Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Exodus 17:11; Exodus 32:11; Numbers 14:13; Psalm 106:23: Samuel in 1 Samuel 7., 8; 8:6; 12:16-23; 15:11; Psalm 99:6. Noah, Daniel, and Job are mentioned similarly (Ezekiel 14:14). It is, then, in their special intercessory character that these fathers are referred to. At the time when their intercessions took place they were the leaders and representatives of Israel, and because of their saintliness they had favor with God. But the sins for which Judah and Jerusalem are now to be punished are by this reference declared of a more heinous description than any that took place in those days, It is a mere supposition which is made, evidently no description of the normal relation of glorified saints to Jehovah, but simply a hypothetical statement as to what they, in their earthly capacity, would have failed to do.
I. THE INTERCESSIONS OF RIGHTEOUS MEN AVAIL MUCH. Many a time in the wilderness had Moses stayed the impending wrath of God because of murmuring and disobedience; and this not simply because he was the civil leader of the people, but through his own saintly, high-priestly character. This is a principle of God's dealings with men. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;" and one of the chief occupations of the Church is represented as praying for the salvation of the world and the coming of the kingdom of God. It is because such men represent the future hope of the race, being a kind of firstfruits of them that shall be saved, that they have this power. In themselves too, because of what they are, they are pleasing to God, who delights in their prayers and praises. There is something very striking and touching in this spectacle of one standing for many, and we have to think of how great has been the blessing which has been thus secured to the world through its saints. But they all appear trifling compared with that which Christ has secured through the intercession of his prayers, obedience, and sacrifice. In his case (what could scarcely be said of any saint) his intercession has a solid objective worth because of what it is in itself, and avails as a consideration with God for the cleansing of all who identify themselves with him through faith.
II. BUT THERE ARE CONDITIONS WHICH DESTROY THE EFFICACY OF SUCH INTERCESSION. Their influence is but partial and imperfect, depending as it does upon their own inadequate fulfillment of the Law and will of God. If it were a question of strict account, they themselves would not be able to stand in his presence. It is of his grace that, even for a moment, they may be said to have influence for others. And it may be said that their intercession is but provisional, and, if not followed up By the obedience of those for whom they pray, it will be followed with the more condign punishment upon the transgressors. It is a great tribute to the vicarious power possible to saints that even the most eminent of them should be quoted in such a connection. But it shows how inadequate such a mediatorship would be for the general sin of man. We may do much, each of us, to avert just judgments, to secure opportunities of salvation, and to bring the grace of God to bear upon the hearts of others; but we cannot save them by any communication of our own acceptance with God to them. They must stand or fall according to their own relation to the will of God and the person of his Son. And there are degrees of guilt which far surpass any intercession of this kind. The sin of unbelief especially, if it be unrepented of, will prevent any benefit being received. The permanent position of our souls with respect to Divine grace will depend, therefore, upon their own action or belief. Even Christ cannot save if we do not believe in his Name and obey him. - M.
1. By the spectacle of misery presented (Jeremiah 14.).
2. By the remembrance of former love (Jeremiah 14:8).
3. By the earnest prayers of his faithful servant (Ver. 1).
4. By the prospect of more terrible miseries yet to come (Jeremiah 14:17 - 15:9). Therefore -
I. INQUIRE. Why is God thus? The answer is, he will not change, because the sinner will not. "To the froward he will ever show himself froward."
II. LEARN. That while God's mercy is infinite to those who turn to him, for those who refuse there is no mercy at all. - C.
1. This verse seems at first sight to be in contradiction to the many Scriptures which assure us that the "effectual fervent prayers of righteous men avail much." The Bible teems with promises that God will hear when we call upon him. But here is a decided declaration that let even the holiest and the most eminent for their intercessions stand before God in prayer, they should not avail to secure what was denied.
2. And were there only this verse, the difficulty would not be so great. But experience is continually supplying us with fresh instances in which bleatings earnestly sought have yet beer denied.
3. And this also in regard to spiritual things. Were it only temporal blessings God refused to give although we asked him for them, we could readily understand that, though they seemed so good in our eyes, in his they might be seen to be hurtful. We know that in such things we do not know what is best. But the refusal of prayer is found in regard to things that we know are good and well pleasing to God - in regard to things spiritual and eternal, e.g. in the prayers of parents for the conversion of their children, of teachers and pastors for those committed to their charge.
4. Hence from this verse and from such experience of rejected prayer, the sad conclusion has been drawn that, in spite of the most earnest intercession, the souls we pray for may be lost, our intercession be of no avail. For does it not say even to Jeremiah, who himself was an eminent intercessor with God, that there were yet greater than he - such as Moses and Samuel - but that if even they, etc. (cf. references for instances of their intercession).
5. And some have tried to escape the difficulty by drawing a sharp contrast between the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of these men of God. They have said, had Jesus interceded, it would have been otherwise. But this is not true, for our Lord would not have interceded as Jeremiah did. He also foretold great calamities as overhanging Jerusalem and her people, but we have no record of his ever having prayed that they might not come. He sought unceasingly their eternal salvation, but he did not pray against the destruction of Jerusalem. It is not permissible, therefore, to account for the failure of such intercession as that of Jeremiah, on the ground that it is only human intercession and not that of the Son of God.
6. But before we certainly conclude that intercession for the eternal spiritual well-being of others may after all be in vain, though the intercession have been such as that of the great servants of God here spoken of, who touched the utmost limits of intercessory prayer, let us note
(1) That it was not for spiritual blessings that. Jeremiah was interceding. His piteous entreaties were "concerning the dearth" (Jeremiah 14:1), that that might be removed. It was strictly a prayer for temporal mercies and deliverances. It is, therefore, unjust to conclude that intercession for things spiritual and eternal may fail because, as we well know, it may fail for things material and temporal. Note also
(2) That the utmost limits of intercession had been reached. The prophet himself had offered no scant or insincere petition, and the intercession of these great saints of God spoken of was, we know, of the mightiest order. Before, then, we conclude that such intercession in regard to spiritual things can be of no avail, let us be sure that such intercession has been tried. Is our own such? There may be customary and too often formal prayers offered by parents) pastors, teachers, for the spiritual good of those about them. But can we say that such prayers are mighty intercessions, like those of Moses and Samuel? If we know they have not been such, let us pause before we conclude that such intercession avails not. But in order to ascertain if our intercession has been real, let us note if we are in earnest about our own soul's salvation. If we care not for our own acceptance before God, how can we be solicitous for that of others? And are our prayers followed up by practical effort in the direction of our prayers? Do the lead us to see what can be clone to secure the ends for which we pray? Or are they substitutes for such endeavor? Hence it may very often be that we ask and have not, because we ask amiss. We do not intercede in that real, believing, earnest way which alone has a right to expect the blessing it seeks. It is by no means intercession such as that of Moses and Samuel
7. But if intercession have been such as theirs, then, though answer may be delayed, we are to believe that it will yet come. Delay is not denial.
