Awaken, awaken, clothe yourself with strength, O Zion! Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, Holy City! For the uncircumcised and unclean will not again enter you.
I. THE SUMMONS. It comes from the Divine representatives. She had been called upon to arise and to stand up, and now she is to put on her strength and her robes. "Strength returns to Zion when the arm of Jehovah is mighty within her." It is useless to counterfeit the semblance of strength which does not exist. Nor is strength merely a matter of the will; but there ever is a secret fund of strength in the hearts of those who know that God has not forsaken them. In a sense, hope comes to those who rouse themselves from dejection, and "power to him that power exerts." The highest success promised is to human endeavour, and is not to be enjoyed without human endeavour. The beautiful garments are to be put on in preparation for the era of moral beauty and holiness. There is a true symbolism in dress. There is a garb appropriate to mourning and woe; another attire becomes the spirit of gladness and expectation. And there is, so to speak, a dress of the soul - a habit of the mind which expresses the hope of better things even amidst darkness and disappointment. As there were robes, figuratively speaking, which became a holy and priestly city; as there were seemly robes for Aaron the priest; - even so for him who looks upon himself as a "king and priest unto God," there is a suitable bearing and character, determined by the sense of the high destiny in store. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." So high a destiny is in store for Jerusalem; no more are the unclean to enter her sacred precincts (cf. Joel 3:17), but only the worshippers of the true God. Typically, the promise points to future times, when the Church of God shall be pure as when, in the great world-harvest, the tares shall be gathered out, and the wheat be gathered into the eternal garner. Let, then, Jerusalem shake herself from the dust - from that posture which expresses mourning and humiliation (Job 2:13), and take a lofty and honourable place. "Ascend thy lofty seat!" (Louth). "Arise and sit erect" (Noyes). "Rise, sit upon the throne of thy glory" (Chaldee). She is to shake the chains from her limbs, for her captivity is drawing to an end. Has she been sold? Nay; Jehovah has received naught for her. "It is not a sale, but only a temporary transfer." He can receive them back and renew his covenant with them. "You shall be redeemed. There was to be a remarkable proof of the power and sovereignty of God. For usually slaves and captives are not given up without a ransom. That they may expect this to be done, Jehovah reminds them of what has been done. He who had delivered from Egypt could deliver also from Babylon. And the like applies to the sufferings under Sargon, and Sennacherib, and Tiglath-Pileser. And now what was fitting for him to do in the case of the third great captivity, that of Babylon? He has come down to see and consider. And the result is that he must return to Jerusalem, else his gracious purposes will be frustrated. But in its present state he cannot do so; therefore Jerusalem must arise from its humiliation." In their pride and contumely, the Babylonians both oppress the people and blaspheme the Name of their God. Another reason, then, for his interposition. Therefore - for all these reasons - the people shall know his Name, shall experience what it is to have a God whose Name is Jehovah; as in the days of deliverance from Egypt. He is One who, in answer to the people's cry, responds, "Here am I!" Thus the leading thought remains, that Israel is Jehovah's people, and he is their God. "Enclosed by God from amidst all other nations, to be the seat of his worship, and the great conservatory of all the sacred oracles and means of salvation. The Gentiles might be ca]led God's own, as a man calls his hall or his parlour his own, which yet others pass through and make use of; but the Jews were so as a man accounts his closet or his cabinet his own - that is, by a peculiar incommunicable destination of it to his own use." And again, "The whole work of man's redemption carries in it the marks, not only of mercy, but of mercy acting by an unaccountable sovereignty. He gives the world to know that his own will is the reason of his proceedings. If the sun is pleased to shine upon a turf, and to gild a dunghill, when perhaps he looks not into the chamber of a prince, we cannot accuse him of partiality. The short but significant saving, 'May I not do what I will with mine own?' being a full and solid answer to all such objections" (South).
