Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today if you hear His voice,
Introduction. The witness of the New Testament to the Divine inspiration of the Old. "The Holy Ghost saith" (Psalm 95:7-11). We have in the text -
I. A GREAT FACT IMPLIED. That God speaks to man. The "if" does not indicate uncertainty as to the Divine voice, but as to man's attention to this voice. There is no question as to whether God will speak to man or not, but whether man will heed his communications. Notice:
1. The object for which God speaks to man. This object is that man may be saved. The Divine voice proclaims and proffers a "great salvation," and publishes redemptive truth to man.
2. The organs by which he speaks to man.
(1) By the sacred Scriptures, and especially in the life and teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ, as recorded therein. "God... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son."
(2) By Christian ministries, especially the preaching of his gospel. "We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(3) By the voice of our conscience. In its approbation of the right and its condemnation of the wrong, God speaks to us.
(4) By the events of his providence.
(5) By the influences of his holy Spirit. He speaks within the soul of man. He imparts emphasis and energy to the other voices by which God addresses us.
3. The frequency with which he speaks to man. Our text implies that he speaks to us daily. And surely by some one or more of these voices, every day he addresses to us some prohibition or persuasion, some caution or encouragement, some precept or promise, some invitation or warning. Were our susceptibility to Divine influences greater, we should ever hear the utterances of the Divine voice.
II. A MOMENTOUS DUTY EXPRESSED. Our duty is to hear God's voice. Consider:
1. The signification of hearing God's voice. It is not mere hearing that is meant here, but earnest attention to God's voice, hearty belief in his communications, and willing obedience to his commands.
2. The season for hearing God's voice. "Today; i.e. now.
(1) Because life is uncertain. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?" etc. (James 4:14).
(2) Because procrastination is perilous. The postponement of our duty today facilitates a further postponement of it tomorrow.
(3) Because it is a present duty, and to defer the performance of it is, therefore, sinful. We ought to attend to God's voice now. The urgency of this duty is suggested in the text. In the psalm from which it is quoted, our text "is virtually the expression of a wish, 'Today if ye will but hearken to his voice! '" or, "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!" The pathos and earnestness which the Holy Ghost puts into this wish suggests the deep importance of the duty; cf. Psalm 81:13, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me!" etc.
III. A SOLEMN CAUTION GIVEN. "Harden not your hearts." The sapling is pliant; it may be bent and trained as to the direction and form of its growth. The full-grown tree is fixed in form, firm in texture, and unbending in its resistance; it is hardened. Men harden' their hearts by disregarding the voice of God, by not recognizing the authority of their consciences, by postponing the performance of religious duties, by neglecting the great salvation, and by practically despising or resisting the Holy Spirit of God. St. Paul speaks of men who were "alienated from the life of God, because of the hardening of their heart," and "who being past feeling" had abandoned themselves to persistent and active wickedness. For such moral insensibility what hope remains? "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!" - W.J.
As the Holy Ghost saith.1. The authority of the Scripture is not of man, but of the Holy Ghost.
2. The Scriptures are no dumb letter, but the voice of the Holy Ghost, who by them speaketh.
3. The Holy Ghost is God, the Inspirer of the prophets that wrote the Scripture.
4. The Holy Ghost is a distinct person of the Godhead from the Father and the Son, exercising the proper actions of a person inspiring the prophets, inditing the Scriptures, and speaking to the Church.
(D. Dickson, M. A.)
To day, if ye will hear His voice.Revelation 3:20). The saints of old heard it, and were filled with joy; the disciples, journeying, heard it, and their hearts burned within them. Saul of Tarsus heard it, and it crushed out all his pride, laid him low in the dust, subdued his rebellious spirit, and evoked the prayer — "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do? " But how many close their ears to that voice, and turn away from the loving Saviour t The hue of health flushes the cheek, vigorous physical life is theirs, easy circumstances surround them, and all will be well. The period when we are to hear that voice is to-day; now is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation. By to-morrow the pulse may cease its beating. "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." He asks your attention, your heart, your soul, your all; but He uses no compulsion. If ye will hear!
(R. Kingshott.)I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SPEAKER.
1. He who addresses you is Christ the Redeemer. This calls for serious consideration.
2. It is He who has witnessed all your past life and behaviour.
3. It is He who will judge you at last, as having a perfect knowledge of your whole life.
4. His judgment is "upright." Then there will be no mercy, but all will be judgment.
II. THE THINGS WHICH CHRIST SAYS.
1. He says that your time is gone! This is a serious address.
2. He says that eternity is at hand! — a long, a never-ending eternity!
3. Christ farther says, What have you done with your privileges, and how have you improved the means of grace in past time?
4. Christ still farther says, When will you be ready, and what would make you ready to enter into glory?
III. THE TIME SET FOR YOUR HEARING THESE THINGS is mentioned in our text as being" today" — not to-morrow.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF ATTENDING TO OR NEGLECTING THESE THINGS. If repentance be obtained, heaven will be your everlasting happy home. If sin continues, hell will be your doom.
(James Kidd, D. D.)I. There is a voice which may, with emphatic propriety, be termed THE VOICE OF GOD.
1. the providences of God, particularly those of an afflictive nature.
2. The sacred Word — both law and gospel.
II. THE VOICE OF GOD DEMANDS OUR SERIOUS ATTENTION,
1. Should a servant decline the reasonable commands of his master — a son, the gentle authority of his father — or a subject turn his back upon his prince, who might condescend to address him?
2. The nature of the subject upon which He deigns to address us is another reason for our attention to His voice. He calls us to no hard service. He invites us to approach that we may receive those blessings which constitute the happiness of man.