8. Neither this verse nor experience sets aside the many promises which encourage such intercession.
9. And experience proves its worth. The Church of today is in the main the product of the intercession of the Church that has passed into the heavens. Instead of the fathers have risen up the children.
10. Learn, therefore,
(1) if God refuse us temporal blessings, it is because he knows better than we do what is best;
(2) how best to deal with transgressors God alone knows, and what his wisdom determines none may set aside;
(3) that intercession for souls is well pleasing to God and full of hope, since the beloved of God have been ever distinguished for such intercession, and, above all, God's well-beloved Son. - C.
I. SUCH ARE MENTIONED HERE. Moses, Samuel, etc. (cf. Exodus 17:11; Exodus 32:11; Numbers 14:13; Psalm 106:23; 1 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 8:6; 1 Samuel 12:16-23; 1 Samuel 15:11; Psalm 90:6; Ecclus. 46:6). Noah, Daniel, and Job are mentioned in similar way (Ezekiel 14:14), and Jeremiah himself (2 Macc. 15:14). And there have been such oftentimes granted to nations, Churches, families (cf. Mary Queen of Scots saying that she feared John Knox's prayers more than all her enemies). And who has not known such intercessors in connection with Christian Churches - men and women whose prayers were amongst the main supports of the life, joy, and strength of those for whom they were offered?
II. THEIR VALUE IS UNSPEAKABLE. Cf. Abraham praying for Sodom. Though the cities of the plain were destroyed, yet what an amount of sin God was ready to pardon in answer to his prayer, if but the conditions which should have been so easy to fulfill had been forthcoming! And "the few names even in Sardis" (Revelation 2.), who can doubt that they, as all such do, warded off for long periods those visitations of God's anger which otherwise would have come upon that Church? And it is not only the evils from which they defend a Church, but the positive good they confer. Such power with God is ever accompanied by a consistency and sanctity of character which is blessedly attractive, inspiring, contagious; and as a magnet they gather round them a band of kindred souls, like as our Lord gathered his disciples round himself. And thus a hallowed influence is sent throughout a whole community.
III. THEIR QUALIFICATIONS.
1. Sympathy with God. They must see sin as God sees it - as utterly hateful and wrong. There must be no weak condoning of it or any failure to behold it in its true character. If we ask God to forgive sin, indeed, if we seek forgiveness for wrong done from a fellow-man, are we likely to be acceptable in our request if we regard him who has been wronged as not having much to complain of after all? No; he who would wish God to forgive sin must see it as God sees it, and consent to his judgment concerning it.
2. Deep love for those for whom he intercedes. And this cannot be created in a moment. It must be the result of much thought, labor, and pains spent upon them. When we have thus given ourselves to them, we are sure to love them. Places, persons, things, most unattractive to others are deeply loved by those who have devoted themselves to them. And all great intercessors have been such, and must be such as become so, not on the spur of the moment or from any mere movement of pity, but as the result of long and loving labor lavished for their good.
3. Freedom from the guilt of the transgression, the pardon of which is sought. Under the Old Testament the priest first offered atonement for himself and then for the sins of the people. Not until he was purged from sin himself could he intercede for others. The intercessor must be one untainted with the guilt he prays to be removed. The prayer of the wicked can never aid.
4. Experimental knowledge both of the blessings which he craves and of the sorrows and sufferings which he intercedes against. Of our Savior, the great Intercessor, it is said, "He himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." He was made "in all points like unto his brethren." The joy of God's love and also, by holy sympathy, the bitterness of the dregs of that cup of which the wicked have to drink - were alike known to him. Thus, though he knew no sin, he was made sin for us. It was to him as if all the sin of those he so loved were his own, so intensely did its shame, its misery, its guilt, fill up his soul. And with human intercessors there must be like experience.
5. Faith in God, which firmly holds to the belief that his love for the sinner is deeper than his hatred of the sin. Unless we believe this we can have no hope in interceding either for ourselves or for others. Faith in the infinitude of the love of God is essential.
IV. THEIR GREAT EXEMPLAR - the Lord Jesus Christ. See how all the qualifications above named combine in him. CONCLUSION.
1. To the sorrowful and sinful. You need a great intercessor. You have one in Christ. "Give him, my soul, thy cause to plead."
2. To the believer in Christ. Seek to become as Moses and Samuel, and, above all, as our Lord - mighty in intercession. - C.
Jeremiah 14:11), seeing that their case was hopeless, and the Divine sentence that had gone out against them was irrevocable. Observe -
I. THE POWER THAT HUMAN INTERCESSION MAY HAVE WITH GOD. The fact that such intercession is declared in this case to be vain implies that, under other conditions, it might be effectual Moses and Samuel often stood before the Lord as mediators on behalf of the people whom they represented (Numbers 14:13-20; 1 Samuel 7:9; Psalm 99:6). Not that they had officially any priestly function. They were not priests; their power with God lay in the elevation of their character and the intimacy of their fellowship with him. Every age has borne witness to the reality and efficacy of this power. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" on behalf of his fellow-men. Who can tell how much it is owing to such intercession that a guilty world has been saved from hopeless abandonment?
II. THE LIMIT MAN S OBDURACY PUTS TO THAT POWER. There are times when no human intervention is of any avail. Even the pleading of Moses and Samuel could not have averted the threatened judgments. "My mind could not be towards this people" Why? Simply because of the obstinacy of their unbelief and irreligion. It is not that God is not merciful and gracious and ready to forgive, or that the pleadings of good and holy men nave no power with him. It is that the inveterate obduracy of men nullifies all the persuasive influence alike of Divine and human love. God's mind cannot be towards those who with obstinate impenitence refuse his grace. There is a limit beyond which even Divine patience cannot go. The very pleading love of the great Intercessor is defeated in the case of those who will not forsake their false and evil ways. It is not so much an irrevocable Divine decree, it is their own self-willed perversity that dooms them and leaves the stern, retributive laws of God to take their course. - W.
