Stand in the gate...and proclaim.
Enter in at these gates to worship the Lord.
(H. G. Salter.)
Amend your ways and your doings.I. RELIGION, AND THE GENERAL PRACTICE OF IT IN A NATION, IS THE SUREST ESTABLISHMENT OF STATES AND KINGDOMS.
1. This is true in a natural way; because the duties of religion have a natural tendency to those things which are the foundations of that establishment, namely, peace, unity, and order.
2. But besides a natural tendency in virtue and goodness to the establishment of states and kingdoms, as many as believe religion must likewise believe that the general practice of it in a nation will be always attended with a supernatural blessing from God. For this is the result of all the declarations of God, as to the manner and rule of His dealings with mankind, whether persons or nations, that as many as faithfully serve and obey Him, shall be assuredly intituled to His favour and protection.
II. IN EVERY NATION IT IS THE PROPER BUSINESS OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATES, AS SUCH, TO VINDICATE AND MAINTAIN THE HONOUR OF RELIGION. And when I am speaking of authority, and the vigorous application thereof by the magistrate, I cannot omit one thing, which is a mighty enforcement of it, a good example; which, in its nature, is the most forcible way of teaching and correcting, and without which, neither the instructions of ministers, nor the authority of magistrates, can avail, to the effectual discouragement and suppression of vice.
III. WITHOUT A SERIOUS REGARD TO THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DUTIES OF RELIGION, THE GREATEST ZEAL IN OTHER MATTERS, EVEN THOUGH IT BE FOR THE ESTABLISHED WORSHIP OF GOD, WILL NOT SECURE THE DIVINE FAVOUR AND PROTECTION, EITHER TO PERSONS OR NATIONS. The external rites of religion are good helps to devotion, and proper means of maintaining order and decency in the public worship; and a zeal to preserve them, with a serious regard to those pious and wise ends, is very laudable: but to believe that zeal for them will atone for a neglect of the moral and spiritual duties of religion is a dangerous error.
(E. Gibson, D. D.)
The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these
Christian Observer.I. We are to show THE EXTREME FOLLY OF TRUSTING TO ANY RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES, WHILE OUR HEARTS REMAIN UNRENEWED AND OUR LIVES UNHOLY. On what ground can we rely on the continuance of God's favour under such circumstances? Should we, because a friend had conferred many benefits upon us, and forgiven us many offences, be justified in supposing that there would be no limit to his endurance? Yet the Jews — and their case is not singular — seemed to claim a special right to the continued favour of God, in virtue of their religious privileges; not considering that those privileges were a free gift; that they might at any time be withdrawn, without a shadow of injustice; and that while they lasted they were intended to operate, not as inducements to presumption, but as motives to love and thankfulness and obedience. They had in themselves no spiritual efficacy. Neither the character of God, nor His promises, held out any ground of hope on which to build such a conclusion. It would not have been consistent with His holiness, or wisdom, or justice, that the sinner should escape under the plea of any national or personal privileges, however great. And His promises, both temporal and spiritual, were all made in accordance with the same principle. "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments and do them...then I will walk among you, and I will be your God;...but if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments,...I will set My face against you." The whole tenor of God's providential dispensations is likewise to the same effect. And accordingly, the Jews, great as were their national mercies, found on numerous occasions that they were not exempt from the just displeasure of their Divine Governor. Yet, with all these proofs of God's righteous judgments, their constant cry was, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord": they caught hold, as it were, of the horns of the altar with unhallowed hands; and, notwithstanding the threatenings of the Almighty, were ever prone to trust in those external privileges. At the very time when they were committing the grievous enormities of which the prophet Jeremiah convicts them, they were zealous for the outward worship of God, and boasted highly of their religious profession. But could any folly be greater than that of supposing that this insincere worship could satisfy Him who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins? The prophet forcibly points out the extreme folly and delusiveness of such expectations: "Go," he says, "unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first; and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called unto you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh." Having thus considered the extreme folly of trusting to external privileges, while the heart is unrenewed and the life unholy, we are —
II. TO SHOW THAT THIS FOLLY IS TOO COMMON IN ALL AGES; AND THAT WE OURSELVES, PERHAPS, ARE GUILTY OF IT. How many pride themselves in being zealous Protestants, or strict members of the Established Church, or regular attendants on public worship, while they live in the spirit of the world, and without any scriptural evidence of being in a state of favour with God! How many trust to the supposed orthodoxy of their faith; or to their zeal against infidelity, enthusiasm; while they are ignorant of the scriptural way of salvation, and indifferent to the great concern of making their calling and election sure! How many cherish a secret hope from the prayers of religious parents, the zeal and piety of their ministers. In short, innumerable are the ways in which persons deceive themselves on these subjects; fancying that the temple of the Lord is among them; and on this vain surmise remaining content and careless in their sins, and ignorant of all true religion. Now let us ask ourselves, in conclusion, whether such is our own case. On what are we placing our hopes for eternity? Are we resting upon anything superficial or external; upon anything short of genuine conversion of heart to God? True piety is not anything that can be done for us; it must be engrafted in us; it must dwell in our hearts, and show its blessed effects in our conduct.
