Hosea 6:4
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning mist, like the early dew that vanishes.
Sermons
A Divine ExpostulationJ. Grose, A. M.Hosea 6:4
A Threefold ThemeHomilistHosea 6:4
A Threefold ThemeD. Thomas Hosea 6:4
Emotion in the Religious LifeH. Ward Beecher.Hosea 6:4
Evanescence of the Early DewFrancis Jacox, B. A.Hosea 6:4
Fading ImpressionsHosea 6:4
Fickleness in ReligionA. Hampden Lee.Hosea 6:4
Fitful Piety UnsatisfactoryW. L. Watkinson.Hosea 6:4
Fugitive PietyW. L. Watkinson.Hosea 6:4
God's Grief Over Evanescent GoodnessA. Rowland Hosea 6:4
Goodness as KindnessHosea 6:4
Goodness Like a Morning CloudSketches of Four Hundred SermonsHosea 6:4
Goodness that Will not LastE.B. Pusey, D. D.Hosea 6:4
Instability of CharacterT. Kennion, M. A.Hosea 6:4
Instances of Inconstancy in Good MenH. Bonar, D. D.Hosea 6:4
Man's GoodnessJeremiah Burroughs.Hosea 6:4
Occasional ImpressionsJames Parsons.Hosea 6:4
On Transient ImpressionsW. Knight, M. A.Hosea 6:4
Religious ConstancyH. Ward Beecher.Hosea 6:4
Religious DeclensionRobert Eden, M. A.Hosea 6:4
The Condition of Man as a WreckHomilistHosea 6:4
The Day-Dawn and the RainJ. Orr Hosea 6:4
The Impressions of Natural Men are LadingR. M. M'Cheyne.Hosea 6:4
The Instability of Human GoodnessT. Boston, D. D.Hosea 6:4
Transient Convictions and True ConsecrationJ. Cox.Hosea 6:4
Transient DevotionsJames Saurin.Hosea 6:4
Transient ImpressionsW. M. Taylor, D. D.Hosea 6:4
Transitory GoodnessJ.R. Thomson Hosea 6:4
Trifling with ImpressionsHenry Melvill, B. D.Hosea 6:4
Fugitive PietyC. Jerdan Hosea 6:4, 5
Evanishing GoodnessJ. Orr Hosea 6:4-6
A thoughtful reader cannot fail to observe the contrast here suggested between the constancy of Jehovah's grace (ver. 3) and the inconstancy of Israel's piety (ver. 4). If Israel would (rely "return," and "follow on to know the Lord" now, all would yet be well. But, alas! the twelve tribes are as fickle as he is faithful.

I. GOD'S COMPLAINT REGARDING THE JEWISH PEOPLE. (Ver. 4.) In Eastern lands the sky is often heavily hung with clouds at early dawn; lint, so soon as the sun rises, he begins to suck them up - their many-colored glory quickly fades, and in an hour is time they are gone. In the morning, also, the dewdrops adorn the herbage like myriads of sparkling diamonds; but the first acts of radiation after sunrise dissipate all the jewelry, and soon leaf and blade languish in the heat. Those two figures the Lord uses in this touching expostulation. Israel's piety, when the people did show any, was similarly fascinating, promising, and evanescent. It could no more be reckoned up,0n than "a morning cloud." It was short-lived as "the early dew." There are many examples in Scripture of such fugitive piety.

(1) In the national history of Israel. At Sinai the people promised obedience, and then made the golden calf. The age of the Judges was a time of alternate sinning and repenting, and repenting and sinning. Each of the reformations under John, Elijah, and Hezekiah turned out to be "as a morning cloud."

(2) In the lives of individuals. It is enough to mention such cases as King Saul, the young ruler who came to Jesus, Felix, Demas, the Galatian professors (Galatians 5:7). We meet with morning-cloud religion constantly still. It is frequently found:

1. In the time of childhood. "The dew of youth' is always beautiful; and sometimes the grace of the Holy Spirit is in it, and it fertilizes. The morning cloud of childhood's faith is often a "vision splendid," for

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our Home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"


(Wordsworth.) But the piety of childhood does not always bear the test. It sometimes turns out to be merely emotional, and nothing more. In the hour of temptation "it goeth away."

2. In the season of affliction. Many a man, in the day upon which some storm of sickness or bereavement has strewn his life with wreckage, resolves that when the clouds are removed he will cultivate the friendship of God, and trust in his providence, and keep his Law. But, after prosperity has returned, he does not "pay that which he has vowed."

3. As the result of common grace. Common grace is that influence of the Holy Spirit which is more or less granted to all men. In connection with his operations men who are unregenerate have their seasons of deep conviction, and of anxious thought regarding spiritual things. Sometimes riley "receive the Word with joy" (Matthew 13:20), and are "made partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Hebrews 6:4), and begin to lead an externally religious life. But, if experiences of this kind are not accompanied by a real change of heart, they pass away like "a morning cloud." Such fugitive piety is fatally defective. It is:

(1) Unreal. For, a characteristic mark of true religion is steadfastness. "The path of the just" is not "as a morning cloud," but "as the morning" itself, "that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

(2) Unhappy. Those who do not "follow on to know the Lord," but allow themselves to be hindered by the discouragements and sufferings which belong to the Christian life, come to identify religion only with these. "Pliable" associates piety with the "Slough of Despond," "Formalist and Hypocrisy" with "the Hill Difficulty," "Timorous and Mistrust" with "the lions." It is only pilgrims like "Christian," who endure to the end, that shall taste the joys of" the House Beautiful," and "the Delectable Mountains," and "the land of Beulah."

(3) Unhopeful. Those who "receive the Word into stony places," or "among the thorns," become a very hopeless class. The habit of taking sudden fits of goodness, each of which is followed by a relapse into sin, is very hardening to the heart.

II. GOD'S METHOD WITH THE PEOPLE. (Ver. 5.) The Lord speaks as if he has been at his wit's end to know what measures to adopt in order to win the nation back to godliness. His words are, "What shall I do unto thee? What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4). His wisdom can devise no new expedient. His policy hitherto has been one of mingled goodness and severity, and all that he can do is to continue that policy still. So:

1. He sends his prophets to "hew." The figure here is taken from the art of the statuary. Human souls are like blocks of marble, and God is the great Sculptor. He sent the Hebrew prophets to cut and carve Israel into the Divine image; for, while the nation's piety was thin as vapor, its heart was hard as adamant. This metaphor has a lesson in it regarding the Christian ministry. A large part of the preacher's work is to prick slumbering consciences, and to hammer stony hearts. It is true, of course, that the New Testament message is emphatically "the gospel;" yet the background of the "good news" is necessarily the bad news of guilt and sin and wrath. Christian sermons addressed to the natural man cannot avoid being denunciatory. Our pulpit teaching, both in matter and manner, should reflect as clearly as possible the teaching of the New Testament. In delivering the message of condemnation especially, the speaker should take care to be not only faithful but tender.

2. He uses his Law to "slay." "The words of God's mouth" are fitted to produce the recognition of sin in its true nature and consequences. The ministry of the Law convicts and condemns. God's word "slays" when it convinces of guilt and pollution, and produces thereby self-condemnation and remorse. A man must be thus slain in relation to sin before his heart, can be prepared for the reception of the gospel. "Is not my Word like as a fire? saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:29). "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. (Hebrews 4:12).

3. He comes in a morning of judgment. "Thy judgments" we take to mean the judgments inflicted on thee, i.e. on the Jewish people. God will prepare for them such a morning as they do not desire to see at all. lie will come "as the light" to manifest their sins, and to punish them. The judgments shall be palpable to every eye, and shall be manifestly just. Jehovah shall be "clear when he judges."

CONCLUSION. These two verses remind us

(1) that God's compassions fail net, but

(2) that persistent sinfulness on man's part will shut him out from the enjoyment of the Divine mercy. - C.J.







Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
Men's convictions die away, their resolutions prove abortive; they run well, but don't continue; begin to build, but leave their work unfinished This is a most unhappy case, as dangerous and fatal as it is common.

I. THE CAUSES OF THIS WRETCHED INCONSTANCY. Is it because men have no power, or no encouragement to do otherwise? Neither can be the reason, because where there is no power at all, there is no sin, and where there is no encouragement to exert the power we have, if we are not altogether without sin, yet we seem to have such an excuse for our sins, as takes away much the greatest part of their guilt. One represents God as the author of sin; the other as wanting in goodness and love to His creatures. That so many do no more than begin well, is not from want of power; since God, the righteous Governor and Judge of the world, never requires beyond the measure of what He has given. Does God command all men to repent? The reason is that by the grace of the Gospel all shall be enabled to repent who do not wilfully refuse and resist that grace. And no one can plead in excuse for himself, when he repents of his sins, and then relapses into them, and after all his fair promises and repeated resolutions, never makes thorough work of it, that he has not sufficient motives to make him exert himself. The true causes of inconstancy are —

1. Want of seriously and distinctly considering the nature of the change upon which they are entering, the reasons for it, and the pains and time it will cost to effect it.(1) They don't consider that every sin is to be forsaken, and every duty to be practised; nor do they reflect what these particular sins and duties are, and what is meant by forsaking the one and practising the other. For want of a distinct notion of their duty, men find themselves bewildered, are at a loss how to proceed, and never want an excuse for not doing what they ought, or for doing what they ought not, when they are under strong persuasion.(2) Men don't seriously consider the reason upon which their purpose of a change ought to be founded, and therefore they miscarry. The little they do is not the effect of judgment and rational conviction, so much as of some passion accidentally raised in them.(3) Men don't consider the pains they must take, and the time that must be spent in effecting this change (Luke 14:28). The difficulties of religion are to be duly considered. It is as wrong to exaggerate the difficulties as to underestimate them. Conversion is a work of time. Men are not presently cured of the vices which have grown habitual. Habits which have been long contracted are not immediately unlearnt again, and contrary habits planted in their room. Some have talked as if the new creature were an instantaneous production, and the habits of grace were infused in a moment. And this representation has done no little mischief.

2. Another cause of men's inconstancy is their being but half resolved. And this is a very common case. They are so far from being fully determined as hardly to know which side they shall take. It is not strange that such imperfect resolutions are quickly broken. Instability of conduct is the necessary effect of irresoluteness of temper.

3. Another cause is men's not exercising a suitable caution and vigilance, in order to avoid the occasions of sin, and all those temptations that beset them, and endanger their falling back into their former way of living. If they would not fall, why do they walk in the same slippery places?

4. Another cause is their not persevering in the instrumental duties of religion, particularly the duty of secret prayer. Did they from day to day maintain their intercourse with heaven, they would be much better prepared to do the will of God upon earth, and to resist and overcome any temptation which should beset them.

II. THE CERTAINTY THAT THESE INEFFECTIVE PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT, THESE MERE BEGINNINGS, WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED INSTEAD OF TRUE REPENTANCE AND HOLINESS OF LIFE.

1. The Gospel requires nothing less than repentance and true holiness. This is abundantly evident from Scripture passages.

2. Such an imperfect transient goodness is not that repentance and holiness of life upon which the Gospel insists. Is confessing sin the same as confessing and forsaking it? Can they be said to repent, who do not bring forth fruits meet for repentance? And the character of a man is to be taken from his habitual practice. He that doeth righteousness is righteous.

3. Out of regard to the perfections of His nature, and the declarations of His Holy Word, God will not dispense His saving mercy upon any other terms than those set forth in the Gospel. Evangelical repentance and obedience there must be.

III. WHAT METHOD WE SHOULD TAKE IF WE WOULD NOT ONLY MAKE SOME ENTRANCE UPON THE WAYS OF RELIGION, BUT GO ON IN THEM, AND HOLD OUT TO THE END. Avoid those things which are the usual occasions of inconstancy in this most important affair. And give ourselves to frequent meditation of those great truths on which religion is founded. And often renew our good resolutions, and arm ourselves every day before we go forth into the business and temptations of the world. Bend our chief force against those sins which do most easily beset us, and most frequently overcome us. Frequently make this reflection, that while we spend our time in trifling thus with religion, life not only goes on, but goes off too, and death approaches. Let us reflect every one for himself, whether, and how far, this subject concerns us.

1. Consider that you have all the difficulty without the benefit of a thorough reformation of heart and life.

2. You can have no real satisfaction in your present course.

3. Every time you return to your sins, after you have resolved to forsake them, and begun to do it, you make your condition worse than it was before.

4. In what light will your present manner of acting appear when you come to die?

IV. THE METHOD WE SHOULD TAKE IF WE WOULD NOT ONLY MAKE SOME ENTRANCE UPON THE WAYS OF RELIGION, BUT GO ON IN THEM, AND HOLD OUT TO THE END.

1. Good men are too apt to change as to their diligence and activity in the Christian life.

2. Hath the time been when the Christian was vigilant and circumspect? One would think that the advantages he must have reaped from thence should have kept him so; and yet they do not always effect it.

3. There may be the loss, as to the good man's conscience, of its former sensibility and authority. Conscience is an inward sense and feeling of good and evil. Sensibility of conscience appears not so much in discovering the nature as the degrees of moral good and evil. How careful should we be to maintain this sensibility and tenderness of conscience.

4. Hath the Christian disengaged himself to a great degree from the affections of the lower life? He is very happy herein, but let him net be secure, as if he was not liable to a change. The following, are among these affections of the lower life, which even in Christians sometimes prevail too much.

(1)Admiration and esteem of worldly things.

(2)Love of sensual pleasure.

(3)Immoderate hopes and fears, joy and sorrow about present things.

(4)Intemperate anger, or a proneness to kindle into warm resentments upon very trivial occasions.

(5)A spirit of devotion is not always kept up.His indevotion appears in his disuse of religious thoughts and contemplations, in which time was that he more frequently employed himself. And also in the little pleasure which Christians take in the duties and exercises of religion. It is attended with want of desire after spiritual and eternal blessings. Two directions.

1. Fix in your minds a just and lively apprehension of the much greater peace and pleasure which attend an even and regular course of piety than the contrary.

2. Have your eye upon the first tendencies of the heart to wander from God, and immediately oppose and check them.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

This is a mournful voice of expostulation. The thing which aroused the prophet's sad lament is as familiar to us as it was to those who lived in that day. The same temptations follow the same passions, and substantially the same experiences are the result. The inconstancy of men in goodness; the facility with which they are excited; the quickness with which they recognise the better way; the rapidity with which they forget it, — these are the themes of the Old Testament and the New alike, and also of observing men in profane literature. The topic is the inconstancy, the remission, of religious emotion. There is a vast amount of tremulous excitement, there is a great deal of feeling, which runs for an hour very deeply; and yet, the transientness of religious life and of religious feeling is just as much a matter of remark to-day as it was a thousand years ago, and just as much a matter of remark in the Church as it was in the synagogue. The obvious reason will be, of course, in the nature of the human soul; in its proclivity downward and backward towards the animal, on which it is based and from which it sprang. Men have a very brief religious experience because the power of the world is so strong over them. There are many persons who do not want to be conformed to the world; who do not desire to have any fluxes of feeling. They ask, How shall I prolong these experiences?