II. VISIONS OF REDEMPTION. "The prophet passes into an ecstasy. What he sees with the inner eye he expresses pictorially. He has told us already of the ideal Zion ascending a high mountain, and acting as herald of the Divine Deliverer. Now he varies the picture. It is Zion to whom the herald is seen to come - bounding over the mountains" (Cheyne). The feet give a greeting before the mouth utters it (Stier). The soul of prophet and of poet delights in the mountains; they give forth in visible form the sublimity with which his soul is charged (cf. Ezekiel 6:1). The mountains speak of the eternity of God; upon them the epiphany of the Deliverer may in a sense be expected, as they silently speak of his righteousness, of a constancy which is not to be moved. How welcome the messenger who tells of the fall of a city of the oppressors (Nahum 1:15), such as Nineveh! How still more welcome he who comes to bear tidings from the spiritual world to the spirits of men (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15)! The proclaimer of peace is at hand, and "peace" is another word for "salvation." But there can be neither peace nor salvation in this distracted world, except under a strong government - the government of the King of kings. Now the tidings are that "God has resumed the crown which he had laid aside." "Thy God has become King!" Celestial watchers are heard, lifting up their voices with a ringing cry, as they from their high seat behold the return of Jehovah to Zion. They "note every advance of the kingdom of God, seeing it eye to eye, as a man looks into the face of his friend; so near are the two worlds of sight and of faith" (Cheyne). The return of Jehovah to Zion means the return of spiritual power and joy and freedom. All earthly relations melt away into the spiritual realities. The real banishment is the separation of the soul from God; the true return from exile is when the soul can say, "God exists; God is near - is for me." Bondage is in ourselves; redemption and comfort are when we realize again that there is another - a "Not-ourselves that makes for righteousness," an Eternal Love, in short, in the sense of which all limitation must be forgotten. Jehovah has bared his holy arm for action in the face of all the nations; and the whole world has seen the salvation of God. Then, in prospect of such a redemption, what should be the conduct of the faithful? They must refuse to touch the unclean thing; they must be purified and become pure. They must regard themselves as armour-bearers of Jehovah, since he, as a man of war, is going forth to fight the battles of his people, and to establish his kingdom in the earth. The king, upon solemn occasions, had with him a troop of armour-bearers (1 Kings 14:28). And so must he, to whom the shields of the whole earth belong (Psalm 47:10), be followed by his band of faithful warriors. And not again in hurrying fearfulness, as in the days of the exode from Egypt, but rather with the calm and solemn march of troops who are marching to assured victory are they. to go forth from Babylon. The application was made by St. Paul, and ever may be made, to Christians (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18). Babylon is a type of the world; the necessity of "coming out" from that Babylon is the necessity of the disciples of Jesus separating themselves from the evil that is in the world. So in Revelation 18:4 Babylon stands for the evil course of the present world - the spirit of pride and impurity and persecution. If, instead of armour-bearers, the rendering "bearers of the vessels of Jehovah" be preferred, then the allusion will be to the priests and Levites (Numbers 1:50; Numbers 4:15). Upon such officials the obligation to be holy rests. Whether in war, or in the peaceful service of tabernacle or temple, the principle is the same. Men set apart to such service are bound to illustrate their office by an apartness of manners and of life. A select calling implies a select spirit. It has not been "finely touched" except to "fine issues." There may be an allusion in the "vessels" to Ezra 1:7, 8, or the facts there mentioned. How marked is that "boundless exhilaration" which belongs to these prophecies of restored Jerusalem! "Much good poetry is profoundly melancholy; now the life of the people is such that in literature they require joy. If ever that 'good time coming,' for which they long, was presented with energy and magnificence, it is in these chapters; it is impossible to read them without catching its glow. And they present it truly and with the true conditions. It is easy to misconceive it on a first view, easy to misconceive its apparent condition; but the more these chapters sink into the mind and are apprehended, the more manifest is the connection with universal history, the key they offer to it, the truth of the ideal they propose for it" (Matthew Arnold). - J.
1. This chapter is a trumpet-call to holiness. Jerusalem is called the holy city, and yet the passage is full of her sins. She was holy in the intention of God. So we are called not to be famous or wealthy but to be holy.
Awake, awake.I. THE CONSTITUTIONAL ELEMENTS OF STRENGTH. I use the word constitution in a legitimate sense, as including both the creed and the polity of a Church.
1. The creed. As a man's life is the outcome of what he believes, or does not believe, precisely so is the Church's. But is not the Bible the acknowledged creed of all the Churches? No; no more than the stars are astronomy, or the flowers botany. The Bible is the source of the creed of all, but it is the creed of none, for the simple reason that the Bible, like every other writing, must be construed; and on many points it cannot be construed in the same way by all.
2. The government. Hers also that which is true of man is true of the Church. An army is stronger than a mob.
II. ADMINISTRATIVE ELEMENTS. But a Church is not only obliged to have certain constitutional and other laws, it is also obliged to administer them for the twofold purpose —
1. Of protecting itself against corruption and disintegration.
2. In order that it may efficiently fulfil its mission of witnessing for Christ, whereunto it was Divinely called.
III. SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS OF STRENGTH.
1. Peace. There must be battles with the common enemy, but no battles with itself.
5. The Holy Spirit.
(R. V. Foster, D.D.)