If ye thoroughly amend.1. Religion has to do with character and conduct. Religion is that which "binds," and it has a tremendous grip. It has to do not only with creeds, and forms, and rites, but with character and conduct.
2. Religion makes little of mere emotion. Some persons delight in the excitation of the sensibilities. The Master's word is, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." This is the proof of genuine love. The mother takes her boy's kiss as a sign of emotion, but sees in his obedience the proof of principle, which is more than mere feeling.(1) The first characteristic of true religion is a right view of sin. Our prayer should be, "Wash me thoroughly," even as the spotted robe was in David's day cleansed in a vat with strong acid and alkali, mauled and bruised with mallet, till the stain was gone. God uses powerful methods to purify. Some dread to be born again, because they know that they will be required to thoroughly amend their ways, i.e., "throughly," as the word was formerly spelled. True amendment goes through and through to the uttermost end — clear to the furthest limit.(2) There must be not only right views, but a clean sweep of sin. The people of Israel found that those they spared of idolatrous nations were thorns in their sides and pricks in their eyes. If we do not drive sin out, sin will drive us out. What we call little sins accumulate, as do the snowflakes which stop a locomotive. We shall arrest the power and blessing of God by tolerating small transgressions.(3) Thorough amendment comprehends character and conduct — what we are and what we do. It were useless to throw our prayers into a malarious swamp and leave the source, the well head, unclean. Pray that God's Spirit may create "a clean heart." Then follow conscience. The amendment enjoined in the text is a new life. Christ and the soul are firmly united, and He is the model. A little fibre, just enough to cling to the sacrament, is not enough. That Hamburg grapevine would not have yielded you those rich clusters if the branches had not been closely united to the vine. You are Christ's. You will hate sin because He abhors it. You will also heed Christ's demands on your time, your income, and your strength.