I. A REMINDER OF GOD'S LONG-SUFFERING IN THE PAST. MOSES and Samuel had stood interceding before him, and again and again he had glorified himself in mercy and pardon. The mention of these two great historic names suggests to Jeremiah that God can appeal to all the past, confident that no man can complain of him as wanting in long-suffering with the waywardness of his people. They had wandered far and often, and often needed mercy and restoration; but when God forgave them, they soon forgot the mercy and renewed favor. Thus we are enabled to feel how very bad their condition must have become in the time of the prophet. To have listened to the plea of any intercessor would have been to show a mercy which yet was no mercy - a mercy which, while doing no real good to Israel, would have done evil in confusing the boundaries of truth and falsehood. God's mercy must ever be shown as part of his wisdom, and the time comes when severity to one or two generations may be the truest mercy to the whole world.
II. THE HONOR DONE TO THE MEMORY OF THE GOOD. As servants of Jehovah, Moses and Samuel were great in many ways, but in none greater than as urgent prevailing intercessors. With regard to Moses, see Exodus 32:11-14, 31, 32; Numbers 14:13-19. With regard to Samuel, see 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 12:23. The listenings of God to these men showed that his general will was that supplications should ever be made on behalf of all sinners. God delights in seeing his servants pitiful towards all the needs of men, especially those needs which arise from their forgetfulness of God himself. This reference was surely meant to teach Jeremiah, for one thing, that God not only permitted intercession but expected it. Further, the intercessions here referred to were those of righteous men. Moses and Samuel fully appreciated the evil-doings of those for whom they interceded. Doubtless they quite apprehended that evil-doing might on certain occasions reach such a height that intercession could not be expected to prove successful. Those who had had the opportunity of pondering God's dealings in the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom would well understand that intercession had its limits.
III. JEREMIAH WAS THUS REMINDED OF THE DIFFICULTIES OF GOD'S SERVANTS IN FORMER DAYS. Moses and Samuel were not only intercessors, they were intercessors for those who had made life largely a burden and a grief to them. It was not upon a scene where they were comparative strangers that they came in, did their interceding work, and then passed out to return no more. The success of their intercession meant the renewal of their struggles with a wayward and careless nation. If only Jeremiah considered the whole history of Moses and the whole history of Samuel, he would be led to say, "Who am I that I should complain?" These conspiracies, this bitter opposition, this feeling of solitude, were nothing new. We can only serve God in our own day and generation, and we must accept that generation with all its difficulties, only let this be remembered, that there is no servant of God, in any generation, but will need all his faith and meekness and endurance to encounter and vanquish these difficulties in a right spirit.
IV. HONOR WAS PUT UPON JEREMIAH HIMSELF. His influence with God as a faithful servant was shown every whir as clearly as if he had been successful in his intercession, That influence, indeed, the people might fail to recognize; but this was a small matter if only the prophet himself was made to feel that his God respected the spirit of his prayer. God's way of honoring us is not by making us stand well with the fickle crowd, but by his own smile shining into our hearts and making gladness there. The mention of these two great historic names lifts Jeremiah in the esteem of God to something like a level with them - Y.
I. SUCH VISITATION IS AN UNDOUBTED FACT. It is plainly declared to be a Divine rule, and that once and again (cf. Exodus 20., etc.). And apart from the Bible - in the manifest law of heredity - there is the dread fact patent to all. Workhouses, prisons, hospitals, asylums, all attest the visitation of God for the fathers' sins.
II. IT IS A GREAT MYSTERY. It is one branch of that all-pervading mystery into which all other mysteries sooner or later run up - the mystery of evil. There is nothing to be done, so far as its present solution is concerned, but to "trust," and so "not be afraid."
III. BUT NOT WITHOUT ALLEVIATIONS; e.g.
1. If the sins of the fathers are visited on their descendants, yet more are God's mercies. The sins descend to "the third and fourth generation," but the mercies to "thousands" of generations - for this is meant.
2. The descent is not entire. The sins come down, it is true, upon the descendants, but in their fruits rather than in their roots. A father cannot force on his child his wickedness, though he may his diseases and tendencies.
3. The entail may be cut off in its worst part at any moment, and very often is. Coming to Christ may not deliver me from physical suffering, but it will from sin. Grafted into Christ a new life will begin, the whole tendency of which in me and in mine is to counteract and undo the results of the former evil life.
4. And the visitation of the fathers sins is but rarely because of the fathers sins only. The descendants of the age of Manasseh did their works, and what wonder that they should inherit their woes?
5. And it is a salutary law. Children are a means of grace to tens of thousands of parents. "Out of the mouth of babes," etc. For, for their children's sakes, parents will exercise a watchfulness and self-restraint, will seek after God and goodness as otherwise they would never have done. The remembrance of what they will inflict on their children by virtue of this law fills them with a holy fear, as God designed it should. CONCLUSION.
1. Parents. What legacy are you leaving for your children? Shall they have to curse or bless you? O father, mother, "do not sin against" your "child."
2. Children. What have you received? Is it a legacy of evil example, evil tendency, evil habit? God's grace will help you to break the succession. Refuse it for yourselves, determine you will not hand it on to others. But is it a legacy of holy example, tendencies, and habits? Blessed be God if it be so. What responsibility this involves! What blessing it renders possible for you and those who come after you! - C.
I. IT CALLS TO MEMORY WHAT THE LOST ONE WAS. Her life was as the shining of the sun - bright, cheerful, generous, inspiriting, attracting, healthful, and joy-giving to all.
II. IT DENIES NOT THE FACT WHICH IS so BITTERLY MOURNED. Her premature death, her sun went down, etc. Nothing can alter that fact. And perhaps, as the very words indicate, circumstances of peculiar sorrow may have surrounded her death. Like her told of in this verse, "she may have breathed out her life as if in labored sighs, expiring in heavy heart-breaths of grief." Not a calm, gradual, bright sunset, but the very reverse, the sun going down in dark clouds. The power to utter those blessed parting words of counsel and comfort taken from her, and in darkness and silence she had to wend her way to the unseen. But amid all this depth of gloom this verse -
III. SUGGESTS MOST BLESSED TRUTH. The sun of her life has not perished but shines elsewhere. We know that when the sun sinks below our horizon it has gone to gladden and bless other shores. And so with the life of the blessed dead. They all live unto God. All that in them which was so pure, so sweet, so full of the grace of God, has not perished; it is shining elsewhere, it has risen on another shore, flue eternal and the blessed. And on us it shall rise again, as the sunrise follows in due time the sunset. That life is not lost but is hidden with Christ in God, and so "when he who is our life shall appear" then shall that now hidden life "appear with him in glory," - C.