III. YOUR ATTENTION TO THE VOICE OF GOD SHOULD BE WITHOUT DELAY.
IV. IF WE WOULD LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD WE SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS NOT TO ADOPT A CONDUCT WHICH WILL PREVENT OUR ATTENTION TO ITS ADMONITIONS.
1. Yon must avoid that state of insensibility into which so many nominal Christians have fallen.
2. It will be of equal importance that you also studiously avoid the inordinate cares of life, which first this obstruct and then close up the avenues to the soul, and so produce a fatal insensibility.
3. Moreover, it will be of vast consequence that you avoid temptation; for the mind is rendered insensible in proportion as it becomes familiar with sin.
4. Finally, beware of the whirlpool of scepticism — the dangerous shoals and fatal rocks of infidelity.
1. He does not promise you time. One time is our's, now. The past is gone; the future is not yet. One time we ever have, a time fleeting by, an ever-passing present. God renews to us this present again and again, in every moment of our being. You can attend, or pray, or resolve at this moment. When the next is come, you may, if God's grace continues, do the same. But you cannot efface what you have done; you cannot replace what you have left undone. But there will be a morrow which will have no to-morrow except eternity. God has promised pardon to the penitent, but where has He promised a morrow to the procrastinator?
2. He has not promised thee grace. He gives His grace at all times freely. We have no claim upon it; else it were not grace, but debt. He gives it overflowing, without, beyond, against our deserts. But He gives it with wisdom also. He gives it although it is abused; but He does not give it in order that it should be abused, or to encourage man's abuse of it. But it would be to encourage man's abuse of it, to store it up for those who not only again and again refuse it, but who refuse it now because they may have it hereafter (Romans 2:4, 5). What is it but to make the mercy of God the occasion of sin, to sin on now, because God is so good, that thou thinkest that He will give thee grace to repent hereafter? And when wishest thou that He should give thee grace to amend? Next year? or the next? or the next? No! In none of these, if thou art even thus far honest with thyself, dost thou wish to amend. No, not yet. How is this? Because thou knowest full well, that even in these six years, thy passions will not be exhausted, thy desires will not be weakened; the wants which thou suppliest unlawfully will still be craving; the evil habits which thou nurturest will be even strengthened; the embers of thy earthly fires will not have died out. "When, then," God may ask, "wilt thou choose Me?" Alas, if thou speakest truly, thou wilt say, "When I have nothing else to prefer to Thee." God is nothing to thee. Thou wantest, willest, wishest nothing of God, but to escape Him. It is not God thou choosest, but thyself still. One thing alone thou really choosest, impunity in sin. Those who picture to themselves future repentance, picture to themselves at best only the exchange of pleasure for pleasure, unlawful pleasure, it may be, for lawful; but mostly they picture to themselves a time when they shall be worn out to the world and the world to them, in sickness or death. Then they would give up what they cannot keep; they would part with what has parted with them; and they would receive in exchange — not God whom they know not, but — in some way, they know not how, escape from hell.
3. But wilt thou then have the will to repent? Judge of the future from the past. Think of the time when thou wert just hesitating on the borders of sin, when it first looked pleasant to thee, when first thou was tempted to some slight forbidden gain to take some little thing that was not thine, to give way to some childish or youthful vanity, to taste some slight forbidden pleasure. If thou hast not repented yet, hast thou more or less mastery over thyself now than then? Is it easier to thee to abstain from greater sin now than from lesser sin then? Too surely, thy bands have been bound faster around thee; thy desires have become stronger; thy will weaker. People sin, out of the very habit of sinning. Sin wears out the heart, the mind, the soul, the strength; not itself. It lives on upon the life of soul and body. It lives upon their destruction; but itself thrives and is vigorous in their decay. You have seen the fungous, unsubstantial, putrid, stinking, disgusting, poisonous, fed from the yet living tree. You know it to be the token of decaying life on which it feeds. Such is sin. Its seat is in the will. It corrupts the will. The corrupted will anticipates the sin in act; it survives the power to enact. Avarice, falsehood, hatred, censoriousness, vanity, hypocrisy, love of ill-gotten goods, impurity, will live on in the aged sinner's soul; they will accompany him to the last; they will pass out of this world with him and in him; but whither will they accompany him? Will they escort him, as an angel-train, guarding him from the evil spirits, who wait for the departure of the disembodied soul, to seize on their lawful prey? Will they carry him to Abraham's bosom, into the realms of peace and truth and love, where nothing defile, I shall enter? Will they present him before the judgment-seat of Christ, who bids us to love one another as He has loved us, to purify ourselves as He is pure, to deny ourselves as He denied Himself and emptied Himself of His glory that He might take our shame, and thereby bring us to partake of His glory and His love?
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)1. It is God which worketh in us both to will and to do (Philippians if. 13). And no man can come to Christ except the Father draw him (John 6:44). Is it not then a point of wisdom to yield when God draws?
2. Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth; therefore put not off the grace that is offered thee to-day. Boast not thyself of to-morrow (Proverbs 27:1).
3. By putting off an opportunity men make themselves more unfit for another opportunity; for sin, the longer it groweth the stronger it groweth, and the heart useth to be more hardened by putting off means of softening. As they who had received grace were exhorted to persevere therein, put not off to-day, much less let childhood put off to youth, or youth to man-age, or man. age to old-age, or old-age to death-bed.
(W. George.)1. That while men have the offer of salvation and the word preached unto them, it is their day.
2. That by the outward hearing, God requireth the heart to be brought down and mollified.
3. That He requireth present yielding, to-day, while he calleth, without delay, because we cannot be sure how long God will spare or continue his offer beyond this present.
