The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!"—Lamentations 2:1
Still the prophet is dwelling upon the sufferings of Jerusalem. The image is that of an infinite thundercloud dissolving in a tremendous tempest, under which the beauty of Israel perishes and the temple itself is overthrown. It is supposed that the "footstool" is the Ark of the Cover ant, which was involved in the destruction of the temple. It is to be noticed that the word "Lord" here is not Jehovah, but Adonai: by such changes of designation, moral change on the part of Jerusalem is indicated. Sometimes the minor name is used, and sometimes the major, according as Jerusalem realises the greatness of its sin or the nearness and love of God. All God's acceptances of humanity are conditional. We are only safe so long as we are obedient. God keeps his thunder for his friends as certainly as for his enemies, if they be unfaithful to the covenant which unites them: nay, would it not be correct to say that a more terrible thunder is reserved for those who, knowing the right, yet pursue the wrong? "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." If we had been in darkness God would have been pitiful to us, but because we say, We see, therefore our sin remaineth. Even the ark has no meaning to God as a mere piece of mechanism; it is only of value in proportion as it represents in living activity the law and the mercy which it symbolises. We cannot live in a holy past: we can only live in a sacred present; not because a lifetime ago we prayed and served and did our duty lovingly can we be saved. We are what we are from day to day. Yesterday's virtue is not set down against this day's negligence. As every day must bear its own burden, so every day must witness to its own faithfulness. Nothing is carried over from the account of yesterday to the account of today. Each link in the whole chain of life must be strong, or the chain itself will give way at the weakest point.
"Children of a Span Long"
The English language is very rich, yet very poor. Most rich people are poor when you come to know them and want them. This English language is both a millionaire and a pauper. It is not rich in fine grades and shades of meaning It has a right hand and a left, and there is an end of it; it is black and white, and up and down, and new and old,—rough divisions of that kind. So we are rough people, dealing largely in rough and rude judgments, cutting things off sharply, forgetting where we cut them and for what end. If we speak of children, that is about all we have to say,—"the children," that is all. They may be "a span long," or they may be going to school; they may be in the cradle, or they may have assumed their first full suit: still, they are all children. That is very English; rude and snubbing, curt, and wanting in roundness and delicacy and fineness and colour. So the Bible has suffered from our poverty of language. Many passages we do not understand by reading them in English. Happily they are not passages upon which the salvation of the soul depends. Everything necessary to salvation is written as with a pencil of light. There is no ambiguity about the Cross; there is no double meaning about the need of Christ's priesthood for the salvation and ultimate sanctification and coronation of humanity. Yet there are many passages in which distinctions of meaning would be like floods of light.
Jewish writers and commentators even of modern days tell us that the Jews had nine different words by which to say "child." Everything depended upon the word that was used. From the word you knew exactly the age of the child, the ability of the child, the point of development attained by the child; you had no questions to ask. There was, of course, a common word by which children were all designated when there was no need to discriminate and specify. A boy was Ben—Ben-ezra, Benjamin; son of Ezra, son of Jamin. The girl was Bath—Ben and Bath, masculine and feminine, signifying generally "children." But the Hebrew, we are told by the Jewish writers of eminence, did not rest there. That would have been enough for us,—a Ben and a Bath, and there is an end of it with the English language. That English language was not made for the finer theology. There was Yeled, and the Hebrew said that word meant the child was "newly born," quite a little, little thing. Exodus ii. is full of it:—"put the child therein;... she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept.... And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother." The Hebrew called the little one Yeled. It had no need to ask whether it was seven years old or three months, or whether it was going to school: it was Yeled. Sometimes the child was Yonek—"Out of the mouths of babes hast thou ordained strength." The English has done its best there; it has invented the word "babe." In Jeremiah (Jeremiah 44:7) we have—"child and suckling, out of Judah." Sometimes the word was Oled, as in the text. When the Hebrew said Oled, the Jewish writer to whom I am indebted for the nine instances tells us that the meaning was, the child was about to be weaned. There was no need to multiply words; Oled was the word that held all the meaning. Sometimes the child was called Gamul; then it was getting independent of its mother, it was