I. There is much error in the doctrine of the uses of feeling, and therefore of its degrees, and of the possibility of equal emotion on the part of all. If religion were the putting of persons through a Divine process from which each one emerged amply equipped, and equipped like every other, then every one might demand that his experience should be like that of every other one; but such is not the case. Men are brought into the religious state with all their conditions of constitution, or of soul and mind, with all their conditions of education and non-education, with all their misteachings and prejudices; and they begin at different points. Each one has problems of his own in life. God in His providence deals with each particular man according to the method which is adapted to him. Feeling is not to be sought as a luxury. The object of feeling is to be an operative one. Though there should be pleasure in it. Persons who enter a Christian life, and seek to promote such a life by the experience of feeling, exquisite, abundant, and continuous, may think that they are seeking religion, while often they are only seeking self. What, then, is to the the limit of feeling? How much feeling is a man to have? Enough to maintain himself vitally. Enough to impel him on every side to the duties which belong to his station and to his nature. The most powerful loves in life are latent. Everywhere in life, true and wholesome feeling tends to clothe itself in action. I have known many persons who gave up a thousand ethical duties for the sake of having experience, as it is called. There are many who are attempting to be eminent in their Christian life by having a full-orbed emotive experience all the time. But there are a great many persons so constituted that depths and currents of feeling such as others have are quite impossible to them. The law of the production of feeling must be better understood. It is thought that feeling so exists in men that one has but to wish for it, long for it, pray for it, try for it, to have it come. No person trying on any other side of the mind would ever come to such a conclusion. Try it with caution, or mirthfulness. Would they come at demand? The causes which produce feeling are various. There are certain ideas or elemental truths which produce the sense of awe: there are others that produce the sense of faith; others that produce love, or joy, or sorrow, or remorse. Whoever wants a given feeling must understand what are the truths which stand connected with its production. Take also into consideration the law of continuity of feeling in men. Feeling, when it becomes continuous, is insanity. Emotions never run in channels. They are always changing. They rise and fall. If one observes a wholesome mind, he will find that there are scores of feelings which alternate, first one being in the ascendency and then another. The on-going of the impulses of a wholesome mind is like the progress of a time. Nothing is worse for a person than to attempt all the time to have just one state of mind, because he thinks that to be a Christian is to have God in one's thoughts all the while. You cannot do it, and you ought not to try to do it. It is unnatural. There is a law of the inspiration of distinctively moral feeling. There is an impression that religious feeling is the direct product of the Divine Spirit. It may be, as harvests are the product of the sun; but the sun works differently on different growths. Now, the moral or spiritual part of a human being, that part which makes him a man, not an animal, comes from God. It is universal mind, moving in universal space, that gives us vitality, and inspires our reason and moral emotions in all their variations. A true moral feeling is an inspiration of God; but it is an inspiration which acts differently in different persons. There is one class of men whose emotions distinctly run to ideas. All men's emotions follow reason. But there are some men who have no distinct conceptions of moral emotion except those which evolve ideas — that is, differentiated truths, or a series of propositions. As, for instance, John Calvin. The beauty-loving element has power to open the door of the soul, and produce profound moral emotions. There are those whose moral feelings are largely dependent on the imagination. Two elements constitute the whole revelation of God, fact and fiction. The imagination, working with the reason, constitutes faith, generically considered. Every man should have a susceptibility of moral emotion through the imaginative element. How can any man read the Apocalypse of John, and appreciate it without imagination? There are different modes of reaching man's interior natures. It is ignorance or neglect of the laws of feeling that makes so much trouble with persons in their religious experience. There are many who think that if they are to have true moral feelings they must have them in a particular way; whereas true moral feelings come in an infinite number of ways: One hindrance to the development of moral feeling and to its continuous flow, in so far as continuity of moral feeling is practicable, is found in the law of discord of the force of malign feelings in changing the current and nature of a man's emotions. In the human soul, which is the most exquisite of all orchestras, you may have mirth, reason, wit, and humour, veneration, hope, faith, and they help each other, and are naturally harmonious, and cannot of themselves make discord. But when a man is in that peaceful and joyous state of mind which it is the nature of these combined elements to induce, let one single malign feeling strike in among them, and it will put them out of concord, and strike a line of discord through them.

(H. Ward Beecher.)

The Church hath seldom seen happier days than those described in Exodus 19. God had never diffused His benedictions on a people in a richer abundance. Never had a people gratitude more lively, piety more fervent. But this devotion had one great defect, it lasted only forty days. God had to say, "They have quickly turned aside." Some divines regard the text as prophetical. In their opinion the goodness mentioned in the text is the mercy of God displayed in the Gospel. The dew signifies Jesus Christ. The morning dew intends the covenant of grace. We, however, regard a goodness like the morning dew as a seeming piety, which goeth away, is of short duration, and all the words of the text are a reproof from God to His people for the unsteadiness of their devotions.

I. THE NATURE OF THE PIETY IN QUESTION. We are not to understand by it those deceitful appearances of hypocrites who conceal their profane and irreligious hearts under the cover of ardour and religion; or the disposition of those Christians who fall through their own frailty from high degrees of pious zeal, and experience emotions of sin after they have felt exercises of grace. Hypocrisy cannot suspend the strokes of Divine justice one single moment, and it is more likely to inflame than to extinguish the righteous indignation of God. The piety we speak of lies between these two dispositions. It is sincere, but it is unfruitful, and in that respect it is inferior to the piety of the weak and revolting Christian. It is sufficient to discover sin, but not to correct it: sufficient to produce sincere resolutions, but not to keep them: it softens the heart, but it doth not renew it; it excites grief, but it doth not eradicate evil dispositions. It is a piety of times, opportunities, and circumstances.

1. By piety, like the early dew that goeth away, we mean that which is usually excited by public calamities.

2. In the second class of transient devotions we place that which religious solemnities produce.

3. That which is excited by the fear of death, and which vanishes as soon as the fear subsides. The most emphatical, the most urgent, and the most pathetical of all preachers is death.

II. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THIS KIND OF DEVOTION.

1. In the text is an argument of sentiment and love. God represents Himself here under the image of a prince who had formed an intimate connection with one of his subjects. And the subject seems deeply sensible of the honour done him, but proves faithless. Equivocal reformations, appearances of esteem, are much more cruel than total ingratitude and open avowed hatred.

2. Consider the injustice of these devotions. Though they are vain, yet people expect God to reward them. Though men's complaints of God's not rewarding were unjust, yet God sometimes paid attention to them; for though He sees the bottom of men's hearts, and distinguishes real from apparent piety, yet He hath so much love for repentance that He sometimes rewards the bare appearance of it, as in the case of Ahab. The Jews knew this condescension of God, and they insulted it in the most odious manner.

3. There is a manifest contradiction between these two periods of life, between that of our devotion, and that of our sin. A reasonable man acting consistently ought to choose either to have no periods of devotion, or to perpetuate them. There is a palpable danger in having both these dispositions.

4. Every part of devotion supposes some action of life, so that if there be no such action the whole value of devotion ceases.

5. Transient devotions are inconsistent with the general design of religion. This design is to reform man, to renew him, to transform him into the likeness of glorified saints, to render him like God. But how does a rapid torrent of devotion attended with no moral rectitude contribute to this end?

6. Transient devotions must render promises of grace to you doubtful, even suppose you should ever, after a thousand revolutions of transient piety, be in possession of true and real religion.

7. Consider the imprudence of a man who divides his life in this manner into periods of devotion and periods of sin. A heart divided in this manner cannot be happy. And the state of suspension which God assumes in the text cannot last long.

(James Saurin.)

Homilist.
I. MAN IS A WRECK. The picture which this book gives us of the Jewish people is truly a hideous and lamentable one. Sin roils its warm, sparkling, but poisonous current through the veins of all. Man everywhere is a moral ruin. Physically, intellectually, and morally man is a wreck. He is at war with himself, at war with the universe, at war with God. But God is earnest about man in this condition. He appeals in the most tender and moving strains of love and mercy.