4. He that studieth not to yield his heart to believe and obey God's word, sounding in his cars, hardeneth his heart. For what is it else not to harden their heart, but heartily to believe and give obedience?
(D. Dickson, M. A.)I. THE VOICE THAT SPEAKS. "To-day if ye will hear His voice": whose voice? The voice of God. It is the Holy Ghost that speaks, the source of all inspiration; so that all Scripture may be regarded as "His voice." And if it he the voice of God, does it not demand your deep attention, your prompt obedience? Shall God speak, and man refuse to hear? Nor does He speak to you in vengeance, but in love. He does not make His appeal to-day to the sword of justice, but He makes His appeal to the blood of His Cross. And oh 1 can there be any subject more momentous — involving, as it does, your highest interests for time and for eternity? "To-day if ye will hear His voice." But how does He speak? Most impressively, most earnestly: by His Word, by His Gospel, by His providence, by your teas, in, by your conscience. But what does He say? There are two subjects, on which He addresses you: your own condition as a sinner in His sight — your guilt, pollution, and depravity; and the rich provision of His mercy in the mediatorial character and work of His beloved Son.
II. THE PROMPT AND IMMEDIATE ATTENTION IT DEMANDS. "To-day if ye will hear His voice." Why "to-day"? Because to-day all is ready. The great salvation is ready; the way of access to the throne is ready; the great Intercessor there is ready; the angels that hover over this assembly are ready; and the Church on earth is ready, to bid you welcome to its communion, Why "to-day"? why "to-day"? Because you will never have a more suitable season than to-day. Be assured, that the longer you delay, the more deep and firm will be the hold which the world will get of your heart; " the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches," like the thorns in the parable, will have grown up to choke every good resolution. Why "to-day"? why "to-day"? Because you have delayed long enough. Ah! too long — too long. You should have heard His voice long ago; you should have heard His voice in the days of your youth; you should have heard His voice in early childhood. You should have heard His voice the first time He spoke to you. You should have heard His voice in the advantages which you enjoyed; in parental instruction — in the Sabbath School-under a faithful ministry. Why "to-day"? why "to.day"? Because you may not see to-morrow. Amid the stillness of "this night," death may enter in at your window. Or to-morrow may come, and this voice not speak to you to-morrow. Or if the voice speak to you to-morrow, you may not be in circumstances to profit by it. Now, it convinces of sin; to-morrow it may not convince. Now, conscience speaks; but to-morrow conscience may be seared.
III. THE SOLEMN WARNING, the admonition, the remonstrance, by which a prompt and immediate attention to the voice that speaks to you is enforced. "To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts."
1. "Harden not your heart" with infidel objections. Do not say — "The Scripture is not true." Have you proved it? Can you stake eternity upon it? You know you cannot!
2. Do not "harden your heart" by saying you cannot believe. You will not. It is not for want of evidence, but for want of inclination.
3. Do not say, "I am not responsible for my belief." Iris false. You are responsible for your belief; the great God holds you responsible for your belief; and so far from your not being responsible for your belief, your destiny will turn upon it. It is upon that very thing it will hinge. "He that believeth, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned."
4. "Harden not your heart." Oh! think of the consequences if you do. The result is inevitable; the consequence is infallible. He will turn upon you in indignation, who now bends to you in condescension and love. The cup of salvation is handed round amongst you; dash it not untasted from your lips. The sceptre of His grace is stretched out to you; touch it and live.
(T. Raffles, D. D.)I. THE EXCELLENCE OF RELIGION, AND YOUR INTEREST IN THE PRACTICE OF IT. Both these are indisputable. What do you set your thoughts on, when you take the affairs of religion under your consideration? Is it not the glory of God, and your own salvation from sin and wrath? Now what is so excellent in itself, so honourable, so suitable to the capacities of thinking beings, as these pursuits which form the nature of practical religion?
II. THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE, AND TILE DANGER OF DYING UNPREPARED FOR ETERNITY. What is human life? A vapour, appearing a little while, and then vanishing.
III. THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD'S PRESENT DEMANDS. Whatever He requires of you now, He will require twenty or thirty years hence, should you live so long. The method of pardon is already fixed. The Unchangeable will never alter it. And if He will not, men cannot. If you dislike at present humiliation; if you feel now an aversion at a dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ for justification; if the duties of holiness seem hard and disagreeable at this instant, they will for ever be so, in relation to depraved dispositions.
IV. THE LONGER IT IS DELAYED, YOUR AVERSION AND INABILITY TO IT WILL INCREASE. Was your life threatened with some distemper, how would you reason, and how would you act? Would you say, I will stay till I be a little worse, and then I will apply to a physician? Would it not be reckoned madness to sport in this manner with life and health?
V. THE NECESSITY OF AN OPERATION OF DIVINE GRACE ON YOUR SOULS. God is now striving with you. But what if these are the last touches He will ever give a heart so long hardened against Him?
(Alex. Shanks.)I. THE VOICE REFERRED TO.