2. Her condition was characterized by —(1) Unhallowed intercourse with the world (ver. 1). The uncircumcised and unclean in her midst.(2) Slavish subserviency to the world (Isaiah 51:23). The moment the world sees Christians turning to it for pleasure or patronage, It becomes a very tyrant, over them.(3) Utter helplessness and impotence. The figure of a "wild bull in a net" means strength reduced to helplessness by little things. Satan forged fetters of persecutions in early days, now he tries the "net business." Many Christians are worthless because caught in a net of little compromises with the world and with conscience. The "fainting" (ver. 20) points to the helplessness of the Christian Church in the presence of the moral and social evils of the day.(4) They were asleep to it all.
3. The man who called "Awake" to Zion, had previously cried "Awake" to God (Isaiah 51:9).
4. To be awakened is not enough. If we go no further we shall go back either into indifference, or into rebellion, or into despair. The call is "put on thy strength, put on thy beautiful garments." Garments of praise, cloth of zeal, beautiful covering of humility. In this the Christian must be always arrayed, for we are children of a King, and God wants us always to appear in Court dress.
I. CERTAIN OBJECTS OF VISION ARE IMPORTANT TO THE CHURCH OF GOD, and that these may be kept in view, God saith, "Awake awake!" Among the objects which we need to see are things behind us; and things before us; such things as are presented by sacred history and by inspired promise and prophecy. But the objects which I would now emphatically name, are ever-existent and ever-present spiritual objects — God our one Father, the Son of God our only Saviour, and the Comforter, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son — especially the Son of God, as the brightness of the Father's glory, and as the propitiation which God has set forth. The things we need to see are the wondrous things contained in God's Word, things of God and of man, things which accompany salvation, things of angels and of devils, things of Christ, things of the world around us and above us and beneath us. The Church of God maybe awake to lower and inferior things, and may be asleep to these highest things, or, if not asleep, but half awake, so that men seem like trees walking.
II. CERTAIN SOURCES OF SUPPLY AND FOUNTAINS OF PLEASURE AND MEANS OF HELP ARE IMPORTANT TO THE CHURCH OF GOD, and that these may be possessed and enjoyed and used, God saith, "Awake, awake!"
III. THERE IS GOOD AND GODLY WORK TO BE DONE BY ZION, therefore God saith, "Awake, awake." Zion is like a nursing mother, with her heart full of cares and her hands full of work. Zion is a worshipper, and she has the incense of prayer and the sacrifices of thanksgiving to provide and to offer; Zion is an intercessor, and it is expected that in ceaseless prayer she will keep no silence, nor give the hearer of prayer rest; Zion is an almoner, and it is expected that having freely received she will freely give; Zion is a servant of the most high God, and she is bound to do all that her hands find to do with all her might. Her work is so various that Zion is as a husbandman, and as a builder, and as a vine-dresser. For work and service Zion is Divinely endowed, taught of God that she may teach godliness, consoled by God that she may comfort others, guided by God that she may lift up her voice with strength, and cry to the bewildered and the lost, "This is the way, walk ye in it." There are two objects in the sphere of our present thought, toward which the Church of God requires to be faithful and therefore wakeful.
1. Her own endowments.
2. Her opportunities.
IV. THERE ARE BATTLES WHICH ZION IS CALLED TO FIGHT, AND VICTORIES TO BE WON WHICH ZION ALONE CAN WIN; therefore God bids Zion awake. Having interpreted the voice, let us note some of its features and characteristics —
1. The voice that would awaken us is Divine. It is the voice of a Ruler to His subjects, of a Master to His servants, of a Parent to His sons, of a Redeemer to His Redeemed.
2. The voice that would awaken us is powerful and full of majesty, a voice therefore that stirs, and that strengthens while it stirs him who listens to it. S. The voice that would awaken us has in it a tone of reproach. It seems to say, "What! Zion asleep! Zion, already and recently quickened from the death of sin? Zion, who can see God, and the things that are eternal? Zion, who can possess the exceeding riches of God's grace? Zion, who can handle as her own the things which angels desire to look into? Zion asleep in the day of her work, and in the hour of her conflict?"
4. Yet this is a gracious voice. It is a voice that woos and wins while it stimulates and arouses.
5. The voice that cries, "Awake, awake," is the voice of Zion's God. There are degrees of wakefulness; and regarding the text as calling us to the most complete open-eyedness and watchfulness, let us arouse ourselves at God's bidding.