looking otherwhere for sustenance,—a dangerous part of life; yet it must come. In Isaiah (Isaiah 11:8) we read, "And the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den." Then the child advanced and was called Taph, and we are told that Taph means the quickly stepping; no longer carried by hits mother, but toddling sharply, taking little short steps to keep up with the longer strides of the mother: do you see it? The child is now getting on. That is referred to in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:7)—"men, and women, and children." It is referred to in Esther (Esther 3:13)—"both young and old, little children and women, in one day." The Hebrew woman did not say, The child could now walk quite nicely; she said, "Taph." Then the child advanced and stood straighter; he looked broader: speaking of the child at that time he was called Elem, the strong; he was ready to assist his parents in their labour, though he was not independent. We read of this kind in 1Samuel 20:22—"But if I say thus unto the young man," called in the verse before the "lad": between two periods of life, a most awkward age, just ceasing to be a boy and hardly yet beginning to be a man; in what we call a very touchy and sensitive condition of life; better to be spoken to as little as possible, and never lectured. The child advanced, and he became Naar, the free, coming from a verb, we are told, which signifies to walk about freely and defend himself. We read of these people in Genesis 37:2 and Judges 8:20. Finally came the ninth condition of the child, and he was spoken of as Bachur, the mellowed, the ripe, marriageable, fit for military service. So the little one grew up; so the generations come and go; so the days will never let us stand still. He who but yesterday was a Ben has now grey hairs here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not Time flies; eternity seems to come to meet it half-way.
When the male child was about thirty days old the Jewish commentators relate what befell in the family. There came into operation what was called the law of redemption—a law enforced amongst the Jews unto this day. The friends are called together to a little repast, the parents call to the repast a descendant of Aaron (a kind of priest, I suppose) called Cohen. The father had deposited with the priest thirty silver shekels of the sanctuary (eleven or twelve shillings of English money), and after grace and prayers and what religious rites I know not, the priest asked the father whether he would have the child or the shekels. The father replied that he would have the child; then the priest took the shekels and swung them around the child's head and uttered religious words, and the firstborn male thus became free. What a glorious interpretation is given of this by the Apostle Peter! Speaking of Christians he said, Ye were not redeemed with eleven or twelve shillings—ye were not redeemed with silver and gold; ye are the Lord's freemen, blood-bought,—stand up,—saved and crowned and enfranchised in the city of God.
Yet we must not altogether imitate the Jews. Though they had many fine distinctions in language, some of their distinctions were too fine for us and for Christian reasoning. The Jewish writer already referred to says that when he was in Moab he was talking to a sheikh who had "four wives and five children," and soon after the sheikh said he had "six daughters." "But," said the Jewish writer, "you told me a day or two ago you had only five children; now you say you have five children and six daughters—five and six are eleven." "Yes," said the sheikh, "but in counting children we do not count daughters." That is a distinction the more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Mark the difference in Christ. In Christ there is neither male nor female, circumcised nor uncircumcised, bond nor free. Christ looks upon us as human, touched with the colour of heaven, throbbing with the pulsations of eternity. When he died he counted the women and the children, boys and girls, and the old men: he died for the whole world.
In training human life, then, we should observe some of these distinctions and profit by them. We should avoid generalities; we should study character, we should study age. No child is identical with any other child. In giving what we term common education we are right, as we are right in dispensing common bread; but beside the common education there should be a finely graduated training. This child is delicate, sensitive; the east wind will almost kill that fair flower. The other child is robust, strong, audacious, venturesome. Another is inquisitive, always on the quest for something more in the way of information; another is almost cursed with the gift of asking questions. We must therefore study each, and adapt our ministry to each, and this is what the preacher has to do. This is the difficulty of the minister. The people cannot all be treated alike; in every congregation there are many congregations. We have all possible distinctions and classifications of personality and cf growth and of necessity, and the wise great preacher would be one who brought out of his treasury things new and old, and gave to each a portion of meat in due season; and whilst the one is being served the other should courteously wait.