1. It is the voice of mercy.
2. It is the voice of Divine authority.
3. It is the only voice directly connected with the sinner's salvation.
4. This voice addresses us through various mediums of communication.
II. THE ATTENTION DEMANDED.
1. That we hear so as to understand it.
2. That we hear so as to believe it.
3. That we hear so as to obey it.
III. THE SPECIFIED PERIOD FOR HEARING CHRIST'S VOICE,
3. Succeeded by the darkness of the grave.
IV. THE IMPORTANT CAUTION ANNEXED. "Harden not your hearts" —
1. By inattention to the concerns of the soul.
2. By pursuing the works of darkness.
3. By yielding to the influences of unbelief.
4. By a sordid attachment to the present world. Application.(1) You are all responsible, for the voice of Christ has repeatedly sounded in your ears.(2) You have all your day — a period given for the improvement of your privileges and mercies.(3) How necessary, then, to hear His voice! How important that you harden not your hearts!(4) Let our influence be laid out in bringing the ignorant and perishing of our race to hear the joyful sound, that they may not perish for lack of knowledge!(5) Let us be watching and preparing for the second advent of the Saviour, when they that are in their graves shall hear His voice and live.
(J. Burns, D. D.)1. The first motive which I shall set before you with this view, is the shortness and uncertainty of life. I urge you to become religious to-day, because you are not sure of to-morrow. Need I tell you, that you are frail as well as mortal; that you must not only die, but may die soon and suddenly? Who, let me ask, are the persons that die suddenly and unexpectedly? Are they the feeble, the infirm? No, observation will tell you, that they are the youthful, the vigorous, the strong. She will tell you that while the former, like a reed, bend before the blast and escape, the latter, like the stubborn oak, brave its fury, and are prostrated.
2. This remark suggests a second reason, why you should not postpone religion to another day. You cannot properly, or even lawfully, promise to give what is not your own. Now to-morrow is not yours; and it is yet uncertain whether it ever will be. To-day, then, is the only time which you can properly or lawfully give to God.
3. A third reason why you should commence a religious life to-day, is, that if you defer it, though but till to-morrow, you must harden your hearts against the voice of God. God commands you to commence immediately a religious life. Now if you do not comply, you must refuse, for there is no medium. Here then is a direct, wilful act of disobedience to God's commands; and this act tends most powerfully to harden the heart; for after we have once disobeyed, it becomes more easy to repeat the disobedience. But this is not all. If you disobey, you must assign some excuse to justify your disobedience, or your consciences will reproach and render you uneasy; if no plausible excuse occurs, you will seek one. If none can readily be found, you will invent one. This also tends most powerfully to harden the heart. A man who is frequently employed in seeking arguments and excuses to justify his neglect of religion, soon becomes expert in the work of self-justification. He is, if I may so express it, armed at all points against the truth; so that in a little time nothing affects him, no arrow from the quiver of revelation can reach his conscience. But if, as is sometimes the case, his excuses prove insufficient, and his understanding and conscience become convinced, he can avoid compliance only by taking refuge in an obstinate refusal, or by resolutely diverting his attention to some other object, till God's commands are forgotten, or by a vague kind of promise that he will become religious at some future period. Whichsoever of these methods he adopts, the present impression is effaced, and his heart is hardened. He has resisted the force of truth, and thus rendered it more easy for him to resist it again. In a word, he has less religious sensibility; he has become more inaccessible to conviction, and less disposed to yield to it, than before. Now this is precisely what the Scriptures mean by hardening the heart to-day.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
I. A CREST SPEAKER. Much depends, for the way in which we regard and treat what is said, on the person who says it. In connection with the Holy Ghost being the speaker here I have three remarks to make. In regard to what is said, you may be sure that.
1. It is important — for "the Holy Ghost saith" it. Much importance is attached to what great men say. A man's position gives importance to what he says — a king, for instance, or a statesman, or a master, or a judge. How much more important is the word of the Holy Ghost, whether it be in the way of warning, or encouragement, or command, or reproof! When He comes to you, you may be sure it is some momentous errand that has brought Him; and while all Scripture is His Word, such a saying as that in our text is His, in a special sense, and is of peculiar significance. And as, when a king speaks, every voice is hushed, so when the Holy Spirit speaks, there may well be the deepest interest, attention, and reverence. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith."
2. It is true — for "the Holy Ghost saith" it. Sometimes the word of the wisest and greatest is not to be trusted, and even the truest and best may mistake. Here is One who never deceived, never mistook, never was untrue, whose word never was broken — the Holy Ghost. He is the " Spirit of truth." His is the " Scripture which cannot be broken."
3. It is kind — for "the Holy Ghost saith" it. He is the Spirit of Love as well as of Truth. With what a gentle voice He speaks. I dare say you have seen people in anxiety about their souls. Their happiness was gone. And in regard to all this, you have heard it said that it was the Holy Spirit's doing; and you have thought hardly of Him in consequence. And yet never was He more kind than when He did this very thing. When He awakens and alarms, it is to warn of coming danger, and lead to flight and safety. Will you not listen to Him as a loving Friend?
II. A MOMENTOUS WORD. — "To-day!" This is what the Holy Ghost says. It is a little word, but it has a world of meaning in it. It may be said to be at once a warning and an invitation.
1. It sets before us the time for repenting. Sin is rebellion against God, and each new sin is another act of rebellion still further endangering the rebel's head. What is to be done? The sin must have an immediate arrest laid upon it — must be forsaken. Here is a boy who has begun to be in earnest about his soul. He knows he is lost. He would like to be saved. But he would like to keep his sins too, at least for a while. He is just like that lad, who, while working among the waggons on a railway, has had his leg so bruised and crushed that there is nothing for it but to have the limb taken off. But he cannot make up his mind to part with it. Day after day he asks to have the operation deferred, each day thinking it will not be so difficult the next; though his whole experience has proved that it would have been easier at first, and that the longer the delay, the more difficult it will always become. At length the surgeon, if he is wise and kind, will break in on this state of things, and say, "We cannot tamper with a matter of this kind any longer. It is as much as your life is worth, to put off another day. The choice lies between your limb and your life; which are you prepared to lose? Whatever is to be done, must be done at once. It must be now or never." And even so it must be with sin, with the evil habit, the forbidden indulgence — it must go at once. I know how difficult it is. It is compared to cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. "I'll repent one of these days. I'll repent to-morrow." And thus it goes on from day to day, till at length the Holy Ghost breaks in with His great word, and says, "To-day!" There must be no more putting off. You have lost too much time already. It is as much as your soul is worth to wait longer. Or is there a girl who has got a sense of her sin, but fears she is too far gone to be saved. She has put off so long, that she believes she is now past hope. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." She is like to give way to utter despair. Nay, but the Holy Ghost saith, "To-day!" It is not too late yet. It may be too late to-morrow.