(S. Martin.)I. The text is a forcible reminder of the fact that THE CHURCH OF GOD, IN ALL AGES, MAY HAVE ITS TIMES OF WEAKNESS AS WELL AS ITS TIMES OF POWER. When the Church first went forth from Jerusalem, a little flock, scattered hither and thither by the storm of persecution, it was a time of power. It was then but an infant of days, but it sprang into a giant of strength. It was a day of power when the Church of Christ, as Paul Richter has said, "lifted empires off their hinges, and turned the stream of centuries out of its channel. But a thousand years roll on, and a time of weakness follows this era of power. The giant sleeps; his strength is put off; he reposes amidst the scarlet trappings and gilded blazonry of the Papacy, and seems to have wilted into a senile imbecility. But again there came a time of power when, on the morning of the Reformation, the Church heard the cry, "Awake, awake!" and, springing up with renewed youth, it put on its strength. There was a time of weakness when the chill of formalism followed in the track of the Reformation, and the Church sank into the coma of a widespread paralysis; again, when a disguised Romanism riveted her fetters; and still again when the Socinian apostasy spread its blight over Great Britain. But then came times of power when the Church arose in quickened majesty to smite the tyrant with the broken fetters which had eaten into its own soul; and still again, times of wondrous spiritual revival, when the call sounded by Wesley and Whitefield, like the voice of the prophet in the valley of vision, seemed to awake the dead. Why these periods of weakness? The principle is plain: Divine power and human strength must work together, each in its appropriate sphere. As the terror of the iron chariots of the enemy paralyzed the strength of Judah, so that, the human part being wanting, the victory was lost; so, in the Church, if any cause supervenes to weaken, or render ineffective, the strength which God expects us to put forth, He will not depart from His plan, or interpose to save us from the results of our own weakness, or to hide us from the scorn and derision of the world.
II. WHAT IS THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH, AND WHEN IS IT PUT OFF? In other words, what causes may supervene to weaken or render it ineffective?
1. The first element of power is the Gospel, the Word, the truth of God. If the truth of God is the instrument of power, and the human part of the work is simply its manifestation, then the strength of the Church must be weakened whenever the Gospel is subordinated to human themes.
2. Let us pass to the second element of the Church s power — the ministry. The Church is a giant; the Gospel is the instrument of his work — the weapon of his warfare. But what wields the weapon? The giant's arm — this is the ministry. It is not an original power inherent in itself, but a delegated power. This is the power that, beginning at Jerusalem, went forth upon its mission of conquest — that made the heathen cry: "These men that have turned the world upside down are come hither also!"(1) The ministry, as an arm of power, may be withered by a perfunctory education.(2) The ministry may be ineffective from misdirected effort.(3) The ministry must be a source of weakness instead of power to the Church, if it is not in sympathy with the hearts of the people, and the souls of perishing men.
3. The third and principal element of the Church's power is the Holy Ghost. Since, then, the Spirit s power is the strength of the Church, the want of the Spirit is the weakness of the Church. If the Church is not an effective, aggressive power in the world, it is because it puts off or puts away the strength of the Spirit. This is done when we subordinate the Divine Spirit to human agency; when, by organization or by human eloquence, or by methods and appliances, or by running the Church on business principles, we seek to effect that which it is the special office of the Spirit to accomplish. It is greatly to be feared that we put away the strength of the Spirit when the Church — the whole Church, the ministry and the people, fail to realize our profound and absolute dependence upon the power of the Spirit for success in all work.
III. Let us listen to GOD'S CALL TO THE CHURCH TO PUT ON AND TO PUT FORTH HER STRENGTH. How shall we put on this strength? Power with God, in its first element, is the sense of our own weakness. How, then, shall we put on strength?
1. On our knees.
2. Let us put on the strength of the Word, as the apostle did, when he shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God.
3. Let us put on the strength of the ministry, as Paul did when he went forth in the fulness of the blessing of the .Gospel of peace.
4. Let us put on the strength of the Spirit, as the early Church did when it was endued with power from on high. Then shall our work be "mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds."