3. The text promises permanency; not merely a visit, but an abode where one can root and grow, work and worship, till transplanted to heaven.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely...and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
1. Our idea of God's dealings with us is very largely influenced by the condition of the age in which we live. The language of inspiration will be interpreted by us according to the meaning which, in other directions, we already attach to the words which it must employ; and thus the government of communities by laws has so modified our thought of the Divine government that we no longer have the rude conception of a Divine Ruler acting from caprice; we have now rather the idea of a Being who acts through the operation of great universal laws. That conception of God is so far true, and that interpretation of the words of revelation so far accurate; but there has grown up with it the thought that God acts only thus, which is false. We attribute to the action of the All-wise God the imperfections — the necessary imperfections which belong to human institutions. Now, we must not transfer to God our own finality and failure. God's laws are universal and general; God's dealings with men are particular and individual As, in the physical world, we find that equilibrium is produced by the action of two equal and opposite forces, so in the moral world we have universal irresistible laws, and we have tender loving individualisation, and the resultant of the two is God's calm and equable government of men. Everywhere we see man demanding, and by his conduct showing that he possesses that liberty of action and power of control in the material world which, to palliate his sin, he denies to belong to him in the moral world. You know that the application of heat to certain substances will generate a powerful destructive force. You know such to be a physical law, and what do you do? Do you sit down and say, It is a law of nature, and I cannot resist it? No. You say, "I find it to be a law, and I shall take care either that it shall not come into operation, or if it does come into operation, I shall construct machinery to direct its force, and so make it operate only in the direction which I choose." You ascertain certain laws of health, that infection will spread a certain disease, and do you say, The disease must spread, I cannot fight against a law? No. You take care to keep the infection away from you, to disinfect, and so prevent the operation of that law; and yet that same man when he finds that there are places which will taint his moral nature with disease, that there are scenes or pleasures which will generate in his soul a destructive force, says, "I cannot help it, these things will act so; I have no liberty." You have no liberty to prevent their acting so on you, I admit, no more than you have power to prevent fire igniting powder; but you have power to keep away from them; you have power to prevent those conditions arising under which alone the law will operate. Oh! when we know and feel the evil in the physical world, we take every precaution against its recurrence. How much less zeal and determination do we display concerning our souls!
2. To say that you have a peculiar kind of nature which cannot resist a particular class of sin is to offer to God an excuse which you would never accept from your fellow man. You treat every one of your fellow men as having power to resist the inclination of his natural disposition, so far as its indulgence would be injurious to you. If a man rob you or assault you, no explanation of a natural desire for acquisition or for aggression would be listened to by you as a reasonable excuse. To admit the truth of such principles of uncontrollable natural impulse would at once shake society and destroy all human government. And do you think that such excuses as you would not admit are to be accepted as excuses for, or even explanations of those sins which do not happen to fall within the category of legal crimes, but which, much more than those crimes for which the law imprisons and hangs, are destroying the moral order of God's universe, and outraging the highest and noblest principles of truth, and purity, and love? But it cannot be denied that we have strong natural dispositions and passions which we have been given independently of ourselves, and for the possession of which we cannot with justice be held responsible? Certainly — and you never find fault with a man for any faculty or temper which he may have — but you do hold him responsible for the direction and control of it. We can point to countless noble careers to show how the strong impulses of individual natures are indeed irresistible, but their action is controllable. The great heroes whom we justly reverence, who rise above us as some snow-capped mountain towers above the dead level of a low-lying plain, are not those who have destroyed, but those who have preserved and used aright the natural impulses and passions which had been given them. That is the true meaning of such lives as those of St. Paul, or Martin Luther — St. Augustine, or John Bunyan. Ay, and there are many still amongst us who use their natural dispositions and their natural affections, their natural passions — even their natural beauty, which might have been used to lure souls to hell — to win many a one to a nobler and purer life. What a solemn responsibility, then, is the right use of our natural disposition and talents, for others as well as for ourselves. To you, my young friends, especially, I would say, Do try and begin early to recognise the solemnity of life. Do not be downhearted or dismayed if, after you have felt the power of Christ's death, and when you would do good, evil is present with you. Do not let such moments harden you. Try and realise then all the love and mercy and tenderness with which the crucified Lord looks upon you, as He once looked on the fallen apostle, and, like him, "go forth and weep bitterly." Then it will be well with you. Sin shall not reign in you, though for the moment it seems to have conquered you.
(T. T. Shore, M. A.)
I. MEN ARE VERY FOND OF ASCRIBING THEIR SINS TO THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE DEVIL, and in such a way as, in the main, to put the responsibility upon him. It is surely taught in the Word of God that evil spirits do foment wickedness; that they suggest it; that they persuade men to it. It is not taught that they infuse it, and perform it in men. It is taught that Satan persuades men to sin; but the men do the sinning — not he. The power of temptation depends upon two elements: first, the power of presenting inducement or motive on the part of the tempter; and, secondly and mainly, the strength in the victim of the passion to which this motive is presented. No one could tempt to pride a man that had not already a powerful tendency to pride. The chord must be there before the hand of the harper can bring out the tone. No one could be tempted to avarice that had not a predisposition to the love of property. No man could be tempted to hatred, or to cruelty, or to appetites, one or many, unless there pre-existed a tendency in that direction. Hence, the simple fact of temptation is, that you do wrong, while Satan merely asks you to do it. It is your act. It may be his suggestion, it may be his thought; but it is your performance. And you do it with plenary freedom, urged, fevered, it may be, by him.