II. MAN, THOUGH A WRECK, IS AN OBJECT OF IMPORTANCE. Nothing impresses so much the importance of man as the interest which the great God seems to take in him — the earnestness which He displays for his recovery. A great, mind is never earnest about an unimportant object. Little minds grow enthusiastic about small matters. There is a strange power in suffering to heighten affection. As is seen in homes in times of sickness.

III. MAN, THOUGH A WRECK, IS CAPABLE OF RESTORATION. Three things show this.

1. The condition of man in this world.

2. The deep aspiration of humanity.

3. The extraordinary means that are provided for man's restoration.

IV. MAN, THOUGH A WRECK, EXERTS A FEARFUL POWER. Why did all God's operations fail? On account of man's power, even in his wrecked condition, to resist. Man counteracts the moral influence of nature and the tendency of providence: he even resists the appeals of the Gospel and the strivings of the Spirit.

(Homilist.)

How little practical influence do the Divine claims possess on the hearts and conduct of men! There are some who, if visited by occasional impression, and if apparently aroused to a sense of their high obligations, yet fall back again to perverted habits as the natural element of life. To such as these Hosea wrote.

I. THE NATURE AND EXCITING CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE DISPOSITION ALLEGED. The images employed are emblems of brevity and evanescence. The morning cloud is soon dispersed, and the early dew soon evaporates before the sunbeam. It affirms that the persons indicated had been the subjects of certain emotions towards God and His will, which appeared to be right and good, but which proved transitory and unsubstantial, and soon gave way altogether to returning habits of transgression and rebellion. There may often be the plausible semblance of regeneration without the vivifying reality. Here in the text is a disposition which effects no mental renovation, and takes no established hold — a mere inflamed excitement, subject at once to removal on the rise of new suggestions, expiring with the impulse of the moment, agitating and subsiding, promising and disappointing, springing and withering.

1. This disposition may be excited by remarkable interferences of the providence of God. Public and national providences have given rise, not seldom, to what has thus appeared as the spirit of religion. As in the times of the Israelite Judges. Times of prosperity and calamity have similar results in individuals.

2. By the presence of sickness and imagined approach of death. These are evidently calculated to lead to serious consideration on the interests of the soul. But too often the zeal keeps time with the disease; the recovery of health proves to be the resurrection of sins.

3. By the statements and appeals of Divine truth. Under the preaching of the Word, the emotions of many prove transitory and ineffective.

II. THE EFFECTS OF THAT DISPOSITION ON THE INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS OF IT.

1. It assists to render the mind insensible to religion. The susceptibility is exhausted and deadened, and will no longer answer to what awakened it before. Persons whose impressions have gone away, cherish an absolute hatred of the memory of those impressions, and of the circumstances that inspired them.

2. It exposes to the signal retribution of future punishment. To the accusation of the text are annexed threatenings of tremendous evils as consequent on the crime. The judicial result, arising from the previous transgressions, is at once stated.

(James Parsons.)

No two figures could have been selected, either for delicacy or for beauty, to represent the religious feelings better than these — the beauty of the cloud, its promise and its quick departure; and the beauty of the jewelled morning, that excites admiration everywhere, and the speedy emptying of its beauty. So is it, so it has been, and so it will be with religious .feeling that rises easily, that promises everything that is ecstatic and that is fugitive, going as do the clouds and the dew. One of the most important things to know to-day is the genesis of the feelings. The ignorance of men as to the laws and uses of feeling, and as to the means of producing, regulating, and retaining it, is monumental. All action proceeds from emotion, which is a reservoir of forces. Men seem to act from thinking; but thinking is altogether subordinate and auxiliary to feeling. That which makes a man act, that which sets him forward in research, enterprise, effort, is either open or latent emotion. You cannot produce a sound and large religious character, you cannot produce any change in the right direction without feeling. Susceptibility to emotion is, in its largest view, susceptibility to development in any direction. How much emotion does a person want? Enough to bring him into a condition of action. More than that. Enough to make him a little more alert, and to make his work easier. People who want intense emotion are not wise. It is creditable to persons to enter upon high Christian life without having had very deep experiences of feeling or emotion. Another mistake in regard to feeling is the temptation to make it continuous. It is contrary to nature. Persons often reproach themselves for losing their feeling when they ought to lose it. We are not constituted so that we can bear continuous emotion long in a single line. Then there is such a thing as the alternation of feeling. And alternation is desirable, for alternation is rest. Religious feelings exhausted by continued religious considerations are restored by the administration of social and secular things. Often the things which men avoid seriously and urgently are the very things which are necessary for them. The production of feeling is a matter very little understood. Buoyancy is a term by which we mean that kind of general animal emotion which is the result of high life-feeling such as children and all-young animals show. It is a purely bodily quality. It must not be confounded with emotion. Quickness of susceptibility is a sign, not of deep emotion, but of temperament. By temperament several things are meant. Emotion proper results from the action on the feelings of some form of intellectual presentation. That is the general law. Is there any law, any principle, any direction that a man can give or take, by which one can facilitate the production of any feeling that he wants? Deep religious feeling is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of cultivation, as definite as cultivation in a field or garden of plants; and just as definite as cultivation in schools.

(H. Ward Beecher.)

No valuable attainment is to be made without industry; and no industry is effectual but that which has the character of perseverance. Yet there is an impression almost universal, that spiritual blessings are to visit us unsolicited by our patient exertion; that, at all events, an occasional sensibility of feeling, and transient purposes of amendment will conduct us to all that is requisite for the life to come. Reflection might teach us the probability of there being an analogy between the requirement made upon us for the earthly, and that which is necessary for the heavenly attainments. Self-examination might show us how very foreign the knowledge of Divine things is to the darkness within our souls; how opposed the practice of what is righteous to the corruption which reigns there. Scripture would affix its authoritative seal on all which reflection and self-inquiry suggest. How unstable was the nation of Israel! What other means could Divine wisdom invent to give to their repentance a fixed, a lasting, an effective character? Mercies and judgments had been tried again and again. God speaks in the text as a man would speak with respect to persons with whom he had used every means of improvement, and used them in vain. The case before us is an exhibition of our own character and danger. It is the prototype of a large class among ourselves. Who have begun, but whose goodness has been like the morning cloud which flees before the approaching sun, or as the early dew soon caught up by his scorching heat. Those who so lately turned from sin to repentance, turn back again from repentance to sin. What are the causes of this short-lived goodness; the causes which lead to the relapse into evil? Great deliverances — blessings from God of an unusual importance — may produce a temporary relaxation of wickedness or worldliness. This effect is also seen to arise from trouble. There are few who have not been led by sorrow and disappointment to make what has proved in the result an abortive struggle. Another frequent cause of temporary heats of religion is discovered in the power of conviction. Appeal to men is continually made b.y the Word of God, by His ministers, by His providence. The only surprise is that such impressions, grounded in truth, should not conduct the soul further; and that there is any point within the line which divides insincerity and sincerity at which it should stop. The solution is found in the state of the heart; there is, in truth, no principle to lead it onward to the true Christian character. The nature of religion has not been considered; its motives have not been weighed; its difficulties have not been calculated. No wonder that animal indulgence, the temptations of the world, and the persuasions and influence of others make it difficult for a pliable mind to act independently.

(T. Kennion, M. A.)

Ephraim and Judah were made better neither by promises nor threatenings, so that their case was very hopeless, and nothing seemed to remain but that the Lord should leave them. In the text we have that which made their case so hopeless. They had at times some goodness — Hebrew, "kindness." They had at times some kindness for God and His way, some warmth of affections towards good. It was but sometimes. Their goodness was passing goodness. This instability is held forth by the similitude —

1. Of a morning cloud;

2. Of the early dew.Such is the instability of many in the good way of the Lord, that the goodness at which they sometimes arrive passeth away as a morning cloud and as the early dew.

I. IN WHAT RESPECTS DOES THIS LIKENESS HOLD GOOD? The goodness of the saints cannot pass away totally or finally. But even the saints may lose much of the degrees of grace.

