O God, why hast Thou cast us off for ever? why doth Thine anger smoke against the sheep of Thy pasture
Homilist.I. THE WAIL (vers. 1-17).
1. Some communities of men are far more favoured of Heaven than others. The Jews were (vers. 1, 2). In this diversity of endowment —(1) There is no just reason for complaining of God. As the Sovereign Author of all life, He has an undoubted right to determine as to whether He should give life to any or not; what kind of life it should be, and to how many; and what kind or measure of power He should give to each.(2) There is no injury done to any. The man or community least favoured has no right to complain, for he is only responsible for what he has. Obligation is bounded by capacity.
2. The most favoured communities are not exempted from terrible calamities (vers. 7-9).
3. These terrible calamities are often inflicted by wicked men.
4. The wicked men who inflict these calamities are ever under the control of God.
(1) (2) (3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
(2) (3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
(3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23).
A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
I. His WORK. We must throw our minds back to the time when the temple was in course of building. This man had no gold, or silver, or precious stones to bring: it may have been that he had little or nothing of material substance at his command; but he had strength in his brawny arm, and he gave himself, his time and his labour, and all the ardour of a loving heart to the good cause. Now he is on his way to the stately cedars with a fixed purpose clearly set in his face; he selects those that are best fitted for the roof, or for beams, or pillars, or for the doors, or other finer parts of the work that must be carved with great taste and care; and if he can do nothing else for the national undertaking, he can at least do the rough work of felling trees.
II. His MOTIVE. Nothing is said about this in the text, but we may rest assured that his work would never have found a place in the sacred minstrelsy of the ancient Church, had there not been underlying it all a noble motive. It was the cause of God in the land that made him stand forth, and which brought him out of obscurity, just as it has done with many others in seasons of religious awakening, when the peasant and the artisan have come nobly forward to fight side by side, and generously to give of their substance for what was dearer to them than life itself. If the common people are not roused to action in the interests of true godliness, the heart of the nation will never be stirred to that combined effort, which must ever be put forth to secure any permanent good, and to give vitality and stability to any great religious movement. It is, therefore, a pleasing picture to us, to see "our man" with his axe, which he consecrates most heartily to the cause of righteousness and truth. The work he does with it is not for personal or selfish ends, but for the nation; yea, for the world — for God Himself. It is this that gives surpassing dignity to every stroke, and makes him stand out on the page of the sacred record as a striking example of unselfish service, and true, honest work.
III. HIS REWARD.
1. This he received, in the noble enthusiasm with which he inspired others. Such a man could not but have a large following. He was from the people, and many of his comrades, animated by a similar spirit, went forth with him to do valiant things. The man who can move others for good has received a great gift, and when he makes use of it he has his reward in the number of enthusiastic followers he draws into the same path.
2. In the consciousness that he was doing good. The commendation of one's own conscience, and the sunshine of God's approving smile, are no small part of the reward connected with any work of faith or labour of love.
3. In the sacred memorial of the text. Rough as the work of the man referred to appears to be, in the mere felling of trees, it reached the very depths, and at the same time rose to the sublimest heights of man's spiritual nature, for it was inseparably bound up with the glorious future that lies before the cause of God, in its fullest development in earth or in heaven. The marble may be broken up and crumble into dust, and every feature that genius has impressed upon it may pass away, but the influence and the record of true worth are eternal as the spirit of goodness itself, and like the word of the Lord must endure for ever. So shall it be with the memorial of this man.
4. In the "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." He did his work for God in a loving spirit, and was called home when it was done to enter into his rest, and to receive his reward.
IV. His LIFE-LESSONS.
1. It matters not whether we work with the axe or the pen, with hand or with brain; given but the power of true faith, there will be work done, and that of a kind to an extent that will surprise ourselves and others. We have all our daily tasks, and in doing them honestly and thoroughly well, we are doing nobly for ourselves, for others, and for God, and thus the toils of every day may be pervaded by the Master's spirit, and lifted up to a higher level, far above the mere drudgery of life.