2. It sets before us the time for believing. But here, too, what delay! Here is one trying to make himself better first. He says he is not fit to come to Jesus as he is. His heart is too hard: his sin is too great. He is like that diseased boy who can hardly walk, and yet refuses to see the doctor, or to knock at the infirmary door, because he is too ill, or does not yet sufficiently feel his need of help. He hopes to go by and by. He might not be received as he is. His case is too desperate. He must try to improve himself a little first. He does not see that the worse he is, the greater is the necessity for getting help at once. And when the Holy Ghost saith " To-day," it is as if He said, "Now is the time to flee to Jesus, whatever you may be. Now is the time to come to Him, all as you are." What a happy day it would be if we heard some of you saying, "Lord we take Thee at Thy word to-day I we come to Thee to-day!"
3. It sets before us the time for working. It is good for ourselves to work. Idleness of every kind is evil, — unhealthy for the body, for the spirits, for the soul. And so, Christian workers get personal benefit from their work. We need to be doing some work for Christ and for others, to keep our own souls healthy and lively and right. It is good for others. There are few for whom the youngest of us could not do something. It is pleasing and honouring to God. God likes to see His people working. It is one proof of their love to Himself. But where is all this to be done? Here on earth. And by whom? Not only by the old, but by the young also. And when? Now. Perhaps some of you are purposing to be workers when you are grown up. You think of doing nothing meanwhile. But "the Holy Ghost saith, To-day"; — not when you are older, but now while you are yet young. The kind of work which the Lord now asks of you can only be done here — not in heaven. Can you think of so many perishing all around you, without your doing anything for them? Can you do or give nothing for the heathen now? And so it is as regards giving for Christ. I fear we are far behind in this respect. What a sad thought it will be, "I might have done something for Christ, if I had only began in time!"
4. It sets before us the best time for repenting, for believing, for working — "to-day." Not when you are older, not when you are better qualified, but just now, immediately — to-day. You must have noticed the tide gradually coming in till the shore was covered; and when it was at its full, how eager the fishermen were to get their boats afloat; and how easy it was then as compared with what it was when the tide was back. The tide may be said to he in with you now: it is full tide; it is the time for getting your own boat afloat, and helping others with theirs: and for your encouragement, and for your warning, ere it go back, "the Holy Ghost saith, To-day!"
5. It sets forth the time for repenting, for believing, for working, as very short: a day — this day — to-day. You say you must enjoy yourselves, and see what the world can do for you. Or you must learn your business first. Nay; but here again, "the Holy Ghost saith, Today!" It is slipping past, and will soon be over.
6. It sets forth what may be the only time for repenting, for believing, for working. "Oh that thou hadst heard, even thou, in this thy day!" As if every one had his "day" — and when that is lost, it is lost for ever. "Thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." This may be the only "to-day" we shall ever see.
III. THE LESSON.
1. Value to-day. Regard it and treat it as you do other precious things. We may well say what a daughter told me she heard her dying mother, a Christian woman, saying a few days ago. It was Sabbath morning, and when the early sunshine lighted up her room, after a long night of restlessness and suffering, she was overheard saying, "Dear day!" Oh yes, it should be a "dear day " to us all, for it is the "day of grace," the "day of salvation."
2. Improve to-day. "Make hay when the sun shines." If the day is so precious and so short, then surely we should make the very most of it. Do not waste it. Lay it out as a steward of God.
3. Remember that the night cometh.— Every day has its night, and so has this one. Whether you are improving it or not, it is going away, and the night will soon be on.
(J. H. Wilson, D. D.)I. THE SPECIAL VOICE OF THE HOLY GHOST.
1. How does the Holy Ghost thus speak?(1) He saith this first, in the Scriptures. Every command of Scripture calls for immediate obedience.(2) Further, while the Holy Ghost speaks in Scripture on this wise, He speaks in the same manner in the hearts of His people, for he is a living and active agent.(3) The like is also true when the Holy Ghost speaks in the awakened.(4) Once more, the Holy Ghost speaks thus by His deeds as well as by His words. We have a common proverb that actions speak more loudly than words. Now the acts of the Holy Spirit in the leading of many to the Saviour are so many practical invitations, encouragements, and commands to others.
2. But why so urgent, blessed Spirit, why so urgent? It is because the Holy Ghost is in sympathy with God; in sympathy with the Father who longs to press the prodigal to his bosom; in sympathy with the Son who is watching to see of the travail of His soul.
II. A SPECIAL DUTY. "Hear His voice" — that is, hear it obediently, eager to do what he bids you, as he enables you. Do not hear and forget. Retain the truth in your memories, and, better still, practise it in your lives.
1. Hear ye the Lord when He instructs you. How often are men's ears stopped up with the wax of prejudice, so that they are dull of hearing. They have made up their minds as to what the gospel ought to be, and will not hear what it is.