II. MEN RELIEVE THEMSELVES, OR SEEK TO DO SO, FROM THE SENSE OF GUILT AND RESPONSIBILITY, BY ATTRIBUTING THEIR SINS TO THEIR FELLOW MEN. They admit the wrong, but they put in the plea that the circumstances were such that they could not help committing it. The example and impunity of other men in transgression are pleaded, the persuasions and influences of other men are pleaded, certain relations to other men are pleaded, as if these things were compulsory. Men attribute their sins to public sentiment, to the customs of the times, to the habits of the community. Are they intemperate? Intemperance is customary in the circle in which they walk. Are they unscrupulous in their dealings? Unscrupulousness is the law of the profession which they follow. And when they have been charged with continuous sinning — with the violation of conscience, with the violation of purity, with the violation of temperance, with the violation of honesty or honour — they have still pleaded, "Yes, we have sinned; but we are not exceptional; we do not stand alone; we are nouns of multitude; all men do these things" — as if the inference was, "Because all men do them, they are not so culpable in us." Men may sin by wholesale; but they are punished by retail. There were never such dividends in any bank on earth as are apportioned in the court of conscience. There every man not only is particeps criminis in the transgression which he joins others in committing, but he is responsible for the whole sin, though thousands and millions participate with him in it. It is an exceedingly fashionable habit at present to put upon society the guilt of the transgressions of men. Are men idle, and is there deduced from idleness the accustomed fruit? Society has not made the suitable provisions for these men, or they would not have been idle! Are men insubordinate, and do they violate the laws? Society has not made proper laws for such men! They have not by society been rightly educated, or they would not have been insubordinate! Are men full of vices and crimes that spring from fertile ignorance? Society, as a schoolmaster, ought not to have let them be ignorant! Do men murder? Society is to blame! Do men steal? Society is the responsible scapegoat for thieves! You shall find philosophers on every side that wag their heads and say, "Now you see that society does not fulfil its duties and functions: society ought to have stepped these things." I will admit that in society there are many things that men ought to do which are left undone, and many things that they ought to leave undone which are done; but to say that upon society is to be put the responsibilities of the individual characters of all its citizens, is to imply that you give to society power to enforce those responsibilities; and if you give to society that power, you give it a power such as was never con. templated even by the extremest despotic theory of government. Society may in some instances be the tempter, and may in some instances have its individual part in the wrong-doing of its citizens; but it does not take away from any man that does wrong, the whole, undivided, personal responsibility of that wrong.
III. THE LAST CLASS OF THE CATEGORY OF EXCUSES IS THAT OF FATALITY. "We are delivered to commit sin; we are bound over to do it; we cannot help doing it" — so say some men. On the one hand, men are apt to be jealous of their liberty; but to avoid responsibility for transgression they disclaim their liberties, and plead a want of power to choose; a want of power to do that which they have chosen; or a want of power to reject that which they have determined to reject.
1. One class of men regard thought and volition as the inevitable effect of natural causes. They are no more avoidable, they say, than are the phenomena of nature. Effect follows cause as irresistibly in the one case as in the other. And so man is just as helpless as a mill wheel, which is made to turn over, and over, and over, by a power that is not under its control. Against this theory, we oppose the universal consciousness of men in the earlier stages of their moral character. Men know perfectly well that they have no plenary liberty; that they have only limited liberty. It is certainly true that, if blue is presented to my eye, I cannot prevent the impression of blue being made on my mind. It is true that, if light is presented to my eye, I cannot prevent the inevitable effect that light produces. But if, for any reason I prefer not to have light, although when it shines I cannot hinder the happening of its actual effects, I can prevent my eyes from coming where the light falls. There is profound Divine wisdom in that part of the Lord's Prayer which seems strange to our youth — "Lead us not into temptation." Well might powder pray, "Deliver me from the fire"; for if the fire touches it, there is no help for it — there must be an explosion. And there are many circumstances in which, if inflamed passions, inflamed tempers, in the soul's warfare in life, subject themselves to certain causes, they will lead a man to sin. Therefore the plea is, "Lead me not into temptation: let it not come upon me." Men are responsible for their volitions, and for those conditions which produce volitions — and this is the opinion of men generally.