2. Passing from this personal view of the work for Christ in our own hearts and in connection with His Church, let me remind you that you are all members of the general community, and as such should be deeply interested in its welfare, and ready to do your part in securing this.
(A. Wallace, D. D.)
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
I. LET US GLANCE AT THE SYNAGOGUES OF JUDAEA AND IN THE ANCIENT WORLD. And we note —
1. That they express one of the greatest marvels of Providence. They were to be the places where, and by means of which, the message of the Gospel was to be delivered. The Jews had synagogues everywhere, and thus God by His providence had prepared the field in which first the Gospel seed was sown.
2. They were intimately connected with our Lord's work.
3. And with the ministry of the apostles.
II. AT THE SYNAGOGUES OF GOD TO-DAY. The word means a coming together, and it expresses an essential idea of Christian worship. And they are synagogues of God. This the main thing. There God works and blesses souls. And think of them all, and of those especially in our own land. May God's power be manifested in them more and more.
We see not our signs.
I. THE NATURE OF THEIR SIGNS. They are marks of God's favour, and there appear to be two classes of them.
1. Those which, if removed, would not remove the thing itself which they signify. The crown of a monarch, you may take that away, but he remains a monarch still. Remove the milestones on a road, but you do not remove the distances which they indicate. Banknotes also. But —
2. There are other signs which are constituent parts of the thing itself, so that the taking away of the sign is a taking away of the thing. For example, the lengthening days are a sign of spring; but if there be not this sign there is no spring. Now, of this sort of sign are those which the text tells of. Not, however, entirely. For good works may be absent, partly and for a time, but the life of grace may yet be present. And when good works are present they are not infallible signs of grace.
3. But for the most part the sign and the thing it indicates go together. As, the fear of the Lord; the spirit of grace and of supplication; repentance; faith in Christ; love to the Lord's people and to Christ; the witness of the Spirit; a life consistent with the Gospel.
II. THE SEEING OF THESE SIGNS. What does this mean? It is implied that there are times when the signs can be seen, as well as when they cannot. Now, what is requisite to see them? Those that travel along the heavenward way have certain landmarks — Ebenezers, stones of help. But in order to see them there must be light, that told of in Psalm 36:9; not the pale moonlight of speculation, nor the frosty northern light of cold doctrine, nor the meteor light — the "ignis fatuus " of delusion; not the mere phosphoric light, which dimly gleams by rubbing together rotten evidences; not the sparks of their own kindling, elicited by the collision of flinty hearts and steeled consciences; we want no light such as we can make, but the Lord's light.
III. WHY IT IS THAT WE SEE NOT OUR SIGNS. Some people say they can always see them. This is not true, and the belief of it full of evil. But the causes of our not seeing them are various: the smoke of infidelity; the fogs of unbelief; the valley of trouble; the sun may go down by the Lord's bidding. But all this will be a source of sorrow and lamentation, for such things are no signs of grace, though not inconsistent with it. But you must have seen the signs before you can lament that you see them not.
(J. C. Philpot.)
I. First, then, as to THE FACT — how far this description of the text answers to anything that exists in our own times. I have in view chiefly the bearings of this subject on religion, but it is not in religion only, but in all the spheres of our thought and life that I think this falling off of the greater order of minds can be detected. We had a series of great poets in the early part and middle of last century. Where is the poet of the present day whose works are likely to live like theirs? We have had a succession of great writers of fiction — their books are on every one's shelves — but where is the writer of to-day whose books we would put in the same rank? We have had great musicians — Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, and the like. Their compositions live. Who are producing pieces of the same grandeur? We have had a century of great statesmen. It is no disparagement of the men of the younger generation to say that they are not men of the calibre of those who have led the country for the last fifty or eighty years. We had a generation or two of great preachers — men like Chalmers, Guthrie, MacLeod. Once more the piety and teaching of the past generation gave us Christians, whose weight of religious character it was a pleasure to acknowledge — men reverent, sober-minded, deeply instructed in God's Word, massive in Christian substance, matured and real in Christian experience; is the newer type of religious character — brighter and more attractive as it is in some of its aspects — characterized by anything like the same depth, solidity, and durableness?
