And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,…
1. God visits a nation, when at a critical moment in its history He bids it maintain some imperilled principle, or do some great act of justice. Perhaps the opportunity has been neglected; it passes, and then the sentence of national decline is written on the pale of history, with the added reason: "Because thou knowest not," etc.
2. God visits at His own time the several branches of His Church, it may be after long years of apathy and darkness. He visits a church when He raises up in her teachers who insist upon forgotten aspects of truth, who call men from false standards of life; or when He opens great ways of extending His people and of influencing numbers of human beings to seek the things that belong to their peace. If this invitation to better things is set aside, nominally as ii it were the revival of some old superstition, but rather really because it makes an unwelcome demand on the conscience and the will, then the day of visitation passes, and the doom of the church which comes in time is justified in the conscience of its own children: "Because," etc.
3. Souls are the units of which nations and churches are composed, and God visits a soul when He brings before it a new range of opportunities. One of yourselves, we will say, has been for years recognizing just so much of religious truth as the people about him, and no more; acting just so far upon the duties which it suggests, and no further; your thought and practice are, as we say, conventional — that is to say, they are determined by the average feeling of those among whom you are thrown in life, and not by any personal sense or grasp of religious principle, of what religious principle is, of what is due to it, of what is due to the Infinite and Everlasting God. And then something occurs which appeals to the soul as nothing has appealed to it before, which puts life, destiny and duty, truth, Holy Scripture, the Cross of Christ, the Person of Christ, the garments of Christ, the Church of Christ, before it in quite a new light. It may be a sentence in a letter: it may be a sudden thought which takes possession of you at the time of prayer; it may be a friend who insists on duties which have hitherto been mere phrases to you; it may be that you suddenly find yourself obliged to decide between two courses — one involving sacrifice more or less painful, and the other the surrender of something which your conscience tells you is right and true, and the having to make a decision puts a strain on your moral being, which is of itself a visitation. Or, one who has been intimately associated with you for many years has died; his death has taught you the emptiness of this passing life, it has put you out of heart with the half-hearted religion of past years; in short, this trial, while it presses heavily on your heart, has gone far to make you quite other than what you were. And this is a visitation. God is speaking to your soul, and much depends on your under. standing Him, on your resolving and acting and re-fashioning your life accordingly. Much, I say, depends on this; for be sure that it is very serious to have enjoyed such a religious opportunity and to have neglected it. Divine visitation does not leave us where it found us; it always leaves us better or worse. To have been in contact with truth and grace, and to have put it from us, is to be weaker, poorer, worse off — religiously speaking — than we were. When the Divine visitation of the soul has been rejected, then the day of its enemies has arrived; then the legions of hell encamp all around it, the powers of darkness make sure of their victim. There is such a thing as the last chance in the life of a soul. God knows when it has passed by each of us, but one day certainly all of us do, in whatever way, pass it.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,