2. A more frequent and more subtle plea of irresponsibility is founded on the modern doctrine of organisation. One man says, "I may lie; but I was delivered to do it when I was created with such an inordinate development of secretiveness." Another man says, "I may be harsh and cruel; but I was delivered to be so from my mother's womb; there is such immense destructiveness in my organisation." Another man says, "You that have largo intellectual developments, and are able to see and foresee, may be responsible for falling into sin; but I have no such development; I cannot foresee anything; I have to take things as they find me, and I am not responsible." At first it would look as though this was very rational; but it is not. It is not phrenological. It is not philosophical. And that is not all; the men that use these pleas do not themselves believe in them. There are abundant proofs of the falsity of the claim which they set up; but for my present purpose it is quite sufficient to say that, when men sin and plead fatalism or organisation as a justification of their wrong-doing, they do not believe the doctrine that they themselves advance. No man will accept an insult from another on the plea that that other man cannot help giving it. If a man deals you a blow in the street, not accidentally, but because, as he says, he is naturally irritable, having large combativeness, and cannot help it, you do not listen calmly to the explanation, and say, "All right, sir; all right." No man admits for one single moment any such thing as that men are to be excused for all sorts of misdemeanours, because they happen to be peculiarly organised. The whole intercourse of man with man would be destroyed; the community would be dissolved; society would rush, like turbulent streams in the midst of spring rains, down to destruction, if you were to take away the doctrine that a man can control his conduct, his thought, his will. It does not follow that, because a man follows his strongest faculty, he must follow it to do wrong with it. Here is the fallacy — or one of the fallacies — which men run into. If a man has large secretiveness, it does not follow that he should lie. A man may be secretive, and not transgress. Secretiveness may leaven every faculty of the mind, and that without making one of them commit sin. It has a broad sphere, and a wholesome sphere; and if you say, "I must follow my strongest faculty," I reply that it does not follow that you must follow it contrary to moral law — contrary to what is right. Then another thing to be considered is the determining influence. A man is either sane or insane; and the distinction is this: If a man can no longer control his action by the antagonism of faculties; if, for instance, by the antagonism of reason and the affections he cannot control the passions; if the antagonism among themselves of the balanced faculties is so weak that the individual is incapable of governing himself, then he is insane. But if a man is not insane, there is in him a power proceeding from the balance of faculties, by which the erring one or ones may be controlled. So that every man, up to the point of insanity, has latent in him, if he pleases to educate it and exercise it, the power of controlling by other forces in his mind those which incline him to go wrong. Well, now, if there be this antagonistic power, it becomes a question of dynamics. Men say, "I have such a powerful tendency to go wrong that you ought not to punish me." It is not to punish you, so much as it is to stimulate the dormant faculty from whose inactivity that tendency proceeds, that you are made to suffer. If when my child is convicted of wrong, he having been tempted by vanity to break down into lies, I severely chastise him, and put him to shame, I inflict pain upon him not only as a punishment, but as a restorative. For I say to myself, if that child's conscience is so feeble, I must give him some stimulus. If his fear is so influential in the wrong way, I must spring it in the other direction. In other words, just the opposite of the popular pleading is true. The weaker the child is to resist evil, the more powerful must be the motive that is brought to bear upon him to do well. I remark, in view of these statements and reasonings —
1. Sin is bad enough ordinarily. I do not refer to its influence upon others, but to its reactionary influence upon our own moral state. Not only is it bad enough, but ordinarily it is made worse by the mode in which men treat it. If men stopped, whenever they did wrong, and measured it, and called it by its proper name, and turned away from it, although the process of recovery would be slow, it would in many respects be salutary, by way of strengthening and educating the mind; but when men commit sin, and institute a special plea, and defend their wrong-doing, and conceal it, and equivocate concerning it, they are corrupted even more by the defence than by the wrong-doing itself. How sad is that condition in which the compass will not point to the polar star! If there be fatal attractions on the ship, and if the shipmaster has steered by a compass that is not true in its directions, it would be better if he had thrown it overboard; because he has perfect confidence in it, and it has been lying all the time. And if the conscience, that is the compass of the soul, is perverted, and does not point to truth and right, and men are guiding themselves by it, how fatally are they going down to destruction!