II. THE causes of this apparent absence, in all spheres of life, of the greater order of men in our midst, and what are the possible remedies.
1. One thing which should give us hope is the fact that after every great and creative epoch in history, there comes necessarily a period of pause. The human mind cannot always be at its highest stretch. History does not flow on evenly, but in great ebbs and flows — in grand creative epochs, followed by long-breathing spaces, in times when the strongest call is made for great men, and they are drawn out and developed by the very magnitude of the crisis that calls for them, and quieter times, when people rejoice in the possessions they have won, and do not feel impelled to great efforts.
2. Again, it is to be remembered that after every great creative period which men live through, there comes a time when the results of that creative activity have to be gathered up; and this very process puts of necessity a check, for the time being, on further production. This, indeed, is how history proceeds — there is first a great burst of creative genius under the influence of some new idea or impulse; then, when the wealth of that new movement has been poured into the lap of the age, men have the new task laid upon them of sitting down and looking carefully into the nature of their treasure, taking stock of it, as it were, seeing what it really amounts to; getting to understand it, and working it out to its practical results. This is the labour of industry more than of creation, but it is equally essential to the world's progress. There is another part of this task which is of great importance. With every great advance of thought or discovery — with every burst of new truth into the world — there is laid on those who receive it, the duty of adjusting it to the truth they already possess.
3. There are, however, special causes which do belong to the character of the present age which tend, I think, to explain more particularly the dearth of the greatest type of minds in our midst.(1) It is obvious that from the very multiplicity of its possessions our age tends to diffusion rather than to concentration.(2) Our age is critical rather than constructive.(3) The bent of the present age has been to material ends rather than spiritual.
(James Orr, D. D.)
(T. R. Williams.)
O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme Thy name for ever?1. Men's patience is much short of God's longsuffering and forbearance; for here it is the speech of a suffering people: "O God, how long shall the adversary reproach?" when with God it is not yet time to fall upon them.
2. The Lord's longsuffering patience doth greatly harden the adversaries in their insolent mocking of God's people; for instead of saying, Lord, how long wilt Thou bear with them? he saith, "O God, how long shall the adversaries reproach?"
3. The truly godly can endure their own troubles better than they can bear the open dishonouring and blaspheming of God by occasion of their trouble. Therefore this expression, from the deepest sense of his heart, doth break forth, "Shall the enemy blaspheme Thy name for ever?"
4. Albeit tentations from carnal sense do represent God as if He were idle when He suffers His enemies to trample on His people, and on His glorious Name; yet faith will not admit of such a thought, but dealeth with God by prayer, to let His strength and power be so manifest, that the world may not think His hand is in His bosom; "Why withdrawest thou thy hand?" etc. This he believeth the Lord shall do, and giveth reasons for his hope, in that which followeth.
For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.I. LOYALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. "My King."
II. OF ANCIENT DATE. "Of old."
III. BENEFICENT IN OPERATION. "Working salvation." At this time, as the psalm indicates, His people were in a most desolate and afflicted state. Was the King working for their salvation? Their misery arose from their sin from their rebellion against His authority and govern-mont. At present, darkness, suffering, and sorrow are here, but they are here because sin is here. God rules to bless.
IV. AS A PLEA FOR HIS HELP. He mentions what God had done for them in olden time, and pleads that as their King He would interpose for them again. As their King —
1. He would possess sovereign authority.
2. He would be faithful to His sovereign obligations.
3. He was immutable. This plea may be used by us —(1) As communities forming part of His Church. When any portion of His Church languishes, or is afflicted, or is in difficulty, it may plead with the King for help.(2) As individuals on our own behalf. In our times of perplexity and distress, let us go to our King, and plead with Him for direction and deliverance.
Thou brakest the heads Of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
I. THE BIRDS AND BEASTS OF THE DESERT. The carcases of the Egyptians became their prey.
II. THE JEWS THEMSELVES. For literally, Pharaoh and his hosts became meat for them by the spoils they took from them. And morally, because they gained from the event food for their faith, gratitude, and hope.
