I. THE PARABLE IMPLIES A RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN MEN AND FOREST TREES. Amid many differences, there are some resemblances, and it is on one of these resemblances that this admonition fastens. In the earlier stages of their life, trees grow better in clusters. They serve as a support to each other, and also as a protection against storms. But soon the roots rob nourishment, each from the other. The boughs shut out the light and air. They prevent the growth and hardening of the wood. They become mutually injurious. Sap diminishes. The branches dry and decay. So it is with men in society. Casting off the fear of God, they corrupt each other. They become one another's tempters. Healthy growth ceases. Shutting out, each from the other, the light and sunshine from heaven, their proper life shrivels, epics up, and decays. They become combustible - lit for burning.
II. RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN GOD'S RIGHTEOUS ANGER AND MATERIAL FIRE. On these two resemblances the parable depends. As fire naturally lays hold of and destroys forest trees, be does God's anger naturally lay hold of and destroy wicked men. There is a fixed and unalterable correspondence. "Be sure your sin will find you out!" You may as well swallow poison, and hope to live; you may as well set fire to gunpowder, and expect it not to explode; you may as well touch a galvanic current, and think to avoid any nervous sensation, - as to sin, and not suffer penalty. Each is alike an eternal decree of the living God. As each plant has in it the potency to produce another plant, so every sin has in it the germ of destruction.
III. PROXIMITY TO EVIL MEN CONSTITUTES A DANGER. All the trees in a forest are not equally dessicated. Yet such becomes the fierceness of the flame, fed by the drier trees, that those less dessicated are reduced to ashes. Men may be less guilty than their neighbours; they may flatter themselves that they are not so corrupt as others; nevertheless, it they do not separate themselves, or labour to improve their neighbours, they may be consumed in the general conflagration. The green trees were threatened with destruction along with the dry. Evil company is perilous. Each one has sin enough to draw down Divine anger.
IV. MENTAL BLINDNESS IS A DISASTROUS EFFECT OF SIN. "Doth he not speak in parables?" The bulk of men say, "It is a pretty story. It has much literary beauty. The preacher was eloquent, imaginative, interesting." Yet they see not the moral significance, do not feel the points of application. The sermon well suited some absent person; it did not touch them. The eyes of conscience are put out. As it was in the day when Jesus spake his parables, so is it always. "Men see, but do not perceive; they hear, but do not understand." Today a thousand self-blinded men say, "The doom of the wicked is not so terrible as it seems; for the alarming language of Jesus Christ was only a parable." Yet a parable contains hidden truth, sometimes the most arousing. - D.
All flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it.I. DIVINE JUDGMENT IS A TERRIFIC FACT. God has His ideas about conduct; has a care about His moral universe. His ideas, when uttered in what we solemnly call judgments, are appropriately uttered. The flood, the fire on the cities of the plain, the destruction of Jerusalem, the death of the Saviour, the ghastly mysteries of hell — all utter God's judgments on evil.
II. DIVINE JUDGMENT WROUGHT BY HUMAN AGENCY. Judges, and parliaments, and kings; the frown of friendship, the hiss of outraged conscience in the home, or the Church, or the State; the pursuit of the police detective, and the grip of the gaoler; the revolutions of nations, and the catastrophes of commerce, may all, however blindly, be human agents in Divine retribution.
III. DIVINE JUDGMENTS MARKED BY NATURALNESS. Let a man recall his life, break it up into the seven ages Shakespeare depicts, and he will find the resultant of the sins of each age in the retribution he has to suffer. The sinner finds, as has been strikingly said, that just as by abusing the body he brings a curse on it, so by abusing the soul.
IV. DIVINE JUDGMENT IS VERY COMPREHENSIVE IN ITS INFLUENCE. It is in accordance with historic facts, philosophic theory, and moral rectitude, that man should bring blessing or evil upon his fellow man. This fact, first, illustrates the extent of human influence; second, suggests the accountability of man to man for his moral conduct.
V. DIVINE JUDGMENT BENEVOLENT IN ITS PURPOSES.
1. The revolutions of life are under Divine control.
2. The result of these revolutions will be the victory of righteousness.All the processes of repentance and doubt, of spiritual and of mental struggle, are designed by God to lead not to perpetual anarchy and revolt, but the rest and peace of submission to Christ.
(Urijah R. Thomas.)
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