2. But the Lord does more than instruct you, He commands; for let men say what they will, the Gospel to be preached to the ungodly is not merely warnings and teachings, it has its solemn, positive commands.
3. But the Lord does more than command, He graciously invites; with tenderness He bids sinners to His banquet of mercy. Shall His love be slighted, and His bounty treated with scorn?
4. But the Lord does more than invite, He adds His promises. Oh do not count yourselves unworthy of them.
5. The Lord also threatens, as well as entreats. He declares that the despisers shall wonder and perish. If Christ be rejected, eternal wrath is certain.
III. A SPECIAL TIME EMPHASISED.
1. To-day, that is while God speaks. Oh, if we were as we should be, the moment God said "Seek ye My face," we should reply, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek": as soon as the invitations of mercy were heard there would be an echo in our souls to them. Hear God to-day, for to-day He speaks.
2. The apostle says in the next chapter, "To-day — after so long a time." I see that some of you have bald heads, or grey hairs lie thick upon them. Is it not long enough to have provoked your God these sixty years? "To-day," that is, especially while the Holy Ghost is leading others to hear and to find mercy; to-day, while the showers are falling, receive ye the drops of grace; to-day, while there are prayers offered up for you; to-day, lest the preaching of the Word of God should come to be a matter of routine, and the preacher himself, discouraged, should lose all zeal for your soul; to-day, while everything is peculiarly propitious, hear ye the voice of God. While the wind blows, hoist the sail; while God is abroad on errands of love, go forth to meet Him.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. First, are you quite sure that God has not spoken to you, and that you may not have failed to hear His voice, either because in your sin you did not wish to hear it, or because in your perversity and ignorance you had made up your mind that His voice must speak in a certain particular way, while God has seen fit to speak after quite a different manner?
2. And, second, is your conscience quite clear that He never has spoken to you, and you have known it, and been convinced of it, and yet have hardened your heart against His call? It is quite true that you cannot come unless the Spirit draw, but is it equally true that He has never drawn? It is not too much to say, that whatever moves you in the right direction, whatever influences you to forsake sin and turn to God, is the work of the Holy Ghost. The fervent desire after better things, the inward restlessness, the sense of guilt, the feeling of shame, the fear of punishment, the longing for purity and moral freedom — all these are the effects of the influence of God the Holy Ghost. You shall never be able to say, "I would, but God would not." Oh that God might never have to bring the apposite charge against you. I have spoken of one great danger against which we have to guard, if we would benefit by the Divine voice, the danger of ignoring it, and failing to recognize it; but remember there is yet another danger, and to it our text more particularly alludes; it is the danger of bearing God's voice so plainly that we can entertain no reasonable doubt but that it is God's voice, and yet while He is speaking hardening our hearts against Him. "Harden not your heart." These words bring before us the thought of a capacity that we all possess. We all possess the power to harden our hearts against the gracious influences of God. It is a dangerous thing to do under any circumstances, even when our relations with God are not concerned. I once heard a man say, "I used to think it manly to repress my feelings, and so I set myself to steel my heart against them, and now I cannot feel when I would. Happen what may, I might offer my fortune for a tear, and offer it in vain." This may be a serious matter. We have no more right to murder our feelings than any other element in our manhood, but that is a small thing as compared with the folly and the sin of hardening our heart against the Holy Spirit of God. And remember this is a sin which we all remain capable of committing, however strong the in. fluences of God the Holy Spirit may be. He never so influences us that it is impossible for us to resist Him. What shall we say of the folly of him who mutilates his own moral nature of all its higher sensibilities and capacities of spiritual apprehension, and of his own accord elects to be "past feeling" — "twice dead, plucked up by the roots, and withered"? But remember, there is only one way of avoiding this terrible issue and that is by yielding at once. But when the Holy Ghost speaks, and you hear His voice: there is always a "now:' in it. He takes care to put before you something to be done then and there. "To-day harden not your heart." You are responsible for this winged moment that is even now flying from you. The Holy Ghost saith, "To-day if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts." Oh, think of all the possibilities, the glorious possibilities of to-day!
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THE HOLY GHOST COMMANDS IT, AND THEREFORE IT IS BINDING. The obligation is founded on —
1. Absolute proprietorship.
2. Mediatorial interposition.
II. THE HOLY GHOST COMMANDS IT, AND THEREFORE IT IS PRACTICABLE.
III. THE HOLY GHOST COMMANDS IT, AND THEREFORE IT IS URGENT.
1. The Holy Ghost thoroughly understands the transcendent importance of the work. The Holy Ghost knows exactly the portion of time allotted you for the work.
(Homilist.)Lowell went ashore on the New England coast in a terrific gale. Her bows projected so far up towards the shore that the crew leaped off the bow-prit and were rescued, one by one, by the keeper of a neighbouring lighthouse. All leaped off except the first mate, who had been in feeble health; he continued to walk the deck and give orders to the men. The keeper shouted to him, "Jump ashore this tide or you are lost!" The poor man continued to tramp the deck, which soon crashed to fragments, and he was swallowed up in the wreck. What was the matter? The terrors of the scene had so deranged his weak nerves, that he had become insane and laud, heal at the idea of danger. Yet that unhappy officer of the sinking ship did not act more insanely than you do in persisting in risking the life of your precious soul. When Jesus calls, your salvation depends on prompt obedience. It was short work with Peter when Christ said to him, "Follow Me." Again was it short work with him when be was sinking in the waves arid cried out, "Lord, save me." It was short work with the Philippian jailer when he heard Paul's directions and threw himself into the Saviour's arms on the spot. All the Bible narratives (except that of Nicodemus) describe a prompt action where salvation was secured. Prompt obedience saves!