(W. M. Paxton, D. D.)Isaiah 51:17). There Jerusalem is addressed as stupefied by some intoxicating potion. But her drunkenness is not of wine, nor of strong drink; she has drunk at the hand of the Lord "the cup of His fury." Such imagery is often used by the prophets, of the cup of God's wrath drunk down by those on whom it descends, and inflicting on them the insensibility and stupefaction with which we are but too familiar as the effect of excessive drinking. The whole city has succumbed under the spell. Her sons have fainted, and lie strewn in all the streets, like antelopes snared in the hunters' nets, from which their struggles have failed to extricate them. Amid such circumstances, the servant of Jehovah is introduced, crying, "Awake, awake! stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury." There are other soporifics than the wrath of God: the air of the enchanted ground; the laudanum of evil companionship; the drugs of worldly pleasure, of absorption in business, of carnal security. The army of the Lord is too apt to put off the armour of light, and resign itself to heavy slumbers, till the clarion voice warns it that it is high time to awake.
I. ZION S APPEAL TO GOD. "Awake, awake! put on strength, O arm of the Lord."
1. The first symptom of awaking is a cry. It is so with a child. It is so with the soul. When Saul of Tarsus was converted, the heavenly watchers said, "Behold, he prayeth." It is so with the Church.
2. The cry in this case was founded on a mistake. If there are variations in our inner life, it is because our rate of reception differs from time to time. It is not God who sleeps, but we. It is not for God to awake, but for us. It is not necessary for the Divine arm to gird on strength, but for the human to take that which is within its easy reach.
3. The cry is short and earnest. Earnestness is good, even though at first it may be in a wrong direction.
4. The best basis for our cry is memory of the past. "Art thou not it that cut Rahab (i.e., Egypt) in pieces, that pierced the dragon" (i.e., of the Nile)? It is well to quote past experiences as arguments for faith.
5. The arm of God is strong (Isaiah 51:13).
6. The arm of God is far-reaching. However low we sink, underneath are the everlasting arms.
7. The arm of God is tender (Isaiah 51:12).
II. THE APPEAL TO ZION. It is blessed to be awaked out of sleep. Life is passing by so rapidly; the radiant glory of the Saviour may be missed unless we are on the alert, or we may fail to give Him the sympathy He needs, and an angel will be summoned to do our work. Besides, the world needs the help of men who give no sleep to their eyes nor slumber to their eyelids, but are always eager to help it in its need. Being awake, we shall discover two sets of attire awaiting us. The first is strength, the other beauty; and each has its counterpart in the New Testament (Ephesians 6; Colossians 3:1). Put on the whole armour of God. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ — His temper, spirit, and character.
1. We must put on our beautiful garments. We cannot weave these. We are not able to spin such a cocoon out of our own nature, nor are we required to do so. They are all prepared for us in Jesus; we have only to put them on, by putting Him on. This can only be done when the heart is at leisure.
2. We must put on strength. We are not bidden to purchase strength, or generate it by our resolutions, prayers, and agonizings: but to "put it on." It is already prepared, and only awaits appropriation.
3. We must expect to be delivered from the dominion of sin. Babylon had been bidden to descend from her throne and sit in the dust; Jerusalem is commanded to arise from the dust and sit on her throne.
(F. B. Meyer, B.A.)I. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH JUSTIFY THIS APPEAL.
1. It is obvious that the passage assumes the possession of sufficient strength for accomplishing the end designed. As to effectual agency, all things are of God. With respect to our own province, that of instrumental action — our strength is ample, though the conversion of the world be the object of it. But wherein does our strength for the reconciliation of the world consist? Strength, in all cases, is the possession of adapted and sufficient means. Now the means of converting a sinner is the truth of the Gospel. Is Divine truth adapted and sufficient to this end? To this point inspired testimony is most direct and express. Matters of fact bring us to the same point. If any attempt should be made to evade the argument, by referring to the necessity of Divine influence, we reply that Divine influence is undoubtedly necessary to give the Gospel success. But it is also necessary to give success to the use of means in every other case. If there be in our hands adapted and sufficient means for bringing about the universal triumphs of the Gospel, there is manifest justice in the stirring appeal by which we are roused into action. "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion!" Persons who would reply to such a call, "What is the use of telling me to labour? — it is God who must do everything," would merely subject themselves to a severe reproof, and a direct charge of making their pretended want of power a pretext for their love of sloth.
2. The text assumes the existence of inadequate exertion. It is appropriate only to a state of comparative indolence and slumber. The language calls not for a partial, but for an entire employment of our resources. "Put on thy strength." The meaning cannot be less than this: The scenes which are in prospect will require your utmost efforts; the victory will be quite as much as you will be able to win; put into requisition, therefore, all your powers, and exert your whole strength.