III. CHRISTIANS TO-DAY. For they are such a people: the world is a wilderness to them, not their rest. And for them many leviathans have been destroyed. Satan's power: the curse and condemnation of our natural state. And the remembrance will feed our humility, gratitude and trust. And there have been providential interpositions also. Take note of these things.
The day is Thine, the night also is Thine.I. GOD'S ORDINANCES.
1. Day is a Divine institution, and is strongly characterized by that wisdom and goodness which are over all God's works. In its principal feature — light — light over all, filling the heavens, flushing the earth, mantling over hill and valley, meadow and plain, kindling the great face of the ocean into a mirror, till it reflects on its bosom all that is above it, and repeats in shadow all that is upon it — it may even be regarded as the similitude of God, for "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."
2. But if the day is God's institution, so also is the night, which is not less closely written over with the characters of His wisdom and goodness. If day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night showeth knowledge. They are parts and counterparts of each other. The day makes us ready to welcome the night, and the night furnishes us with a standard by which to measure and estimate the splendours of the day.
II. GOD'S SERVANTS. Neither of these two servants of God ever rests. There is always day somewhere, and there is always night somewhere. Continually the night is laying down one half the world to repose, and continually the day is leading forth the other half of the world to work. The night receives the world weary from the hands of the day, and puts it to rest; and the day receives the world refreshed from the hands of the night, and lights it to action. And all the time also they are otherwise doing for man what man cannot do for himself. They are growing his food. They are weaving his raiment. They are enriching his dwelling-place with beauty and verdure. And in all this multiform kindness to us they are serving God, fulfilling His pleasure, doing what He meant them to do, when He set them in the heavens to be for signs and for seasons, for days and for years. So that, in point of fact, this manifold service of nature is just God's kindness to us through the ministry of His two great servants, the day and the night.
III. GOD'S ABSOLUTE POSSESSION. That is to say, we are not at liberty to do what we choose with them. For the manner in which we deal, with the possibilities of good which they contain, we are strictly and constantly under law to God. In ministering to us as He has ordained, they are serving Him. But in the use we make of them we must serve Him too. What they do unconsciously we must do consciously, in the exercise of those higher faculties which render us capable of a higher service. God has always been jealous of the treatment His servants have received at the hands of those whom He has appointed them to serve. "Touch not Mine anointed, nor do My prophets any harm." And even these unconscious and inanimate servants, the Day and the Night, have a voice in His ears which He does not disregard, calling for judgment on those who treat them ill, who turn them to purposes of selfishness and sin; who degrade them to be the ministers of unworthy pleasures, or even slothful ease, and who do not rather send them back to their Proprietor laden with the fruits of righteousness unto life everlasting.
(A. L. Simpson, D. D.)
(Canon Scott Holland.)
The night also is Thine
I. AS A DIVISION OF TIME. And as such it is —
1. The first.
4. Beneficent. "The dews of the night heal the wounds of the day."
II. AS THE PRODUCT AND POSSESSION OF GOD. Of storm as well as of calm, of night as well as of day. God is at once the Source and Sovereign. Therefore —
1. A lesson for the regulation of conduct. Take care to wisely and rightly use the night time.
2. A message for the consolation of human sorrows. For our nights of pain and sorrow are ordained, relieved and terminated by God.
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: Thou hast made summer and winter
(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
I. IT REMINDS US OF GOD'S EXISTENCE. The glory of the world declares that the living God stands behind the world; for if He did not stand behind it and pervade it with His gracious energy, there could be none of this beauty. Beauty is always the outward and visible sign of indwelling mind. Mere paint does not make a picture, no matter how fine you may grind the colours; mere stone does not make an Athenian Parthenon, or a Doge's palace, or a Giotto's tower; mere wind and reeds do not make grand music; it is the soul of the artist that gives grace and grandeur to the things which delight the world. Objects of art are beautiful as they express great thoughts; the final secret is always intellectual.