(T. Christlieb, D. D.)
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
Harden not your hearts.I. TO HARDEN THE HEART IS TO CHERISH A VOLUNTARY INSENSIBILITY TO GOD AND DIVINE OBJECTS.
II. HOW THE HEART IS HARDENED.
1. By fixing its affections supremely on the world. A striking exemplification of this was furnished by that miser whose band, cold in death, still held its firm grasp upon his gold, when his spirit had gone to the bar of God.
2. By refusing to turn the attention to Divine things. No truth is plainer than this; that a man will not feel what he does not think of. God unthought of, must leave the heart as hard and unmoved as it would be were there no God, no Christ, and no heaven.
3. By excusing sin. The object of every excuse formed by the mind is to impair or destroy a sense of obligation and guilt.
4. By presumptuous hopes and expectations from futurity. The very language of such hopes is, the authority and glory of God shall not be felt now; the evil of sin and the awful realities of a future world shall not be felt now; all sensibility shall be deadened by hopes from futurity. These hopes of a future repentance, fellow-sinner, are a shield to your heart, which the arrows of the Almighty will never penetrate.
III. TO ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION NO LONGER TO HARDEN THE HEART, BY THE CONSIDERATIONS IMPLIED IN THE TEXT, "To-day if ye will hear His voice." The declaration implies —
1. That to harden the heart is a fatal obstacle to bearing and obeying the gospel.
2. To harden the heart is the only obstacle to an immediate compliance with the demands of the gospel.
3. To abstain from hardening the heart is as easily done at the present as any future time.
4. The last consideration is that those who now harden their heart may never hear and obey the gospel. This appears, if we consider, in all such cases, the increase of guilt. To harden the heart against the voice of God once is a high measure of provocation; and if it be the tendency of sin, of accumulated guilt, to exhaust the patience of God and to provoke His speedy vengeance, what must be the effect of hardening the heart with the formal design of continuing to rebel against Him? When in its own nature it involves every act of future sin; when its whole strength — strength, too, thus to offend God — is derived from the fact that God is good and long-suffering? What purpose embodies baser ingratitude, a more direct insult to God, greater hardihood in rebellion, and a greater amount of crime; and what purpose could the sinner form to provoke God's instant vengeance if this does not? Again, there is a fearful principle of God's administration which arrays all its alarms before such persons. "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone."
(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)I. HOW THIS HARDNESS OF HEART IS EVIDENCED.
1. One of these signs is dulness of conscience. A sensitive conscience is only the possession of those whose hearts have not been hardened, or have been softened. But where there is religious insensibility the hearing of the conscience is confused, its sight perplexed, its voice low and weak. This is the state of the moral nature of which Paul speaks when he describes a "conscience seared with a hot iron" — an allusion, evidently, to the custom, that was very prevalent among ancient Eastern doctors, of cauterising any affected flesh. Sin is indeed a terrible caustic to the conscience. At first it burns the living moral tissue very painfully, but at last it leaves it insensitive, almost destroyed.
2. Another sign of a hardened heart is poverty of love. No tale of human want or woe stirs their pity or prompts their help; no statement of God's great bounty or wondrous love awakens their praise.
3. Another sign — comprising those we have mentioned, and suggesting several more — is inability to be moved by the gospel truth.
II. HOW THIS HARDNESS OF HEART IS ATTAINED.
1. By familiarity with the mere theory of religion. It is well enough to have true ideas, to accept a correct creed; but if those ideas linger only in the intellect, are merely themes for memory, imagination, logic, and do not send down into the affections an influence that will permeate the entire being; if that correct creed is a mere mental property, held and defended jealously by the mind, but not colouring and controlling the plans and loves and whole scope of the daily life, then those ideas, that creed, however true, produce hardness of heart. They lose their freshness, and thus much of their force. The soul becomes accustomed to them, as the forester to the rustling of the foliage, or the mariner to the murmur of the waves. And that familiarity intercepts every effort to arouse, and startle, and awaken.
2. By a neglect of religious claims. Some by procrastination, others by stolid indifference, refuse to come face to face with such questions as "What must I do to be saved?" The capacity for religion diminishes, and almost dies out through disuse. Is it not thus with every power we possess?
3. By conscious indulgence of any sin. The man who continues, perhaps, in a very studied secrecy, to carry on some business scheme that he knows to be fraudulent, to cherish some desire that he knows to be impure, to maintain a habit that he knows is stamped with meanness, or uncharitableness, is doing the very best he can to become insensible to sincerity, holiness, nobility, and love.
III. HOW THIS HARDNESS OF HEART IS TO BE PREVENTED.
1. Be earnest. Triflers petrify with terrible rapidity.
2. Be real. They who simultaneously live two lives — the outward, upright, pious, irreproachable; the inward, false, godless, corrupt are, by all the restraint and repression that their hypocrisy involves, hardening their hearts, becoming in heart " as hard as a piece of nether millstone."
3. Be watchful. Not only to avoid trifling and to keep wide of all hypocrisy, but because of the insidious influence of familiarity with holy things, there is need in every one for watchfulness. Often introspect yourself to see if you are getting less tender-hearted; and if you are, use every means that can soften and quicken you again.