1. Men's goodness often goes away very quickly as the morning cloud which appears only a very short while. Goodness of fellowship with Christ often fades quickly away. Goodness often passes quickly away after deliverance from trouble.

2. Men's goodness ordinarily goes away by degrees, almost imperceptibly. Carnal security creeps leisurely on men, until by it they are taken off their feet. When temptation comes, man's goodness is often amissing. Much goodness passes away in a time of persecution for the Gospel. And much when we are called to duty.

II. REASONS WHY THE GOODNESS OF MANY THUS PASSES AWAY.

1. Many, for all their goodness, have not the living Spirit of Christ dwelling in them.

2. Because the souls of many do not unite with Christ, who is the only head of influence.

3. Because, with many, religion is not their proper element. It is a forced matter with them that they have any at all. Self-love is their highest principle. They have no real love to the Lord, nor does the intrinsic beauty of holiness recommend it to them.

4. Because they have no spirit for difficulties and disappointments. They go forward cheerfully while things are laid to their hand; but disappointments take heart and hand from them, and they are knocked in the head.

5. Because of the entertaining of unmortified lusts, which, like suckers, draw the sap from the tree.

6. Because the profits and pleasures of the world soon charm away men's goodness.

7. Because of unwatchfulness over the heart and life. I would exhort you, then, that have attained to anything of goodness or kindness to the Lord in His way, that you would set yourselves to hold it fast.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

In these words God complains that He did not know what to do with Israel, their impressions were so fading.

I. THE FACT THAT THE IMPRESSIONS OF NATURAL MEN FADE AWAY.

1. Prove the fact from Scripture. Take the case of Lot's wife. Or Israel at the Red Sea. Or the young man who came running to Jesus. Or Felix. Or King Agrippa.

2. Prove the fact from experience.

(1)Many have had a time of awakening in childhood.

(2)Or at their first communion.

(3)Or in a first time of serious sickness.

(4)Or when there has come a first death in the family.

(5)Or in some season of religious awakening.

3. Show the steps of impressions fading away.

(1)Prayer gradually given up.

(2)Hearing the Word neglected,.

(3)Failing to seek counsel and help of ministers.

II. REASONS WHY THE NATURAL IMPRESSIONS OF MEN DIE AWAY.

1. They never are brought to feel truly lost. The wounds of natural men are generally skin deep. They may be brought to say, "I am a great sinner"; but they are not brought to feel undone.

2. They never saw the beauty of Christ. A flash of terror will bring a man to his knees, but will not bring him to Christ. Love only will draw. A natural man, under concern, sees no beauty nor desirableness in Christ.

3. He never had heart-hatred of sin. The impressions of natural men are generally of terror. They feel the danger of sin, not the filthiness of it.

4. They have no promises to keep their impressions. Natural men have no interest in the promises, and so, in the time of temptation, their anxieties easily wear away.

III. THE SADNESS OF THEIR CASE.

1. God mourns over their case. It must be a truly sad case that God mourns over.

2. God has no new method of awakening. He speaks as even at a loss what to do, to show you that there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.

3. No good by your past impressions. When the cloud is dried up off the mountain's brow, and the dew off the rock, the mountain is as great as before, and the rock as hard; but when convictions fade away from the heart of the natural man, they leave the mountain of his sins much greater, and his rocky heart much harder. It is less likely that such a man will ever be saved.Application.

1. You are now older, and every day less likely to be saved.

2. You have offended the Spirit. You have missed your opportunity. Convictions are not in your power.

3. You have got into the way of putting aside convictions.

4. When you come to hell you will wish you never had convictions, they will make your punishment so much the greater.Entreat all who now have any impressions not to let them slip. It is a great mercy to live under a Gospel ministry; still greater to live in a time of revival; still greater to have God pouring the Spirit into your heart, awakening your soul. Do not neglect it.

(R. M. M'Cheyne.)

How is the too common disappearance of hopeful impressions to be accounted for? The great reason no doubt is that the heart has never been truly reached. But that is itself an effect produced by other causes which need to be sought after. The causes which tend to make religious impressions evanescent may be classified under three heads.

I. THOSE WHICH ARE SPECULATIVE IN THEIR NATURE.. When the conscience is awakened the soul takes refuge in perplexing difficulties, which revelation leaves unsolved. But such difficulties should never be allowed to keep us from religious decision.

1. The existence of difficulties is inseparable from any revelation which is short of infinite. All perplexities arise from imperfect knowledge.

2. The difficulties in revelation are of the same sort, so far at least as they touch conduct, as those which we meet in God's daily providence.

3. Difficulties in regard to things of which we are in doubt ought not to prevent us from performing duties that are perfectly plain. Whatever a man may be perplexed about, he knows full well that it is wrong to commit sin. Some however find perplexities of another kind. They are bewildered by the questions raised by modern discoveries. It is important for such persons to keep this principle in mind — truth already ascertained on its own appropriate evidence is not the less true because there are added to it some important truths in another department of human inquiry. We welcome truth from all quarters, for truth is near of kin to Him who sits upon the eternal throne.

II. THOSE CAUSES WHICH ARE PRACTICAL.

1. Some are hindered from yielding to the promptings of their better nature by fear of opposition.

2. Others by the influence of evil associations.

3. Another hindrance is the fettering influence of some pernicious habit.

III. CAUSES CONNECTED WITH THE CONDUCT OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANS. The seriousness produced by some searching dis course is often wiped out by the thoughtless, flippant remarks of a so-called Christian on the way home from Church. Or it may be that in time of trouble professing Christians prove indifferent and neglectful. But the inconsistency of others cannot excuse us. And, moreover, we know well that all Christians are not like those we have to condemn. Remember the consistent ones, and do not dwell exclusively on the inconsistent,

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
I. PORTRAY THE CHARACTER INDICATED.

1. Unfruitful hearers. Such feel a pleasure in attending the ministry of the Word; the passions are affected, the understanding is enlightened, and they form purposes for amendment of life, but the impression is momentary; there is no decision of character.

2. Transient reformers. Those who under providential visitations have determined to amend their ways and live to God, but afterwards have relapsed into sin.

3. Inconstant professors. Such go farther than the former: for a season they make a public profession of religion, and attend regularly the ordinances of God's house; but through unwatchfulness and a neglect of Christian exercises their piety degenerates, their affections become cold, and at last they abandon religion altogether.

II. THEIR SIN AND DANGER.

1. Unwatchfulness. They were cautioned, warned, and admonished; but instead of guarding the avenues of the soul, they were heedless and trifling.

2. Unfaithfulness. Had they walked in the light, their path would have been that of the just (Proverbs 4:18).

3. Ingratitude. They have had signal displays of the Divine beneficence. The returns they make are blasphemy instead of praises; pride, instead of humility; sin, instead of holiness; hatred, instead of love.