We should notice the law of progress. It is impossible to deny the law of evolution on its practical and visible aspects, whatever truth or error may attach to it when its action is remote and beyond the power of being tested by the senses. Evolution is a process which is taking place before our eyes every day. We say the child is taller, the child is stronger, the child is gentler: what is the meaning of that change of terms? It means that life has been advancing and is not today what it was yesterday; and blessed is that man who has the sagacity to notice the degrees of progress, because they mean degrees of necessity. When does the child become a man? That is an awful point in life. We do not want the child to become a man, and yet we do want it. There is a period in life when we do not know precisely what we would really want or would really prefer; but to be no longer child, to become not only a quick-stepping one but a young man who is independent, to cut off in some degree old associations,—we do not want the child to have a house of his own, and yet we do want him to have it tomorrow and to be warm and comfortable. And even the girls whom the Jews did not count would leave any father. Is that true? Certainly: and when the girl has left her father and gone away into the world's strife she wonders how some other girl can think of marrying: How silly girls are now! says this advanced creature, who never left her father, except on the first provocation. We must take larger views. We were made for an independence which is perfectly compatible with association; we must reach the point of individuality. There is a point at which you are no longer your father's seed. It is a point hardly to be set forth in words, but his responsibility cannot follow you, and he ought not to be stigmatised by your follies, and your excesses and extravagances and follies ought not to be charged back upon your father. If he can charge himself with them, so be it; let him burn himself at the fire which his own hands enkindled; I am now speaking more generally, and more from what may be called the statesman's point of view. There comes a point when men are no longer to have their faults and foibles and unwisdoms of every kind charged upon their parents.
What a school the world is, as God sees it! What a sight the human populations must present to the eyes of God! What variety, what contradiction, what fine shading, what almost goodness, what almost hell! Christianity alone is equal to the whole occasion. Christ knows every soul. Christ calls men by their names. Christ does not need to be introduced to any one. He knows us. Therein is his Deity. He never makes a mistake about any man. He knows the fair Nathanael, the guileless soul, meditating, contemplating under the fig tree: he knows the Iscariot who is just about to sell him after kissing him with sin's foulest lips. All things are naked and opened to the eyes of that dear Saviour. This is a terror, yet this is a joy. If he knows all the bad he also knows what we are struggling against; he knows whether we are trying really to kill the devil that is in every one of us. He knows, in the language of the poet, not only "what's done," but also "what's resisted." Many of us may have a better account to give at the last than even we ourselves suppose. All our struggles are set down as conquests. When we have been wrestling with the enemy night and day, and the sweat-drops stand upon our brow in proof of agony; when we think ourselves overthrown, the Lord Christ may say, No, thou didst struggle well, thou shalt be saved. Cheer thee! take heart! Have nothing to do with perfectionists who have no taint or stain, who have no infirmity. Avoid the Pharisees who would contaminate you with their egotism, and go to the company of those who say, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;—the company of those who say, I will arise and go to my Father; I will say to my Father, I have sinned. Associate with those who say, If I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be young. In thy touch is immortality.