IV. How THIS HARDNESS OF HEART IS TO BE REPROVED.
1. How can the hard heart be broken? God has provided the means.(1) The dispensations of His providence, such as the loneliness of Jacob, the manifold sorrows of Job, the sickness of Hezekiah, are designed to quicken our spiritual nature.(2) God's Word is a hammer that has crushed the pride, shivered the self-righteousness, broken the " stony heart" of many a sinner.(3) The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all that cross signifies of a life of love, of sacrificial suffering, and of atoning death, is the great power for melting and subduing human hearts.(4) The Spirit of God, sometimes using these means, sometimes acting directly upon the human spirit, is the power that takes away "the stony heart, and gives a heart of flesh."
2. What are the signs that the heart is rightly broken?(1) There is consciousness of sin. As in broken stones we find fossils of the reptile or the fern, telling of the time when it was a soft, clay like substance, easily impressible; so in the process of breaking the hard heart, there is revealed the reptile of actual sin, as well as the fern of fair promise. "God be merciful to me a sinner!" "Father, I have sinned."(2) There is the sense of God's gracious presence. When the heart is rightly broken, He who was " sent to heal the broken-hearted" is there. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and sayeth such as be of a contrite spirit."
(U. R. Thomas.)I. WHEN WE HEAR GOD'S VOICE THE HEART MUST RESPOND. The assent of the intellect, the admiration of the understanding, the fervour of the imagination, and even the conviction of the conscience, do not suffice. God speaks to the heart. Oh that Christ may dwell there! God's voice is to soften the heart. Alas I by nature we are bard-hearted; and what we call good and soft-hearted is not so in reality and in God's sight. God wishes us to be delivered from hardness of heart, that is, from dulness of perception of His love and beauty, from ingratitude and lukewarmness towards Him, from pride and impenitence, from self-seeking and unrest. When we receive God's Word in the heart, when we acknowledge our sin, when we adore God's mercy, when we desire God's fellowship, when we see Jesus, who came to serve us, the heart becomes soft and tender. For repentance, faith, prayer, patience, hope of heaven, all these things make the heart tender. Can we be hard — thinking much of ourselves, discontented with our lot, envious or unforgiving, worldly and restless — when we hear the voice of God — "I am the Lord thy God; I have loved thee with an everlasting love; thou art Mine." "As I have loved you, love one another."
II. ALL SIN BEGINS IN THE HEART. And what is the error of the heart? What else hut unbelief? God speaks, and the heart is to believe. If the heart is hardened, it believes not; and regarding neither the threatenings nor the promises, it leans not on the strength and love of God: unbelief is the mother of all sin and sorrow.
III. UNBELIEF IS DEPARTURE FROM THE LIVING GOD. HOW simple is this!" As long as you trust God you are near Him. The moment you doubt Him your soul has departed into the strange country. Faith is the link between God's fulness and strength and our emptiness and weakness. If the soul cries out, Abide with me, or Nearer to Thee, the answer of Jesus is, Only believe!
(A. Saphir.)1. Natural hardness. This is the original cause of habitual hardness. If that be not taken away this will accompany it; both will be mixed together.
2. Unbelief. This makes men disrespect promises, threatenings, mercies, judgments, and all other means which are of use to soften, or break men's hearts (Deuteronomy 1:32; Deuteronomy 9:25; Psalm 78:22, 32).
3. Hypocrisy. By this men cover and hide their sin, whereby they wax bold in sinning.
4. Pride. For this is ordinarily joined with scorn, disdain, and such like vices as make men refuse and reject the means which might mollify their hearts.
5. Presumption. When sins are committed against knowledge, conscience, light of nature, and motions of the Spirit, they are as heavy weights that press out all spiritual sense and life.
6. Of committing or long lying in the same sin. Many small knocks or blows, long continued, do in time as much as a great blow at once.
8. Lewd company. Lewd companions will by evil counsel, bad example, bold encouragement, make men impudent and obstinate in sinning (Proverbs 1:10, &c.).
9. Superfluity of the things of this world; as of wealth, honour, ease, pleasure, applause, and other such things as men by nature delight in.
(W. Gouge.)I. TAKE HEED OF ALL AND EVERY OF THOSE CAUSES WHENCE HARDNESS OF HEART ARISETH.
1. Regeneration. Hereby natural hardness is removed.
2. Faith. Hereby unbelief is redressed.
3. Sincerity. This keeps out hypocrisy.
4. Humility Hereby pride and other like vices are kept down.
5. A fear of God. This will withhold us from gross sins.
6. Christian prudence. This will make men weary of multiplying sins and long lying therein.
7. Spiritual watchfulness. This will uphold in such a course as will preserve us from relapse.
8. Holy jealousy, lest we should by company be drawn aside.
9. Contempt of this world and of the things thereof, that we be not ensnared and overcome thereby.
10. Patience under all crosses, as laid on us by our heavenly Father for our good.
II. LABOUR TO FEEL THE HEAVY BURTHEN OF SIN (Psalm 38:4).
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
1. Carnal security, which comforts itself with the outward possession of the means of grace; and from —
2. Natural indifference and insensibility to the Word, proceeds on through —
3. Unbelieving disparagement.
4. Faithless neglect, and —
5. Reckless transgression of the Word —
6. To rejection, contempt, and denial of it; and thence to a —
7. Permanent embittering of the wicked heart; to a —
8. Conscious stubbornness of the wicked will; to the —
9. Bold tempting of the living God Himself, until in —
10. Complete obduracy, judicial retribution begins the fulfilment of its terrible work.
(J. P. Lange.)
(R. M. McCheyne.)
Christian World Pulpit."Harden not your hearts"; there is no need, they are hard enough already. "Harden not your hearts"; there is no excuse, for why should you resist love? " Harden not)our hearts"; there can be no good in it — a man is the less a man in proportion to his loss of tenderness of heart.
(Christian World Pulpit.)
(G. Neil, M. A)
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