4. Rebellion. God has been striving with them in a variety of ways. Yet their lives have been marked with instability and indecision. Such has been their sin and such the mercy of God. But the day of vengeance is at hand. And their state is awful beyond description.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

By the word of the prophet Hosea, the Divine reproach fell on Ephraim and on Judah, that their goodness was as a morning cloud, and that us the early dew it passed away. Bright was the promise of the innocent dawn, but the promise was unfulfilled. Mr. Kingsley, in a touching reflection — literally reflection, looking back on the "long lost might-have-been," adverts to that personal idea which every soul brings with it into the world, which shines dim and potential in the face of every sleeping babe, before it has been scarred, and distorted, and entrusted in the long tragedy of life. Dr. Caird has said of the birthday of the worst of men, that although it ushered a new agent of evil into existence, and was a day fraught with more disasters to the world than the day in which the pestilence began to creep over the nations, or the blight to fasten on the food of man, or any other physical evil to enter on a career of world-wide devastation, yet might this day, when the vilest of humanity first saw the light, be in some aspects of it regarded as better (despite Solomon's text) than the day of his death. "For, to take only one view of it, when life commenced, the problem of good or evil, to which death has brought so terrible a solution, was, in his case, as yet unsolved. The page of human history which he was to write was as yet unwritten, and to that day belonged, at all events, the advantage of the uncertainty whether it was to be blurred and blotted, or written fair and clean." Life, even in the most unfavourable circumstances, it is urged, has ever some faint gleams of hope to brighten its outset. The preacher owns that the simplicity, the tenderness, the unconscious refinement that more or less characterise infancy, even among the lowest and rudest, soon indeed pass away, and give place to the coarseness of an unideal, if not the animal repulsiveness of a sensual or sinful life. But he insists that at least at the beginning, for a little while, there is something in the seeming innocency, the brightness, the unworldliness, the unworn freshness of childhood, that gives hope room to work. Is there not, he asks, for every child, not in the dreams of parental fondness only, but in reality, and in God's idea, the possibility of a noble future? "The history of each new born soul is surely in God's plan and intention a bright and blessed one. For the vilest miscreant that was ever hounded out of life in dishonour and wretched ness, there was, in the mind of the All-good, a Divine ideal, a glorious possibility of excellence, which might have been made a reality." The most hardened ruffian, the most obdurate criminal, the most impenetrable reprobate was once a child. Most of what he has, the grown-up man is shewn to inherit from his infant self, but it does not follow that he always enters upon the whole of his natural inheritance.

(Francis Jacox, B. A.)

Since in every age of the Church the prophet's description of Ephraim finds but too faithful a resemblance, we must appropriate and apply to ourselves this affecting language. The case before us is that of instability in religion. The prophet's lamentation does not regard those who have fallen into known, deliberate, and grievous sin. The case before us does not regard those whose ardour of feeling is less strong than it may once have been. Feeling is no test of principle. Feelings and emotions, though they will ofttimes accompany a religious state of heart, yet are not necessarily attendant on it; they are often the effects of mere animal spirits. The prophet deals with the inconstancy and decline of those who have professed to know God, but whose acquaintance with Him has not grown, but decayed.

I. THE CHARACTER HERE DESCRIBED.

1. Those who have had strong convictions. Their consciences have been visited by the force of the most solemn and awakening appeals of God's Word. The arrows of the Almighty have been lodged, possibly very deeply, in the heart.

2. These have been accompanied by feelings, strong correspondent feelings. The representations of God's free and tender mercy in Christ Jesus have melted the soul into a love toward the Saviour, and the heart has prostrated itself at His footstool.

3. And these feelings have been followed by plans for the honour of God.

4. And this leads him to make great sacrifices. Such are some of the fair appearances, the goodly blossoms, which, in the outset of life, or after the first awakenings of the soul, appear in the characters of those who yet, alas! bring forth no fruit to "perfection." By and by, the power, the life, the unction is gone; there has been a worm at the root, eating out the spirit and the energy of the profession.

II. SOME OF THE CAUSES OF THIS DECLENSION.

1. Excessive ignorance of the heart. He knows not of the ten thousand specious forms of apology which his heart is devising, and no wonder that he is not prepared with a resistance.

2. Negligence in devotion. Wherever prayer is disused, or coldly performed, there are the infallible symptoms of decaying piety.

3. Unheeded afflictions. By trials and afflictions that check our complacent prosperity, God calls to some one whose early promise of excellence has disappointed the hopes of heaven. He seemed, whilst the pressure of God's hand was still felt, to have learned the things which belonged to his peace; but the immediate force being lifted off, and the prospect of speedily meeting God having vanished, he starts back; the things of sense again dazzle his eyes, stupefy his conscience, and carry him away captive.

4. Seductive worldly connection. Such alliances hang like a clog on the soul, and drag heavily upon that wing on which it might otherwise mount upwards with renewed strength towards the centre of blessedness.

III. WHAT IS GOD'S ESTIMATE OF THE CASE? It is a case which draws forth His severe anger. But the language of the passage rather presents God as grieved at the case, than in wrath. The appeal contains sharp rebuke and tender love. It says, thy case carries reproach to thyself, and draws compassion from My heart. What means this backward movement, when thou shouldst have moved forward?

(Robert Eden, M. A.)

A celebrated preacher of the seventeenth century, in a sermon to a crowded audience, described the terrors of the last, judgment with such eloquence, pathos, and force of action, that some of his audience not only burst into tears, but sent forth piercing cries as if the Judge Himself had been present, and was about to pass on them their final sentence. In the height of this excitement, the preacher called upon them to dry their tears, and cease their cries, as he was about to add something still more awful and astonishing than anything he had yet brought before them. Silence being obtained, he, with an agitated countenance and solemn voice, addressed them thus: "In one quarter of an hour from this time, the emotions which you have just now exhibited will be stifled; the remembrance of the fearful truths which excited them will vanish; you will return to your carnal occupations, or sinful pleasures, with your usual avidity, and you will treat all you have heard as a tale that is told."

This is one of those passages of Scripture in which God seems to represent Himself as actually at a loss, not knowing what else could be done to produce piety in hearts which had heretofore resisted the strivings of the Spirit. Yet, if you observe what these particular circumstances were which thus seemed to bring even Omnipotence to a stand, you will not find them such as might at first sight have been expected to produce such a result. God does not accuse Ephraim and Judah of being entirely unmoved by all the means which He had ever taken to move them. An impression had been made, but it had not been permanent. It is because the impression proved only transient that God represents Himself as at a loss — His resources exhausted, His purposes frustrated; for "your goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." There were some indications of goodness; some convictions of sin, some impressions of past guilt were produced. Resolutions of amendment were made, and partially carried into practice, but at the first impulse of temptation all these appearances vanished, just as the cloud disperses and the dew exhales before the sun shining in his strength. There can hardly be a less hopeful condition than that of a man on whom a weak impression has been made, but on whom it has not been abiding.

I. THE CASE DESCRIBED. The style of the preaching to which men are accustomed to listen will determine, in a great degree, the peculiar moral danger to which they are exposed. Cold preaching is likely to leave men in their natural torpor, and fervid preaching is likely to communicate a warmth which may be mistaken for the glow of spiritual life, but which, proceeding only from excited sensibilities, and not from a renewed heart, will immediately depart when the stimulating causes are withdrawn. You have only to follow one of the multitude who has been thus excitedly impressed, and you will find that no steps are taken to deepen the impressions. The influences of seasons of affliction are much the same. It is melancholy and disheartening to observe how rapidly those promising appearances vanish. Men so often virtually mistake the action of grief for the action of conscience. This is the case conceived in the text.

II. WHY SHOULD SUCH A CASE PRODUCE THE STARTLING WORDS OF THE TEXT? If religious impressions have been produced and then erased, the heart must be even harder than it was. says, "The facility with which we commit certain sins is a punishment for sins already committed." It is the property of our nature that the doing of a thing makes it easier to do it again. This property of our nature should teach us that in obliterating serious impressions we make it more difficult than ever that they should be reformed. Then comes the question, if we have offered successful resistance to the Spirit of God, will the strivings of the Spirit be more intense than before? It is on this very point that God represents Himself as putting the question of the text to Ephraim and Judah. Observe in these words of the text a peculiarity which is very touching and affecting. God addresses Himself to the very parties themselves whose goodness has vanished as the morning cloud or early dew. He proposes what we may call His difficulty, in the shape of questions, as though willing to be directed by those with whom He had striven in vain. He makes them, as it were, judges in the matter. What have you to answer to God! You, it seems, are found speechless. We will not say that your ease is beyond hope, but we will derive a warning from the manifested peril in which you stand. Take good heed how you trifle with your convictions. Your eternity may be dependent on your present steadfastness. If you crush your present feelings, there is a fearful likelihood of your passing from one degree of moral hardness to another, until God Himself shall not know what to do for your conversion.