1 Corinthians 1:23).
1. WITH WHAT THE FAITHFUL PREACHER COMPARES HIMSELF. Jeremiah says that he might have been a brawler, a dishonest debtor, or a usurer to have stirred up the strife and hatred which he experienced. As has been said, lending and borrowing cause most lawsuits. "'I have not lent nor borrowed.' My dear Jeremiah! Thou mightest have done that; that is according to the custom of the country; there would be no such noise about that" (Zinzendorf). Elijah was reproached by Ahab, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?' (1 Kings 19:17). St. Paul was persecuted. Even Christ himself was accused of stirring up sedition, and the preaching of the Word has often been accompanied by demonstrations of violence.
II. To WHAT THIS MAY BE ATTRIBUTED. It is due chiefly to the dislike of men to the truth itself, in whatever shape presented. The natural heart is enmity against God and his Word. Care must be taken to distinguish between accidental and essential provocations of this spirit. The manner of the preacher should never be such as of itself to dispose men unfavorably towards his message. The greatest care ought to be taken to conciliate and to win. But the original hatred of men to truth must not be ignored. It exists, and will have to be reckoned with in one form or another. One man will object to it in toto; another to the degree of obedience which it exacts. With some the idea will be pleasing but the practice irksome. If men hated Christ, we need not suppose that they will be more amiable towards us if we are faithful.
III. CONSOLATIONS. These troubles need not afflict us if we remember, with respect to our hearers, that it is not theirs but them we desire. The worst enemies have been reconciled and the fiercest natures subdued by the power of the Word. It is well too in the midst of suffering to have the testimony of a good conscience. To him also who is faithful in the midst of opposition and hatred is that beatitude, Matthew 5:11. But perhaps the strongest consolation of all is in the fellowship of him for whose sake the opposition is experienced. - M.
Jeremiah 1:5). There we see how Jehovah himself reckoned Jeremiah to have come into this earthly existence, not for suffering, but for a career of noble and useful action, which, rightly considered, was a high privilege. But a man who is constantly suffering from the sin of his fellow-men in all its shapes and all its degrees, cannot be always looking at the bright side and speaking in harmony with such a view.
I. A SERVANT OF GOD MAY HAVE TO LIVE A LIFE OF INCESSANT CONFLICT. Jeremiah's case appears to have been an extreme one, and yet the history of the Church shows that a company by no means few might be reckoned as companions in his peculiar tribulation. It is not for us to say how far our lives shall be marked by external conflict. We must not seek conflict; but we must be ready for it if it comes. God gives to every one who is willing to be his servant a way in which to walk, a way which does not infringe on a single real right of a single human being. From beginning to end that way may be trodden, not only without injury to others, but with positive benefit to them. At the same time, nothing is more possible than that treading in such a way may expose him who strives to walk in it to all the various forms which, according to circumstances or opportunity, opposition may take. And therefore, when we are beginning to feel our way to the carrying out of God's will, we must lay our account with opposition. How much of it may come, how far it may go, how long it may last, we cannot tell; and as we must not provoke it through mere exuberance of energy, so neither must we avoid it for the sake of a temporary peace which is really no peace. If opposition comes - even intense opposition - to the truth faithfully proclaimed, this only shows that the truth has proved itself an arrow, striking home and making its wound, whatever the ultimate consequence of that wound may be.
II. THE MESSAGE OF GOD IS NOT THE ONLY CAUSE OF STRIFE AND CONTENTION. Jeremiah was reckoned as a troubler of Israel, and so in one sense he was; but Israel could only have been troubled by him because, first of all, it was in a condition which admitted of commotion. The wind troubles the waters and raises the waves into destructive fury; but this is just because they are in a condition easily acted on. The prophet, however, has another answer, an answer which served to show how much he marveled at the universality and intensity of the opposition with which he was met. He is far from being the only troubler of Israel. Suppose he becomes silent; strife and contention would not therefore cease. When he comes in with his reproofs, warnings, and threatenings, it is not upon a scene hitherto tranquil and harmonious that he enters. He finds abundance of quarrelling already, and one fertile source of the quarrelling lies in the relations between borrower and lender. They may cease their strife, and join their forces for a little while against the prophet who is their common enemy; but their mutual exasperation is not forgotten, their quarrel is by no means composed. They will return to it with as much bitterness as ever. The prophet, it will be noticed, speaks as if the hostility to him was a marvel. God has sent him to these men for their good; he has come to turn their steps from the way leading to destruction; and yet, because he tells them the truth, he has become their enemy. We see that his faith in human nature, as easily knowing its own best interests, is hard to shake. He does not at all wonder that the borrower should hate the rapacious lender and the lender hate the defaulting borrower; but there is a deep mystery when the man who comes to warn of danger is hated for his message, and hated all the more just as he becomes more earnest and persistent in the utterance of it.
III. WE SEE THE PROPHET'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE PURITY OF HIS OWN MOTIVES. He is sure that in him there is no reason for hostility. He had defrauded none; he had oppressed none. With all his complainings here, it was well that he had no cause for self-reproach. Difficulties we must ever expect from that action of others which we cannot control; but let them not be increased needlessly by our own selfishness, obstinacy, and arrogance. - Y.
do, then it is a question whose tone is bright, cheerful, and reassuring. But if we connect it with those that immediately follow, its tone is altered and is full of solemn admonition and serious warning. In the first case it refers to Jeremiah himself, and is for his comfort and confidence. It tells him that the enemies who are against him, however iron like they might be-cold, hard, fierce, strong - and however much they may oppress and afflict him, yet assuredly they shall not prevail against him; for God will make him as the northern iron and the steel, against which all their might shall be in vain. God had promised at the very outset of the prophet's ministry that he would thus strengthen him. Behold, he says, in the first chapter, "I have made thee this day a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land... and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee." And in the twentieth verse of this chapter the like promise is given over again. So that they have much reason on their side who regard these words as a heart-cheering assurance conveyed to the prophet under the form of a question, and assuring him that, let the power of those who hated him be what it might - as iron like as it would - the grace of God which would be given him would make him stronger still, would make him as the northern iron and the steel. Let us, then, view these words -