"There are perhaps few portions of the Old Testament which appear to have done the work they were meant to do more effectually than this. It has presented but scanty materials for the systems and controversies of theology. It has supplied thousands with the fullest utterance for their sorrows in the critical periods of national or individual suffering. We may well believe that it soothed the weary years of the Babylonian exile (comp. Zechariah 1:6 with Lamentations 2:17). When they returned to their own land, and the desolation of Jerusalem was remembered as belonging only to the past, this was the book of remembrance. On the ninth day of the month of Ab (July), the Lamentations of Jeremiah were read, year by year, with fasting and weeping, to commemorate the misery out of which the people had been delivered. It has come to be connected with the thoughts of a later devastation, and its words enter, sometimes at least, into the prayers of the pilgrim Jews who meet at the 'place of wailing' to mourn over the departed glory of their city. It enters largely into the nobly constructed order of the Latin Church for the services of Passion-week (Breviar. Rom., Feria Quinta. 'In Coena Domini'). If it has been comparatively in the background in times when the study of Scripture had passed into casuistry and speculation, it has come forward, once and again, in times of danger and suffering, as a messenger of peace, comforting men, not after the fashion of the friends of Job, with formal moralisings, but by enabling them to express themselves, leading them to feel that they might give utterance to the deepest and saddest feelings by which they were overwhelmed. It is striking, as we cast our eye over the list of writers who have treated specially of the book, to notice how many must have passed through scenes of trial not unlike in kind to that of which the Lamentations speak. The book remains to do its work for any future generation that may be exposed to analogous calamities,"
—Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
We have come to praise thee, Father of mercies, in the appointed place: where thy name is recorded, there thou wilt be to meet thy people. We rely upon thy promise; all the promises of God are, Yea, Amen, in Christ Jesus: thy Son is the Everlasting Yes. We shall have all things in time and in eternity with Christ, whose riches are unsearchable. We cove in his name, we pray under the shadow of his Cross, we plead the power of his blood. Thou wilt not say No to the hearts who thus come to thee, Father of life, God of light. We have brought our song; for thou hast led us even in the winter-time through gardens of delight, thou hast given unto us pleasure even in the time of storm and tumult. Thy hand has been upon us for good night and day; thou hast been round about our houses as if thou didst care for them; thou hast been the light, the joy, the music of our home. Thou hast blessed thy servants in basket and in store, so that they have enough and abound, and they know not the pang of hunger or the chill of cold. They have come therefore to sing of thy mercy, and to say, Thy rod and thy staff have comforted us. Others have come to praise thee because of the opened door. The door was fast shut, and they could not move it; thou hast caused the door to fall back, and now thy people walk in a full liberty: they would praise God, they would no more be silent in dulness of soul, but with great gladness, rising into rapture, each would say, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Thou wilt not disdain our tribute of praise; the praises of eternity are thine, but how could they be complete without the praises of time? Thou didst make the little earth, thou didst round it and set it in the heaven, thou didst give it what light it has, and all our possessions are thine; we ourselves are not our own, we bear the image and superscription of God; therefore dost thou deign to come to us, and because thou hast not withheld thine only begotten Son from the earth thou wilt not rest until the whole world be bathed in the sunlight of his love. We come from the family, and say all is well; it is well with the old man, and the little child, and the busy mother; it is well with those who have gone away, yea, it is better with them: they are more to us, they are nearer to us, we now feel more complete because of their perfectness. They loved the Saviour, they trusted in his Cross; thou hast taken them from us for a little while,—the father, the mother, the child, the friend,—but only for a little while, and not far away; nay, thou hast set them nearer to us than ever they were before. We will therefore not allow the flesh to triumph, but we will cause the spirit to answer the pleading of thy Spirit, and we shall joy and rejoice even in the presence of death itself: O Death, where is thy sting? We commend one another to thy tender care; thou knowest how frail we are, thou art able to keep us not only from falling but from failing; we shall not begin to fall; thou art able to present us faultless at the last. This is thy miracle, thou dying, rising, triumphant Christ. Amen.
He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about."—Lamentations 2:3
The horn of Israel must be regarded as the symbol of strength, and the passage represents God as scattering all his warriors and rulers and fortresses and princes and mighty men, turning their strength to contempt, and making them as the weakest of the sons of men. What can compare with Omnipotence? Would any man set forth his arm as symbolising the almightiness of God? When the Lord arises in his fierce anger all our strength trembles in the most pitiable weakness. The Lord's right hand is now employed in a work for which it can be said to have no pleasure. The "right hand" is of course the symbol of power, and that right hand had been stretched out of old to protect Israel, to defend Jerusalem, and to guard Zion from her foes; and now that same right hand, so infinite in strength, is turned to the punishment and destruction of those who were once the chosen and favoured of Heaven. We have no prescriptive rights to God's protection. There is nothing hereditary in our enjoyments. Again and again we are reminded of our direct personal relation to God; not because our fathers were good, but because we ourselves are obedient, is judgment withheld, is mercy permitted to shine in all its tender light upon the life we lead. Let no man mock himself by saying that because his father was good God will be kind to him with an everlasting kindness. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Our fathers' goodness is but an element which increases our responsibility, not an element which guarantees the partiality of Heaven. We must of necessity suffer because of the wrong-doing of others, and we may also, and must indeed, reap advantages on account of the honourable life led by others; but all these disadvantages and advantages relate to social circumstances and to outward conditions, they do not relate to eternal consequences or to our moral standing before God. Every man has it in his power to show that he would be better if he could, and in proportion as we show this disposition towards progress will God look upon us with favour and assure us of the protection of his right hand.