II. THE TOPICS BY WHICH THIS CALL MAY BE ENFORCED.
1. Notice the interesting character of the object to be attained. The end contemplated in the text was personally and directly interesting to the parties addressed. Zion was called to exert herself for her own triumphs. It was for their restoration to the land of their fathers that the slumbering exiles were summoned to awake. We also should remember that the triumphs of Christianity are our triumphs, and the increase of the Church is our enlargement. Are we willing that the Church should continue to be small and despised, or do we really wish to see her arrayed in celestial beauty, and the joy of the whole earth? The interests of Zion are identified with those of a guilty and perishing world. The advancement of Zion is identified with the glory of her Lord.
2. The proximity of the most blessed results. Triumphs, and even our ultimate triumphs are at hand. The prospect of success is one of the most natural stimulants to exertion.
3. The necessity of exertion in order to the expected results.
4. The actual suspension of the issue upon our obedience. It suggests the animating sentiment, that the final glories of the Church are waiting for her awaking, and for that alone.
(J. H. Hinton, M.A.)etc. If then, we would have the arm of the Lord with us in anything we do for His cause, we must do more than pray.
I. THE SPIRIT WHICH GOD ENJOINS HIS CHURCH TO EVINCE. The language of the text is metaphorical, and highly poetical; but it inculcates upon us, that we put on —
1. A spirit of wakefulness. Wakefulness is opposed to indifference and sloth.
2. A spirit of agression. "Put on thy strength, O Zion." For what purpose? Certainly to oppose her foes; to make aggressions on the territory of the master spirit of evil. And what is the Church's "strength," which she is to put on! It consists in a large measure of Divine influences. The Church's "strength" consists in spiritual wisdom and spiritual courage. The "strength" of the Church consists in the cheerful assurance of God's love to us individually — in having it "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." "The joy of the Lord is your strength." And it consists in daily communion with God. Come with me back to Pentecostal days, and see how the Church acted when thus equipped. She "put on her strength," anal went forth in a spirit of aggression.
3. A spirit of piety. "Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city."(1) What are the "beautiful garments" of the Church? Let the prophet expound his own language (Isaiah 61:10). These they are to "put on," as on marriage days, as on holy-days, as on days of rejoicing.(2) As garments are for dignity and beauty, so the Church is only beautiful when thus clothed. They are for defence and protection also, and in them as in a movable garrison we go about, resisting the inclemency of the weather; and these guard us against the curses of God's law, and all the evils resulting from our misery and wretchedness; They distinguish between the sexes, and denote the station, and so the Church s garments distinguish her from the world.(3) The Church puts on these garments, when she applies to Christ by faith and exhibits the fruits of His salvation in her life and conduct. Our Lord so interprets it: "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garment." And when holiness and faith meet in the character, how beautiful is it, and how fit for action!
II. THE EFFECTS WHICH WILL NECESSARILY AND CERTAINLY RESULT IF THE CHURCH OBEYS THE INJUNCTION OF HER LORD.
1. The conversion of souls. "There shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean;" metaphors descriptive of pollution arising from an unconverted state. Unregenerate souls shall not be found within her borders. This has been the result everywhere.
2. The union of the ministers of the Gospel. "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing.
3. The renovation of the world (ver. 10).
I. Let me mention one or two THINGS WHICH ARE GOOD AND USEFUL FOR THEIR PROPER WORK, BUT OF WHICH IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT ZION'S STRENGTH LIES IN THEM.
1. The recognition of religion by the State and its establishment by law. We find, as a matter of history, that in many cases when the favour of the governing powers has been most decided, the efficacy of the Church in converting sinners and spreading the Gospel has been feeble and languid; while, on the other hand, some of Zion's most energetic and successful efforts have been made without any support at all from the secular authority, and even in spite of its opposition.
2. An active ministry. There are two aspects of this activity — by activity I understand diligence in preaching, in visiting the sick, in holding services, and so on. If the clergy are active because the people are zealous, then it is altogether well: it is a mark of strength. But if the clergy are active because no one else is, then it is a mark of weakness.
3. The multiplication of religious societies and other machinery. They are good, useful, necessary things. But they are too often made the excuse for serving God by proxy. The strength of the Church lies in the zeal for Christ of its individual members.
II. "Put on the garments of thy dignity," continues the prophet, "O Jerusalem, the Holy City." THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE OF THE CHURCH OUGHT TO BE SUCH AS TO COMMAND THE ADMIRATION EVEN OF THOSE WHO DO NOT BELONG TO IT. We may instance —
1. The garment of righteousness. The people of God ought to present unmistakably the aspect of a righteous people.
2. The garment of unity. It must be confessed that the servants of God do not present to the world the aspect of a united people. It is not simply difference of opinion that separates them: but there are slanders, mutual recriminations, misrepresentations of motives and conduct, suspicions, jealousies, party-spirit in all its hideous forms, combining to rend and ruin the beautiful garment of brotherhood in which Jerusalem ought to be clad.