2. What is the reason of the stress that is laid in the Word of God on the subject of confessing and forsaking sin? "Let him that stole steal no more," etc. "Confess your faults one to another." This doctrine was the great recuperative element. It was the preaching of John. It was the initial preaching of Christ. It was the preaching of the apostles. It is the annunciation of the Gospel. Confess and forsake your sin. Own that it is sin. Be honest with yourself. Make at last to yourself a full and clear acknowledgment that wrong is wrong. All men fail, and come short of their duty; but some justify, and palliate, and excuse, and deny, while others confess, and repent, and forsake — and these last are the true men.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I spake unto you, rising up early.I. A GRACIOUS CALL. We are utterly undeserving of it. Though we are transgressors, guilty, corrupt, depraved, — yet God calls upon us — to escape — to live — to be saved — to turn unto Him, and be forever blest and happy.
II. AN AFFECTIONATE CALL. The call of a merciful Creator who hath no pleasure in the death and destruction of His fallen creatures: and would rather they should repent and live; the call of a tender Father, who looks with compassion upon the prodigal wanderer, invites and urges him to abandon his wretchedness and want, and come back to his home of plenty, and his Father's bosom again, and assures him of a joyous welcome if he will; the call of a Friend — that Friend that sticketh closer than a brother — even of Jesus our best friend, our elder brother.
III. A VARIED CALL. From every part of the outspread volume of creation, there issues a voice calling upon us, to know, fear, adore, worship, the great Creator. And as well as by His works, we are called upon by His ways — by His dealings with the children of men. The misfortunes and calamities that occur to others; and the bereavements, afflictions, and trials that happen to ourselves — the constant experience we have of the uncertainty of our present existence, and of the instability of all earthly good, by these and many similar things we are addressed and admonished to seek a more enduring substance, a more incorruptible and unfading inheritance. From every page, also, of the book of God there proceedeth a call, exhorting us to depart from iniquity, and follow after holiness, — to supplicate for pardoning mercy and for assisting grace.
IV. AN OFT-REPEATED — A REITERATED CALL. We are not appealed to once or twice, and then abandoned to our folly. Forbearance is exercised towards us from year to year; "line is given upon line, and precept upon precept," — here a little and there a little; so that we may have the last possible opportunity of being saved, and may not be left in despair until the last moment of the day of grace hath expired, and our souls be beyond the region of impression and awakening.
V. AN EARNEST CALL. Men may be light and trifling. God is always serious — always in earnest. He is in earnest in what He does, and in what He speaks. All the appeals and persuasions by which the Almighty follows you, as children hastening madly on to destruction, are embodied in the very terms, and wear the very air of the utmost earnestness; yea, so serious and earnest are they, that, when it is considered from whom they come, and to what they relate, the wonder is, that men are not at once startled by them, and arrested in their downward course, and constrained to hasten to the only safe Refuge from the gathering and impending storm.
VI. AN URGENT CALL. Its reference is to the present: it demands immediate attention and instant compliance.
Pray not thou for this people.1. God's prophets are praying men.
2. God's praying prophets have a great interest in heaven, how little soever they have on earth.
3. It is an ill omen to a people when God restrains the spirits of His ministers and people from praying for those condemned.