II. IT REMINDS US OF GOD'S BEAUTY. To the Jew God was full of wisdom, and justice, and patience, and tenderness, and benevolence, and this was the supreme primal glory which lights up with splendour both heaven and earth. "How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!" And the New Testament fully recognizes this glorious truth. "The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory," etc. The Deity was made known to us as the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley — the most delicate and majestic beauty of character and action were revealed in Him. He was strong, wise, pure, gentle, longsuffering, just, true, and full of infinite love and grace. This is the beauty of God, the beauty of holiness, and all other beauty is but a broken gleam of this.
III. IT REMINDS US OF GOD'S LOVE. In the day of creation, "God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." And blighted as creation has been by sin and wrath, we still know that the essentim plan is good, the deepest facts and laws are the best. Evil is on the surface; it is the accident, not the fundamental fact of the world and life. Philosophy and science tell us that all beauty is organic, that it always springs from the depths of a thing; and so let us be sure that, where there is so much beauty in the form of things, there must be love at the heart of things.
IV. IT REMINDS US OF GOD'S BLESSEDNESS. "He hath made summer." He must be happy; it is the entrancing expression of His deep happiness. What a joy to know that the omnipotent One is the blessed One — a great bright ocean of sunshine and music! And does not the summer remind us that God wishes us to share His gladness? And many of us, perhaps, are full of darkness and distress. What we want is the summer putting into us. We want the tender blue sky putting into our mind; we want all the flowers that grow about our feet to spring in our heart; we want to hear in our spirit the music of the world; we want to get the rainbow into our conscience; we want all the fruits of light to enrich and adorn our life. This is what we want most of all. Well, is not God waiting to do this very thing for us?
(W. L. Watkinson.)
Homilist.Summer illustrates —
I. SOME ASPECTS OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER.
1. God's love of beauty.
2. God's wonderful wisdom.(1) The simplicity of the agencies which produce such a variety of results — creating the beautiful, picturesque, and the sublime — sustaining life — increasing happiness, and producing expansion of soul.(2) The permanent maintenance of these agencies. Earth still wears the freshness of Eden, wherever there are the perceiving eye and the sympathizing heart. And is not the truth felt by us, that the mind of God is unchangeable towards man, although His final purposes are not vet completed?
3. God's infinite benevolence.(1) It is given to all to enjoy.(2) It is appreciable by all.
II. SOME ASPECTS OF HUMAN LIFE.
1. The imperceptible progress of the spring into summer is a representation of the gradual advance of the mind in knowledge.
2. The gladsomeness of summer is an emblem of the temporal prosperity of man.
3. The luxuriance and loveliness of the summer is an emblem of the progress of the soul in the Divine life. There was as violent a struggle in nature between winter and spring as there was in the soul between sin and holiness; but the latter gained the victory, and it expands with life under the influences of the Holy Spirit and the Sun of Righteousness, as the fields and woods under the heat of the sun. And as the life of nature depends on the bounty of God, so does the life of the soul. And as the scenes of nature excite our admiration and love, souls Consecrated to His service in the dawn of manhood will kindle emotions of gratitude in our hearts too deep for utterance.
I. THAT GOD'S POWER IS NEVER DIMINISHED, NOR HIS RESOURCES EXHAUSTED.
II. Again: The text reminds us HOW PATIENTLY THE GOOD LORD BEARS WITH THE INGRATITUDE OF MAN. The slightest disappointment of our unimportant plans by a shower of rain will be met by complaints and murmurings, as if we were the only beings to be thought of, and our convenience to be consulted before that of all others. "All weather is good; sunshine is good; rain is good. One may see in Europe artificial waterworks, cascades constructed by the skill of man, at enormous expense — at Chatsworth, at Hesse Cassel — and the remains of magnificent waterworks at Marly, where Louis XIV. lavished uncounted millions of gold... The traveller thinks it a great thing to see a little water thus pumped up by creaking machinery or a panting steam-engine, to be scattered in frothy spray; and do we talk of its not being a good day when God's great engine is exhibited to us, His imperial waterwork sending up the mists and vapours to the clouds, to be rained down again in comfort, and beauty, and plenty?"