3. The garment of worship. The Church ought to appear before all men as a city wherein the Lord is worshipped, where He receives the honour due unto His name. The true beauty of holiness is the sincere devotion of the people, and the natural result of such devotion, viz. a really united offering of prayer and praise ascending to the throne of the heavenly grace.
(J. C. Rust, M.A.)
(R. V. Foster, D.D.)Luther and his collaborators, by the grace of God, evoked from the dead Church of the Middle Ages a fresh and vigorous Protestantism. So Wesley and his co-workers evoked from the deadness of the later Anglicanism a still fresh and vigorous Methodism. The Presbyterian Church of John Knox also grew old, and has had its athletic offshoots. "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion" — and Zion after the awakening is never the Zion of the pro-awakening.
(R. V. Foster, D. D.)
1. Never in any period of the world's history has the Bible been more universally and intensely studied than it is now. And the study of it is far, very far, from being prevailingly hostile.
2. As another indication of this fact I quote the old saying, "In union there is strength;" especially is it true when other essential elements of strength are not wanting. In this day there is a visible tendency towards union.
3. Another indication is the rapid progress in mission work.
(R. V. Foster, D. D.)
Put on thy strength, O Zion
I. GOD BIDS ZION PUT ON HER STRENGTH FOR SELF-MANIFESTATION. Not for self-magnification. Self-magnification is disloyal, traitorous and impious; self-manifestation is a plain duty (Matthew 5:16). The Church of God can walk and work and endure; then why appear impotent and helpless? Strong winds make themselves heard. Strong sunshine makes itself felt. Strong life shows itself, whether in the animal or vegetable kingdom. And the Church, to be heard and seen and felt and known, must be strong.
II. GOD BIDS ZION PUT ON HER STRENGTH THAT HE MAY BE GLORIFIED. A redeemed man is a new creation and a Divine workmanship. A congregation of believing men, and the whole visible Church, are of God s founding. Ye are God's husbandry; ye are God s building. Now if the husbandry appear as the field of the slothful, and as the vineyard of the man void of understanding; if it be all grown over with thorns, and nettles cover the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof be broken down; if the building appear to be defective in foundation, imperfect in construction, and framed together with bad material — the name of God, instead of being honoured, will be blasphemed (1 Peter 2:9, 10; Isaiah 43:21).
III. GOD REQUIRES ZION TO PUT OUT HER STRENGTH FOR THE SAKE OF HER OWN WELL-BEING. If the powers of the Church be inactive, they will decline. The staff faith, if never used, will decay, etc.
IV. ZION IS REQUIRED TO PUT ON HER STRENGTH IN ORDER TO MEET THE CLAIMS OF A SINFUL AND SUFFERING WORLD.
V. GOD DIRECTS ZION TO PUT ON HER STRENGTH BECAUSE STRENGTH HAS BEEN GIVEN HER TO PUT ON.
VI. IS NOT THIS PUTTING ON OF STRENGTH AS ESSENTIAL TO ZION'S PEACE AND JOY AS TO HER OUTWARD PROSPERITY?
(S. Martin.)1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chronicles 28:10; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 40:9, 31; Haggai 2:4; Zechariah 8:9 13; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1).
(S. Martin.)is interesting to observe by how many voices God speaks as in our text. By the smarting of the conscience when the strength is withheld, and by the glowing of the conscience when the strength is consecrated; by the breadth of love which God's law requires, and by the depth of privilege which the Gospel provides; by the correction administered when we are inactive and inert, and by the blessedness experienced when we abound in the work of the Lord, God is continually saying, "Put on thy strength, O Zion."
(S. Martin.)1. Soundness in doctrine.
2. Purity of life among the members of the Church.
3. Thoroughness of organization for Church work.
4. Faithfulness in individual effort to do good.
5. Regularity of attendance upon the services of the Church.
6. Pecuniary liberality.
7. Unity among the members.
8. A prayerful spirit.
9. An abiding faith in the presence of God with the Church. Where these are to be found the Church will be strong.
(D. Winters.)I. THE GREATNESS OF HER AIMS. Great aims enthused great souls, and the Church proposed the conquest of the world for Christ.