4. Those that will not regard good ministers' preaching cannot expect any benefit by their praying. If you will not hear us when we speak from God to you, God will not hear us when we speak to Him for you.
( M. Henry, D. D.)
Seest thou not what they do in the streets of Jerusalem?I. AS AN INDEX TO CHARACTER.
1. The streets are the pulse of commercial prosperity. The man who goes from a dull, sluggish place to a city of great business activity must quicken his pace, or get run over.
2. The street on which a man lives is no index to his character. It does not even indicate the amount of money he has. Not a few proud families stint their table to pay their rent on a costly street, in order to make or keep up appearances. Their fine street, to those who know the facts, is an index of their pretensions. Another man who has plenty of money lives on a cheap street, because he is too niggardly to pay rent for more comfortable quarters. To those who know him the street is an index of his meanness. A Christian man may choose to live on a cheap street, because he prefers to save money with which to do good. His street indicates self-denying liberality.
3. What can be seen on the streets of a city, however, is to a great extent an index of the character of its people. Dirty streets suggest dirty morals. If indecent handbills pollute the streets of a city, it indicates either sinful apathy, or a very low moral tone.
II. AS A TEST OF CHARACTER. To walk down one of our streets is to some men like going into a furnace. Their moral courage is tested at nearly every step. There is within them a demon of drink that can be waked from his sleep by the smell of a beer barrel. A deep-sea diver laid his hand on something soft, and curious to know what it was, he took hold of it to examine it. Fatal curiosity! The long tentacles of an octopus reached out and grasped him in its deadly embrace. The friends above, feeling the struggle, drew him to the surface, to find only a corpse still in the clutches of the monster. Many a young man has come from his pure country home to the great city, and, prompted by a curiosity excited by the signs on the streets, has entered one of these homes of the devil fish. Soon its slimy tentacles are wrapped around him, soul and body.
(A. C. Dixon, D. D.)
(T. E. Green, D. D.)
(R. S. M'All, LL. D.)
The children gather wood.I. GOD IS SETTING UP A KINGDOM IN THIS WORLD. A very glorious and gracious kingdom.
1. Righteousness. Teaches us to do justice.
2. Peace — to love and pursue it.
3. Joy. God makes all happy who come into His kingdom.
II. GOD EXPECTS US ALL TO WORK TO SET UP THIS KINGDOM. Christ came to set it up; ministers preach and labour for it; missionaries go to heathen; all God's people aid.
III. CHILDREN CAN DO SOMETHING TO SET UP THIS KINGDOM.
1. You can pray; that God would make you willing subjects of this kingdom.
2. You can talk; speak to others about Jesus, pardon, God, heaven.
3. You can work; give to missionary society, etc.
IV. CHILDREN ARE ALWAYS HAPPY WHEN TRYING TO SET UP THIS KINGDOM. Why? Because make others happy. Angels are happy, because employed making others happy. God is happy, for He blesses every one. And, when we act like God, we ourselves are happy.
V. GOD WILL NEVER FORGET THE LABOURS OF LITTLE CHILDREN FOR HIM. When children wanted to come to Jesus, He noticed their disposition, and said, "Never prevent a child from coming to Me"; then took in arms and blessed. When they sang in temple He noticed their song, and said, "Hearest thou what these say?" God loves,everything done by children, because it is a proof of their obedience and love.
Lay Preacher."Queen of Heaven," i.e., Ashtaroth, or the Moon. The Israelites fell into this idolatry in the time of the Judges. Solomon was carried away by it. Josiah suppressed it. We may learn a useful lesson from these young idolaters.
I. THEY WISHED TO BE USEFUL IN RELIGION.
II. THEY DID WHAT THEY COULD.
III. WHAT THEY DID WAS OF SERVICE. What can you do? For example, in —
IV. GOD DOES NOT DESPISE CHILDREN'S WORK. This fact is one which should be seriously pondered by children, parents, teachers.