I. AS A REASSURING PROMISE, and make two or three applications of them.
1. And first, to such as Jeremiah himself was at this time - a faithful servant of God, but muck troubled and tried. What right have we to expect that all things will go smoothly with us in this world, or to be surprised when sore troubles come? Did not our Lord say, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep amongst wolves"? Well, it would be strange if the sheep were to find all things just as they wished amid such surroundings as that. But, as one has said, the sheep have beaten the wolves after all. There are today tens of thousands of sheep for every wolf prowling on the face of the earth. It did seem very likely, when the sheep were so few, that the wolves would most certainly have quickly made a clearance of them. But, though here and there one like Saul "made havoc of the Church," the flock, the Lord's fold, went on increasing and multiplying in a marvelous way. Spiritually as well as literally the sheep outnumber the wolves who would destroy them. And what is the explanation but this, that to those who have no might the Lord has increased strength? He has let the wolves be indeed like iron, but his sheep he has strengthened as the northern iron, etc. And this he will ever do. God can temper our souls to such degree of hardness and tenacity that they shall blunt and beat back every weapon that is formed against them. The arrows hurled against us shall fall pointless to the ground, and the armor of God wherein we stand engirt shall more than defend us from the adversary's power. The shield of faith is made, not of our enemies' untempered iron, but of the northern iron and steel told of here. Oh, then, child of God, how is it with thee? Is the world frowning upon thee? are circumstances adverse and involved, and thy way hedged with difficulties? Has death invaded thy home or is it about to do so, and is thy heart saddened thereby? Does disappointment dog thy steps and baffle all thy best-meant endeavors? Is anxiety creeping over thee and filling thee with foreboding fear? Hearken to this word of God, "Can iron," etc.? Can these things, hard and terrible as they are, break down thy defense or break through thy shield? Oh, bring thy soul to Christ, tell him how weak, how defenseless, in thyself, thou art; come to him for the armor of proof thou needest; ask him to give thee good courage and to strengthen thine heart; and then, as thou comest off more than conqueror over all these things, thou shalt triumphantly ask this question for thyself.
2. And we may ask it again in reference to the opposition of the world against the Church of God. For that Church is girt with invincible power, and stands like a rock amid the raging of the sea. In vain the tempests hurl the mighty waves against it, in vain do they fiercely smite it as with force sufficient to make it stagger and fall; but whilst you look expecting to see it overthrown, lo, the huge seas that smote it are shivered into clouds of spray, and multitudes of foaming cataracts are seen rushing down its sides but leaving it unharmed and immovable still. And - to return to the metaphor of this verse - the iron of its adversary's weapon has broken against the steel of its impenetrable shield, and the Church of God is unconquered still. Heresy has sought with insidious power to turn it from the truth. Persecution with its fires and all manner of deadly cruelties has threatened every member of its communion, and slain thousands upon thousands of them. Superstition has come with its priestcraft and pretended supernatural powers and taught men to worship idols in the name of God. Infidelity, the sure offspring of Superstition, disgusted with the miserable shams and the mass of wretched fables which Superstition has taught men for truth, has thrown off all belief, and denied the very existence of God and the whole of the precious faith that the Church has received. The world, a more deadly foe still, with her soft blandishments and her mighty bribes, has done more to pervert the right ways of the Lord than perhaps all the other enemies of the Church altogether; just as on the mass of iron used in the construction of the great railway bridges which span so many of the valleys, straits, and rivers of our land, it is found that a warm morning's sunshine does more to deflect them from their true horizontal line than is accomplished by the ponderous weight of the heaviest engines and trains rushing over them at their highest speed. The soft warmth does more than the heaviest weight. And again and again in the history of the Church of God it has been found that when the world is most smiling then is it most deadly to the best interests of the Church. And in our day, fresh forms of unbelief or disbelief are gathering round the Church, and like a mist enwrapping the minds and hearts of not a few, so that the blessed firmness of faith which once was the common characteristic of the Church is giving way to a general doubt, vagueness, and uncertainty, upon which no firm foothold can be had. But what is our confidence in view of all this? Is it not in the truth, made sure to us by the experience of all the ages, that the Church of God is his especial care, and that therefore his omnipotence is around it, and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against it. Here the Church of God is today, in numbers, zeal, faith, charity, not one whit behind the former days. Here in this direction and that there may be loss, but if so, then in other directions we find gain. And the witness of all the history of the Church is this, that the forces that oppose her are but as untempered iron, whilst the power that defends her is as the northern, etc. And should there be any anxious heart who is in much doubt and fear as to his own personal salvation because of the multitude and magnitude of his sins, we would bid such a one take home to him the truth of our text. For although his sins be all he thinks them, and even more - of strength like iron - yet the Savior's will to save is as the northern iron and the steel. True, the retrospect over the past may be grievous, and since that was forgiven it may have been too often reproduced again. "Thy backslidings," as God told Israel, "have been many;" but art thou hoping in God? dost thou grieve and mourn over sin and truly desire to be made whole? Then it shall be so with thee; thy salvation shall be accomplished, for thine accusers' power is but as the iron, whilst thy Savior's is as the northern, etc. Therefore yield not to doubt, still less to despair, but go to him who is mighty to save, and ask him to give thee of his strength that thou mayst now conquer thy sin; so shalt thou no more doubt of his grace or of thine interest therein. Such are some of the applications of this question which, taking it as an implied promise, we are justified in making. But as we said at the outset, if we connect our text with the verses that follow, it will rather supply lessons of serious warning and admonition. For thus understood, the iron tells of the power of Israel and "the northern.., steel" of the invincible power of the Chaldean armies that were so soon to come against them, and therefore this question is a declaration of the sure overthrow of Israel when the time of conflict came. The power of God was against Israel, and then what hope could there be? Their poor defense would be soon broken, and they would lie at the mercy of their foe. It is, therefore -
II. A SAMPLE OF THE FATE THAT ATTENDS ALL RANGING OF MERE HUMAN POWERS AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD. Whenever any such unequal contest is contemplated or being carried on, this question may be fitly asked. And therefore we ask it:
1. Of all these, and they are very many, who think that they can, unarmed of God, successfully wage the war with sin. We would be unfeignedly thankful that there is felt the desire to wage this war at all, that there is no fatal apathy or content with sin, but that there is a real purpose to subdue it and keep it under and to live in all righteousness. Yes, wherever that purpose is, let thanks be given to God. But what all such need to remember, yet what they very often do not remember, is that the evil of their own hearts is as "the northern steel," whilst all the strength of their own resolves is but as common "iron," and when these two come in collision we know the result. Remember that first of all there is the guilt of sin to be provided for, and even supposing you were to contract no further sin, what is to be said of all the past? How can your own right resolves and correct future conduct - if it be indeed correct - atone for that? But supposing it were true that in an amended life there is atonement for the past, as we overlook the sins of youth, if the mature life be what it should be - supposing that were true, which it is not, even amongst men, if the past crimes have been of a serious kind - but supposing it were, and that if a man really turned over a new leaf all the records of the foregoing leaves should be destroyed, no matter what those records were - have you any guarantee that the future leaves will be altogether different from those that went before? The Word of God, and experience also, teach us that we have not. No doubt some sins may be given up, some evil actions forsaken, especially if they be such as bring upon us the reproach of man, but the true nature of the man remains unchanged - he is in himself what he was. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin," etc.? "then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." So speaks the prophet of God; so, too, speaks the experience of life. Of course we do not affirm all this in regard to the coming up to the standard of society, or of maintaining an external decency of life, but we do affirm it in regard to the attainment of that renewed and alone morally excellent character to which God calls us and of which our Lord Jesus Christ set us the example. You cannot bore through rock with wooden tools; you cannot with soft iron cut or pierce the hardened steel. And so you cannot, by the power of your own resolves, break that heart of evil, hardened like very steel, which every man carries about in him until it is regenerated by the Spirit of God. The grace of God alone can help you. It is at the cross of Christ, where you gain forgiveness from all the guilt of the past, that you gain also strength for the better life of the future; and it is in daily coming to that cross, daily looking unto Jesus, that blessed Lord who is both your Redeemer and your perfect Pattern, that you become changed into the same image and made like him. Iron is striving to "break the... steel," whilst you are endeavoring of yourself to save yourself from the past results and the present power of sin. You cannot do it, and in view of the gracious help the Lord Jesus Christ offers you it is a sin and an insult to him to persist in the attempt.
