. This is so! What sad intelligence may come! What unbidden conjecture may arise! What surmise] What thought may come forth from the chambers of memory! What spoken words - what sad scenes may quench the light of joy and gladness in the human countenance! Yes; you have marked this; perhaps your own words may have produced it. How many can bear evidence of this! They will be ready to echo my words when I say, "Let us be very thankful for so much bright sunshine as we have, for the joys which are the rewards and accompaniments of Christian life." Yes; "they will bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp, with the psaltery;" they will be glad, but they will rejoice with trembling, for they "know not what a day," etc.
II. THE SUNSHINE OF LIFE IS MUCH DEPENDENT ON THE STATE OF OUR SOULS. We may be surrounded by the sweetest natural and the holiest moral associations, and yet sometimes be very sad. It may be at home, or even in the sanctuary of God. A little pebble placed near the eye will intercept the light of the sun; and a little object may keep away from us the smile of God and the sweet sanction of our own conscience. We feel discontented with ourselves, that, having a cross so near to go to, we should yet bear the burden of so many sins; that, having a Friend so near, we should let him share so few of our sorrows. But the cause of this is the explanation of our sadness: we so often love the sins we cherish; we so often forsake the Friend we should make our own. As it is with a sermon, so it is with all the aspects of life, so much hangs on the state of our own soul. But look up higher. The souls that listened where you do, trod the same earth, wept the same tears as you do, - they are sad nevermore, for the state of their souls is purer than the purest lake which reflects the overhanging hills; so pure that they consciously and clearly bear the image of him who knew no sin.
III. THE SUNSHINE OF HEAVEN WILL BE SOFT AS WELL AS BRIGHT. It is likened to the moon as well as to the sun. Heaven is not only pictured to us by the symbols of the waving palms, and the majestic multitude, and the thrilling anthem, and the reverberating choir, and the glad hosannah! No; there will be soft moonlight as well as sunlight. Much and most of our happiness here is not of the outwardly buoyant and ecstatic character. It is calm and peaceful joy which you crave no vivid image for. This one suits it though - the moonlight. Yes; how many voyagers has it lent its soft light to guide amongst the breakers! How many travellers, imperilled by the way, has it kept in safety from the precipice and the watercourse! How many will sing of the beauty as well as the safety it gives] Never did the sleeping city stand out in such calm and stately grandeur. Never did the overhanging worlds glow with a serener or a steadier beauty. We cannot always bear the gaze of the sun; but ask the Indian missionary, and he will tell you the sweet loveliness of the moon. It is a type, then, as I think, of a calmer joy; the blessedness of a being who, no longer vexed with anger, hate, or jealousy, no more burdened with pride, or prejudice, or selfishness, sees and enjoys God in all around and all within him. Who - what shall disturb this joy? "Neither shall thy moon withdraw itself."
IV. THE SUNSHINE OF HEAVEN WILL BE COMMON TO ALL CHRISTIANS. Some of us here to-day may be for a time walking in darkness, whilst some are rejoicing in the light. There sits the sad widower, and there the joyful husband; there the pensive widow, there the glad wife; there the fatherless orphan, there the fond child. Yea, and deeper are the differences. There is one who, by the grace of God, has just conquered some besetting sin; beside him, one who stilt indulges it. There, one whose commerce with the court of heaven is small; and there, one who, like Enoch, walks with God. There, one who pitches his tabernacle with the open door towards the cross; there, one who has his tent open towards the world. Here are different phases of human experience, different states of physical health, and different degrees of the spiritual life. Consequently the sunshine of one is not the sunshine of all. In heaven it wilt be common. I do not say all will have the same degree of blessedness. I believe they will not. But all will be at rest. There will be no such difference as between sorrow and joy. All will be happy up to the measure of their being; all will participate in a joy of which the sublimest foretastings on earth are but the faintest shadows. Mark, then, the language. "Thy sun shall no more go down." It belongs to thee. We are not of the night, as we are in the night.
V. THE SUNSHINE OF HEAVEN SHALL NEVER REST ON GRAVES. "The days of thy mourning shall be ended." I have often thought on the brightest days of the many new tombs which the sun's light falls on. But a few days since, closed eyes rejoiced in the light as well as mine. Ah! and there are eyes looking on the world which looked on it with them; scenes of sea and land, hill and vale, forest and flood, which photographed themselves on both hearts alike. One is now a clod of the valley. Much of the description of heaven, to inspirit our hearts, rests in what there is not there. And there are no more graves. There is no new tomb for Joseph in the garden of the better country. We shall hear no lamentation for the dead there - "Rachel weeping for her children, because they are not." We shall never, as did the disciples, stand with Jesus at the grave there. No voice will ever say, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!" "Lazarus, come forth!" No; there are no graves, neither in the sea nor in the rock; for "the days of thy mourning shall be ended." - W.M.S.
I. NIGHT. On earth our experience is often that of mourning. We are sorrowful.
1. Over the ravages of sin in ourselves and in the world.
2. Over the contrast between our ideals and our imperfections.
3. Over the influences of mutability and mortality.
4. Over the weakness of our faith and the coldness of our love to Christ.
II. MORNING. "Ended." Some things end for a time only. We are liable to them again. Fear returns. Disaffection of friends, awhile ago removed, recommences once more. Pain eased gives place to after-anguish. Friend after friend departs. After one victory over temptation comes another and a fiercer conflict. "Mourning ended." Why? God is our everlasting "Light;" for:
1. We are all righteous. (Ver. 21.) The new nature is perfected in those who have the new name; there is no sorrow where there is no sin.
2. We are all at home. "They shall inherit the land for ever." At last the craving for rest is satisfied. At last what we have so long sought here we shall find there. All here mocks us with a sense of change, disruption, and death. There "thy sun shall no more go down." - W.M.S.
I. THAT EVERY MAN HAS WON HIS OWN WILL WHOLLY FOR GOD.
II. THAT EVERY MAN HAS WON HIS OWN LIFE AND CONDUCT FOR GOD.
III. THAT EVERY MAN - AS WON HIS OWN RELATIONSHIPS FOR GOD.
IV. THAT EVERY MAN HAS WON ALL HIS OWN SURROUNDINGS FOR GOD. No picture of a material heaven can be so inspiring to us as this sublime picture of a moral state, in which everybody tries to do the right, and finds triumphant grace given to him for the doing. - R.T.
I. THIS IS TRUE HISTORICALLY. Israel found it so. The Pilgrim Fathers found it so. And many Churches have found it so, where there has been loving co-operation and personal consecration. Look how the despised mission work in India grew to a mighty force, despite the satirical review of Jefferies. Look how the native schools, with their slender beginnings, have grown to millions of disciples.
II. THIS IS TRUE CONDITIONALLY. God must be with us! "I the Lord will hasten it." "It is to be in his time." There is no promise to the "little one," whatever skill, energy, or endeavour there may be - only God is with them. When we are on the side of truth, we are on the side of conquest. When we are waiting in disappointed moods, God is hastening on the sure foundation, which he is laying. When we are fascinated with the meretricious glory of the world, we see it laid low and Christ's kingdom established on its ruins. - W.M.S.