(Henry Melvill, B. D.)

Homilist.
I. DIVINE SOLICITUDE. The language implies —

1. I have done much for thee.

2. I am ready to do more.

3. I am fettered in My actions.Almightiness has restrictions. It is God's glory that He will not outrage moral minds.

II. HUMAN PERVERSITY. Men set their wills in hostility to God's. Hence He says, "What shall I do unto thee?" I can reverse the laws of nature, I can break up old universes and create new ones, but I cannot make beings whom I have endowed with the power of freedom, virtuous and happy, contrary to their own will.

III. EVANESCENT GOODNESS. Whether the goodness refers exclusively to human kindness, or includes some amount of pious sentiment it matters not; it was so evanescent that it was of no worth. Goodness is of no worth to any being until it becomes supreme and permanent. Thank God for endowing thee with freedom; it is a fearful power. It gives to men a widely different destiny even here, but a destiny in eternity infinitely more dissimilar.

(Homilist.)

Either —

1. God's goodness towards them, or

2. Their goodness, that is, their piety and holiness.God's goodness to them was as the morning cloud, for they, by their sin, had driven away God's mercy and goodness from them, even as the wind carries the dust before it. In these words God charges this people with three things whereby their hypocrisy was expressed.

(1)Their vacuity and emptiness.

(2)Their falseness and dissembling.

(3)Their inconstancy and fickleness.

(Jeremiah Burroughs.)

Notwithstanding the paralysing effects of sin upon the conscience, there are few persons, perhaps, living under the light of inspiration, who have not, at one time or another, felt the claims of heaven press upon them, and tasted, in some degree, the powers of the world to come.

I. IMPRESSIONS BEARING THE SEMBLANCE OF RELIGION, AND PRODUCING EFFECTS WHICH ARE MISTAKEN FOR ITS GENUINE FRUITS, ARE GENERALLY, THOUGH BY NO MEANS UNIFORMLY, ATTRIBUTABLE TO EXTERNAL CAUSES.

1. The influence of education, and the force of habit often induce seriousness of mind, and generate a deportment which seems to harmonise with the principles of the Gospel. The collateral results of consistent piety are very many, and often they are very powerful. But they sometimes end in disappointment. Under the strain and temptation of life, the young man from a pious home fails and falls, the shadow of religion vanishes into aerial nothingness.

2. Impressions of a similarly transient nature are often produced by affliction in its varied forms. Such impressions are often, indeed, solid and permanent. But some persons under affliction resolve on the godly life, and then as the affliction passes so does the resolve. God removes affliction from the man's dwelling, and soon he himself banishes religion likewise; telling her, in effect, that though she may be a good companion in adversity, she is a gloomy guest in prosperity.

3. The faithful preaching of the Gospel, in very many instances, generates impressions which ultimately prove evanescent. The anxious pastor beholds with grateful joy these supposed fruits of his labours; but how deceitful these sometimes prove. The flower is nipped by the cruel blast, and forthwith it droops and fades away.

II. TRANSIENT GOODNESS IS AN ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT THING FROM VITAL RELIGION, The two may be more than externally assimilated to each other. The resemblance may, indeed, elude detection. The impressions we are now considering are essentially defective in reference to the two great points of sin and salvation. The professions of sin are not drawn from the hidden depths of self-knowledge; they do not grow out of that moral feeling which is generated by an insight into the holiness of God; they are not the genuine distinctive cry of the broken and contrite heart. They respect danger rather than degradation. There may be correct views of Gospel theory, they do not arise from, or connect themselves with a moral apprehension of the suitableness of the remedy to the nature of the disease. The goodness which is as the morning cloud wants spirituality of perception, in regard to the salvation of Christ; and it wants that pure complacency which cements the union of believers with their Lord. Lessons.

1. The importance of ascertaining the true basis on which our religion rests. In voluntary self-deception there is an equal mixture of sin and folly.

2. What an awful thing it is to sin against conscience. Backsliding and apostasy are different things. But no person who is actually sinning against the remonstrances of conscience can have scriptural evidence that he has been in a state of grace at all: he may rather draw the conclusion that he has not.

3. Consider the forbearance and tender compassion of Almighty God towards those who have basely treated and grievously offended Him. God never gives up a sinner who is unwilling to give up himself.

(W. Knight, M. A.)

Of this their goodness, the prophet says, the character was that it never lasted. The morning cloud is full of brilliancy with the rays of the rising sun, yet quickly disappears through the heat of that sun which gave it its rich hues. The morning dew glitters in the same sun, yet vanishes almost as soon as it appears. Generated with the cold of the night, it appears with the dawn; yet appears only to disappear. So it was with the whole Jewish people; so it ever is with the most hopeless class of sinners; ever beginning anew; ever relapsing; ever making a show of leaves, good feelings, good aspirations, but yielding no fruit. "There was nothing of sound, sincere, lasting, real goodness in them"; no reality, but all show, quickly assumed, quickly disused.

(E.B. Pusey, D. D.)

The compassion of God towards His fallen creature man is manifest in every part of the Divine procedure. Amidst our numerous provocations and offences the Lord is continually bearing and forbearing with us. The prophet Hosea points out the tenderness and care of Divine goodness towards the fallen race of men.

I. THE NATURE OF THE EXPOSTULATION RECORDED IN THE TEXT. Nothing can more effectually stimulate us to obedience than the powerful impulse of gratitude. Whether we contemplate the works of nature, providence, or grace, we find in each a brilliant display of the goodness of God. Our salvation from beginning to end is wholly of grace, and therefore we are bound by the strongest motives of gratitude to glorify God by a holy life and conversation. But what is the report which either experience or observation must make of our daily conduct? If we calmly look back on our past lives, if we enter into a self-examination of our coldness and deadness in religion, of the little fruit we produce, we cannot wonder at the affecting and interesting expostulation contained in the text. What astonishing condescension is it that God should thus graciously reason with His creatures. God charges both Judah and Ephraim with wavering irresolution and manifest inconsistencies in their profession of religion. The charge is that they did not act up to their convictions. And how justly this may be applied to the whole of our conduct through life! The expostulation implies that God willeth not the death of the sinner, if we would renounce our evil courses, and turn with full purpose of heart unto Him, though He visit us occasionally with afflictions, and temporary losses, and various disappointments, yet He only chastens us for our good. The expostulation plainly suggests that all our ways are noticed by Him who is constantly about our path. God takes various methods to bring sinners to repentance.

II. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE CHARGE BROUGHT AGAINST EPHRAIM AND JUDAH? The morning cloud promiseth rain, and the early dew is some refreshment to the parched earth, but the cloud is soon dispersed, and the dew does not sink deep into the ground. It does not extend to the root of the tree, and this is a fit emblem of the superficial religion which designates the character of numbers. The charge of being wavering and unstable too properly belongs to us. We profess to be followers of Christ, and yet how few of us imbibe His Spirit, or imitate His example! Our goodness or piety, which ought to be uniformly alike, is like the morning cloud or the early dew. It shines bright and conspicuous for a season; but when temptations or persecutions arise, we have no stability, no depth of root, and therefore, like the stony ground hearers, are scorched up, wither, and fade away. Unless there be a fixed principle implanted by the Spirit of God in the heart, governing the choice, and directing the affections, there will be no steady or abiding influence on the conduct. When men promise fair, and do not perform, when they begin well in religion, and do not hold on to the end, but fall off from a good profession,-the latter state of those men is even worse than the first. Though men do not quite cast off religion, yet if they are unsteady, uneven, and inconstant in it, they are like the morning cloud and early dew. The dispositions of the mind need to be changed by regenerating grace.