And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"Hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest."—Lamentations 2:6
The word rendered "tabernacle" means a booth, a shed, some little temporary place of abode, such as were erected in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles. Jehovah is here represented as throwing down his own temple, as treating it as if it were a temporary shelter, as disregarding all its glory, and merely throwing it from him as men might tear down and cast away a shed from an orchard, a garden, or a field. God's destruction was complete: it overturned the places of assembly; it drove away as if in wrath solemn feast and holy Sabbath; it cast down with a violent hand the holy altar and the sanctuary once beloved. Who can set a measure to the wrath of God? Continually does the Lord assert that he will have nothing to do with mere form or ceremony, with mere locality or consecration; he will only accept living obedience, living faithfulness, living sacrifice. He will have no mercy upon polluted temples and polluted altars; nor will his own Book be spared if men have used it as an idol: he will destroy and utterly drive away everything that once was sacred if it has been perverted to unholy purposes. When the Sabbath has been desecrated it is no longer a Sabbath; when the altar has been used for selfish purposes it no longer reaches unto heaven. Let not men say that they will be safe in God's temple from God's wrath, because when law has been violated there is no sanctuary where God will regard man as safe from the visitation of his penal sword. How living and real does all this make the providence of Heaven! How near does this bring God to our daily life and conduct! How clearly does this show that it is the heart on which God looks, and not the handiwork or mechanism, which may but represent, not our skill only, but our religious vanity.
Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment."—Lamentations 2:14
The prophets had degenerated into professional flatterers. Prophets soon come to understand what the people want for their own gratification, and soon come to understand whether the people are in quest of God's truth or the satisfaction of their own taste. When this discovery is made the prophet must be a strong man if he does not fall into the temptation to please the people rather than to obey God. People being pleased will return flattery for flattery, and probably the prophet will find his immediate compensation in the gifts and applause of the populace, rather than the testimony of a good conscience. The action between prophet and people is reciprocal: where the prophet is in dead earnest the people will be compelled to listen to his prophecies; where the people are more earnest than the prophet the man of God will be tempted to turn aside that he may gratify rather than instruct or correct. The charge made in this passage is the most serious accusation that can be urged against any trustee or steward or minister. Prophets have perverted their function; they have seen what they have looked for; they have gone in quest of things to please rather than of things to profit and educate, and in their delusion they have seen what will delight or amuse the people whom they ought to have instructed. One sign of a degenerate race of prophets is to be found in the turning aside of the prophetic mind from the deep consideration of moral subjects. Who is not tempted to give himself up to intellectual delights rather than to the study and application of moral discipline? Surely it is human to accept the suggestion that the mind should wander in courses where delights grow abundantly rather than turn into directions where the rod and the sword meet the eye on every hand? God complains that the prophets have not discovered the iniquity of Zion, or told her plainly to her face that she owes her punishment to her sin. "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means,"—but this is not the whole explanation: not the prophets alone are to be blamed: the explanation is given in the words which immediately follow, "and my people love to have it so." Thus there was a process of buying and selling as between the prophets and the people: the people wanted pleasure, and the prophets sold it; the people wished to be flattered, and flattery was to be had for money; men asked for restful speeches, such as should calm their fever-stricken life, such as should bring back sleep to their throbbing brains, and the prophets hearkened to this moaning cry, and instead of delivering the rousing messages of God they lulled with opiates of human invention the life which they ought to have chastised and humbled. The great want of every age is a succession of faithful prophets. The prophets themselves may not reach their own ideal, may indeed expose themselves to much reproachful and condemnatory criticism; yet it is necessary that the age should hear great words, listen to grand appeals, and be continually reminded that there is more than the bodily eye has yet seen, and infinitely more than the mere reason has yet comprehended. Whilst we need intellectual prophets to stir up our highest nature, we especially need moral prophets who will recite in our hearing the commandments of God, and urge upon us in our dilatoriness and self-considerateness our duty as subjects of the great King. Exhortation to moral obedience ought never to be regarded as a mere commonplace. Unless we put ourselves strictly on our guard, this word "commonplace" will become a danger and a stumbling-block to us. Men say they know the commandments, and they declare they are well aware of their duties, and they show signs of impatience under the teaching that would incite them to a closer following of the letter of the divine law: they crave for excitement, for originality, for a kind of stimulus that brings no strength; all this craving is not to be set down to the credit of the age, but is rather to be looked upon with suspicion and positive dislike. Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing; woe also unto those who have sought the priest's office for a morsel of bread: blessings be upon those heroic and noble souls who, without reference to their own promotion or comfort, declare the word of the Lord with a noble voice, not the less noble because it is in many tones restrained by a consciousness of self-defect.