II. THE MATCHLESS POWER OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH, which may be illustrated by the distinctively Christian doctrines of our moral ruin, redemption through a Divine-human Saviour, the possibility of a regenerate life, and the blessedness of an immortal hope.
III. But these doctrines needed a voice; hence another element of the Church's strength is A WITNESSING MEMBERSHIP. All Christians may witness for the truth by the testimony of the lips, and also by the silent but potent ministry of the life.
IV. Another mighty force in the service of the Church is A CO-OPERATIVE PROVIDENCE.
V. THE ENDOWMENT OF THE HOLY GHOST.
(Bp. W. X. Winde.)etc. Undertake any engagement which does not excite the interest of the heart, and how soon it becomes irksome. The mother waits upon her sick child, and wonders how she can endure so much. The mystery is in the love. We are strong when we work in the direction of our will. Where the will is right, the strength will assert itself. The question is not one of muscle but of purpose. What objects, then, are worthy of "all our strength, all our mind, and all our heart"? We may get at the answer negatively as well as positively.
I. NO OBJECT WHICH BEARS UPON THIS WORLD ONLY IS WORTHY OF THE SUPREME ENERGY OF MAN. Even in secular affairs we work by laws of proportion and adaptation. If a man employed a steam-engine to draw a cork, we should justly accuse him of wasting power. If a man spent his days and nights in carving cherry-stones, we should say he was wasting his life. We have a common saving — "the game is not worth the candle" — showing that in common affairs we do recognize the law of proportion, and the law that results do determine the value of processes. If, then, in the lower, how much more in the higher! Think of a being like man spending his lifetime in writing his name in the dust! There is a success which is not worth securing. Suppose a man should get all the money he can possibly accumulate; all the fame; all the luxury — what does it amount to?
II. SPIRITUAL OBJECTS ARE ALONE WORTHY OF THE SUPREME ENERGY OF MAN. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc.
1. They are akin to his own nature.
2. They touch every point of his being.
3. They prepare him for the solemnity and service of the future. Boundless are the prospects of the spiritual thinker! His library, the universe! His companions, the angels! His Teacher, God! In view of such prospects, how time dwindles, and how earth passes as a wreath of smoke! The spiritual thinker is independent of all the influences which make up the small world of the materialist — his citizenship is in heaven.
III. THE FACT THAT SPIRITUAL OBJECTS ALONE ARE WORTHY OF THE SUPREME ENERGY OF MAN SHOULD IMPEL TO DECISIVE ACTION. Put on thy strength —
1. For the time is short.
2. For the enemy is on the alert.
3. For the Master is worthy. The text addresses a call to the Church. The call is to activity. He who gives the call will give the grace. The Church is not to be feeble and tottering; it is to be strong, valiant, heroic. He who can do without the help of the strongest is graciously pleased to accept the service of the meanest.
(J. Parker, D.D.)I. PUT ON STRENGTH BY WAKEFULNESS. A slumbering life results in moral death.
II. PUT ON STRENGTH BY ACTIVITY. Activity imparts physical strength. We have only to look, at the compact and knotted lump of muscle on the blacksmith s forearm. The rower s chest is expanded by his exertions. The practised wrestler grips with an ironlike grasp the limbs of his opponent. Even a Samson is divested of his prowess by lolling in the lap of a Delilah. We put on intellectual strength by keeping the brain forces constantly moving. But most of all the moral and spiritual nature is strengthened by exercise. Great is the power of habit. It is a kind of second nature, and is the grand resultant of repeated acts.
III. PUT ON STRENGTH BY DEVELOPMENT. Art thou but a bruised reed, put on thy strength! Hast thou but one talent, put it out to usury. Moral and spiritual strength may be developed to the latest hour of a Methuselah's life, and eternity will be but an ampler sphere for the enlargement of the soul's vast powers.
IV. PUT ON STRENGTH BY JOYFULNESS. Joy begets strength, and strength increases joy.
V. PUT ON STRENGTH BY HOPEFULNESS. The despairing are weak; but the hopeful are strong. I will endeavour, is the inspiring language of the hopeful. The Church may well be hopeful, for God's promise is given for her encouragement.
VI. PUT ON STRENGTH BY UNITED PRAYER. The Church's prosperous times are the praying times. The praying man is the strong man.
(W. Burrows, B.A.)
Sunday School Chronicle.A magnet is sometimes seen in a chemist's laboratory, suspended against a wall, and loaded heavily with weights. We ask the reason, and the scientist replies, "The magnet was losing power, because it had not been used for some time. I am restoring its force by giving it something to do."
(Sunday School Chronicle.)
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