The Character of Rulers to be Proved from the Principles They Inculcate and the Policy They Pursue
Isaiah 3:12
As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead you cause you to err…

The Divine compassion is not only exercised towards men in reference to the danger of their immortal souls; it is also most strikingly to be witnessed with regard to their temporal miseries The Lord is lamenting, in this chapter, the miseries which were coming upon His professed people as the fruit of their doings; and as the consequence of that course of procedure which He would be constrained to adopt as the only means, devised by infinite wisdom, which could either work for their good, or be consistent with His character and glory. That order of dealing would, in many respects, be exceedingly mortifying and painful How lamentable must be the condition of any nation or people when the words of the text are literally fulfilled in them!

I. IT IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE THAT THEY WHO ARE ENTRUSTED WITH THE RULE AND GUIDANCE OF OTHERS SHOULD THEMSELVES BE RULED AND GUIDED BY THE FEAR AND WORD OF THE LORD. The text is not the only passage in which the Lord speaks of the misery and ruin brought on the people by the errors, vices, and mismanagement of their rulers (chap. 9). Here you see, not only who the leaders of this people are, and how they are led astray by them, but what are the consequences of being under such an erring influence. The leaders are the "head and the tail; the ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail." Under this two-fold guidance, the people are led astray; and the result is, "they that are led of them are destroyed." Advert again to the case before us. How came "the paths" of the people to be "destroyed" in the days of the prophet? "They that led them, caused them to err." Now, could this have taken place if their lying prophets and wicked rulers themselves had been governed in the fear, and guided by the Word, of God? (Psalm 81:13-16.) Now, does not the same truth apply with equal force to ourselves, to our own rulers and our own people? Should anyone be disposed to object to this statement and say, May not a line of policy be good although not founded upon this principle? or, May not a man be a good ruler who follows no other guidance than his own wisdom or will? — we deny the assertion altogether. We deem nothing to be good which is not done in the fear, or according to the truth, of God. Now, can anyone rule in that fear who does not live under its influence? Can anyone lead others in the right way, who is not himself walking in it! Can anyone enforce on others the maxims and precepts of the Divine Word — the only standard of truth and error, and the only test of good and evil — unless that Word be made the light of his own feet, and the lamp of his own path? Morally speaking, the thing is impossible. Or, if he were to attempt to do so, would not indecision, ignorance, uncertainty, and error characterise all his proceedings?

II. IT IS NO DIFFICULT THING TO ASCERTAIN THE REAL CHARACTER OF SUCH PERSONS, ESPECIALLY IN THEIR PUBLIC CAPACITY, WHETHER THEY ARE UNDER SUCH AN INFLUENCE OR GUIDED BY SUCH A RULE, OR NOT. How are we to ascertain whether they who are entrusted with the rule and guidance of others are men to be confided in, as being themselves under the rule and guidance of the fear and Word of the Lord? We may ask in return, By what means are we to ascertain the true character of any other person or thing, so far as man is authorised and able to judge, which is brought under our notice, and whose real state and condition it may be of importance to determine? By whatever standard we are directed in the one case, by the same should we be guided in the other. We must be guided in our decision by the conduct and actions which are constantly exhibited before our eyes, and not merely by any fair professions which are totally contradicted, or, at least, exceedingly weakened, and continually to be called in question, by the life and conversation.


1. By the inculcation of dangerous and pernicious principles. A man is what his principles are; and his actions and life will of necessity, be according to the principles by which he is governed. But how are we to ascertain the real character of principles? By the same test as we try men and actions. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them."

2. By the introduction of a crooked and perverse course of policy. Principles and policy in the affairs of nations, like faith and works in the things of God, will always go hand in hand together; or, at least, they will be so intimately blended with each other that they can never remain far asunder, because, in fact, as the one is the fruitful cause, so the other is the native effect produced.

3. By the exhibition of a wicked and contagious example.

4. By an unwarrantable abuse of their power, and by the countenance afforded to unworthy characters, and sanction given to wicked measures. Here, then, is a loud call —

(1) To survey and ponder the imminent peril to which we are exposed.

(2) To be humbled for our sins, and to sue to God for His mercy.

(3) And how does the subject speak to all those who lead the people astray, and destroy the way of their paths! How great must be their guilt! How heavy will be their condemnation!

(R. Shittler.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

WEB: As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. My people, those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.

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