2. Finally, I think of another hopeless contest in which also many are still engaged, in which the iron is thinking to "break... steel." It is the contest with God, the combat with the Most High. God has made us all for himself, Now, he himself so obeys the law of truth and righteousness and goodness that we say he is righteousness. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works" "God is love." Therefore he bids us surrender our hearts, our wills, to him, to obey, love, and serve him. It is not simply right, but most blessed for us as for all his creatures to do this, and the vast majority of them do, and are blessed in consequence. But man has the power of saying "Nay" to God's "Yea," and "Yea" to God's "Nay," and that power he has chosen to exercise. In other words, he has set up his will against the Divine will, and refuses obedience where the will of God and his own are opposed. This is the contest that is ever going on - God seeking to win man's will, his heart to himself, and man persistently refusing. Man wants to have his own way, believing and insisting that it is the good way for him, whilst God knows well that it is a way of evil and of evil only. Therefore by all means God is seeking to draw us from that way to his own. By the voice of conscience and of his Spirit pleading within us, by his providences, his Word, his ordinances, and in other ways still, mostly gentle and gracious, others of them of a sterner kind, but by them all he is aiming at but one result - this, of inducing us to yield to him, to acknowledge his authority, and confess him Lord. And remember this will of his is no passing wish, one which, when he finds he cannot have it, he will cease to care for. Oh no, but it is his steadfast purpose, that upon which his heart is set. "As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with my glory." "To Jesus every knee shall bow, and... Father." Can we think, then, that instead of this, God will be content with simply destroying man? That would be to confess failure on his part, and so would also the mere infliction of vengeance. Therefore we feel sure that the rebel will have to yield, and the stoutest heart to bow. The iron cannot "break... steel" Shall the will of man forever defy God, and hold out against him? But ah! what of agony and woe will not the rebel will have to go through ere it will own itself wrong! All the awful words of Christ about the quenchless fire and the undying worm - those dreadful sayings of his at which the soul shudders - still are his setting forth thereof. Oh, you whose hearts are still unsurrendered to him, will you provoke him to this? will you force him to hold you down to the consequences of your own doings until you come to see them as he sees them? Then not alone because of the sorrow that must attend the refusal to yield to him, but because such yielding is so right, so blessed, let us cease from the vain and sinful conflict; let the iron no more foolishly think to "break the northern iron and steel," But "let us come and worship and bow down" - not with the knee alone, but in heart "before the Lord our Maker" and our Redeemer. - C.
I. BY AN APPEAL TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. In this connection it is as if conscience itself had been invoked. And yet, better still, if conscience should vacillate God would remain the same. In this way it is well for the best of men to test their motives by continual reference to God. There is no better way of self-examination.
II. BY A REFERENCE TO THE SYMPATHY OF GOD. The mere fact that the all-knowing One was constantly regarding his sufferings for his sake, that he had put his tears in his bottle, and that he was able to appreciate his motives, was a comfort to the prophet. If possible, this source of consolation is deepened and enlarged by the greater nearness of God in Christ. The fellow-feeling of our great High Priest and Elder Brother is real and can be depended upon from moment to moment. It is a well of salvation from which we can draw inexhaustible supplies.
III. BY COMMITTING IT TO THE DIVINE RESPONSIBILITY. it was in God's hands because it was in God's knowledge. It was not for the prophet to trouble himself as to means of retaliation. He could commit his cause to his Father. The wider issues of it, nay, even its mightiest results, were beyond his own power. What he had to do was to be faithful and trusting and diligent. - M.
I. SUFFERING FOR JEHOVAH'S SAKE. Every suffering man has a claim upon God, even when his suffering comes by his own transgression. God is very pitiful to the tortured conscience of the man who has been wakened up out of a selfish and disobedient life. It can be no pleasure to him to see a being of such sensibility as man suffering from any cause whatever; and when a man is suffering for truth, for righteousness, for the gospel and the kingdom of God, then we may be sure that there is a peculiar movement of the Divine nature to help and strengthen such a sufferer. God would help his servant in this very instance, by enabling him to look at his suffering in the right way. The suffering was an evidence of successful work; successful because it had been faithfully and courageously done. If only the prophet had softened some words the Lord had put into his mouth and omitted others, he might have escaped reproach. But reproach smiting on a good conscience is better than contempt falling deservedly on the coward who trims to stand well with everybody. Then the prophet would also be made to feel that it was a good thing to bear what God was bearing himself. His long-suffering towards his enemies requires that his friends should also be patient. It is better to be abused in bearing testimony for God than to share in the rancorous conflicts of selfish men. Prophet and apostle alike had this for their experience that they were compelled to suffer for the Lord's sake; and he who bore the clearest, purest testimony of all, viz. Jesus himself, was the one who suffered the most. That good and true men, trying to serve God, should often become impatient under biting, bitter words is not wonderful. The true thing to be desired in such a state of mind is not to escape the reproaches, but to have the inward joy increased, so that it may be an effectual counterbalance to all that comes from outside. "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye" (1 Peter 4:14).