All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?"—Lamentations 2:15
Thus the bitterness of Zion is increased by the exultation of her foes. Men are always ready to remind the fallen of the days of prosperity. It is hard to pass by a man who is thrown down without telling him what he might have been, what he once was, and how foolishly he has acted in forsaking the way in which he found prosperity and delight. Even our best friends sometimes unconsciously mock us. Without intending to wound our feelings, they cannot forbear to recall holy memories, sacred enjoyments, or opportunities which we might have turned to our higher advantage. In this case Zion is mocked openly by her enemies. We must expect this from all men. It is not in their nature to heal our diseases, to comfort our sorrows, to sympathise with us in the hour of desolation. The Psalmist complained, "Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people." Wonderful things had been spoken of Zion in the better days. In proportion to our exaltation is our down-throwing. "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined." In Ezekiel we read the exclamation, "How great is his goodness! and how great is his beauty!" But all this will go for nothing where there has been moral apostasy, spiritual disobedience, or spiritual idolatry. Decoration is vanity. All that men can do in the beautifying of their lives is as rottenness if the heart itself be not in a healthy condition. Add to the bitterness of self-remorse the triumphant exultation of enemies who pass by, and say whether any humiliation can be deeper or more intolerable. Where, then, is hope to be found? In what quarter will light arise? If a voice of liberation or promise sound upon the ear, along what line will the music of that voice proceed? Behold, our whole hope is in Heaven. The God whom we have offended must be the God who can forgive us. Do not let us seek to placate our enemies, or turn their triumphing into felicitation: we have no argument with them; not a word ought we to have to say to such mockers; we must acquaint ourselves with God, and make ourselves at peace with Heaven, and if a man's ways please the Lord, the Lord will make that man's enemies to be at peace with him. It is in vain to compromise with men, to arrange for a social armistice, to seek to bribe our enemies into flatterers: we must go direct to the throne of judgment by way of the seat of mercy, and having become reconciled to God, we must leave all other issues to adjust and establish themselves. It should be to the encouragement of our faith that God's judgments are thus gone abroad in the earth, making Jerusalem a heap, and desolating the beauty of Zion. We see most truly the character of God in his dealings with his own sanctuary. He is as impatient with evil in his own temple as with evil in any part of heathenism. It would not be too much to say that he is more so. Where much has teen given much is expected; when judgment begins at the house of God the fire will burn more hotly and destructively than it will be permitted to burn in pagan lands and amongst people who have never known the true altar, the true worship, the true Jehovah. It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for us: for we have seen God's power and God's mercy, and have heard God's welcome to forgiveness and to hospitality. How tremendous are our responsibilities! Truly it is high time that we should awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. Civilised and Christianised countries boast themselves of their temples, their museums, their sanctuaries, their schools, and all the mechanism of social progress; but when the heart is disloyal to truth, when statesmen care more for party than for man, when honour is bought and sold for pelf, when men calculate their own interests rather than the interests of the commonwealth, and when men make an investment of religion, and merchandise of the Cross, their temples, their sanctuaries, their schools, and their buildings consecrated to learning will stand them in no stead before the wind of God's wrath and lightning of his holy anger. We are only safe in proportion as we are obedient.