III. If we are bringing forth the FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, no doubt the Holy Ghost has visited and blessed us. There is a delightful period of the year, known as Indian summer, and, in some parts of Europe, as St. Martin's summer. The woods put on their most brilliant colouring, the waters of the lakes are smooth and unruffled, and the red man of the forest are wont to welcome it as the special gift of their most honoured Deity, to whom they believe their souls go after death. As in nature, so in grace also do we find a pleasant illustration here: "In the life of the good man there is an Indian summer more beautiful than that of the season — richer, sunnier, and more sublime than the world has ever known — it is the Indian summer of the soul. When the glow of youth has departed, when the warmth of middle age is gone, then the mind of the good man, still ripe and vigorous, relaxes its labours, and the memories of a well-spent life gush forth from their secret fountains, enriching, rejoicing, fertilizing; and the soul, assuming a heavenly lustre, is no longer shut up within the narrow confines of business, but dwells happily upon the summer which awaits it within the gates of Paradise." Does not the same gracious God who makes summer in the physical, make it also in the spiritual world? And if the summer of the one be glorious, must not the summer of the other be even more glorious? Surely the joyful song of the ransomed ones, during the days of millennial glory, will be, "Thou hast made summer."
(J. N. Norton.)
(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
I. THE BEAUTIES OF WINTER.
II. THE WONDERS OF WINTER. One of the greatest wonders of winter is its most common product, ice. Had water followed the general law, and contracted and become specifically heavier in the act Of freezing, how terrible would have been the consequences to our comforts and perhaps our lives! Whenever the atmosphere had reached the freezing point, the water on the surface of lakes and rivers would, in the act of freezing, sink and form a layer of ice on the bottom. Another layer would immediately follow from the same cause, and this process going on through the several months of winter, would solidify all the water available for the use of man so thoroughly, that the heat of summer could never melt it, and after a time, the springs of water in the earth would cease to flow except in the tropical regions. How fully does the existing order of nature obviate all such difficulties and dangers, since the ice remains on the surface, and prevents the cold from solidifying the water to any great depth, and then is exposed to the direct rays of the sun and the warmth of the atmosphere, which liquefy it, whenever the season of cold is past. What a continued and apparent evidence have we thus furnished us during the winter, of the wonderful wisdom of God, and His wonderful care for the welfare of man. Another wonder of even greater value to us is, that the atmosphere we breathe is not capable of being congealed. If it were otherwise, life would speedily come to an end in the arctic and temperate zones. That it is not so, is an evidence of the kindness and wisdom of Him who is "wonderful in counsel."
III. THE BLESSINGS OF WINTER. Suppose there was no winter, and consequently no cold and no difference in the degrees of temperature on the face of the earth. Many, without reflection, would say that if this monotone of temperature could be such a delightful medium as we sometimes enjoy in spring or autumn, it would be a great blessing to have it perpetuated. But if this state of things should exist, wind which is caused by the air rushing from a colder to a warmer place could not exist, and there could be no stirring of the atmosphere, except on such a limited scale as artificial means could effect. Then the impurities of the air which are now carried away and disinfected by the winds, would remain stationary until the atmosphere became loaded with them; the vapours which arise from the ocean would also remain stationary, and could not be wafted over the land to refresh by their shade, and invigorate by their descent in rain; and the deadly impurities of the air would be supplemented by the deadly drought, and would be aided by the deadly contagion of disease, to sweep the face of the earth with the besom of death, and make the imaginary paradise a perpetual desert. Let us never forget it as one of the chief causes of gratitude for earthly blessings, that we can say to our God, "Thou hast made winter."
(N. D. Williamson.)