II. THE COMPLETE ASSOCIATION OF THE PROPHET WITH THE PROPHETIC WORD. He did not receive it into his mind reluctantly and listlessly, but as one who hungered and thirsted after righteousness. As the word fell on his inner ear it was devoured. It came to him as from the excellent glory; he recognized it as Divine. He was not as many, who will pamper and cram themselves with delicacies that are pleasant to the taste, and turn away with unconcealed aversion from food full of nutrition and health. Hence they became to him the joy and rejoicing of his inward life. All words of God, apprehended in their real meaning, give strength, peace, satisfaction, harmony in the nobler parts of human nature. Jeremiah is thinking of the parallel which may be drawn between food for the body and food for the spirit. The food which we take, just because it is pleasant for the taste, may be anything but a joy and rejoicing to the heart. We must eat what is really good for food, evidently intended for food, if we would be kept from ill consequences. It was because these words were readily accepted and fully received that they became a joy and rejoicing to the heart, and then in the strength, fortitude, zeal, thus communicated, the prophet went forth to his arduous work. Here surely is the secret of his steadfastness. God had put his words in his servant's mouth (Jeremiah 1:9); but that was all he could do. It was for the prophet himself so to treat the words that he should give them with all the added force of his own sanctified personality. Other men might have uttered the same words, yet so as to rob them of all force and sting. Notice in particular that if these words of God to the prophet - words mostly so stern, spoken nearly all from the judgment-seat - were nevertheless the joy and rejoicing of his heart, how much more may such an experience be expected from receiving the evident gospel words of the Lord Jesus! "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63).
III. THE PROPHET'S LIFE WAS CONSISTENT WITH HIS MESSAGE. According to his message, which was soon proved to be a word of truth, the whole land was advancing ever more swiftly into a season of the greatest suffering and sorrow. Yet the people would not believe the message, but went on, just as usual, assembling for their merry-makings. If now the prophet had joined in these merry, makings, the people would have had some plea for their neglect. As it was, they could find no excuse in any inconsistent conduct of his; as he spoke, so he acted. Probably some of them tried to draw him in, to get him away from what, in their shallowness and haste, they would reckon mere morbid fancies. Others would accuse him as being one who cared for no pleasure of life himself, unless it was the pleasure of souring the pleasure of others. And yet we see the prophet could be as thankful for joy and rejoicing of heart as any one. It is the greatest possible mistake to suppose that those who keep away from the world's pleasures are filled with gloom. A service of God, filled with joy, may soon become a real experience. But if talking about it stands instead of the reality, then the pretence will soon be shown by the avidity of our turning towards worldly pleasures. - Y.
I. THE WORDS OF GOD TEST AND EXHIBIT THE INWARD LOYALTY OF THE SAINT. It is not merely that a certain feeling has been excited in the mind, but that a welcome has been given to God's revelation. A profound difference is thereby instituted between the prophet and those who were opposed to him. As the psalmist cries, "Thy word have I hid in my heart, m proof of his earnestness and his love of truth, so the prophet would commend himself to God by the attitude he had assumed to the message when it was revealed to him. It is as if he had said, "I have never resisted thy Word, but ever held myself ready to utter and obey it." The test which they apply to the spiritual nature is full of dread to the unworthy; but to those whose hearts are right with God it is a satisfaction and a source of confidence. "The thoughts and intents of the heart" thereby disclosed are seen to be right and good.
II. THEY REFRESH AND STRENGTHEN HIM FOR SUFFERING AND DUTY. It is as if the prophet were drawing comfort from recollection because his present circumstances are so troublous. But many a time the Word of God comes in a time of perplexity and darkness, bringing with it comforting light. It is greedily welcomed at such seasons and is devoured as by one who has long fasted. It penetrates thereby more deeply into the spiritual nature and more radically influences the springs and motives of conduct. It comes as a distinctly supernatural aid and makes men masters of what had previously overpowered them.
III. THEY BIND HIM MORE CLOSELY TO THE AUTHOR. The nature which has been so affected by the words of God cannot be nor regard itself as in the same position with others. Its whole character and destiny are altered. The life is leavened by that which supports and nourishes it. The indwelling Word is a consecrating influence and withdraws men from the pursuits and fellowship of the world. In this way the saint becomes identified with his Lord; a child of grace; a worker in the same great cause; a subject of like hatred and opposition, and an heir of the same kingdom. By producing the character of holiness they inscribe the Divine Name upon the heart, and link the life and destiny of the saint with the cause of God. - M.
I. HOW WE SHOULD DEAL WITH GOD'S WORDS.
1. We are to "find them. We are not to be content with mere surface reading, but to "search the Scriptures." It is certain that without this searching they will never be found. Now, it is this conviction which has led to the recent revision of the Scriptures. They who undertook that work were not ignorant of nor indifferent to the many objections which would be brought against their enterprise. They knew it would be said that such revision would disturb the faith of simple men and women, that it would provoke discord, that it would encourage restless spirits to be ever seeking change, that it would destroy old and sacred associations, that it was unnecessary because by means of commentaries and sermons the true meaning of any passage could be given; but they felt it to be their duty to set forth, as clearly as possible, the very words of Scripture, so that men may "find" them as before they could not do. They knew such work was needed, and they were encouraged by the history of former revisions, that of Jerome and that of our present Authorized Version, against which all the present objections were brought but were soon seen to be futile. Faith has not been disturbed; union and not discord has followed, the meaning of Scripture has been made more manifest, and what is and what is not of real authority - as the Apocrypha - has been declared. And they were encouraged by the fact that the present was an especially favorable time for their work: the existence of so many capable scholars, not only to do the work, but to test it after it was done; the increased knowledge of the Greek language and literature - a knowledge that, in view of the growing disregard for the languages of antiquity, was not likely to be ever greater than at present; the deep-felt love for the English of our Bible, thus ensuring the preservation to a great extent of its present tone and style; the spirit of concord which the proposal has elicited between this country and America, and between all sections of the Christian Church. Hence for all these reasons it was felt to be a favorable time to set out afresh on the search for the very words of God, in order that men might be enabled to" find" them the more readily. And we may gratefully believe that to a large extent the ends proposed have been secured, and that by the labors of the revisionists God's words in the New Testament Scriptures have been "found" as they have not been heretofore.