III. THE MANNER IN WHICH WE SHOULD IMPROVE THESE ADMONITIONS, BY A SERIOUS INQUIRY INTO OUR OWN CHARACTER AND CONDUCT. Let every man pay attention to the workings of his own mind, to the habits of his daily life, and more especially to his favourite pursuits. In this way he will read the progress or decline of religion in his own soul. Let him also pray with fervour or the constant aids of the Holy Spirit, to fan the flame of piety, to cherish holy dispositions, and to keep him securely to the end. And as these aids are promised to all who ask them, how can we have the benefit unless we apply for it? Let Christ and His atoning blood be precious in our eyes.

(J. Grose, A. M.)

Some take the words to mean, "Your kindness," that is, the mercy which I have hitherto exhibited to you is "as the morning dew" "ye immediately dry up My favour." This seems not unsuitable, for we see that the unbelieving by their wickedness absorb the mercy of God, so that it produces no good, as when rain flows over a rock or a stone, while the stone within, on account of its hardness, remains dry. As then the moisture of rain does not penetrate into stones, so also the grace of God is spent in vain and without advantage on the unbelieving.

( John Calvin.)

I. TWO KINDS OF RELIGION. The transient and the truthful. Why do so many who seem to be sincere and earnest endure but for awhile? Worldliness, like the sun, dries up, and temptation, like the wind, scatters and dissolves what looked so beautiful. Truthful persons are sincere, there is a reality in their religion, something that abides. We may also call such a religion truthful as wrought in the soul by the Spirit of truth, by the Spirit, through the truth.

II. SOME PEOPLE HAVE ONLY KNOWN ONE OF THESE KINDS OF RELIGION, AND SOME HAVE KNOWN BOTH. Some have only known the transient. Hitherto it has been conviction without conversion; resolutions without love; deficient repentance and sorrow without real surrender. Truth has not conquered; no governing principle has been introduced into the soul; nothing permanently inscribed on the tablets of the heart. Some have only known the truthful. A few have been drawn gently and even from early life. Others have gone on in darkness several years, and have then been suddenly brought to a stand, and at once "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son." A third class have known both. In their case there were many attempts and failures. Many settings out and goings back. Yet even such unlikely ones have been saved. Therefore let none despair.

III. WHAT MUST BE DONE IN ORDER REALLY TO PASS FROM THE ONE TO THE OTHER? If you would not have your feelings pass away, you yourself must pass in, you must yield yourself to God. Go in through the door, have really and personally to do with Christ, then religion will become to you an abiding reality. The reason why your religion is a transient one is that you have not yet begun aright. True godliness begins with the pardon of sins. God is willing to begin with the blotting out of sin.

(J. Cox.)

"Fickleness cannot but be attended by fatal consequences." It has proved fatal to real progress and lasting prosperity. The Celts "shook all empires but founded none." Caesar tells us that the same fault characterised the Gauls, and St. Paul bears witness to the same failing in his Epistle to the Galatians. It was the recurring sin of the children of Israel God's gracious invitations to His people show how great and faithful was His love. But it seems at times as if Divine love itself were perplexed. "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee," etc. Silently, imperceptibly, like the evanescent cloud, and like the sparkling dewdrop, their goodness and love passed away.

I. THIS IS A COMMON FAULT TO-DAY. How many begin hopefully and then fall away. One of the saddest sights angels behold is a warm heart cooling in its love towards God, a beautiful life withering 'neath the blight of sin. It is most instructive to notice the cause of the downfall .of Jewish kings. Many of them began well, but were not thorough, did not continue faithful, but substituted inferior things. "And King Ahaz took down the sea from off the brazen oxen, and put it upon a pavement of stones." Many begin by giving their best to God, but alas! they give up their early enthusiasm and become less zealous in His service.

II. BEFORE ENTERING UPON GOD'S SERVICE COUNT THE COST. Lord Wolseley mapped out the whole campaign before entering upon the Egyptian war. Britain's unpreparedness was the cause of many reverses in the great South African war. Jesus Christ is very explicit on this point. "Sit down, and count the cost." There is the bias of the heart towards sin. "When I would do good, evil is present with me." A fact that makes degeneration easy. Goodness requires effort. "Gird up the loins of your mind." Temptations and cares beset the upward path. Longfellow's "Excelsior."

III. HOW TO CONTINUE FAITHFUL. Prayer is the arm of the soul that connects it with God, like the tram-car with the overhead wire. It brings down light and power. Study well the chart. Read the Bible. Have fellowship with Christ's people. The early Hebrew Christians had many temptations and trials, hence they were enjoined "not to forsake the assembling of themselves together." Keep in touch with God and with His people.

(A. Hampden Lee.)

I. THE PIETY CHARACTERISED BY THE TEXT. Very beautiful and full of promise, but disappointing. It was thus with the Israelites in the wilderness (Psalm 78:34-38). And there is much of the same piety now. Some spend their lives in sinning and repenting. In the Polar world at a certain season of the year the sun rises just above the horizon, streaks the black sky with fire, casts on the desolate scene a warm splendour, and then in a few minutes sinks again, leaving the sky as dark and the earth as cold as they were before. And thus it is with some amongst us in respect to their experience of religion. Men receive some great mercy, suffer sonic great tribulation, are powerfully affected by the truth, deeply wrought upon by the Divine Spirit, and it seems as if they would forthwith lead a new life, but in a little while they are as worldly or as wicked as they were before. What is done on Sunday is undone on Monday; the vow of the sick chamber is forgotten in convalescence; the promise of the sanctuary withers in the market-place.

II. THE DEFECTIVENESS OF SUCH PIETY.

1. The shameful inconsistency of it. Vacillating men are held in contempt, but all other vacillations are trifling compared with this religious instability. How suddenly, how frequently, how flippantly some of us pass from the highest to the lowest. Now God, now idols; now the spirit, now the flesh; now holiness, now frivolity and sin.

2. The profound misery of it. Such people know the sorrows of religion without its joy. They know little more of the path to heaven than the struggles of the "Strait Gate" or the woes of the "Slough of Despond." Before they get to "Palace Beautiful," or the "Hill Beulah," they turn back again, the bitterness of religion having gone to their heart, and its sweetness only to their lips.

3. The utter insufficiency of it. Some men look upon their fits of goodness with some satisfaction, but really there is no reason to do so. A transient piety leaves out the foremost grandeur of religion — its unchangeableness. Recognise God's great love to you. "Follow on to know the Lord." "He that endureth to the end shall be saved."

(W. L. Watkinson.)

We need to feel the utter unsatisfactoriness of this fitful piety, Too often we look with complacency upon it. We argue thus: "I am not altogether bad; I have my times of good feeling, desire, and effort; the barren wilderness of my heart is relieved by green, blossoming shoots; the winter of my life has its snowdrops and violets, telling of the neighbourhood of golden seasons; I am comforted when I remember the recurrence of these days of gracious sentiment and aspiration' Such reasoning is entirely erroneous; there is no justification whatever -for intermittent goodness. Its sufficient condemnation is its unlikeness to God's goodness. Hosea points out the contrast. Our goodness is "the morning cloud," whilst the goodness of God "is prepared as the morning" which brightens to the perfect noon; our goodness is "as the early dew," whilst the goodness of God is "as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth," it drops fatness the year round. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." "Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness"; "Thy truth endureth for ever"; "His faithfulness faileth not." This is the crowning glory of God, — He abides from everlasting to everlasting in righteousness and love. The starry, steadfast firmament is supremely grand, but a meteor flash which startles the night counts little; the flowing river has a charm all its own, but the summer brook which dries whilst we look at it is only a disappointing fancy; the stately cedar sheltering successive generations appeals to the soul, but the gourd that springs in a night and perishes in one touches no deep chord. Righteousness in its essential nature is eternal, and therefore the righteousness of time and change is deeply perplexing and sad.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

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