I. ITS LESSONS.
1. Divine power.
(1) (2) (3) 2. Divine equity. As in grace, so in nature; He is no respecter of persons; "He maketh His sun to shine upon the evil and the good," and though the blessings of nature are infinitely diversified, yet each zone has natural products, wisely adapted to its peoples. God decrees the alternation of winter and summer for the general good. At our summer solstice He says to the north, "Give up I" and winter gradually returns; and at our winter solstice, He says to the south, "Keep not back!" and the south flinging open her sunny gates, permits the return of summer to bless our isle. 3. Divine providence. The preservation of the feathered tribes in this season clearly and pleasingly illustrates this doctrine. You have seen during protracted snow storms, these interesting creatures picking up a precarious meal as best they could. Naturalists tell us considerable numbers necessarily perish; the wonder is all do not die, that any are left to warble the overtime of spring, or swell the chorus of summer. Well, winter teaches us of a great Provider who "opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing," and reminds us that He who in summer makes the lily more beautiful "than Solomon in all his glory," in winter cares for the feathered flocks "which have no storehouse or barn." If the providence of God respects the less, will it neglect the greater? II. ITS EMBLEMS. 1. A barren Church. 2. A backsliding state. 3. Old age. 4. Death. (1) (2) (T. J. Guest.)
(2) (3) 2. Divine equity. As in grace, so in nature; He is no respecter of persons; "He maketh His sun to shine upon the evil and the good," and though the blessings of nature are infinitely diversified, yet each zone has natural products, wisely adapted to its peoples. God decrees the alternation of winter and summer for the general good. At our summer solstice He says to the north, "Give up I" and winter gradually returns; and at our winter solstice, He says to the south, "Keep not back!" and the south flinging open her sunny gates, permits the return of summer to bless our isle. 3. Divine providence. The preservation of the feathered tribes in this season clearly and pleasingly illustrates this doctrine. You have seen during protracted snow storms, these interesting creatures picking up a precarious meal as best they could. Naturalists tell us considerable numbers necessarily perish; the wonder is all do not die, that any are left to warble the overtime of spring, or swell the chorus of summer. Well, winter teaches us of a great Provider who "opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing," and reminds us that He who in summer makes the lily more beautiful "than Solomon in all his glory," in winter cares for the feathered flocks "which have no storehouse or barn." If the providence of God respects the less, will it neglect the greater? II. ITS EMBLEMS. 1. A barren Church. 2. A backsliding state. 3. Old age. 4. Death. (1) (2) (T. J. Guest.)
(3) 2. Divine equity. As in grace, so in nature; He is no respecter of persons; "He maketh His sun to shine upon the evil and the good," and though the blessings of nature are infinitely diversified, yet each zone has natural products, wisely adapted to its peoples. God decrees the alternation of winter and summer for the general good. At our summer solstice He says to the north, "Give up I" and winter gradually returns; and at our winter solstice, He says to the south, "Keep not back!" and the south flinging open her sunny gates, permits the return of summer to bless our isle. 3. Divine providence. The preservation of the feathered tribes in this season clearly and pleasingly illustrates this doctrine. You have seen during protracted snow storms, these interesting creatures picking up a precarious meal as best they could. Naturalists tell us considerable numbers necessarily perish; the wonder is all do not die, that any are left to warble the overtime of spring, or swell the chorus of summer. Well, winter teaches us of a great Provider who "opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing," and reminds us that He who in summer makes the lily more beautiful "than Solomon in all his glory," in winter cares for the feathered flocks "which have no storehouse or barn." If the providence of God respects the less, will it neglect the greater? II. ITS EMBLEMS. 1. A barren Church. 2. A backsliding state. 3. Old age. 4. Death. (1) (2) (T. J. Guest.)
II. ITS EMBLEMS.
1. A barren Church.
2. A backsliding state.
3. Old age.
(T. J. Guest.)
(T. J. Guest.)
(W. Blatch, M. A.)
I. WINTER BELONGS TO THE PLAN OF HEAVEN, and is a season indispensably necessary. It aids the system of life and vegetation; it kills the seeds of infection, and destroys pestilential damps; it refines the blood; it gives us vigour and courage; it confirms the nerves, and braces up the relaxed solids. Snow is a warm covering for the corn; and while it defends the tender blades from nipping frosts, it also nourishes their growth. Isaiah remarked this. Winter is the needful repose of Nature, after her labours for the welfare of the creation. But even this pause is only to acquire new strength; or rather it is a silent and secret energy of preparation to surprise and charm us again with fresh abundance.