2. But this which others have done for us we must do for ourselves. We must "find" God's Word. We must study it, diligently read it, exercise ourselves in the Scriptures by careful, frequent, continuous reading, resolved that we will not merely read over the words, but know their meaning. For the Word of God needs finding. It is hidden away beneath the sound of familiar words and phrases which, from frequent hearing or repetition, have lost their power either to arrest or arouse our thought. And prejudice, formality, indolence, indifference, and other besetments of the soul beside, all do their part to hide from us the true sense of God's Word.
3. And, when found, God's Word should be spiritually "eaten," i.e. we must take his words so into our soul's life that, as our daily food ministers to our bodily life, these words of God shall minister to our soul's life. By the strength derived from our daily food all the organs of our body, all its functions and forces, are sustained in health and in working power - brain, heart, limbs, etc. And so, when God's words are "eaten," they sustain and strengthen the functions and forces of the soul - its faith, courage, hope, joy, etc. Abraham so believed God's word that he was able to offer up his son Isaac in obedience to what he believed was God's command. Job, by the same means, bore in glorious patience his heavy trials. Our blessed Lord baffled and vanquished the tempter by his threefold thrust of the sword of the Spirit - It is written. And all the heroes of the faith have become heroes by reason of this same "eating" of God's Word. Now, God's Word is thus taken into and made the life of our souls, not by memory alone. Mere learning page after page by heart, as we say, will not feed the soul. Let Sunday school teachers remember this. Nor will meditation and reflection upon it be sufficient. There must be added fervent prayer that, by the Divine Spirit, God's Word may be so inwrought in us that it shall be for us as a sacrament, a veritable eating of the flesh of Christ. Now, if the Word of God be thus found and eaten, see -
II. HOW GOD'S WORD WILL DEAL WITH US. It will become "the joy and rejoicing of our hearts." True religion is ever a joyful thing. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and," etc. What is that entire hundred and nineteenth psalm but one continuous affirmation of joy in God's Word? We shall see in the histories which the Bible records the evidence of a Divine overruling, in its prophecies the proof that the future as well as the past is under the same control; in its precepts and its holy Law the righteousness of the Divine rule; and in the Gospels the love that is beneath, around, amidst, and above all. And to the man of God, what can all this be but "the joy and rejoicing of his heart"? God's words have done much for us when they have brought us to repentance, more when we are led to trust in God, yet more when they enable us to live the life of obedience; but they have not done all they were designed and are able and willing to do, until they have become "the joy," etc. But we cannot have the joy first; repentance, trust, obedience, must precede and accompany; let these be lacking, and joy cannot be.
III. THE GROUND OF THIS JOY AND REJOICING. "For I am called by thy Name," etc. The prophet was known as the "man of God." He was so identified with God, so notoriously consecrated to him, as to be called by his Name. It was the prophet's joy and delight to be so called, and yet more to be so in reality. Therefore everything that was the Lord's had interest for him, as an affectionate child rejoices in the letters of his parents, reads them over and over again, treasures them, obeys them. And he would joy in these words also because by them he had been led to the joy of his present favor with God, and by them he was sustained therein. Hence, he being so unreservedly and joyfully the Lord's, all the Lord's words could not but be what they were to him. And it is ever so, in proportion as we are the Lord's by a living, loving consecration, will his words be "the joy and," etc. - C.
altogether unto him as a liar, and as waters that fail." Apart, however, from the peculiar experiences that called it forth, this passage is full of instruction. Note -
I. THE METHOD OF GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF TO MEN. "Thy words were found." The term "found," in a case like this, is suggestive of that which comes to the soul, not so much as the result of its own seeking, but of a spontaneous Divine purpose. All those on whom the quickening light of Divine truth has shone feel more or less distinctly the reality of this. The inspiration has come to them in mysterious and unexpected ways. It has "pleased God to reveal his Son in them." It is not so much that they "know God" as that they are "known of God" (Galatians 1:15, 16; Galatians 3:9). The initiatory step in this gracious process is his, not ours. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," etc. (John 15:16).
II. THE VITAL RELATION TRUTH BEARS TO THE DIVINELY ENLIGHTENED SOUL. "I did eat it." No physical image could be more suggestive of the intimacy of this spiritual relationship. It indicates:
1. The soul's reparation to welcome the truth. There is a divinely awakened appetite.
2. The active participation of the powers of the soul in the process. It is more than a mere passive reception.
3. The assimilation of the truth into the very being of the man. As food is transformed into the living fiber of the body, so that truth becomes a part of the very substance of his spiritual nature, the stay of his strength, the inspiration of his life. The word is translated into the form of holy character and Godlike deed.
III. THE GLADDENING EFFECT OF DISCOVERED TRUTH. "Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." There can be no purer, nobler joy than that which springs from conscious communion with the mind of God. His Word admits us to the realities of a world undarkened by the shadows and undisturbed by the storms that trouble this. Rising through it to the heights of Divine contemplation, the glory of the unseen and eternal surrounds us, and we drink of "the river of the pleasures of God."
IV. THE SELF-CONSECRATION THAT IS THE RESULT OF THE REALIZED POWER OF DIVINE TRUTH OVER THE SOUL. "I am called by thy Name," literally, "Thy Name is called over me." This was the seal and symbol of his personal dedication to his prophetic work. The Word of the Lord dwelling richly in the soul is the unfailing spring of a consecrated and holy life. "Sanctify them in thy truth: thy Word is truth," etc. (John 17:17, 19). - W.
I. HUMAN MOTIVES OFTEN LEAD HIM ASIDE FROM THE PATH OF DUTY ETC. The prophet is a man like other men and subject to the same passions. It is difficult for him to maintain the attitude of continual spiritual loyalty. Flesh and blood will fail and he will fall into temptations peculiar to his office. Of these he must be especially jealous, and a stricter standard of holiness should govern his conduct. Unfaithfulness in such a position will produce an exaggerated effect upon those whom he influences. His influence itself will cease to be purely spiritual, his love less certain, and his conduct less irreproachable. Deflection like this should be at once corrected, and he who tries the reins is especially watchful over those who have to deliver his message and represent his cause. "If thou return." How instant and yet how gentle the reproof!
II. REPENTANT FIDELITY WILL BE REWARDED WITH USEFULNESS AND STRENGTH.
1. Mediatorship - to "stand before me."
2. Infallibility - "As my mouth."
3. Irresistible power - a "brazen wall;" "but not prevail over thee."
4. The presence and protection of God. - M.