Eccentric Preachers.It is said that Matthew Wilks, one of the founders of the London Missionary Society, chose this text when he preached the anniversary sermon; and in those days when trite and commonplace remarks from the pulpit were considered orthodox, and anything that was a little fresh and novel was looked upon with suspicion, every eye in the large assembly expressed astonishment at the preacher's selection. He had not proceeded far, however, when the feeling of astonishment gave way to pure delight, when all seemed convinced that the text, though uncommon, was by no means inappropriate. I have not seen the sermon; I only know that he dealt with it in the following manner. He said, I will contrast your objects with those of the worshippers of the queen of heaven. I will compare your ardour with theirs. I will muster your agents. And it was this part of the subject, in which he referred to the agents, namely, men, women, and children, which gave rise to the system of auxiliary institutions which now pervade the whole country, and combine in its support young and old, rich and poor.
To make cakes to the queen of heaven.
Went backward, and not forward.I. ILLUSTRATIONS OF GOING BACKWARD IN REGARD TO RELIGION.
1. From Jewish history. Compare best days of Solomon, when temple was dedicated, with these when jeremiah preached at gate. National mind darkened, conscience enfeebled, heart hardened.
3. Individual life.(1) Brought up in Christian home; back into thoughtlessness, dissipation, infidelity.(2) Awakened by power of truth, and gained a place in household of faith; go backward and "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience."(3) Trod noblest heights of Christian service; back to stagnation and ease.
II. CAUSES OF THIS GOING BACKWARD.
1. Negatively.(1) God never causes a human being to go backward from what is pure and good and true.(2) Nor must the charge be laid at the door of men or of Satan.
2. Positively.(1) The primary cause must be sought in man himself, his inclination to the things which are behind. Spiritual feebleness.(2) The secondary causes are temptations; the lusts, pleasures, and gains he desires to enjoy.(3) His weakness in yielding results from neglect of the means of strength, the Word of God, prayer, means of instruction and grace.
III. CONSEQUENCES OF GOING BACKWARD.
1. Displeasure of God.
2. Such as turn back are liable to sink into lowest depths of irreligion.
3. Experience of deepest remorse and reproach of conscience.Conclusion —
1. Stand fast in the Lord.
2. Despair not, but return.
Pilgrim's Progress, thought about going back, he recollected that he had no armour for his back. He had a breastplate, he was covered from head to foot by his shield, but there was nothing to protect his back, and therefore, if he retreated, the adversary could spit him with his javelin in a moment. So he thought that bad as it was to go forward, it would be worse to go backward, and therefore he bravely cut a path for himself straight onward for glory. Look at that fact whenever you are tempted: do not endure the idea of turning tail in the day of battle. May retreat be impossible to you! God makes it Impossible by His grace.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
They will not hearken to thee.I. INSTANCES ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE TEXT.
1. The original transgression of first parents.
2. The old world.
4. Jews as a nation.
II. HOW CAN THIS BE EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED?
1. Unless God did know results such as described He would be imperfect.
2. He is not the cause of the rebellion He foretells.
3. He never influences men to do wrong.
4. There are many ends to be attained by God.By speaking, though He knows men will not hearken.
(1) (2) (3) 1. Man's free agency is his glory. 2. God's infinite goodness is undoubted. 3. Our duty is manifest — to hear, obey, believe. 4. Thus men will be finally inexcusable, having had means employed for their restoration to holiness and God. (J. Burns, D. D.)
(2) (3) 1. Man's free agency is his glory. 2. God's infinite goodness is undoubted. 3. Our duty is manifest — to hear, obey, believe. 4. Thus men will be finally inexcusable, having had means employed for their restoration to holiness and God. (J. Burns, D. D.)
(3) 1. Man's free agency is his glory. 2. God's infinite goodness is undoubted. 3. Our duty is manifest — to hear, obey, believe. 4. Thus men will be finally inexcusable, having had means employed for their restoration to holiness and God. (J. Burns, D. D.)
1. Man's free agency is his glory.
2. God's infinite goodness is undoubted.
3. Our duty is manifest — to hear, obey, believe.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.).