II. WINTER IS A SEASON WHICH HAS ITS PLEASURES. I love to hear the roaring of the wind. I love to see the figures which the frost has painted on the glass. I love to watch the redbreast with his slender legs, standing at the window and knocking with his bill to ask for the crumbs which fall from the table.
III. WINTER IS A SEASON IN WHICH WE SHOULD PECULIARLY FEEL GRATITUDE for our residence, accommodations, and conveniences. Things strike us more forcibly by comparison. Let us remember how much more temperate our climate is than that of many other countries. Our winter is nothing when we turn to the Frigid Zone. When the French mathematicians wintered at Tornea, in Lapland, the external air suddenly admitted into their rooms, seizing the moisture, became whirls of snow; their breasts were rent when they breathed it; and the contact of it with their bodies was intolerable. We read of seven thousand Swedes who perished at once, in attempting to pass the mountains which divide Norway from Sweden.
IV. THIS SEASON CALLS UPON US TO EXERCISE BENEVOLENCE. Sympathy is now more powerfully excited than at any other period; we are enabled more easily to enter into the feelings of others less favoured than ourselves. And while we are enjoying every convenience and comfort which the tenderness of Providence can afford — oh, let us think of the indigent and miserable. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
V. WINTER SHOULD IMPROVE US IN KNOWLEDGE. It affords leisure, and excludes many interruptions — it is, therefore, favourable to application. Let us read, and study, and prepare for action and usefulness in life. And let us not pass heedlessly by those subjects of reflection and improvement which the very season itself yields. How instructive, for instance, is the goodness of God, not only in the preservation of the human race, but in taking care of all the millions of animals during a period which threatens to destroy them! What a number of retreats does He provide for them! Some of them, by a singular instinct, change the places of their residence. Some of them are lulled into a profound sleep for weeks and months. And all this teaches us, first, to resemble Him, and be kind to every being. If we learn of Him, we cannot be cruel to the brute creation. The season is also instructive as an emblem. Here is the picture of life — thy flowery spring, thy summer, thine autumn, and at last thy winter. See to it that thou art possessor of eternal life.
Have respect unto the covenant.— It is the covenant of grace, not of works, that we are to plead.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THIS PLEA.
1. Fulfil thy covenant: let it not be a dead letter.
2. Fulfil all its promises.
3. Let nothing hinder or turn them aside.
II. WHENCE THIS PLEA DERIVES ITS FORCE.
1. From the veracity of God.
2. His jealousy for His honour.
3. The venerable character of She covenant.
4. Its solemn endorsement, God's Word.
5. Its seal — the blood of Christ.
6. Nothing in it has ever failed.
7. The testimony of God's dying people.
III. HOW AND WHEN THIS COVENANT MAY BE PLEADED.
1. Under a sense of sin.
2. Labouring after holiness.
3. When under strong temptation.
4. Or in great distress.
IV. PRACTICAL INFERENCES.
1. Have a grateful respect for the covenant to which you pray the Lord to have respect.
2. Have joy in it.
3. Be jealous for it.
4. Practically respect it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty
I. THE WORLD'S NEED OF GOD. "The dark places," etc.
1. How dark a system is idolatry: see its sin, and misery, and cruelty.
II. GOD'S PROVISION FOR THE WORLD. The covenant tells of the Gospel with all its abundant provisions. It brings light; it implants love. Christ is offered as food for the hungry, pardon for the guilty, consolation for the mourner, life for the dead.
III. HOW IS THIS REMEDY TO BE APPLIED?
1. God Himself must apply it. But —
2. We must pray for the heathen; pray in public and at home.
3. And we must send messengers to the heathen who shall tell them of Christ.
(John Hambleton, M. A.)
Let the poor and needy praise Thy name.